I offer a different take on the October 10th letter from Theresa May Duggan, with whom I am a frequent political ally and collaborator on community projects, and who I respect and acknowledge as a valuable member of this community. And, whether there is some perceived need for a "slate" or not, I'm glad that there are six candidates for the three available seats on the North Tahoe Public Utility District's Board because I share Theresa's long-term frustrations, heartily agree with her that the Board should "... be more pro-active in the community," and also think that we should discuss and consider whether "at-large" voting is a good idea for our "small town."
But a couple things she said just don't sit right:
(1) In the absence of an "at large" electoral system, Theresa May advocates voting for a slate of candidates who "together will take the NTPUD into a new era of cooperation." Perhaps, but with the system we do have, I can't be confident of that outcome without making a head to head, seat-by-seat analysis. When I do, it flies in the face of what I know to a certainty about one of our current board members, John Bergmann, who has already consistently demonstrated the cooperative characteristics for which Theresa "yearns."
So for that seat, and despite hearing good things about his opponent, I cannot consider voting for her over John. Why? Because John is John and Ramona Cruz is the Treasurer and Director of Accounting for the Tahoe City Public Utility District, a very responsible and important job - but one that inherently puts Ms. Cruz in a position of inescapable divided loyalties. For me, whether that constitutes a "conflict" in the legal sense is not the question.
Instead, I question why would we give up being represented by a person who is broadly recognized to be well-reasoned, fair-minded, experienced and community involved in exchange for someone who, no matter how good, cannot bring the totality of her experience to the board without the prospect of divided loyalties. Even assuming compliance with the letter of the law and self-recusal on every occasion where a conflict may appear, we can't expect or require 100 percent. From John Bergmann, 100 percent is what we always get.
(2) Theresa May paints with a broad brush by saying: "It would be far better to have ... the top vote getters get elected. The current board could have made that happen: they haven't because it might threaten their seat." But that assertion appears to me to be contrived.
I think my understanding is accurate that seat by seat (head to head) elections for PUD boards are mandated and that it takes a special bill passed by the California legislature to change that. So yes, the NTPUD's Board could consider changing the election method and they could seek passage of a special bill. But should they do that in the abstract? Are they obligated to do that without someone (like perhaps one of the slate candidates) actually coming to a meeting and asking for it to be considered? Recently, the Tahoe City Public Utility District did consider the issue and decided to retain head to head elections. Can we assume they avoided making the change because it threatened their seats? From what I hear, their reasoning was reasonable. Regardless of the level of one's frustration or cynicism, to assert that the NTPUD board is selfish because they didn't do something they've neither been asked to do, nor are required to do, is unfair and unwarranted.
This time, within the system we have, for each seat, let's vote for whomever we think is the best candidate.
John Shuff is a Tahoe Vista resident.