Saturday, November 17, 2012

Water District action next year

In response to questions, I wanted to give some updates on three expected Water District actions next year.

First, the Water District plans to go back to the state legislature for several revisions to the District Act that authorizes the District's existence.  The last effort several years ago bogged down in conflict, so the proposed approach now is to split it up and only try for relatively non-controversial parts first.

Video of the staff summary below (if it doesn't work, click here and then on October 23 2012, and finally advance to 1:32:00 through 1:35:00 in Item 6.1)

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I had some comments that first went to the issue of CEQA "reform" being proposed in the legislature, and then on the District Act legislation (same link as above, from 1:39:00 to 1:44:00):
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The specific short term goals are here:

Summary of Near-Term Legislative Needs 

Following are near-term legislative needs that are least likely to raise controversy or generate stakeholder opposition

• Remove obsolete language associated with the transition from a Board consisting of five elected and two appointed at-large members, to a Board consisting of seven elected members.

• Update the Act to reflect that Board Members are compensated and reimbursed pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 20200) of Division 10 of the Water Code and Sections 53232.2 and 53232.3 of the Government Code.

• Revise the Act to provide the Board greater flexibility with respect to the appointment of advisory committees by deleting references to specific committees and committee membership.

• Delete the requirement to prepare and hold hearings on Engineers Reports, as that process has been superseded by the CEQA process and the Capital Improvement Plan process undertaken as part of the annual budget development and review process.

For my part, I'm considering the following long-term possibilities for reform of the District Act (just possibilities I'm considering at this point):

From seven to five directors to match County Supervisor Districts, legislative authorization to rely on County redistricting results for subsequent changes to district boundaries
  Alternative A: Districts 6 and 7 terminate in 2014
  Alternative B: Districts 6 and 7 terminate in 2016 (final term is for two years, 2014-2016, instead of four)
  Alternative C: Districts 6 and 7 terminate in 2018
Note that the change to the District Act would choose one of the above alternatives

Cap on individual donations to campaigns – choose best practice found in elections to local office like county supervisor elections

Loans by candidate to campaign committee must be forgiven if not repaid within one month after the election

Voluntary cap on overall campaign budget

Match funds for small individual donors to a campaign up to a TBD level for each campaign committee and a TBD level for a campaign cycle, whichever is reached first

Authorization of District to establish instant runoff/ranked choice voting if such authorization is needed
  Alternatively, authorization of District to establish instant runoff/ranked choice voting if the County Board of Supervisors switches to that type of voting system.

Watershed restoration – District is authorized to undertake activities to protect, enhance, and restore Santa Clara County watersheds
  Clarification that this measure not meant to affect District’s authorization to issue permits

Okay, so all that is just the first update.  I'll be more concise on the other two.

The District has begun preliminary work on community involvement over separating Alamitos Creek from Almaden Lake, an important issue both for reducing the problem of mercury contamination and protecting our native fish from unnaturally warm temperatures and predatory invasive fish.  Solutions could create new riparian zones, new wetlands (as mitigation for wetland losses elsewhere) and/or new parkland, at the expense of a diminished or eliminated Lake Almaden.  Anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion should start to get involved, with the next public effort in February.  Info on potential alternatives is here.

Finally, we have the very welcome problem of figuring out how to implement Safe Clean Water funding!  I hope that we can reinitiate grant funding for wildlife habitat and trail proposals as soon as possible, maybe beginning the process this winter and awarding grants in August.

A very busy year in the making, and I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Great news on Safe Clean Water for Santa Clara County

Below is my statement regarding the Water District election results:

All I can say is thank you. 
Okay, I can say more. 
The biggest (and gratifying!) surprise for me was the margin: 72.65% in favor, almost 6% higher than needed. This is far better than any prior poll of the measure that I've seen or heard about. The original year 2000 measure just barely received the 66.7% needed to pass, although that was a new tax and this is a continuation of an existing one. 
Also surprising is that at the same time, voters elected a challenger over an incumbent Water District director running for re-election. This suggests to me the voters' willingness to distinguish between their choice of the elected directors and their evaluation of the work of the organization as a whole, a subtle distinction by the voters for a down-ballot issue. I have already sent my congratulations to newly-elected Nai Hsueh and Barbara Keegan and look forward to working with them 
As for Director Kwok who is being replaced by Ms Hsueh, I thank him for his years of service, especially at the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority.  At the JPA he helped moved forward the flood control projects that had otherwise faced significant delays.  Thanks likewise to Director Judge, who is retiring, for all his work.
Director Don Gage was successful in his bid for mayor of Gilroy and so will be leaving us. We'll miss him and will have to work hard to find a worthy successor to appoint and fill out the rest of Don's term, which will happen near the beginning of 2013. 
Safe Clean Water Measure B is a continuation of crucial changes at the District. Clean Safe Creeks 2000 was the start of that change with the first outcome measures dedicated for environmental restoration. Safe Clean Water 2012 took that estimated funding level and easily tripled it or more, along with greater transparency and better guarantees that the money will be spent for what the voters intended. 
This series of changes can't end - the future of water agencies throughout the state and the nation is to be environmental agencies. Safe Clean Water sends us in that direction, but it's nowhere near enough. We still need some reforms at how we do things on the District Board level and on better efficiency at staff level. These changes must happen, and I look forward to working with everyone to continue them. 
Thank you!
Brian Schmidt, Director, District 7
Santa Clara Valley Water District

Monday, November 5, 2012

Last call for support for Measure B

(I sent this out today.)


I think the connection between disaster preparation and environmentalism isn't as strongly made by the public as it should be.  Both are about planning for the future, not just the present.  

The tragic events with Superstorm Sandy show how important it is to be prepared.  Measure B is about being prepared for disasters, for flooding, for earthquakes, and for other disasters to the environment and to the water supply.  Rebuilding the levees along the Bay to prepare for tidal flooding and sea level rise can help avert on a smaller scale what we've seen back east, as well as making Bay restoration possible when we replace unsafe, old mud walls with a modern levee system.

I won't go over all the details of Measure B, but below is a letter I've been circulating about it.  Since joining the Water District Board two years ago, I've felt the urgency of the work as well the need in cases to change things.  Measure B helps us change things.  Waiting two years or four years is about increasing the risk - environmental improvements and flood control take years to do, so a delay now means a delay in finished projects from five to fifteen years in the future.

Please support and tell your friends to support Measure B.  I'm happy to answer any questions - and please forward this!

Brian A Schmidt, Director, District 7
Santa Clara Valley Water District