Thursday, April 24, 2008
Carmel Valley incorporation proponents have long accused Local Agency Formation commissioners of stifling democracy. On Thursday, April 24, a Superior Court judge in the Monterey courthouse will rule whether LAFCO illegally stopped the incorporation process and blocked citizens’ right to vote on the issue.
“We’re hoping Judge [Lydia] Villarreal gives us a slam-dunk victory,” says Glenn Robinson, a member of the citizens’ group, Carmel Valley Forum. “LAFCO ought to do the right thing and send this to the ballot.”
Sending it to the ballot will allow Carmel Valley residents to vote whether they want Carmel Valley to be incorporated into its own municipality (currently it’s governed by county supervisors).
In 2005, after years of meetings and comprehensive studies, LAFCO board members unanimously issued a finding that the proposed incorporation petition would not need a full-scale Environmental Impact Report. But in October 2006, a new LAFCO board voted 5-2 to require several new studies – including an EIR – be completed before the issue could be put on the ballot, and paid for by incorporation proponents. In March 2006, CFV filed a lawsuit.
Days before the court hearing, Robinson says, one of the LAFCO commissioners who voted to require an EIR later admitted that the EIR was a convenient way to stop a public vote on the incorporation issue. “It was one of the four who voted for the EIR,” Robinson says. “He said it to a room full of proponents. He said, ‘C’mon folks, we all know that voting for the EIR was just a cover. It was something we all latched onto because we didn’t want this to go on for our own reasons. The EIR was the most appropriate excuse to stop this.’ ”
Robinson says CVF won’t name the commissioner because of legal reasons. Other people who attended the meeting say Supervisor Lou Calcagno made the comments. When asked, Calcagno says, “I could have said it. I’m not so sure I did or I didn’t. I don’t want to go there because of the lawsuit. We had the right to do an EIR at any time. That’s LAFCO’s prerogative.”
Five LAFCO board members voted to require an EIR: Calcagno, now-deceased supervisor Jerry Smith, Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio, Gonzales City Councilman Matt Gourley and King City cemetery district representative Tom Perkins.
Rubio and Perkins maintain that LAFCO acted correctly in requiring new studies before a public vote on the incorporation proposal.
“We felt an EIR was an issue,” Perkins says.
At the time of the 2006 LAFCO vote, Rubio, who didn’t sit on the 2005 commission, said he didn’t believe the studies to be accurate, including the fiscal analysis that said Carmel Valley would be financially feasible as a town. Two years later, Rubio says the same thing.
“There’s no way you can flatline expenses and revenue in a city,” he says, “and the 10-year analysis assumed it would be a flatline. In my own budget, expenses seem to grow while revenue doesn’t. If the issue had gone to a vote, and somehow been successful, my view is that the city [of Carmel Valley] would be bankrupt already.”