Why I am Running Again

By Dick Shaikewitz   |   September 20, 2018

I, Dick Shaikewitz, am an incumbent Montecito Water District (MWD) director since 2006, holding a business degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from Washington University. I practiced law in Southern Illinois; primarily doing litigation. Montecito has been my home for 21 years.

I served six years as a Montecito Association director. The Music Academy used to have a summer wine and food event; I helped with it and headed it one summer. For a number of years, I served as a director of the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.

For the last 19 years, I have been a non-commercial wine maker. Our group is called Los Cinco Locos. My own label is Domaine Jasminka. This year, we’ll produce 3,000 bottles. None is sold. We use it for family and friends, and give much away to charities and political organizations.

While MWD director, and with my legal background, I informed the board of situations where I thought legal action might be needed. Through my efforts, the District collected substantial sums.

Lower Water Bills?

In the 2006-07 fiscal year, the Montecito Water District (MWD) customers were using water at an unsustainable rate of more than 7,000 acre feet of water a year (AFY). Five percent of our residential customers were using 25 percent of our residential water account. Due to the ongoing and unprecedented drought, conservation by our customers, and new State rules, we are now using about 4,000 AFY.

As a Public Utility, the fixed expenses of the MWD do not change much, and if anything, they increase annually as do most expenses we face as homeowners. Our expenses for just over half as much water are about the same as they were for twice as much. Further, wages, energy, water, and chemical costs keep going up.

The high water use in 2006-07 was not sustainable, so in 2007 the MWD Board adopted a tiered rate structure. The cost for using more water increased. When the drought continued in 2011, customer water consumption increased again to unsustainable levels, and with water supplies becoming more scarce, the board adopted allocations to help enforce conservation. Even though this was painful for some of our customers, it worked and continues to work today. But we had less money to pay bills, since most of our revenues are derived from water sales.

To correct the significant drop in revenues, the board in 2015 adopted a water shortage emergency surcharge. Unfortunately, it is still in effect. The District is working on a new rate study, but whatever it’s called, more money is needed to pay the bills since customers are using less water.

The three MWD Board candidates are personally nice people. But they were selected to run as a slate by a small group calling itself the Committee for Montecito Water Security (Committee) with a campaign fund of about $90,000. Eleven individuals account for almost $70,000 of this. That means they can spend almost $13 a person to try to persuade the 7,000 MWD voters to put them in office.

Their platform naively proposes the development of expensive desalinated and recycled wastewater with questionable return benefits, and your water bill will go down. With my 12 years of experience on the board, I understand the water supply and cost problems better than those three. If I am retained as a director of your Water District, your water bill will have a much better chance of not being as high as the new MWD Board would make it.

Directors Learn from Incumbents

When I came on the MWD Board in 2006, there were three incumbent directors and an engineer, all with years of MWD experience to help guide and educate the new directors. Director Bob Puddicombe had 21 years, Jan Abel 15 years, Larry Wilson 12 years, and engineer Tom Mosby 16 years. Director Puddicombe passed away shortly after I became a director, but we had much guidance from the other three.

This coming year, the MWD Board is expected to commit to spend about $1/4 billion of your water money which will have long-term impacts on rates and charges. These expenditures will include improving your water supply by the anticipated addition of desalinated and recycled wastewater (new water supplies); along with continuing to pay for the State Water Project and its possible contract extension; a possible local groundwater opportunity; Cachuma and Jameson Lakes’ water; and supplemental water purchases as needed.

Our current general manager has been with the District three years, our engineer one year, the last two elected directors two years each; and if the committee is successful in getting all three inexperienced people elected, there will be no one with any long-term MWD Board experience. If you’re going to have surgery, do you want all new inexperienced doctors? If you’re going to enter into long-term complicated contracts and commit huge sums of money, I believe it’s important to have as many people as possible with years of experience who can see the problems and try to explain them with possible solutions to the others. I believe, in this case, that person is me.

Countywide Committees

With diminished local water supplies, the MWD is heavily reliant on State and purchased water we receive from the Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA). As MWD’s representative, I became a director of CCWA. MWD holds 9.3 percent of CCWA’s voting power. Some of the other members are the City of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Goleta, and Santa Maria. CCWA now has a $70,000,000 yearly budget. These other Districts had elected me chair, and I currently serve as vice chair. If I am re-elected to the MWD Board, in January I will again be chair.

I also became MWD’s representative to the Santa Barbara County Special Districts Association (SBCSDA). Other member Special Districts including fire, water, sanitary, cemetery, vector, and airport elected me as vice president. If I am re-elected to the MWD Board, next year I am in a position to be its president. Among other functions, SBCSDA elects two of the seven Santa Barbara County LAFCO members.

I don’t believe any of the three candidates ever attended a CCWA or SBCSDA meeting or even know what they do.

The committee selected three candidates. In 2016, they were successful in getting the two newest board members elected. In effect, they are attempting a 100-percent take over your Water District. Why? With five Directors, only three votes are necessary to pass any measure. Could it be that the 11 $70,000 campaign fund contributors want to assure absolute total control of your Water District – just like they own it?

Please remember when you are voting that, without an incumbent board member, there will be no one to question the new board’s proposed actions, or to look out for you, the customers.

Please vote for me, Dick Shaikewitz.


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