Editorials

Newsom most likely to stand up for our region in water fight

Gavin Newsom, Californiaâs lieutenant governor, meets with more than 1,000 registered nurses from California and cross the nation in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. The politically powerful California Nurses Association announced Wednesday that it is endorsing Newsom's bid to become governor nearly three full years before the general election contest. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Gavin Newsom, Californiaâs lieutenant governor, meets with more than 1,000 registered nurses from California and cross the nation in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. The politically powerful California Nurses Association announced Wednesday that it is endorsing Newsom's bid to become governor nearly three full years before the general election contest. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

California’s governor is important not just here, but across the nation and even around the world, so it matters whom we choose to lead our great state.

At the risk of sounding irredeemably self-centered, it matters even more here in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. That’s because our region of 1 million is under attack by the State Water Resources Control Board. The next governor must not only understand our battle, but be willing to rein in an out-of-control state agency or at least alter the conversation.

That’s why we’re recommending Gavin Newsom for governor. Frankly, not much separates him from most of the other viable candidates. He’s reliably liberal in a liberal state, stressing wages, education, the environment and sensible gun rules. We worry he’s not as frugal as departing Gov. Jerry Brown, but few are.

But on the issue most important to us, he is the only candidate who provides even a glimmer of hope.

As a Bay Area resident, Newsom has consumed a lot of Tuolumne River water – just like us. As the former mayor of San Francisco, he knows the river’s flows are as crucial to the economic well-being of the City by the Bay as they are to us. And while he no doubt cozies up to big-dollar donors in the environmental movement, he is one of the few capable of withstanding the crushing weight of their demands. If that’s what he chooses to do.

More than any other candidate, we have a better chance convincing Newsom that the state’s desire to double or triple the amount of water it gets from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers is immoral and untenable. If we can’t make Newsom see that the state’s justifications lack a scientific basis and will create an economic catastrophe, then whom can we convince?

Mention water to virtually every other candidate, and they start talking about Brown’s California WaterFix – which is connected, but not the same. When Brown’s plan siphons much or most of the Sacramento River beneath the Delta, the state needs water from our rivers to back-fill the Delta. Even if Brown’s tunnel plan implodes, those thirsty Southern Californians will still demand more water – and they’ve already targeted the rivers we have staked our lives on the past 135 years.

All of the leading candidates for governor oppose the tunnels. But do they oppose the state’s water grab from the tributaries of the San Joaquin?

Our region’s best hope is to partner with San Francisco. Since the Raker Act of 1913, Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts have been required to share the Tuolumne River with San Francisco. In turn, SF shares it with 23 Bay Area agencies. If the state is taking more from us, it’s also taking more from them.

City residents boast of having the best drinking water in America. If half of the Tuolumne flows into the Delta, San Franciscans better get used to the taste of recycled runoff.

Those who have disagreed with Newsom on same-sex marriage, legalization of weed, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, etc., will have to decide what’s more important – even a slim chance to hold onto their water or their antipathy toward a liberal?

There are 25 candidates on the ballot, but in November there will be only two. By then, we’ll know if Newsom is willing to take up our cause.

We hope the other candidate who advances will offer a practical contrast.

That doesn’t mean Travis Allen, who has positioned himself as a mini-Trump. In a state with thousands of Dreamers, 2 million undocumented immigrants and a Valley full of farmers who could be harmed by Trump’s trade wars, Allen is a non-starter. Fellow-Republican John Cox is fading even as he campaigns harder.

Many expect it will come down to Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles. He has visited our Valley, even pitching in on a Love Modesto project. But he’s backed by rich charter school advocates whose plans would shift students – and enrollment-based funding – from public schools to private. That won’t help Valley parents who can’t afford private schools.

John Chiang has been a poor campaigner, but we like his budgetary frugality – which echoes the trait we admire most in Gov. Brown. He could offer a sound alternative if Newsom refuses to stand up to the environmental community. We also like Delaine Eastin and Amanda Renteria, but their chances are slim.

Jerry Brown has ably led California, and many of us will miss his political acumen, folksiness, frugality, stubbornness, grand ideas and acts of conscience. But we won’t miss the water grab taking place under his watch.

The next governor must stop the state’s repeated attacks on our region. We hope Newsom will understand why.

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