Can­di­dates Fran­cis, DeBoer Bat­tle For OID Di­vi­sion Five

The Oakdale Leader - - NEWS -

The Oak­dale Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict race on the Novem­ber bal­lot will fea­ture two con­tested races – in­clud­ing one in OID Di­vi­sion 5 – an area which in­cludes part of Oak­dale and a por­tion of ru­ral River­bank.

Vot­ers in the area in­cluded in the Di­vi­sion 5 bound­aries will choose be­tween can­di­dates Grover Fran­cis and Brad DeBoer.

In a re­cent Q&A ses­sion with The Leader, both can­di­dates were posed the same ques­tions re­gard­ing the up­com­ing elec­tion and the busi­ness of OID.

Fol­low­ing are their re­sponses.

Ques­tion: Briefly out­line your rea­sons for run­ning for the OID Board

An­swer:

I care deeply about Oak­dale and pro­tect­ing our water re­sources for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. I want OID to make sound de­ci­sions that will ben­e­fit our en­tire community for the long term, but that has not been hap­pen­ing.

Our re­gion’s ground­wa­ter – which pro­vides Oak­dale’s drink­ing water – is dwin­dling in sup­ply and qual­ity, in part be­cause OID ships so much of our sur­face water to far-off buy­ers. We need our water to stay here to recharge our aquifers so our wells won’t go dry.

Dur­ing the re­cent drought years, OID not only ex­ported our river water to out­siders, but it pumped down our fresh un­der­ground water sup­ply for ir­ri­gat­ing. OID ran some of it pumps 24-hoursa-day.

For a pub­lic agency to do that was un­jus­ti­fi­able.

Our sur­face water should stay in our re­gion to ben­e­fit our res­i­dents, ir­ri­gate our agri­cul­tural land, bol­ster our econ­omy and re­plen­ish our ground­wa­ter sup­plies. Keep­ing that water here also will re­duce ground­wa­ter pump­ing, which is key to main­tain­ing a sus­tain­able water sup­ply.

As log­i­cal as that sounds, OID’s lead­ers have re­fused to lis­ten to rea­son.

The dis­trict has used tax­payer money to file le­gal ac­tions aimed at silencing its op­po­nents. And de­spite re­peat­edly los­ing court de­ci­sions, OID con­tin­ues to waste hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars on fu­tile ap­peals.

I want to help guide OID into a bet­ter community-ori­ented di­rec­tion.

What are your spe­cific qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the post?

We need OID di­rec­tors who will ask tough ques­tions, de­mand com­plete an­swers and act in the best long-term in­ter­est of our en­tire community. That’s what I will do as a board mem­ber.

I have lived in the OID my en­tire life. I have farmed and ranched and raised my fam­ily here. I know this community and un­der­stand its needs and chal­lenges.

I served on OID’s board from 1998-2001, be­fore the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion took con­trol. I am fa­mil­iar with ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict op­er­a­tions and water sys­tems.

I have not ac­cepted cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from any­one, so I am not be­holden to any­one. I am will­ing to lis­ten and learn from ev­ery­one, and I will re­spect those with op­pos­ing views.

The board has been di­vi­sive over the last sev­eral months; what steps would you take to bring the fo­cus back to a co­he­sive board fo­cused on the dis­trict’s busi­ness?

The OID is a pub­lic agency, and it should be run in a trans­par­ent way for the ben­e­fit of all our res­i­dents, landown­ers and tax­pay­ers. Deals shouldn’t be made be­hind closed doors, cut­ting community mem­bers out of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

OID’s lead­ers keep can­celling their evening meet­ings (like they did again Oct. 17), which pre­vents pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. Peo­ple with jobs can’t at­tend mid­dle-of-the­day OID meet­ings. I will fight to in­crease community ac­cess to OID dis­cus­sions be­cause govern­ment agen­cies should not op­er­ate in se­cret.

The OID must stop pur­su­ing and threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tions against community mem­bers with op­pos­ing views. I would vote to end OID’s vin­dic­tive and out­ra­geously ex­pen­sive Ap­pel­late Court case tar­get­ing OID Di­rec­tors Gail Altieri and Linda San­tos. Rather than wast­ing tax­payer money on at­tor­ney fees, I be­lieve re­spect­ful dis­cus­sions and rea­son­able com­pro­mise can re­solve most dis­putes.

As water be­comes even more of a pre­cious re­source, how do you feel the OID Board can safe­guard the sup­ply for not only its cur­rent cus­tomers but plan­ning for the fu­ture sup­ply for city res­i­dents as well?

While many city res­i­dents don’t re­al­ize it, Oak­dale’s home­own­ers pay more than $1 mil­lion a year in prop­erty taxes to the OID. Oak­dale res­i­dents get vir­tu­ally noth­ing in re­turn from the ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict.

Water that used to flow from the OID to city res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties has been cut off. In­stead of Oak­dale res­i­dents ben­e­fit­ting from that water, OID has been sell­ing it to far-off buy­ers for mil­lions of dol­lars a year. City tax­pay­ers have not been get­ting their fair share from the OID.

A com­plete ac­count­ing needs to be made pub­lic about how much city res­i­dents have con­trib­uted to the OID and how that money was spent. Pub­lic dis­cus­sions – not se­cret deals – are needed to de­ter­mine how much money OID should pro­vide to the city and how that money should be al­lo­cated.

Oak­dale res­i­dents de­serve to ben­e­fit from their water rights, which may mean OID should re­sume sup­ply­ing ir­ri­ga­tion water for use in­side the city. Or it may mean OID’s sur­face water should be used to en­hance Oak­dale drink­ing water sup­ply. Or OID could help pay to bring high-qual­ity drink­ing water from the South San Joaquin Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict’s water treat­ment plant to Oak­dale.

What­ever agree­ments ul­ti­mately are reached, they must be done in pub­lic af­ter thor­ough community dis­cus­sions and con­sid­er­a­tion of mul­ti­ple op­tions.

What do you think is the most mis­un­der­stood part of what OID does? How can you ed­u­cate the pub­lic more on what a direc­tor’s role is?

The OID is not a busi­ness. It’s not sup­posed to be fo­cused on max­i­miz­ing prof­its for large landown­ers. It should not sell off our community’s as­sets – our sur­face water – so it can sub­si­dize agribusi­nesses that want to pay ar­ti­fi­cially low ir­ri­ga­tion rates.

OID di­rec­tors must rec­og­nize this is a PUB­LIC agency sup­ported by tax­payer dol­lars, and it is ob­li­gated to act in the best long-term in­ter­est of our en­tire community. That is why di­rec­tors are elected by the pub­lic, not ap­pointed by big-money landown­ers.

Vot­ers: This elec­tion is your chance to de­cide how the OID is run dur­ing the next four years.

Many peo­ple have asked for a night­time meet­ing as op­posed to day­time when the ma­jor­ity of work­ing folks can­not at­tend - is this some­thing you would sup­port. If so, why - if not, why not?

OID Board of Direc­tor meet­ings ab­so­lutely should be held at times and in lo­ca­tions where the pub­lic can eas­ily at­tend. At least one meet­ing a month should be held dur­ing evening hours.

Those evening agen­das should be used for all of OID’s ma­jor pub­lic hear­ings, con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy dis­cus­sions and im­por­tant de­ci­sions. If there is go­ing to be con­flict about an item, that is­sue should be dis­cussed dur­ing evening hours.

Rou­tine board ac­tions – the ones with­out con­flict – should be steered to­ward the day­time meet­ing agen­das. Few community mem­bers have the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend those meet­ings, so that’s the time to deal with non­con­tentious is­sues.

The OID board also should con­sider meet­ing in the Oak­dale City Coun­cil Cham­bers, where the meet­ing can be broad­cast live on­line and recorded for fu­ture view­ing.

The cham­bers also can seat far more peo­ple than the OID’s meet­ing room, which is so small that community mem­bers too often are forced to stand out in the hall­way.

Any ad­di­tional mes­sage to vot­ers?

I am not ac­cept­ing cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, so I do not have money to spend on ex­pen­sive mail­ers, ra­dio ads, robo calls, “fake news” web­sites or other slick forms of elec­tion­eer­ing.

I am grate­ful to have a ded­i­cated group of community mem­bers who have been vol­un­teer­ing their time to walk voter precincts with me. Ours is an hon­est grass­roots ef­fort to ben­e­fit our re­gion, our fam­i­lies and our farm­ers now and for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Please visit my Face­book page at www.Face­book.com/ GroverFran­cis4OID or email me at GroverFran­cis4OID@gmail.com.

Ques­tion: Briefly out­line your rea­sons for run­ning for the OID Board

An­swer:

I be­gan at­tend­ing OID board meet­ings over a year ago and I found the is­sues to be very in­ter­est­ing. When it was an­nounced that Gary Os­mund­son would re­sign be­cause he was mov­ing, I spoke with my wife and we agreed that I would run to serve the 5th di­vi­sion. I be­lieve we have a good ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict but we face chal­lenges from those who want our water. The state, out­side the dis­trict in­ter­ests and ground­wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity re­quire­ments will all want to lay claim to our water. We must be wise and in­no­va­tive to make the best use of the water we have. I would like to be part of mak­ing the OID even bet­ter and help­ing with th­ese chal­lenges.

What are your spe­cific qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the post?

I was a small busi­ness owner for over 34 years. My busi­ness part­ner and I grew our land­scape con­tract­ing com­pany from just the two of us, to 30 em­ploy­ees in five depart­ments. I un­der­stand busi­ness and work­ing with peo­ple. At the same time, my wife and I have farmed al­monds for the last 22 years. I have been a cer­ti­fied ar­borist, a cer­ti­fied ir­ri­ga­tion au­di­tor, li­censed pes­ti­cide ap­pli­ca­tor, and a Cal­i­for­nia cer­ti­fied nurs­ery­man. Not all of th­ese cer­ti­fi­ca­tions will di­rectly help my skills as a direc­tor, but they demon­strate that I have an abil­ity to learn and ap­ply new knowl­edge. My busi­ness and farm­ing knowl­edge gives me a broad range of ex­pe­ri­ence that I be­lieve will help me to be a good direc­tor.

The board has been di­vi­sive over the last sev­eral months; what steps would you take to bring the fo­cus back to a co­he­sive board fo­cused on the dis­trict’s busi­ness?

I be­lieve that I am a fresh voice and bring a fresh per­spec­tive to the meet­ings. I have no per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with any­one on the board and I have no per­sonal stake in any of the di­vi­sive is­sues. I am to­tally against the law­suit and would like to find an­other way to re­solve th­ese is­sues. I think that all board mem­bers need to work hard at be­ing re­spect­ful, be­ing re­spon­si­ble, and work­ing to­gether, even when there may be vary­ing opin­ions on what is best. As a busi­ness owner I learned to work on con­flict res­o­lu­tion whether it was with em­ploy­ees or cus­tomers. I bring th­ese skills to ben­e­fit the board.

As water be­comes even more of a pre­cious re­source, how do you feel the OID Board can safe­guard the sup­ply for not only its cur­rent cus­tomers but plan­ning for the fu­ture sup­ply for city res­i­dents as well?

All of our lo­cal ir­ri­ga­tion districts face the same ques­tions. How much water will the State take from us? How much water will be needed to reach ground­wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity, and how much of that water will come from OID? We have been blessed with good water rights, but they must be de­fended. I am com­mit­ted to do­ing that. We must fight the state’s at­tempt to take our pre 1914 water rights. We must not an­nex any new acres into the OID un­til we know the out­come of the above is­sues. I sup­port the board’s cur­rent ef­forts to de­velop a water re­sources plan to help farm­ers out­side of the dis­trict know when we can help them with a sur­face sup­ply of water. We must help the City of Oak­dale when they are ready to use OID water to help as a sur­face sup­ply for treat­ment as do­mes­tic water or maybe as ground­wa­ter recharge. Th­ese are big chal­lenges in ar­eas that are new to ev­ery­one, so things must be planned well.

What do you think is the most mis­un­der­stood part of what OID does? How can you ed­u­cate the pub­lic more on what a direc­tor’s role is?

There is no doubt that water sales are the most mis­un­der­stood part of what OID does. I have been to ev­ery door in my di­vi­sion in the City of Oak­dale and that is­sue is on the ma­jor­ity of most peo­ple’s minds. When I have been able to ex­plain that OID only sells water af­ter all dis­trict needs are met and that any water left in Melones on October 1st is lost to the Fed­eral Bureau of Recla­ma­tion then ev­ery per­son has told me “then we should sell it in­stead of get­ting noth­ing for it.” Once they un­der­stand it is use it or lose it, there are no more ob­jec­tions to sell­ing ex­cess water. Water sales will not last for­ever. When the state ends up get­ting some of our water and ground­wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity takes more water, and we pro­vide water to those ad­ja­cent to the dis­trict, then the chances of hav­ing water to sell will be very slim. But, for the time be­ing this al­lows for the mod­ern­iza­tion and im­prove­ment of the dis­trict and those things help con­serve water mak­ing even more avail­able in the fu­ture.

Many peo­ple have asked for a night­time meet­ing as op­posed to day­time when the ma­jor­ity of work­ing folks can­not at­tend - is this some­thing you would sup­port. If so, why - if not, why not?

Cur­rently the board meets the first Tues­day morn­ing and third Tues­day evening. I would sup­port con­tin­u­ing this sched­ule. It is im­por­tant to do our best to meet the needs of all our con­stituents.

Any ad­di­tional mes­sage to vot­ers?

I am thank­ful for the OID. Dur­ing the five years of drought farm­ers re­ceived a full sup­ply of water. MID and TID could not pro­vide that. The Dis­trict has over 60 mil­lion dol­lars in the bank! The Dis­trict has com­pleted over 70 mil­lion dol­lars in im­prove­ments in the last 12 -13 years. If the cur­rent man­age­ment is re­tained we are ex­pected to be debt free by 2022. I do not be­lieve any other dis­trict in our area can claim those ac­com­plish­ments. Our dis­trict is strong on water and on fi­nances but we do have some is­sues that need to be worked on. I be­lieve that the board can work to­gether if each mem­ber will put aside past of­fenses and work for the ben­e­fit of the OID and its con­stituents. This will take hard work and a lot of pride will need to be swal­lowed, but I be­lieve it can be done.

Vote by mail bal­lots have al­ready been de­liv­ered to vot­ers in many cases and for those that choose to go to the polls, Elec­tion Day is Tues­day, Nov. 7.

Grover Fran­cis Oak­dale Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict Di­vi­sion 5 Direc­tor Can­di­date

Brad DeBoer Oak­dale Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict Di­vi­sion 5 Direc­tor Can­di­date

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