BOS = Board of Supervisors meeting of course. Tonight is the night when the BOS is going to revisit their draft of the Guiding Principles.
Here is what I might say tonight at the Board of Supervisors General Plan Update meeting covering the Guiding Principles. Are you going to join the fun? Are you planning to speak? Good luck if you do and I hope to see you there.
My interest in the General Plan Update is in the name – Plan. I believe with a modicum of planning we could solve a host of seemingly unrelated problems and make life in the North Coast easier, more fulfilling and yes sustainable – environmentally and economically. If we focused on the PLAN aspect of the General Plan, we could work toward more livable spaces, less reliance on automobiles, choice in new housing, maximizing our county’s resource potential, protecting and preserving our ecosystem values, and even maintaining and creating jobs.
I believe with a little planning we could have our cake and eat it to. But this is not the path this Board has chosen to take by deconstructing the previously written principles. Of course we know why, elections have consequences and as Louis DeMartin said as the first speaker during the June 3rd Board of Supervisors meeting “The other four of you (outside of Supervisor Lovelace) …were elected to do the will of the Humboldt people who put you in there.” The question I have is, why four?
Of course Mr. DeMartin is right. He predicted the straw vote count accurately, but how did he know? I mean two of you are Democrats, and two are Decline to States. Mr. DeMartin might argue that all four of you ran to the right of your opponents on property rights issues and all won your elections, so what is the problem?
The problem is that despite Supervisor Bohn’s denial, there are hidden agendas. The first is of course hidden in plain site. This process is run by the stakeholders who are the property owners themselves and the construction and financial support industries that want to have as much elbow room as possible when it comes to governmental oversight. Specifically, many real estate agents, many developers, many mortgage brokers, many contractors, etc. have vested interests in a more lenient set of principles that focus on property rights over sustainability or livability concerns.
But there is another hidden agenda that is also in plain site whose influence is similarly not getting any coverage. In a word, weed. If one takes the time to read Lost Coast Outpost or listen to KMUD one begins to understand the importance and influence of this very profitable agricultural product. We often only think about weed in terms of crime because most of the news reports are about the enforcement aspects, but the influence from the state sanctioned growers has become so great that I believe this is how you can explain two Southern Humboldt Supervisors from different poles of the political spectrum coming together to deconstruct the previous set of principles in favor of maximizing flexibility.
Maximizing flexibility is Supervisor Bohn’s chosen phrase and is in my opinion another way to say relinquishing planning in favor of the private sector’s will to do what they see fit. The public is forced to take a back seat and trust that the private sector will assume responsibility of building appropriately given society’s greater interests, but this is of course setting us up for failure. Private concerns are rightly interested in their own bottom line.
Back to the connection with weed. The growers prefer maximum flexibility because with lax building codes and planning mandates there will also be less reason for the government to be involved in their business. And as marijuana is still illegal, at least federally, minimizing governmental attention is absolutely necessary to many grower’s business interests.
We are going to have these strange political bed-fellows until marijuana is legalized. In the mean time, I hope that as a society we try to understand the forces at work in our local politics. We need to be honest with ourselves and our constituents and always work toward a robust public debate. Unfortunately this process (and btw this meeting by my Supervisor’s own admission) is not and has not been an example of a robust public debate.