Seaside’s water board candidates toe the growth-versus-conservation line.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The midpoint between November and June usually means a break from elections. But campaigning is in full effect in Seaside, where Brenda Lewis and Tom Mancini are vying for the open seat on the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board.
The District 1 election could determine the board majority just as the district’s biggest issues come to a head. A current state cease-and-desist order mandates a 70 percent cutback in Carmel River pumping by 2016, and freezes new water hookups in California American Water’s service district – a heavy blow for Seaside, the only Peninsula city with a significant bank of water credits. The Regional Water Project hands Cal Am ratepayers a tab of some $400 million, though Peninsula cities have little voice in the desalination project’s governance; and the San Clemente Dam removal puts customers on the hook for another $50 million. A new citizen group, WaterPlus, is reviving calls for a public takeover of Cal Am, and for the water district’s dissolution.
The polarized water board lost its swing vote with the November election of 13-year board veteran Alvin Edwards to the Seaside City Council. Dramatic twist: Edwards’ election knocked Mancini off the dais after a 16-year run; Lewis volunteered with the Edwards campaign.
That left three water board members (Judi Lehman, Kristi Markey and Regina Doyle) sympathetic to the “smart-growth” camp, and the other three (Bob Brower, David Pendergrass and Dave Potter) friendlier with pro-growth interests. The election will cost the water district about $100,000.
Edwards sees Mancini leaning toward the pro-growth block, and Lewis toward the smart-growthers: “I have concerns about both of them and special interests.”
Both candidates aim to cast themselves as moderates who will make case-based decisions on the board.
Mancini says he decided to run because businesspeople and realtors approached him with complaints. His endorsers include the Monterey County Association of Realtors, Business Council and Hospitality Association PACs. “If you can find a source of water that’s safe and clean,” he says, “why restrict people?”
Lewis is supported by Helen Rucker of Citizens for Transparency in Government (the grassroots group that helped knock Mancini and former Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio off the City Council) and Kay Cline of Sustainable Seaside. Lewis says one reason she’s running is to protect the area from the sort of rampant development that polluted Orange County, where she lived before moving to Seaside in 1983.
“The biggest thing for me is seeking a balance between the people, our environment and the economy,” she says. “We need business development, we need jobs, but we need to preserve the uniqueness of the Monterey Bay area.”