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When Competence Matters Most - Partisanship is Perverse
Eight Partisans are Running for this Non-Partisan Office
Don't Vote for Any of Them

See Post-Election Postscript at bottom: "Prisoner's Dilemma: 5, Arizona: 0 - 895 feet Water Elevation at Lake Mead: Incoming"

Democrats: Arboleda, Aguilar, Graff, Pederson

Republicans: Lundgren, Monize, Neese, Seago

Non-Partisans: Bullington, Dulaney, Duplessis, Mishkin, Peters, Cirignani-Wood


  • When Arizona needed superstars because the crisis was so big that nothing less than superstars would do ...

  • Several stood up to the plate and said "we'll do this job ... we'll do it for free"

  • But then the Democratic and Republican Parties both stepped into the fray and said,
                             "No way Arizona not this time - our featherweights will have to do"

  • It's not a joke, it's not a risk, it is a looming inevitabilty: Lake Mead really is going to run out of water

  • It's not an exaggeration, it's not click-bait - when (not if) when Lake Mead runs out of water - it will be unparalleled in its scale when almost six million people lose 40% of their water supply - this will will begin in Phoenix, Arizona (GDP $271+ billion) where it's been foreshadowed already (canary in coal mine has died) in Rio Verde, Strawberry, Pine and Page

  • Neither the scale of the problem (loss of 40% of water supply), nor the impact (to almost 6 million people) nor the macroeconomic implications (around 10 semiconductor fabs in and around Phoenix, countless data centers including for Amazon, Apple, Google, etc. as well as the $271B GDP economy) none of this stopped either of the two major parties from throwing in their weight and meddling in a non-partisan, down-ballot race - imposing into this non-partisan race their otherwise mediocre-at-best candidates who performed at the ballot like performance-enhancing-drug using athletes in an all-natural competition

  • The result: total party lock out - unqualified party members swept all seats, crowding out highly qualified local professionals who actually have what it takes to lead the public, face the crisis and provide everyone the last-best-hope to steer through an epochal drought with magnificent human implications

Only Non-Partisans are
Allowed to be Honest
Partisans are Required to Lie
Even if only by Omission

There's a reason why we have a difference between a partisan race such as governor, senator, Congress, or state legislature, and non-partisan races, such as the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD).

In partisan races: most people think values are as important as competence, if not more so

In non-partisan races: most people think that competence is more important than values - usually because we all share the same values and we just want things to work

Because values matter more in partisan races, it isn't dishonest for partisans to favor other partisans in those races because of the implicit agreement that the values, themselves, are qualifying - that is why, after all, we agreed it would be a partisan contest.

In a non-partisan race the rules are the same for partisans - they still have to favor their own people - but the public is expecting candidates who can tell the truth about competence - because competence is the most important factor in the outcome of a non-partisan election. 

So it's a big problem when someone runs partisan in an non-partisan race - especially when many in the public are unaware of the fact that the partisans are running partisan, which can happen if non-partisan voters go to places like Ballotpedia (here, then scroll down for the list) or League of Women Voters Vote411 (here, then also scroll down) to get their voting information. Non-partisan voters may never realize some candidates ran partisan. 

Those voters may never learn that voting guides went out to millions of people, telling people who to vote for on the basis of partisanship - having nothing at all to do with competence. 


In order to receive a party-nomination for an elected office, including for a "non-partisan" elected office such as CAWCD - partisan candidates agree to support each other.

They agree only to support their partisans -
even if they think their partisans are not qualified

And they agree not to support their out-partisans - 

even if they know their out-partisans are qualified

Since I ran non-partisan I am not bound by any such agreement. 

CAWCD is an unpaid office for a six year term and I am gainfully employed - the only reason I ran for this is because I care about the future of Arizona's water supply.

In running for this office I have spent not less than 1000 hours on this problem so I've given it a lot of thought - the public might want to know my honest opinion of the other candidates - and because I am not not bound by any agreement I can share it with you - keep scrolling.

Group of lawyers discussing on a lawsuit

Water Supply for almost
6 million Arizonans is at risk

Let's begin with the stakes:

1. Lower basin states (Arizona, Nevada, California and Utah) must cut 1.3 trillion gallons of water use - by federal order

2. As a junior partner in the Compact, Arizona's share of the cut is at least 25% - more than 325 billion gallons per year

3. If we fail to cut consumption water elevation levels at Lake Mead will drop below 895 elevation feet and Hoover Dam will not be able to pump water into the lower Colorado River

4. If that happens - 5.9 million people in Pinal, Maricopa and Pima counties will lose 40% of their water supply

The stakes could not be higher


We should elect candidates who care about the stakes

Next - let's see where the stakes intersect with the nature of the non-partisan CAWCD race:

The reason why democratic communities
declare some races to be non-partisan
is because of these factors:

1. Values versus Competence: In some offices, competence matters most, values aren't particularly important because we all share the same values on the matter in question (water supply being one such issue)

2. Partisans must support their own: even when their own are not qualified, and even when out-partisans are qualified

3. When competence matters most - partisanship is perverse:

It encourages the appointment and election of unqualified people to offices where competence matters most to voters and the public:

Everyone needs secure water supply
The question is: who is competent to secure it?

Where it comes to the non-partisan CAWCD seat - I believe it is dis-qualifying to run as a partisan, because:

1. Everyone running understands the above three points - or if they don't, then that itself is dis-qualifying

2. Everyone running should prioritize the secure water supply of the public over the ambitions of the elected - that's how they demonstrate that they have the non-partisan, technocratic values that qualify them for the office

3. Those running as partisans are stating that they value partisanship more than competence, even when the public has said it values competence most by making this a non-partisan office

So let's ask some questions:

Question: When it would save almost 700 billion gallons of water per year, why hasn't CAWCD already followed Israel's example and promoted drip irrigation for 100% of Arizona farms? Why do only 5% of Arizona farms use drip (versus 48% of Californian farms and 100% of Israeli farms)?

Answer: This is why:

Question: When it could generate as much as 200 billion gallons of new water supply from evaporative recovery - every year - 500+ million gallons per day (!), why does CAP confuse the public discussion and argue against covering our water supply?

Answer: This is why:

Question: When desalination is the lowest yield, highest cost option with the longest lead time - and when desalination on the Sea of Cortez will be under the authority of officials in Hermosillo in Mexico who are not answerable to Arizona voters, and when lower cost, higher yield, shorter-lead time solutions are available and when the Sea of Cortez, created by the San Andreas Fault, is surrounded by land on 3 sides and contains within it an ecosytem with comparable biodiversity to the Amazon (Google it) which will be killed off by the 100 million gallons of brine desalination would pump into it:


every, single, day - forever 


Why is desalination even on the table?

Answer: This is why:

Where it comes to realizing the public's values through the execution of the duties of a non-partisan office:


Competence matters most

Partisanship results in less qualified candidates getting the job.

So let's be perfectly clear -

By running as Republicans: Monize, Lundgren, Neese and Seago are disqualified

Furthermore, by running as Democrats: Aguilar, Arboleda, Graff and Pederson are also disqualified

At the time of the debate I did not know that Arboleda and Graff, the incumbents, were running as Democrats. Based on their performance in the debate they effectively enjoyed my conditional endorsement - conditional based on their willingness to oppose CAP's continued resistance to covering the canal and reservoirs from evaporation. 

Upon discovering that they are running as partisan I can no longer support either - more than a lack of endorsement they get a "hard disqualification" because as incumbents, they better than anyone should understand the gravity of the problem and how much competence matters, but they instead used their authority and powers as incumbents to attempt to crowd out all of the qualified non-partisans - in this: non-partisan, technocratic race.

Voters asked for non-partisanship. Arboleda and Graff have ambitions that are more important to them. 

Arboleda and Graff should withdraw from this race. 

As it regards the - not less than 1000 hours - I have given to this race and this issue, which probably make me more informed than the average voter on the subject of this race - here follows my personal, professional opinion of the non-partisans and my recommendation on who will do the best job serving the public interest if they are elected.

I didn't sign any contract, I am not bound by any party, so I am perfectly free to share my opinion. I will limit this to other candidates there's no reason to argue for myself, this whole site is dedicated to that already.

The two most qualified non-partisans to sit on the CAWCD board are:

1. Karen Peters - a water attorney and long-time water conservation advocate

2. Shelby Duplessis - a former civil engineer whose demonstrated significant knowledge of the issues at hand

Secondarily qualified - maybe - is:

3. Alan Dulaney - a hydrologist, who otherwise would be higher on the list but he didn't attend the debate and in my opinion did not distinguish himself well at the Meet the Candidate event - those are important misses when he would otherwise stand out above all of us


At least on paper neither Lisa Bullington nor Cory Mishkin matches the qualifications of Peters, Duplessis or Dulaney - but neither is without merit either.

I have to be cautious with my own biases too and that means tempering my comparative enthusiasm for Dulaney. It is a significant problem that Dulaney failed to attend the debate and when he had five minutes to explain the great ideas he had at Meet the Candidate - he just didn't. I have to guess that he probably agrees he could have done better and that's five minutes when five minutes really counted. Dulaney also didn't even fill out the League of Women Voters Vote411 questionnaire so honestly : if I was on the board I would truly want someone with his qualifications nearby that's why this is so hard for me, but I really don't know how committed he is to this and showing up is four fifths of competence, so that's three strikes on Dulaney: poor Meet the Candidate performance when you get 5 minutes all to yourself in the limelight, debate no show, Vote411 no-show.

So I'm not sure I can rank him above Bullington or Mishkin just because he's a hydrologist - trying to be very honest I don't think I can. Again: the stakes. Look at the stakes. Water for 5.9 million people. The guy just didn't show.

Bullington is a real estate attorney - I have often argued that the law is literally the cause of the drought and we need to fix the law and even if CAWCD itself can't, its members can affect this in their speech and actions behind the scenes.


Where it concerns Mishkin, during the debate I often found myself thinking that when it comes to re-negotiating the Colorado River Compact in 2026, as a technocrat I can see where, if it was me negotiating, I would want someone like him on my team. Put a good architect or engineer together with a great negotiator and we can work wonders. 

Applied here: put me on the board to get drip irrigation and modern irrigation methods rolled out to Arizona farms and to get the canal and reservoirs covered, and put Mishkin on too to take those accomplishments and leverage them like a vice when the Compact is renegotiated - and we could probably land a SuperBowl-Sized Water Victory for Arizona. 

Bullington and Mishkin both come out far ahead of the 8 partisans running and should top anyone's voting list before partisans - because by running as non-partisans in a non-partisan, technocratic race, Bullington and Mishkin have demonstrated that their values are in the right place - namely that they put the public ahead of any party when the public could not have made it more clear:

  • That on this subject - water supply and conservation

  • For this office - the CAWCD board

  • Competence matters most 

Do you like the jobs at Intel, Motorola, NXP and TSMC?

Each of those fabs require a million gallons of water per day.


Do you like the jobs and prosperity brought to the valley by data centers for Amazon, USAA, Facebook, Google, Godaddy, etc. (this list really keeps going!)  ?
Each of those data centers require 750,000 gallons of water per day. 


Do you like what real estate trends have done for the value of your home?

You will see a different trend if we see more communities go the way of Rio Verde, Strawberry and Pine or Page. You won't like that trend and I want you to remember who ran partisan in this non-partisan race if it comes to that.  Remember - who leveraged the outsized power of the parties to gain electoral advantage in a race that parties are supposed to stay out of so the most qualified can rise to the top in order to best serve the public interest. 

The public values those jobs. The public values that prosperity. The public values its lives and investments here in Arizona.


The public asked for a non-partisan office where competence comes first.  

To run partisan - for this non-partisan office
Is to fail the very first test of qualification
Before one has even been elected 

So contrast Bullington and Mishkin with Arboleda and Graff, the latter two whose actions signal that as incumbents, they favor Aguilar and Pederson to the exclusion of any other candidate, and that they are unable to share with you freely, as I just did, who they think is most qualified from among those who are not their partisans:


When nothing less is at stake
than success or failure
of the public's water supply

Is Aguilar or Pederson more competent for this vital seat, at this vital time, than Peters? Duplessis?


I just told you what I think, but ask the incumbents Arboleda and Graff to weigh in and settle it. See what they say.


Then do a side-by-side comparison yourself. The League of Women Voters makes it really easy to do a side-by-side comparison right over here.
How does that compare to what you think? 

If it doesn't add up - the word "partisan" probably does something to explain the difference. Incumbents Arboleda and Graff knew the Maricopa Democrats Voter's Guide would go out to millions of people and knowing nothing about the candidates hundreds of thousands of people would unthinkingly check the boxes while leaving others unchecked.


They understood what affect it would have on the constitution of the board, serving to promote Aguilar and Pederson to the dis-advantage of people who are clearly more qualified to serve the interests of Arizona and Arizonans, such as Peters and Duplessis.

You just saw me wrestle with the stakes when it came to Dulaney. How do you think they wrestled with the stakes when they signed on to that Guide?

Arizonans would be far better off with Bullington and Mishkin on the board, than Arboleda or Graff. When competence matters most, Bullington and Mishkin, as well as Peters, Duplessis, Dulaney and me - all share an endowment that is incomparably more powerful than anything the incumbents bring to the table in this non-partisan race:

We are perfectly free to tell the truth

All told: no matter where we fit in line - if you care about water supply for 5.9 million Arizonans there is only one way to vote if you haven't already - non-partisan!



Prisoner's Dilemma: 5, Arizona: 0
895 feet Water Elevation at Lake Mead: Incoming



Results are in

Arboleda - Democrat - wins - with 10%

Graff - Democrat - wins - with 9.5%

Monize - Republican - wins - with 9.4%

Aguilar - Democrat - wins - with 8.6%

Seago - Republican - did not attend the debate - wins - with 8.1%

Notably - Pederson - a Democrat - made a strong showing coming in 6th with 7.8% - Pederson also did not attend the debate

An interesting contrast of statistics:

Number of people who voted: not less than 307,277

Number of people who watched the debate: not very much

From what I can tell the LWV turned off the feature to see the latest number so all we know is 1819 people watched the debate by October 20 - so speaking in gross numbers:

More than 300,000 people voted
Only around 2000 watched the debate


Partisan affiliation really matters to the outcome of an electoral contest. More on that later but it shouldn't surprise us that: many people learn the wrong lesson from events like this.

Before reading another word, do three things:

1. Bookmark this page - keep it close - and be ready to share this page far and wide for when the day comes when water elevation levels fall below 895 feet at Lake Mead and CAP turns OFF because Hoover Dam cannot pump water into the lower Colorado River.


When that day happens:


  • Phoenix will lose 40% of its water supply

  • Commercial and industrial facilities will shut down

  • Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost

  • Farmland throughout Central Arizona will go fallow

  • Property values will plummet 

  • Odds are: it will cause a national recession given Arizona's place in the economic nexus

Be sure

when that day comes

that everyone knows
whom to hold responsible


2. Check out the debate: Make a point of a few things - 

A. Aguilar's relative performance

Compare the performance of Aguilar - who was partisan and who won and will sit on the board - to the performances of Peters and Duplessis in particular - both of whom are non-partisan and did not win and will not sit on the board.

Remember as you compare that Graff and Arboleda and the Democratic Party endorsed Aguilar helping her to rise despite her obvious unsuitability for this role which is obvious on the face of it just watch the debate - she has no relevant qualifications to speak of and takes all of the wrong positions - but it's particularly egregious given the presence of plaintively more competent candidates.

That didn't matter to Graff, Arboleda or the Democratic Party.


Like 307000 some people who voted but didn't watch the debate you might have been ignoring this because you were trusting "non-partisan" public officials to pay attention.


Graff and Arboleda sit on the board and "enjoy the public trust" to pay attention.

Graff and Arboleda surely understand that in no contest does Aguilar (or Pederson) come out ahead of Peters or Duplessis.


They - like me - were paying attention. I haven't been elected though - they have - they are incumbents they are literally sworn into office - they have "the public trust".

I can't hammer this home hard enough: this is a non-partisan seat because the public believes competence comes before party.

As elected officials - as incumbents - Arboleda and Graff "enjoy the public trust" who trust them to do what is right for Arizona:

They have a sworn duty
to  do what is right
for Arizona's water supply

We trust Arboleda and Graff to bring people on board who will do the best work for Arizona and its water supply.

But even with stakes as high as they are Arboleda and Graff are not capable of doing that because they are partisans.


Instead they did what partisans have to do: they raised Aguilar, who is not qualified, and they raised Pederson, who is also not qualified, and even though Pederson didn't win, his rise contributed to keeping other candidates off the board who have more to offer it and who can do more to forestall an inbound water crisis.

If you look at it closely: Pederson, a Democrat, by running with Arboleda and Graff - was pulled up and pushed out non-partisan Peters, which helped Seago, a Republican, to rise on to the board. 

The parties understand how this works. A qualified non-partisan out, to keep another partisan in - even a partisan of the other party - that is a trade both parties can live with.


Can you? Have a look at the Toilet Bowl Line on Lake Mead to see what comes of it. 

Arboleda and Graff - as partisans - of necessity as partisans, violated the public trust when stakes that they above all people understood - could not be higher.

Five partisans won five seats on the board.

How do you think this will go for Arizona?

B. Make a note of the non-presence of Seago at the debate - who nevertheless won and will sit on the board

I have concentrated my fire on the Democratic Party here because the incumbents are Democrats so they hold a disproportionate share of the public trust on the conduct of this failure - but the GOP has its own part to bear account for.

When stakes for almost 6-million Arizonans couldn't be higher, Seago (Republican) had better things to do than to attend the debate for the seat she will assume in January.


While Seago will sit on the board: Peters, Duplessis, Burlington, Mishkin and Cirignani-Wood, who all attended the debate and who suffer no similar partisan commitments like Seago that would interfere with their ability to fulfill the public trust, they will not.

It's probably worth noting that 5 of 6 non-partisans attended the debate.

In contrast 5 of 8 partisans didn't feel like they owed it to anyone to attend. 

3. Pull up the League of Women Voters page - use the "Compare" feature and:

Compare Aguilar and Seago, who won and will sit on the board to Peters and Duplessis - whose competent presence Arizona and Arizonan citizens will not enjoy on this vital board in the coming years

At this time - when Arizona needs people like Peters and Duplessis the most to navigate us through a historic drought: it's going to get Aguilar and Seago. 

Remember, when the time comes, who is responsible for that.

Tragically that truly will be too late, and any recriminations, no matter how well earned, will not be worth their cost which all of us will bear. 

* * *

Debate watchers.JPG

The Community's Cost
of Leaders who
Learn the Wrong Lessons

When campaign season shifted into high gear towards the end of September three important things happened:

1. AZ Central (the Arizona Republic) published an article about this race - for this non-partisan race, the article made kind of a big point about candidates who were running as Republicans, but somehow failed to note the candidates who were running as Democrats 

2. I had a discussion with someone who works in the business of water policy in Arizona, this person let me in on the fact that the people who tend to win seats on the CAWCD board tend to do so with the support of the parties and encouraged me to seek party support - but for all the reasons I explained above, I opted not to 

3. I did some research on past elections and I was able to divine that in fact this friend of mine "in the biz" was on to something - the primary explanatory factor in the victory of prior candidates was indeed party support

Because the Republic had made such a big deal of the GOP candidates but failed to mention any formal organization of Democratic party candidates, I assumed Democrats were not similarly organized for the race. 

I admit this was probably wishful thinking. I was waiting for some "tell", but none came until after the debate when ballots came in the mail and I sought the Democratic Party voting guide and found the CAWCD candidates endorsed. At that point I'd spent around $14,000 on this race - which is for an unpaid seat - winning this election basically means signing up for six years of volunteer work and while I had additional campaign plans, knowing what I knew, I determined that spending more money would be "sending good money after bad".

I've been working in my professional career for over 20 years now and one thing I've noted along this journey is a tendency of some people who are markedly successful at their careers - but who are not necessarily as successful at business, namely many of them:

Learn the wrong lesson

What does that look like? What does it look like to "learn the wrong lesson"?

It takes many forms, but here's one. Often a manager, early in his or her career, will get lucky and be manager of a difficult assignment, but be the manager of a great team with great developers, analysts and engineers.

The assignment goes awesomely, it's a huge success! The success accrues to the manager who is credited by many who see the success from afar and who don't really understand the relative contributors to its success, but who think, "wow! We need that!" and seek out the manager for a repeat performance.

Often enough the manager can repeat the performance one or two more times, usually by pulling along members of the original successful team with them. 

Typically this burns out and around the third or fourth assignment the manager isn't so lucky with the constitution of the team - but at this point, the assignments are huge - their complexity is incredible.

And why shouldn't they be? The manager has "proven" to be a miracle worker!

Things start to not go so well. Before everyone resigns - which they do - and before the project is a complete disaster - which it is - the manager turns to some level of demagoguery and furiously drives whatever team was unfortunate enough to find itself on this assignment. 

In my experience it is often about here that real people - real flesh and blood people - start to get hurt. I have seen deep and lasting injury come from this. 

Right now is a point when I suspect a lot of politicians "learn the wrong lesson", because that's just what they have to do if they want to get elected, isn't it?

And it works - it worked for Aguilar and Seago. Aguilar could pull a solid 7th or 8th out of 8 in the debate and Seago didn't even need to show!

Lesson learned, right? Run partisan. 

Only people, partisan people, like Arboleda and Graff find themselves on the board this way:

  • Sworn to the public trust

  • In a non-partisan office

  • Helpless but to have their partisan affiliation cause the appointment and rise of their co-partisans over the appointment of better qualified candidates, a) at the expense to the public, b) whom they serve - as non-partisans

There is no fault in running partisan, for a partisan office. The people - the public - weighed in and stated: "for this office, values count" - so partisan affiliation matters. 

But non-partisan races are non-partisan because - the people - the public - has weighed in and stated: "we are united around our values - we need the most competent people".

It is on both candidates and the parties to honor that.

Right now - witnessing a complete-partisan-lockout of better-qualified non-partisans - with Seago and Aguilar rising above Peters and Duplessis - people like Arboleda and Graff, probably years ago "learned the wrong lesson" and affiliated with parties as candidates to get elected.

Which is how we get people like Aguilar, Monize and Seago in positions vital to the survival of our communities at pivotal moments when we face the possibility of utter communal disaster - an outcome that was entirely unnecessary because people like Peters and Duplessis had put their hats in the ring and said:

"you really need this
"I am capable
"and I'll do this
"for free"

That's what every one of the non-partisan candidates including myself did and was willing to do.

We were repudiated

Many learn the wrong lesson.

* * *

Where it comes to our 2-party system, our country is in the middle of a Prisoner's Dilemma. Nearly everything about the nature of how we are polarized and divided and how we simply cannot find it in ourselves to raise and elect capable leaders when capable leaders are so badly needed - comes down to the terms of this dilemma.

Republicans and Democrats - both - do best for themselves, when their own people are promoted - competent or not, effective leaders or not.

We all suffer for this.


Because of two-party success locking out non-partisans

that comes at a cost to the public - to all of us

We find ourselves
collectively least capable

to defend those things
that are most important to us

That we all wish to defend if we could!
Even things around which we are entirely united

In this case: the security of our water supply

Everyone faces a choice of whether or not to accept the terms of the dilemma or join forces and cast off the burden together.

A Prisoner's Dilemma is a - tragedy - because it is impossible for one person, or even a few together - to break free of it. Facing down a Prisoner's Dilemma as an individual and refusing to compromise means losing every time. 

The only way to defeat a Prisoner's Dilemma is for everyone to join forces and shake the shackles free.

The "toilet bowl line" at Lake Mead and the loss of water supply for six million people that it portends is a real-life, physical looming specter of cumulative years upon years of more and more of us, "leaders", learning the wrong lesson and all the rest of us: shrugging our shoulders.

I will not learn the wrong lesson from this.

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