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Election Reality Check: "Attacked citizens", Unwilling to answer

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This article is in a series of "Election Reality Check" pieces about the election for Las Virgenes Municipal Water District. The statements chosen are based on comments made to Westlake Revelations from the candidates (about what the other candidate has said), as well as reader questions.
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Polan says Bowman "Attacked citizens verbally", and is "unwilling to answer questions"
Reality Check: Attacked citizens? True. Unwilling to answer questions? Effectively, yes.

In a recent Westlake Revelations interview, Candidate Len Polan said that the "the current board has verbally attacked citizens by name who have questioned the water districts unwillingness to answer questions and request more disclosure." Furthermore, Director Joe Bowman says that the District has spent $200,000 answering questions.

Disclosure: Since LVMWD doesn't record most of its meetings, and has only summary minutes, this answer is based on the author's direct experience, and observation by Westlake Revelations and other reliable sources.

It's true that the current board, on multiple occasions at board meetings, and from the dais, has called out residents specifically by name and tried to dispute what they said, discredit them, or even take public comments out of context. That we know of, this has been done by at least Directors Bowman (multiple times) and Caspary (once). We're unclear about whether any other directors have also done so (again, they don't record meetings).

The comments typically come at a part of the meeting where the member of the public cannot respond to defend themselves. Furthermore, comments have been made both when a citizen is present, or in their absence (and reported by others). And, even when the Board members knows why a citizen can't be present for good reason, they criticize their absence. For these reasons, multiple citizens have cited this as the reason to not "bother attending" water board meetings.

In one case, there was a report that Director Joe Bowman attempted to have the summary minutes restate what was said by a resident to "clarify" it (and change the meaning of it), but was told by other board members that he couldn't change the meaning of what the resident said in the summary minutes. He obliged his fellow board members.

Now, as for "unwillingness to answer" -- it's unclear if this is the right description for what's happened to date. It's definitely true that many questions from the public have gone unanswered even when asked repeatedly.

Despite many attempts to do so, Director Bowman has not answered questions directly to him and the Board about the tank project. That's indisputable. That said, Director Bowman has repeatedly said he believes that all the questions have been answered. Since this is incongruous with the public's direct experience both verbally and in writing, Director Bowman is either:

- unwilling to answer, or
- truly believes that they have been answered, but doesn't understand the question, or
- he doesn't understand that the answer has not addressed the public's question.

It's again, up to you to decide which of the above is the case, and whether it's the District's responsibility to communicate well and in layman's terms, or if it's the public's responsibility to understand the technicalities of water.

As a matter of completeness, Director Bowman repeatedly has said that the District has spent almost $200,000 answering questions about the tank construction. The District confirms $193,588 to date, and it was spent on:

1. Additional geotechnical studies of sites A & C and access round road along the reservoir to site C
2. Access road study for reservoir shore route to site C
3. The alternative route study from Triunifo Canyon and Yager Way
4. Valley Fever research and soil testing
5. Additional visual simulations
6. Additional environmental constraints studies
7. Property research (Triunfo area)
8. Consultant presentations at workshops

In fairness, most of the unanswered questions from the public are of the type that staff should be able to directly answer without any cost if they have a basic understanding of what they are proposing, but these questions have simply not been answered to date (as described above).