Tuesday, May 7, 2013

#127 / What I Won't Do

I have to say that I like this cartoon. It captures exactly the way that I, personally, tend to make decisions - and the way I think decisions should actually be made. 

Sometimes, the most important step in deciding what to do is the step of deciding what you "won't do." I recommend that approach. People should explore their "won't do it" parameters before deciding what they "will do." My partiality for the "won't do it" method of making decisions goes back to my draft resistance days, in the late 1960's. I decided that killing people was something that I just "wouldn't do." That certainly helped narrow down the range of choices facing me, vis a vis the draft. 

Deciding what you "won't do," before deciding what you are actually going to do, is also a good way to make public policy choices. For instance, the voters of Santa Cruz County decided, when they passed Measure J in 1978, that one thing they "wouldn't do" was to allow the conversion of commercially productive farmland to some other use. That "won't do it" decision has definitely shaped the kind of place in which we live - and I think in a good way. We have greenbelts and a strong agricultural industry because we made public policy decisions about what we "wouldn't do" at the outset.

This evening, Tuesday May 7, 2013, the Santa Cruz City Council and the Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors are meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the Santa Cruz City Hall. They will be holding a kind of study session on a proposed desalination project in my home town. The "won't do it" approach should be considered as a possible way to structure the decision making process, at least in my opinion.

Ultimately, the voters of the City of Santa Cruz are going to decide whether or not to begin "manufacturing water" to deal with the long term water supply problems confronting Santa Cruz County. I think that's a fair description of the desalination option. An environmental impact review process, which will inform the decision, is just about to begin. Hopefully, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will fully explore genuine "alternatives" to the proposed desalination project. That's what the law requires, anyway: the consideration of genuine alternatives to the proposed project, not just alternative ways of carrying out the proposed project.

When I think about whether or not I am going to vote for desalination, it is going to be important to me whether or not there has been a full exploration of possible alternatives. I will be looking for evidence that our community has been given an opportunity  fully to consider alternative ways to deal with our water supply problems, and have not just looked into alternative ways to build a desalination plant. 

So far, the Santa Cruz City Council, reflecting the bias of its Water Director, has not really been willing to consider the alternatives. They think they "know" that desal is the only way to go. This is fairly understandable, since the City's Water Director plays a leadership role in a statewide, industry-funded group called CalDesal that describes its purpose this way:

CalDesal is the only advocacy group in California solely dedicated to advancing the use of desalination. Other organizations choose not to engage, or address desalination as part of broader policy platforms. CalDesal’s narrow focus allows for the most targeted, credible and persistent support for this important technology.

In order to make sure that genuine alternatives are in fact given full review, we should begin with a "won't do it" approach to our decision making process. Let's just suppose (and this would be a hypothetical or "heuristic" supposition at this point) that we make a community decision that we simply won't deal with our water supply problems by "manufacturing water." If we were to make that hypothetical, "I won't manufacture water" decision, as our starting point for the analysis of alternatives, then all that would be left would be a range of genuine alternatives to desalination. The community could focus on whether those genuine alternatives would be acceptable, and could fully evaluate their cost and environmental impact.

The "we won't do desal" proposition, of course (again, as a hypothesis) would really be just another way of saying that we might decide, as a community, to live within the limits of the natural world. 

Anyone who regularly reads this Two Worlds blog will immediately know that I think that living within the limits of our natural environment is definitely a "hypothesis" we should explore - at the very least. I am close to thinking it is one of the Commandments!

So, if the City and the Water District don't take the "I don't do desal" approach, at least as a hypothetical way fully to understand our genuine alternatives, and if they just study alternative ways of doing desal, then I, for one, am not going to be persuaded that we should make a commitment to desalination. 

Image Credit: 

1 comment:

  1. On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM, Bren Lehr wrote:

    Mr. Gratz,

    Tomorrow night’s meeting is not considered a forum for receiving public comment and weighing in on the specific concerns and/or asking questions related to the project itself. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has very formal guidelines as to what is part of the formal comments submitted during the public comment period. Since the EIR is not yet released, any comments provided on Tuesday will not be part of the administrative record of public comments that would warrant a response to comments from our EIR author.

    Questions such as “why not more conservation” or “why did we look at reverse osmosis and not another desalination process” are types of questions that the public should hold and submit during the public comment period when the EIR is released. The purpose of tomorrow’s meeting and the reason the Mayor must keep focus on the subject matter is for the public to understand better the process by which the draft environmental impact report (dEIR) will be released and how the public can provide input on it. The important reason that people not use tomorrow’s meeting as their opportunity to present concerns or questions about the desalination project is that any such testimony made at this meeting will not be entered into the record, meaning that unless it is then repeated formally for the record after the release of the dEIR, it will not be responded to. Consequently, comments or concerns received about the project prior to the release of the dEIR are considered premature because at this time no one knows what will be covered in the dEIR and what analysis is included.

    The Mayor will remind those who wish to speak on the item to focus on what is presented such as inquiring more about the public process and how to effectively comment on the draft report. It is the duty of the Mayor to assure the rules regarding decorum at council meetings (including the one that states, “Every member of the public and every Councilmember desiring to speak shall address the presiding officer, and upon recognition by the presiding officer, shall confine comments to the question under debate, avoiding all indecorous language and references to personalities and abiding by the following rules of civil debate.”

    (1) We may disagree, but we will be respectful of one another; and

    (2) All comments will be directed to the issue at hand; and

    (3) Personal attacks should be avoided

    Thank you!

    From: paul gratz [mailto:pauljg45@pacbell.net]
    Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:23 PM
    To: Bren Lehr
    Cc: Heidi Luckenbach; Bill Kocher; Taj Dufour; Melanie Schumacher (MelanieS@soquelcreekwater.org); Michael E
    Subject: RE: Access to projector: May 7 special study session

    Ms. Lehr,

    Please clarify for me the policy of the City with regard to its definition of "what must be relevant" public comment (written and oral) in connection with the May 7, 2013 desal EIR study session. Furthermore, how do you intend to monitor or limit the content of written and oral communications provided in advance and during the session for entry into the public record?

    Thank you,
    Paul Gratz


Thanks for your comment!