Monday, November 26, 2018

#330 / Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

Democratic self-government is subject to many maladies. One of them is best epitomized by a wonderful song from 1965. That year, The Lovin' Spoonful released "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?" The group is pictured above. Click that title link for the music. Click this link for the lyrics

What made me think about this song (and not for the first time, either) is a continuing failure of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to "make up its mind" when confronted by a difficult political choice. There is a pattern and practice at work here. I first became aware of this significnt problem with the decision-making process in Monterey County government when I was the Executive Director of LandWatch Monterey County. The Board continually refused to make a decision about what sort of General Plan it should adopt. Should the General Plan protect farmland, or not? Should it mandate regulations to stop building on steep slopes, or not? There were a number of such questions, with arguments on all sides. The Board preferred simply not to decide at all. It took the Board ten years, as I recall, to come to a decision, and then only by way of a settlement of a lawsuit.

The latest example of this pattern of decision avoidance is the County's failure to make decisions about the future of Short Term Vacation Rentals located in the Coastal Zone. This is a contentious political topic in Monterey County, and there are arguments on all sides. To be clear, I have been helping the Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance, as its members seek to have the County adopt a set of rules that would permit (and regulate) vacation rentals in Monterey County's unincorporated areas. In other words, I am not a neutral party. My comment here, however, is not really about "what" the Board should do; it is an observation that refusing to make a decision at all is simply bad government. 

There are lots of good reasons to allow vacation rentals, and there are lots of good reasons to provide appropriate regulations, of various kinds, to make sure that when vacation rentals are permitted they are good neighbors in the neighborhoods, and don't end up causing impacts that undermine the integrity of residential areas. In addition, it is important that any regulatory program take account of the possibility that landowners who would otherwide provide needed rental housing don't convert such rental housing to vacation rentals. Real questions are involved, but there are real answers! The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, for instance, adopted a regulatory program for vacation rentals some time ago. Click right here to see the Santa Cruz County ordinance. San Luis Obispo County did the same.

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors has been working on this issue (to be generous in saying that the Board is "working on it") since 1997! 

1997 was the year that the Board sent an ordinance regulating vacation rentals in the Coastal Zone to the California Coastal Commission. The Commission staff promptly returned it to the Board, with various suggestions for amendments. The Board did nothing, ignoring the issue. More recently (though that word "recently" is problematic), the Board has been dodging the issue. Board Members have been doing that since 2013. A report on the website of the Monterey County Resource Management Agency, posted rather recently, now says that a draft ordinance may be presented to the Board by the end of 2019!

Having been on a Board of Supervisors, I know how long it takes to develop and decide upon proposed land use legislation, It doesn't take twenty-one years. It doesn't take five years. It doesn't even take one year!

The Board of Supervisors of Monterey County is trying to avoid making a decision about a difficult and divisive issue. That is perhaps understandable, but making such decisions is actually the Board's main job. The Board's failure to act impacts hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of local residents and property owners. I think the Board should face the music.

I also know exactly what music the Board needs to be listening to. Here's some very good advice from The Lovin' Spoonful. It's a metaphorical message, but right on target. Board members ought to put this song on their playlist:

Sometimes you really dig a girl the moment you kiss her,
And then you get distracted by her older sister.
When in walks her father and takes you in line,
And says, "Better go on home, son, and make up your mind."

Image Credit:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!