Water has always been a central issue in California public policy. And, with a proposal to drain the Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the San Francisco ballot next month, Bay Area residents are thinking about water more than usual.
They’re likely paying closer attention than usual to this year’s Santa Clara Valley Water District Board elections as well. Two positions on the board are open, including District 2, which includes Santa Clara and San Jose’s Rose Garden, Willow Glen, and downtown neighborhoods. Willow Glen resident David Ginsborg is one of three candidates vying for the seat.
Ginsborg is currently Deputy to the Santa Clara County Assessor, a position he’s held for 15 years. He also chairs an independent monitoring committee for the Water District, which oversees county investments in flood control, water quality, trail building and watershed protection projects. He’s also a co-founder of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees.
Running for the Water District seat is a logical extension of that experience, says Ginsborg. “In the assessor’s office we’re very focused on customer service and accountability. It’s the same approach I want to bring to the Water Department – doing the job with high efficiency and accountability.”
“Water is something we don’t think about until we’re without it,” he says. The Water Board’s job, quite simply, is “making sure when you turn on the tap the water comes out clean.”
That means the Board’s responsibilities extend to “every water delivery, water quality, flood control and everything that job touches: protecting the bay, restoration of creeks, and managing storm water. Water is a critical part of everything we do in California – from agriculture to chip-making to recreation.”
People may not realize the Water Board plays an important role in the development of the county’s creek trails, he explains. “How do we build trails in a way that attracts people to experience the environment? The San Tomas Aquino creek trail is a good example of a trail that has unique features that draw people.”
Ginsborg has a clear agenda if he’s elected. Above all, he wants to focus on delivering projects on time and keeping accountability clearly in sight. He’s calling for a comprehensive review of the district’s current projects and initiatives, with an eye to pinpointing the most important and financially achievable.
“We currently have 200 recommendations,” he explains. “We need to identify projects to get done and get them done – set priorities and get outside funding if necessary.”
Long-term, the District has some big issues to grapple with, says Ginsborg. An important one is the Anderson Dam earthquake retrofit project. “Right now, one of our biggest reservoirs [Anderson reservoir] is at risk from an earthquake, so we can only keep it two-thirds filled.”
Another important long-term priority for Ginsborg is water independence. “Today 55 percent of our water comes from the Sacramento Delta,” he explains. “Long-term we can’t continue to drain water from the Delta.”
The District also needs to become fiscal realists about water. “In the past, the district got federal matching funds for local taxes,” Ginsborg says. “Today the federal government is providing much less money. We have less money for flood control than before Hurricane Katrina, but the Water District has continued to act the same way.”
But Ginsborg isn’t just about the business of water. He’s also passionate about enjoying California’s rich natural landscape – he and his family can often be found hiking and biking in area parks. “How do we restore creeks and create an environment where wildlife can come back,” he asks. “For example, [the recent return of] steelhead in the Guadalupe River.”
“How we harness natural resources is critical,” he concludes. “A lot of companies gravitate to Santa Clara because of Silicon Valley Power’s reliable and cost-effective electricity. Water is not different.”