Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pointing out a policy inequity in LAFCO

My comments during the public comment period at Tuesday, June 2, 2015 Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting:

"Good morning Gentlemen, 

Three years ago, I was living a peaceful suburban life in Salida, doing things like playing Bunco and quilting. This is the quilt top I was working on three years ago when my quiet life was upended by Mayor Marsh saying he wanted to annex Salida.  

Three years ago, I had no idea what kind of political machine we were up against. And that Modesto machine is still cranking against Salida. In November, the council voted to remove all of Salida from their city manager being able to approve any municipal water connections and just last week someone quoted Dave Lopez as recently saying, “Salida is doomed.”

Now you and I both know that Salida is not “doomed”. If they apply to annex us, we will vote it down. But I didn't know this three years ago when this all started. I had no idea what LAFCO was or that Salida's fate rests so heavily upon the LAFCO board's decisions. 

Over the past three years, I've tried to learn as much as possible about LAFCO. Keith Boggs wrote* a great article about LAFCO in this edition of Stanislaus Magazine, which I pick up at the blood bank while donating blood. Kudos Mr. Boggs, I recommend this to anyone who needs a good primer on LAFCO. However, there's much more to know and that includes studying how the LAFCO board votes. 

So if those of you were thinking that myself and the other Salida and Wood Colony folks who attend LAFCO meetings have nothing better to do on a Wednesday night than attend a LAFCO meeting, you'd be sadly mistaken. No offense to those of you who serve on LAFCO, but there's a whole host of things I'd rather be doing on a Wednesday night like going to happy hour with my friends or finishing this quilt top. But no, we go to study you and watch how you vote.

I've been attending LAFCO meetings now for quite some time, and have witnessed firsthand this appalling sideshow that has transpired over Mayor Beekman's vote on Amendment 22 regarding farmland mitigation. What's so appalling is how low of a mitigation amount that some cities are trying to get away with, as if our prime farmland, which to quote Supervisor DeMartini, grows over 200 different types of crops, is worth so little to mitigate. And equally appalling is the modern witch trial they are now using to punish Mayor Beekman for his vote. 

Now there's an inequity about this that I wish to bring up here. Apparently, the way the rules are written the mayors can vote to remove a mayor as their representative, but the public cannot vote to remove the public member on LAFCO. But the Board of Supervisors can. 

Now I don't know Matthew Beekman. I've never met him and I know very little about him other than he's a beekeeper and mayor of Hughson. I have met Brad Hawn, and have briefly chatted with him twice and he seems a nice enough fellow. And while I don't know nor can predict how they would vote on Salida if and when it comes before LAFCO, I can tell you this:  As a member of the public, Brad Hawn's vote did not represent me on Amendment 22. Based on the outcry in favor of Mayor Beekman, I'd say there's quite a large segment of the county that feels the same way. And depending on how the mayors' vote comes out on July 8, this may be an inequity that the public asks you to rectify. Afterall, you do represent the public.

I look forward to the day that Salida is no longer threatened by whomever is trying to exploit us next and I can go back to my formerly quiet life where my biggest worry was correctly stitching together quilting squares. Thank you."

(*CORRECTION: The author of the LAFCO article was Stanislaus LAFCO Director, Marjorie Blom)

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