My Turn: Recreating the Truckee Donner Public Utility District " Vote
October 2, 2008
For more than 20 years our Truckee Donner Public Utility District was managed and operated in a very closed system. This was a system where the general manager was an autocrat in his management style, who gave the board the information he wanted to and pretty much had it his way. The majority of the board wittingly or unwittingly played into this closed system and became an integral part of it. There was virtually no transparency.
Then came the “Great Coal Contract of 2007” of which most of us are aware. There was a great deal of deceit and distortion of facts put forth to try to “sell” this proposed 50-year contract to the ratepayers. As is so true for our community, literally hundreds of people showed up at board meetings to try to get some truth and understanding and the longer the issue raged on the more distorted it became. End result of the immense community involvement was that the contract was voted down by the board.
Shortly thereafter the general manager wisely retired and at least one of his “corporals” also left. A new general manager was hired and has breathed new and fresh air into the district. He is committed to conservation measures and renewable energy and has created a “real” department for that purpose. He is open and transparent and available. A year-long conservation committee had been formed following the “Coal War.” The committee reported regularly to the board and at the end of the year produced a comprehensive and extremely professional document of recommendations. Many of those recommendations had already been put into effect as a result of the forward-thinking atmosphere of the “new” utility district.
A great deal more needs to happen in this rebirth of our utility district into the 21st century. This is going to require a new kind of board. As I see it, the new board must be composed of members who are committed to educated discourse rather than emotional reactivity to one another and to those of opposing views. The board members must be committed to educating themselves on current subjects coming before them. They must do their homework. They must be willing to do more than accept staff input at face value. Thus, they must be people with the knowledge to deeply evaluate programs and proposals. Finally, they must remain committed to the focus that they are the representatives of the ratepayers and be answerable to them (us), rather than rubber stamps for the general manager.
There are eight candidates running for three positions. Two are incumbents running to retain their positions. These incumbents must be evaluated by us voters as to how well they meet the aforementioned necessary attributes of a board member in the “new” utility district. Have they been by and large, “yes men” or have they questioned the data presented? Have they offered thoughtful and educated input? Do they have the knowledge and ability to engage in thoughtful discourse amongst themselves and the ratepayers? As far as the other six candidates are concerned: Have they been involved with utility district issues such as the “coal war” and attended other meetings?; Do they have good communication and interaction skills?; and are they knowledgeable in water and energy matters?
The district needs a new and energized board with the presented attributes. With the new manager and this type of board, I believe the utility district can and will come to the forefront as a model of an efficient, forward-thinking and innovative organization.
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For those wishing to get a more in depth sense of the candidates, there is a candidate forum specifically for Truckee Donner Public Utility District board candidates, being held at Town Hall at 6 p.m. October 14. Questions for the candidates can be sent to the Sierra Sun or brought with you to the meeting.