Oakdale Irrigation District Board May Head For Major Upheaval



Oakdale Irrigation District Board member Gary Osmundson – who will lose his seat due to a key vote taken on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 – usually sits second from left and missed the meeting of ‘today. The other board members from left to right are Herman Doornenbal, Steve Webb, Linda Santos and Gail Altieri.

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Almost two years after The Modesto Bee revealed the Oakdale Irrigation District’s failure to resize its voting divisions, and just over two weeks after civilian grand jurors slammed the OID for the same Reasonably, the board on Tuesday nodded 4-0 to a redistribution plan that won’t protect Gary Osmundson’s seat when he moves to a new home in a few weeks.

The astonishing vote could change the makeup of the deeply divided board, depending on the outcome of an independent recall election ending on April 25.

Osmundson’s pending move will leave Division 5 without a board member. That would neutralize power into an early deadlock with two board members on either side, until they nominate someone to replace Osmundson – if board member Linda Santos retains her Division 4 seat on the 25th recall. April.

If Division 4 voters fired Santos, Nate Ludlow – the only candidate to register – would succeed him. He is seen as sympathetic to the existing power structure; if that is confirmed, the old guard would retain control regardless of who is chosen to replace Osmundson.

One might expect a battle over Osmundson’s vacancy if voters select Santos, as she and Gail Altieri would be loath to appoint someone whose views align with board members Steve Webb and Herman Doornenbal. The issue could require a special popular vote, or wait for the regular ballot in November, when Webb and Doornenbal are also re-elected.

Osmundson attended to an emergency on his dairy farm on Tuesday and did not attend the board meeting. His presence would not have changed the outcome, he later said, as his lawyer informed him that voting on a redistribution option preserving the status quo could create a legal conflict of interest, so he had planned to abstain.

Although the matter appears to be settled, Tuesday’s vote must be confirmed after a new public hearing in two weeks. Osmundson said he would consider his attorney’s recommendation and would likely vote then because the redistribution option chosen on Tuesday presented no financial benefit to him, thus erasing a potential conflict.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the majority of the board appeared to have a way of retaining control of the so-called Option 2, whose southern line between Divisions 4 and 5 has been drawn to maintain the future home site. Osmundson in the district he currently represents.

“In my opinion, Option 2 is a blatant attempt to gerrymander,” Altieri said ahead of the vote. She provided a definition: manipulating borders to give a party an unfair political advantage.

Two weeks ago, Option 2 also contained strange, non-contiguous islands and a strange peninsula – forms frowned upon in the courts. The proposal has since been revised to clean up some odd shapes, but the revised version was not made public until the Meet, and the revisions were not presented or explained to the public until the Board of Directors approved Option 1.

Other agencies – including the Irrigation Districts of Modesto, Turlock, and South San Joaquin – have resized internal voting divisions in previous years. The IDO defied federal and state laws by taking no action after the 2000 and 2010 censuses, and uneven growth left its divisions extremely unbalanced; the population in one is 30 percent larger than it should be, and in another 33 percent smaller.

The Bee discovered dragging feet in the summer of 2015, before Altieri and Santos were elected this fall. The Bee Report showed that then board members were aware of the redistribution laws, but OID chief executive Steve Knell recently told the Stanislaus County civil grand jury that the agency “had simply forgotten”. He and the board are due to submit a response by mid-June.

Contacted by phone, Osmundson said the constituency vote would have no impact on his family’s intention to move to a house under construction, possibly in June.

“OID is not running my life,” he said. “My wife, three children and a clumsy dog ​​is my life.”

But Osmundson, appointed to fill a vacant board position two years ago, has said he would consider running against Santos or Ludlow, or others, when that Division 4 seat arrives in 2019.

“Our water and our land are very important things – nothing to play with,” he said. “I am a young farmer, I have bank payments to make for a long time and I will want a lot of reasonably priced water for a long time. It is worth getting involved. “

Reminder bulletins were mailed last week to absent and mail-order voters representing 69% of Division 4; many are already voting. Others can vote before 8 p.m. on April 25 at Life Community Church, 105 E. G St. in Oakdale.

The redistribution remains subject to a final council vote after a public hearing at 6 p.m. April 18, 1205 E. F St., Oakdale.


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