Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Some of the things we've discussed in this election

As we count the hours to the close of polls, I thought I would put down here some of the things I've discussed with people in the election, either in person or in writing (and much of it can already be found on the campaign website, or with a little more searching at the campaign Facebook page.)

Campaign finance reform is the half-million dollar elephant in the room. I tried to work on this before I had any idea it would be an issue in the campaign but encountered roadblocks with District staff believing it would be extremely expensive. I frankly have doubts about that, and now that the issue has arisen again, you can believe that I'm taking it back up:
TO: Board of Directors and Staff                           FROM: Brian Schmidt
SUBJECT: Board Member Request to review models for limiting the role of money in future Water
District elections

DATE: October 10, 2014

Given recent news of extremely large amounts of money being spent in elections for the Water District, possibly a state-level record for any water district, I am bringing back an issue I raised before last year of investigating ways to limit the role of money in future Water District elections.

Staff’s previous research concluded that some limitations might require large administrative costs for
the District to ensure compliance. This new request asks staff to look at existing models in Santa Clara County and elsewhere that avoid large administrative costs. One example could be Mountain View’s Voluntary Expenditure Limits combined with partial reimbursement of certain fees paid by candidates to the government as part of the election process. I would request staff consider other options as well.

As we have seen very appropriate criticism and reform of the role of unlimited money in almost all other types of non-special-district elections, this request looks to opportunities for similar reform at the Water District in its future elections.

In addition, I think local party politics could use some reform. Exactly what to do is less clear, but what is very clear is that my opponent threw a lot of money around in the form of contributions to other political groups and politicians, much more so than in previous years. One trick I'm aware of is "stacking" political clubs with your supporters, so that a well-financed campaign will go out and actively recruit people to join various Democratic Clubs (and in at least one case I understand that included paid staffers joining up). A solution to this is to require a six-month waiting period before new members can vote to change the rules or to endorse local candidates.

Moving on from clean money issues, I've been very clear on my website on water supply issues, which are environmental issues as well. I've referred to lawns as the "fast food" of California landscaping, something that's okay in small amounts only. I believe that cities should prohibit replacing lawns with more lawns in commercial redevelopments, with limited exceptions. Single family residential is the area that lawns are most justified, but even there they don't need to be universal. Where we do have lawns it should be the most water-thrifty types, and possibly using the new underground irrigation techniques.

Something else I've mentioned to people is that while I want to remove concrete from our creeks as much as possible, we have to recognize that a lot of concrete channels are going to stay that way for years to come. In the meantime, we should focus on both the biology and aesthetics of concrete channels - they do have biological value and shouldn't just be 'functional and ugly' but places that the public also enjoys.

Climate change continues to challenge us. I am very interested in community choice aggregation as a way to get greener power, and the possibility of green bonds. I'm interested in anything the District can do to reduce its footprint and be prepared for our changing climate.

More to come, later!