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Who you should vote for in Nov.

Posted: September 26, 2009 8:00 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Local voters have a mixed bag of decisions to make Nov. 3. Some will be easy, others not so easy.

Simplest are the Saugus and Sulphur Springs elementary school districts, where there is no election because just enough candidates ran for the open seats.

Conversely, College of the Canyons will be exceedingly difficult. Voters must decide which candidates are best poised to lead the Santa Clarita Community College District through the next decade - or at least the next four years - of exploding enrollment and uncertain state revenue.

Also tough will be the William S. Hart Union High School District, where too many good candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. Which ones will keep their promises and help us forget the past decade of school construction agony? Hard to guess.

Falling somewhere in the middle on the difficulty scale are the remaining regional contests, including the school boards for Castaic, Newhall - where the field is thinning - and the Newhall County Water District.

Actually, Newhall County Water isn't so tough.

Three seats are up for election in the water district that serves Newhall, Castaic, Tesoro and Pinetree.

Two seats are occupied by incumbents Maria Gutzeit and B.J. Atkins. The third seat is being vacated by Barbara Dore, who will retire after many years of service on a formerly dysfunctional board.

And it was once a dysfunctional board. Had you forgotten? If so, you can thank Maria Gutzeit for that.

She almost singlehandedly brought it back to reality after it took a sharp turn down Crazy Street.

We said "almost" singlehandedly. A board isn't one person; it's a five-member team. Gutzeit couldn't have done it alone, and she couldn't have done it without some solid people sitting next to her - people like B.J. Atkins.

Gutzeit and Atkins' politics might be different, but partisanship plays no role in local elections where "R" and "D" don't appear on the ballot.

The biggest issue is what Gutzeit and Atkins have accomplished over the past four years - and it's something you probably didn't even notice.

While the West suffers through a prolonged drought and an endangered fish threatens the reliability of the state water supply, the Newhall County Water District board has managed to avert the sort of mandatory rationing imposed in other California communities.

"Managed" is the operative word there. The board has overseen a competent management team that works with other local water purveyors to make sure the entire valley has a safe, plentiful and reliable water supply, even in these dry times.

As Atkins notes, El Niño might be coming, but this is no time for the water agencies to rest on their laurels, because our valley is growing and another drought will surely follow.

Atkins and Gutzeit, both environmental consultants by trade, understand their jobs as water board members. Their job isn't to play "water politics." It's to provide water.

Gutzeit is justifiably proud of having struck a balance between environmental concerns and maintaining the local economy - as seen in her endorsements from environmental leaders and major business organizations alike.

Newcomer Mike Cruz gets it, too. His agenda is just the sort of responsible platform you would want to see in a water board member.

A first-time candidate who works as a paralegal in the Los Angeles City Attorney's office, Cruz deals with the prosecution of gang bangers and the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries by day.

By night he frequently participates in meetings of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee and other community organizations.

Meantime, he is director of government affairs for the SCV Junior Chamber of Commerce and a graduate of the SCV Leadership Program.

With the endorsement of political and business leaders such as Councilman Bob Kellar and Planning Commissioner Bill Kennedy, Cruz likes to say that "water is the next oil" - meaning it's a precious resource that needs to be conserved properly.

Cruz wants to see us become more self-reliant when it comes to water. To that end, he would use the next four years on the Newhall County Water Board to expand the use of recycled water for irrigating parks, promote the use of water-efficient appliances and landscaping sensors, and recharge our groundwater supply with a recovery system that water agencies elsewhere are using.

That's our recommendation for the Newhall County Water Board. Three available seats. Three good candidates. Two proven ones and a promising newcomer.

We think Newhall County Water District customers would do themselves a favor by casting their votes for Maria A. Gutzeit, B.J. Atkins and Michael S. Cruz.


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