When Alan Galbraith decided to run for mayor of St. Helena, he embarked on a door-to-door trek that included visiting our home, one mile from City Hall. He cordially introduced himself and requested my vote. As a retired environmental biology teacher, I voiced my concerns that previous City Councils had paid over $50,000 each for two water sustainability reports and proceeded to ignore both of them. Each one indicated that the City of St. Helena has recklessly exceeded a “safe water sustainability” level. Alan agreed that water was an issue and pledged to make it his top priority.
Unfortunately, he has followed the path of countless politicians who made campaign promises that they failed to keep. Evidence of this includes his management of the Las Alcobas project and potential sale of the Adams Street property. Both of them involve selling water that, according to the two water-consulting firms, the City of St. Helena cannot guarantee.
However, his most recent breach of promise involved keeping secret the names of residents or companies who evidently have a “sweetheart deal” regarding water usage with the City of St. Helena. Alan said that he was not in the shaming business. This comment begs the question: If he and his “sweethearts” were not doing anything inappropriate, why would shame enter the discussion? He also inferred that releasing the names could be illegal.
Evidently EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utilities District), one of the largest domestic water suppliers in the SF Bay Area, does not have the esteemed legal services that St. Helena has. After they recently enacted stricter water conservation laws, they discovered that many millionaires, sports heroes and celebrities blatantly eschewed the new regulations. EBMUD responded with increased fines and publicly “shaming” violators into compliance.
What Alan and his cronies fail to understand is the fact that, if St. Helena were to miraculously discover 10,000 acre feet of water, the city would most likely permit 100 new homes and 5,000 new hotel rooms and we would look like Yountville or Napa.
Ironically, when Alan and I discussed his aspirations to become mayor, I reminded him of Thomas Jefferson’s observation that frequently, after normal citizens are elevated to positions of authority, they begin to behave in very strange and capricious ways. In my humble opinion, this is what Alan has done. Although he has lost my trust, a recall effort would likely be divisive and counter-productive. Under these clouded circumstances, he may not choose to run for office again. If he does, let the voters weigh his merits.
Meanwhile, paraphrasing a ’60s Joan Baez folk song: If water is a resource that people can buy, the rich will thrive and the poor will be dry.
Lowell H. Young