Vote Local Part 5: Schools and Trash and Water, Oh My!

While we hear a lot about the city council, the other three governing boards in our city actually govern more territory than the city council.  Today we look at what the Newport Mesa Unified School Board, Mesa Water District Board, and Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board do. 

Newport Mesa Unified School Board of Education:

Similar to the city council, the school board members are elected officials who create policy for the school district.  In our area, the district includes public schools, pre-school through adult education, in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Corona del Mar.  The reach and breadth of this board is broader than the city council in terms of the number of employees, budget managed, and area covered.

The board members of Newport Mesa Unified oversee 32 schools with 22,000 students and 3,200 employees.  It is the responsibility of the school board to hire and direct the superintendent who manages the district and employees from cafeteria ladies to principals.  

Part of developing and approving policies and procedures includes ensuring compliance with the Education Code determine by the State Board of Education whose members are appointed by the governor.  

All this to say that there are a lot of moving parts to the school district. Our board of education has 7 elected members who each represent an area and the schools in that area for a four year term.  

Currently there are three seats up for election:  Area 1, which includes all the schools I attended: Adams Elementary, California Elementary, TeWinkle Middle and Estancia High School, among others.  Vicki Snell, the incumbent, is running against Michael Schwarzmann in Area 1.

Area 3, on the Eastside with Kaiser Elementary, Mariners Elementary, and Back Bay High School, among others is being contested by incumbent Martha Fluor and Amy Peters. 

And the NMUSD President, Dana Black is up for re-election in Area 6 which includes Woodland Elementary, Ensign Intermediate, and Newport Harbor High School. She is being challenged by Leslie Bubb, whom I may vote for based on her last name alone.

The teachers federation is endorsing all of the new candidates and none of the incumbents.  Although I know plenty of teachers who disagree with their union.

We will talk "who to vote for" soon enough. For now, here are some questions to consider when picking a school board candidate to vote for:

- Who has strong administrative experience with the ability to see and understand systems and people?

- Who has a background in education?

- Who knows and understands the often polarizing dynamics of the Newport-Mesa district and can serve as a unifying force?

Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board

 “What does your board even do?,” I asked 24 year board member Art Perry.

“We oversee sewage and trash,” he replied succinctly.  

There you have it folks. At first it seemed pretty simple and then the more I listened, the more I began to understand that a lot goes into keeping the waste carried out of the community. And boy am I glad that somebody is thinking about removing waste and trash!

The Costa Mesa Sanitary District is a separate entity that was created nine years before the City of Costa Mesa was incorporated. It serves all of Costa Mesa and parts of Newport Beach and that sliver of unincorporated County of Orange land over by the Back Bay.  It is considered an independent special district which just means that it is autonomous from the state.  The Sanitary District is a form of local government created by the local community for a specific function, in this case, trash and sewage.

Like the city council and school board, the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board is made up of elected officials who hire and direct a paid general manager who oversees the day to day activities of sanitation in our community. Additionally the board oversees a District Counsel and a District Treasurer.  Currently the board is made up of 5 elected members who serve four year terms. There are no term limits.  The district has 18 employees and contractors who operate the district office, trash collection, and sewer system. 

In my conversation with Art Perry, current board member, and my advisor back in the day at Estancia High School, I learned that there are some things to be excited about when it comes to waste and trash in Costa Mesa. 

The CM Sanitary Board is rehabilitating our 70 year old sewer system.  Mr. Perry taught me that sewer systems generally last about 100 years so we are beginning to repair ours now. If you look at the finances of the Sanitary District they are quite a lot of reserves.  Much of that is set aside for the 4-5 major projects around rehabilitating our sewers. 

It was also cool to learn on the website that Costa Mesa’s Sanitary District was the first agency to contract with CR&R to provide the organics recycling program that we have.  If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your stinky green bin. However, the more I learn about it, the more I see that this is an innovative program that significantly diverts solid waste away from landfills.  The board believes that by 2020 we will be diverting close to 75% of solid waste as a result of the organics recycling program.  So, use that green bin.

This election 2 seats are open on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District board. They are being fought over by 5 candidates:  incumbents Art Perry, Jim Ferryman, Gary Monahan, Jim Fitzpatrick, and Christopher Luntsford.  

As I mentioned above, the Who to Vote for discussion is next up on the blog this week. Let me just say that who you want to be on the Sanitary District board is directly tied to how you feel about Measure TT- if the Sanitary District board and Water District board should consolidate.  The current CM Sanitary District board is against the consolidation. Electing board members who are for it (Monahan and Fitzpatrick) would create a lot of division and take focus away from awesome programs they are currently focused on like turning organics into gas for trucks! So cool.

So questions to consider for electing members to the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board:

- Who is genuinely passionate about trash and sewage programs (I’m telling you, people are and I’m so glad)?

- Who is running for the purpose of serving the community and not just bouncing around government boards?

- Who has a history of convening and connecting people in the community in order to get things done versus creating division?

What does the Mesa Water District Board do?

At this point in our community history you may know that the water board can ticket you.  They are serious about water conservation in these drought years and have a truck out patrolling in the seasons that our water usage is restricted.  Again, I’m glad someone is paying attention.

Like the sanitary district, the Mesa Water District is an independent special district.  It serves most of Costa Mesa, some parts of Newport Beach and unincorporated Orange County including John Wayne Airport.  The water district serves 110,000 with locally-reliable water.  Our water district is the only one in Orange County that meets our water demand exclusively from local groundwater supplies.  So that’s cool.

In addition to providing safe, high-quality drinking water, the district is also committed to customer service, water awareness and conservation. These activities are managed by the water district general manager who is hired and directed by a 5 member elected board.  The board sets rates for our water and sets policy for the district. Each board member represents a division.

In Costa Mesa, division 2, incumbent Jim Fisler is running against Alex Reich.  

The Mesa Water District Board is pushing to pass Measure TT, which would consolidate their agency with the Costa Mesa Sanitary Board. They assert that it will save money. 

My questions in considering water district board members are the same as the sanitary district:

- Who is genuinely passionate about water delivery and conservation? 

- Who is running for the purpose of serving the community and not just bouncing around government boards?

- Who has a history of convening and connecting people in the community in order to get things done versus creating division?

For a break down of the local measures, candidates and clear opinions on voting, Subscribe to the blog and you’ll receive the forthcoming Vote Local Voters Guide.