Self-Governance is a lofty idea, and one which has deep roots in our heritage as a country. Here, there is a movement to create what many have called “another layer of government.”
Wikipedia notes that self-governance: “… can be used to describe a people or group being able to exercise all of the necessary functions of power without intervention from any authority which they cannot themselves alter. Self rule is associated then in contexts where there is the end of colonial rule, absolute government or monarchy, as well as demands for autonomy by religious, ethnic or geographic regions which perceive themselves as being unrepresented or underrepresented in a national government. It is therefore a fundamental tenet of republican government and democracy as well as nationalism. Gandhi’s term “swaraj” (see also “satygraha”) is a branch of this self rule ideology. Another major proponent of self-rule when a government’s actions are immoral is Thoreau.”
Hmmm … I am not sure that definition truly describes what is being sought for Big Sur, so maybe “self-governance” is not what the “special district” is about.
Wikipedia defines Special District as: “Special-purpose districts or special district governments in the United States are independent governmental units that exist separately from, and with substantial administrative and fiscal independence from, general purpose local governments such as county, municipal, and township governments. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the term special district governments excludes school districts.
Special district governments provide specific services that are typically not provided by general-purpose governments. The services they provide range from basic needs such as hospitals, sewerage, and fire protection to smaller necessities such as mosquito abatement and upkeep of cemeteries. Most special districts provide only a single service. In 2007, the U.S. had more than 37,000 special district governments.”
Okay, so what special services are being proposed? I know one idea behind this special district is to create a community center and to create work-force housing to sustain a sense of community.
Jack Ellwanger, of Pelican Network, is the person pushing the hardest to see this happen, and has formed a committee to work on the concept of a Special District for Big Sur, a quasi-governmental agency that will have the power to levy taxes. I am unsure exactly who is on this committee, as Mr. Ellwanger has unilaterally removed my name from his notification lists – all of them, apparently because I have disagreed with him on various points, including the concept of creating a special district. However, I am not the only one who does not feel a special district is needed or wanted here in Big Sur.
One leader in the community so succinctly wrote this: “The first and most obvious point surrounding this subject is why? If it ain’t broke, what are we trying to fix by adding yet another layer of government into the mix.
If it is to support existing critical community institutions like the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade or the Big Sur Health Center, I would check in with them before assuming that they are automatically supportive.
Taxation to support this new governmental entity will most likely tap the Big Sur Business Community or the Property Owners or both. Something tells me that neither will be clamoring to be the first in line to sign that petition. Nothing like a devastating forest fire and a near collapse of the US economy to spank the generosity out the potential funders of this initiative.
Finally, the Big Sur Community enjoys a very unique and greatly under-used
deliberative body in the form of the Big Sur Multi Agency Advisory Council.
Recently, that forum played a large part in the retraction of the Andrew Molera State Wilderness bill. Without that ability to convene and rationally discuss community concerns, our Assemblyman would not have really known how important the issue was to us.
BSMAAC has the potential to be a more powerful institution, but it lacks the kind of local participation necessary to elevate the quarterly proceedings to something approaching the ideals I see reflected in the governance committee’s notes. Something tells me that if folks are not showing up at BSMAAC, unless there is a volatile, direct threat to the community, they will be even less inclined to show up to the arcane proceedings of a quasi planning commission, hamstrung by the land use laws enacted by the Coastal Commission and enforced by Monterey County Planning and Building. Or maybe I’m missing something.”
The “Governance Committee” as Mr. Ellwanger has dubbed it, planned to meet sometime before the July 15th BSMAAC meeting among themselves, and then to have a luncheon meeting with our State Assemblyman, Bill Monning, to follow the BSMAAC meeting. I have already given my input to Mr. Monning, joining others who feel that the creation of a Special District with unknown goals and an unknown tax base is ill-conceived at this point. As this concept does not have the backing of many of the most influential community members, and as it seems to be rather exclusive rather than inclusive thus far, I do not see it getting any traction at this point. Despite that, some of you may be interested in providing your input to Mr. Ellwanger or to give your thoughts to Bill Monning, whose link is to the right, under representatives.