Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The dangers of LAFCO: A conversation with a Government Scholar on LAFCO, Regionalism and the Future of Local Government.

After last week's postings about LAFCO and the future of the Marinwood CSD, HERE, I wrote my friend who is a government scholar, specializing in California constitutional issues.  Here are his answers to my questions about LAFCO

What do you make of LAFCO?

 I'm compelled by your own grace to give you a civilized answer. :)

 I'm very concerned about LAFCo. These are independent political subdivisions of our State operating within our Counties via the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg government reorganization act. LAFCo's operate under a "governance" structure much like ABAG. I don't know that these LAFCo's are constitutional. There is no direct representation of the people through a democratic process with LAFCo.

While there is a legitimate role for the State to try to manage the many agencies that are set up by government, the people on LAFCo boards are a step removed from our County jurisdiction, elected officials and our election process.

 These LAFCo agencies, if allowed to continue as is, will likely overtake our original County political subdivisions of our State where our registrar of voters and the real political power of the people resides. Instead replacing this County government structure with a governance structure of unelected, unaccountable people who have no reason to listen to the people nor can be compelled by the people to operate on behalf of the people.

 It's also problematic to me that these LAFCo's likely encourage formation of community service districts (CSD) and impose "conditions" on agencies which are anything but the equal rights, equal justice, under just laws, and three branch balance of power, enshrined in our U.S. Constitution. The people who put our government together realized the potential for abuse of power and wrote limits into our founding documents to try to prevent this type of abuse of power. We forget or dismiss this at our peril. While our system of government is less than perfect, in my view it will always be better than this governance structure.

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. And force, like fire, is a demanding servant and a fearful master." George Washington

Our government is now actively implementing a plan to separate, we the people, from our government, transitioning us from our constitutional self-government of elected public servants representing the will of the people, to a governance model of appointed people representing sustainable development implementation. Our U.S. and State Constitutions were written and put in place to put bounds on the power of the government to avoid the abuse that led to the creation of these constitutions in the first place.

If County land is annexed into cities and property tax is siphoned off into community service districts, then the political power of the people (jurisdiction), which resides in the County will effectively be neutered. There's more on this if you are interested.

From your email subject line: Is LAFCO the secret weapon for the Supervisors to force growth on unincorporated Marin?

 I don't think so. I think it's the secret governance weapon to take your political rights away through the management, creation and replacement of the jurisdictional boundaries of our government.

Unincorporated areas will likely not be allowed to develop. We are faced with difficult choices. Do we want to decide for ourselves how we grow? Do private property owners have equal rights to develop? Do we give up our property rights to provide the means to build more housing within existing development footprints? Do we give up our private property rights to provide for open space and habitat? Do we stop having children? Do we keep our immigration numbers low? What are we trying to save? What are we willing to give up to save it? How can we make life fair when there are so many ways to be? What role does the government have in determining how we live? What role do we want the government to have in determining how we live?

Do we let the government make all our choices for us? Does giving up our individual rights get us something better in return?

 Time for a break!

Regarding our less than perfect constitutional government, all I can say is you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

 Some notes from the videotaped Marinwood CSD meeting with LAFCO:

a.) LAFCO "political sub-division of state of CA" authority rests in legislation. . . (think Darrel Steinberg and Leland Yee!)

Yes, think Steinberg and Yee.

b.) legislation (1963 created LAFCO in every CA county)

 You might be interested in the report titled: State of California, Growth Within Bounds, Report of the Commission on Local Governance for the 21stCentury. This report can be downloaded as a pdf. It's all in there.

They didn't title this report using the word "governance" for no reason. In my view, the structure of LAFCo is a deliberate effort to change our way of government and reduce or eliminate the power of we the people (jurisdiction).

c.) Organizational structure: 11 bosses: 3 BOS: Judy Arnold, Susan Adams, Kate Sears; 3 local City Council; 3 District members; 2 public members)

In my view, any time you have this type of indirect government structure, you are looking at a change from government to governance. 

These folks are not accountable to you and if you recall any of these people, a replacement will be on this LAFCo board before the sun rises the next day. These governance boards are bullet proof against the will of the people and in my view are not legitimate and should not exist.

When government creates these types of governing structures where the people have little choice. If it gets really bad, the only way people know how to respond is by force. Social unrest. Riots. This type of government in my view is the root of the breakdown of social order. Muting the political power of the people yields to a demonstration of physical power by those same people because they feel they have no other way to respond to this injustice.

In my view, the integrity of our current political system must be maintained if we are to avoid this type of social unrest in the future.

d.) Task: Create, update "spheres of influence" - urban growth boundary lines; gatekeepers to all future growth.

"Spheres of Influence" are updated every 5 years to assess "service provisions" to meet community needs.

 People are not going to be able to do anything without the government deciding what is best for them and the environment and they will comply.

At some point, I think we will have to decide what we want: freedom to build on our private property, to do what we want or freedom to look out from our urban dwelling and see the verdant hills under a collective form of government (think Stalin, Hitler, etc).

e.) Proposed study schedule: North Central 101 Corridor - Marinwood, San Rafael, handful of others - through 2015.

What is capacity to provide services Now, projecting forward next 10 years?

The first Marin LAFCo study seems to be on water.

 What property should be annexed?

 If you look at the OBAP maps and the DPA maps related to fire, you can see the various land uses and planned jurisdictions using a very cryptic legend. I think some of this land use and acquisition relates to areas that are "policy" protected. These policy protected areas will likely expand through more detailed County/City general plans (think RHNA) and more restrictive zoning laws. My guess is all property is planned to be annexed into a district/city so you lose the original County political jurisdiction and with that probably lose your constitutional protections. Ask Peter S. about jurisdiction if you are interested in this topic.

What are property tax implications?

If community service districts (CSD) are allowed to take property tax money away from cities, over time, I think you'll see cities ability to provide services to all residents diminished. Government functions would be less integrated and would become more specialized.

 What I think I know :)

 Counties are legitimate government power of the people manifest as a subdivision of our State.
Counties have legitimate political jurisdiction as a subdivision of the State.

County board of supervisors are directly elected by the people through a democratic process (each person gets an equal vote and equal chance to vote as well as an equal chance to run for office).

County BOS people can be recalled, the people can do referendum and initiatives if they believe there is a need to remove elected officials for abuse of power and/or correct an unjust law.

County has three branches for balance of power: legislative (makes laws), executive (implements laws), judicial (upholds laws) like the State and Federal governments. These distinctions are increasingly being blurred, in my view to our detriment.
 LAFCo is an illegitimate governance structure operating within the County.

 LAFCo board is appointed, self selected people associated with legitimate government structure.
Elected officials can be recalled, but replacement of members on LAFCo board is easily done without interruption in their LAFCo proceedings.

No three branches, just one, central government, Soviet style. 
Remedy for bad policy is a short time frame for protest by affected persons only (no direct approval as with a ballot measure, no equal opportunity). 

This seems like sort of a negative right in that you get that right only if enough people protest. It's very hard to organize lots of people in this short time frame. Goes against our equal opportunity to participate in our democratic process and our unalienable rights as called out in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our constitution. This process changes our positive right to make law through our representatives to a negative process where protest is our tool to impact this government. 

 Another remedy is a lawsuit which is expensive and requires legal expertise likely not possessed by the majority of people.

Boundary changes, organizational structure

These boundary changes are likely to make the land use changes from our current, urban, suburban and rural to urban, open space, agriculture, and wildland/habitat and create a new jurisdictional model. My guess is boundaries will be drawn and redrawn according to the OBAP maps until ultimately LAFCo's will aggregate and replace our Counties and we will officially come under a regional entity such as the joint policy committee replacing our County government with governance.

 IE - San Rafael Sanitary: Look at different ways to deliver waste water services - Consider consolidating 4 services into 1.

I think the plan is to aggregate all water: drinking water, storm water and wastewater together captured, treated and returned to the urban areas (sustainable) , no private property with lawns and the rest of the water is for nature. Check out the Bay Delta Conservation Plan governance structure and "stakeholder" model for details.

Influence: Fire, parks and rec, street lighting, open space.

All districts. I'm guessing these districts are viewed as eventually becoming part of the federal government as an extension of the District of Columbia (Washington D.C). Crazy isn't it?

 Sphere of Influence: Find out where growth in appropriate (ie., Silveria Ranch)

If you check out the Direct Protection Areas (DPA's) you will see green lines that look like the limits of growth to me. These are presented as fire protection areas, but I think they are also land use planning maps.

Expand, reduce"sphere of influence" - gov't entity to create incorporation.
If all becomes incorporated or a district then our original, legitimate political jurisdictions (Counties) are essentially eliminated and so goes our Constitutional three branch system of government, our sovereignty, our freedoms and rights under our Constitution.

CSD - provide municipal service, with LAFCO approval, except land use authority

It looks like land use is to be left to our General Plans. Our housing elements requiring RHNA seems to be the beginning of this type of control over our cities. If allowed to continue, State law general plan laws will likely increasingly impact our cities as RHNA has.

If LAFCo recommends land annexation, in a district "CSD has limited authority to stop an annexation unless they can provide documentation in a 30-day window showing a financial hardship." 

I find this very problematic.

I would ask why LAFCo wants to annex County property to Cities and/or form districts in these unincorporated County areas?

I would like to learn more about this financial hardship angle.

Check the LAFCo strategic plan for details on what they are planning for Marin County.
For more see www.marinlafco.org

Likely to neuter the legitimate role of these Counties as our political power base and constitutional jurisdiction.

Counties now operate as a pass through for federal subsides supporting government social service programs (money drain). The enterprise funded government services such as water, energy, etc. (money makers) are now increasingly with the regional government. These Counties will in time likely be viewed as "federal" counties. The federal government will have completed their mission of eliminating State's rights, State land and the rights of the people.

Some cities have given thought to disincorporation, returning to an unincorporated model of government coming back under the jurisdiction of the County. I wonder if Peter S. might be interested in explaining this jurisdictional concept to us at some point.

There's much more to share on this issue, but don't want to overwhelmed you.

I hope that helps.

All the best,


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