"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's easy too get distracted by the cesspool of national Presidential elections. Politics of diversion is now the norm, and as concerned citizens wade through the rhetoric to get at the truth of the times it easy to overlook the issues that most impact our lives.
For years now Southern California environmentalists have be calling for regional planning based on a comprehensive commitment to ecological sustainability. And for years now regional planners have done just the opposite. Unfortunately elected officials in Southern California have only enabled the shortsighted, growth at all costs policies advocated by professional bureaucrats.
Local voters not only elect city council members to oversee municipal machinations, they also elect representatives who are then appointed to regional boards to oversee planning, water allocation, and transportation. As elected representatives it is important that these individuals have more on their minds than trumping their neighbors over local issues such as view protection and the placement of stop signs.
This is not to say local issues are not vitally important to maintaining the quality of life enjoyed by coastal residents, they are. But there are much bigger issues that require officials equipped capable of seeing beyond current convenience with a future focus encompassing several generations of Southern California residents.
This year the Coast News, a publication that began it's existence as the Beach News in 1987, has always reflected the understanding that the quality of life enjoyed by the residents of North San Diego County was directly related to the ecological health and environmental quality of our coastal communities. From the very beginning this publication has made environmental coverage a top priority, and will continue to do so.
Unfortunately the daily papers have gone in the opposite direction, allowing their news and editorial content to be dictated by advertising considerations at the expense of comprehensive and balanced environmental reporting.
Seeking to raise the bar for environmental journalism, the Coast News is beginning a new tradition with the 2004 election. From this point forward this publication will contribute to the electoral process by endorsing a slate of regional candidates who best represent sound environmental leadership.
To determine which candidates for office have the best understanding of environmental issues confronting the residents of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside, we have devised a candidate questionnaire reflecting the issues currently affecting one or more coastal city. The candidate's answers will be juxtaposed with their ballot statements, and in terms of incumbents seeking reelection their voting record will be considered as well.
Also to be considered is the civic culture in which the candidate is running, as Del Mar is distinctly different from the City of Oceanside. The population of Del Mar is a mere 4,500 contrasted with Oceanside's population of 150,000, considering this, the editorial staff will take into account the specific realities of each city covered. If needed, follow up interviews will be conducted to clarify candidate positions.
Candidates deciding not to complete the questionnaire will be considered to be in opposition to regional environmental planning and ecological sustainability.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have included in this column the questions being asked of candidates running for office. None of the questions are multiple choice (too easy), two require a yes or no answer, and the rest are short essay questions. All questions are designed to gage the critical thinking skills needed for sound environmental leadership.
The same 12 questions will be asked of all candidates:
1) Define environmental sustainability?
2) What role do coyotes play in our communities?
3) What is the proper perspective when considering seawalls and beach protection?
4) Do you support the Transnet sales tax extension?
5) What is your position on the Prop B Clean Drinking Water initiative?
6) Where exactly does your city get its potable water?
7) In regards to tourism, how important is wetland restoration?
8) What constitutes affordable housing?
9) Should municipalities invest in renewable resources?
10) Is efficient mass transit possible along the coast of northern San Diego County?
11) Is smart growth possible?
12) What is overpopulation?
The Coast News invites readers to take the quiz as well. Those answers will be helpful in rating those submitted by those seeking leadership roles in regional government.
The results of this questionnaire will be published before the November 2nd election, in order to help voters decide who is planning for a sustainable future.