Hardy Brown, Sr.
It got so quiet several times during the August 16 meeting of the West Valley Water District’s Board of Directors, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the expression, “you could hear a pin drop on cotton.”
The meeting was moving along rather smoothly until a few members of the public started asking questions of the five directors and two consultants associated with National Demographics Corporation (NDC), about key items on the agenda.
This included questions from Don Griggs, President of the Ratepayers Association and Anthony “Butch” Araiza, who spoke about the board’s push to have ratepayers pay for their life-time health care and long-term care benefits. Board members would become eligible for these perks after completing 12 years of part-time service—the WVWD Board only conducts business during board meetings twice a month and then, for no more than 30 minutes.
The speakers advised members of the Board that the median family income for WVWD customers in Bloomington is around $38,000 a year; and further reminded them that many of their customers receive their healthcare at the county hospital where one member of the Board is employed.
“All of you earn middle class wages with one earning over $234,000 per year while living in high-income neighborhoods,” the speakers proclaimed.
Despite the speakers’ protestations, the Board went on to pass a motion granting themselves the controversial benefits along with a ten percent raise per meeting.
This action preceded a public hearing regarding a proposal to transition from an at-large voting district to district-based board member elections. Stan Futch, President of Westside Action Group, and Dr. Jean Peacock questioned the consultants from NDC regarding how they arrived at the decision to split a small cul-de-sac in half? The street just happens to be where two of the current Board members, Michael Taylor and Clifford Young, both live.
The question caused the consultants to stutter. As they searched for words to explain their rationale, one consultant looked to the Board president for direction regarding how to answer the question. President Young however remained silent and let the consultants fumble around until one of them responded, “We have had two public hearings on this subject and we took input at that time.”
The consultants appeared to direct their response to the Board until Dr. Peacock said, “Please sir, address us, we asked you the question.” That is when the first silence encompassed the room.
Don Griggs leaned over to me and said, the consultants are not telling the truth because no one has seen the maps. According to the consultants, the maps had not been drawn—the maps were not posted online until August 8, and the presentation material was not posted until the day before the meeting.
It was through a Westside Action Group (WAG) member that we learned it was one or two WVWD Board member(s) that had those lines drawn to divide the street where they live.
Earlier, Mr. Griggs, who is also a member of WAG, raised another concern. He pointed out how the Map for District 3 excluded a two-block community of interest in the Country Club area. He went on to say, “since Riverside Ave is the primary boundary for District 4, selecting an area with only 63 residents in the Country Club sector is breaking up a community that is not related to neighbors south of Riverside Avenue.”
In my opinion, this was Dr. Young’s attempt to remove a strong challenger, Araiza, who is one of the 63 residents living in the Country Club community—reportedly, a board member told the consultant to draw the lines this way.
It is my understanding the consultants have been warned by WAG and the Ratepayers Association, not to lose their consultant business credibility with the Black community over this small contract, especially with the 2020 Census on the horizon. There was more stuttering and fumbling for words as silence once again overcame the meeting.