EDITOR'S NOTE: Recent posts have focused on growth at UCSC and the attitudes of some longtime residents. The following piece is written by a current student at the university -- a self-described environmentalist who has a unique and worthwhile take on an important issue -- water, UCSC growth and how local politics should function.
By ROBERT SINGLETON
I am first and foremost an environmentalist. Before I came to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC, I had worked for a progressive, slow growth, non-profit in my own hometown of Santa Rosa. During that time I fought against development of all types. I helped to pass Urban Growth Boundaries, enact slow growth measures, fought against ridge top development and even helped elect a slow growth majority to the city council. All of this I firmly believed in, and still do for the most part.
However, I have always attempted to be practical when dealing with local politics, and I would say that I am one of the few. I have definitely had long conversations with people I see eye to eye with 97% of the time, only to fight about something minor like prospective green building standards, or the phrasing in a campaign leaflet. To me these encounters are all part of the process, a process that albeit painstaking, is absolutely necessary for the proper adoption of policy.
In Santa Cruz this decision making process is very similar, there are those who stick to their ideological guns give hell or high water and then there are those like myself, who continually question, sometimes to the dismay of my peers, the stances of everyone involved. This has been my continual stance throughout the local debate concerning desalination. I have met the leaders of both camps, heard their perspectives and questioned their beliefs and assumptions, with rigor. In fact, I have felt more like an outsider looking in than I should given my previous work, but I can’t help but play devil’s advocate.
Given this experience, I have come to the following conclusions, some of them localized and unique to Santa Cruz, others transcendent and to some extent universal.
- The Soquel Creek water district is in dire straights and must act quickly to develop a supplemental supply because conservation alone will not be enough to curb their current usage.
- Private well owners cannot be expected to reduce their consumption without some extreme coordination, and currently many refuse to even put meters on their wells, let alone take steps for major reductions.
- The city of Santa Cruz is better off, but is operating on the same supply that it had during the 76-77 drought, despite its population having doubled. This has left the city particularly vulnerable to future droughts, even without considering the mandatory reductions needed to preserve fish habitat.
- UCSC is going to expand, no matter how much local resistance it faces. It has a state mandate, an underlying agreement with the city for resources and the strong support of many a passionate and pragmatic individuals. Get over it.
- People must be willing to overcome their hard-line stances on growth and be willing to compromise. It is a sad day when local progressives become the obstructionist conservatives they so typically despise.
- If people on both sides are really serious about having a genuine political discussion than both must be willing to acknowledge one another’s opinion and more importantly, a common set of agreed upon facts. If factual disagreements remain, than a proper explanation must be given, with both sides championing a common explanation for the disagreement.