Goleta Water to Go to Division-Based Board Seats

Awaiting Census 2020 Results to Make the Switch

Goleta Water District Boardmember Farfalla Borah | Credit: courtesy

The Goleta Water District delivers water to more than 87,000 people in the Goleta Valley. The district encompasses 29,000 acres between the ocean and the mountains, from El Capitan to the Santa Barbara city limits. The district serves a wide range of customers including residential, business, recreation, agriculture, and manufacturing. After 76 years of operation, the district is embarking on a transition to ensure that the Board of Directors reflects and represents our diverse community.

There are currently five members on the Board of Directors, elected at-large, who represent all residents in the district. The board has approved moving to a division-based electoral system by November 2022, meaning residents in each geographic division will vote for an elected official to represent them on the board.

The district’s transition to electoral divisions is governed by the the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA implements the California Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and provides the legal requirements we must follow to ensure every voter has access to participate in the electoral process. The Board of Directors created the District-Based Elections Committee last year, composed of all five board members, to coordinate the transition. As the chair of the committee, I have been and continue to be fully committed to ensuring the broadest participation, from all sectors of our community, in this transition.

The District-Based Elections Committee has been meeting quarterly since January 2020 to establish timelines and review the required procedures. Because the new divisions will be guided by data obtained from the 2020 Census, the substantive work of the committee will not begin in earnest until the start of the new year. The committee is in the process of hiring a professional demographer to review the 2020 Census data and provide guidance on potential division boundary maps. After receipt of the demographer’s information, the committee will hold public hearings to involve the community in the mapping development process for the new electoral divisions.

The committee’s current timeline calls for the transition to electoral divisions to be completed in time for the November 2022 general election, when two of the five board seats will be open for election. The three remaining divisional seats will be elected during the general election in November 2024.

I realize these dates seem far into the future, but the process is underway and we invite the community to engage with us now and participate throughout this process. The District-Based Elections Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for January 5, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. Due to the ongoing public health emergency, all public meetings of the board of the Goleta Water District are being conducted by teleconference. Meeting agendas and instructions for participating by teleconference are available on the District’s website at: http://www.goletawater.com/agendas-and-minutes.

The board recently voted to also utilize videoconferencing, starting with the District-Based Elections Committee’s meeting on January 5. Details on how to participate by videoconferencing will be provided in advance of the District-Based Elections Committee in January. The ability to participate in district meetings by teleconference will continue to be available for those unable to join by videoconference.

Background information and FAQs for the District’s transition to electoral divisions are available at: http://www.goletawater.com/about-the-district/transitioning-to-division-based-elections

Please contact me, fborah@goletawater.com, if you have questions about the transition to electoral divisions or need assistance accessing or participating in the committee’s public meetings. We need everyone’s involvement in this process as we determine the new electoral divisions for the Goleta Water District.

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