Sex And The County
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Politicians are a lot like sex partners. Some will do anything to please. Some are severe and demanding--dominatrix-like, even. Some are funny and warm, and some like to kiss ass. And some will jump in bed with anyone.
At its June 24 meeting, the county Board of Supervisors voted to allow a special committee representing about 25 different interest groups to make recommendations to the General Plan, the county''s 20-year blueprint for growth. So should this panel be called a "refinement group?" Or is it really an orgy?
By 2pm on Tuesday, it''s standing room only in the County Supervisors Chambers. The Board is slated to take the next step towards completing the draft document--which includes releasing the plan to the public, moving forward on the environmental review, and scheduling a new round of public hearings. They''ve said today''s the day that they will give the preliminary go-ahead, but many people here think the Board will cave under pressure from land-rich farmers, developers, business leaders, labor representatives and Realtors--and appoint a new committee to review, if not rewrite, the document.
All the usual suspects sit in the benches and line the walls--smart-suited land-use attorneys, Wrangler-clad farmers and casual chic activists.
One reporter (looking very fashionable herself in pink capris, a shrunken Army jacket and peep-toe, faux croc heels)wonders:Is it her imagination, or are some of these people becoming more attractive?. And the influx of tall, brawny types with Stetsons in tow--hello, cowboys! Maybe this meeting won''t be so bad after all.
Nearly seven hours later, she realizes that she had it wrong. The girl reporter feels hungry and in need of a cosmopolitan. It looks like she''s not the only one.
More than 50 people rise to voice their complaints about the plan: The suits, of course, as well as some farmers and ranchers (some real, some really developers in jeans and plaid shirts) tell the Supes to convene a "consensus committee" to review the document and hammer out differences.
"What does a lack of consensus equal?" consultant Bob McKenzie asks the Supes. "I think it equals disaster." She may not agree with his politics, but the reporter can''t help but admire McKenzie''s polished cowboy boots and gold pinkie ring with its big rock in the center. The man''s got style.
So does Lockwood landowner Laura Plaskett, a stunning Jennifer Connelly look-alike. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are not a special interest group," she says, speaking for the ag-land-owning interests. "We are the backbone of Monterey County."
Conservationists--hoping to see some backbone from their elected representatives--tell the Supes to procede. "Move this plan through the process," says the always fashionable Gary Patton in his always booming voice.
"We had the promise that this [plan] would move forward tonight," says Mari Kloeppel, in her red wedge platforms. "I know this Board has supported the heart and soul of this plan. So let''s move forward."
Finally the moment of truth arrives. Supervisor Dave Potter makes a motion to stay on schedule and more forward with the plan. Supervisor Edith Johnsen seconds it. (Huh? Where''d that come from?) Potter''s motion fails by a 2-3 vote. Supervisors Butch Lindley, Fernando Armenta and Lou Calcagno dissent. The first two come as no big surprise--Lindley has already said he would not support the plan as written, and a newly formed Latino coalition opposing the plan has Armenta''s ear.
Calcagno votes no, and cheers of "Yay, Lou," go up from the ag side of the isle.
Next he makes a motion of his own. It''s a three-page motion that would appoint a "refinement group" made up of diverse interests such as LandWatch, the Farm Bureau, the United Farmworkers Association and the Realtors Association.
"I''m trying to come somewhere in the middle here," he says. "The way to make it better is to start another round of comments. If it doesn''t work and it doesn''t function, the plan is moving forward."
His motion passes 3-2, with Potter and Johnsen dissenting.
"The Board really showed some gonads tonight," says one attendee after the meeting. But sometimes with politics--as with sex--certain things look better in the dark.