Delta blues

Back to back SCVWD meetings. This morning’s highlights: a presentation on the Delta, brief discussion on filling vacant unclassified positions, and briefer discussion on the amount of time a Board member or the CEO must wait until coming back to work for the District as an employee. When I say that the Delta presentation was given by Greg Zlotnick, former Director of District 5, and now an unclassified employee who joined the District immediately after resigning from the Board, a thread emerges to link all of these disparate topics.

Mr. Zlotnick gave a very informative presentation on the actions of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and the progress on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. It is clear why Stan Williams hired him as special counsel; he is obviously highly knowledgeable and experienced in Delta issues. He was also obviously very comfortable presenting to the Board; when Chair Kamei tried to open the discussion, he interrupted her several times to get in a few last comments.

Moving on in a crowded agenda, the Board considered a request by the CEO to approve her filling five vacant unclassified positions. While Director Sanchez reiterated his personal opinion that there are too many such positions at the District (there are 33), and that they should be reduced by attrition, the Board unanimously approved her request. The reason they have a policy of requiring such approval had just finished giving the Delta presentation, and yet there was no explicit mention of this, just vague reference to “the trouble we’ve had,” and expressions of trust in the current CEO.

And then the Board approved the policy language that they had discussed in the special meeting devoted to governance on 11 March. Director Santos had moved to reduce from 1 year to 6 months the time required before a Board member could be employed by the District, and had also included the CEO in that requirement. Director Judge was not present at that meeting, and today, he wondered what the rationale was for the change. At the time, Director Santos had expressed the feeling that having to wait a full year might cause possible financial hardship to a candidate. Judge wondered why it was necessary to have a waiting period at all, and Santos replied, “If you want to change it again, go ahead and make a motion.” Director Sanchez replied that “Politically, you’re never going to make that happen.”

I don’t believe that the Board feels there was anything wrong with Zlotnick’s hiring. With the bitterness that Directors Estremera and Santos have publicly expressed about the negative attention that it generated, there is no sense of remorse or responsibility to the voters. Even the policy changes that the Board passed in its immediate aftermath come up again and are questioned and called unnecessary.

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Working to build a local, sustainable food system in San José