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Our View: The CLWA election, and what it's really about

Posted: October 23, 2010 12:16 a.m.
Updated: October 24, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

There are two broad categories of people who seek seats on our local water boards. One is water company professionals who know the business of delivering water.

The other generally includes nonwater professionals — often well-intentioned individuals, sometimes people with an ax to grind or with agendas that have nothing to do with the raison d’etre of water boards.

Over the years, The Signal has consistently come down on the side of the water professionals. This year is no different.

After all, what is the job of our water agencies? Their job is to deliver an ample supply of drinkable water at a reasonable cost.

Period.

On Nov. 2, four seats are up for grabs on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board of directors. As you make your decision about whom to vote for, you should ask yourself these questions:

Over the past four years, have the incumbent CLWA board members delivered an ample supply of drinkable water at a reasonable cost? The answer is “yes.”

Has our water supply been controlled or severely rationed, as it has in other communities? No.

Has our water been polluted with leftover chemicals from a munitions plant? No. CLWA sued to force the cleanup.

Has anyone suggested the price is out of line? No.

For these reasons alone — the only ones that matter — we urge you to return Tom Campbell, Ed Colley, Peter Kavounas and Jacque McMillan to the CLWA board.

With one exception, and we’ll get to him in a moment, the incumbents are water-industry leaders with varied backgrounds in the trade who have seen fit to bring their skills to the CLWA board table and serve the community where they live.

Every SCV voter will see two separate CLWA positions on the Nov. 2 ballot. One seat is “at large.” Everybody votes for that one. Next, depending on where you live, you’ll see on your ballot a race for a CLWA seat from Division 1, Division 2 or Division 3.
 
At large
Tom Campbell holds the at-large seat that’s up for grabs this year. Campbell is a registered civil engineer and a project manager for the Metropolitan Water District, where he manages infrastructure-improvement projects for major water storage and distribution systems.

Those are skills that have come in handy as the CLWA has undertaken water-storage activities in recent years to help ensure an ample supply of water in the future.

Campbell’s opponent, Frank Smathers, seems a decent enough guy who depicts himself as the Jimmy Stewart character in
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He just wants to serve, and he thinks some of the incumbent board members have been
around too long.

While Smathers has taken the time to gain some knowledge on water issues, he lacks the experience and expertise of Campbell, who has been on the CLWA board since 2001.

Vote for Campbell. He has earned four more years.
 
Division 1
Ed Colley has held the Division 1 seat since 2003. While he’s the exception to the “water-professional” rule we mentioned a moment ago, he brings much to the CLWA board.

Colley is a faculty member and ROTC instructor at Valencia High School. He’s also a retired Air Force captain with a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

And Colley is something of a political player. We called him out four years ago for his involvement in a hit mailer against longtime CLWA foe Lynne Plambeck when she was running for City Council against Colley’s good friend, Councilman Frank Ferry.

This year, Ferry returned the favor by sending an asinine letter to the employer of Colley’s opponent, Kevin Korenthal, attacking Korenthal’s political rhetoric (some of which was equally asinine) and questioning whether the employer agreed with it.

The letter was a blatant attempt to hurt Korenthal professionally and politically and to shut off his campaign funding.

So who is Korenthal? Signal readers know him as a partisan political activist, and before this campaign cycle, they had no inkling that Korenthal had any interest in CLWA.

In fact, before he decided to run for Colley’s seat this summer, he had never so much as attended a CLWA board meeting.

Korenthal has tried to take the easy route to a CLWA seat by latching onto a local hot-button issue: chloride cleanup in the Santa Clara River.

Barring a better resolution soon, SCV residents stand to pay up to $210 million for a treatment facility to remove the salt, and Korenthal and every other sentient being in this valley knows folks are upset.

Funny thing is, Korenthal hasn’t been able to gain traction with the issue because Colley was the only CLWA board member to vote against an agreement to build the facility. Korenthal and Colley are on the same side — and Colley was there first.

Korenthal, despite his apparent historic lack of interest in the CLWA, is a fast learner and sincere in his interest to serve his community, but that is not enough for us to endorse Korenthal.

That leaves Colley. Political high jinks aside, what kind of water-board member has Colley been?

A refreshingly good one, evidenced by an endorsement from all 11 of his peers on the CLWA board. He has mellowed over the last couple of years.

He asks intelligent questions, and he had the foresight and leadership  two years ago to advocate for funding for a Delta Conveyance System.  This time around, we’re with Colley.
 
Division 2
Peter Kavounas is the incumbent in Division 2. His credentials as a water professional are iron-clad. After a 17-year stint with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Kavounas joined Glendale Water and Power in 2004.

As assistant general manager in Glendale, he is responsible for planning, engineering, maintaining and operating a water system that serves more than 200,000 people.

In many ways, the situation in Glendale is similar to our own: The city pumps groundwater and buys water from a wholesaler — in Glendale’s case, the Metropolitan Water District.

Kavounas contributes to the great depth of knowledge on the CLWA board.

Kavounas’ opponent, Bob Clark, was a CLWA attorney for 30 years.

Clark was around when our population exploded in the 1980s, and CLWA grew proportionally. There were growing pangs and personality conflicts.

He’s claiming that Kavounas’ position with Glendale is a conflict of interest. We find the claim disingenuous.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency buys water from the State Water Project, as does the MWD. Their interests are the same.

Glendale’s groundwater supply has nothing to do with the Santa Clarita Valley’s groundwater supply.

How is there a conflict?

It was evident in the televised CLWA candidates’ forum, hosted by The Signal’s editorial board, that Clark has some unresolved conflicts with the CLWA in general, and Kavounas in particular.

We thank Clark for his decades of legal service to the CLWA and urge you to vote for Kavounas.
 
Division 3
Division 3 voters have a clear choice. The incumbent McMillan is a legislative advocate who has worked for the Metropolitan Water District and was responsible for acquiring property that resulted in a doubling of that agency’s water-storage capacity.

As with Campbell and Kavounas, McMillan has a background that brings significant knowledge and unique expertise to the board, and that applies directly to CLWA’s mission.

Her opponent is Carole Lutness, a local activist and part of a very active and vocal political group that has an agenda. An agenda of no growth that looks for conspiracy at every turn. In the televised CLWA candidate forum, Lutness had nothing good to say about CLWA, and had no facts or basis for raising such concerns as “the corruption of big money, the need to hold developers liable, the salary of CLWA General Manager Dan Masnada being excessive, the need for fiscal oversight.” 

Her knowledge of water delivery is scant. Her water management experience is nil.

If she’s elected, we’d likely end up in the same sorry situation we were in a few years ago, when the Newhall County Water District tried to deny access to water as a way to stifle growth.

That’s not the proper role of a water agency.

McMillan is the clear choice for voters in Division 3.

On Nov. 2, we ask you to return Campbell to the at-large seat. Then, depending on which district you live in, elect Ed Colley in Division 1, Peter Kavounas in Division 2 and Jacquelyn McMillan in Division 3.

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