Hosted by the League of Women Voters and staged in the Oakdale City Council Chambers, the two candidates vying for Oakdale Irrigation District Division 2 post had the chance to voice their positions on a number of issues at a recent candidate forum.
The event was staged Wednesday, Oct. 11 and incumbent OID Division 2 Director Herman Doornenbal and challenger Don Taro were among the candidates taking a seat on the dais for the event. Also on hand were Division 5 candidates, Brad DeBoer and Grover Francis.
The seat that Doornenbal currently holds and is hoping to retain, includes OID constituents in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Taro is running to fill the post, hoping to oust the incumbent.
The Wednesday night event featured a chance for all candidates to give a brief, two-minute introduction of themselves and their reasons for seeking the office. Questions were provided by attendees and the League of Women Voters format allowed time for each candidate to answer the same question, with the questions rotated to the candidates so the same one did not get to answer first each time.
A wide range of topics were covered – from the sale of water outside the district to annexation of new land to hanging on to the pre-1914 water rights afforded to OID.
“Eight years ago when I ran for this position, I felt it was time to give something back,” Doornenbal said. “Passion for water is something I really have and it’s good to be involved. I love OID; I think they do a lot of great things for our community.”
Taro, who said his father served on the OID board for 16 years, said he feels that there are issues on the board that need to be addressed and that’s why he is seeking the position.
“Water sales behind closed doors, too many lawsuits going on,” he said. “I feel OID needs to be a board that works together, not against each other, and work for a better quality of water.”
The first question posed was what the candidates feel is the most important issue facing the OID.
“Groundwater is the most important,” Doornenbal said. “We’ve got to help the City of Oakdale reduce its reliance on groundwater.”
For Taro, keeping the water local is the biggest issue, not selling it off.
“We need to put more land in production … we need to keep the water here,” Taro said.
On another topic, the candidates were asked about their thoughts on annexing land into the OID boundaries.
“I’m in favor of annexation but we don’t know how much water we’re going to have,” Taro said of needing to carefully consider whether they would be able to support those annexations in the future.
Doornenbal had a similar view.
“I have no problem with annexing but we have to stay committed to the city,” he said. “We cannot oversell the watershed. We’re going to have to have a way to cut people off.”
With the event scheduled for 90 minutes, they did run a little bit over the allotted time, but had plenty of ground to cover.
The Times will be featuring profiles of both Herman Doornenbal and Don Taro in a future issue, with a “Q and A” format, prior to the Nov. 7 election, to give voters a more comprehensive look at both candidates.