It still is not certain whether a slow-growth initiative being circulated in Orange County will qualify for the ballot, or, if it does, whether it will pass and become law. What does seem inevitable is that even if it passes those two hurdles it will wind up in court, where its validity will be challenged. What also appears certain now is that leaders of the initiative drive will not make deals with the county that would keep the measure off the June ballot.
The possibility of a deal arose after Tom Rogers, one of the initiative's leading proponents and chairman of the organization that drafted it, met with supervisors recently to discuss a compromise offered by Bruce Nestande, a former county supervisor who is now a vice president of a major county construction company and still serves on the California Transportation Commission. The meetings didn't sit well with many of the people who circulated and signed the initiative petitions.
There was also some confusion over whether the leaders of the petition drive were legally bound to hand in the petitions. That question, however, became moot when the initiative's leaders responsibly acknowledged that even if they legally could throw the petitions into the trash can, they did have a moral obligation to the 60,000 residents who so far had signed them to continue to work to qualify the initiative for the ballot and formally file it.
That decision, however, doesn't mean that some of the compromises proposed need be abandoned or that an agreement that meets the spirit and goals of the initiative-- and satisfies those seeking the slow-growth statute--couldn't be worked out with county officials. The proposed initiative would tie future growth to the county's ability to provide enough local roads and services to handle new development and increased traffic loads. It does leave some questions unanswered, however, starting with where the money for the new roads would come from.
One of Nestande's proposals as an alternative to the slow-growth initiative was the creation of a citizens commission to study the formation of a new county transportation agency that would have the power to coordinate traffic and development decisions. The commission would also study the possibility of a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects and a possible model ordinance that would address the transportation-growth management problems facing the county and its 27 cities.
If those and some of the other suggestions made are potentially workable approaches that could help balance growth and environmental needs in Orange County, they are worth exploring--no matter what happens to the slow-growth initiative effort.