Where Have all the Watchdogs Gone
By Emerson Drake
Once upon a time you could expect your local newspaper to keep a close watch on things, but as we’ve all noted in recent years the Bee has vacated their responsibilities in this regard. Now don’t get me wrong, they were very forthcoming in the SCAP scandal but everyone had to notice when it came to the NSP2 funds all of a sudden things became quiet.
The business community led by the Chamber of Commerce and others put pressure on the Bee to rein in their questioning of people with dirty hands like Councilman Muratore. His taking of the $62,000 was noted, but quickly put aside when he returned the money, while failing to mention taking the money was a felony.
Just like they did with Joe Gibbs, the businessmen who stood to profit from the NSP2 funds, urged the Bee to back off. Remember with Gibbs was guilty of hit and run in connection with a death, but Sheriff Christianson violated his own policy and listened to those he termed good Rotarians and allowed Gibbs to serve his time under house arrest(via an ankle bracelet).
Now the Bee has recommended the MID proposed water transfer to go through albeit for the 2,200 acre feet. By reading the contract, the Bee couldn’t have missed the right of first refusal for San Francisco on any future water deals and their position of being first in line for all water rights (even before Modesto’s) and allocations during droughts.
After these unconscienable conditions had been negotiated by MID’s General Manager Allen Short and attorney Tim O’Laughlin and approved Tom Van Groningen, Glen Wild, and Paul Warda, the Bee incredibly also added their stamp of approval.
We the People have had to Become the Watchdogs
If it weren’t for Director Larry Byrd (whom the Bee refused to endorse because of his stance on this issue) and members of the public, this blatant giveaway would have been a done deal weeks ago.
The well-known adage of the Chamber of Commerce is “if a Modesto businessman can make a buck then it works for us.” And when their money men got on the phone after one of their backroom meeting, strings start being pulled.
But sometimes, just sometimes, things start to go in Joe and Josephine Average’s favor. In this case it was average citizens like John Duarte, Reed Smith, myself and a whole host of others who have been stridently against this water transfer/giveaway since June of last year. The many people who have been speaking out at the MID meetings, County Board of Supervisor and City Council meetings were sighting statistics and gathering data and waking up the public to the injustice being done to the citizens of the central valley by this so-called water transfer.
Every thinking person has to question the integrity of any MID Board members who champions this flight of fancy of Allen Shorts. Not do so would be naive. Now Short and Van Groningen are waffling. Their failure to safeguard citizens is obvious and they are now saying the contract could be changed. Why now? Because their duplicity has been exposed? Is it concern about the best interests of the community they serve, or because friends and neighbors are questioning their unfathomable thinking process and motivations for endorsing the “special arrangements” favoring San Francisco which are found in the contract?
It was gratifying to see the Modesto City Council stand up to MID and threaten a lawsuit to stop the misguided water transfer. Fortunately many had gone to Council meetings to protest the giveaway of Modesto’s water rights. The letter to MID from Modesto can be found on this site in an earlier article and until now it was the only place it could be found. All of us thank the Modesto City Council for preventing this fiasco.
Make no mistake, we aren’t out of the woods yet. Given a chance VanGroningen, Wild and Warda would vote for Shorts version in a heartbeat. Nick Blom seems to be sitting on the fence, but if one believes his campaign promises he’ll vote against the transfers. One thing for sure, we’ll find out if Director Blom is a man of his word or just another politician who’ll say anything to get elected and then kowtow to the local power brokers after they get in office like Councilman Dave Lopez did over the NSP2 deadwood ie:Councilman Joe Muratore.
Vigilance is the price of freedom. And vigilance is what we need to ensure the MID Board is making good decisions because for years now, by following Allen Short’s leadership, they’ve come down on the wrong side of almost every major decision. From the Geothermal project to Mountain House to the Four Cities to TANC they haven’t gotten it right yet and I see no signs, that without strident guidance from the public, they’ll ever improve.