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3 Candidates Want to Vote Themselves Out of Jobs : Campaign: They vow that if elected to Tri-City water district board they will seek to do away with the agency, which they say is unneeded and wasteful.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The three candidates--Kenneth Mullen, Philip Crocker and George Key--know a lot about water, how it should be delivered and how it should be stored.

But the trio won’t need much expertise about pipelines and reservoirs to carry out a unique campaign pledge if they’re elected to the Tri-Cities Municipal Water District board.

That’s because, if elected in November, Mullen, Crocker and Key vow they will take their oaths of office, then promptly put themselves out of a job by dissolving the water district.

The district’s dissolution, they contend, will save ratepayers money by eliminating an unnecessary layer of government created in 1959.

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The three San Clemente residents lack a catchy campaign slogan but have been raising eyebrows with a political suicide pact that may be the first such candidacies of their kind.

“It’s . . . different,” Mullen said of their approach. “It’s a major change. We fully plan to carry through with it.”

Key said the trio’s campaign platform has drawn bewildered responses. The three are among six candidates, including two incumbents, running for the board.

“People say, ‘Are you going to put yourselves out? That’s not good politics’ ” Key said. “I say, ‘Well, I’m not a politician.’ ”

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Talk about getting rid of the Tri-Cities Municipal Water District isn’t new.

The city of San Clemente, one of the water district’s wholesale customers, supports the dissolution, believing it will save customers money. The City Council last spring called for the district’s demise and suggested that the city buy its water from another source.

In addition to San Clemente, the Tri-Cities district sells water to San Onofre State Park, San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant and the Capistrano Beach County Water District, which serves parts of San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and Capistrano Beach.

In all, the district serves 70,000 people, most of them in San Clemente. The district’s current yearly budget is $13 million.

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William C. Mecham, Tri-Cities board president, said he favors dissolving the district if it can be proved the move is the best way to serve customers.

Mecham said the district’s critics have yet to provide numbers to support their position.

“Anybody who says, ‘We’re running to dissolve Tri-Cities’ is running on emotion and not facts,” he said.

Mecham said Tri-Cities should be allowed to survive if a consolidation of special water and sewer districts takes place in South County, as recommended by the county’s grand jury.

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Mecham is being challenged in the election by Crocker and another candidate, Esther Shillman, who says she favors a review of the district before saying whether it should be dissolved or remain.

“I think it’s time for a good assessment,” Shillman said. “Do we need what we did in 1959? Maybe we do.”

The sixth candidate in the election is incumbent Jim Lawson.

The three candidates who hope to bring about the district’s demise, and their backers, say the Tri-Cities’ administration and board can eliminated from the water-delivery process because the district serves as a “middleman,” receiving water from the Coastal Municipal Water District in Dana Point, which gets its water from the state’s wholesaler, the Metropolitan Water District of California.

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“It’s a long sequence of events and indicates that there are a lot of people dipping their fingers into the financial trough,” said Jim Hill, an electrical engineer who has become an advocate of abolishing the district.


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