Thursday, October 5, 2006
TO BE CONTINUED… A week ago, Monterey attorney MICHAEL STAMP wrote a scathing letter to the county’s Planning Director MIKE NOVO, county counsel CHARLES MCKEE and SEPTEMBER RANCH project planner ALANA KNASTER. Squid got ahold of said letter and settled in to the couch with a bucket of popcorn shrimp and a bottle of Scotch. It’s the kind of thing Squid likes to do on chilly October nights.
“For more than five years,” it began, “the County has been preparing for a BOARD OF SUPERVISORS hearing on the September Ranch project.” Stamp’s talking about the 95-home project on a hilly, 891-acre Carmel Valley ranch, which has been in the works for a decade. It has been the subject of lawsuits and a “ghostwriting” scandal in which developers’ attorneys were shown to have written key documents under official County letterhead.
“The County has also devoted itself to cutting the public out of the process,” the letter goes on. “That undemocratic process continues today.”
Stamp was angry about the hearing slated for Tuesday, Oct. 3—one week from the letter’s date. “The public does not have access to the report, the current conditions, the mitigation monitoring plan, or the present form of the documents that are being presented to the Supervisors…My clients, including the SIERRA CLUB, PATRICIA BERNARDI, SAVE OUR CARMEL RIVER and THE OPEN MONTEREY PROJECT, urge you to continue the Board of Supervisors hearing to ensure the public has at least 10 days to review the materials that the county staff is presenting.”
At the end of the all-day hearing, Stamp got his wish. The Board decided to vote on the project on Nov. 14. The public will have access to the documents by Nov. 7.
Now, Squid’s pretty sure that on Nov. 14, the board will vote to approve the project. And then Stamp and Co. will sue. But to quote Supervisor DAVE POTTER, “We are going to court, regardless, and I’d prefer to go as legally defensible as possible.”
NO SUNSHINE IN SACTO… Hmmm, Gov. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER sure seemed to like the democratic process when it ousted then-Gov. GRAY DAVIS. And when it allowed him to spend a bunch of money to call a special election for all those silly ballot propositions, which voters didn’t seem to like.
But he apparently doesn’t like democracy when it protects the public’s right to review public records.
Late last week, he vetoed a “SUNSHINE BILL” by Assemblyman MARK LENO, D-San Francisco. The bill would have required the ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE to review rejected requests for public records under the California Public Records Act and offer its written opinion. Squid gets it. Democracy is fine, until it strengthens citizens’ ability to keep government accountable.