Last updated 5 p.m. on Monday. The next update will be 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Valley Water board members will likely enjoy longer term limits, thanks to a measure Santa Clara County voters approved on Tuesday.
With 94% of the vote counted, Valley Water’s Measure A has received 50.73% approval from voters, or 156,526 votes. The measure was rejected by 49.27% of voters, or 152,023 votes. The measure only requires a simple majority to pass, and while ballots are still being counted, it’s unlikely the lead will be reversed.
Valley Water’s board of directors voted 4-3 last March to put a measure on the ballot asking for directors to serve a maximum of four, four-year terms instead of the current three. Valley Water directors are elected by Santa Clara County residents. CEO Rick Callender told San José Spotlight the measure will help retain experienced board members and limit newcomers from hampering the progress of infrastructure projects.
“The stuff that our board does is very technical,” Callender said. “If you don’t have the technical understanding of what we’re doing, and you ask for a project to be delayed, it’s going to cost us millions of dollars.”
The measure received pushback from San Jose Councilmember and mayoral hopeful Matt Mahan, who criticized it as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Several Valley Water directors voted against the proposed measure because they were concerned the ballot language could mislead some voters into thinking they were voting to limit terms for directors, not extend them. Directors Tony Estremera, Richard Santos, John Varela and Gary Kremen voted in favor of adding the measure to the ballot. Directors Barbara Keegan, Nai Hsueh and Linda LeZotte voted against it.
“Those people who voted for the (measure) voted for term limits, and those people who voted against it were the ones who probably read the ballot argument and realized it was deceptive,” LeZotte told San José Spotlight. “It was absolutely deceptive.”
LeZotte scoffed at the argument advanced by the measure’s proponents about needing to retain more experienced people on the board. She noted many of the district’s most complex projects, such as retrofitting Anderson Dam, are already in the works.
“I can’t see how a new board member coming in would suddenly be able to gather three other people to stop any of that or make dramatic changes—it’s a ridiculous argument,” LeZotte said.
Santos, who voted in favor of the measure, told San José Spotlight he doesn’t believe the ballot language was misleading, noting it was modeled after a similar proposal approved years ago by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to extend their own term limits.
With the state experiencing a severe and protracted drought, Santos said Valley Water can’t afford to jeopardize its water conservation projects. He suggested the people who currently sit on the board are best equipped to handle future emergencies, so it makes sense to prolong their tenure.
“It’s like with any crisis: do you want the people who complain and have no solutions, or do you want to stay with people who are helping to solve it?” he said.
Editor’s Note: Valley Water CEO Rick Callender is on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.