Ballot-box planning

There is probably no better example of the flawed thinking that has driven the “land planning by ballot box” crowd than the vituperative back-and-forth now playing out over the controversially named “Open Space” initiative in Escondido.
This ballot measure is being floated by the would-be developer of the former Escondido Country Club site stuck in a quagmire of lawsuits and conflicting stories of outrage and deceit. Emotion has displaced logic and invective takes the place of reasoned debate. Lies and half truths enough to sink a battleship litter the conversation, and the voters of Escondido are being asked to navigate the shoals.

Of course, in this particular case, the stage was set for this by the city council’s caving in to an organized group of homeowners whose interests do not extend past the confines of their enclave.

I have been monitoring social media discussions on the proposed Specific Plan, and am astounded at the blatant disregard for factual representation of it. The most vehement opponents trot out red herrings at an alarming rate, either through ignorance or in an attempt to obfuscate and thus confuse those less fully engaged.

The developer is not blameless in all of this. Stuck in the Rough, the developer, has helped to create the emotional climate that now pervades the issue through a pattern of ill-advised counter measures in the wake of neighborhood opposition. And supporters of the proposed development have sometimes been a bit fast and loose with the facts.
That said, they have put on paper the plans and methodology for the project and they are technically sound. That the project could be better is the sad result of the city council’s decisions that essentially took the drafting of the plans away from themselves and their planning professionals.

While this measure is not being driven by the requirements of Escondido’s infamous Proposition S, the philosophy behind the move is essentially the same: people who are not familiar with the intricacies of government and land planning will be asked to decide what is best for the community rather than trusting the judgment of those they elected and the professional staff they employ.

The underlying premise is that the people we elect cannot be trusted to make the right decisions on our behalf, so therefore we need to do it. Huh?

If the electorate is too ignorant or disengaged in the process to elect the right people to represent their wishes, how can they be expected to make the right ones on such complex issues as land use?

The great fear on the part of homeowners in the Country Club area is that voters will not be sympathetic to their plight or not be interested enough in the whole thing, succumbing to the campaign efforts of the developer.

This issue should never have been put in the hands of voters, regardless of the outcome. That’s called kicking the can down the road. A process bringing all the stakeholders to the table to do what is best for all parties? That’s called leadership.

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