Sam Metz, Palm Springs Desert Sun
Published 6:30 p.m. PT May 16, 2019 | Updated 2:59 a.m. PT May 18, 2019
Assemblymember Chad Mayes’ controversial bill to add Riverside County representatives to the Imperial Irrigation District’s Board of Directors hit a roadblock on Thursday when the Assembly Appropriations Committee put it on hold until 2020.
The bill, A.B. 854, failed to advance to the Assembly floor but also avoided being relegated to committee’s dreaded “suspense file,” which would have effectively defeated it. The Appropriations Committee will next consider the bill in 2020.
After Thursday’s hearing, Mayes said the fight over voting rights and representation for IID ratepayers residing in Riverside County was far from over. Mayes said he planned to meet with the IID Board of Directors in El Centro Friday morning to discuss his concerns about Riverside County representation on IID’s board.
“This bill’s not dead. We’re continuing to work on it. It’s incredibly important for all the local stakeholders to get together,” Mayes said. “We have to figure this out.”
IID and Coachella Valley residents have fought about representation for almost a century, since the irrigation district and the Coachella Valley Water District reached an agreement to expand IID’s jurisdiction to sell electricity in the Coachella Valley. Local officials from the Coachella Valley have lobbied for additional seats on IID’s board since at least seats 2007. Mayes said he remained committed to ensuring Coachella Valley ratepayers won representation on the IID board.
“IID has the ability to change utility rates, determine investment in communities or cut service altogether,” he said. “This power over 92,000 disenfranchised voters must be balanced with representation.”
Mayes’ bill proposes adding six seats to IID’s five-member board to give the 92,000 Riverside County customers who account for 60% of IID’s electricity sales proportional representation. The bill generated swift backlash from both IID’s board and Imperial Valley activists, who called it a Riverside County power grab and said it threatened their water rights.
After preliminary discussions with Mayes, IID board President Erik Ortega sent the assemblyman a strongly worded letter rejecting future conversations.
The tactic backfired when the Assembly Local Government Committee advanced the bill with a 6-2 vote on April 24 after some committee members said they voted in favor of it largely due to their disapproval of the letter.
A week later, Ortega said, if the bill advanced further, IID would consider withdrawing services from the Coachella Valley.
IID lobbyist Antonio Ortega said the district was pleased with Thursday’s outcome and committed to sitting down to talk with Mayes, Coachella Valley Water District and ratepayers about representation.
“Regardless of the outcome of today, the purpose was to continue to have this dialogue at the local level,” he said. “It’s easier to have a discussion without having the threat of A.B. 854 hanging over our heads.”
Even though IID threatened to divest from the Coachella Valley if the bill advanced, Ortega said the district felt under threat by A.B. 854. He said the bill threatened the delicate relationship between IID and the Coachella Valley Water District, IID’s current governance structure and potentially the district’s water rights.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” Ortega said, citing Newton’s Third Law. “Divestment isn’t a threat, it’s an option.”
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, condemned IID’s political brinksmanship after it proposes divesting from the Coachella Valley, but on Thursday, he echoed the district’s talking points and said fights about representation on IID’s board would be best solved locally.
The powerful Democratic lawmaker represents both the eastern Coachella Valley and the Imperial Valley in the Assembly and has said he opposes the bill but thinks questions about Riverside County representation merit a discussion.
“The willingness of parties to come to the table demonstrates good faith efforts on all sides to resolve this matter locally without the need for legislation. Putting A.B. 854 on hold will allow for these negotiations to move forward,” he said.
Below is a statement form the Imperial Irrigation District regarding legislation authored by Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley). Immediately after the statement is the five-page letter from IID General Counsel to the Assemblymember.
IID statement regarding Assemblyman Mayes’ legislation
Imperial Irrigation District and the IID Board of Directors have proudly served and represented its valued customers in Imperial and Coachella valleys with some of the lowest energy rates in California.
Ten local residents from the IID service area in the Coachella Valley serve on IID’s Energy Consumers Advisory Committee, which meets monthly and advises the IID Board of Directors on energy matters.
The legislation introduced last week by Assemblyman Mayes is a serious matter for the IID and can only be seen as a direct attack on the authority of the IID Board and the water and energy rights it holds in trust and to which it is duty-bound to protect.
The district is concerned about the far-reaching impacts of this bill as well as the potential legal matters, which would surely ensue.
The IID Board is expected to discuss the matter during a special meeting Friday, March 1, and will be meeting with Assemblyman Mayes next week to discuss in greater detail.
As part of the long-standing compromise agreement with the Coachella Valley Water District to serve energy to the area, IID pays CVWD 8 percent of its energy net proceeds ($45 million to date), an additional benefit to the Coachella Valley.
This is disturbing on so many levels. Calexico needs to do something about the mayor misappropriating funds that were meant for the City’s 100th anniversary. Reminds me of the scandal the police department had a few years ago when the FBI was confiscating files. Maybe law enforcement should be looking at this…
Read the story by Roy Dorantes (below) that was posted on the KYMA website on August 24 yourself, and be sure to watch the video by clicking here. Additionally, please call Calexico City and ask for a copy of the report (hope I see it on Facebook soon!). Their number is (760) 768-2110.
City allegedly misused anniversary event money
CALEXICO, Calif. – A Calexico economic commissioner said the city used funds collected for the city’s 110th anniversary in April for other events not part of the celebration.
Commissioner Ben Horton said, “Financed the Mayor’s Summit which ran up to about $3,638 which the public was not aware of this, which the public was not permitted to be involved with.”
A Calexico city official who didn’t want to be named admits some money donated for the anniversary was used for the mayor’s conference. An event closed to the public, but he said it was approved by the sponsor who donated the funds. He showed us an email as proof.
Horton questions why the community was not informed of that.
“The public was under the impression that this money was going to be used exclusively for the 110th anniversary.”
The city official also said no city employees worked on the event. Horton disagrees with that statement.
“And then, I find out that city employees were used to work on the event, which originally the 100th event was supposed to be no cost to the city, which there was cost to the city and hours or comp times
Horton questions why the expense list was not made public sooner.
“I would say the public was misled, and they were misled to the point that the money was used for other activities that they were not aware of,” Horton said.
The report that shows how the money was spent item by item is freely available to the public at Calexico City Hall.
The following is from a daily email, The Nooner, by Scott Lay (please note that information has been deleted from the original email for space):
CA ECONOMY: On Friday, we received generally good employment news for the Golden State. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.2%, That’s a decline of 0.5% from July 2017. July saw a net game on 46,700 net jobs from June. The labor force increase by 113,000, which combined with the unemployment rate, paints a very good picture.
Of the eight economic sectors tracked, only construction (-1,200) and financial services (-900) experienced declines. The top three month-over-month increases were in numbers were professional and business services (15,100), trade, transportation and utilities (11,200), and leisure and hospitality (9,500).
Five counties with the lowest unemployment in July (not seasonally adjusted):
- San Mateo: 2.3% (-0.9% from July 2017)
- San Francisco: 2.4% (-1.0% from July 2017)
- Marin: 2.5% (-0.9% from July 2017)
- Napa: 2.9% (-1.0% from July 2017)
- Sonoma: 2.9% (-1.0% from July 2017)
Five counties with the highest unemployment in July (not seasonally adjusted):
- Imperial: 19.3% (-4.9% from July 2017)
- Colusa: 10.5% (-1.1% from July 2017)
- Tulare: 9.3% (-1.5% from July 2017)
- Kern: 8.1% (-1.6% from July 2017)
- Merced: 8.1% (-1.6% from July 2017)