In the News


As We See It: Compromise right move on desal vote

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3/1/12

Last week, in this space, we were indirectly critical of both city of Santa Cruz backers of a proposed desalination plant and opponents for proposing dueling ballot measures on the issue that would only confuse most voters.

This week, however, we come to praise both sides, not bury them.

In a deft political turn, the City Council, led by Mayor Don Lane, agreed Tuesday night to hold off a desal referendum until no earlier than June 2014. Doing so takes away the argument that a 2013 city-sponsored election was proposed simply to run an end-around critics, who have been planning a ballot measure that would call for a future desal vote only as part of a regularly scheduled election.

The council's decision to end talk of a 2013 special election on desal was a compromise. It should allow a straightforward vote on giving water customers in the city a choice of whether to approve a properly reviewed and vetted desal project. Such an election would provide ratepayers a chance to consider opposing arguments, costs and environmental implications, and whether desal is the best way to proceed in ensuring a stable water supply, especially in drought years.

The council also took another move to outflank critics by approving a plan to keep the desal plant carbon neutral by reducing energy use and through offset programs and projects elsewhere. The plan will be included in the plant's environmental impact report, already under way.

We also think Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold has a strong argument for allowing the more than one-third of Santa Cruz Water's 92,000 customers who live outside city boundaries to vote on desal. Such a vote would probably be advisory only, due to legalities over the ability of non-city ratepayers to bind a city agency. Still, if coinciding with the Santa Cruz desal vote, it would give a definite sense of whether the people who will be paying for it want to move forward on what is being billed as a $100 million project.

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