Central Basin Municipal Water Board Director Leticia Vasquez-Wilson spoke exclusively with 2UrbanGirls on legislation winding its way through the state legislature, Senate Bill 625, which aims to dissolve the water agency and taking away voting rights from the nearly 2 million residents the municipality provides service to.
Vasquez-Wilson represents the area covering Lynwood, South Gate, Florence-Graham, Willowbrook and portions of Compton and Carson. She previously served on the Lynwood city council becoming the first Latina to serve as mayor in 2006.
Vasquez-Wilson has agreed to share with our readers her thoughts, in a series of interviews, on how this action came to take place at the behest of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. The bill was authored by Sen. Steve Bradford, who only represents a handful of homes the agency provides service to, with principal co-authors by Asm. Cristina Garcia and Reggie Jones-Sawyers. Co-authors are Assembly Members Ian Calderon, Wendy Carrillo, Ed Chau, Mike Gipson, Sydney Kamlager, Miguel Santiago and Patrick O’Donnell.
2UG: Where you aware of previous issues concerning the agencies finances?
I was aware of various concerns regarding contracting practices and allegations of corruption around contracting practices which was one of the reasons why I ran on the issue of reforming the agency. Upon my election Central basin changed its contracting practices to ensure more transparency and accountability. We did so by amending the administrative code to require that all contracts be put out to bid and that each went through a process so that everyone would have an opportunity to potentially participate. Another one of my promises to the voters was to audit the agency so that we can fix any issues that existed at the time and during my time in office we definitely achieved that. With respect to financial issues, the issues facing Central Basin were no different than many of the issues facing our regions local governments. Central Basin in collaboration with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California did experienced an unprecedented six-year drought in California immediately after my election from 2012-2017. This unprecedented drought resulted in the state of California imposing many new laws around water conservation. These new laws impacted Central Basin in that its water sales declined. This decline in water sales which has occurred across California with many water agencies has do the drought. Central basin has certainly made the necessary adjustments in the budget to respond to the loss of sales. Furthermore, Central Basin lost one of its largest customers, the Water Replenishment District which no longer purchases water from the Central Basin because they rely on the Albert Robles Center (ARC) where they use recycled water to replenish the Basin.
2UG: Did you think being elected would help in squashing any issues arising from the previous administration?
I felt that being elected I could address many of the issues arising from the previous administration, absolutely. We have been successful in doing that. Upon my election, we worked hard to get Central Basin books audited. After the audit, Central Basin implemented all of the 33 recommendations made by the state of California including making many structural/organizational changes that were greatly needed. Central Basin also dismissed two outstanding lawsuits against the Water Replenishment District which had been a huge burden on the ratepayers. Central Basin embarked on an aggressive effort to increase recycled water sales to connect communities across the Central Basin service area with the goal of reducing our regions reliance on imported water.