Johnson, Moss, Mack, McSorley seek Rainbow board seats
Last updated 10/16/2020 at 9:48am
Two Rainbow Municipal Water District board seats will have contested elections this year.
Hayden Hamilton was unopposed for a second term in the Division 2 seat. Helene Brazier is retiring as the Division 1 director and Rainbow committee members Julie Johnson and Pam Moss are seeking that seat. Current Division 5 board member Michael Mack is being challenged by current Vallecitos School District board member Kathy McSorley. Division 1 includes Morro Hills, Bonsall, and Vista Valley while Division 5 is in Rainbow and also covers new development projects east of Interstate 15.
Johnson is professionally an educator and Moss is professionally a Realtor.
"I have actually been a teacher and have been working at Mira Costa College for over 30 years," Johnson said. "I really needed to learn what is out there for our students to know about careers in our region."
Johnson asked if she could volunteer on one of Rainbow's committees. She was placed on the Customer Service and Communications Committee, and eventually she became that committee's vice-chair and then the chair.
"I realized it's something I'm very interested in as a member of the community," Johnson said.
Johnson was subsequently appointed to the district's Budget and Finance Committee.
Moss' real estate background included title matters. "In the old days we had to know water rights," Moss said.
The water system includes easement access. "That's what I know," Moss said.
Moss is a fifth-generation native Californian who was raised in Compton. "My family was a part of the dairy industry," she said.
At one time Moss worked for Dairyman Magazine in Paramount; she was responsible for dairy and hay reports.
Her interest in water caused Moss to join Rainbow's Budget and Finance Committee.
Johnson was born in Delaware, and her family moved to a rural area in Maryland during her childhood. She moved to San Diego County in the late 1970s and moved to Bonsall in 1992. Moss moved to Bonsall from San Juan Capistrano in 2005.
Mack is originally from Los Angeles County and moved from Bell to San Marcos in 1978 after his mother retired and moved to San Diego County. He moved from Temecula to a 9 1/2-acre property in Rainbow 27 years ago.
McSorley and her husband bought a 13-acre property in Rainbow Heights in 1997 although they remained Orange County residents. After they retired they moved to Rainbow in 2017.
Mack was elected to the Rainbow board in November 2016 and previously applied for the Division 5 seat when it was vacant in 2011. "I could see like it was really rigged. That really infuriated me," he said.
Mack defeated incumbent Dennis Sanford in the November 2016 election, although Sanford was moving to Georgia and didn't campaign. During his four years in office Mack has been involved in the filling of one vacant board seat. In February 2017 Miguel Gasca was selected to fill the Division 3 seat. Mack noted that all of the candidates for that seat were thanked for their interest in the position.
That differed from the appointment process in 2011. "When I was at board meetings, they didn't thank the candidates," Mack said. "It was a very bad taste in my mouth."
Mack worked for the City of San Marcos for 30 years, and most of that time he was a parks supervisor. His duties included controlling the irrigation system from his office. "I did know on the water side how not to waste water," he said.
What Mack didn't know when he was elected in 2016 was the politics of water agencies. "I do think there's a learning curve," he said.
"You've got to sit back and observe and listen to what's going on so you can comprehend," Mack said. "The board makes decisions along with your general manager that impacts ratepayers."
McSorley worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 39 years before retiring in 2016. Although the U.S. Postal Service does not involve water, her employment gave McSorley customer service experience. "I did a lot of things there. I was a carrier, a clerk. I worked in address management and customer affairs," she said.
In April 2019, Paul Georgantas stepped down from the Vallecitos School District board. McSorley was chosen to replace him in June 2019 prior to the school district transitioning from at-large elections to elections by territorial unit. She is not eligible to run for re-election to the school board this year.
"I'm currently on the Vallecitos school board and my term is going to be up at the end of the year, so I wanted to still do community service and give back to my community in Rainbow," McSorley said. "I want to ensure that we have a safe and reliable water system in Rainbow for the residents as well as the agricultural community at a reasonable cost."
All four of the candidates enjoy living in Bonsall or Rainbow, but all four see challenges facing the water district.
Johnson noted that accountability to the public is one of the challenges the Rainbow district faces. "I think the most important thing is to continue to be a credible institution that people trust," she said. "Having individuals that can communicate well and work well as a team is critical."
Rainbow will also have to adapt to new development. "Fallbrook/Bonsall has always been more of a rural area," Johnson said.
"It's going to be a time of growth for North County," Johnson said. "It's an exciting time."
The agricultural losses in the area included Johnson's own grove. At one time she had 450 avocado trees. "We just couldn't keep up. We were losing money," she said.
"Our trees were getting old," Johnson said. "We took down the grove."
Johnson decided to remain in agriculture although not on a commercial basis. "I just can't give it up," she said. "I'm experimenting with pepper trees so you can actually share these with individuals."
The pepper trees won't be given away in the near future. "We don't have that many right now," Johnson said.
"It's not just providing water. It's providing a service," Moss said of a water agency's activity.
"I think that the biggest challenge that we face on an ongoing basis is for people to understand that it isn't just the cost of the water. It's the cost of the infrastructure and the delivery," Moss said. "It's an infrastructure issue."
"We have many," Mack said of Rainbow's challenges. "As a ratepayer I was always concerned about the high water rates Rainbow has."
Once he joined the board Mack learned why Rainbow's rates are so high. The district has approximately 350 miles of pipeline and only about 8,000 ratepayers. "That's not normal for other water agencies. They have a whole lot more people contributing to the system," he said.
Other challenges, Mack noted, involve the difference in elevation throughout the district. The pressure for some pipes is more than 600 pounds per square inch. Moving water uphill also creates challenges, especially with regard to costs. Maintaining compliance with new state regulations is another challenge Mack sees Rainbow facing.
"The infrastructure is old," McSorley said.
"In the valley below they've had a lot of things falling apart and breaking," McSorley said. "A lot of people have been out of water for a couple of days."
Rainbow is contemplating detachment from the San Diego County Water Authority and annexing into the Eastern Municipal Water District. Mack, McSorley, and Moss expressed support for the reorganization while Johnson is awaiting more information before she makes a decision.
"They charge so much for water," Mack said of the SDCWA. "Our taxpayers over a 10-year period are going to save over 80 million dollars in fees."
That could create lower rates while some of the savings could be used for Rainbow operations. "That's going to help our infrastructure," Mack said. "We're hoping and praying that goes through."
Mack noted that the benefits to Rainbow's agriculture customers are not limited to cost savings. Both the CWA and Eastern utilize State Water Project supply from Northern California and Colorado River supply. The CWA utilizes more imported water from the Colorado River, which has a higher salinity than the State Water Project flows.
"It will be a lot more cost-effective," McSorley said.
The lower cost of water purchases for Rainbow will likely result in the savings being passed on to consumers. "They won't have to raise our rates," McSorley said.
"I'll have more facts if I was on the board," McSorley said. "I'm interested in getting the water supply to Rainbow at a reasonable cost."
"I'm very much in favor of us going to the Eastern district. I think it's a great move," Moss said.
"It makes good economic sense and I'm all about the economics and the numbers," Moss said. "It's in the best interests of the ratepayers for the economics of delivering the water and providing water without providing the overhead of the San Diego County Water Authority."
Eastern and the SDCWA both import water from MWD and both agencies also have their own local supply. The agencies have fixed costs for expenses incurred even when water use is reduced, and Rainbow anticipates savings if the fixed costs for the CWA are replaced with the fixed costs for Eastern.
"It's not just the cost of water but the delivery of water and the maintenance of the infrastructure system," Moss said. "You're not just paying for water but you're paying for your part of the system."
The SDCWA has a weighted voting system, so CWA member agencies with exclusively or primarily municipal and industrial customers can outvote agencies with agricultural customers.
"It makes a lot more sense for us to be aligned with more agriculturally related water," Moss said. "We are 70% agriculture. That's what we do."
"That's something I really don't want to respond to right now because I don't have enough information about it," Johnson said.
"If I'm elected I will do more research on the pros and cons," Johnson said. "I want to make sure that we do the right thing for our customers and our region."
Johnson notes that she would learn more details about the Rainbow district as a board member. "I will come on the board not 100% knowledgeable on everything, but I think I'm a good listener," she said.
Note: Kathy McSorley's photo was not available as of press time.