The Regional Transportation Round Table voted to adopt the least aggressive scenario for Sustainable Communities Strategies to reduced Green House Gas (GGH) emissions. All four scenarios proposed met a 13% reduction target in these emissions by 2035, and one of the scenarios proposed a 14% reduction and the largest protection of farm land, prevention of premature deaths, vehicle miles traveled per person, and largest number of housing units per acre of the four scenarios. It was almost identical in results for emission of pollutants, travel time, and growth in transit oriented development to the other three.
Public response dismissed - A survey conducted over approximately six weeks throughout the county at a sizable number of public venues and meetings, as well as an on-line survey, yielded approximately 1300 responses which preferred the aggressive land use scenario. The Round Table dismissed the public response as inconsequential, and several members were scornful of the ability of the public to express an informed opinion despite COG staff’s careful efforts to provide information.
COG staff recommended the least aggressive approach as setting a low bar which would not be likely to trigger a response from the California Air Resources Board to raise expectations for greater GHG emission reductions in the future.
Concern about attitude toward public -Both advisory committees to the COG policy board also voted to adopt the least aggressive scenario, and the board is poised to vote on those recommendations. I sit on the Technical Transportation Committee and voted “no” on the staff recommendation. I spoke in behalf of League at the Round Table and also at the Policy Advisory Committee to the COG policy board about concerns for the cavalier dismissal of public opinion by bureaucratic members of those committees. Several others members of the environmental justice organizations praised efforts of COG’s staff to reach out to the public, and their dismay with the committee’s response.
There are sound reasons for adopting the Sustainable Community Strategy scenario that was chosen as the best approach for Fresno County and its municipalities, but the tone of the discussion about the public survey was very troubling.
It has been a concern of civic organizations like the League that agencies meet the letter of the law and even go beyond, as in this case, to encourage and make provisions for public participation, but the responses and results of public input are dismissed and disparaged as inconsequential and unimportant. Treating public participation with indifference and ridicule may be the reason so many people feel they don’t count, even to the point of not registering or voting.
by Mary Savala, VP of Natural Resource