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.