Vote Is Blow to Fallbrook Cityhood Backers

Times Staff Writer

Rejecting both Shakespeare and Supervisor John MacDonald, the Local Agency Formation Commission on Monday chose governmental efficiency over political expediency--leaving Fallbrook incorporation boosters with a plan that may be harder to sell to voters.

Commission members split 4-4 on a proposal by MacDonald to sever the touchy political issue of continued sovereignty for the Fallbrook Sanitary District and the Fallbrook Public Utilities District from the June 7 incorporation vote.

The deadlock thus reaffirmed a December vote to have the two districts come under control of the new city within a year if voters endorse incorporation.

Some incorporation boosters fear that the issue of the two districts--which have served Fallbrook for decades without much public complaint--will make it harder to sell incorporation, which has been rejected four times in recent years.

But Supervisor Brian Bilbray, serving as LAFCO chairman, argued passionately that keeping the two districts independent would cripple the new city by separating the "doers" from the "planners."

"I know I'm not going to win any popularity contests up there," Bilbray said, "but that's not my job. My job as a commission member is to see that government services are delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible."

On the popularity issue, few disagreed with Bilbray.

"I've never seen such a recalcitrant politician as Bilbray," said Ben Price, general manager of the sanitary district. "It's a sad commentary that LAFCO and the chairman cannot see through their own philosophy. If they were truly interested in incorporation, they would not put needless obstacles in front of it."

Price said the sanitation district board will meet this morning to discuss the LAFCO vote.

The board, he said, has three options: sue to block the election on grounds that LAFCO overstepped its authority; stop short of suing but campaign against incorporation, or do nothing and take no position on the upcoming vote.

Commission member Stanley A. Mahr, representing the San Marcos County Water District, said he "would hate to see incorporation, which this commission approves of, go down the drain because of an internecine fight in Fallbrook."

MacDonald, whose North County district includes Fallbrook, had sought to have the issue of the special districts decided at a second vote to be held no sooner than a year after incorporation.

Commission member John Sasso, who represents the Borrego Water District, invoked Shakespeare in support of MacDonald's proposed compromise.

Using Friar Laurence's advice to the impetuous Romeo, Sasso counseled: "Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast."

Elwin C. Fuller, chairman of the Fallbrook Incorporation Coalition, said he hopes the LAFCO vote will annoy Fallbrook residents so much that they will see the need for local control even if they would have preferred to keep the two special districts independent.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World