It didn’t take long for newly-elected Mesquite Councilwoman Sandra Ramaker to try helping her political allies who funded many of her election campaigns with thousands of dollars and to try doing an end run against her old political foes at the Virgin Valley Water District Board of Directors.
Ramaker placed an item on the upcoming council agenda seeking to change the composition of the Water Board from three Mesquite representatives and two Bunkerville representatives. She and her number one political donor over the years, Wolf Creek golf course, have tried many times and in various ways to pass legislation requiring four Mesquite elected officials and only one Bunkerville elected official.
The first question Ramaker should be required to answer is why she thinks it’s okay for the Mesquite city council to meddle in the operational affairs of the Water District Board of Directors. Both entities are standalone legislative bodies with their own elections and, more importantly, their own missions.
What business is it of the city council to determine how a separately elected entity operates?
The second question Ramaker should be required to answer is how many Water District elected officials and managers she discussed her resolution with before she placed it on the council agenda.
Shouldn’t they have been consulted beforehand? Yes. But she didn’t bother because she and her golf course folks knew what the response would be. Ben Davis, Vice-President of the Water Board and Mesquite resident who testified against Ramaker’s resolution at the council’s technical review meeting on Tuesday said the resolution only helps Wolf Creek golf course get people on the board who will do its proper bidding.
In a VVWD Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, Jan. 15 all five directors, the general manager and the lobbyist for both the city and the district said in public that Ramaker had not discussed the resolution or the issue with any of them before she placed it on the council agenda. That’s just plain wrong and absolutely shows that she is only taking the action to benefit one business in the valley.
In fact, the issue she raises just before the state legislature convenes next month has already been decided by the Nevada State Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) in 2013 when Ramaker was in fact a member of the Water Board.
She and her number one political benefactor, Wolf Creek, tried to get the same legislation passed back then. They argue that because there are 20,000 people in Mesquite and 1,500 in Bunkerville, that there should be a 4-1 representation. As in, one person, one vote. How many legislators voted to approve or even discuss the issue back then?
On the surface her proposal, or more rightly the golf course’s proposal, may sound like a reasonable suggestion. But look below the flim-flam and you’ll see why that’s not a good idea at all.
The LCB opined in 2013 that the one person, one vote constitutional representation theory does not apply to the Water District because, “the primary legislative purpose of the Virgin Valley Water District is narrowly defined as providing for the storage, conservation, distribution and sale of water within and outside of the district. The Virgin Valley Water District does not administer normal governmental functions like maintaining the streets or operating schools. It is the opinion of this office that compliance with the one person, one vote principle is likely not required.”
That opinion is based upon numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the issue. When Ramaker and her political cronies argue about the rightness of her action, they apparently are saying they know more about the law than the Supreme Court.
The current composition of the water board is based on the amount of water brought to the table when the district was formed in 1993. Bunkerville brought 8,116 acre-feet and Mesquite brought 9,670 acre-feet. Based on that, the board representation was set at 3-2. Even today, the wells in Bunkerville supply about 40 percent of water used in Mesquite. Of the seven wells the district operates, three of them are located in Bunkerville and are the top producing wells with better quality water than that found in Mesquite.
The LCB opinion should have settled the issue for both Ramaker and Wolf Creek golf course. But it didn’t. In 2017, the golf course owners again tried to backdoor the Water District at the state legislature by having a state senator in Las Vegas sponsor and get approved a deal that would require the Clark County Commission to intervene any time the Water District raised rates more than five percent. While that legislation went nowhere, again no one at the district or the board was consulted ahead of time.
It’s no secret that Wolf Creek has made numerous attempts to pass legislation to alter the Water District and its operations in a way that maximizes golf course profits. When the golf course yells about its water rates going up 500 percent, remember that it’s only about $59,000 a year. That’s just a couple days’ worth of golfers paying $200 a round. And it’s much less than the golf course owners are paying their attorneys to currently sue you, the ratepayer.
What chance should Ramaker and Wolf Creek golf course have of this passing the city council and being sent on to the legislature?