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Commentary: Ten Principles of Governance for Goleta Water District

These policies are long overdue and would make a significant positive change in the culture of the district.

The Goleta Water District Board of Directors has lost the confidence and trust of a significant segment of the community. To regain that trust and confidence, and promote accountability, we propose policies that would ensure open and transparent government.

These “Ten Principles of Governance for the Goleta Water District” are long overdue and if adopted would make a significant positive change in the culture of the district. We pledge to implement these policies if elected, and we invite the other candidates to join us in this pledge.

Attached are the 10 principles we propose. Below is a discussion of why their implementation is so important.

Finance — Principles 1, 2, 3

To adopt a budget without looking at the numbers borders on dereliction. The district board adopted a $25 million spending plan this year without considering a single number in it.

Rather than look at the actual budget, the board relied on a summary prepared by staff. This summary report is essentially the same year after year, with a one-size-fits-all approach to estimating rising costs. Realistic acknowledgment of unusual activity such as soaring oil prices? Not in there. The report fails to discuss certain critical issues and substantial expenditures. Using this summary report, the board had no way to examine the budget for possible excessive expenditures — but then, it wasn’t even looking.

We believe that using the budget to fund and monitor projects ensures that operational and financial goals are establishes. The board majority has delegated too much authority to staff. Only when the board reviews the budget can the public be assured that the elected board is performing its duty and taking responsibility. Publication of budget information would allow more informed public comment at a public hearing.

The district doesn’t publish monthly updates of its financial performance compared to budget. The monthly cash disbursements, often exceeding $1 million, are an incomprehensible list of payments unconnected to accounts or categories of spending. The district doesn’t provide detailed information about expenditures. To make sense out of chaos, reports must tie all monthly expenditures to budget categories and aggregate information about most recipients. Monthly financial reports must be as detailed as the budget (Principle 3).

Meetings and agendas — Principles 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

The current board majority schedules meetings at inconvenient times. The board cancels or delays meetings for no apparent reason. Meeting materials are not readily available. These actions tend to reduce community attendance at meetings.

For example, the 2008 budget hearing was held the day after a holiday, when few people were likely to attend. We will work to establish a meeting schedule that is convenient for the community and that invites attendance. We believe that meetings should not be adjourned or delayed unless there are unusual circumstances or good cause. The board should issue tentative agendas at least seven days before a meeting date. Meeting materials should be made available to the public as soon as possible.

Currently, the board majority has used ad-hoc committees appointed or created at closed sessions to skirt the strict requirements of the Brown Act. Standing committees should be the rule unless highly unusual circumstances exist. If the appointment of an ad-hoc committee is absolutely necessary, it should be done publicly, preferably at a board meeting.

Currently, there are no minutes of committee meetings. Committee actions should be documented in minutes and made available on the GWD Web site. All committee meetings should be held at fixed times, such as 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. If there is an issue of significant importance, committee meetings should be held in the evening, for the convenience of the public.

Currently, the board president has the power to block a proposal submitted by a board member. We believe that all board members should be able to submit agenda items.

Documents — Principle 9

Currently, documents requested by the public are not provided in a consistent and timely manner. The district spends substantial money to have attorneys review documents that are required by law to be made available to the public. We believe it is the district’s responsibility to provide documents in a timely and courteous manner.

Implementation of policies — Principle 10

The current board majority has not wanted to implement the SAFE Water Supply Ordinance in the way that voters intended. The board should adopt procedures and policies that are consistent with the powerful, protective language of SAFE. Our drought buffer must be protected, and any water released for new uses must be in accordance with SAFE’s strict guidelines. Further, the district’s water code should be updated to reflect current conditions and to improve governance of the district.


We believe that the board of directors of the Goleta Water District must always act in the best interests of the community. Our “Ten Principles of Governance for the Goleta Water District” were written with that responsibility foremost in our minds. We look forward to the opportunity to implement these principles.

Ten principles of governance for the Goleta Water District

» 1. Publish and conduct an open review of the Goleta Water District’s budget; fund proposed projects in the budget so the board and the public may track them easily.

» 2. Hold a meaningful public hearing before adoption of the budget, at a convenient time for the community, with budget materials available to the public.

» 3. Publish monthly financial performance reports that are compared with budget goals.

» 4. Provide tentative board meeting agendas at least seven days before meetings so community members can more easily prepare comments on items of interest and schedule their attendance.

» 5. Make agenda documents available to the public as soon as possible on the GWD Web site and via e-mail notification to those who are interested.

» 6. Use standing committees rather than ad-hoc committees so that the board’s decision process is open and more clear to the public.

» 7. Hold committee meetings at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. and record minutes of committee meetings so the public can more easily follow recommendations made in committees.

» 8. Permit any board member to post agenda items for upcoming board meetings.

» 9. Fulfill document requests from members of the public as soon as possible after a request is received.

» 10. Establish procedures for implementing district ordinances, such as the SAFE Water Supplies Ordinance, in accordance with their terms and consistent with the public’s understanding of these important ordinances.

Bill Rosen and Lauren Hanson are candidates for the Goleta Water District Board of Directors.

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