By John Earl, Surf City Voice.
“A journalist is a good citizen of his or her community.”
That’s what I learned from the editor of the Eugene Register Guard, while taking a college journalism class at the University of Oregon, more years ago than I would care to remember.
But what he said is still true today. And that’s why I am asking you, in this editorial, to please show up and speak out at the Orange County Water District board meeting, at 5:30 tonight, Wednesday, June 4, CORNER OF WARD AND ELLIS IN FOUNTAIN VALLEY, about a proposal on the agenda to spend $50,000 or more on a study that will financially benefit Poseidon Resources Inc., a shady corporation that wants to build a $1 billion ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach and make us pay for it, whether we need the water it would produce or not.
Here’s why I think it’s important:
As explained in the recent Surf City Voice story, at the May 21 board meeting of the OCWD, Director Stephen Sheldon voted on a contract proposal that will benefit Poseidon, even though documentation he has filed with the District and the County shows that he works for a consulting company that has Poseidon for a client.
The fundamental question regarding the contract vote that is continued on Wednesday night’s OCWD agenda is, who does the board represent and work for, Poseidon or WE the people?
It’s obvious, from what we have seen from countless water board meetings all over Southern California, that the typical water board director believes in representing the “water industry” before or instead of WE the people.
But I hope that you don’t let that discourage you, because the situation is hopeless ONLY if you act hopeless by not loudly voicing your disapproval of actions like the illegal and unethical vote that took place at the last OCWD meeting (May 21).
In some of the emails I have seen, people are wondering, “Well, there must be some exception to the laws (cited in the article) that Sheldon and some other members of the OCWD board and their legal counsel will use to get away with it,” as if it’s useless to protest what was done.
You can read the State Attorney General’s explanation of what constitutes a conflict of interest under Govt. Code 1090 (not to mention, the Political Reform Act) yourselves, and, after that, I think it should be obvious in any common sense interpretation that Sheldon AND THE ENTIRE BOARD violated the law, although, clearly, some directors voted reluctantly to move the matter along and not because they supported the proposed contract.
It’s not even about whether Poseidon is a good project or not.
Right now, it’s about, who does the elected board of OCWD represent? Poseidon? Or the people?
Even the worst legal counsel can try to squiggle through self-serving and imaginary loopholes or creative exceptions to the law, and we can be almost certain that is what OCWD’s legal counsel will try to do tomorrow night (Wed. June 4, 5:;30 pm) if pressed. But, ultimately, WE, the people, are the law of the land, PERIOD, but ONLY if we stand together and SHOW UP at the meeting and SPEAK OUT!
The OCWD, as a whole, is a board that, like other water boards, has shown little regard for the public’s right to participate in the governing process. As it shills for Poseidon to create a study that will benefit Poseidon’s ability to get its project approved and financed (as Poseidon CEO Scott Maloni made clear at the last meeting), it shut down a citizens’ committee created to study Poseidon’s project by allowing democratic participation in the process, after complaints about that committee’s blatant pro-Poseidon bias.
This is a board, like other water boards, that holds most of its meetings at hours when the public can’t attend, holds illegal and secret meetings, and, like most other water boards, refuses to provide video streaming or video or audio archives of those meetings because the board assumes that the meetings are for the benefit of the water industry, NOT YOU.
This is a board whose president holds two legally incompatible offices, another clear conflict of interest that allows him (Shawn Dewayne) to double-line his pockets with your money by going to lots of unnecessary and irrelevant meetings and costly out of town events.
But the situation is not as hopeless as it may seem, not only because there are some rays of hope on the OCWD board, but because change starts with YOU, US, WE the PEOPLE, by exercising our right to OWN OUR GOVERNMENT.
What have we all worked for, for so long, if not for the right to have our rightful say through our elected officials?
I hope that, to that end, everyone and their friends, whoever you can get to the meeting, will show up and that EACH OF YOU WILL SPEAK OUT, regardless of how redundant you might think you are; because, obviously, this board needs to hear it over and over and over again, and so that other people, like us, will be inspired to also get involved and take control of their local government—for the ultimate purpose of getting better government, instead of sham projects like Poseidon.
The Poseidon game is nearly over, one way or the other. Regardless of the law, how it ends will depend on who the water buffaloes respond to the most.
The ball is in OUR court.
What will we do with it, after all these years of hard work?
Surf City Voice