Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Counties, CA November 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter

"Smart Growth For Quality of Life"

By JJ Vogel

Candidate for Member of the State Assembly; District 28

This information is provided by the candidate
Reasons to put a Smart Growth Measure on the Ballot.

This will be a Mulit-Party Initiative so all help iswelcome.

"Smart Growth or Dumb Special Interest Growth"?

The opposition will sprout phony threats and scare tactics. They will use fantasy projections and numbers to make residents think they will face unwanted cost. This has no basis in reality. They want you to believe there will be a loss of impact fees, park land etc. Not so, if anything it will do the opposite!

For too long the city council has ignored the bad effects of development. Just look around, over crowded schools, commute nightmares, traffic congestion, destruction of prime farm land, water and sewage problems. They have known about it for the last 10 to 15 years. Former planning decisions had predictable negative consequences, but previous councils, developers, and planners went ahead anyway. Their only solution to our problems is more growth, and loss of our quality of life. Sort of like someone building up credit card debt and continuing to accumulate credit to get out of debt.

Builders are motivated by profit. That is why city land is built on before county. So we have to put a reign on annexation. If we tell the developers we want improved traffic, more schools, parks, better sewage and water, and an infrastructure before we allow them to come through building their little saw dust homes, then leaving like termites with full bellies, we will get it. Otherwise, it will be more of the same empty promises that led us where we are today.

One idea would be to establish an Urban Growth Boundary, where the city is prohibited from permitting new homes outside the boundary except for schools, public facilities and open space fully accessible to the public wherever feasible. Voters listen to the words (lies) of the council. They say they are for controlling growth, for making growth pay for everything needed, for taking citizen issues into account, and so on. Then when the local government gets into trouble, they put the blame on another agency or the state.

Voters aren't swayed by glossy brochures, and slick promises of developers or their lawyers. They are aware of what the city needs, and projects that provide these needs more than the city council and special interests groups. Growth should be put to a vote of the taxpayers that live here and not the ideas of special interest that profit from it. Why would anyone oppose public review of important development decisions that will affect the quality of life for all?

Now is the time more than ever we need to put an initiative on the ballot. Because with the local governments being swayed by special interest groups, they will put laws in the book that can also be revoked by the local governments. A ballot measure, which becomes law, can only be revoked by a majority of the electorate.

The most common tactic used against citizen initiatives is the city-sponsored counter initiative. This is an initiative with two things: 1) Most of the teeth pulled, so development can proceed through the loopholes in it and 2) A poison pill clause, the poison pill says that the other initiative, the citizen one, will be cancelled out entirely if the city-sponsored one gets more votes in the election. Then, the city launches a giant campaign supported by developers and those with special interest, to get everyone to vote for the city-sponsored initiative. Citizens typically have little money to get across the idea about the poison pill or the loopholes, and their messages may get lost in the barrage of slick literature.

The influences of major campaign contributors have turned our government into a rubber stamp for uncontrolled development.

Supporters of the original Williamson Act seem to agree that very little farmland on the fringes of growing cities is protected from development. The forces of the real estate market and a drive for short-term profit always over whelm the inherent valve society places on prime farmland.

California could face a severe water shortage by 2020 according to the state Department of Water Resources. That means if new water sources aren't developed, water will cost more, farmland could be put out of production and more ground water will be pumped, depleting underground aquifers.

Congress and local voters authorized the San Felipe Project to bring high quality water to San Benito County. Treatment plants were to be built to take the water from the system, treat the water and deliver it to municipal users. The system was completed in 1987. That was 12 years ago and the treatment plants still have not been built. In fact, physical and financial planning is not complete. I pay $200. plus a year in taxes for this. Now just imagine all the years that have gone by and all the taxes that have been paid by the taxpayers for something they're not getting. More broken promises form our government, with our TAX money!

The special interest groups say growth means lower taxes---and other myths. We need to bring in more business to bring down taxes. This development will give us jobs. Environmental protection will hurt the economy. Growth is good for us. You will hear these arguments over and over, stated with utmost certainty and without the slightest evidence. That's because there is no evidence, or rather, there is plenty of evidence, most of which disproves these deeply held pro-growth beliefs.

Myths:

Growth provides needed tax revenues. There are a few exceptions but the general rule is, the larger the city, the higher the taxes. That's because development requires water, sewage treatment, road maintenance, police & fire protection, garbage pickup, etc. Almost never do the new taxes cover the cost. The bottom line, urban growth rarely pays its own way.

We have to grow to provide jobs. But there's no guarantee that new jobs like new homes will go to local folks. In fact they rarely do. Building more homes ends up attracting more people, who require more jobs.

We must stimulate and subsidize business growth to have good jobs. A study by the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the business press showed that states with the best business ratings actually have lower growth in per capita incomes than those with the worst.

If we try to limit growth, housing prices will shoot up. Sounds logical, but it isn't so. A study of 14 California cities, half with strong growth controls, half with none, showed no difference in average housing prices. Some of the cities with strong growth controls had the most affordable housing, because they had active low-cost housing programs. The important factors in housing affordability is not so much house cost as income level, so development that provides mainly low-paying retail jobs makes housing unaffordable. Look at what's happening in Marin Ca., they can't get people to work these jobs.

Environmental Protection hurts the economy. According to a Bank of America study, the economies of states with high environmental standards grew consistently faster than those with weak regulations.

Growth is inevitable. There are constitutional limits to the ability of any community to put walls around it self. But dozens of municipalities have capped their population size or rate of growth by legal regulations based on real environmental limits and the real costs of growth to the community.

If you don't like growth, you're a NIMBY (not in my backyard) or an ANIT (against everything) or a gangplank-puller (right after you get aboard). These accusations are meant more to shut people up than to examine their real motives. A NIMBY is more likely to be someone who cares enough about the future of the community to get out and protect it.

Most people don't support environmental protection. The fraction of respondents who say environmental quality is more important than further economic growth always tops 70 percent.

We have to grow or die. According to several economic studies, many kinds of growth cost more than the benefits they bring. So the more growth, the poorer we get. That kind of growth will kill us.

Vacant land is just going to waste. Studies from all over show that open land pays for more-often twice as much-in property taxes than it cost in services. Cows don't put their kids in school; trees don't put potholes in the roads. Open land absorbs floods, recharges the aquifers, cleans the are, harbors wildlife, and measurably increases the value of property nearby. We should pay for it to be there.

Beauty is no basis for policy. One of the saddest things about municipal meeting is their tendency to trivialize people who complain that a proposed development will be ugly. Dollars are not necessarily more real or important than beauty. In fact beauty can translate directly into dollars. For starters, undeveloped surroundings can add significantly to the price of a home.

Environmentalists are just another special interest. A developer who will directly profit from a project is a special interest. A citizen with no financial stake is fighting for the public interest, the long term, the good of the whole community.

Maybe one reason these myths are proclaimed so often and loudly is that they are so obviously doubtful. The only reason to keep repeating something over and over is to keep others from thinking about it. You don't have to keep telling people that the sun rises in the east.

I guess everybody expects the next generation to take care of itself and that hasn't happened! The cost of not addressing these problems has been huge and will continue to be!

We don't want to stop growth, but now is the time for the public to stand up and take charge and get us out of the mess local government, planners and developers have put us in. Something as important as the quality of life in our community has to be put to the vote of the public. It is the time for us to make controlled SMART GROWTH a reality.

To help on the Smart Growth Measure contact: JJ Vogel (831) 636-5667 http://www.jjvogel.com

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