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Ballot Initiative on Civic Center

January 06, 1994

A ballot initiative on Santa Monica's Civic Center Specific Plan is a bad idea, despite the loud clamor for participatory democracy by Tom Hayden and his little band. They unwittingly have shown why it is a bad idea by their deceitful statements to get voters to sign their petition. Imagine their distortions if the issue actually makes it to a full election campaign.

A letter from Hayden to Santa Monica citizens asserts that the plan will cause a "sixfold increase in carbon monoxide over 'safe levels.' " When I challenged this claim to one of his stalwarts, who was soliciting petition signatures, the answer was "it's in the (Environmental Impact Report."

Nothing could be further from the truth. The environmental impact report shows that the year-2000 worst-case concentrations of carbon monoxide are well below state and federal standards. But most important, they are barely distinguishable from the concentrations expected if the Civic Center project does not go forward!

I am not saying there will be no air quality impacts of the project. What I am saying is that the Environmental Impact Report finds these impacts not severe, despite Hayden's reckless rhetoric to the contrary. More generally, the process of evaluating this and other reckless claims like Hayden's requires a citizen to delve into the large documents on the project, and few people have time to do that. That is why putting the Civic Center plan on the ballot is a bad idea. It just gives a small band of opponents a chance to do great mischief.

With all its problems, representative democracy has been our way of government. The Civic Center plan was developed in a long and democratic process. The opponents of the plan, having filed to convince their fellow citizens in that process, now want to resort to participatory democracy to circumvent the process. In an election campaign, their distorted claims will take time to refute, and that gives them a chance to prevail.

SAM ZIVI

Santa Monica

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