Sequeira: It's time for people to take control of their water

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Even after being targeted by the Legislature, local unelected bureaucrats on the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District still are playing political games - and it needs to end for the benefit of Montgomery County families and their water rates.

The LSGCD has had more than 230 days to order a special election in compliance with state law, and they have failed to do so, ultimately ignoring the will of Gov. Greg Abbott and the Montgomery County state legislative delegation.

The Texas Legislature formed the LSGCD in 2001 to preserve, conserve and protect Montgomery County groundwater supplies. Nearly 75 percent of voters approved its creation - but that was the last time voters have had a say in matters concerning the LSGCD. LSGCD board members are appointed, leaving these unelected officials wholly unaccountable to the Montgomery County voters they are supposed to represent.

Lack of accountability has led to mismanagement and increased water rates; Montgomery County residents have seen nearly two-fold increase in water rates in recent years. Families on a single income, like Sandra Guerrero-Davis from Conroe, who are already struggling to make ends meet, must now choose between putting food on the table or having running water. This type of hardship caused by high water rates must end. Montgomery County residents deserve accountable leaders and clean running water that doesn't break the bank.

This past legislative session, Sen. Brandon Creighton and Rep. Will Metcalf recognized the water rate issue and saw that LSGCD's lack of accountability was a problem and stepped in to help. Ultimately, the Legislature passed and Gov. Abbott signed a law - HB 1982 - that changed the board's nine appointed positions into seven elected ones that Montgomery County voters will elect for the first time on November 6th, 2018. The work of these two state legislators has empowered their constituents to take back control of the LSGCD and set the path forward on water rates.

HB 1982 went into effect on Sept. 1, 2017, which marked the earliest opportunity the LSGCD had to order a special election to fill the new elected board positions - but more than 230 days later, the LSGCD has failed to comply with the law.

Every day that goes by without the LSGCD calling for a special election is one less day that potential candidates for the new board have to file their intention to run. Without candidates for office, what chance do the voters have to make their decision on who best to represent them?

If the board waits until the last possible date to order the election - Aug. 20, 2018 -- potential candidates would only have three days to file paperwork for office before the filing deadline, which is completely unfair to the voters. Voters deserve the largest pool of candidates possible when it comes to such a consequential election. Unelected bureaucrats dragging their heels is nothing new, but when it affects the integrity of an election, it's wholly unacceptable.

I ask the Montgomery County community to join me in urging the LSGCD board to comply with state law and order a special election immediately. The future of our water rates and our community's quality of life depends on it.

Simon Sequeira, president of Quadvest Water and Sewer Utility, a major private groundwater producer in Montgomery County, is president of Restore Affordable Water (RAW), a registered 501(c)(4) advocacy organization. RAW is a group of Montgomery County residents, business owners, and community leaders who demand truth, transparency, and accountability from the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District. More information about Restore Affordable Water can be found at RestoreAffordableWater.com.

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