The ongoing saga of the Cargill Saltworks project in Redwood City took an unexpected turn recently when Redwood City Councilmember Rosanne Foust requested the City Council to put an advisory vote on the November ballot, asking voters whether the city should continue with its review of the project. CGF Legislative Advocate Alice Kaufman wrote the following op-ed for the Palo Alto Daily News:
Council shouldn't need an advisory vote to learn most oppose proposal
Like many others who have been watching Redwood City’s handling of the DMB/Cargill Saltworks proposal to build the equivalent of a small city on the Cargill salt ponds, I was surprised by the City Council’s announcement that it will consider placing an advisory vote on the November ballot to ask voters whether they should continue reviewing the project. Considering that the constant message from the City Council for the past several years has been that they will not make any decisions about the project until after environmental review has been completed, this seems like a complete about-face.
I was even more surprised to learn that the advisory vote was proposed by Councilmember Rosanne Foust, who has been advised by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) that she must recuse herself from all City Council discussions and votes on the Saltworks project. Due to Foust’s position as President and CEO of a lobbying organization for business and development interests that has endorsed Saltworks, the FPPC determined that Foust has a personal financial interest in seeing this enormous development built on our shoreline.
This bias was apparent in remarks that Foust made to the Redwood City Patch (http://bit.ly/IyYjBm), in which she stated that the advisory vote would list “all the benefits of the development” in its description of the project. “All the benefits”? What about all the risks and drawbacks? Shouldn’t voters get the whole picture before they decide? The Saltworks project will increase Redwood City’s population by 40% while it paves over restorable wetlands, puts people at risk from rising sea levels, and clogs our roads with thousands more cars daily. Does Foust include these issues among the “benefits” of this project?
The City Council’s willingness to consider Foust’s proposed advisory vote is bewildering. For one thing, the City has already received plenty of public input on this project. With the review process barely begun, already nearly 1,000 pages of comments have been submitted to the City from members of the community – and about 90% of those comments have been opposed to the project. It is hard to imagine what additional information the City Council feels an advisory vote might give them. If the mountain of negative comments they have already received is not reason enough to abandon this project, how will a nonbinding advisory vote help them to make up their minds?
If the City Council shares Foust’s stated concerns about the “divisiveness” of the Saltworks project (though it is hard to see how the overwhelmingly negative response of the community can be described as “divided”), the City Council should halt the review process now and deny the project without going through the expense and delay of an advisory vote. If they are unwilling to deny the project before the EIR process is complete (which has been their consistent stance all along), then what is the point of the advisory vote? If the Council wants to know how the public feels about the project, they have already received more than enough feedback to answer that question.
Alice Kaufman is Legislative Advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills (www.greenfoothills.org) and a resident of Redwood City.
Go to http://thedailynews.ca.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=13d65f2e8 to see this article on the Daily News website.