November 25, 2006

T H E H E R A L D ' S V I E W

Board clearly ignoring voters

This editorial is for the Monterey County Board of Supervisors -- but only indirectly

On land-use issues, most of the board members have made it clear they're not listening to the community at large, not editorials, not the 15,000-plus registered voters who signed petitions to put the Community General Plan Initiative on the ballot.

So this editorial is for those who haven't said anything yet, who haven't called or written their supervisors to say it's time to let the people vote. Well past time.

Now that an appeals court ruling has left the board looking for additional ways to foil the public will, perhaps the people who deal with county government, with help from people who don't, can persuade the supervisors to do the right thing instead.

What sparks the idea is Monday's ruling by a federal appeals court, which overturned a previous court ruling that prevented the general plan initiative from being placed on the June ballot.

That gave the supervisors time to continue working on their own more developer-friendly plan now nearing conclusion while enabling the county's lawyers to look for other legal maneuvers.

As expected, the appeals court removed the biggest barrier to a public vote. But now, county officials say they'll keep looking for other barriers, other ways to stall things out in court.

It seems then that the most expeditious way to restore a semblance of democracy to the county land-use process is for the public -- not just the environmentalists, not just the general plan activists -- to let the supervisors know that it's time to give it up and let the voters have their say by scheduling a special election.

At this point, it really shouldn't matter where one stands on the underlying planning issues. The lengths to which the supervisors have gone to block a public vote, and what angles they're willing to try next, raise issues much larger than zoning.

The point is not which version of the general plan is better, though the county's latest version is long on complexity and short on credibility.

The point is that more than 15,000 voters said they wanted to vote on an overarching vision of land use in Monterey County. They took the proper legal steps to do so. And then they watched as the Board of Supervisors said forget about it.

The board has proved skillful at blocking votes. It blocked a public vote on the Rancho San Juan development, and two key board members, Jerry Smith and Lou Calcagno, recently led an arrogant move to prevent Carmel Valley residents from voting on incorporation.

It's time for this lack of representation, this we-know-best style of governance, to become everyone's issue. It should not be left just to the developers and environmentalists to fight over, not just to the pro-growthers and no-growthers of Carmel Valley or North County.

It's time for the League of Women Voters and the service clubs, the civics classes and the coffee klatches to get involved. It's time for everyone who believes in fair play and democracy to remind the supervisors that they were elected to listen and lead, not to dictate.