Monday, February 15, 2016

Another Initiative

The television is flooded with advertisements supporting “Measure A” in Carlsbad, coming up in a February 23rd special election in that San Diego suburb. Since I don’t live in Carlsbad I haven’t been paying much attention, but my initial reaction was to oppose the idea simply because somebody, known only in the ads as “Citizens for Agua Hedionda,” is spending so much money to support it. “Follow the money” and all that.

Turns out it is a plan to construct a huge mega-mall on the south shore of Agua Hedionda lagoon. It was approved by the City Council before being blocked by a citizen’s initiative. The City Council is still lobbying furiously in favor of the mega-mall, which makes me think they are still trying to earn their bribes campaign contributions.

One of the ads includes the City Fire Department, complete with firefighters in uniform and a fire engine in the background, supporting the measure because it will reduce traffic and reduce wait times for the arrival of fire fighters when you call for them, in that it “requires the developer to provide $10 million for infrastructure.”

Anyone who believes that a $500 million mega-mall is going to reduce traffic probably also believes that $10 million is a lot of money when it comes to building roads. That amount will build an entrance to the mega-mall, but that’s about all it will do. It certainly isn’t going to add a lane for the entire length of Pacific Coast Highway, and if you think $10 million in road construction is going to make the Fire Department get to your house faster, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

On closer review, the city’s brochure doesn’t mention the fire department at all; it only talks about red light wait times for regular drivers. Maybe that’s what the firefighters are actually talking about with their “wait times,” in which case what does the fire department have to do with anything and why are they making the ad?

Another ad has a weathered looking lady standing before a field of wild flowers that stretches to the horizon. She tells us breathlessly that “Measure A will protect 176 acres of open space,” and waxes poetic about the wonderfulness of the coastal wildlife.

She wants you to think that field behind her is what she’s talking about, but an acre isn’t anywhere near that big. A football field is three acres. Besides, if the measure fails and the mall isn’t built the existing open space of 225 acres will remain 225 acres of open space. So the measure doesn’t “protect 176 acres of open space” so much as it destroys 49 acres of open space.

But that’s how the “initiative process” works in California. The side with the money says nothing about building a mega-mall, telling the public we are building roads, reducing traffic and preserving 176 acres of open space. The side that has no money is unable to get the message out that the plan is about a mega-mall, increased traffic and destroying 49 acres of existing open space. And, of course, the money usually wins.

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