By Haddon Libby
Your vote matters. While it may not make a difference in the Presidential race, down ballot votes are of critical importance to all of us in our everyday lives. To understand this, we need look no further than the race for 2nd district of the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) which represents Palm Desert, Thousand Palms, Bermuda Dunes, Indio Hills and Sky Valley. The candidates for this seat are Anthony (Capo)Bianco, Sergio Nunez, Jim Schmid and incumbent Edwin Pack.
One of the greatest concerns as it relates to water policies in the Coachella Valley is the substantial drawing down of groundwater supplies. Historically, farmers and golf courses have been the largest users of this water supply. While there has been a significant effort to replenish the aquifer, should those setting policy also be the largest users of water? Clearly, they need a voice but should they control pricing and decision making? That is the case today.
While we can listen to the stated positions and policies of each candidate, it is often a better indicator as to how a candidate will vote if we follow where they work and who they get their campaign funding from.
Of the four people are running for the 2nd district seat, all are to some degree tied to the largest water users. The best financed candidate is Anthony (Capo)Bianco, 72, who is also the successful farmer running Anthony Vineyards. Sergio Nunez, 45, who is making a third attempt at the seat, has received money from Anthony Vineyards in the past and is a field technician for a groundwater testing company. Jim Schmid, 37, is the Director of Operations for Lake Country Club and has received donations from a number of local golf courses. Last but not least is incumbent Edwin Pack, 75, who is a retired fireman and former councilman from Hesperia with most of his donations coming from golf courses.
Whoever the second district elects will join a board that is essentially controlled by the Valley’s agricultural complex:
District 1 covers most of Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage and is represented by Board member, G. Patrick O’Dowd. This former Wells Fargo banker is an executive at the Salton Sea Authority and has been an executive at golf courses. When O’Dowd ran for the position his biggest donations came from farmers such as Anthony Vineyards and Ocean Mist.
District 3 covers La Quinta, Indian Wells and southern Indio and is represented by Board member, John Powell, Jr. who also runs Peter Rabbit Farms.
The 4th district is most of Indio and is represented by farmer Peter Nelson.
District 5 covers Coachella, Thermal, Oasis, Mecca and parts of the North Shore is represented by Castulo Estrada, an engineer for the City of Coachella. His biggest donors were past and present members of the city council of Coachella such as Messrs. Perez, Hernandez and Garcia.
As each member of the board gets $223 per meeting, up to $450 per month in healthcare coverage and becomes eligible for Medicare Medigap coverage after twelve years of services, it is safe to say that no one running is doing it for the financial benefits.
If you feel that farmers should be setting water policy and pricing for the desert, Anthony Bianco is clearly the best person to vote for with Sergio Nunez a distant second. If you think the golf courses need a stronger voice, Jim Schmid is probably your candidate. Edwin Pack has the most experience at water issues as he was involved in similar matters in Hesperia before moving to the desert in 2009 and is pushing for consistent rates amongst all water users.
If you are uncomfortable voting for any of these candidates, place a write-in vote for Arthur Curry, the fictional character who is better known as Aquaman.
Haddon Libby is a Financial Advisor and Managing Director at Winslow Drake and can be reached at 760.449.6349 or HLibby@WinslowDrake.com.