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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Zone 7 Needs You!

Uploaded: Aug 3, 2012
Last May I championed the separation of the Zone 7 Water Agency from Alameda County in my blog, Set Zone 7 Free. Then when State Senator Mark DeSaulnier pulled the plug on his bill, SB1337, I was left Screaming in the Forest.

Well Zone 7 still wants to separate itself from Alameda County, and so the Agency wants to take another shot at separation.

Zone 7's General Manager, Jill Duerig emailed me "that the Zone 7 Administrative Committee will be meeting at 1 pm on Thursday, August 2, 2012 to discuss separation next steps." I was glad to hear it and wanted to attend this meeting.

So I drove over to the Zone 7 building in Livermore expecting to see a small group of people in a subcommittee meeting. The chamber room was full with about 60 people in the audience and another 18 around a horseshoe shaped table on the right side.

This group was composed of members of two committees, the MAT (Management Advisory Committee) and the SAT (Staff Advisory Committee), which put together recommendations for six different separation options, with pros and cons for each one.

The Board's Administrative Committee, consisting of Directors John Greci, Bill Stevens, and Sarah Palmer, was on the dais. Greci asked if anyone knew the reasons for separation. I raised my hand and said "to give Dougherty Valley residents a say." Greci nodded yes, but that wasn't the answer he wanted. He wants to cut the red tape required by Alameda County for hiring and training new employees and buying new equipment.

He also wants 100% buy-in from the employees. That's what this meeting was really about. Greci asked the team members who supported separation and who didn't. Fifteen of the 18 members raised their hands in support, but three raised their hands against it. A similar small group of employees in the audience also stood up against separation.

Greci assured employees, "I will not vote for a change if all employees are not on board. We care about our employees and we have to meet voters' needs." Director Bill Stevens was even more emphatic. "We're going to protect you. That's number one."

Greci described the red tape Alameda County puts on Zone 7 to get anything done. Hiring a new employee takes 54 signatures and 18 months. Training is a big expense, and then the County could take the employee away. Stevens said "It all comes down to money and power. We want to retain our employees."

The committees presented six options for separation. Number 6 is "do nothing," so that's not really an option. Number 1 is "Pursue separation via legislation – including Flood Control." This is essentially Senator DeSaulnier's bill, AB1337, which was put on hold last May but is still in the Assembly pipeline.

This option was preferred by the Directors at the meeting. In fact three other options – leaving Flood Control with the County, Pursue separation through LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), or by a Referendum, were hardly discussed.

Option 4 would be to continue to operate under AB1125, which was passed by Assemblyman Guy Houston in 2003. AB1125 gives the Zone 7 Board defacto autonomy from Alameda County.

Look at the Alameda County Organizational Chart and you will see a direct line from the Electorate to the Zone 7 Board with another connection from Alameda County voters to County Supervisors.

The missing link however is to Dougherty Valley. Residents of Contra Costa County are still not able to vote for Zone 7 under Houston's AB1125; so for me Option 4 is unacceptable. Zone 7 Board President Sarah Palmer supports the importance of representation for Dougherty Valley.

Director Stevens took some shots at the recent Alameda County Grand Jury Report on the separation, calling it "BS and all made up." The report citied Zone 7's reliance on Alameda County for support services, "such as payroll, budget, accounting, purchasing, human resources, and risk management," and said it would "be more appropriate to consolidate with the various cities and water districts to which Zone 7 sells water . . ."

In fact when I first read about the separation my thought was that Zone 7 and DSRSD could merge into a combined agency and cut duplication of costs. This might be one of the concerns employees have about the separation. While Zone 7 isn't planning to merge with DSRSD, General Manager, Jill Duerig, said that some services could be combined.

Lori Rose, Financial Services Manager at DSRSD, spoke at the end of the meeting saying she supports separation but she wants more information on Flood Control. Flood Control appears to be the big stumbling block for separation. Director Greci said it is a priority to keep Flood Control.

Alameda County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Zone 7, date stamped June 22, 2012, supporting Zone 7's separation "as a water district only," and listing reasons why the County should retain Flood Control.

One of the team members, Pony Yin, recalled a lot of flooding in the past. There isn't any more because Zone 7's Flood Control is so successful. Stevens said, "We have to fight the politicians. I'm an engineer. I don't do politics."

The Alameda County Grand Jury got one thing right in their report, "To push for consolidations without strong support from the agencies involved (and their boards) or a large group of active citizens would be very difficult politically."

The meeting closed with Greci urging the employees to tell their friends and neighbors about Zone 7 and the flood control to get public support behind the separation. So I'm following up on that request by urging Dougherty Valley residents to speak up about Zone 7.

It's your water. Tell Senator DeSaulnier and Assemblywoman Buchanan you want to vote in Zone 7 elections. Tell Mayor Clarkson and our City Council San Ramon residents deserve representation on Zone 7.

Our Founding Fathers fought a Revolution over Taxation without Representation. Zone 7 wants you to be represented. Shouldn't you want that too?

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jim, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 6, 2012 at 8:56 am

Lots of words. I'm probably behind from previous post and information. What ultimately is the issue. I'm also not comfortable with the statement:

Greci assured employees, "I will not vote for a change if all employees are not on board. We care about our employees and we have to meet voters' needs." Director Bill Stevens was even more emphatic. "We're going to protect you. That's number one."

That sounds like union protectionism. Is this another agency with lots of people making $100K+? Another agency like East Bay MUD and Bart.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Aug 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Jim,

I don't know enough about Zone 7's organization to answer your question, so I'm forwarding it to Jill Duerig at Zone 7. Thanks for asking.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sarah Palmer, a resident of another community,
on Aug 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm

The statement that protecting employees is "number one" is a bit extreme, possibly taken in the heat of the moment. I, and the rest of the board, stand behind our Mission Statement, which is:

"Zone 7 is committed to providing a reliable supply of high quality water and an effective flood control system to the Livermore-Amador Valley. In fulfilling our present and future commitments to the community, we will develop and manage the water resources in a fiscally responsible, innovative, proactive, and environmentally sensitive way."

Reliability is number one.
The statement that protecting employees is "number one" is a bit extreme, possibly taken in the heat of the moment. I, and the rest of the board, stand behind our Mission Statement, which is:

"Zone 7 is committed to providing a reliable supply of high quality water and an effective flood control system to the Livermore-Amador Valley. In fulfilling our present and future commitments to the community, we will develop and manage the water resources in a fiscally responsible, innovative, proactive, and environmentally sensitive way."

Reliability is number one.

Sarah Palmer, President
Zone 7 Board of Directors


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bill Williams, a resident of Dublin,
on Aug 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

One key take away from the meeting not covered above is the innefficiences that would be created if zone 7 took care of water only and alameda county took the flood control. Zone 7 uses the floodways and flood water to recharge certain areas of the ground water supply at certain times, and they are intertwined in many other ways as well. Splitting these duties between two entities would only muttle things and raise the cost, while lowering the quality of services.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rich Buckley, a resident of Alamo,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:01 am

Write your city council and local newspapers. Demand elected officials require your water service provider (Zone 7) expand your local water-purity tests. France (and their wine industry) are getting ahead of the game. Endocrine Disruptors we are breathing in every day appear to be forming as a result of global toxic Chemtrail dumps. These Endocrine Disruptors are negatively impacting our health and intelligence! Web Link

Rich Buckley
Livermore, CA



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