In my many, many years of teaching in the Political Science Department at Cal Poly I have emphasized the all-important need for participation, both on and off campus. Two-way communication is the life-blood of a civil society, whether in education or any other facet of life; in no dimension of life is this more important than in political decision-making.
On Tuesday, November 24, the Board of Supervisors, looking for revenue for the County, increased the fee to appeal the permitting process to the Board from $250 to $800, an increase of 220 percent!
The County is understandably looking for additional revenue. We all know times are tough. I can’t speak to the multitude of fees that were raised; I do know the one in question will have a disproportionate affect on individuals of modest means as well as public interest groups. Those who are well-heeled, whether individuals or interest groups from the private sector, will just chalk up the additional fees as the cost of doing business within the County. But the price being imposed runs counter to diversity of thought
If, for monetary reasons, people are precluded from appealing decisions of the County Planning Commission, a great disservice to free-and-open discussion and debate will have taken place. I am generally in agreement with the decisions of the present Board and it pains me to demur from the action to raise the fee to appeal permits. Feeding County coffers, however, pales next to the blow to participation … and democracy. What is ironic is that in 1999 County Staff made a similar proposal, which was rejected by a much less progressive board.
It is important to note that of all the fee changes considered, only this one generated public comment. The staff proposal to increase this one fee was opposed by several members of public interest groups who run the risk of becoming invisible and voiceless.
My hope is that the Board of Supervisors will reconsider the matter and reverse the approval.