Thursday, May 20, 2004
Some climax, thought the girl reporter. Monterey County Supes all but killed the General Plan on Tuesday, May 18, following Supervisor Edith Johnsen’s motion to “stop the process.”
Early in the meeting, it looked like it might not happen. The Board received a proposed schedule for the continued update of the 20-year growth document from County Counsel Charles McKee. According to the timeline, the Supes would begin their final hearings in July. “That’s only two months away!” thought the girl reporter.
“It does put in motion the final steps in the process,” McKee said.
Yay! The girl reporter nearly jumped out of her fuchsia pumps.
“We did try to estimate the cost,” County CAO Sally Reed told the board. “Our best guess—it’s about a $40,000-a-month activity.”
The girl reporter was pleased to note that the old tagline used to describe the plan’s update process has been updated as well. It used to be “four years and $4 million later…” Now, it’s up to “GPU 3: Almost five years and $5 million in the making.”
She sat, happily listening to public comment and writing notes about the speakers’ choices in couture: Land-use attorney Christine Gianascol Kemp: daring jewel-toned maroon pantsuit. She pulls it off fabulously. A pair of darling dark-wash jeans on Mari Kloeppel of Friends, Artists and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough (FANS). (NOTE TO DESK: THIS IS NOT A TYPO. THE ACRONYM DOESN’T MATCH UP WITH THE GROUP’S NAME. MAYBE THEY CAN’T SPELL. I DON’T KNOW.)
(Note to self: Ask Mari who makes her jeans.) And a belted black jacket—an ominous sign of things to come?
Of course, by the time the Supes came out of closed session, everyone had heard the rumors: At least three of the elected five would vote to scrap the plan today.
Some members of the group formerly known as the refinement committee—a handful of pro-development lawyers and property rights advocates—have repeatedly told the Supes they will sue if the board doesn’t adopt a pro-growth General Plan.
And according to the rumors, the disgruntled would-be litigators are in cahoots with a Sacramento-based firm called Pacific Legal Foundation, which, according to their website, is “renowned for battling those who would tread on individual liberty; for confronting government bureaucrats who confiscate private property rights; for opposing government programs that grant special preferences on the basis of race and sex; and for challenging misguided environmental laws that degrade human values.”
In other words, they’re raving right-wing Libertarians who don’t like public lands, environmental laws or affirmative action. This same firm has tried to axe the California Coastal Commission and weaken the Endangered Species Act.
But the girl reporter didn’t take the rumors too seriously—it was just the paranoia talking, right?
The Supes listened to an hour of public testimony. Environmentalists cheered the timeline and told the elected officials to move forward with the growth document.
Pro-development types and attorneys representing land owners booed, told Supes to slow down—or ditch—the process. After listening—or pretending to listen—to her constituents, Johnsen moved that the board reject the timeline and direct staff to return on May 25 with “options.”
Last year she was one of only two votes to move forward with the process—she voted against forming the refinement committee. A year later, she’s changed her tune.
“We have to be able to bring about a consensus approach,” she said Tuesday.
Her motion passed by a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Fernando Armenta and Butch Lindley voting with Johnsen, while Lou Calcagno and Dave Potter voted against.
“If we go your way…to scrap it,” Calcagno said, “we’re throwing away dollars we have already invested.”
The girl reporter happened to look over her shoulder and noticed nearly half the audience standing up, wearing somber expressions—and black armbands.
After the hearing, she caught up with Potter.
“No new arguments came forward today,” Potter said. “No new characters showed up today. Like I said before, there are organizations that have changed their names more than people in the witness protection program. First they were Common Ground, then 21st Century Solutions, then the refinement group, now they’re calling themselves the Coalition for Jobs and Housing in Monterey County, or something like that.”
So is the plan dead, asked the girl reporter?
Potter replied: “It sure smells like it.”