Hello, thank you for checking out my Issues page.
This page is intended as an expanded discussion on some of the topics I outlined on the Home page. This is an unusual election year and since I cannot meet with you in person I hope these pages on my website will give you an idea of who I am.
Please note, these are my opinions and I am not speaking on behalf of the West Country Wastewater District. Some of the Issues can be achieved through our sewer district, some perhaps with a letter expressing our support and others by individuals within a community joining together to affect an outcome.
Email me if you want to talk about something else, firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a good day and stay safe.
Recognizing our obligations to the future by planning and preparing today
Reconociendo nuestras obligaciones con el futuro
planificando y preparándonos hoy
This is a work in progress, so bear with me as I fiddle with these pages and topics.
1. FISCAL MANAGEMENT and TRANSPARENCY
2. JOBS, EMPLOYMENT & UNIONS
3. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/Focus on environmental responsibility and stewardship
4. PANDEMIC RESPONSE & PREPAREDNESS
5. SOCIAL JUSTICE/Black Lives Matter
6. The Board represents YOU & YOUR VOICE MATTERS
1. FISCAL MANAGEMENT and TRANSPARENCY
Fair and reasonable sewer rates by reducing our energy costs
Increase alternative energy production by trapping greenhouse gas emissions for renewable energy and increasing our solar energy collection.
The West County Wastewater District currently spends about 1.2 million a year buying energy to run its treatment facility and its Hilltop location.
We can reduce our energy costs by doing simple things like changing the types of lights we use, have lights automatically turn off, computers switch to sleep mode, and reduce our heating and cooling needs.
Additionally, the solar arrays currently at our treatment plant are technologically old and sometimes don't move as they are supposed to. We could replace them. We could also add solar panels onto other roofs.
If we expand our methane gas production we could convert that gas into renewable energy.
Reducing the amount of energy we need and also producing more energy that would result in significantly measurable savings to our operating budget and would reasonably offset the expense to implement these ideas.
I believe the goal should be: be able to produce enough energy to keep our treatment plant operating during extended energy or rolling power outages and always have enough energy stored for several days before such an event happens.
This would be good fiscal management by acting with care and thought for the future.
Focus on prudent fiscal management & recognizing our obligations to the future by planning and preparing today so the burdens are shared by all the generations who will benefit, rather than overburdening any one generation.
In June 2019 the board approved 103 million dollars of unfunded capital improvement projects. This year we anticipate another 7-10 million to be added to that list. Past decisions to keep rates low and not plan for the future is costing us today. In my opinion, it is unfair and unsustainable to expect one generation to pay for what may balloon up closer to 200 million dollars.
What should normally happen is once we replace all the sewer pipes in the ground, it would be time to start over and start replacing them again so that every 50 to 60 years we replace all of our sewer pipes. At the same time treatment plant upgrades would continue as would the normal replacing and upgrading of equipment. Unexpected expenses will occur like pandemics, fires, sea level rising, and earthquakes. We need to be prepared to keep our employees and community safe while continuing to collect and process wastewater so our toilets keep flushing which protects the health and safety of our community.
While we are doing all those things we should always ask ourselves as we make decisions, what is best for the future, rather than just the short term, what is best for the environment versus what is the minimum we have to do, is it possible to save money over time and how can we reduce the financial burden to our ratepayers?
If the upgrades and pipe replacements we make over the next decade or so will benefit the next 3 to 4 decades, then it is only fair that the burden of paying for these benefits are shared by all those generations. Every effort should be made to find free grant monies, low-interest government infrastructure, and green energy loans to help relieve as much of the financial burden to our ratepayers as we can.
By recognizing through responsible management and inquiry what our future obligations are, allows us to plan and prepare for those future expenses without putting an unfair burden on ratepayers today.
2. JOBS, EMPLOYMENT & UNIONS
Fair union labor contracts for employees
I think the wastewater business is a very interesting and important business and I am delighted at all the different types of employment opportunities that are available at the West County Wastewater District. I am committed to offering the employees working at our sewer district a safe place to work, fair and equitable union wages that provides for their family today, and fair and equitable benefits to take care of themselves and their families into the future.Foster community job growth via local hiring policies for contractors and employees and encouraging the use of apprenticeship programs to train future local workers through our new Planned Labor Agreement
"... Building Trades Unions’ world-class registered apprenticeship programs train workers to become highly-skilled, six-figure earning construction workers through a debt-free, technologically-advanced education. These earn-as-you-learn programs pay family-sustaining wages and provide health care coverage and retirement benefits from day one." https://nabtu.org/apprenticeship-and-training/
Additionally, I support being aware and offering in-house apprenticeship opportunities to address the need for trained employees who will be replacing those employees who will be retiring or potentially filling a future need at our facility or within our industry. As our industry evolves it is reasonable to expect new job opportunities.
3. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
“The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us,
I say we will never forgive you.” Greta Thunberg
"Los ojos de todas las generaciones futuras están sobre ti y si eliges fallarnos,
Yo digo que nunca te perdonaremos ". Greta Thunberg
Focus on environmental responsibility and stewardship:
A. Continue to work with our community stakeholders to build an expanded horizontal levee to protect our treatment plant, which is at sea level, and provide health equity to our community. With the cooperation of other stakeholders, the levee will protect nearby communities and roadways and provide both a new habitat for wildlife and a new quality outdoor nature walk for our community.
As we all have learned during this pandemic, having somewhere nearby where we can go outside, keep our social distance, and enjoy nature greatly improves our mental and physical health. Imagine, being able to take a walk and watch the wild birds and other animals that live near the San Pablo Bay and the new levee. Imagine sitting on a bench for a rest and maybe going into the new learning center to get something to drink or to use the clean restrooms. This is possible and community members being lead by the West County Wastewater District are working together to make it a reality.
B. Increase the capacity to store alternative energy so that no power outages will adversely affect our ability to collect and process sewage, thus protecting the Health and Safety of our community.
With the necessity of rolling power outages and with Cal Fire reporting that the fire season has been extended 75 days due to climate change that makes the threat of mega-fires almost continuous and we must be prepared to continue providing service when the power companies cannot supply power, to do so we need to build a system that allows us to produce enough alternative energy to run our treatment plant and store enough energy that will last longer than we think we might need. Minimum measures are not sufficient.
C. Water recycling and re-purposing.
We already recycle almost 100% of our water and we can recycle more, especially during the winter months if we store rather than dispose into the bay treated water during the rainy winter months when rain and storm water leaks into our sewer collection pipes. We can also investigate and implement a system that would collect the finite strategic minerals that are essential to nearly every aspect of modern life and remove them from our wastewater for recycling and if we must dispose of treated wastewater into our Bay, that we enhance that water so that it is beneficial to marine life. Everything we do, must be the best we can do.
D. Reduce our carbon footprint by replacing our biosolids drying beds with new technology.
We invested in a year-long study to find our what our carbon footprint was and we know now that we can reduce our carbon footprint by 70+% by replacing our bio-solid drying beds with a different process which will also increase our production of alternative energy. After we do that, how do we reduce more?
E. Explore the use of biosolids to energy and creating a marketable byproduct.
Currently, at the end of our process, we end up with a product called bio-solids, which we have an agreement to send to a landfill for them to use in their industry. Both industries however are under regulation to reduce this sort of use.
So what to do?
In just the four years since I have been a director, the technology has significantly advanced. Four years ago we were only hoping for what is possible today and honestly, we were waiting for other wastewater districts to spend their money and learn from their mistakes before we decided what we wanted to do. The technology is still evolving but it is becoming easier to at least explore the cost and benefits of what the result will be by changing the processing of our biosolids. While we currently recycle and use the methane gas we produce as alternative energy, as we upgrade our process we can produce more free energy.
Another issue to consider, which I personally think should always be part of our considerations, can we also benefit our environment?
"The world needs topsoil to grow 95% of its food – but it's rapidly disappearing... [Currently.] if we continue to degrade the soil at the rate we are now, the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years, according to Maria-Helena Semedo of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization... Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water, absorb carbon, and feed people plunges. Not only that, but the food we do grow will probably be lower in vital nutrients. "
Some provocative questions to consider, can we help our planet, create some additional alternative energy, and create a new marketable, sustainable, and earth-friendly product?
Before we decide, we need to make a list of what is important to our decision-making process. How important is creating more alternative energy to use at our treatment plant? We could decide that extracting finite non-renewable minerals from our sewage is a priority. We could decide we want to be 100% sure that all the medications and metals within our wastewater are removed or rendered inert. We could decide we want to do more than what is required, to remove the man-made group of chemicals commonly referred to as PFAS which is contaminating our soil and water from our end product.
We could decide that the finished product is acceptable if it is inert filler or we could decide to go a step further to enhance the product to become a beneficial additive or strive to attain the gold standard of producing organically farmable topsoil. We would need to ask, what will the market pay to purchase this product. Finally, after we assembled our lists and asked our questions we need to balance the cost to the benefits and determine which is the most responsible by acting with care and thought for the future to our community.
Another opportunity for the community to give us their opinions.
Our urgent responsibility to the future generations
is acceptable at nothing less than 100%.
Nuestra responsabilidad urgente para con las generaciones futuras
es aceptable en nada menos que el 100%.
4. PANDEMIC RESPONSE & PREPAREDNESS
Sewer districts have the ability to provide an early warning system against future health threats. We already have a working relationship with EBMUD with our water recycling program. We can join EBMUD, who is working with the National Center for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health to develop protocols that will assist in consistently and scientifically analyzing wastewater to provide data that will alert the public of future disease outbreaks. This we can get on board today.
This we are not even talking about yet. I believe we need to start talking now and begin working within our community to build a network to assist one another.
Because in my lifetime I remember having to look up the word tsunami, 10 years ago there wasn't much talk about climate change, last year I never considered a global pandemic, so yes, today I cannot imagine not having facemasks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies stuffed away and I worry about what is coming next. We process millions of gallons of human waste every day. Where is that going to go if the sewer pipes are broken? How can we minimize the risk to our health?
Broadly, do we have the resources we need to adequately prepare for and recover from all types of disasters? What supplies do we need to have on hand and what sort of drills should we be having? What partnerships do we need to establish and who and how do we communicate with each other?
"The Hayward Fault... is along the east side of California’s San Francisco Bay and is among the most active and dangerous in the United States..." https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/fs20183016
Specifically, what happens when the Hayward fault has a major earthquake? What can we do to shift where we send safely treated water and make it available for firefighting? How do we keep our employees safe? If our community becomes a national disaster site and the roads are destroyed, what can we do to help our community? WATCH this short film https://www.usgs.gov/media/videos/haywired-scenario-movie
5. SOCIAL JUSTICE
Black Lives Matter - Listening with empathy to our community and making changes to ensure our community knows their lives matter, has worth, and is valued.
The Movement for Black Lives is being embraced by our communities, communities of all races, genders, and generation
In our district, the Black, Asian, and White communities have almost the same percentage of people, with only a 2% difference.s. Today, more than ever we must be our community's guardian.
Our Hispanic community has twice as many people than any other race in our district. Today, our service area is a predominately Hispanic community.
Today, our communities are joining together with the Indigenous and Immigrant communities along with the Climate and Social Justice groups. We are fighting for community control against inequity. We are standing up with the Black Lives Matter movement to protect our brothers and sisters, to rage against the fear of violence and abuse, and to offer protection as a united community.
Today, we are combining our power to say, Hispanic families do not get separated and brown children are not put in cages away from the protection of their parents, and there is a pathway to citizenship.
Today, we are done with ignoring the fact our people are afraid for their lives and well-being. The people in our communities should feel safe anywhere, violence is no longer ignored, silence is not golden. We believe people, we help people, we don't threaten to deport them, threaten them with losing their jobs, their homes or their lives. We provide assistance and strength to protect our community.
Today, we act. Black and Brown parents shouldn't have to have THE CONVERSATION with their children about how to stay alive if they are accosted by anyone. All parents are pledging to protect all our children and we will continue to act to protect all our sisters and brothers because we are one community.
Today, we remember and honor those who came before us; we remember their sacrifices and demand justice in the name of today's children and their future.
Today, we listen, learn, and revisit the words we use, then support the systemic and structural change to ensure our words do not prevent qualified candidates from applying for a job or current employees are not affected by unintentional bias because today we know words have power and have sparked judgment and have resulted in stereotypes and biases, fuelling prejudice and discrimination.
Today, we listen and then support the systemic and structural change to keep our people of color out of the criminal justice system.
Today, we demand change for poor people unjustly kept in jails because they cannot afford bail.
Today, we support investment and access to education, to health care, to union jobs that provide a living wage, with benefits and job security.
Today, we are fighting for health and food justice, for clean air and water, for renewable energy for everyone.
Today, we believe the victims of violence, and fight the injustice which assaults the people in our community based on their gender, race, religion, and personal identity.
Today, when there is a crisis like a pandemic or a fire, we help. We support our first responders. We recognize and understand the needs of our community because we have listened to them and when a crisis occurs we show up and help. We listen to all sides. If we say it is fair to suspend rent payments then we also support the small landlords.
Today, we stand united with our sisters and brothers to say, we are not disposable, we matter, we have worth and we are valued.
United we say, WE are the shield and you will not harm us without accountability.
United we say, WE are the sword and WE are strong and we will demand justice.
6. The Board represents YOU & YOUR VOICE MATTERS
Before this election, the board members were elected by the voters within our service area and the candidates were required to live within our service area. Last year we were forced to split into voting wards and now candidates are required to live within their voting wards. Thus, not only are we residents within your voting ward we are also literally, your neighbors.
What is a Special District?
"Special districts are local governments created by the people of a community to deliver specialized services... Overseeing each special district is a board comprised of ... directors... elected by their constituents to govern the district operations. Special districts are established under the authority of a state’s statutes. districts obtain their authority directly from the community they serve... [and] ... are directly accountable to the community they serve." (https://www.csda.net/special-districts/learn-about)
I have often posted, you own it, your voice matters. literally, this is true. If you are a property owner your property taxes supplies most of our budget. If you are a renter, your rent helps pay for our budget. Therefore, your voice does matter.
Now that I have posted all of that, what are special districts not? Special districts entire scope of purpose is, in this case, the sewer district. We cannot spend the public's money on anything other than our sewer district's needs. Sometimes, we can do things like adopting local hiring policies or planned labor agreements which do not cost us anything and hopefully will promote local job creation and training via union apprenticeship programs. Other times because we are a public agency we are more likely to obtain grant monies than for example a for-profit corporation and thus by working with us, we might be able to bring free grant monies or low-cost loans that would otherwise be unavailable to the collaborative effort, such as our proposed levee. We can create a program to encourage property owners to replace or repair their cracked and/or damaged laterals because it benefits our sewer collection system by keeping out additional storm water and other objects out of our system primarily during the winter. We cannot however just willy nilly decide to lobby for our own voting Ward to have their sewer pipes replaced faster, that is determined by the priority assigned to pipes in a specific location as determined by a two-year study recently completed and other factors. In reality, even though we have been divided into voting wards, we still operate as one sewer district.
Open and Transparent Board Activity which includes:
A. Updating the company website for ease of use and understandability.
We need a webpage designer to update our webpage and maintain it. In my opinion responsibility for our webpage requires someone who has web design and maintenance experience. Webpages take time, even simple ones like this one. I will be bringing the topic up soon.
B. Make it easy to find online all financial reports including the annual budget, capital improvement projects, funding for special projects, set aside monies for equipment, maintenance, replacement, and upgrades.
I have been a board member for four years and truthfully I am not sure how many different categories we have for keeping track of our money. I know we have an operating budget, which is like your monthly budget, it covers the month to month expenses. I know we have a capital improvement budget that covers the big-ticket items like sewer pipe replacement or treatment plant upgrades and those monies come out of a different budgeted fund.
I like using this example to explain our budget. One of my sons has a safe inside his house. He has several envelopes inside that safe, one might be called vacation, another car repairs, another groceries. That is similar to the categories I am talking about. We set aside monies within our "safe" inside envelopes marked vehicle replacement, payroll, pensions, or upgrades. I propose we create an easy to see and understand chart that shows where all our yearly budgeted monies are. Then I'd like an explanation of what those monies inside the envelopes can be used for and if we are setting aside monies, what is the current balance and keep that balance updated so we can compare month to month if we want to.
Currently, I think our website is a bit of a messy desk and I don't think I could pull together all the information on our budget, (or about some other topics also) from our website. My opinion is, the public should be able to find all the financial information about our district online and be able to understand it and compare month to month or year to year if they desire. Our budget and how we spend public monies should not be a mystery and using the words open and transparent the budget should be exactly that.
C. Make the same information given to the directors by staff to read in preparation for the bi-monthly board meetings available online for the public's review.
Sometimes directors are not given copies of slides used during a presentation until our board meetings. I think the public and the directors should receive this information when the agendas are posted and available for download because they usually have a lot of information on them that might need some time for review.
Implement a Ratepayer Advisory Board, which means inviting the public, including neighborhood groups and individuals, to bring the public voice into the decision-making process.
I really do want to hear from you. It would help me do my job. Often there are issues the board members might have different opinions about or we might be discussing something new that I'd like your opinion on it or you might have something you want to discuss. I am hoping community members would be willing to be on an email list, so we can stay in touch. Even before the pandemic, no one was interested in giving up another evening to attend another meeting, after work, or to take time off during the day or on the weekend to attend a meeting. What this pandemic has shown us, is we can communicate with each other even at 2 a.m. in our pajamas, if we are responding to emails. Other than Richmond, other neighborhood groups or HOAs are not listed anywhere, and you might not be a member of one of those groups, so I am asking you now as you are reading this, to go to my contact page and let me know you are interested and I will add your name and email to my list. Easy peasy.
Thank you. I am happy to answer any other questions you might have, drop me an email.
I respectfully ask for your VOTE when you mail in your ballot.
ONE WORLD, ONE COMMUNITY, UNITED TOGETHER TO PROTECT OUR PLANET AND OUR PEOPLE