Why I am Running for Montecito Water Board

By Ken Coates   |   September 6, 2018

Four years ago, I attended my first Montecito Water Board meeting hoping to understand why Montecito and Summerland residents had to endure water rationing, penalty rates, and the threat of a service cut off. In subsequent meetings, it was clear that the management and the board had no strategic plan, as mandated by the State, had ignored the 2007 recommendations of an expert on how to address potential drought issues, were struggling for financial viability, and were not cooperating with other water and sanitary agencies for solutions. The board even rejected an offer from community members to fund an engineering study for a Montecito desalination and recycling plant.

Many other residents shared my concern that the water issues could not be addressed effectively by the existing management and a dysfunctional board. As a result, Tobe Plough and Floyd Wicks were asked to run for election to the board. With their fresh ideas and the retirement of the general manager, the situation has improved substantially. There is now a strategic plan in place, discussions with the City of Santa Barbara about participating in its desalination plant have been reopened, and dialogue with the Montecito Sanitary and other nearby districts on recycling has begun. However, there is much more to be done.

Water security for Montecito and Summerland will require diversification of our water supply, and that will mean smart harvesting of every drop of water on this side of the mountains. We cannot rely upon uncertain snowpack in the Sierras or rainfall locally to provide for our future needs. We need local solutions – completion of a desalination agreement with the City, recycling of the 500,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater dumped into the ocean every day, better management of our groundwater, and further conservation efforts.

Accomplishing these tasks will require strong direction from our Montecito Water and Sanitary boards that has not been provided by the incumbents seeking re-election. Experience in failing to deal with the issues cannot be accepted any longer. 

We do not want or need to privatize. We want to move forward with a team of people dedicated to collaborating with one another and with other South Coast agencies to achieve resilient, regional solutions. By running together, the five members of the Water Security team (Brian Goebel, Cori Hayman, and I on the Water side, and Woody Barrett and Dana Newquist on the Sanitary side) have already demonstrated our ability to cooperate effectively. Importantly, we bring a diverse set of skills to address the issues faced by the two boards.

A bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University and a master’s degree in finance from University of Chicago provided a firm foundation for my business career. My broad experience as an executive in the automotive industry developed skills in analysis, strategic planning, human resources, and financial management that were used to solve complex problems in manufacturing, supply, finance, and environmental issues. For the last several years, my skills have been used for civic activities on the Direct Relief, Sansum Clinic, and Duke Cancer Institute boards, and attending the Water District Board, Finance Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee meetings for three years plus.

Restoring Montecito to the beautiful community we love will take time, patience, and a robust strategy for a resilient water future. If elected, I promise to use all my skills to find creative solutions for a reliable and environmentally responsible water supply through local and regional cooperation. With your help, we can achieve resilience and water security for Montecito and Summerland.


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