Why does ACWA hate democracy?

ACWA testified before the Delta Stewardship Council last week; their written testimony is here. They reiterate their position that the Delta plan should run on kumbaya, or maybe teaching the world to sing, but definitely not regulation. I take issue with their Principle 1.

Principle 1: Create Value
The fundamental principle of the financing strategy must be to create value for those who are expected to provide the funds. This depends on completing a Delta Plan that clearly describes the projects and management practices to be financed, and that creates value from the perspective of those providing the funds. Value cannot be dictated by the state or other governmental entity. [emphasis in the original]

This is patent nonsense. I’m sure they feel this way, but dictating value is the primary function of a representative democracy. That is the very thing an elected government is supposed to do: decide what the voters think is valuable through a series of contests and dictate that to their subsidiary entities by laws. (Worse, here in California, the voters can do that directly through the referendums.) Saying “value can’t be dictated by the state” is is like saying that “value cannot be dictated by a district’s Board of Directors” when that is single most important thing the Board of Directors should do, as elected representatives of the people of the district.

Water agencies may fear the specter of oppressive state governance, as embodied in the Delta Stewardship Council*. But frankly, the local v. state distinction isn’t as strong and pure as ACWA’s principles suggest. Water agencies themselves are creations of the state legislature, although that was long enough ago that they’ve forgotten their origins and gotten uppity. So is the Delta Stewardship Council. If the Legislature wants one of its creations to manage its other creations to accomplish co-equal goals, that is wholly right and appropriate for the Legislature to decide. If it wrong, or the DSC tells agencies that the wrong things are valuable, the voters can tell them so.

My guess is that ACWA is really driving at something like “Look, if we’re going to provide the funds for this, we want to see positive returns on investment within our agency boundaries. We aren’t looking to subsidize a whole bunch of activities that don’t return money or water to us.” This is understandable from a narrow point of view, which is the view that any jurisdiction would naturally take. Again, though, it is the very function of the larger governing entity to look at the whole and consider what needs to be done for the whole, especially the things that have fallen between jurisdictional cracks.

I get that there’s a lot of rhetoric out there about place-based this and Regional that, and local knowledge and state incompetence. All this de-legitimizes the State. But saying that the “Value cannot be dictated by the state or other governmental entity” is to reject the very concept of representative democracy. In a representative democracy, that is what the State does.

 

*Understandably. I’ve seen the Council. They’re slavering beasts.

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