If you repeat something that is untrue often enough, people begin to believe it

June 23, 2006
By Mary Ann Krause, City of Santa Paula Councilmember I would like to take this the opportunity to respond to a recent letter listing my alleged shortcomings. Several frequent letter writers know the trick that if you repeat something that is untrue often enough, people begin to believe it. Unfortunately, some of the people who led the opposition to the Fagan project deflected attention from their own personal motives by misleading the public to believe that the Council had hidden agendas or were in some way personally benefiting from the project. After the strides that the Council and staff have made over the last four years to improve the public’s trust in city government, this is perhaps a greater loss to the community than any development project could ever be.The first misstatement pertains to the North Park project in Moorpark. The Moorpark City Council did not put the North Park project on the ballot because they wanted to begin deciding all land use issues by public vote; the City Council put the development on the ballot because a vote was required to bring the property within the city’s CURB line. That is a very different situation than existed in Santa Paula with the Fagan Canyon project, since Fagan is already in the city’s CURB. Unfortunately, many Santa Paula voters were confused by that argument.The vast majority of the people who attended the hearings on the Fagan Canyon project were in favor of the development. In fact, in an article covering a series of Fagan meetings the Ventura County Star estimated that 75% of the speakers were in favor. Therefore, when the Council voted in favor of the project, we were listening to the people.The vote on Fagan was 53% against, 47 % in favor. A difference of that size is not a mandate, as I learned in Public Opinion and Voting Behavior class at university. The vote represents a decision, and the Council will abide by that decision.The writer’s comments on environmental issues puzzle me. First of all, the environmental impact report (EIR) was never challenged legally, though that is the proper way (and by far the most common way) to address environmental issues that someone believes have been given inadequate consideration. The writer suggests that I dismissed and round-filed environmental information given to me. Actually, I included that information in my question and answer sessions with our staff. Information the writer submitted officially during the EIR review period was included and responded to in the formal EIR process.The writer specifically mentions water quantity as an issue that was not properly addressed in the EIR, and previously made references to the Newhall Ranch project, intending to cast suspicion on the City’s work on Fagan Canyon. Unfortunately, the water information presented to the Council by the letter writer and by WE CARE as a whole was not well researched and was not credible. I have studied the water issues in the Santa Clara River Valley for 17 years. I was a part of a team that helped Supervisor Kathy Long engage California Attorney General Bill Lockyer in the water lawsuit against the 22,000 home Newhall Ranch project and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Several of the essential team members from the Newhall Ranch lawsuit were also involved either in the preparation or the review of the Fagan EIR. The Newhall Ranch lawsuit alleged inadequate water research and risky recommendations, neither of which applied to the Fagan Canyon project. I sit on the Board of the Santa Paula Basin Pumpers Association, which was formed in response to the City of Ventura drilling a well in the Santa Paula Basin. The Santa Paula Basin has since been adjudicated (specific legally-binding water allocations have been granted by the court), and later studies of the Basin’s capacity have been completed and accepted by the court. Additionally, the City has prepared a water management plan for its jurisdiction. Those types of studies and legal actions were not undertaken by Los Angeles County for the Newhall Ranch area prior to Ventura County’s lawsuit. The good news is that Newhall Ranch water analysis deficiencies resulted in the tightening of water law in California, and the City of Santa Paula is happy to comply with the new law.Only a wannabe “spin doctor” would call me a “flip flopper”. People who watch the Council meetings know that I tell the truth, back up my decisions with facts, and I don’t change my mind as the winds blow. Prior to my election in 2002 I made it very clear why I opposed Adams Canyon and supported development in Fagan Canyon and on Teague-McKevett Ranch. I stated publicly many times that my opposition had nothing to do with the size of the Adams Canyon project. Since that time my views have been intentionally misstated and distorted by a few people who thought they could bully me into changing my well-thought-out position. This is an insult to my integrity, and I suspect has much to do with their views that women can be easily manipulated; otherwise, why single me out?
The Council knew that traffic congestion would be a big issue with the Fagan project. That is why we insisted that the City’s traffic analysis be peer-reviewed by traffic engineers who had no relationship to Centex or the traffic engineers who prepared our analysis. Personally, when I saw the results and recognized that we could have traffic without congestion, I felt we could reasonably ask Santa Paulans to look at the needs of the whole community, (as well as the benefits that would accrue to their properties by the both the community and the City becoming more financially stable), and accept the extra 40-55 seconds that might be required to travel from the northern city limits to the freeway. Caltrans, UC Berkeley, and Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) have all done research indicating that relatively minor traffic improvements (improvements of the type required by the City for the Fagan project) can improve traffic flow remarkably. The Fagan peer-reviewed traffic model indicated major improvement in future traffic flows with the planned improvements. Further, before each new phase of the project could be built, Centex would have to pay the City to update the traffic study. If the traffic improvements in place were not working as planned Centex would have to create new ones before more homes could be built. The Council was hopeful that the community would recognize these safeguards as our commitment to protect Santa Paula from traffic congestion, but the fear of the number of cars (trumped up by the opponents) was enough to scuttle the project, regardless of our commitment to prevent congestion.Many people have moved to Santa Paula from congested locations such as Los Angeles, Orange County and the San Fernando Valley over the last decade. Four years ago, a group of us realized that if the City was going to have significant growth, we would need to work actively to protect Santa Paula’s character. We put together a land use forum called Imagine Santa Paula that was sponsored by Committee 2000, Latino Town Hall, and the Chamber of Commerce. We recognized that people who flee LA because of sprawl, invariably re-create it in their new location, not because they love it, but because they don’t know enough about land use planning to advocate for another land use pattern. The Phoenix area, Las Vegas, and Colorado Springs are all excellent examples of Angelinos committing the same “crime” over and over. We knew that if Santa Paula was going to avoid mind-numbing sprawl and maintain its charm, we were going to have to ensure that a more livable, sustainable land use pattern would be used for future development. Fortunately, the General Plan land use policies supported an alternative approach.The purpose of Imagine Santa Paula was to introduce newer land use planning concepts to Santa Paulans, so that residents would advocate for them. Speakers were brought in from all over California, and provided a stimulating opportunity for discussion of Santa Paula’s future. Many of the 140 people who attended Imagine Santa Paula were also advocates for and later participants in the Fagan Canyon charette process. Unfortunately, the videotape of the Imagine Santa Paula forum was never released for viewing, and a valuable educational tool was unavailable. Just prior to the charette, an additional series of meetings was held to introduce planning concepts to residents, and those were an important part of opening residents minds and giving them tools to consider a pattern other than sprawl.I agree with community members who do not want sprawl and congestion, though we may have disagreed on how to grow and still avoid them. Perhaps at the special City Council meeting of June 26th, we can begin to explore land use patterns that both meet people’s individual needs and fuel their hopes for our shared community. “Hope” is essential to our future, for without it, there is no financial, social, emotional or spiritual investment in our community, and the reality of “community” ceases to exist.

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