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ENDORSEMENT: San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council

Sep 24, 2020

Dear Suzanne Till: Congratulations! On behalf of the Executive Board of the San Diego & Imperial County Labor Council, I am pleased to inform you that you have earned the endorsement of our 125,000 member organization. Union members living and working in San Diego and Imperial Counties are placing their trust in your candidacy because […]

ENDORSEMENT: San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
Sep 24, 2020

Dear Suzanne Till:

Congratulations! On behalf of the Executive Board of the San Diego & Imperial County Labor Council, I am pleased to inform you that you have earned the endorsement of our 125,000 member organization. Union members living and working in San Diego and Imperial Counties are placing their trust in your candidacy because of your commitment to stand up for working families. Your campaign highlights issues that are important to us, such as expanding access to healthcare, protecting the right of workers to collectively bargain, improving the standard of living for all workers, and most of all, the willingness to fight for issues important in our communities.

The American middle class was built brick by brick by the hard work of our parents, grandparents and the unions that represented them. Those actions, along with the struggle to elect political leaders with the courage to fight alongside them, paved the way for the 40-hour work week, paid vacations, livable wages, and retirement plans. Today, the middle class is being systematically dismantled. There are efforts to strip many of those hard-won gains through the legislative process. Now, more than ever, we need courageous leaders willing to stand together to ensure working people have a voice in their worksites, communities and in the political process. Only then can we restore economic equality and bring change to our communities for generations to come.

We are proud to offer you our endorsement and, most of all, the support or our members. We look forward to standing side-by-side with you as we fight for policies that improve the lives of ALL workers. In the near future, we would like to schedule a time to meet with you and your staff team.

If you have any questions, please contact Katelyn Hailey at khailey@unionyes.org.

In Solidarity,

Keith Maddox
Executive Secretary-Treasurer
San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO

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Padre Dam Municipal Water District Elections

Oct 04, 2020

Till, a teacher at Mater Dei High School in Chula Vista, says while the district has taken some steps towards generating its own water sources via the Advance Water Treatment Program, it’s ignoring huge opportunities that are within its grasp.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District Elections
Oct 04, 2020

By Mike Allen 

Photos, top left to bottom right:  Division II candidates Augie Scalzitti, James Sly and Suzanne Till; Division IV candidate Augie Caires  

September 30, 2020 (Santee) – The 2020 election will have two seats on the Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s five-member board of directors up for a vote, but only one is being contested. The Division II seat that has been held by Augie Scalzitti for four terms dating back to 2000 has two other contenders: James Sly and Suzanne Till. In Division IV, Director Augie Caires is unopposed.  Scroll down for our interviews with all four candidates.Augie Scalzitti Scalzitti actually has served on the water board for 22 years, counting a two year stint from 1993-95 when he was appointed. He decided to run in 2000, and is a familiar face on the board, serving as president in 2002, 2008, and 2016. The retired barber, whose home looks out on the Carlton Oaks Golf Course, said he’s most proud about how Santee Lakes has grown and become a nationally recognized park that more than pays for itself. “When I came on the board the park had a budget of about $1 million. Now it’s over $6 million, and not a penny of it comes from the water rates,” Scalzitti said. “It’s self sufficient, and operates without charging any taxes.” He’s also a big backer of the district’s major improvement project, the Advanced Water Purification Program that will create a sustainable supply of drinking water to East County. The process would take sewage that is now sent to San Diego and reroute it to Santee’s sewage treatment plant where it will be purified to a potable level before it’s transmitted to Lake Jennings, where it will be withdrawn and again treated before being distributed to residents. “This is going to provide the insurance for our water needs, and eventually provide about 30 percent of recycled water for our region,” he said. The program that has been in planning stages for about a decade is scheduled to select the contracting teams for the $600 million facility in October. Construction is slated to begin in 2022, and will produce drinking water by 2025. When confronted by charges that he falsely used the endorsement of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council in his campaign brochures, Scalzitti said while he didn’t have the Council endorsement, he did have the backing of some members of the group. Katelyn Hailey, the campaign and legislative director of the Council, said there was no record of the organization endorsing Scalzitti in 2016. For this election, the Council endorsed Till. James Sly A lifetime resident of Santee, Sly is the chief operating officer for the East County Economic Development Council, a nonprofit aimed at business attraction and retention to the East County region. Sly has made Padre Dam’s exorbitant water rates the focal point for his first foray into elected politics. “Everyone can appreciate the work that the Padre Dam board has done from a maintaining of our infrastructure perspective, but what is lost is the customers. We pay some of the highest water rates in the country,” he said. When you consider the district has rates that are almost double what some neighboring districts such as Lakeside Water pay, it’s time to look at new ways of operating the agency, Sly said. He said there’s evidence that PDMWD’s bureaucracy  has gotten too unwieldy and bloated, and needs to be reduced, or right-sized. He ended his pitch by saying it is time for a change. “He (Scalzitti) has been on the Padre Dam board since 1993, and has overseen every water rate increase for the past 20 years….If you re-elect him, you know what to expect.” Suzanne Till Till, a teacher at Mater Dei High School in Chula Vista, says while the district has taken some steps towards generating its own water sources via the Advance Water Treatment Program, it’s ignoring huge opportunities that are within its grasp. “We should be looking at more ways of storing water,” she said. “Beneath the San Diego River there’s an alluvial aqua fir that we could use to store the rain runoff. If we have heavy rains during winter, it could be used for storing that excess water, but there is little interest from the board about pursuing this.” The former Marine captain who earned a Ph.D. in water resources geography from the University of Colorado says the district also hasn’t been aggressive enough in helping homeowners conserve their own water. While California has a rebate program that rewards owners for capturing rain water, there’s nothing on the district’s website that informs customers about this, she said. Till points to a recent report on water affordability by the state which ranked PDMWD at the lowest tier. “My water bill is always my most expensive utility bill that I pay, and I’m sure that is the case for many other families in our district,” she said. “Within the last year the board has put in two rate hikes and I’ve asked repeatedly what can we do about it, and I’m not getting any answers.” Till speaks of using her knowledge of water management  to figure out new approaches to getting control of the district’s ever rising rates. “I think highly of Augie (Scalzitti), and appreciate all of the years of his service that he’s provided. But with these water rates, it’s time for an expert to be on this board, and I’m an expert,” she said. Augie Caires After 13 years serving as the CEO of PDMWD, Caires retired in 2006, but not for long. He was appointed to a board seat in 2007, and then elected in the following year, and in two successive elections, making his tenure on the board at 13 years and counting. Caires says the two main reasons behind Padre Dam’s expensive rates are the higher costs of importing all of the district’s water through the County Water Authority, and the higher costs of pumping the water east to Alpine and surrounding environs. Regarding the Advanced Water Purification project, Caires says the price is not locked in stone but will certainly exceed $600 million. The agency is partnering with the Helix Water District, San Diego County, and the city of El Cajon to share the costs. “We’re not over all the hurdles yet, but we’re looking good,” he said. Asked why he thought nobody would challenge him for the seat, Caires said, “I don’t know. I’m not a politician. It’s not because people think I’m doing such a great job.”

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ENDORSEMENT: United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters & HVAC Local 230 endorses Suzanne Till

Aug 29, 2020

ENDORSEMENT: United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters & HVAC Local 230 endorses Suzanne Till
Aug 29, 2020
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Environment Report: Why Your Water Bill Might Spike

Jul 27, 2020

The San Diego County Water Authority approved a 5 percent increase in rates, but argued that it could have been much higher. Plus whale watchers are befuddled by a beluga sighting. And more in our biweekly roundup of environmental news.

Environment Report: Why Your Water Bill Might Spike
Jul 27, 2020

Original article from the Voice of San Diego, written by MacKenzie Elmer on July 27, 2020

The San Diego County Water Authority approved a 5 percent increase in rates, but argued that it could have been much higher. Plus whale watchers are befuddled by a beluga sighting. And more in our biweekly roundup of environmental news.

San Diego’s water utility is preparing to absorb a five percent spike in rates this year despite cries from elected officials to freeze costs during a global pandemic.

Why? The blame often gets passed up the proverbial pipeline.

About three-quarters of San Diego’s drinking water comes from the Colorado River via pipes and aqueducts controlled by the Metropolitan Water District, based in Los Angeles. Since it controls much of the lifeline, it’s often blamed for an increase in rates and that’s partially what happened this year.

San Diego County Water Authority, which has long dreamed of cutting its umbilical cord to L.A., said they were initially facing an increase of more than 6 percent. But due to some fancy financial footwork, officials said they forced the overall increase to 4.9 percent for its 24 member agencies, which includes the city of San Diego.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a quasi-governmental agency, and functions as a kind of water supply middleman to a region with already limited water resources. At first glance, it looks like the San Diego region is in fairly good shape water-wise for the year ahead.

But for an agency that survives on the sale of water, too much is not necessarily a good thing.

What’s Causing Financial Pressure

The Water Authority said its sales earlier this year dropped 14 percent, in part because Southern California had a really nice, wet winter, meaning the reservoirs and soils aren’t as parched as they have been during past droughts. Farmers don’t need to irrigate as much, and the same goes for residents sprinkling their lawns.

Another reason for the drop in demand: the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses and industries that would otherwise buy and consume a lot of water. Across the country, drinking-water utilities are expecting a $13.9 billion hit during the pandemic, according to a study by industry associations.

What’s Relieving the Pressure (Some of It, Anyhow)

To curb its dependence on L.A., the Water Authority buys 10 percent of its supply from the Poseidon desalination plant, which sucks up sea water and makes it drinkable.

But an abnormally-long red tide event bloomed along the coast this spring. What brought bedazzling bioluminescent nighttime waves also caused hell for the fine microfilters that separate salt from the water molecule at the privately-owned plant in Carlsbad.

The whole plant had to shut down for two weeks, spokeswoman Jessica Jones confirmed. That turned out to be an unexpected blessing for the Water Authority because, under its contract with Poseidon, if the desal plant can’t deliver then the Water Authority doesn’t have to pay.

Poseidon is the Water Authority’s most expensive water supply, at $2,800 per acre foot. (One-acre foot is roughly enough to cover a football field in a foot of water. Two four-person families use about an acre foot of water each year.) Water from L.A.-based Metropolitan Water Authority costs $1,309 per acre foot, by comparison, the Water Authority said.

Poseidon is contracted to provide up to 56,000-acre feet per year and the two-week lapse amounted to about $15 million in savings for the Water Authority.

The Water Authority also dipped into its rainy day reserve fund up to a limit set by its board of directors to keep the rate increase for consumers lower.

“The one cost we can’t do anything about is that from Metropolitan (Water Authority),” said Pierce Rossum, the Water Authority’s rate and debt manager.

Metropolitan proposed a 3 percent increase in 2021 and a 4 percent increase in 2022. The Water Authority’s board OK’d the 5 percent rate increase during its June meeting.

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez raised alarm over the proposed increase (or any increase for that matter) in a June 24 letter to the board’s chair, Jim Madaffer. Gómez said she’s “deeply concerned” about any rate increase as residents grapple with COVID-19.

“These impacts fall hardest on our low-income residents who are suffering great harm to their livelihoods and families,” Gómez wrote.

Families likely won’t feel it right away, though.

San Diego’s Public Utilities Department said it would absorb the $7.5 million needed to collectively meet the rate increase for the time being, drawing on its savings and some of the cash the city made by selling the Mission Valley stadium to San Diego State University, said Arian Collins, a spokesman for the department.

Before any actual rate spike shows up on your water bill, the department has to conduct a study analyzing and justifying the cost of getting you water. It’s something the state requires and is reviewed by consumer advocates as a layer of accountability.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that the proposed rate increases from authorities on high are just that — proposed. Both the Metropolitan Water District and San Diego County Water Authority are going to be meeting again in the fall to reassess whether they need to make adjustments because of the unpredictable economic conditions of COVID-19.

Nobody Puts Baby Beluga In A Corner

This is a month old, but I want to share it anyhow. Whale watchers spotted a 15-foot beluga whale off the coast of San Diego. That’s thousands of miles away from where it’s supposed to be: in the Arctic circle.

Scientists were befuddled as to why such a whale would leave its really chilly waters for the kinda-chilly waters of Southern California.

A local whale watching group captured the event with a drone, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

How rare is this? Domenic Biagini, the group’s ship captain, told 10 News: “Imagine if you were going outside to take your dog for a walk and you saw a polar bear. It doesn’t make any sense at all. I saw it with my own eyes and I’m still not sure I believe it.”

The last time a beluga was seen on the western coast of America’s lower 48 was 1940, when one appeared in waters off Washington State, according to the article. But of course, they didn’t have drones back then (or did they?!).

The closest known population of belugas lives 2,500 miles north, off Cook Inlet, Alaska. They usually travel in pods, too, so it’s especially odd this beluga was spotted alone.

“As much as I love beluga whales,” Alissa Deming, director of clinical medicine at Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. “I don’t want to see them off our coast because that means there’s something really wrong with their normal habitat up there in Alaska.”

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Padre Dam district hikes rates for sewer, water

Jun 27, 2017

Padre Dam Municipal Water District Board voted to raise rates for sewer and water. (Karen Pearlman/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Padre Dam district hikes rates for sewer, water
Jun 27, 2017

By KAREN PEARLMAN

Water and sewer rates for Padre Dam Municipal Water District customers are going up, despite pushback from some residents at a public hearing last week.

The five-member water board approved rate hikes that will take effect in November. The average residential Padre Dam customer will pay about $155 a month for water and sewer services, up from $151.

Further rate hikes are scheduled yearly through 2021. Increases will vary by customer based on water consumption and the type of dwelling — single family, multifamily, commercial, condominiums, hotels or apartments.

Padre Dam General Manager Allen Carlisle and several other Padre Dam officials spent an hour explaining the reasons behind the rate hike to about 30 people on June 21. The district maintains that aging infrastructure has constant, fixed costs for maintenance and replacement of nearly 400 miles of pipes.

The district’s base is in Santee, but its service area includes Alpine and Crest, and Carlisle explained that pumping water out of Santee up to more than 2,600 feet also has a price.

Padre Dam continues to work on its water treatment plan at the Ray Stoyer Water Recycling Facility to turn wastewater into drinking water. But until it has that up and running, the water agency continues to depend solely on water imported through the San Diego County Water Authority. Padre Dam also pays to treat residents’ sewage through the city of San Diego’s metropolitan wastewater system.

The water purification program will ultimately produce up to 30 percent of East County’s drinking water and help reduce our reliance on imported water, Carlisle said.
Santee resident Suzanne Till was one of five speakers who told Carlisle and the board how frustrated they are at the continual rate hikes, despite measures including shorter showers and converting their yards from grass to drought-tolerant landscaping.

Padre Dam has the fourth-most expensive water in San Diego County at $96 a month. The average cost for water per month in San Diego County is $76. Till created a power point presentation noting that the district’s rate structure doesn’t do enough to encourage water conservation. She said there is a lack of incentive to conserve water, and “no evidence of cooperation with the state of California to improve conservation.”

Till also shared her presentation the next day at a San Diego County Water Authority meeting. “Water is my most expensive utility bill,” Till said. “A $100 water bill just for showers and flushing toilets is unacceptable… they need to address the issue for fixed and/or low income people.”

Padre Dam provides water, sewer, recycled water and recreation services to nearly 100,000 residents in Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Alpine and other unincorporated areas in East County. As a not-for-profit organization, Padre Dam is prohibited from making a profit on the water and
services it provides.

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