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November 10, 2006 [ More archived home pages here ]

My Recent Local Community Meeting Experience


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Today's song is (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, released in 1965.

Last night Sherry and I attended a community meeting to participate in the exchange of information about a development project not very far from our home. Some of our neighborhood friends were there and many others from the area that we do not know.

The meeting was not required by law, but instead voluntarily hosted by the city of San Marcos, California. The objectives of the meeting were to present some findings about the impact on the project in a variety of categories. This was the second meeting on this topic. I did not attend the first one.

One of the problems with any public meeting where a presentation is made, occurs when one side (usually the public) does not have the information presented available to them in advance. This is a serious disadvantage that the project developer knows in advance what is to be shown, the city staff knows what is to be shown, but the public isn't provided with that same information until the actual time of the meeting.

That practice prevents an effective strategy from being developed ahead of time so that better questions or comments can be made. One side understands the entire picture of the project, the public on the other hand, has the information presented to them one slide at a time and doesn't have the ability to see the entire picture unless they have a photographic memory as each slide is shown. This is not right and is unfair.

I complained loudly with emotion about the unfairness of the presentation process. We, the public, deserve to have the information ahead of time, just like the project developer and staff has it. Any practice on the part of our government to prevent advance information dissemination is unfair. When we don't get access to it at the same time as other parties to the project do, it is a great disadvantage to us.

I was also insulted that the category relating to population and density impacts was regulated down near the end of the presentation. Even the biological impacts category rated higher than people do in that presentation. That category of concerning the impact on people should have been listed first! That's the primary reason we from the neighborhood attended this meeting.

In the consideration of most of the categories presented, almost every text slide stated "no or less than significant impacts" would be the result of this project. That entire perspective seemed to be dismissive of what we the public complained about all along on this project. We think this project as proposed, is a major negative impact on our lives and neighborhoods.

Keep in mind that this new developer proposal, radically departs from the original project concept at the time our neighborhood was built, the concept home owners understood and accepted at the time they purchased homes.

There are two main arguments against the project developer's ideas. One is that the roads planned increase the traffic in our area to unacceptable levels. The favored new planned road path is too close to existing homes is related to that premise. A second problem is that blasting and rock crushing will take place for at least six to nine months on site. We already can hear Camp Pendleton explode large weapons from 20 miles away. How will explosions from 1,500 feet away or less be felt and heard? We don't want to find out.

Two reporters from two different newspapers took notes on the proceedings. They mentioned some of the comments made by the various sides, including mine.

At the end of the meeting, not all categories were presented. Part of the reason is that the wrong priority order of the categories was presented as I already mentioned. Another reason is that within the categories that were presented, arguments resulted from the conclusions that impacts were not significant when indeed they are.

Much of the time was wasted because we, the public, did not have the same information in advance. We therefore had to spend time asking questions and then refuting the answers given. Had we the same information ahead of time, like last week for instance, we could have approached the topics better organized.

It bothers me, and I think all of the public, that we were deliberately kept from seeing the same information in advance. That kind of omission will cause a lot of angst every time from an active community group. It's unfair and it adds to the protest emotion concerning this project.

The PowerPoint slide show presented should have been posted on the city's web site for this project last week, so it could be examined by those of us involved prior to last night's meeting.

If the city staff on such projects wants to appear to be neutral, then they need to provide advance information so that all sides have the same information to work from at the meetings.

Don


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