Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Inside Job part II. The Water Wheel.

In every political campaign that I have observed since going to a neighbor's house to watch the 1956 re-nomination of Adlai Stevenson on a grainy black and white television, I have noted the manner in which every candidate exploits their experience as the major criteria for selection. We all recently recently listened to Hillary Clinton and John McCain as they tried to use the experience argument against Barack Obama in 2008.

I can think of no local example where the value of experience is more clearly used, and abused, than with the battles to control California's water. In my own community, where the water wholesaler is the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD), there is continual movement of personnel from working for the water district to serving as a member of the board. There is even a case where the board hired one of their own members to be a senior manager for the SCVWD. It is alike a water wheel, continuously turning, but only moving members from one role to another.

Sometimes, being so much on the inside helps as one gains knowledge. More often the confidence that an elected official has in their own knowledge and the hard work of their long time associates leads to an arrogance, or maybe just a misplaced sense of trust, and when oversight is involved, blindness to what is really going on.

Such blindness, or laziness, is surely behind the fact that the SCVWD board approved a budget that allowed the water district to double dip into tax payer's pocket books. They levied a groundwater fee against well owners and also collected a charge against property taxes.

Such blindness surely affected Marin Assemblyman Jared Huffman as he guided the package of water legislation through the Assembly during the recent Special Session.. Special Session 7, since the legislature can't seem to get things done any other way.

Huffman surely has some experience with the issues involved as a quick read of his web autobiographical statement tell you. He served on the Board of Director of the Marin Water District for 12 years before running for the Assembly. Of course, one wonders whether that was a time when he practiced sound oversight, or like his counterparts in SCVWD, just learned to go along. One interesting speculation would be to know if

This is another case where I think that we have to examine whether his close relationship with a water supplier might have blinded him to the needs of water users, a sort of insider arrogance that help pass California's term limits legislation.

In a previous post, I wondered how Barry Nelson and the NRDC was able to gain an insider position in the development of this water legislation. It all became clear when I read Huffman's bio. He was a Senior Attorney for the NRDC. Bingo. Connection made.
It isn't citizen involved regional planning, but personal connections that count. Is there such a thing as corporate nepotism?

The fact that Huffman backed out on his promise to NOT support the bond measure, a promise given to many of the organizations who sponsored the reasonable, alternative plan for water management. It would seem that he is still too close to the water suppliers that were his support for far to long. He betrayed his friends, he sponsored legislation that betrayed the residents of the Delta and voted for a bond measure the seems to betray the tax paying people of California.

I wonder what Huffman will do next. Speculation on that belongs in another post. We might find someone else pulling an inside job.


Anonymous said...

this is probably the lamest analysis I've ever seen. You assume that the whole water policy and governance package is a terrible sellout instead of a major improvement over the status quo for fish and the environment. Any chance that you have your head in the sand and are just wrong about that? NRDC doesn't support these things lightly -- they've done more than just about anyone to fight against bad water policy. You'd better be John Muir or Jesus F. Christ to so flippantly accuse people like NRDC and Huffman of selling out. From what I see, they stepped up and did the right thing. True, Huffman voted for the bond - but he got Republicans to vote for the biggest ecosystem fix in CA history. Not a bad trade. And BTW, there was no "alternative" package offered by any of the opposing groups -- just the status quo. If you prefer that alternative, you really do have your head in the sand.

Wes said...

Not sure who you are, anonymous, but you write with passion. However your experience with the NRDC is not like mine where those who favor strong climate change legislation also consider their support of major Democratic Party Corporate Pandering (Wasman-Markey or Kerry-Boxer) to also be a sell out. I see a pattern here. Even the NRDC web site asks you to take action and tell Congress to pass the Kerry - Boxer bill. You know the one will all the subsides for coal, and for nuclear. Just what are they defending? I ask. Massey Energy?

Yes, they have done some good things, but in the final analysis, they always compromise more than they should.. just like they did to reach a California Water bill where the conservation requirements are unachievable and the ground water program is unmanageable and the people of the Delta got slapped in the face.