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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Purissima Candidate Answers For Town Crier

How long have you lived in Los Altos Hills?  6 years

What is your background experience in local government and community leadership?

In addition to my four years on the Purissima Hills board, I served on the town council's Water Conservation Advisory Committee.  I've also been a classroom volunteer in a local public elementary school.  I've been active in the county Libertarian Party, and have helped the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association draft ballot arguments against tax increases.

How does your professional experience compliment your work on the Purissima Hills Water District board?

In my software engineering career in Silicon Valley, I've experienced first-hand the importance of customer service and controlling expenses. Analytical and problem-solving skills have also proved useful in my board service. However, the main qualification for a candidate is having a policy compass of governance principles, along with the diligence to apply those principles.

To a new resident of Los Altos Hills or someone from outside of our area, how would you describe what the Purissima Hills Water District does?

The District provides potable water and firefighting levels of water pressure to every address within its boundaries.

Why are you running for re-election to the Purissima Hills Water district?

To help ensure that the District runs efficiently and respects the property rights of the ratepayer-owners of the district.

There are four candidates for three open seats.  Why should voters choose you?

Voters should choose me if they agree with my principles and priorities.   My principles are rooted in property rights.  You as a ratepayer own a share of Purissima's two main assets: $20M of pipes/tanks, and the right to buy 1.62M gallons/day of water from SFPUC (the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission). For each household, that's $10K and 780 gallons/day. I defend those property rights, including the right to use the water you buy as you wish (as long as it doesn't harm the rest of us). Ideally, I would like you to be able to sell the water you don't use to community members who want to buy more than their share, so that you could profit from your conservation efforts.

My priorities are to maintain reliable and cost-effective water supply while exploring alternative arrangements for  water sourcing and district operations.

What are the greatest challenges associated with water supply locally?

Purissima's entire supply currently comes from SFPUC's Hetch Hetchy system. We've spent years pursuing other potential sources: well water, Quarry Lake water, recycled water from Palo Alto to our North, and county water from Cal Water to our South. None of these options has yet proved workable, though we are still talking to Cal Water.

In recent years Purissima was using nearly 125% of its SFPUC allocation, even as the overall Hetch Hetchy system  was approaching its capacity limits.  However, as SFPUC has raised wholesale rates to pay for long-deferred seismic upgrades, the rising prices have caused system demand to fall sharply, and there is no longer any imminent prospect of Purissima being limited to just its allocation. Nevertheless, we've tried to buy additional allocation from other agencies that are SFPUC customers, but none is for sale at a reasonable price.

We also consider conservation to be a valid water "source", and so we continue our conservation programs and tiered pricing.  We've successfully cut our usage to 105% of SFPUC allocation.

Can you highlight your accomplishments on the PHWD Board?

A Sacramento law was going to make the Hills adopt 33 pages of default irrigation rules. I proposed an alternative that added a simple water budget to the town's permitting process, leaving property owners free to decide how to meet their budget. The town adopted my alternative.

Another accomplishment has been to question an expensive project to make Quarry Lake an emergency water source. When you look hard at the range of scenarios in which that water could actually be useful, it seems that this insurance is just not worth the price.

Why do you deserve to be re-elected to the board?

Re-election should not be considered a reward for past performance.  Voters should vote for whomever they expect will best implement the voter's principles and priorities. Of course, past performance can be a useful predictor of those principles and priorities.

What goals would you like the PHWD board to set for the next four years?  Are there any long-term goals?

Our goals over the next four years should be to 1) continue our capital spending program to improve seismic reliability and operational efficiency, and 2) explore alternative arrangements for water supply and district operations.

For the long-term, I would like to see Purissima extract itself from the unsound CalPERS retirement system, or at least remain vigilant about keeping our retiree obligations explicit, cost-contained, and fully funded. I would also like Purissima ratepayer-owners to have explicit ownership of their shares of the system -- i.e. the infrastructure buy-in share and the right-to-buy share of Purissima's SFPUC allocation.  Ratepayers who buy less than their share could potentially turn a net profit on their water bill.  This would promote conservation, and would get the District out of the business of setting conservation prices.

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