Thursday, May 27, 2004
There won’t be a happy ending to this show. It won’t be like that other love story with “Sex &” in its name. Nope, the General Plan Update process will end badly. The girl reporter can feel it in her bones—or is that just her sling-back kitten heels pinching?
It’s a sunny afternoon in Salinas, a week after Supervisor Edith Johnsen seemingly awoke from a deep slumber and realized that—gasp—the 20-year blueprint for growth is controversial! It’s divided the community! And certain groups don’t agree on development-related issues! And so, in the interest of finding a “consensus approach,” made a motion to “stop the process” and find “alternative options.”
(Regular viewers recall that Johnsen’s motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Fernando Armenta and Butch Lindley voting with her, and Supes Lou Calcagno and Dave Potter voting against.)
A week later, the Supes are back in session, and they’re looking at a series of alternatives prepared by County Counsel Charles McKee, which would cost the county up to $1.3 million. And will, no doubt, prolong the agony another six months to two years—because at this point, no one really believes this board is actually going to adopt a new General Plan, do they?
The girl reporter runs up the courthouse stairs. She’s late. She needs coffee. She’s a little grumpy. She looks through the window, into the Supervisors’ Chambers and sees LandWatch’s Gary Patton up at the mic.
There’s no room at the press table—a TV news reporter occupies the girl reporter’s usual, lumpy chair (since when did land use planning become sexy enough for TV?). So she plops herself down on a wooden bench, next to one of Supervisor Armenta’s aides.
The usual cast of characters says the usual things.
Supervisorial candidate Jane Parker, who, this time next year may be sitting in Johnsen’s District 4 seat, urges the board not to abandon the GPU process.
“Return to the timeline,” she says, wearing a stylish navy pant suit. “Reverse the position you appeared to take last week.”
Farm Bureau Director Bob Perkins, who is also running for an elected office in November (he wants to replace state Assembly member Simón Salinas), and also wears a suit, tells the Supes that “the General Plan has created an unprecedented atmosphere of hostility and division in our county.”
Perkins—like every other pro-development interest here—asks the board to hire a consultant to rewrite the environmental impact report, and to “blend alternatives two and four.” This involves “reconciling public comments on the plan,” which means adopting the recommendations of the big special interest group formerly known as the refinement committee.
More than an hour into the debate, the girl reporter wonders why the Supes continue to smile and nod. Finally Moss Landing resident Mari Kloeppel, wearing skinny pinstripe pants and red wedge heels, says it: “The public process is a farce. I would bet the minds are pretty much made up.”
For a minute it appears that Kloeppel is wrong. Potter suggests that he and Lindley sit down and try to hash out some of their differences. Potter’s trying to keep the process on track, and Lindley says he’s game.
Armenta shoots the idea down, and makes a motion to “look at hiring a consultant,” and to “stop the current work.” He wants County Counsel to return with another report in two weeks. Johnsen’s nodding, and then she seconds Armenta’s motion.
Next, Armenta takes a moment to blast the Herald and the Californian for printing strongly-worded editorials last week, criticizing the board for not continuing the General Plan process. “This is cowardice,” wrote the Californian.
“The media doesn’t represent the community,” Armenta yells.
Drat, thinks the girl reporter. She feels her idealism drain. Maybe, she thinks, instead of becoming a reporter, she should have run for county office.
Despite Calcagno and Potter’s pleas not to waste more taxpayers’ money, and to continue with the update process, the board votes 3-2 to ditch the proposed plan.
The girl reporter spies a former GPU team staffer while leaving the building. The GPU team cleared out their desks last week. Their eyes meet. It’s cocktail time.