"...The ACPG bent rules with both the Powerlink and High School Ad Hoc subcommittees that cost our community dearly."
By Lou Russo, Alpine Planning Group Member
June 29, 2011 (Alpine)--I began my tenure as an Alpine Community Planning Group (ACPG) member in 2007. In 2009, I resigned my seat for employment reasons, which took me out-of-state. Thankfully, my employer brought me back to our lovely community.
When I left, it seemed our community was set to get a beautiful new full service high school and reasonable compensation/beautification for the Sunrise Powerlink project. I continued to hear that while I was gone.
Upon returning, I learned we are likely not getting a high school and all we are getting are sidewalks and parking spaces for the millions in lost business revenues along Alpine Blvd, not to mention the daily dirt, noise, wasted time and general inconvenience to those transiting our main street.
I also learned the ACPG bent rules with both the Powerlink and High School Ad Hoc subcommittees that cost our community dearly.
In response, I felt compelled to run for re-election to the ACPG and was automatically appointed; there weren’t enough candidates for the number of open seats.
I have since been investigating these two issues, only to be stonewalled at every corner. The chief architects of the stonewalling have been Chairman Greg Fox and George Barnett.
What I have learned in spite of the stonewalling?
All of Alpine should know that the former Chairman of the PowerLink AdHoc, Mr. Barnett, and the ACPG used the cover of darkness, e.g. the Ad Hoc subcommittee rules, to avoid having the citizens of Alpine involved in the PowerLink project by having secret meetings and presenting the citizens with fiat correspondence.
What a horrible disservice that Mr. Barnett would choose to not blanket our community with information on something as impacting as this. There was no transparency into the Ad Hoc as they met in secret, by his own admission, before or after the regular ACPG meetings. There were no agendas, no minutes, no public input, just the “outcome” of the meetings; a letter here and there.
We, the public, have no idea how their decisions were arrived at, who had input into those letters or even if there was input. Only the Ad Hoc members had any input into whether simply writing a letter was even the proper approach! All we have are the statements of the former chairman that he met with the other members of the AdHoc. Was there impropriety? We don’t know. Were they hiding something? Again, we don’t know. Common sense says that if they weren’t, they had a funny way of showing it.
In a letter to the Sun, Barnett stated: "… approval power over the Sunrise Powerlink project lies entirely with the CPUC, a state agency with its own power and authorities; not at all with the County of San Diego from which the APG garners its influence."
Barnett’s statement that the CPUC was the sole arbiter of the SPL route is true, however, his statement implying that the public had no say is an outrageous lie.
(If he really believed this, why would he have the chairmanship of an Ad Hoc with no power for three years and why would so many others on the ACPG, including Chairman Fox, clamber to be on it? Have you ever heard of any politician wanting to spend three years in a powerless endeavor?)
The fact is that the northern route of the SPL was abandoned largely due to the pressure applied by those living in those areas. To this date, signs still litter the Warner Springs area saying "No to the SPL". If Alpiners had been more aware of what was transpiring in the subcommittee meetings, perhaps the public could have forced the CPUC to move the link around our city. We will never know.
In the event that we, as a community, were unable to change the route, we should have negotiated a much better deal for Alpine. Alpine is set to receive $10 million in revitalization of Alpine Blvd on a $1.9 billion project. (That’s ½ of 1% .)
Putting a severe financial hardship on most businesses along Alpine Blvd, while we are in one of the worst recessions in 40 years, and driving several businesses to close, for sidewalks and curbs is absurd. The ACPG should have negotiated something much better.
In my time in Alpine I have NEVER heard a citizen say, “Gee, we really need sidewalks and curbs.” I have heard many other things, such as the need for active parks for our children. Was there any thought to asking SPL to help us with our high school? How about sports fields and/or a pool? No, what the PowerLink Ad Hoc got us for our trouble, not to mention those in eastern Alpine who have to look at the towers for the rest of their lives, was curbs and sidewalks.
Bottom line, with no minutes from the former ACPG PowerLink Ad Hoc, the public has no accounting of what occurred on an issue that is so vital to our community and has irreparably damaged many businesses and our views.
In an era wherein transparency from politicians has been demanded over and over again, the members of the PowerLink Ad Hoc insisted on blind faith from our community. None of us should be surprised the same thing happened with the ACPG High School Ad Hoc in that three of the members of the PowerLink Ad Hoc, Mr. Fox, Mr. Barnett and Mr. Tuchman were either the sole member of the high school Ad Hoc (Mr. Fox) or deeply involved members of the now nearly defunct Alpine High School Citizens Committee.
Both of these Ad Hoc’s refused to let you, the citizens, partake in their decisions. They made the decisions for you and we see the results. One cannot help but wonder what “deals” were made with SPL. Are the BCLT and its current president Mr. Barnett, getting some land “donated”? Is SPL going to push for higher densities in certain areas so realtors, two of whom were on the PowerLink Ad Hoc, will have more homes to sell? None of us know, do we?
A final item should pique your curiosity; it did mine. Although he has been on the ACPG for years, Mr. Barnett, the chairman of the PowerLink Ad Hoc, “forgot” to travel to the Registrar of Voters and get his name on the ballot. (A number of ACPG members of this Ad Hoc had the same memory loss.) He was then forced to step down until the Mr. Fox could get him back on the ACPG. During that time, another member of the ACPG asked to take over the PowerLink Ad Hoc, a member Mr. Fox ( who participated in the secret meetings) knew was opposed to the PowerLink. Mr. Fox decided to abolish both the PowerLink and high school Ad Hoc’s. Does that timing appear odd to you?
Barnett has accused me of sitting on the sidelines and throwing sticks after the fact. The fact is that I asked to be on the high school Ad Hoc and was denied by Mr. Fox. Neither I nor anyone else knew when the secret PowerLink Ad Hoc meetings were. Finally, as Al Haven showed us, unless someone looks over their shoulders, the ACPG will approve a plan with over 160 fewer parking spots. I would hope they don’t accuse him of throwing sticks.
Since I have been digging into the facts and requesting more information from my fellow board members, I have been publicly and privately called names by many of them. I have been labeled as hateful and crazy. Chairman Fox has censured me and threatened removal. Mr. Tuchman claims I am angry. He’s right, I AM angry. I am angry that we have been deceived and continue to be misled and lied to.
The lying continues today. If you read the articles by those who want to discredit me, all is well in Alpine. Tell that to the businesses along Alpine Blvd and to the thousands of our young children who deserve a full service high school. The next time you sit in traffic just to get downtown, ask yourself if maybe citizen involvement might not have come up with something better.
I have been trying to get to the bottom of these two major issues and do what’s right for Alpiners. At a time when we see the utter contempt for rules and regulations in politics, and a disdain for common sense and what is “right”, I have been excoriated by those who wish to shut me down and to thwart my voice.
No longer. This former Marine Aviator will not take the lying - lying down. I will not falter in my desire to get to the truth. We, who live here, deserve so.
The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.