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Westlands & Prop 30

It will be a lot easier for Westlands to make their case that SoCal should support the water plan if they can say they supported the Governor's tax plan

Oct 25, 2012

It isn't too difficult to figure out why Westlands Water District officials would be donating money to the Prop 30 campaign. After all, Westlands is one of the leading players advocating the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan which is supporting the idea of building a $14B tunnel under the Delta. The tunnel plan would, hopefully, give Westlands and others a more reliable water supply while also benefiting the Delta ecosystem. The tunnel plan is a users-pay project and Westlands is one of the users that will be paying. And, some of the other users paying will be the 20-million-plus people of Southern California. They will be paying it in the form of higher water bills.

It will be a lot easier for Westlands to make their case that SoCal should support the water plan if they can say they supported the Governor's tax plan when he needed it. We should also mention that the Governor has been the leading supporter of the tunnel plan on the government side of things. Of course we should also note that SoCal needs the water plan just as much as does Westlands and should be able to figure this out on their own. But, we also realize that according to a recent poll, 82% of Southern Californians don't have any idea what or where the Delta is or where their water comes from, and probably will need some coaxing to come to their senses.

So, Westlands' donation is probably good politics, but we wonder how the Prop 30 policy will make us a better state. Prop 30 feeds the beast that is the state's unquenchable appetite for more money, but does nothing to solve the state's problem of spending too much on unions, pensions, health care and salaries. There's a reason the state is broke and many think it's the lack of ability legislators have to look in the mirror and tackle our problems head-on. Instead, they always ask for more money and kick the can down the road. In this respect, Westlands is an enabler, but at least we understand why.

Westlands Officials Donate $50,000 to Support Prop 30

John Ellis

Five top officials in the Westlands Water District on Saturday collectively gave more than $50,000 to support Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Don Peracchi, who is chairman of the Westlands board, gave the most -- $25,000.
Board member Frank Coelho Jr. gave $10,000 through his Casaca Vineyards, as did Riverdale-based Errotabere Ranches, whose president is Westlands board member Dan Errotabere.

Lemoore farmer and Westlands board member Gary Esajian donated $5,000, and water district general manager Tom Birmingham gave $2,500.
All are Republicans.

"Politics makes for strange bedfellows," said former Assembly Member Sarah Reyes, a Fresno Democrat and Prop. 30 supporter. "I can't imagine that they don't have ulterior motives for their contributions to Prop. 30. They have nothing to do with schools, but I'm glad they've jumped into the fray."

Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance in Stockton, thinks he knows one ulterior motive -- the proposal for a system to take water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that in the past was known as the Peripheral Canal.

Jennings said $50,000 is "an inexpensive investment" for west-side farmers who could benefit from such a system around the troubled delta.
Jennings said state money possibly could be used to supplement user fees to pay for building the system.

"Remember, the hit on Prop. 30 is that it all may not go to schools," he said.

But Errotabere -- who noted that he made the donation as a private citizen, and not as part of his role as a Westlands director -- said his reason for giving the cash is simple: He supports Prop. 30.

"We just think that California has to get its financial house in order," he said.

Giving money to Prop. 30, however, puts the Westlands officials squarely in line with such organizations as the state Democratic Party, the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union, as well as on the opposite side from the state Republican Party, which opposes it.

Birmingham, Esajian and Peracchi didn't return phone calls seeking comment, and Coelho couldn't be reached.

Michael Der Manouel Jr., chairman of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County and a critic of Prop. 30, said he hasn't talked to any of the five and has "no idea why they gave the money."

"I just don't know how anybody could believe a tax increase will get our house in order when it never has in the past," Der Manouel said. "If (Prop. 30) passes, California will have the highest combined sales and income taxes in the nation."

The Westlands officials aren't the only agriculture leaders supporting Brown on Prop. 30.

"I truly feel that this governor has the best interests of this state at heart," said Barry Bedwell, a Republican and president of the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League. "He's working toward what he sees is a reasonable solution to this."

It's not unusual for business leaders to support seemingly opposing viewpoints. Take a look at campaign contribution reports this year for Peracchi and Errotabere, for example.

Errotabere has given to Republican congressional candidate David Valadao of Hanford and GOP Reps. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Jeff Denham of Turlock. But's he also has given to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat.

Peracchi has given to Denham, McCarthy and House Speaker John Boehner, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the National Republican Congressional Committee. At the same time, he has donated to Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa, a Fresno Democrat.



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