Sixteen thousand signatures is a good beginning

The obstruction of an initiative to stop residential growth in unincorporated Stanislaus County appears to mean that the power of developers and rural landowners trumps the legitimate initiative process. Letters from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce (the developers) and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (landowners), which represent a small fraction of the number of the 16,000 people who signed petitions to support the initiative, were enough to send the county Board of Supervisors down devious legalistic paths to frustrate the public voice.

The board does not seem to want to hear from the public on this issue, possibly because too much money is at stake, some of which will somehow find its way into the pockets of the supervisors, their families, business associates and political contributors.

Denying the initiative a place on the ballot also relieves the supervisors of the political burden of having to speak out against it and it relieves the special interests of the financial burden of having to mount a campaign against it, which might risk the possibility of actual dialogue on this issue that has not been totally controlled by special interests.

California progressives, it should be noted, invented the recall process and employed the initiative and referendum as grassroots tools to remove their government from total domination by Southern Pacific Railroad. No single interest since the railroad has dominated the state's government as development dominates it from city councils to Congress today.

If the board does not take the opportunity next week to vote to allow the initiative on the November ballot in Stanislaus County, the group behind the initiative -- after filing a lawsuit on the matter -- might consider turning its political energies to defeating the county's growth-inducing measure to increase sales taxes to create a local matching fund for more transportation projects. This might indicate to the board, CalTrans, and the Federal Highway Administration that public in this part of the world have had it with bought-and-sold officeholders and regulatory agencies constantly selling out the Public Trust and the environment to a miniscule number of special interests -- from the Pomboza of representatives RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, through career hacks in the state Legislature like Kathleen Galgiani, to the apparently clueless state Sen. Jeff Denham, to his plutocrat challenger, Wiley Nickel, to the wretchedly corrupt and hypocritical supervisors in the north San Joaquin Valley and local, state and federal resource agencies who behave like pawns.

When cities explode over prime farmland, destroying the open space that absorbs groundwater and contributes to better air quality for all, creating a politically mindless "community" of commuters, ruining the economic possibility of the county to evolve into anything but a bedroom community, and rewarding the few at the expense of the constantly increasing many under the false rhetoric of "planning," the public needs to take what political action it can to defend their environment, what is left of its communities and quality of life, against the deals its elected officials make and call policy.

The hard, simple task for the people is to figure out how to make the officials they elect accountable to them, not to special interests whose sole concern is making profits.

Sixteen thousand signatures is a good beginning.

Bill Hatch

Modesto Bee
Growth limits to miss fall ballot...Tim Moran
The initiative to stop residential growth in unincorporated areas of Stanislaus County won't make the November ballot...more than 16,000 signatures supporting the initiative on June 26...petition certified by County Clerk Lee Lundrigan on Tuesday night...Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ordered a report on the ramifications of the proposed ordinance. That will delay the matter beyond the Aug. 11 deadline to put the initiative on the November ballot. "The proponents turned this in a month too late," Krausnick said...he expected board to get the report on Aug. 15. Jackman said the report
is unnecessary...may be a tactic by the board to frustrate initiative proponents. The Board of Supervisors could have started the report when the initiative petitions started to circulate months ago. "We got it to the Board of Supervisors with plenty of time to look at this." The Board of Supervisors received letters from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau urging them to study the effects of the initiative. The letters, dated Monday, suggested several topics the report should cover, including whether the initiative would lead to more loss of prime farmland through annexation by cities for growth.

From: Denny Jackman
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2006 11:35 AM
Subject: BOS action on the Stamp Out Sprawl (SOS) Initiative

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) of Stanislaus County on Tuesday 7/25 at 9am will have a second meeting opportunity to place the SOS Initiative on the November 2006 ballot. They again have three choices. 1. Enact it into law. 2. Place it on the ballot. 3. Request a study, which may delay the vote until the next general election, June 2008. Per the election code, the BOS and/or the Chief Executive Officer of the County, could have requested this study since May 6, 2006 when the petition drive began. The study may be done at any time and does not require the BOS to not take actions 1 or 2 above. The outcome of the study cannot block the placement of the citizens' initiative on the ballot in June 2008. Thus, the BOS is solely responsible to give the voters the right to vote up
or down on the SOS Initiative in November. Because of the way the initiative was written, the impacts of it are in effect now. The only way to stop the restrictions now is by a no vote of the public at a general countywide election. Thus, any delay of the vote assures that the SOS Initiative is in force until the public votes.

Given the above, it is unclear that the BOS has any legitimate reason to deny a public vote this November.

The Modesto Bee has planned an editorial on this subject for Sunday.

Please join the Stamp Out Sprawl Executive Committee on Tuesday at 9am, 1010 10th St.,

Basement Chambers, and demonstrate your support for doing the right thing.

Thank you.
SOS Executive Committee

Denny Jackman, Committee Media Consultant

Walton E. Bean, California: An Interpretive History, p. 319.