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By Tim Hunt

Public votes are pleasing politics but poor policy

Uploaded: May 28, 2015

Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne seemed to make the large crowd happy last week when he suggested an advisory vote on whether to proceed with plans for East Pleasanton.
The council and members of a large crowd debated what to do for well over two hours at the meeting last week before Thorne broke the impasse with the proposal to hold a public advisory vote. After a majority of the council agreed, he also stated his belief that whenever a final plan is acted upon by the City Council, it should go to the public for a vote.
The ballot measures may be pleasing politically, but they are poor public policy.
We elect representatives to make decisions in our country and should expect them to do so. The advisory vote is particularly problematic because it will be a measure of the public's opinion, but will not be binding. If the vote is to stop the planning process, will it take another vote before it can be resumed?
There also are issues with the vote to approve whatever decision a City Council eventually makes. Putting it on the ballot amounts to the council members copping out on their responsibility.
There already is a process by which council decisions can be challenged by a referendum if opponents can gather enough signatures. It has been used on occasion over the years. Most notably, the City Council that approved Hacienda Business Park and other major business developments never put them on the ballot. A general plan amendment eventually was subject to a vote after a referendum and was upheld easily.
By contrast, the eastside plans are quite modest. Less in developable acreage than Hacienda Business Park.
Certainly in this discussion, there are valid reasons to consider the long term implications of development in that area. Enough development will be required to pay for infrastructure, most specifically the long needed connection of El Charro Road from Interstate 580 to Stanley Boulevard. That connection is needed to alleviate the daily afternoon congestion on Valley Avenue. The city has been working on plans for the area for the past few years.
There are also concerns about long-term water supplies, although the valley's wholesale agency, Zone 7, has consistently said it has enough water supply lined up to support the growth plans for the three valley cities it serves. State law requires any significant new development to have a water agency submit verification it can serve the new area.
Zone 7actually is in better shape this year because it has been able to access water is has banked in Kern County groundwater supplies. The water is traded with the Kern groundwater pumped and sent south and Zone 7 receives water through the Delta and the South Bay Aqueduct.