23 Mar 2009

No Oversight Please

This article shows how water managers try hard to resist change:
The Santa Clara Valley Water District board on Tuesday agreed to ask a state lawmaker to submit a bill that would require it to adopt nearly a dozen reforms, from more open records to limits on revolving-door hiring. If passed in Sacramento, the measure would usher in some of the most substantial changes in the way Silicon Valley's largest water agency — which has been hampered by controversy in recent years over its spending and management — has been governed since its creation in 1968.


Voting no were longtime board members Sig Sanchez, Larry Wilson and Joe Judge. Although praising some of the reforms, the opponents said they don't want them written into state law.

"It is not good governance for the state to dictate how local government should be run," Wilson said.

Added Sanchez: "It would demean this district to where we were relegated to the role of some small district in the Central Valley."

[snip The reforms...] include a one-year ban on board members seeking employment from the district after they leave office; a ban on board member travel unless it is approved in public meetings; and more transparency, including annual public hearings on the district's financial reserves; and regularly written summaries of the board's closed session meetings.

[snip State Representative...] Coto cited newspaper accounts and a 2006 grand jury report that noted the water district doubled its payroll between 2000 and 2006. The agency also ran into controversy in 2007 when its former CEO, Stan Williams, hired board member Greg Zlotnick to a newly created $184,000-a-year job without advertising the position.

When Coto demanded the reforms as a condition of carrying the bill, a board subcommittee at first agreed. But then last week Sanchez removed Kwok from the subcommittee, and its members reversed course, recommending that Coto be asked to remove all 11 reforms or kill the bill.
Bottom Line: Egads! Can we get some basic oversight?!

1 comment:

  1. I ran for that board last year, and when I'd tell voters about the issues that Coto addresses in his bill, I'd always hear "Where is the oversight?" I'd tell them, "It's an elected board; you are the oversight." But the fact that I was running against an incumbent who'd served 28 years without ever facing a challenger tells you all you need to know about voter oversight of the SCVWD board.

    And, while I do wholeheartedly agree with you that prices are the only way to get people to value water, this exact board is a big stumbling block for me in talking about higher prices. I simply do not trust them with that much money.

    Thanks for your blog; I enjoy it very much.

    Diana Foss
    former SCVWD candidate


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