After close to two hours of criticism by some, and praise by others, former 38th District Assemblyman Dante Acosta was sworn in as the newest member of the SCV Water Agency board Monday.
After members of the agency’s board were overwhelmed last month by the numbers of people weighing in on the nomination of Acosta by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, they tabled the discussion for the new year.
On Monday night, it was standing room only at the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant on Bouquet Canyon Road, as close to 100 people showed up for part two of the discussion over Acosta’s qualifications and suitability to represent L.A. County’s Waterworks District 36 in Val Verde.
It was the job of SCV Water board members to either approve or reject the nomination made by Barger.
And, according to the same Senate bill that created the SCV Water Agency itself on Jan. 1, 2018, had they rejected the nomination, board members would have to give just cause as to why they rejected it.
Some board members who voted in favor of Acosta mentioned the fact that they could find no reason to reject him as the nominee.
One of the complaints heard from his opponents in December, and again Monday, was Acosta’s lack of experience with water issues.
Long-standing board member Jerry Gladbach pointed out that the board is rich in people with water experience and expertise, and that the board would benefit from someone who brings new talents to the team, noting Acosta’s service in the state Assembly.
“Having a background in water is important but there are other aspects that are important as well,” he said.
“We don’t need another major water expert,” Gladbach said.
He reminded the board that the nomination was a decision made by the county.
“She (Barger) didn’t appoint Dean Efstathiou because that is her choice,” Gladbach said, referring to the county’s long-standing representative of County Waterworks District 36.
“That ship has sailed,” he said.
Director R. J. Kelly said: “Dante Acosta would not have been my first choice. My first choice would have been Dean (Efstathiou) who had 38 years’ experience.”
Kelly then commended the board for the diversity it already represents, adding, “I recognize the potential for Acosta serving on our outreach committee.”
Board member Gary Martin said: “I don’t find any cause to reject the nomination.”
Director Bob DiPrimio said the same thing.
Many of the people who spoke on the nomination last month returned to the podium to voice the same sentiments.
And after they were done bad-mouthing him or back-slapping him, Acosta spoke for himself.
“I am very enthusiastic about joining this board,” he said before the vote.
“My having worked on CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) issues alone makes it very germaine to be here.
“With regards to SB 634 (becoming law), I had a part in that. I’ve lived in Santa Clarita before it was Santa Clarita,” he said, noting he grew up drinking the local water, as did his children.
“And, hopefully I’ll see grandchildren drinking this water,” he said.
One of the new faces appearing before the board was Santa Clarita Councilman Bill Miranda, an Acosta supporter.
“County supervisors who themselves get thousands of votes nominated Dante Acosta. Dante himself when he joined the city of Santa Clarita got thousands of votes. And, thousands more put him in the state Assembly.
“Tell me, what is the reason we’re not going to approve his nomination? I want to the hear the cause,” Miranda said to vigorous applause.
“Step up and appoint Dante Acosta to the board,” he said in closing.
Ennvironmental activist Shawnee Badger was among those who opposed the nomination.
“My concern (about) Dante Acosta is his low ratings from environmental groups,” she said. “He got 17 percent from the Sierra Club and that does worry me.
“When it comes to water and water-related issue decisions, I want someone who is going to spend the time knowing them,” she said. “I would like to see an environmentalist on this board.”