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Pressure behind the Ayes

On Monday, the Legislature voted to postpone the water bond to 2012, demonstrating once again that they are incapable of making decisions about water with calm deliberation and in the light of day.

The Senate backed postponement from the outset, but the Assembly took several votes, with Jared Huffman arguing to keep the measure on the ballot or pull it altogether and revise it, leaving the ballot date open. It took until 9:35 p.m. for the last Assembly holdouts, Assembly Member Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) and Assembly Member Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda), to respond to pressure from legislative leadership and vote to postpone.

Thanks to Food and Water Watch, we know exactly who is behind the pressure. In a fact sheet published last week, FWW reported on research into contributions to the Alliance for Clean Water and New Jobs, the primary pro-water bond PAC. The big contributors:

* the Western Growers Association, a leading agricultural trade group

* the construction industry

* Southern California developers

* land conservancies, especially the Nature Conservancy

FWW reported that the pro-bond campaign also got money from Schwarzenegger’s California Dream Team, which itself had received funding from the energy industry, agribusiness (including Resnick, of course), and developers.

Once the dams are built, once the houses in the desert are built, what happens to the jobs? This isn’t about long-term benefit for the construction sector of the economy. It’s about short-term benefit for interests who are creating additional demand and setting themselves up to market water at ongoing profit.

And what about farm jobs? Is this water going to be used to put large numbers of farmworkers back to work in the fields? Unlikely. In the long run, agribusiness stands to benefit more from marketing water than from growing crops. (If they can’t make money growing cotton, they’ll make money growing houses.) Water cutbacks were not responsible for last year’s job losses, and nothing proposed by the water bond can guarantee more stable economies in communities that have grown up depending on unsustainable water deliveries.

And wherever we are going to grow in California, traditionally-landscaped housing in arid regions of the state is not the way to do it.

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