07/11/08

For the Record - July 11, 2008

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     Supervisor Bill Horn
  Fifth District

     For the Record

   July 11, 2008

     Anatomy of an Error

There continue to be newspaper stories and television news reports about a proposed road project in Valley Center. The focus is a proposed road (3A) that would connect West Lilac Road to Old Highway 395; providing a much needed emergency evacuation route; something I have sought for more than 15 years.

On June 23, 2008, at a special public meeting called by the Valley Center Community Planning Group (VCCPG), about 200 people roared their approval when a resolution was passed that stated, “Whereas: The proposedroad segment from W. Lilac to Old Hwy 395, currently known as Road 3a was never approved by the VCCPG.”(Underlined emphasis added.)

Less than 12 hours later, VCCPG member Andy Washburn sent his group an e-mail that included the following words: “Last night, after the meeting, Bob Citrano mentioned that he thought he had come back to the VCCPG and gotten approval for a Road Network Plan that included Road 3A. As soon as I got home, I checked. He’s correct. At the July 10, 2006 VCCPG meeting, Bob Citrano gave a presentation on the August 2006 Land Use maps and the Circulation Element Network (which included Road 3A). From the minutes:

 

‘Motion: The VCCPG acknowledges and thanks county staff, particularly Mr. Bob Citrano, for their dedication and professionalism in helping Valley Center develop GP2020 plans that reflect the unique attributes of VC, and

The VCCPG supports the August 2006 Draft Land Use Map, subject to further refinement, and the current GP2020 Proposed Circulation Element Network for Valley Center with the exception of those sections of VC Circulation Element maps that project a level of service of “E” or “F”, and

The VCCPG recommends DPLU and DPW continue to plan and develop additional circulation improvements within Valley Center, subject to PG acceptance, in order to achieve projected levels of service above levels “E” or “F” in all areas, and

The VCCPG recommends and urges state and county officials develop alternate circulation systems and routes and improve Highway 76 east of I-15 to enable all current and future through traffic to bypass the community of VC.’

 

Andy Washburn’s e-mail continues with the words, “The motion passed 13-0-0. So while my report was correct: We didn’t endorse Road 3A at our Special Meeting on April 24, 2006; it is incorrect to say that we never supported it. (Underlined emphasis added.)

Unfortunately, our motion states that ‘Road 3A was never approved by the VCCPG.’
I’m sorry that I didn’t catch this. I take responsibility for not spending enough time to check all the minutes. But the end result is that we need to correct the record as quickly as possible.

I understand that this will likely damage the VCCPG’s reputation and credibility. For that, I am truly sorry. . . Andy.”

 

I appreciate Mr. Washburn’s prompt correction of the mistake (although in the first part of his e-mail he makes reference to a July 10, 2006 VCCPG meeting and then correctly has the date April 24, 2006).

For the Record here is what happened in that April 24, 2006 meeting:

 

“Staff presented a road network based upon April 10, 2006 comments including westerly connection from Cole Grade to West Lilac Road connecting it with Old Highway 395 at Nelson Way. Previously titled New Road A is broken into three sections, from Cole Grade to Lilac, from Lilac to West Lilac and West Lilac to Old Highway 395.

VCCPG votes 10-0-1 in favor of new road, including extension to Old Highway 395.”

 

The mistake in the VCCPG’s resolution stated above not only invalidates the claims made on June 23, 2008; it goes to the heart of the story from the beginning, because the facts and timeline were provided to the North County Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and KFMB-TV (Channel 8) in advance of their reports. Having the true story, that the proposed Road 3A had received unanimous approval by the VCCPG in 2006, any responsible media outlet would have known there was no story. Unfortunately, media outlets Channel 8, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune chose to run with phony claims by a collection of disgruntled people.

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter J. Harry Jones reported the VCCPG’s mistake in a story the afternoon of June 24, 2008 and another story on June 25, 2008.

 

On June 26, 2008, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins, in the 16th paragraph of his column, noted the mistake by the VCCPG.

“On July 10, 2006, in a final review, planning group members approved a land-use and traffic circulation package that included 3A, a fact that contradicts their assertion Monday night that they never approved it. (The error was acknowledged the next day.)”

Mr. Jenkins has the date of that meeting incorrect; it actually was April 24, 2006.

In his column are several astounding statements including, “Instead of writing an op-ed piece in 2006 to explain how and why he’d preempted the community-based planning process, Horn slipped it in and then let it slide.”

I never preempted anything. The VCCPG voted 13-0-0 in favor of the land-use and traffic circulation package that included 3A. Does Mr. Jenkins actually believe that I should write an op-ed on every decision I make in public session and then wait to see what the reaction is?

Among the responsibilities of a County Supervisor, especially one who represents large areas of unincorporated land; is long range planning. That’s why we have citizen planning groups to give input on their neighbors’ desires. A 13-0-0 approval of an item to me is a pretty strong indication to move forward with what the community wants. The County cannot go back and forth on long-range planning decisions at the whims of people who either have political agendas or new residents who are not aware of what their planning group members approved years ago.

 

Another curious take on the proposed road project came on June 27, 2008 from North County Times freelance columnist and Valley Center resident Brigid Brett. In commenting on the June 23, 2008 community meeting, she wrote, “If group Chairman Oliver Smith hadn’t stumbled(Underlined emphasis added) upon a map at a Steering Committee meeting on April 26 (2008) that showed Valley Center as having a questionably high number of residents and started asking questions, we might still be in the dark about the entire project.”

Apparently, Ms. Brett, who occasionally writes about her community, was unable to see the light and never managed to stumble across the minutes of the April 24, 2006 VCCPG meeting in which Road 3A was approved by a vote of 10-0-1.

In her column, Ms. Brett spoke about the June 23, 2008 public meeting as being “one of those rare times when a community speaks with a single voice . . .”

Unfortunately, the single voice was part of a resolution that stated the VCCPG never knew about Road 3A. Less than 12 hours after the “single voice” was heard, Board member Andy Washburn sent an e-mail to his group and the media that the resolution stating “Road 3A was never approved by the VCCPG” was incorrect. To Mr. Washburn’s credit, he urged members to “correct the record as quickly as possible.”

Brigid Brett never mentioned the error in her column.

 

There are also misguided individuals in Valley Center who have made puzzling statements to the media. One of them is Valley Center resident, Deborah Hofler, secretary of the VCCPG and author of the motion and resolution cited above that incorrectly states “Road 3a was never approved by the VCCPG.”

On June 9, 2008, KFMB-TV News 8 aired a story about a proposal to build a road in Valley Center and Deborah Hofler was interviewed. In the narration by reporter Phil Blauer, he sets up the interview with Ms. Hofler as follows:

“Deborah Hofler is the town veterinarian and serves on the Valley Center Community Planning Group. Hofler nicknamed the new development Hornsville because she says Supervisor Horn proposed it all by himself, with no public review.”

On camera Hofler said, “My gut reaction when I first heard about it was outrage. This is unprecedented. We were not expecting it. We were not forewarned about it. The developer somehow knew of this before anybody else did.”

 

For the Record, an excerpt from the proposed minutes for the November 13, 2006 regular meeting of the Valley Center Community Planning Group (VCCPG) shows Ms. Hofler saying the opposite of what she said on television. A printed record of the VCCPG meeting quotes Deborah Hofler as follows: “What about the mention of the Board Alternative Map? Please give us more specifics about the SPA with the land use designations to pay for the East-West road from old 395 to Hilldale.”

 

I believe there are several factors that have led to this controversy. Some of them are political, with politically motivated individuals using this for their own agenda. Others involve well-meaning people who are new residents of Valley Center and not aware of long-range decisions that were made by their fellow citizens. Unfortunately, they are being used by people who should know better. And finally, there are motivations within the media that created this story that go beyond reporting the facts in a responsible way.

My thoughts from an earlier “For the Record” remain as true as ever.

  • We all saw what happened during the 2007 fires and the danger of people not being able to evacuate Valley Center during an emergency. As it turned out, more than a thousand people were stranded at Valley Center High School.
  • I have great concern over the impact of legally required Transportation Impact Fees (TIF). Right now, those fees are $2,568 per unit for Valley Center local roads. If this proposed local road (3A) is paid for by TIF, it would further burden residents of Valley Center and could more than double the current TIF.
  • I have always thought that developers should pay for new roads instead of the taxpayers. In the case of the proposed 3A road, the estimated cost is more than $40 million.
  • One way we can provide for the future is to manage “smart growth” with housing near transportation nodes such as I-15.
  • This remains a proposal. Over the next couple of years it will undergo extensive environmental review and the public will be able to make comments according to the Department of Planning and Land Use during several General Plan Update hearings. I encourage all residents to participate in those hearings.
  • Finally, I am convinced that Valley Center needs a road that connects Old Highway 395 to Cole Grade Road, and that road needs to be a part of our General Plan Update.

I remain committed to serving my constituents in an honest, open way and with a vision for the future benefit of the entire District. I hope the words above allow you to make up your own decision on what is the truth and what is not.

 

 

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