Letters to the Editor

Let voters have a say on 'initiative'

The Board of Supervisors' Web page has the current board's adopted mission, priorities and values. First on the list of values is "Trustworthiness acting with honesty, integrity, loyalty and keeping our promises."

The issue for the League of Women Voters regarding the actions of the supervisors is not whether the Salida Now plan is a good one. We have not analyzed it to determine whether the Salida plan will ensure affordable housing, environmental protection, farmland mitigation, urban design and financing. The issue now is deception, without which the people of this county would have been allowed the opportunity for due process through the initiative process.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

The League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County has an adopted policy to "support citizens' right of direct legislation through the initiative and referendum process." As an organization, we have begun to analyze the Salida Now initiative and trusted the supervisors to present this matter to voters in November, which would have allowed us time for community discussion and voter education.

The supervisors circumvented the vote of the people when three of its five members — using an obscure provision of the law — voted to adopt, without adequate public and environmental review, an initiative the public believed would appear on the November ballot.

The league, a guardian of our democracy and watchdog of its elected officials, is in shock and dismay over the audacity of this move. Little more than 29,000 voters signed a petition that would have allowed the voters to decide in November whether the development in the Salida area is in the county's best interest. These signatures were not an approval of the Salida initiative, but willingness to allow the voters to voice their opinion.

Comments by three supervisors showed contempt for the public. The local league recently expanded its scope from Modesto to the county because we feel that what happens in Salida does affect the West Side, and vice-versa.

In a democracy, the board should not have "complete control."

On July 11, we started getting hints from The Bee that the promise of a November vote, used to gain our signatures on the ballot initiative, might be a ruse to get the matter before the supervisors so they could vote on it themselves and circumvent the initiative process. By Aug. 2, it was clear the funding for the Salida Now initiative came almost entirely from developers.

Even if the supervisors can be believed that the impact of this massive new development plan will be evaluated, the process they propose is a pale shadow of what state laws intend.

Perhaps the supervisors have forgotten that they represent all citizens of Stanislaus County, not just a select few citizens and nonresident developers.

ELLEN MEYER

president, League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County

PATTY LUNDY

local action director

Modesto

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