Sunday, May 28, 2006

Flood Board Politics

In an editorial from today’s Bee the governor-appointed flood board is taken to task for supposedly helping development, which is part of the governor’s job (to increase economic growth), but violating open meeting laws isn’t the best way to do it.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: Wreck board in action
Flood panel skirts law in helping developer
Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, May 28, 2006

Last September, this page took Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to task for firing the state Reclamation Board -- California's main flood control panel -- and appointing several newcomers who had obvious conflicts of interest and relatively little governmental experience.

A rush to judgment? Some thought so. "Let's give the new board a chance to demonstrate its commitment to its mission," said a letter writer.

Well, we've given the new Reclamation Board a chance, and it has met our earlier expectations. First it ran off an experienced and even-headed general manager, Pete Rabbon. Then it changed a prudent policy that limited new building in Plumas Lake, a Yuba County area that has flooded twice in 20 years.

All the while, this six-member board has quarreled with staff and bickered with itself. At one recent meeting, chairman Ben Carter was fed up with the motions and counter motions. "Please, get us out of this quagmire," Carter said.

Many of us feel the same way. While the Reclamation Board isn't a household name, everyone who lives in a floodplain -- and every state taxpayer -- depends on its decisions. The Reclamation Board is the sole agency that determines whether development encroaches on state-owned levees. If voters approve a levee bond issue in November, the board will influence how $4 billion is spent.

If the current Wreck Board were merely inefficient, it wouldn't be very noteworthy. Sadly, this board appears to be hopelessly biased toward new development in floodplains and is cavalier about open meetings laws.