Buying the Montecito Water District

By Dick Shaikewitz   |   August 30, 2018
Dick Shaikewitz has served 12 years on the MWD ( frequently President); Central Coast Water Authority (Chairman); SB County Special Districts (Vice President); Director, Liability section Statewide Water Insurance Agency

This November, three seats on the five-member Board of the Montecito Water District (MWD) will terminate, allowing interested candidates to run for the open positions. The MWD, formed in 1921 is governed by a majority vote of the five elected directors who serve four-year terms. These directors determine policy and approve the expenditure of funds received from the district’s 4,600 rate-paying customers.

There were two open MWD seats in 2016. Four people ran for these positions. A small group raised more than $60,000 in campaign money to defeat the former MWD general manager and a sitting board member. The two elected individuals had no prior MWD Board experience and had attended few, if any, MWD Board meetings.

The three seats to be elected this November are currently held by three incumbents who have each served 12 years on the board, providing the experience and qualifications to help make pivotal decisions. Two of them have decided to retire from the board. I am the third and have decided to run again.

The Committee

This current election will see a Special Interest group: “The Committee for Montecito Water Security (Committee) put forward a slate of three candidates, none with any prior MWD Board experience. In the 2016 Board election, a group consisting of most of these same Committee people, raised over $60,000 in campaign money. For this November election, the Committee has so far raised $87,547 in campaign money. Eleven Committee individuals, including the new 2016 directors account for $69,947 of this.

Over the next several months, you will be inundated by their aggressive campaign that not only promotes the committee’s three new, inexperienced candidates for the Water Board; but also two new inexperienced candidates to run against two Montecito Sanitary District Incumbents.

Take-Over Campaign

This take-over campaign by the committee becomes even more questionable with the two newly elected 2016 directors having already filed papers with the Election Board for the 2020 election for their current offices. They have also donated $8,947 to the campaign for the new candidates. Further, one of the three candidates for whom they have donated money was their campaign treasurer and donated campaign money to their 2016 campaigns. It’s incestuous!

If the committee is successful, your MWD will be run by five directors who were pretty much chosen, and massively financially backed by, 11 individuals. Interestingly, only three MWD Board votes are needed to pass any measure. Why are they afraid of having someone with water experience who is not part of their clique on the board? This new board would have 100-percent control of your district. There will be no one on the board questioning or objecting to what they are doing. It will be just like they own your MWD.

Wise Decisions Needed

It’s important to have one or more MWD Board members with years of MWD Board history and experience to help guide the District through the perils that ever-changing water conditions present. Such as: Do we enter into a contract with the City adding desal water to the District’s water supply portfolio, or build our own plant? We have been studying the City’s various offers for four years. There’s good and bad with each new City version. Over the next 50 years, the current City proposal is estimated to cost our District and its 4,600 accounts an estimated quarter of a billion dollars. Further, the District will end up having no desal ownership or control.

In about the next 10 years, the State is expected to declare that with new technology, recycled wastewater is safe to drink. The City has made it clear that when the State says it’s safe, it will use recycled wastewater for its customers. MWD customers would also be obligated to drink this recycled wastewater under the City’s current desal proposal being evaluated by the MWD Board. Our two newest board members have indicated that this is acceptable. I was in the Marine Corps when the federal government assured us that Agent Orange was safe. I’m not sure I trust Sacramento to assure me that recycled wastewater is safe for your family and mine to drink.

These are just a few of the issues the committee would like three new inexperienced MWD directors and the two with two years’ MWD Board experience to decide for you.

I would greatly appreciate your vote.


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