Endless, nameless

Last Monday, September 10th, the Planning Board was to discuss the issue of a public forum to discuss measure A. That meeting was cancelled before it could begin because of scheduling conflicts of some of the members of the ad-hoc committee. As a part of the cancellation announcement, staff proposed a special meeting be held before the regular Oct. 8 meeting of the Board.Word has it that there will be no special meeting and that the meeting date is continuing to slip. Oct. 8 is the date tentatively mentioned for this discussion, and honestly it needs to happen then.

This is a process that began March 26th with an innocuous task, have a proposal for a meeting be put together by a subcommittee of the Planning Board and city staff. This recommendation had politics written all over it. Staff, not wanting to look like they were getting involved in the issue of measure A, punted their support duties to the planning board.

The staff recommendation was for a non-quorum of three planning board members to propose a meeting format that would return to the planning board for discussion and approval. When the board president asked for volunteers, only three raised their hands. They were appointed. Somehow, this became a big conspiracy, you know the rest of the story:

{Brief story overview: Councilmember Doug de Haan calls the decision for review at the same time that 7 Alamedans, led by Barbara Kerr and Pat Bail, file an appeal of the decision to discuss the issue. During this appeal 6 of the 7 appellants stand before council to say that a Planning Board discussion on Measure A should not happen, the 7th person has signed her name to a letter saying that it shouldn’t happen. This is the set up for hilariously indignant letters-to-the-editor that appear months later. These letters, by the same appellants, accuse people who have state that the appellants “did not want a public forum on measure A” of “bald faced lies.” Priceless.

But back to the overview: the council attempts a “wisdom of Solomon” by splitting the committee in half. The need for two meetings that go nowhere appear to surprise the staff involved in creating them and two and a half months pass to get to a “no decision.” That was July.}

Which brings us to early October, another two and a half months have passed and nothing has happened. Well not nothing.

SunCal has to have a plan for the base completed by May 2008, which means meetings and drafts, etc. Amazingly, the dragging of feet and the inability to move a simple meeting forward, hasn’t caused all other related issues to stop. With an aggressive timeline for design of Alameda Point, which is mandated by the Council, plans will need to be in place in early 2008. All which says that important community discussions about Measure A need to happen long before that.

Having watched this debacle from the beginning, I can only imagine that staff will want another 3 months or so to plan a forum. The planning board ought not give it to them. For an effective, meaningful forum to happen, it needs to take place by early November. At this point, staff, who have enabled this processes dysfunctionality, will have to prioritize this forum in their work plans, an unnecessary rush, had they simply proposed a meeting to the planning board last March.

From the outset, people have pointed out that the goal of the appellants would be to drag this process out so long as to make it fade away to nothing. And why not? It’s worked in the past.

The current council has been clear in their support of the forum, at some minor political risk (I think it’s smaller than imagined by many). If this forum happens next year, all of that will be for not and a great opportunity will have been lost.

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