In the News


Holding hostages never results in good policy development

By Donna Meyers, Special to the Sentinel, 12/7/13

When we reach impasse in our public policy processes it is inevitable that we end up with an advisory process that rolls back time and promises to look with a new perspective at very hard policy questions. This is happening now with the advisory committee proposed by the city of Santa Cruz in its ongoing debate about its current and future water supply sustainability.

Recent threats by desalinization opponents that they must have more seats on the advisory committee is simply unrealistic and inappropriate. Rick Longinotti's "hint at a council bid if there isn't greater representation" is outrageous. The proposal to include four openly anti-desalinization groups is nothing more than a hostage-taking move to again try to control the outcomes of a process meant to look transparently at a very real water-supply issue affecting over half of our county's population.

While maybe not perfect in many people's minds, the committee process is an effort to pause and re-examine our existing water supply and how it is managed, the threats to it, and our options for developing a sustainable water policy for our community and the natural resources we claim to steward.

Santa Cruz County -- yes this is a countywide problem -- is not unique within the state of California in facing a dire water-supply issue. All of our major water supplies in Santa Cruz County are currently in either overdraft conditions or subject to an unpredictable future due to climate change and drought. Throughout the state of California water managers are grappling with these issues.

The level of expertise in California regarding managing a dwindling and unpredictable water supply in a Mediterranean climate is entirely missed in the constant barrage of misinformation and drama generated out of a one very vocal group. What this advisory committee requires is a level of expertise that is founded in facts and science. Water management requires expertise and understanding of California water law and policy, public health regulation, land-use policy, natural resource management, endangered species policy, engineering and infrastructure, and public finance.

If we really want to come up with a viable advisory committee process, let's really get people who know what they are doing on this advisory committee. Let's reach deep into our community and beyond to find the experts that can really help us understand our problem, define it, and make good policy to sustain our community.

I, for one, am not willing to hand over the heritage of our native fish populations and our water supply to an advisory group that has no expertise in the resource issues to be examined. Let's not just throw seats to those who have become self-appointed "experts." That's politics -- that's not good policy. It's not the numbers on the committee that will make a difference -- it is the caliber and quality of the people who fill those seats and what their level of expertise is.

Donna Meyers works with agencies and nonprofit organizations on watershed management in the Central Coast.

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