Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hoping to get signs announcing the creek name at every residential street crossing in the County

A memo that we submitted for the Board meeting this Tuesday:

Board of Directors and Staff
Brian Schmidt, Richard Santos, Nai Hsueh

Directing research to place creek signs on all residential street crossings in the County
June 7, 2013


Using the model of the well-known and popular signage for storm drains, “Don’t dump – drains to Bay,” we request that the Board direct staff to research and return with a proposal to put into place either plastic sign, metal sign, or painted stencil-style identification of the creek name, for every residential street creek crossing in Santa Clara County, with the goal of completing the entire program Countywide by end of Fiscal Year 2015.

Creek and watershed identification are critical to community support for District initiatives to enhance our local watersheds. Many residents don’t know that even a trapezoid, concrete channel in their neighborhood could be a once and future living creek ecosystem. Identifying the creeks by name will help people realize what they have now, help them understand the upstream and downstream connections, and motivate them to support enhancing their watershed.

Plastic and metal signs are clearly preferable to stencils and may be appropriate for more prominent crossings than residential street crossings. While we consider plastic and metal signs preferable to stencils, we suggest that all three be researched for identifying creek crossings for cost-comparison purposes.

Many prominent, beautiful, and more expensive alternatives exist compared to stenciling creek names on crossings. We suggest stenciling only for residential streets, not bigger arterial roads that deserve more prominent signage. Staff research on this should consider offering cities and the County a chance to provide matching funding if they wish to enhance the signage in their jurisdiction – for example, funding covering the cost differential between stenciling and metal signs, or between metal signs and other signage proposed by a city or the County.

Staff research should consider signage being either just the creek name, creek and watershed name, or a short additional message – for example “Don’t litter, this is AAA Creek”. Research should determine the program’s cost for either stenciling or metal signs. Research should consider the process of obtaining permission from cities and the County to place signage on the bridge structures, or consider signage adjacent to the bridges on District-owned access gates.

This proposal follows upon Director Santos’ Board Member Request on the issue. The Board and the District has a longstanding interest in signage and community awareness, and we urge the Board to begin the research that can make this happen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I guess I'll accept the compliment

The Mercury News reported in it's "offbeat" column about the Water District Board decision to adopt my motion to switch to night meetings, something that I've advocated for since I first ran for the office:
Looking for something to do at night, now that "American Idol" is over for the year? Fear not! There's new evening entertainment coming soon to Silicon Valley. Board members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, in an uncharacteristically close 4-3 vote earlier this month, decided to move the agency's twice-monthly board meeting times from 9 o'clock every other Tuesday morning to 6 o'clock every other Tuesday evening. 
The goal? Copy most city councils in the area to try to get more people to attend meetings and encourage people with day jobs to run for board seats. James Madison cheers!

Usually, the audience is nearly empty, despite the fact that the water district, which provides water and flood control to 1.8 million people in Santa Clara County, is one of the county's largest government agencies and votes on everything from water rates to dam safety to trails to cleaning up after vagrants who trash Silicon Valley's creeks.

Yet as an attraction, "The Golden Spigot" hardly has lacked for drama. After all, it's the San Jose agency that has drawn attention and ridicule from the county grand jury, state lawmakers and the press in recent years for questionable spending, lavish staff salaries, gerrymandering schemes and other shenanigans.

But the agency's fortunes may be slowly turning around. In November, voters approved a $543 million parcel tax extension for the district by a landslide 74-26 percent. The tax currently costs $54 a home and funds dam upgrades, water treatment, trails and other projects. Millions in construction projects are already being planned.

And a new board is flexing its muscle. On the night meetings issue, the four votes came from reformers, all elected or appointed in the past three years: Linda LeZotte, Brian Schmidt, Barbara Keegan and chairwoman Nai Hsueh.
While I definitely support reform as needed, I think some criticisms are overblown. Still this column was about as close as the Merc could come to sincerely encouraging people to attend our meetings, so thanks!

The vote on the motion is below. If the video doesn't load, click here, find the May 14 2013 meeting, and scroll down to Item 9.3
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