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Listen now: click the audio link to hear the candidate forum originally aired on East County Magazine's  Show on KNSJ radio on September 30, 2016.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Mark Gracyk,  Dan McMillan, Lou Tejeda and John Linden

October 5, 2016 (Lemon Grove)—Four contenders vying for two seats on the Helix Water District Board shared their goals at East County Magazine’s candidate forum  at the Lemon Grove Library on September 21st.  Incumbent John Linden defended repeated  rate hikes as necessary, while challengers  Mark Gracyk, Dan McMillan, and Louis Tejeda pledged to fight for holding the line against future rate hikes and/or trying to reduce water rates.

Candidates fielded questions from  the audience and from East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery on a wide range of issues including water quality, the future of Lake Jennings, the  land deal for sand mining El Monte Valley, their financial backgrounds and more.

Candidates also addressed the current board’s controversial sale of land in El Monte Valley for sand mining.  Louis Tejeda, a former Helix Water employee, claimed the board sold the land for too little, but was not opposed to sand mining the valley.  Gracyk said if the developer defaults on a payment due in the future, the land should come back to Helix to halt the project.

McMillan called for water budgeting as was done in the  Padre District to scale water rates based on family size,  lot size,and number of animals. Gracyk and Tejeda voiced support for the concept but Linden  said Helix is too large a district and that the cost to implement would be too high.

McMillan, who previously served on Padre Dam Municipal Water and San Miguel Fire Board, acknowledged prior bankruptcy but said he learned from the experience and cited his financial management experience in business.

Linden pointed out that while rate hikes are unpopular,  Helix has substantial infrastructure to maintain.  He also cited the case of Rainbow, California, where a board voted against rate hikes and suffered major infrastructure failure.  He spoke of the district’s history of looking forward decades in planning for the future. Other candidates claimed there are ways to cut expenses further to avoid hefty hikes and perhaps roll back rates slightly.

All challengers support moving board meetings to evenings so more people can attend. Linden said he would consider that if it is brought for a vote.

Other candidates for these two seats did not show up.  Incumbent Chuck Muse indicated he was out of the country.  Aaron Zajac RSVP’d that he would participate, but did not show up. Eric Collins indicated he had a schedule conflict.

A third seat has director Joel Scalzitti running unopposed. 

Note: Audio was trimmed slightly to fit the radio show's one hour format and a question on residency had to be omitted; all candidates indicated they live in and own property in the district.


Helix Water District Candidate Forum 2016

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Most current records 2014 from Transparent California Website

Deana R Verbeke Board Of Director Regular pay: $14,769.00 Overtime pay: $0.00 Other pay: $762.00 Total pay: $15,531.00 Total benefits: $18,703.00 Total pay & benefits: $34,234.00 Joel A Scalzitti Board Of Director Regular pay: $14,179.00 Overtime pay: $0.00 Other pay: $60.00 Total pay: $14,239.00 Total benefits: $18,019.00 Total pay & benefits: $32,258.00 Kathleen C Hedberg Board Of Director Regular pay: $13,567.00 Overtime pay: $0.00 Other pay: $90.00 Total pay: $13,657.00 Total benefits: $18,509.00 Total pay & benefits: $32,166.00 Charles W Muse Board Of Director Regular pay: $13,356.00 Overtime pay: $0.00 Other pay: $0.00 Total pay: $13,356.00 Total benefits: $18,694.00 Total pay & benefits: $32,050.00 John B Linden Board Of Director Regular pay: $13,600.00 Overtime pay: $0.00 Other pay: $0.00 Total pay: $13,600.00 Total benefits: $8,851.00 Total pay & benefits: $22,451.00 http://transparentcalifornia.com/


Amusing that Mr McMillan mentions his time as a board member with San Miguel Fire yet fails to tell people about how he fraudulently received pay and benefits as a board member there until he was found out and forced off the board because he no longer met the residency requirements. Seems he believes a lie of omission isn't a lie. He won't be getting my vote- integrity matters.

Fiscal resposibility and Government

So Dan Mcmillan boasts about his bankruptcy and his current foreclosure as if it's some type of political achievement . I remember when paying your bills and balancing a budget was a requirement for politicians.He's a perennial politician who can't manage his own finances but wants to manage the rate payers ( voters ).

In the public interest

Wouldn't the public benefit from knowing how many seats there are on that Board? Wouldn't it also be useful to know if any of the incumbents' terms are about to end? Is Linden the Chairman of the board? If not, who is? What is the Board's salary? How often do they meet? Who establishes their salary? What is their term of office? The inclusion of the answers to these questions would serve the public, as well as 'round out' an article about a Board undergoing an election.

Helix Water has 5 seats on the board.

Three seats are up this election.  The incumbents are running for reelection in all 3 seats.

One,  Joel Scalzitti,  is running unopposed.

Incumbent.Linden is running against Mark McMillan and Lou Tejeda, as well as Aaron Zajac who was a no-show at the debate.

Incumbent Chuck Muse and Eric Collins, who did not participatein the debate, are running against Mark Gracyk.

The Board President is Deana Verbeke.

Board member terms are four years.  

You can find a list of meeting dates, times and agendas here: http://hwd.com/meetings-and-agendas-2/

I don't know how much their salaries are;  if anyone has that info handy, please post with link to confirm. I couldn't find it in a quick search just now on the Helix website.



My reaction

I was impressed when Dan McMillan yielded to Louis Tejeda on El Monte Valley, but was most satisfied with Mark Gracyk. Kudos to incumbent John Linden for showing up and defended his record, which avoided a Flint like water crisis by raising rates instead.