Gray helps give Valley its voice; re-elect him

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, speaks at a “Stop the State Water Grab” rally on the Capitol steps last August.
Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, speaks at a “Stop the State Water Grab” rally on the Capitol steps last August. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

No one’s going to accuse Adam Gray of being the quiet, shy guy who has to be coaxed out of the corner to say a few words. Not his style; never has been. Even so, there’s a difference in being willing to speak and being listened to.

After six years in the Assembly, Gray’s voice is being heard – forcefully and emphatically – throughout the Capitol. It’s a voice we can’t afford to lose.

The Bee recommends returning Gray to the Assembly to represent all of Merced and part of Stanislaus counties.

Gray has championed several issues, none more significant than his bare-knuckled fight against the state’s water grab. He was one of the leaders of the capitol steps rally that drew busloads of Valley people to Sacramento. His voice was among two dozen who chastised the state in front of the largest protest in Sacramento this year.

“For the past six years I have repeatedly called upon the state water board to listen to our concerns; they have refused,” he told the crowd of 1,200. “Our community has come to the steps of the state capitol to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear.”

Behind the scenes, Gray wrote legislation to insert an arbitration panel between the water board and the public. Improbably, he got it through the legislature and onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk where it was vetoed. He’s brought voices from beyond farming into the water fight, including school administrators, health officials and business executives.

It’s not just water. Within a divided legislature, both sides and the executive branch have to listen when this consummate moderate makes a request.

He’s been talking about a medical school for the Valley – “one of the fastest growing, poorest and least healthy regions of California” in his words – since arriving in Sacramento. This year, the budget included $1 million for feasibility studies.

Gray leveraged his position on the gas tax to get funding for a new parkway from Highway 99 to the UC Merced campus and for bringing the commuter ACE train to Modesto (eventually).

He raised his voice in support of Gov. Brown’s push for a larger “rainy day” fund, now at $13.5 billion.

As chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness, he has spoken of the need for more resources to address a statewide issue; he made sure some of it got to Modesto and Merced.

When Merced’s murder rate was the highest in the state, he helped bring in the VIPER program to address gang problems. Stanislaus Sheriff Adam Christianson, sheriff-elect Jeff Dirkse, Merced Sheriff Vern Warnke, the statewide police chiefs association and and the highway patrolmen are all supporting him.

He even raises his voice against his own party. Gray wrote a bill demanding the state recognize the importance of irrigation to groundwater sustainability in 2015, angering environmentalists and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who want higher flows. She dismissed him from the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee; he shrugged. Better to be right.

Gray spoke out against a plan to force public utilities to buy more solar and wind energy while ignoring the greenest energy of all – created by falling water. He’s still fighting that battle, and we urge him to take it to voters if the legislature won’t listen.

Originally, Gray was running unopposed. But Justin Quigley, a libertarian from Stanislaus County, was recruited to enter the race at the last moment. His name’s on the ballot, but he’s not a realistic candidate.

Adam Gray has been a forceful, smart and often loud voice for our Valley. What he says makes sense. So does re-electing him as the District 21 Assemblymember.