Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some observations post-Measure N

When times are tough, or something threatens to shake up the local power structure, the nasty dogs come out in force. Just look at how people are reacting to the narrow election margin on Measure N, the Gold Rush referendum.

The final vote count put the Yes folks up 16 votes. The No folks, the No on Measure N committee of Preserve Historic Sutter Creek, have requested a recount.

This should not be a big deal. Recounts are pretty normal for close elections, and just part of the process. Remember that certain presidential election a few years ago?

But some of the pro-Gold Rush folks have gone ballistic (see the comments on the Amador Ledger-Dispatch website.) They’re attacking PHSC, individual PHSC members, and anyone else they consider to be an opponent of the type of sprawling super-sized subdivision Gold Rush represents.

They’re also dredging up history – and getting their facts wrong in the process. They’re attacking me for the actions of a family to which I’m not related (apparently spelling is not their strong suit). They’re attacking the Foothill Conservancy for being the same as Protect Historic Amador Waterways, which if it weren’t so wrong would be sorta funny, considering that PHAW actually sued the Conservancy at one point.

You’d think the narrow vote on Measure N would give people pause. After all, it does show that a substantial number of Sutter Creek voters are opposed to the Gold Rush project as approved. Remember, we’re talking 16 votes. The Sutter Creek City Council and pro-GR folks should be thinking long and hard about that. If anything, they represent only the barest of majorities on this issue.

To their credit, the Gold Rush developers’ response has been rather subdued. They’re not out celebrating in the streets, gloating, or attacking the Sutter Creek residents who voted No. Instead, they’re inviting them to talk. It’s a nice gesture, and ought to be a sign to their attack dogs to back off. But it’s also relatively meaningless, since they’ve never before responded to the concerns of that strong near-majority (or maybe an actual majority) who oppose Gold Rush.

And of course, the developers spent about $140,000 on the election, compared to the approximately $5,000 PHSC spent. Plus, they’ve been knocking on doors and selling their project to locals for what, eight years? I think the close margin was a surprise to them. If I were them, I’d be sober, too.

It amazes, but does not surprise me to see PHSC accused of “dividing Sutter Creek.” If anyone has divided the town, it’s the developers and council members who ignored the sincere concerns of a substantial number of local residents over the last few years. They could have listened and made an effort to work out a project everyone could live with. But they chose the path of conflict, instead.

Time will tell what lessons, if any, are learned from this referendum election, and what the long-term effects will be in Sutter Creek and the county at large. Stay tuned.