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Initiative appeal denied

By From page A1 | August 08, 2014

Proponents, supporters and concerned citizens, Aug. 5, failed to persuade the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to “reconsider” the “Reinstate Measure Y” initiative for the Nov. 4 election ballot. Supervisors held out against a tide of demands and pleas to overturn their July 29 decision to refer the initiative for study rather than to the ballot.

The action to send the measure for a 30-day economic impact review effectively eliminated its inclusion on the November ballot and relegates the initiative to a June 2016 ballot. Supervisors refused to open the process of “reconsideration.”

The primary issue that led to last week’s 3-1 vote not to approve the measure for this election cycle was what El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurel Brent-Bumb called a “poison pill” embedded in the initiative language. As written, the measure states that:

“All necessary road improvements shall be fully completed to prevent cumulative traffic impacts from new development from reaching Level of Service F upon any highway, arterial roads and their intersections during weekday, peak-hour periods in unincorporated areas of the county before any form of discretionary approval can be given to a project.”

Opponents of the initiative, Bill Center and Jim Moore, had told the board last week that the restrictive language would deny approval of “any discretionary project, no matter how big or small” and could severely impact economic development in the county. Center and Moore are proponents of Measure M, an initiative that was approved by county supervisors earlier this summer for the November election.

Documents submitted to the board on July 29 by Center and Moore warned, “A discretionary project applies to almost every project brought before the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission” and described such enterprises as wineries, hotels and retail stores that would not get approved — thereby stifling job growth as well as economic development.

The following is the county’s summary and description of the “Reinstate Measure Y initiative” as analyzed by county counsel and the Elections Department:

“Current Policy TC-Xa requires that developer-paid traffic impact fees combined with any other available funds fully pay for building all necessary improvements to mitigate new development’s traffic impacts. The initiative would revise this policy to require that road improvements necessary to prevent cumulative traffic impacts of new development from reaching Level of Service F during peak hours be fully completed before any form of discretionary approval can be given to a project. The initiative would also add a policy prohibiting the use of county tax revenues to pay for building road capacity improvements to offset traffic impacts from new development, unless county voters first approve. The initiative would allow non-county tax revenue, such as federal and state grants, to be used to pay for such improvements.”

Center’s description of possible severe economic consequences resulting from potential passage of the measure was challenged during the July 29 hearing by supporters of the proposed initiative as overly dramatic and designed to scare voters away from supporting it in November. Several of those people spoke in support of a “reconsideration” Tuesday along with others who took the view that the people, that is the voters, should be the ones to make the decision. In effect, the voters should be left to figure out if it’s a measure that would be good or bad for the county.

Sue Taylor, a proponent of the initiative and director of the Save Our County organization, again asked the board to “put this back on the agenda as an emergency item.” Addressing Supervisor Ron Briggs who had first recommended the measure be sent for 30-day review, Taylor said, “How about doing the right thing. You allowed two people, Center and Moore, to convince you to pull the rug out from under us.”

She further suggested that supervisors “could do it” by means of a special meeting no later than Friday, Aug. 8.

Mark E.. Smith from Garden Valley, who in a previous meeting likened the board to the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” accused supervisors of “denying the rights of the people. (You) single-handedly removed our right to vote,” he charged.

Typically, the Four Horsemen as described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation represent War, Pestilence, Famine and Death (some interpret it as Conquest, War, Famine and Death), and Smith called out the board as having a “famine of character” partly responsible for the “death of our Republic…Last week (El Dorado County) became a tyrannical oligarchy,” Smith said.

County Counsel Ed Knapp explained the process under state law by which the board could have brought the matter up for reconsideration.

Because the item was not on the agenda, it could only be revisited based on “substantial new evidence” that was “unknown to the local agency” prior to the posting of the agenda, that is last Friday. The Board of Supervisors is the legislative body while the entire county is the “local agency,” Knapp clarified. Therefore if any county staff had knowledge of the new evidence prior, it could not be considered new to the board and should then have been appropriately agendized under the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Furthermore, the new evidence would have to be compelling enough to lead to a sense of urgency indicating a need for action. If the board determined that to be the case, any supervisor could move to have the item brought back for discussion. In a phone call with the Mountain Democrat late Wednesday, Knapp opined that there had been no “substantial new evidence” presented since the agenda had been posted that led to such a degree of urgency. Had there been such a determination and the board had voted to reopen the issue, El Dorado County Ordinance Code governs the next step.

According to code, only a supervisor who had originally voted with the majority in favor of the 30-day review could move to “reconsider” the initiative. Chair Norma Santiago had been the lone “no” vote on the 29th and therefore could not make the motion to “reconsider.” Technicalities presented in the law indicated that such action could take place in a regularly scheduled meeting, but Knapp said the law was unclear as to whether or not the board could, in fact, deal with the matter in a special meeting. And given state election deadlines, that would have had to be done by Aug. 8.

During a morning break, initiative supporters lobbied Santiago and Supervisor Ron Mikulaco to call for a review of the issue before adjourning the meeting at the end of the day.

Ultimately, the meeting ended without any supervisor recommending another look at trying to push for inclusion of the initiative on the November ballot.

The Mountain Democrat asked Santiago for comment on the process. She responded by e-mail Wednesday through her assistant Judi McCallum. Summarizing conversations with her boss, she noted that Santiago could have brought the matter “up for discussion of a reconsideration, but not the reconsideration itself.” Approval of the discussion would have been required first, “and there was apparently no appetite for discussion and no obvious appetite for reconsideration,” McCallum said, explaining Santiago’s decision not to revisit the issue.

“… after the process was reviewed by her and after Ed Knapp’s clarifications, she (Santiago) asked the board if there is any more discussion, and they were silent.”
County staff will conduct the 30-day review of the potential economic impact should the initiative be approved by voters in June 2016.

Chris Daley

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