Editorials

Voters can flush bad odor from MID board

A voter checks her ballot in 2016.
A voter checks her ballot in 2016. aalfaro@modbee.com

Last year, on election day, we saw the culmination of the most rancorous presidential election in living memory. Today’s election will be absolutely nothing like the one in 2016. Except in one way. It matters.

Too many consider odd-year elections unimportant. Only 16.8 percent voted in Merced County in 2015; only 22.5 percent in November 2013.

We won’t elect a president, senator or representative, but in ways that actually matter to your life these elections are more significant. There are races for the school board races and three irrigation district are electing district trustees.

The Sun-Star didn’t make recommendations in every race; we rarely do. But we did make one recommendation, and it bears repeating:

Suzy Hultgren is not just the best candidate for Merced Irrigation District Division 4, she is the only suitable candidate. Her main opponent is incumbent Kevin Gonzalves; he’s not suited to hold public office. Period.

We made this argument in our Sept. 29 editorial in which we noted the notorious “poop tape” – a security-camera video taken of Gonzalves as he took out his frustration against a former employer in the most highly inappropriate way imaginable. But there is more:

▪ He’s been accused of stealing water – roughly $200,000 worth – from MID; an ongoing dispute.

▪ He made a highly inappropriate request of the district to build a special pipeline to his property.

▪ We are not convinced he can control a highly volatile nature that has already resulted in misdemeanor vandalism charges during a messy divorce.

The only “knock” on Hultgren is that she’s related to MID general manager John Sweigard. We don’t see that as detrimental as long as she is willing to disagree with her cousin if necessary. We believe she is. “I trust him, and I think he trusts me to do what I think is best.”

That’s all you can ask.

Hultgren is a dairy farmer in the Cressey area and this would be her second term on the board. Hultgren is experienced, knowledgeable and qualified. She would also settle a board that has been roiled in controversy since Gonzalves joined it.

“I’d like to see a cohesive board,” Hultgren told the Sun-Star, “and not spend time with the nonsense that’s been going on there.”

Nonsense indeed.

There are actually three MID divisions with actual races, but one of those is virtually uncontested; incumbent Scott Koehn should easily retain his seat. The other seat up for grabs belongs to Billy Pimentel, who has often sided with Gonzalves in some controversial votes. Like Gonzalves, he has been heavily backed by MID’s electrical workers union.

Voters should look closely at Robert (Bob) Weimer, a former member running for the Division 5 seat.

A former Merced County Farm Bureau president, Weimer has been endorsed by Merced Union High School District superintendent Alan Petersen, supervisor Daron McDaniel and others. He’s mostly funded his own campaign.

The Merced Irrigation District needs a good flushing. At the very least, Hultgren should be chosen to replace Gonzalves. It would be good to give her some help.

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