From the Publishers

Cluck Cluck Cluck

by Carolyn Chase


 olitics has always been corrupt and hypocritical to some degree, only occasionally artful, and more than occasionally evil. The ultimate question is: who and what is being served by the politics of the day? The law? The public good? Or simply the interests of the already powerful?

Members of our city council and the county board of supervisors have really taken the job of being PR flacks for the Building Industry Association to heart lately. Byron Wear at the city and Ron Roberts at the county have dutifully made themselves available to the media to promote studies provided by industry groups claiming that "developer impact fees are too high," and supporting claims that if these fees were further reduced, housing would become more affordable. Developer impact fees are intended to pay for the additional infrastructure costs created by new development: schools, sewer and roads are a few of the things these fees are supposed to cover.

How do we know that the fees are high? Should we just take the word of one industry-funded study?

In theory, these fees pay for impacts. Given that both the County and the City of San Diego budgets have had significant cuts and shortfalls, and there is a multi-decade backlog of needed maintenance and infrastructure improvements, perhaps we should consider whether or not the fees need to be raised to cover the costs that the public incurs for each project. How about a Public Cost Impact Assessment for projects?

But our mayor has presided over the dismantling of the city's "Pay As You Grow" system at the behest of these same interests. At the same time, fees paid for water system upgrades have been diverted, essentially blackmailing rate-payers with an increase. But no one is talking about the cost side of the equation. Without that information, this is just developers and wealthy ones at that whining about the cost of doing business and blaming the government for not further subsidizing the infrastructure that their developments require.

These are the foxes in the chicken coop. C'mon. Everyone claims their costs are too high. But what are those costs? What are those impacts? If they don't pay, who does? The rest of us. Check out the deals being cut that we do know about. If the Chargers don't make it in the market - who pays? Do you think that the deals being cut over arcane infrastructure problems are any better?

Impact fees should cover the direct costs plus the costs to assess and deal with them. They should not be reduced without an analysis just because those who pay are claiming they are too high. Nor should the fees be excessive.

I'm tired of financial interests who can afford to hire full-time lobbyists to push through these reports and serve on committee after committee. (Now, there's a cost they could reduce.) Even worse are those elected officials who, instead of asking the hard questions that their public duty demands, tout those biased studies. Who represents the public good?

Our quality of life should not be sacrificed at the alter of subsidies to the already rich and powerful. People who can afford to successfully build and finance $10 million projects should not be downtown asking for handouts. But they are, every day. And they're getting them.

Elected officials defend their largesse by citing a need to compete. But, many wonder, competing for what? Crowded freeways, schools, and increased pollution? Taxpayer subsidies and campaign support? This is a competition to the bottom where the public incurs the losses in diminished quality of life, reduced services, and increased subsidies.

What San Diego needs is healthy and sustainable growth, not subsidized growth pampered with deals cut by lobbyists and elected officials dependent on campaign funding.

This month, there will be key hearings at both the County and the City of the San Diego. Now is the time to participate. Please contact me.