Why is Allen Short Still Working for the MID?


More Money Down the Drain?

There aren’t many occasions when a resignation isn’t really a resignation, but former Modesto Irrigation District (MID) General Manager Allen Short seems to have accomplished the paradoxical event.

When Short submitted his resignation, it wasn’t the end of his tenure at the MID. As has been widely reported, Short will now lead the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority (SJTA), a lobbying organization that is in part subsidized by MID rate payers.

Given the MID’s financial difficulties, it’s hard to see why it needs expensive lobbyists. Former MID General Counsel Tim O’Laughlin is also on the SJTA payroll; neither he nor Short proved to be a bargain in their former positions, and there’s no reason to think they’ll do any better at the SJTA.

It’s clear in retrospect that Short decided to treat the MID like a business, which to him meant emulating the Wall Street Masters of the Universe. But the grandiose expansion of MID services into Mountain House, the botched construction of the water treatment plant, and the ill-considered sale of water to San Francisco don’t give anyone reasons to have confidence in Short’s judgment. The notorious “Falling Water” charge problems were the last straw for Short’s reign of error.

There’s also the loss of Short’s credibility and consequent loss of constituency. The water sale was based on the idea of “excess water.” Yet the SJTA, now under Short’s leadership, just recently squawked about a plan to increase flows along the Tuolumne River, a plan insiders know has been in the works for years. The increased flows are needed to sustain fish populations and the San Joaquin Delta ecosystem. Short seems to adjust the facts to suit his agenda of the moment, and the result is a loss of credibility with people who pay attention to water issues.

Farmers are among the closest followers of water issues, and Short lost their support long ago. The Farm Bureau threatened to sue over the water sale. Supporters of fish and wildlife, along with the vast majority of scientists, have long agreed with the need for increased flows along our rivers. They also oppose Short’s willingness to deal water like a commodity. Short’s constituency seems to consist of the Modesto Bee and those supposedly influential movers and shakers who benefitted from the money the MID spread around in hopes of promoting support for the water sale.

The MID just hired an interim general manager and officially ended the funneling of money through Martino Graphics, a practice which seemed to buy Short a little time before the growing tide of revelations of mismanagement forced his resignation.

MID ratepayers who are aware of the Falling Water charge are more than glad to see Short go. Why would any of them wish to subsidize his employment by the SJTA?

In fact, the very existence of the SJTA seems to be a result of the famed “job creation” businesses are so famous for. In this case though, the jobs were created to provide soft landings for Short and O’Laughlin when they bailed from the MID.

Want a recipe for disaster? Consider this: When the SJTA’s anti-science arguments fail— and they will fail—the only recourse will be lawsuits. Guess who gets to foot the bill?


Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
Comments should be no more than 350 words. Comments may be edited for correctness, clarity, and civility.