When I came across what retired California farmer Dino Cortopassi was doing with his paid ads to raise attention on how California purportedly funds water infrastructure, I mentioned it for your consideration.
Sometimes questions are asked to spark critical thinking skills with the hope that people will use them for good.
Below is a summary of Proposition 1, the 2014 water bond in California that was lifted from Ballotpedia.
- $520 million to improve water quality for “beneficial use,” for reducing and preventing drinking water contaminants, disadvantaged communities, and the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund Small Community Grant Fund.
- $1.495 billion for competitive grants for multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects.
- $810 million for expenditures on, and competitive grants and loans to, integrated regional water management plan projects.
- $2.7 billion for water storage projects, dams and reservoirs.
- $725 million for water recycling and advanced water treatment technology projects.
- $900 million for competitive grants, and loans for, projects to prevent or clean up the contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water.
- $395 million for statewide flood management projects and activities.
The vague language here is little different from other bond measures.
Let’s ask some questions.
Who gets to define “beneficial use” when we talk about spending $520 million on water quality? Haven’t we spent millions, if not billions, here already? Why are some residents told to not drink from their own wells or municipal water sources when previous bonds were supposed to address this?
What does the phrase “multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects” mean? Could we be a little more specific with the $1.495 billion in this category? It is taxpayer dollars, after all. When you buy a new car do you ask the salesman for a “piece of transportation?”
Where specifically will the $395 million for “statewide flood management projects and activities” be spent?
You get the point.
These political measures, particularly the water bonds, seem to be so vaguely written that defining what fits within a spending category can be spun so wildly as to mean the Learning Gardens in Los Angeles ($7M), the Space Science Center in Sacramento ($7M), and the Nature Museum in Visalia ($5M), as was allegedly the case with millions of dollars from California’s 2006 water bond.
I had a conversation recently with a farmer who suggested a simple fix. Make the questions specific and simple.
If we want $3 billion to build a dam, then ask the voters: “Shall we spend $3 billion to build Sites Dam?” Why make these measures any more confusing than necessary unless the goal is to cleverly abscond with public funds?
For all the excitement within California agriculture over the recent water bond, it’s loose definitions like the ones contained in the current $7.1 billion measure that could wind up causing voters to toss the baby with the bathwater because people are tired of allocating money for projects they would never have approved of if asked honestly.