Hello my name is Norm Picker and I am a candidate for the Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company board of directors.
I have resided in East Palo Alto since 1984 and have lived in the Palo Alto Park neighborhood since 1985. I am a co-founder of Bayshore Christian Ministries, an organization that teaches, mentors and supports youth and their families. Through this organization, I mentored a group of boys from the age 10-18. I have coached soccer with RYAA and basketball with the YMCA. My wife, Alissa, and I are proud to have raised our two children in this neighborhood that is very much my home. Sadly, Alissa, passed away last year after a two year battle with brain cancer; we were married 30 years!
I care deeply about the people of our neighborhood and have always worked to the best of my ability to make it the best place possible. Like many of you, I have been frustrated by the service provided by the Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company. One never knows if the water will be shut off without warning; if it will meet drinking water standards; if the equipment is being maintained properly; if we will ever get water that actually tastes good; if the system will provide adequate pressure and / or fire hydrant water when it is needed; if our yard will be destroyed by careless hydrant flushing; if an unusual and unjustified double-billing or special one-time assessment fees will be tacked on to our bills etc. etc.
I work as a Safety Engineer for SLAC (located at Stanford University). I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Santa Clara University. I have worked in the Environmental, Health and Safety field for 26 years.
Your vote for the slate of five candidates nominated by Neighbors for Better Water is greatly appreciated. Together we can push forward and succeed. Please come to the special election and cast your vote or be sure to sign our proxy so we can vote on your behalf. Our candidates are: Kumar Chaudhari, Delphine Hill, Ramiro Macias, Shannon Pekary, and me.
Hello, my name is Kumar Chaudhari and I am a candidate for the board of directors for Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company. I have lived in East Palo Alto for eight years and, except for the water, love living here. I am a teacher at Woodside High School.
My main role at my school is as a special education teacher. I also teach algebra to students who traditionally struggle with mathematics, and run our fledgling maker space as well. Part of the reason that I have so many roles is that, throughout my teaching career, I have been a go-to person when something needs to be figured out and it needs to be done well. I’ve learned how to develop effective teams, cultivate resources to assist me, and how to facilitate improvement within bureaucratic organizations. This is what I will bring to the board, this ability to problem solve and get things done.
For most of the eight years of living here, I’ve always been concerned about the quality of water, but also thought it was just something that I had to accept and just work around. More recently, one of my neighbors approached me and asked if I’d be willing to help out in their effort to improve the water service in our area. This story, from a trusted neighbor, was almost unbelievable. At the first meeting of the Neighbors for Better Water, I heard story after story that insulted my sense of justice. As I went into the community, I continued to hear story upon story of individuals simply being wronged, and of a company abusing their power through questionable practices and incompetence. I came to realize that these stories were the norm, not the exception, and that Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company, whose sole purpose for existence should be serving the water needs of its residents and homeowners, was not doing so. Sure, I could just live with it, like I have for the past many years, but my sense of justice and commitment to being a good member of this community called for more action and I eventually decided to take on a larger role and offer to serve on the board of directors in order to help to make the changes that this community deserves.
As such, my priorities will be:
- Eliminate the conflicts of interest that interfere with the proper oversight of our water company
- Make the company’s finances and rate structures, status of infrastructure, and decision making transparent to the public
- Implement the changes that have been advised by the California State Water Resources Control Board in order to improve water quality
- Work toward steady incremental improvements to fix the infrastructure that is currently being neglected (inoperable pumps, leaky tanks, and poor piping)
- Actively work to mend the conflictual working relationship with the city of East Palo Alto in order to facilitate improvement of the streets and the general standard of living in our neighborhoods
Hello, my name is Shannon Pekary and I am a candidate for the board of directors for Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company. I and my wife April have lived in East Palo Alto since we were married, in 1991, and we have raised our 8 children here. I have lived in the Palo Alto Park service area since 2009. I am the Executive Director of the Ravenswood Youth Athletic Association, which helps run the soccer club that plays at Cesar Chavez school.
My experience as the director of a nonprofit organization gives me a unique insight into the management and finances of our water company, which is also a nonprofit corporation. I also have an engineering degree, which will help me understand some of the technical aspects of delivering safe water to our neighborhood.
One of the reasons I am running for the water board is that I have become very concerned about how the current board is using our finances. From their own financial statements, payroll and contractor fees account for about $400,000 dollars of the $660,000 of income. That is WAY too much money for staff, especially compared to other similar water companies. After showing us their broken pump at the shareholder meeting, and listening to the complaints of many of you, it is clear to me that they are not using our money wisely.
I am also concerned about the safety and appearance of the water. in 2016, the State Water Resources Board ordered the current management to create a plan to clean up the water. The plan they have created does not include a real plan to remove the manganese and iron, but rather to try to reduce it using over-chlorination, which is a cheap and poor substitute and can cause other problems.
Neighbors are reporting that the water company is charging more than $5,000 to install a water meter at new construction and renovations. Water meters do need to be installed, that is a state requirement, but $5,000 is WAY too much for this. Mutual water companies are supposed to run at cost, and there is no way that a meter costs this much to install.
As a board member, my priorities will be:
- Investigate claims of illegal charges and return money to those who have been overcharged.
- Overhaul the bylaws so that paid staff and their relatives cannot be on the board.
- Do an audit of the books and make sure all the income is accounted for.
- Make sure that the office is running efficiently
- Reduce staff expenses and use that savings to fix equipment
- Create a long-term plan to consistently deliver clean water to our houses at a reasonable price.