by Kay Day Pricola
Over the next several months, COLAB will provide a series of articles on issues its membership believes is important to the economic viability of 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.
As we start these articles, we first need to provide the readers the purpose of COLAB. COLAB is the acronym for the Coalition of Labor, Agricultural and Business. We are a 501 (C) 5, recognized by the Federal Government and the State of California as a non-profit entity.
Our mission is as follows:
1) Promote the creation of new employment opportunities and economic activity in the County of Imperial;
2) Oppose or amend any proposal that would have a deleterious effect on the economic well-being of the County, and;
3) Represent itself and its members before Imperial County, the cities within Imperial County, and other governmental agencies on topics relating to labor, the agricultural industry, and business.
This is a lofty and sometimes difficult mission to achieve in the current environment of the Imperial Valley, or for that matter, in California. Many of us believe that California is over-regulated and hinders business growth. To accomplish this mission, we have become business-oriented and citizen-driven to provide oversight, primarily to the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the County of Imperial. Both these two government agencies have a major impact on the citizens of the Imperial Valley. The level of success in encouraging business-oriented decisions for the good of the entire Imperial Valley has varied with each organization. And some of those successes have been reversed as boards change.
COLAB has been successful in the development of a new procurement policy for IID to include a five percent preferential local business clause and a similar matrix with the County of Imperial of 10 percent for locally-based businesses. COLAB believes this keeps taxes and rate payments here in the County supporting the families of Imperial County and gives local businesses a greater opportunity to thrive. We were not successful in our effort to challenge the Measure D proposal, which, when approved, added a half-a-cent sales tax to support road improvements in Imperial County. We certainly were not opposed to the improvements of County-maintained roads, or the improvements of the transportation system here. Our concern was whether the additional funds would have been effectively utilized. We plan to address that question in these series of articles.
In Imperial County, we continue to be concerned with the poor condition of the vast county network of roads, and the use of funds to maintain them. We are concerned with the organizational structure of both the County and IID. Both continue to grow but, in some cases, we question whether the accomplishments of each agency justify the growth. The cost of growth is passed to Imperial County residents in the form of higher utility rates and more taxes — in particular property taxes. It is true that many departments within the County are totally funded by the Federal Government, but that Federal funding also comes from taxes.
The other piece of information we wish to provide is that we are one of four COLAB organizations in the state of California. Santa Barbara’s has just celebrated its 25th anniversary; Ventura’s is now seven years old; and San Luis Obispo’s is approaching its fourth year. Imperial Valley’s is 18 years old. Last year, we met with the other three COLABs and found we have many things in common; however, each has different concerns specific to their region.
In closing this introduction, COLAB has begun to work in a collaborative manner with IID and strives to repeat that collaboration with the County. Most of those efforts have been successful. We hope to continue to make a difference and increase the awareness of the need to be vigilant with both agencies. It is a big job, and we are up for the challenge. We welcome you to provide us with your areas of concern.