Written by Beckett Glass (News Editor)
There are forty-two days or six weeks until the General Election. Many states are conducting voting entirely by mail before or by election day. It will be one of the most exciting elections in history, determining the course of our nation into the next generations. There are also two seats open for election on the San Lorenzo Water District Board Of Directors, which are very important because of damaged water infrastructure in the CZU fire.
This election is not only important for the nation but our local community. There are two seats open on the San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors. The candidates are Dr. Gail Mahood, a former geology professor at Stanford University, Lew Ferris, Beth Thomas, and Tina Marie To.
When asking Tina Marie To what made her want to run for the Water Board she states, “Water is the most critical of our utilities. The right to safe water is considered a fundamental human right according to the United Nations. I am an environmental scientist that focuses on aquatic and marine issues, so it’s in my wheelhouse. Civic participation is necessary for a functioning government, and this is how I’ve chosen to participate. I’ve been attending the water district meetings for the last two years and have decided to play a more involved role.”When asking her what do she would want to accomplish on the board her reply is as follows, “The wildfires have created a situation where the Water District needs to work with a variety of partners to have the capacity to provide safe water for the residents of the San Lorenzo Valley. I want to be a liaison between the water district and its partners. I want to create a strong financial position while expanding the Low-Income Rate Assistance (LIRA) program that is currently in its trial phase. This is critical because the water district needs the money to build its infrastructure, prepare for future emergencies, and provide water to all residents, regardless of their ability to pay. Additionally, my environmental knowledge can steer the water district in an environmentally sustainable way.” She also states what she would do differently than the current board, “The previous board was intent on reducing rates. The wildfires will essentially wipe out the water district’s funds, and the reduced rates are not fiscally sustainable. Furthermore, the water district faces upcoming fiscal liabilities – such as employee retirement – that will exacerbate the financial situation. The water district needs people that will step up and take the financial reins, even if it is unpopular.”
When asking Dr. Gail Mahood, what made him want to run for the water board he replies by saying, “After I moved here in 2017 I realized the challenges the Valley faces in terms of geology and how rainfall comes into the Valley in the winter and the more I went to SLVWD board meetings I realized that my geology experience would be useful.” He goes on to state what he would do if elected to the water board, explaining, “When I first decided that I wanted to run and I had goals and those have changed since the fire. We have lost most of the surface water facilities in the Valley and the surface water supplies about half the Valley. We have to do extensive testing for VOCs and toxic metals especially where there was heavy fire damage. I want to make sure that the testing is done enough and that it is done over a long time to make sure contaminants are noticed. We have found some contamination north of Boulder Creek and we have found some in water tanks. We are concerned about these because, in levels that were found north of Boulder Creek, the concentrations that were found are not lethal. Not all the VOCs are toxic in the short term, though in the long term they can be carcinogenic. The other thing I am worried about is after large and intense fires the rain can create debris flows that will go into SLVWD intake areas. We also need to make sure that the recovery from the fire allows us to upgrade the equipment such as widening the pipes to increase efficiency in operational costs.” He was also asked if he wanted to bring back the educational programs that the district used to provide to teachers, he responded by saying, “The District used to have two staff members engaged in environmental, regulatory, and outreach work; it now has one, and, before the fire, it was all she could do to keep up with fulfilling all the county and state requirements to move ahead with replacing aging infrastructure. As you can imagine, in the aftermath of the fire, her workload has increased mightily. The District is facing a huge financial burden to repair all the infrastructure damaged and destroyed by the fire, even with FEMA picking up 75% of the cost, so all resources will have to be directed there. Once we are through the crisis of the next two years, I think the District should be more aggressive in working with the school teachers to get federal grants to pay for educational activities. I know from my own experience writing grants to fund my geologic research as a Professor at Stanford, there is a great deal of grant money available through the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education for real-world science and engineering education programs to enrich normal grade school and high school curricula and to increase teacher competence in STEM fields. I know how to navigate this system, and would work with Valley school teachers to write proposals that would provide funding for the educational activities and a staff member to coordinate them.”
Beth Thomas is running with Lew Ferris who is currently on the SLVWD board of directors. Lew Ferris was asked why she wants to run for the position, she replies, “I would like to finish a modernization program of the infrastructure. I have been involved since 2014 on the engineering committee and after I was appointed to the board so I was placed on the environmental committee. I am also on the board of the Santa Margarita groundwater agency. The goal is to develop a sustainability plan for county water.” Beth Thomas was also asked what it was like to run for office for the first time, “It would be a weird thing, to begin with, it is a challenge to figure out the ways of communication with our campaign. Some of our long time community members are suffering through some hard things right now. We are figuring out creative ways of communicating with the community. We are using a Facebook page which is getting attention now. The other things that I like about it are that it appeals to younger people, it is a venue for them to get into politics. I want younger people to get involved with the water district. We also use print media in the press banner and the SLV post. We are also looking at good old fashioned signs in the community.”
It is imperative that every single American that can vote does so. This election will have implications for the next several decades on the American economy and people. In the last presidential election, around 100 million eligible voters did not vote according to the Washington Post.