In his letter published in the Press Banner on July 16, Mr. Gelblum expressed an opinion, taking me to task, that board members must always practice what he terms a “fiduciary responsibility” to form a unified front to the public. In essence, telling me to shut up about my opposition to a proposed surcharge, support the San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors’ vote and leave the public uninformed on existing financial conditions affecting their decision.
I am aligned with the board in that I support the public’s right to vote on this most important proposal affecting their water rates. I was elected to this board in 2018 based on a platform of being diligent about our finances and skeptical about rate increases. Because, since 2013:
- Rates (for a 4-unit bill) are up about 168%
- Operating expenses are up about 86%
- Inflation is up about 16%
Skyrocketing operating expenses lead directly to skyrocketing water bills. Yes, our district is responsible for our share of the fire recovery costs. But, based on my analysis of the district’s finances, I oppose this surcharge. The community saying “No” will nudge the board into exploring other options.
There are conditions under which Mr. Gelblum and I agree. For example, if the board voted to direct the district manager to submit an application to a state agency for project approval AND there was a dissenting vote, it would absolutely be wrong for that director to contact the state agency and lobby it to reject the application.
But this situation is completely different. The Proposition 218 process involves only our community. It is a political question with significant financial implications. In order for everyone in our community to make an informed decision, it is imperative that all points of view be heard by the community.
I believe Mr. Gelblum has not applied the context of this circumstance to his expressed opinion. Because it followed dogmatically, Mr. Gelblum’s position would distort the democratic process and stymie the free flow of ideas required to have an informed and robust public conversation. Under his standard, I would be gagged from speaking directly to you on anything that impacts the community if that vote wasn’t unanimous.
Further, the implication is that while I’m gagged the rest of the board is free to communicate. It appears Mr. Gelblum seeks a de facto veneer of unanimity—forced though it may be. This is an absolutely stunning position completely contrary to our system of government.
I believe Mr. Gelblum’s position is not in the best interests of our community. To the contrary, our community is stronger for having all points of view heard. Whether or not you agree with me on this issue, we should agree that board members have the absolute right to freely communicate with you, our bosses, on topics like Proposition 218 votes. I would believe that even if I had been on the prevailing side. I urge Mr. Gelblum to reconsider his position, as we celebrate the beauty of free speech together.
Please submit your protest by Aug. 5.
Bob Fultz is a Boulder Creek resident. His views are his own, and not necessarily those of the Press Banner.