Monday, July 27, 2009

Editorial: Added bureaucracy counters plan's aim

The unnamed Courier editor may be right that the county is going in the wrong direction with its plan review, but from this there's no way for the reader to evaluate that opinion, because the editor simply asserts that the direction is wrong because it would add new committees. He does not tell us what the functions of the committees would be, who would be on them, or how they would go about their business. He would have us infer that the people working this issue and recommending this change are doing it for no good reason.

Newspapers are about communication: informing the voters about what's happening, to facilitate better decisions on public policy. That's why the press is in the Constitution. But rather than tell us the what, why and how of this and showing his reasoning, the editor simply states his conclusion based on a single arbitrary factor that he doesn't like.

Perhaps the editor has a reasoning process that led to this. But his editorial reads as if he would prefer to avoid that process and whip up his readers to oppose this idea in as much ignorance as possible. This is a base and basic propaganda technique that deserves nothing but rotten tomatoes.

The alternative is that the editor is truly expressing his entire thought process on this: he sees new committees, so the proposal must be bad. If this is really the case, I have to pity the poor fool.

Okay, so let's take a look and try to parse what the editor is talking about. It seems to derive from a June 7 story by Bruce Colbert about a Development Services proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The July 22 (current) draft (PDF) is here.

I notice that the editor uses the Williamson Valley Community Organization to back up his objection. But it's clear in the preamble of an earlier draft of the proposal that the WV group's primary objection (keeping corridor plans exempt from community plans) is completely different from the editor's (more committees). Moreover that wall protecting corridor plans apparently came down before the current draft.

Here's the part the editor doesn't like:

4. Committee Structure
a. The community planning process shall be organized by a two tiered committee structure as follows:

(i) Plan Advisory Committee (PAC): The PAC is a permanent standing advisory committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors and acts as an overall steering committee for all community plans and a liaison between the County and the community. The PAC shall consist of two (2) DSD Development Services staff members and a representative from each Supervisor’s District, for a total committee membership of five (5). The PAC shall review recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee and provide recommendation on all draft plans or amendments submitted to the County. The PAC shall confirm the membership and organization of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for individual community plan processes. Committee members shall serve at the pleasure of the Board for terms of four (4) years and may be reappointed by the Board upon term expiration.

(ii). Community Advisory Committee (CAC): The committee members are suggested by the community and confirmed by the Plan Advisory Committee. DSD County staff shall be included in the CAC committee membership. Committee appointments shall be made with the goal of providing a representative cross section of interests within the community area. The CAC is responsible for conducting the community participation/input, developing the draft plan or amendment and providing recommendations to the PAC.
As I read this, one committee forms from the community temporarily to negotiate and write the plan. That seems pretty basic -- you don't want County P&Z writing your plan for you. The other committee is permanent and designed to oversee these CACs.

If we only have one CAC working at a time, I expect that the PAC would be unnecessary. P&Z could handle the oversight directly. But Yavapai is a large and growing county, and once things get rolling I can imagine three or four of these four-year processes going on at once, maybe more. That's a lot of added oversight work to a busy schedule, and I can see the argument for adding this layer. I'm not saying this is the best way to handle it -- I don't know enough about what goes on inside and the personnel proposal for the PAC could easily favor entrenched interests -- but I can see the argument.

It would rate a cookie if the editor had bothered to cover the issue with even this light a look. But he didn't. Readers have a right to demand more.

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