"Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over," Mark Twain supposedly said.
And for those running for seats on the Merced Irrigation District board of directors, that couldn't be more true. In fact, during a recent editorial board forum with all the candidates at the Sun-Star, it got downright nasty.
That's too bad, because there are serious issues facing the MID going forward. Dealing with those issues is going to require difficult negotiations, detailed analysis and critical thinking by all the board members -- not just voices raised in anger.
Board members are going to have to put aside their petty differences and individual biases to work together on increasing water storage, taking over the New Exchequer Dam hydro project, managing bond debt, keeping employee pay in line, ensuring the fiscal health of the organization and, of course, allocating water for irrigation.
Last year, the issue of water allotments caused great consternation with El Nido farmers, who were fearful they wouldn't get enough. But late season precipitation allowed everyone to get a full allotment. That hasn't dampened the rancor over the initial curtailment proposal.
But the board's responsibility is to protect the interests of all water users. The demands of a few can't be allowed to undermine the welfare of the rest. If the board allowed that to happen, over and over again, eventually there wouldn't be enough water for anybody.
Board members can't let the loud, angry voices drown out the need for a strategic approach to managing water and the myriad of other issues facing the MID. Those issues are too complex for anything less. The time for parochial, me-first thinking is long past.
We expect our board members to be thoughtful, careful, detail-oriented, analytical and passionate about protecting the interests of all MID users -- no matter how unpopular. They must be able to take the long view, and see the bigger picture.
That's why the Sun-Star is endorsing Division 5 incumbent Wil Hunter, Division 4 incumbent Suzy Hultgren and Division 2 challenger Scott Koehn.
We believe they are best suited for dealing with all the demanding issues that lie ahead, holding the acrimony to a minimum while working effectively as a board to keep the district on track.
It's the only way the MID and its users can win the fights they face.