Leon Worden

Who cares about a little water board election?

Leon Worden · October 29, 1997

Signal editor Tim Whyte asked the other day why I thought so many people, this writer included, are so interested in next Tuesday's Newhall County Water Board election. After all, he correctly noted, it's a fairly small election in a district that serves less than half the valley.

Interesting question. I can answer only for myself, but it probably deserves more of an answer than I gave him.

The short answer, of course, is that I don't like liars. The Newhall County Water District charges more and delivers lower-quality water than any other purveyor in our valley, and the incumbents -- Ed Dunn, Lynne Plambeck and David Rapoport -- lied on both of those counts.

They said all the water in our valley is "basically the same," when in fact the folks in Newhall have the hardest water in town. They said their customers don't pay the most for water, when in fact they do. The average household in Castaic and Pinetree pays $150 a year to Newhall County Water in the form of a "hidden" property tax assessment, on top of their monthly water bill. (Sorry Bob, you were wrong in your letter last week.)

But it's more than just the lies. It's the shag-nasty way they went about their campaign that really bugged me. Heck, if the incumbents had just stuck to the program and sent some lame campaign mailers saying how wonderful they were, this "fairly small election in a district that serves less than half the valley" probably wouldn't have gotten half as much ink.

But they didn't. The incumbents took three decent, civic-minded volunteers -- Barbara Dore, Tom Campbell and Val Thomas -- and raked them over the coals simply because they DARED to take an interest in how the water district is being run. Fortunately, Dore, Campbell and Thomas were so sick and tired of paying outrageous prices for lousy water that they wouldn't yield.

Incumbents Dunn, Plambeck and Rapoport have played political games in this election that might work in Sacramento but are inappropriate here. You don't sue a challenger for saying something you don't want the voters to know -- especially when the challenger is right.

Perhaps that is what is at the core of all the letters Tim has received in support of the challengers.

I've lived in this valley nearly 30 years. In that time I've seen sparks fly in some high school board elections, but by and large you never even knew we had a water board. Most of the people who sat on the local school and water boards were men and women who cared about their community and just wanted to help.

I've got to say that about 90 percent of our current political and civic leaders are still that way. Most are good people who care about the community and act on their beliefs, whether they serve on the PTA, a water board, a school board or the City Council. Sure, I disagree with them sometimes -- a lot -- but what the heck. They're OK people.

It's the other ten percent I worry about. Ever since we formed a city ten years ago, there has been trouble brewing. I don't know what kind of "power" they think there is to be had in Santa Clarita, but there's a new breed in town that plays hardball politics and will stop at nothing to advance their own political agenda. They'll step on anyone who gets in their way. And I don't like it.

Ed Dunn, Lynne Plambeck and David Rapoport have taken a quiet little water district and turned it into a political joke. They've robbed taxpayers by suing other public agencies when they should have been thinking about their customers. They've spent public money on stupid, self-promoting newsletters when they should have been moving water pipes. They've invented spurious non-issues to obfuscate the basic fact that they have done nothing in four years to improve the quality or lower the price of their water.

It's time to pull the plug on Dunn, Plambeck and Rapoport. Replace them with Barbara Dore, Tom Campbell and Val Thomas on Tuesday, and the next time we have a "fairly small election in a district that serves less than half the valley," it will generate the amount of outcry it deserves. None.

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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