Should water district directors have term limits? Prop C asks voters to limit service

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In a first for the Santa Clara Valley District, the board of
directors could no longer serve a life term if voters pass
Proposition C that would limit service to three four-year
terms.
In a first for the Santa Clara Valley District, the board of directors could no longer serve a life term if voters pass Proposition C that would limit service to three four-year terms.

The current seven-member board of directors approved the proposition’s language in July after a 5-2 vote to place term limits effective Dec. 3.

Board president Richard Santos, Tony Estremera, Patrick Kwok and South County’s directors Rosemary Kamei and Cy Mann voted in favor of term limits. Larry Wilson and Joe Judge voted against it.

The board also recommended that a member can return to the board after a one-term absence. The term length was based on the Santa Clara County Supervisor term limits, who have the same limitations.

The district made an effort to solicit public comments on term limits since 2008, holding three meetings that were sparsely attended, one of which was in Morgan Hill. Of 14 total comments siphoned to the board, 10 were in favor of term limits and four were not.

Director Judge of District 2 has held a seat on the board the longest since 30-year veteran Sig Sanchez retired late last year. Judge has been on board since 1986 and District 1 Director Kamei is in her 17th year on the board. Kamei is not seeking re-election.

The Morgan Hill and Gilroy city councils do not have term limits.

Along with heeding the terms of its directors, the water district will also have to pay to redo two placards on its headquarters’ dais. Instead of five district seats and two appointed at-large positions on the board, all seven jobs will be elected. In November, four directors are up for re-election or replacement – District 4’s Larry Wilson, District 1’s Kamei, North County’s at-large Director Estremera and South County’s at-large Director Mann. Board members have said their preference is to continue with seven members to ensure equal representation among the county’s growing population, and to draw districts that are independent of those served by the supervisors.

District 1 is a race among termed-out county Supervisor Don Gage, Gilroy vintner and former county supervisor candidate Tom Kruse and San Jose dentist Roberto Sepulveda.

In District 4, Wilson won’t seek re-election while ex-San Jose council member Linda Lezotte and Campbell council member Dan Furtado face off for the seat. Los Altos council member Louis Becker and environmental attorney Brian Schmidt are running against each other to represent District 7. Estremera will retain his seat and represent District 6 after no one filed the required paperwork to run against him.

The change from two appointed seats to all elected positions materialized from Assemblyman Joe Coto’s bill AB 466 that was approved last year after direction from the governor in 2006.

The district provides drinking water and flood protection for about 1.8 million Santa Clara County residents and employs about 800 people. Its annual budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 is $315 million.

TO RAISE OR NOT TO RAISE

The water district’s board of directors will decide whether or not to raise their collective annual reimbursement by about $10,920, bringing their maximum annual per diem stipend to about $229,000, not including benefits.

At 5:30 p.m. today, the water district will hold a public hearing to consider a 5 percent raise. Last year, the board voted against the raise.

By state law, the water district board of directors is permitted to increase members’ compensation by 5 percent each year for the meetings they attend in order to administer the agency’s role as a wholesale water provider, flood controller and groundwater manager.

The pay raise is meant to compensate for corresponding cost of living expenses from year to year. Currently, directors receive $260.03 per meeting, for up to 10 meetings per month. As directors typically attend at least 10 meetings per month, each annual stipend for 2009 will add up to about $31,200.

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