Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, is among the scheduled speakers at a water symposium Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 in Auburn.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, is among the scheduled speakers at a water symposium Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 in Auburn.

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Capitol Alert

Were water conference refunds about politics or capacity?

By Jim Miller

jmiller@sacbee.com

February 21, 2017 05:38 PM

Symposiums about water policy don’t typically spark dust-ups about ticket refunds and allegations that members of Congress are trying to duck their constituents.

But some people living in the districts of Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove complain they were summarily disinvited from Friday’s conference of the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association entitled, “The New Trump Administration – A View from The Top.”

The all-Republican lineup of elected officials at The Ridge Golf Course and Event Center in Auburn includes LaMalfa and McClintock, as well as state senators Jim Nielsen, Tom Berryhill, and Ted Gaines, and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.

Among those who bought $40 tickets to the event were Hilary Hodge, the executive director of Sierra Commons, a small business education center in Nevada City, and Nevada City Councilwoman Reinette Senum. Hodge said they wanted to question McClintock and LaMalfa about water policy.

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Last week, though, Hodge and several others received refunds and were told the event was sold out. The real reason, Hodge alleged, is that she and others are not “politically aligned” with the speakers.

“It’s an unfortunate exclusion because they are now having a conversation with themselves because they’ve excluded people with an outside perspective,” she said.

But John Kingsbury, the association’s executive director, said he made the decision – free of political interference – to refund more than 20 non-member tickets after demand greatly exceeded that of past conferences. Some people, he added, view Friday’s event as a town hall, which it isn’t.

“Normally we don’t have anybody register,” Kingsbury said. “I needed to make sure I had capacity for my dues paying members.”