At a time when state government seems to be working, having passed generational change in water policy, there is no reason to alter course. That’s especially true because the work isn’t yet complete.
Adam Gray, who represents the 21st Assembly District, including Merced and parts of Stanislaus counties, is providing the kind of leadership our region needs. He’s not perfect (who is?), but he’s fought hard for the issues most important to our region, has built coalitions and partnerships that ignore party lines, and his vision is clear. We urge voters to return him to the Assembly.
Start with the water bond. Gov. Jerry Brown adamantly would not support a previously conceived $11.1 billion bond, insisting it be cut to $6 billion. The discussion seemed to be driven by forces who believe we can conserve our way out of droughts (understandable if all you ever put water on are houseplants). They wanted the bond to emphasize recycling, conservation and restoration.
Democrat Gray and other members of the Valley caucus – Democrats and Republicans – coalesced around a different set of priorities, foremost creating more storage. Having been raised in the Valley, Gray and the others knew instinctively that without dams you don’t have water for agriculture or the colder water necessary for the migration of threatened fish species.
The most telling moment might have been when Gov. Brown summoned Assembly members Gray and Kristin Olsen – one Democrat, one Republican – to his office. Having heard from Sens. Anthony Cannella, Tom Berryhill and Cathleen Galgiani, the governor was soon persuaded to support a $7.5 billion bond with almost as much money for storage as the previous, much-larger bond promised. The Valley caucus worked hard for passage, and the water bond sailed through in the closest thing to a unanimous vote we can recall.
Gray didn’t win all his battles. Equally monumental legislation to regulate groundwater pumping passed despite a Valley caucus united against it. Gray wrote letters and authored amendments to have irrigation water classified as essential to groundwater recharge. That’s obvious to Valley residents, but flood irrigation drives urbanites crazy. They believe drip systems are more efficient. What they don’t see is that every Valley city relies on groundwater for all or part of its drinking water. Drip returns almost nothing to the aquifers, while flood irrigation returns roughly 12 percent.
As we said, work remains and we want people like Gray around to do it.
At times, Gray treads a fine line. He voted for paid sick leave for part-time employees, to increase the minimum wage, and for repealing the prohibition on bilingual education, and he helped secure funding for high school FFA programs. Regrettably, he voted against allowing families to request guns be taken from mentally disturbed relatives and against requiring fluorescent colors for realistic replica guns.
Republican Jack Mobley seems to be running on a whim. He entered the primary only after it appeared Gray might run unopposed. Now we have a rematch of the 2012 race that Gray won with 58 percent of the vote. There is little reason to take the Mobley campaign seriously.
Gray is not perfect. He was fined $1,900 by the Fair Political Practices Commission because of improper reporting of contributions from the Yocha Deche tribe. Hopefully, that was a misunderstanding that won’t happen again.
Adam Gray has been doing a good job; return him to the Assembly.