Oct. 30, 2012
Angelique LaCour and Misty Volaski
A Casitas Municipal Water District Board candidate is sparring with Ojai’s Golden State Water Company over his campaign materials.
It all started when Golden State representatives caught wind of a piece Troy Becker had written and submitted to the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter website (www.smartvoter.org). It contained Becker’s response to a Sept. 23 Ventura County Star guest editorial, written by Golden State’s senior vice president, Denise Kruger, titled “Choices for Ojai water customers.”
Becker’s 1,400-plus word position piece discusses water rights, rate increases, the cost of the system and customer service, among other things. Kruger’s guest editorial, Becker wrote, “brought a vision of the executioner hovering the blade above the revolutionary’s neck and the executioner says, ‘Wait a minute, this is going to get better, just give me a sec.’”
The folks at Golden State, not surprisingly, disagree with Becker. Company spokesperson Mitch Zak sent Becker a letter dated Oct. 26, claiming that he had “made numerous statements that have no basis in fact” on the Smart Voter site.
When Becker received the letter from the private water purveyor last week, he was surprised. “My first thought was, ‘Wow, I got a letter from Golden State.’ I’m just a pool man who is a candidate for the water board,” said Becker. “I thought, this may be a good way to open a conversation, because the community has been waiting to hear what they have to say for a long time now.”
Zak’s letter was copied to the League of Women Voters, the CMWD general manager and Board of Directors, and to Becker’s fellow candidates Russ Baggerly and Jerry Conrow. It read in part, “Your assertion that Golden State has no water rights is wrong … they cannot be infringed by others or taken by governmental action without due process and just compensation.”
Golden State’s letter requests that Becker amend his statements. “As a candidate for public office, we are hopeful that you will correct the inaccuracies in your campaign information.”
Becker said Monday he has no intention of correcting any of his statements.
“Well, obviously that’s Mr. Becker’s decision as to whether or not he wants to communicate facts or his opinion,” Zak said Tuesday. “Our goal is simply to communicate the facts … at this point, obviously, I don’t think it does anybody any good to file a lawsuit. We’ll trust the court of public opinion.”
Becker believes that Golden State is using scare tactics — like Kruger’s letter — to “bully” the community into believing that it would be cost prohibitive for Casitas to purchase Golden State’s Ojai operation. He plans to post Zak’s letter on his campaign web site and e-blast it to more than 1,000 supporters.
“This is a momentous occasion,” Becker said. “Golden State Water has finally stated their position. F.L.O.W. (Friends of Locally Owned Water) has been out there for two years. And now I get a letter because they read my campaign statement? Amazing.”
“There’s certainly room for political rhetoric, and we appreciate that, but when it comes to basic inaccuracies, we want to correct that information,” Zak added.
Both Baggerly and Conrow acknowledged that they had received copies of the letter.
“People have to make sure that what they put out there for people to read and understand is correct, and that goes for both sides,” Baggerly said. “And there’s no guarantee you’re gonna get that, because everybody has an agenda.”
Conrow took a decisive position, saying, “The issue is water rights … What Becker’s saying is just not correct. The Golden State letter refers to a court case that established water rights to people who have been extracting water on their property for a number of years … I think Becker is wrong. I think his response was an emotional response to the letter (from Kruger). Factually, he is not correct.”