We received the following comment the other day about our posting on Sheldon Wolin's Democracy Inc.:
It's never been nor will it ever be a democracy.
"If voting made a difference it would be illegal." --Emma Goldman
Considering the source, we found the comment curious. The writer is listed as a supporter of the Merced County Citizen's right to vote on expansion of residential areas initiative, which, on its face and in its propaganda, appears to express the deepest faith in democracy.
The initiative was peddled in a petition drive in front of Merced County supermarkets as "The Initiative to Amend the General Plan of Merced County to Save Farmland and Open Spaces." Petition gatherers were provided a slick "summary" of the initiative that said it would save Merced County farmland and open space. In other written propaganda and public appearances, the paid and unpaid flacks for the initiative have stressed how "simple" the initiative is and how it will save farmland.
In fact, it is so "simple" that even the Merced County Counsel's office and hired economic consultants can poke convincing holes through it. As near as we can tell through the initiative's vague, inconsistent language headed straight for the courts if it passes, it may well be a plan to increase public protection for Merced County's rural landowners, those noble stewards of the land without whom we would all expire from clear air and clean and adequate groundwater and without whom the rest of us might have had some chance at creating a different economy, one that would have provided ruinous prosperity.
In fact as opposed to the mythical aura of Holy Agriculture, the supporters of this initiative are led by fat cat elitist landowners whose contempt for democracy is clearly shown by the wording of this initiative, which is either intended to hoodwink city dwellers or -- more likely given their public expression of their desire to illegally negotiate the language of it a bit after more than 7,000 citizens had signed a petition in support of it -- blind stupidity and ignorance of the democratic process of initiative, founded in California so that the people could express their will when their elected representatives had been corrupted, once upon a time by the Railroad, these days by Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. These people and their lenders own real estate. The miasma of contradictions that make up this initiative guarantees that, if passed, the County will face lawsuits it will be forced to defend at public expense until the last judge makes the last interpretation of what the hell the initiative might mean.
For example, judicial brows may wrinkle over the following:
1. Any decision by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Merced to approve the redesignation or rezoning of land from an agricultural or open space use to a residential use shall require, and be contingent upon, approval by a majority vote of the County voters at a general or special local election. In the event the Board approves the redesignation or rezoning of such land for a residential use, such approval shall not take effect unless and until that decision is approved by an affirmative majority vote of the voters of the County voting on the proposal.
2. The requirement set forth in paragraph (A) shall apply to all such decisions affecting land that is designated for agricultural or open space use on the Land Use Map of the County’s General Plan as of the effective date of this policy, even if the affected land is, after the effective date, redesignated or rezoned to a use other than an agricultural or open space use. The intent of this paragraph is to ensure that a developer does not “launder” land by obtaining County approval for a non-residential use (e.g., an industrial or commercial use), and then subsequently obtain County approval for a residential use...
5. Exemptions. The requirement for voter approval set forth in this policy shall not apply to any of the following:
a. After notice and hearing as required by state law and after compliance with CEQA, the Board of Supervisors may, without a vote of the electorate of the County, approve residential development on land designated for agricultural or open space uses if the Board finds, based on substantial evidence in the record, and HCD certifies in writing, that all of the following circumstances exist:
(i) the approval is necessary and required to meet the County's legal fair share housing requirement; and
(ii) there is no other land in the County or the cities in the County already designated for urban use that can accommodate the County's legal fair share housing requirement. The Board shall not redesignate more than ten (10) acres per year for residential use under this paragraph.
b. Additional acreage may be designated for residential use if the Board finds, and HCD certifies in writing, that the additional acreage is necessary to meet the Board's legal fair share obligation based on maximum multi-family densities. Any proposal approved under this subsection shall be required to have all housing units permanently affordable to persons or families of moderate, low and very low income. The intent of this exemption is to provide sufficient land for housing to accommodate moderate, low and very low income housing, as may be necessary over time under State law.
c. Any development project that has obtained a vested right pursuant to state law prior to the effective date of this policy.
d. Any development project consisting entirely of farm worker housing.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist or even a lawyer to ask: What does this mean? But surely, 7,000 citizens asked if they wanted to sign a petition to "save farmland" could not have been duped, could they?
At this point, we think that our friend who quotes the great anarchist, Emma Goldman, has been enlisted in a bizarre attempt to assert more private property rights under the usual cloak of the divinely sanctioned Agriculture and using democracy as the tool. However, perhaps we are just too "simple" to understand it.