Why is Jim Bagley of Twentynine Palms playing the outside agitator in Joshua Tree? Is it because his grousing and sniping is no longer tolerated in Twentynine Palms? Is he a hired gun for a group of sputtering dissidents in Joshua Tree? Does he think he’s building a constituency for his own run for office? Who is Jim Bagley and why is he saying these terrible things about Joshua Basin Water District?
Bagley used to be a measured, reasonable person, someone I would go to for an intelligent and informed perspective. But in the past four years or so I’ve seen an unpleasant change in him. He thinks he sees heinous corruption and waste in every local government. And while all boards and governing bodies make mistakes sometimes, we do not have a culture of corruption in the Morongo Basin, and I should know, I covered local boards and agencies for our newspapers for eight years.
Joshua Basin Water District hired Curt Sauer in 2014 and he has been the most conscientious and smart general manager the district has had in recent memory. He made the sharp learning curve in water by applying his expertise with managing in a large government agency as superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park. When he retired from Federal service he spent two to three years in the Gulf of Mexico helping managing environmental cleanup operations after the BP Deep Horizon oil drilling rig catastrophe. He came to Joshua Basin because he still wanted to work, to challenge himself and to make things better for Joshua Tree. He is an unqualified success for the district.
Joshua Tree is unlike Twentynine Palms in many respects, chiefly that Twentynine is incorporated and Joshua Tree is part of the county. Joshua Tree’s commerce is mainly along the highway and in workshops and studios around town. Our main attractor is the national park. We could be considered the local seat of county government in that we house the Bob Burke Government Center with a planning office and field rep for our supervisor. We also have the county jail, a county fire station and a county branch library. Plus, Joshua Tree has the hospital, the community college, two elementary schools, a public cemetery and yes, a publicly owned water district.
When Joshua Basin made the hard decision to raise water rates it was after many stagnant years during which rates did not keep pace with inflation and maintenance was deferred on its aging production and delivery infrastructure. The board took six months of constant public outreach on the rate process with an exhaustive rate presentation at least once a month at a public board meeting. The directors answered questions each Saturday at the farmers market and the district’s public information person included important details in the newsletter mailed with the bills. When it came time for the protest hearing there were less than 50 protests. And when appeals were made on behalf of low income ratepayers, the district’s Citizen’s Advisory Council worked on it and it lead to a program with the United Way to provide bill relief for those on low and fixed income.
I am very disappointed in the Jim Bagley of late. Please bring back the Jim Bagley I used to know.