John being our very own Captain Ahab, and Downtown Specific Plan style development apparently his Moby Dick. This has become a kind of all-consuming obsession for him, and he just can't quite get himself past that whale. And no matter where the City Council may go in its deliberations, as long as John Buchanan is a part of it things will always come back to just that one thing. Which is what is happening now.
A lot of those commenting on this blog yesterday wondered what it would take to stop the issuing of any of John's Bonds. Bonds that could put this town at risk of a fiscal meltdown as we would certainly struggle to deal with so large a debt load. After all, we've struggled with the bond debt load we have now. Which is why the City Council recently voted to raise our water rates.
There was some discussion about recalling any Councilmember who would vote for floating any new bonds. And then there were also those who wanted to put a measure on the ballot that would make any proposed new bonds subject to voter approval. Something that would be a pretty hard sell in so bad an economy.
Which is where I stand right now. And just so you know, I did what I usually do when I need some good information, and called knowledgeable friends who told me just what it would take to get such a measure on the ballot. One that would give voters the right to refuse any bonds John and his allies on the City Council might hope to float.
And it turns out that doing such a thing really wouldn't be all that difficult. The formula for getting something like that on a General Election ballot is the signatures of 10% of the registered voters in Sierra Madre. For a Special Election it would take 15% of the voters. And if you figure Sierra Madre has around 7,000 registered voters, to qualify for a General Election slot all you would need to get is 700 signatures. Or, if need be, 1,050 for a Special Election vote on this matter.
Which, as many of us know, we could do in our sleep. This would hardly be a hopeless case, and should bonds come up for discussion by the City Council quick action could be taken that would put a halt to the creation of massive levels of new debt.
Today's Possible Vote In Sacramento On Redevelopment Agencies
There are apparently two ways of killing off Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs). The kind preferred by Jerry Brown would take a 2/3s vote in both the Assembly and the Senate. The benefit of doing it his way would be that all current CRA moneys could be reclaimed by Sacramento now, which would contribute considerably to balancing this year's State budget.
The other way would be by a simple majority of the vote in both legislative Houses. This would still mean the demise of CRAs, but would not officially happen until January 1, 2012. And while it would mean that the money each local CRA has control of now would stay in their hands for another 9 months, those redevelopment agencies would be dead and gone by year's end. Which, while not perfect, isn't a bad ending, either.
That vote could very well happen today. This from a post on the California Eminent Domain Report, dated March 23:
... rumors are now afoot that Floor sessions for both the Senate and Assembly are possible tomorrow. There may be an effort by the leadership to have one or both houses vote on a measure providing for the total elimination of redevelopment agencies by majority vote. Stay tuned ...
Passage of CRA ending legislation by simple majority vote is considered to be pretty much a slam dunk in Sacramento. Like I said, it isn't the perfect solution, but I'll take it.
The Green Advisory Committee Meets Tonight
Listed among the "goals and objectives" of the Green Advisory Committee, and up for discussion this evening, is the following mission statement:
The Committee will discuss and make recommendations for the Energy component of the draft "accords style" model of overall goals and objectives and enhance sustainability and green programs and practices in the City.
Which sounds authoritative, but could be lacking for true clarity. Because apparently the Committee is not completely certain what "sustainability" actually means. Something that they plan on grappling with later on in the meeting. This from Item no. 5:
The Committee will also continue the discussion on the definition of "sustainability."
Which does beg the following question: how can you enhance something when you are not completely certain that you fully understand the meaning of the thing to be enhanced?
On Wikipedia the problem of clearly defining sustainability is discussed at length. Here are two passages that highlight the problems inherent in basing your search for clarity and purpose on an incompletely defined concept.
A universally accepted definition of sustainability is elusive because it is expected to achieve many things. On the one hand it needs to be factual and scientific, a clear statement of a specific "destination." The simple definition "sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems," though vague, coveys the idea of sustainability having quantifiable limits. But sustainability is also a call to action, a task in progress or "journey" and therefore a political process, so some definitions set out common goals and values. The earth Charter speaks of a "sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace."
To add complication the word "sustainability" is applied not only to human sustainability on Earth, but to many situations and contexts over many scales of space and time, from small local ones to the global balance of production and consumption. It can also refer to a future intention: "sustainable agriculture" is not necessarily a current situation but a goal for the future, a prediction. For all these reasons sustainability is perceived, at one extreme, as nothing more than a feel-good buzzword with little meaning or substance but, at the other, as an important but unfocused concept like "liberty" or "justice." It has also been described as a "dialogue of values that defies consensual definition."
So we're wishing the Green Advisory Committee all the luck in the world with that one. This is a mighty task they have taken on. And should they come up with a working definition of what "sustainability" actually might be, they need to make certain everyone is let in on their findings.
Because they will have done something that nobody has accomplished before. Which will make it big news in the world indeed.