Tonight, Thursday 4/10/14 @ 6:30 Supervisor Marion Ashley's We'll Find A Way Gateway Committee will begin their process to either mitigate, and approve, the 2.5 million square foot warehouse off Cherry Valley Blvd that will risk our health and safety and change the quality of life in the pass forever or, recommend the next best alternative use for the developer.
There are a number of reasons I believe this committee is irrelevant but after speaking to one of the members of the committee, he has convinced me that there is a way the committee could really do some good and be relevant. I feel it is highly unlikely the necessary turn of events will take place and I’m not holding my breath or my tongue.
Let me start by laying out my argument why I believe the committee is irrelevant and then I will make my recommendations to mitigate the committee's irrelevance.
Here's why I believe the committee is irrelevant:
- It was established as Marion Ashley's response to the ground swell of our grass roots effort to stop the project before the bureaucratic process to rubber stamp a project from a long time campaign contributor to a number of the County Supervisors up for re-election
- The purpose of the committee is to provide cover for elected officials and to run out the clock on the election. It is working as Ashley hoped it would, just look at how the Calimesa City Council used the committee to delay taking a stand against something their citizens are clearly against.
- The timeline estimated by Marion Ashley is for the committee to finish their work sometime in 2015. This not only allows our elected officials and candidates to avoid taking a position to long after they can be held accountable by the voters; it will also dampen the enthusiasm and passion of many of those in opposition.
- The committee’s task is to recommend approving the project or recommend an alternative use for the developer. It isn’t clear if the committee can recommend the land zoning follow the general plan and force the developer to build residential or sell. And regardless of what the decision of the committee is, no one is bound to follow their recommendation or has even indicated they would.
- The selection of the committee members, in my opinion, seemed to be political in nature. Ashley selected several of the most outspoken opponents and the leaders of the two primary groups leading the opposition, Solera’s No Way Gateway Committee and CVAN (Cherry Valley Acres and Neighbors). Effectively silencing them, at least temporarily. He also selected three council members from Beaumont and Calimesa up for re-election in November. A number of members are clearly FOM, Friends of Marion. These FOMs have represented Ashley’s fifth district (our district) in previous land zoning matters; or have directly received campaign contributions or have family members who have; or represent groups who regularly receive donations from Ashley’s Campaign Finance committee.
Here’s what I believe has to happen to mitigate the committee’s irrelevance:
- There must be complete transparency from the beginning. Every relationship between Ashley and the individual members must be made public by the committee members. I don’t believe the relationships automatically disqualify someone for membership but failure to disclose a possibly perceived conflict of interest should.
- The committee must take control of the proceedings. They must set the agenda and the timeline.
- The timeline must be completed before voters are asked to judge Mr. Ashley, or any of the other elected officials or candidates, on their position on the project. The political cover they are using needs to be removed in time for voters to demand they take a position, this means before the June primary. If it requires weekly meetings to accomplish their work by June, they need to make it so. It was Shopoff who picked the timeline when he submitted the project and the Supervisors who allowed the project to remain on the fast-track. This removed the project from consideration and approval by the people’s Planning Commission and led to the establishment of the ad-hoc committee to do the work of the planning commission.
- It must be made clear by the committee’s co-chairs that the committee will have as one of their options, recommending against the project without being required to make any other recommendations to the developer. This wouldn’t prevent them from making a recommendation but it would insure each member would have the option to vote to recommend against the spot zoning and for the General Plan to be followed.
If Mr. Ashley is true to his word that he wants this to be a case study for future projects, he needs to take the high road. He needs to remove the political implications of the process and insure credibility and relevance. This may be hard for a politician whose first move facing growing opposition was an additional layer of bureaucracy.
I will be there tonight so you don’t have to. I will be streaming the event live. If you can’t catch it live, don’t worry, it will be posted on YouTube for you to watch at your leisure.
Here's the link to the event:
Please understand the actual link to the live stream may change when I actually go live. I will make sure the valid live link will be posted on the Patch as close to the beginning of the meeting as possible. I believe if you receive and accept an actual invite the link above will work for you. If you email me a request for the invite I will send it to you. Once you are an invited guest you will be able to invite others. See you tonight.