24 Aug 2008

Competition (Oh Good!)

Antelope Valley's experiencing upheaval as citizens debate their future water policies. This article [read it fast, AV Press doesn't archive] gives the details on election challenges that incumbent directors of the water district face.

Although the US Congress is famous for its 90 percent-plus reelection rate (figure), water directors have even higher success rates -- because they rarely face opposition.

So how does a new director replace an old director? The old directors choose the new director, who steps in when the incumbent resigns. That new director then runs as an "incumbent" in the next election -- and rarely faces opposition.

Did you notice what a sweetheart deal that is? Yep -- Board members appoint their replacements. That's the way things work in Russia -- not in a democracy.

How are the AV directors reacting to the challenge? They are not happy:
Water agency board members in 1997 appointed Weisenberger to fill the vacated seat of Duard Jackson, a retired California State University, Los Angeles professor who moved out of the area. Since being appointed to the board, Weisenberger, a 52-year-old Antelope Valley College agriculture and landscape professor from Lancaster, has run unopposed.

In fact, director Dave Rizzo, also up for re-election, considered Weisenberger to be lucky in the 1998, 2000 and 2004 elections for not having to campaign.

"Now he has to earn his position like everyone else," Rizzo said with a smile, adding that he was kidding.

But neither Rizzo nor Weisenberger is laughing too hard. They believe a politically motivated strategy is behind an effort to unseat them and longtime board member George Lane, who has served as a board director since 1977.
I don't know about you, but I thought that elections are SUPPOSED to be political. Too bad these guys are going to face a POLITICAL challenge. After all, it may interfere with business as usual. /sarcasm

Bottom Line: Competition is good. (And no, I don't care if the challengers want to skewer and roast Bambi alive -- all politicians should earn their seats.)


  1. It's not just Antelope Valley. The Santa Clara Valley Water DIstrict has members who've served 28 and 22 years on the board. I ran against one of them this past June, and he'd never had an opponent before. One of the other members got elected with just the sort of scam you described.

    During the campaign. my opponent also asserted that "he was not a politician." Of course it's a political office!

    Thanks for your blog!

  2. As far as I know, the water agencies down here don't even announce upcoming openings on their boards. Often the agency have gerrymandered districts that make it even harder for the public to understand when a board seat representing their own district is coming open, since the district seat elections are staggered and not announced until after the incumbents have been reelected or replaced without a vote. The norm is for a sitting board member to resign or retire and be replaced by a pre-selected appointee, who automatically become the district incumbent in future elections.

  3. Even more potential permanent fossils on water district boards of directors are the general counsel and the general manager. It takes 3 of 5 board members to replace them and before long, they will have been on the board of directors longer than any board member.I know that I did not disapprove of this phenomenon when I was general counsel.


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