LandWatch Wants The GPU Process To Be Public

July 18, 2002

The Honorable David Potter, Chair [Sent By FAX: 831-755-5888]
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
240 Church Street
Salinas, CA 93901

RE: Please Reject The So-Called “Citizens Committee" Proposal

Dear Chairperson Potter and Board Members:

The Board of Supervisors is poised, when it meets next Tuesday, to direct its staff, and its special counsel, to prepare a “second draft" of a General Plan Update for Monterey County, and to circulate that “second draft" GPU, with an accompanying Draft EIR, for further public comment. LandWatch urges you to do just that.

The 1,000 members of LandWatch, and LandWatch as an organization, have participated actively in what has been an exemplary public involvement and public participation process. The County has now spent over two years, and over two million dollars, to lay the foundations for what your County Administrative Officer has said should be a “world class" General Plan to take Monterey County into the 21st Century.

Please forgive my colloquialism, but LandWatch urges you not to “chicken out" now.
Major economic interests in the County, who have opposed every aspect of this process, from the beginning, and who have always wanted delay, and who seem to want “business as usual," are now calling for a so-called “Citizens Committee" to achieve “consensus" on the General Plan. Please note that it is only business-related groups that have asked for a so-called “Citizens Committee." No genuine citizen groups have made such a request.

This proposal for a so-called “Citizens Committee" is disingenuous. It is a transparent attempt to derail the public process that the County has pursued to this point. In fact, the so-called “Citizens Committee" would be a small group of people who would meet behind closed doors to rewrite the General Plan—and the public at large would be excluded. This is not how to keep faith with the literally thousands of people who have participated in the public process up till now. This is not fair to the Planning Commission, and to all those who appeared before that Commission. This is not the way the public’s business should be conducted.

No one can better represent the “public" than members of the public themselves. Your Board has supported an exemplary public participation process—up to this point. Please don’t “chicken out" now.

Obviously, the business community should be deeply involved in drafting the new General Plan Update. And of course they have been. The business community has made many suggestions for changes to the “first draft" GPU, and the Planning Commission has responded. Further changes in response to business sector comments must also be made in arriving at a “second draft" document—as your special counsel indicated last Tuesday. Not only has the business community been listened to in the public process—and responded to—the business community has also been given special, privileged, and private access to the county staff, and to the County Administrative Officer, with respect to the GPU process. This became evident to all the rest of us during the Board’s public hearings on Monday and Tuesday. Weekly or even bi-weekly closed-door meetings have apparently been taking place with the so-called “21st Century Solutions Group," led by Realtor Jeff Davi. The rest of the public hasn’t been invited or allowed into those meetings. To “formalize" that kind of exclusion of the public, and to go from “talking" about the GPU in private to “rewriting" the GPU in private, would be unconscionable. Yet, that is exactly what this “Citizens Committee" proposal contemplates.

Please keep on conducting the public’s business in public! We urge you to finalize your policy directions this Tuesday, and then to instruct county staff, and your special counsel, to prepare a “second draft" GPU document, based on the Planning Commission’s recommendations, along with the additional policy changes you make. That “second draft" GPU will then be available for public review and comment (including comment from the business community), so everyone will have an equal opportunity to influence the outcome.

The ultimate choices, of course, will be yours. We hope you will continue to have those choices debated and deliberated upon in public, on a level playing field, and that the end result really will be a “world class" General Plan, and one that will change the direction of where this county is currently heading. As your staff told you this week, we’re heading towards San Jose. “Business as usual" will take us there. We hope, at the end of the process, that you’ll be ready to change course.

Thank you for taking our strongly felt views into consideration.

cc: County Administrative Officer
General Plan Update Staff
Members, Planning Commission

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