June 9, 2007

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

Slow down GPU4 plans

The Monterey County Herald
Article Last Updated: 06/09/2007 01:26:45 AM PDT

The people have spoken, though only part of what they said is clear.

Unless the final count flips things around, which is unlikely, the one certain result of Tuesday's election is that Measure A is dead. Monterey County voters said no to its attempt to slow the pace of development and to give voters an exceedingly large voice in day-to-day planning issues.

The defeat of interconnected Measures B, C and D creates a fuzzier picture that needs to be addressed by the courts—sooner rather than later.

But in the meantime, the overall results from this confounding election still could prove instructive to those who must sort it out.

First, the solid defeat of four essentially contradictory ballot measures says a lot about the wisdom of ballot-box planning. The no-no-no-no result also demonstrates what is likely to happen when political campaigns dwell on criticism without enlightenment.

As a whole, the results show that many voters rejected the extreme edges of the slow-growth/faster-growth divide and gave a big thumbs down to a political process that results in such a messy ballot.

The voters said they don't want to make it any harder for farmers to make a profit but also don't want to see farms paved over.

They told environmental groups to work within political channels and knock off the lawsuits.

The voters told the political leaders to lead by creating compromise, not conflict. By rejecting the county's development-friendly GPU4 plan right along with Measure A, they also said they're not sure the right leaders are in place.

Some of the odd result Tuesday can be attributed to ballot confusion and campaign focus. Supporters of GPU4 put their energy into defeating Measure A rather than supporting GPU4, also known as Measure C. But Measure C's defeat shows that a seal of approval by this Board of Supervisors doesn't carry much weight.

Voters said major planning decisions should be the responsibility of public officials, not public vote. But at the same time the voters said they want decisions based on logic, not politics or campaign contributions.

For years, county officials have said that rejecting the Rancho San Juan/Butterfly Villages projects would likely cost the county $100 million-plus in legal damages. By solidly rejecting Measure D on Tuesday, the voters said, "We don't believe you."

Perhaps misinterpreting the message, the supervisors say they plan to forge ahead and start using GPU4. Their thinking is that even though voters didn't approve it, they also didn't repeal it. We suggest the supervisors think that one over some more.

After an emotional and polarizing campaign, the environmentalist camp may be able to accept the defeat of Measure A, but it's not ready to concede that the contradictory results give legal standing to GPU4.

If the supervisors start basing decisions on GPU4, they'll likely find themselves in court arguing over the legality of all those decisions as well as the legality of GPU4. A wiser path, it seems, would be to continue relying on the old general plan for now and to ask the courts for an expedited ruling on what Tuesday's vote really meant.