First Board Meeting – Part III “Sharing Credit? and No, We Won’t Have Committees

Northstar, a consultant previously hired to apply for granting opportunities (in addition to other services) on behalf of NYWD spoke briefly giving the Board kudos for the recently-awarded $75,000.00 grant. This grant was actually not the result of solo efforts on the part of either the consultant or NYWD. This grant was the result of joint efforts by NYWD AND a group of private citizens who took it upon themselves to meet with Congressman John Garamendi to ask for his help when he gave a townhall in Marysville.

Congressman Garamendi responded to the request by the citizens’ group by directing his staff in Washington to reach out to the citizens group, which the (Garrick) did. The citizens group then put this representative in touch with the GM of NYWD. I was one of those private citizens. What is puzzling is NYWD’s continuing refusal to acknowledge the efforts of the grass roots citizens’ group that started the ball rolling on this.

NYWD would have gained far more positive public relation points had the press release, and subsequent newspaper articles, told the more powerful, complete story of partnering with the public and how it all got the job done. Instead, NYWD choose to pat themselves on the back, not acknowledging the community’s effort, and may have created more ill will in the long run. NYWD needs to step back and look at positive image-making activities under new optics and new perspectives. We need to show more often how we partner with and serve the public, instead of being perceived as at odds with them.

Following the consultant came the GM’s report which was very brief. According to the GM, Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Oregon House Dobbins Canal (OHDC) had been groomed in anticipation of the start of irrigation season. From the GM: “Start the season and run it until it runs out.”

The question in my mind was – “until what runs dry?” Recall – we have two different sources for our irrigation water – French Dry Creek during the early part of the season and then we have our water from Little Grass Valley Reservoir delivered via the Forbestown Ditch. See:

Director Hawthorne spoke and made the following suggestions:

  1. Provide periodic comment to the public about irrigation water.
  2. Locate and retain reliable weather forecasting company to give local relevant factors that could affect water in Dry Creek.
  3. Irrigation customer briefing in March.
  4. Revise irrigation policy to incorporate language for signing up new customers once new piping is in place.
  5. Ask water agency for the money now.
  6. Help with customer relations – do a better job of explaining technical water issues, better maps, large fonts, offer brief question and answer session.

I had heard some of these suggestions at the Nov. 30, 2018 meeting and had been heartened by them – these were pretty much my campaign talking points! I had asked for a copy of the list he had handed out at the Nov. 30th meeting and so far, my request had been ignored. Here was the list again! I spoke up and requested that we have an ad hoc committee composed of Director Hawthorn and myself to work on producing recommendations for approaches pursuant to these suggestions.

Director Hawthorn responded by refusing the idea of any committees at all. He went even further, stating that directors did not even telephone each other, so as to avoid potential violations of the Brown Act. Ad hoc and standing committees are completely legal in terms of the Brown Act.

Brown Act §54952(b): Advisory committee comprised of two city council members for the purpose of producing a report in six months on downtown traffic congestion: This committee is an exempt advisory committee because it is comprised solely of less than a quorum of the members of the city council. It is not a standing committee because it is charged with accomplishing a specific task in a short period of time, i.e., it is a limited term ad hoc committee.

In fact, how can any agency get anything done without committees? For example, other water agencies have a Bill-paying Committee composed of Board members and the public, which ensures that the agency is meeting their fiduciary responsibilities and that the agency is transparent and accountable to the public particularly with regards to the public’s money.

Feedback is always welcome!

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