In last week’s Montecito Journal, newly elected water directors inaccurately castigated me for over half a page, but again failed to explain how they plan on paying the $7,000,000 a year in new costs they want the District to incur, except by increasing your water bills. They still have not said why, when it takes only three of the five Board members’ votes to pass any measure, they want no one on the board who might question their motives.
Before the worst drought in California’s history began, the board thought we had enough stored water. We, and almost every other water District in the state, were wrong. As the drought persisted, we purchased additional water and banked most of it in San Luis Reservoir.
Then, as most of you may remember, but not my two board critics, northern California had a year of massive rain and snow. The Lake Oroville spillway collapsed, almost every lake reservoir in the State spilled, and most water Districts, including ours, lost banked water. We had initially been advised by the State of only a five percent chance of a reservoir spill. The rule is, “The first water to spill is banked water.” They criticize us first for not having enough banked water, and then for having too much.
Another Floyd Wicks–Tobe Plough criticism is our not having an updated Urban Water Management Plan. They forgot to mention that while the State would like them, the only possible penalty might be not receiving State grants. At that time, we had nothing that would qualify for a State grant. In 2015 (a year and a half before Wicks-Plough were elected), I approved the appropriation of $40,000 for an urban plan because we were considering a project that might receive a State grant. They would have known this had they attended our meetings before they were elected.
The Committee is sponsoring three inexperienced candidates for the Water District. They have now raised $120,000 in campaign money to try and obtain your vote. They promise to immediately sign a $1/4-billion contract with the City for desalinated water, even though negotiations are still going on, and to use the treated wastewater that the sanitary district moves to the ocean for golf courses.
They have not written one word on how they plan on paying for this. The City desal contract is estimated to cost about $4,000,000 a year. An additional $1,000,000 per year is also needed to deliver the water to us. The recycled wastewater will cost nearly $2,000,000 a year. Right now, the District’s budget is $19,000,000 a year. Their fulfilled promises will increase your cost by $7,000,000 a year, which would be about a 35% increase in your monthly water bill. The committee calls itself, “Water Security.” I call it water cost gouging and irresponsible.
Do these ill-informed candidates care about your District? A special board meeting was held October 12 to decide the financing of the $3,000,000 expenditure for new high-tech water meters. I had concerns with the multipage financing contract. I brought this up at the meeting and the other directors agreed. We had our financial officer contact the local bank whose bid had been higher. They agreed to match the one we thought would work, with even more benefits. How many of the three candidates who want to run your water District were interested enough to attend this $3,000,000 expenditure meeting? None!
Even though it takes only three of the five directors’ votes to pass any matter, the committee wants no incumbents on the board who understand the complexities of the district. If their three candidates are elected, there’s a strong probability that the excellent relations the District has had with its employees will disappear!
Every year, the board reviews and sets employee pension and medical insurance benefits. Consideration is given to both the employees and District customers. Our goal is to be fair to both sides. Our success has been shown in the close working relationship between management and its employees, not represented by a union since the district’s inception in 1921.
Many of our neighbors, some of whom used other tactics, have not been so fortunate. The City, Carpinteria, Goleta, and Santa Maria all have employee union representation. If one of our supervisors has an issue with an employee, they meet and talk it through to resolution. When this happens with one of our neighbors, the employee usually attends the meeting with both a union steward and union attorney. That means the employer must do the same and the costs greatly increase. It’s even worse on a yearly basis.
Brian Goebel, one of the three committee candidates, has frequently given his opinions on matters to Noozhawk and his own 2040 Matters website. Here are a few: “…local residents should contact their elected officials and encourage them to take steps to curb pension cost…”; “…we need our elected officials to take aggressive steps today to reduce retiree healthcare and pension costs…”; “First and foremost, our local governments must take aggressive measures today to slow the rate of growth in their pension and retiree healthcare contributions.”; “…local residents should write their elected officials and encourage them to take steps to curb pension costs.”
If Mr. Goebel and the other committee candidates are all successful in getting elected, and there are no incumbents to explain the facts of life to them, it could be the end of our 100 years of friendly labor-management relations. Please use one of your Water District votes for me, an incumbent, and two votes for the two Sanitary District incumbents.