By Jason Rodriguez (Co-Owner Food Liaison)
On this November’s ballot, there’s an initiative that’s a Trojan Horse for Carpinteria voters. The initiative is being presented as one thing, “Save Downtown Open Space,” but in fact, it’s another thing altogether. It would forever alter how the city oversees and analyzes projects downtown or anywhere else in Carpinteria. The initiative is step one, and if passed, would trigger more future initiatives every time a parking decision must be made on recreation-zoned properties within city limits.
What could go wrong? The city could get mired in disputes about who has the authority to approve what type of projects and where. Proponents of the initiative aim to subtract one property from city oversight, but that is not the whole story. How they intend to accomplish this subtraction adds an ugly can of worms.
As written, this initiative changes the zoning on recreational properties throughout Carpinteria to convert parking changes voter decisions. For example, if there’s a proposal to upgrade or install parking lots to access the bluffs, skatepark or the proposed bike path down to Rincon Point, the city could lose the power of oversight. Instead, taxpayers would be compelled to pay for costly elections to make future decisions. Decision-by-voter-initiative would be a tangled mess and a horribly inefficient way to plan and operate a city.
We think it is imperative that voters not be convinced to vote for this initiative to accomplish the narrow goal of preventing a new hotel from being built on Linden Avenue. Already, there is a public oversight process for this development proposal, and elected City Council members should decide the project’s fate. It would be a tremendous error to remove the City Council and city planners from the planning process, particularly when it comes to recreational properties and issues of parking. If we make parking a voter decision, who would an applicant petition for permits? In the future, if more parking is needed at Monte Vista Park, should the applicant be stuck campaigning for a voter initiative to get it done?
Voters elect City Council representatives; voters don’t review complicated planning documents and decide whether proposals honor the city’s General Plan and its stated objective to “preserve the general character of our small beach town.” As a comprehensive planning document, the General Plan guides consistent policy. Planning by voter initiative will create a whack-a-mole process resulting in patchwork decisions based on who shows up to vote in which election.
People’s initiatives are an important part of citizen oversight in the State of California. However, each voter must comb through the fine print so citizens do not get misled into approving decisions that come back to haunt them. In this case, the initiative undermines and disrupts the public process and our representative government.
Let’s make sure this Trojan Horse is fully inspected before we accept it as the new law of the land in Carpinteria. Vote No this November on the initiative, which might be better titled the “Unintended Consequences Initiative.”
Jason Rodriguez- Principal Officer
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