Over the next several months, COLAB will provide a series of articles on issues its membership believes important to the economic viability of the Imperial Valley. We thank the Desert Review for its support and interest in publishing these articles. Please note that our articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Desert Review, its owners, or staff. The opinions expressed are that of the COLAB board.
The special election for Imperial Irrigation District Division 1 was very special in both good and bad ways. The voters elected a new public servant who, with the other four elected board members, will provide the leadership and direction to management staff who oversee a budgeted 1,416 employees. These employees, though less than 1 percent of the population of Imperial County, provide critical services to the businesses and individuals here in Imperial County, plus energy users in parts of Riverside County. These five elected board members are important–and their experience and character are important to all of us.
In discussions with those seated now and in the past, the time commitment is very often over 60 hours a week. It is not just showing up for a full day of a board meeting twice or thrice a month. It is reading and digesting complex issues involving energy and water, California regulations, Federal regulations, air quality issues, personnel policy, serving on related committees and boards, and oversight of financial issues. IID’s budget is over three quarters of a billion dollars. Every penny comes from the ratepayers—water and power—and funds accrued to the beneficiaries of the water which are paid from the transfer of those water assets to our Coastal friends.
In conducting the business of IID, each director must uphold high standards, and avoid influence from special interest groups, both within the County and outside, to adequately serve all of us. COLAB is certainly a special interest group. We, that is COLAB, do expect each director to listen to our opinions, but then make sound independent business decisions for all stakeholders and ratepayers.
To accomplish these goals, each elected needs to have experience in dealing with complex issues, people, and ever-changing situations. Bottom line, only serious individuals should consider seeking election to these critical governing positions. Four candidates did apply and only two of them received greater than 10 percent of the low turn-out vote. That’s not to say the two other candidates were not serious in their desire to serve on the IID board, but rather voters did not consider them serious candidates.
It was a difficult campaign as most are. There were distractions and some questionable activities during the campaign, as noted by the local media. For the most part, those issues are behind us but serve as a warning (maybe education) for future elections.
The truly disappointing aspect of this election is the low voter turnout. Of 10,616 registered voters, only 2,018—19.1 percent of those registered to vote—cast a ballot. Was that because the IID Division 1 seat was the only item on the ballot? Was it because of the distractions? Was it because many are just plain fed up with politics?
The definition of “politician” is representative. The politician elected is only as good as those who vote. When less than a fifth of eligible voters cast a ballot, are we the people being represented?
Next year, there will be a robust election cycle, with three seats for IID on the ballot, two for the County Supervisors, most of the school districts, most of the city councils, and the various county officials, such as Tax Accessor, County Recorder, and County Sheriff. In that cycle, we can determine if voter turnout for this 2017 election was simply because it was not a broad base election.
We encourage all the readers of Desert Review to stay educated on the issues and vote for the candidates with the best interest of the Imperial Valley as their platform. Our electoral system is only significant if a significant number of us participate.