Thursday, October 15, 2009
Board making costly mistakes
By Andy Caldwell
I have never seen the county in such dire financial straits as it is now, nor have I seen members of the Board of Supervisors more seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are on the verge of de facto bankruptcy.
Let me give you a couple of examples of the board spending time, energy and money on issues that are neither pressing nor compelling.
Last week, the board approved the Santa Ynez Community Plan. This plan was 10 years in the making and cost over $2 million to produce. What does it accomplish? Absolutely nothing.
The plan basically freeze-frames existing development, in spite of state mandates that require every community throughout the state to accommodate its fair share of growth.
In view of the fact that the county gets most of its discretionary revenue from property taxes, the board's action to freeze-frame development in the Valley indicates they just cut themselves off from future revenue enhancements. Why not just re-adopt the previous plan, and save $2 million?
Soon, the Board of Supervisors is going to consider the adoption of a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for dogs and cats. Unless the cities in the county specifically adopt the same policy, this policy will only apply in the unincorporated areas.
The county appointed a task force and sent nearly a dozen staff members to a series of meetings over the past year and a half to come up with this plan that will require pet owners to get permission from a vet to keep their pets intact.
People who can't afford to pay for spay/neuter services, or who can't convince a vet to let them keep their animal intact, will simply not register their animals. People who want intact animals will simply obtain them from jurisdictions that don't adopt this same rule.
Additionally, most of the problems with stray dogs and cats occur in cities, so this program will accomplish nothing. I can, thus, assure you this program will be an utter failure.
Speaking of the expense of doing nothing, supervisors caved to the California Coastal Commission. We will now sit idly by while Goleta Beach washes into the ocean.
In the old days, we would have used a low-tech, relatively cheap solution to build a seawall, or we would have dumped a gazillion tons of sand and rocks into the ocean to save the beach and a lot of very important county infrastructure, such as the main roadway into UCSB.
But, our politically correct Board of Supervisors tried to come up with a high-tech solution that would have cost some $15 million. Instead of either of these solutions, the Coastal Commission opted for what it calls managed retreat.
What does that mean? Let the beach wash away.
Judging from past experience, this will be the policy until we reach a crisis stage, and then we will spend triple or quadruple the money to do what we should have done in the first place.
So, now the county is going to spend a small fortune and waste a lot more time studying managed retreat, instead of either appealing the Coastal Commission's decision to the Legislature, or taking the Coastal Commission to court.
In addition to these improvident programs, the board is also spending a couple of million trying to prevent growth on the Gaviota Coast, and trying to guess what the state mandates are going to be with respect to anti-global warming efforts.
By the way, a study came out indicating that regulations cost the California economy some $500 billion per year. Maybe the board should study that study.
Andy Caldwell is executive director of COLAB and a 41-year resident of the Central Coast. For contact information, visit the COLAB Web site at www.colabsbc.org.
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