Three file for new water district seat
Three candidates have filed papers to run for a newly created four-year seat on the governing board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District in November.
Bern Beecham, Lou Becker and Brian Schmidt have thrown their hats into the ring to represent the new District 7, which covers Mountain View as well as Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno and Los Gatos.
Both Beecham and Becker are veteran politicians familiar with municipal water administration. Schmidt, a Mountain View resident, is an environmentalist and lecturer at Santa Clara University who is familiar with water issues.
Beecham is the former mayor of Palo Alto and was first elected to the Palo Alto City Council in 2000. He has been a representative for the Bay Area Water Users Association, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water System financing authority, and a chair of the Bay Area Water Services Conservation Authority.
The former Palo Alto mayor said in an e-mail that he was running for two key reasons: to continue "work I enjoyed and excelled at while serving" on the Palo Alto City Council, and to correct what he called a tradition of "overspending and excess" in the water district. In his message, Beecham called the district's headquarters "extravagant" and its pay scale "overly generous."
The water district has often disregarded the interests of the communities it is supposed to serve, according to Beecham. He called a recent effort to include Gilroy and Palo Alto in the same sub-district a "blatant gerrymander."
Schmidt has served on the water district's Environmental Advisory Committee and the Performance Audit Committee. He, too, is concerned about finances, but wrote in an e-mail that he believes his experience working on environmental issues will give him an opportunity to "lead the way on mercury cleanup and water district environmental leadership."
Schmidt said he is interested in protecting the Permanente Creek Trail, as well as cleaning up Moffett Field and restoring wetlands in the area.
Additionally, Schmidt would like to make some changes to the way the board operates. Should he be elected, Schmidt said he would work to have public board meetings moved to the evening so citizens with day jobs can more easily attend. Currently, meetings are held every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m.
"Clean government is the only way you can get real fiscal reform," Schmidt said.
Becker has served as mayor and city council member in Los Altos, and worked for more than 10 years on the Santa Clara Valley Water Commission, a water district advisory council.
Becker, who could not be reached for comment by press time, was quoted in a local paper saying that he is concerned with employee salaries and benefits, as well as escalating water rates.
In Mountain View, the district will oversee the controversial Cuesta Annex and McKelvey Park flood basin projects, which will collect storm water in the event of a 100-year flood. It is also responsible for the oversight, construction and maintenance of various water-related structures, facilities, trails and other projects in the county.
Mountain View receives 10 percent of its water from the Santa Clara County Water District, 87 percent from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir via the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and 3 percent from eight city-owned and operated ground-water wells.
The next district board meeting is set for July 27 to consider a proposed pedestrian-and-bicycle bridge over Highway 101 and a tunnel under Middlefield Way on the Permanente Creek Trail.