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Right Decision on Second Try

August 06, 2000

Congratulations to Supervisor Judy Mikels for taking just one week to reverse her ill-advised call for a countywide vote on revamping a highway intersection in Somis.

If only her colleagues had been equally quick to recognize their mistake when they shoved through the notorious mental health merger that thrust the county into a two-year financial train wreck.

Mikels proposed putting a California 118 / 34 intersection upgrade question on the November ballot in response to a petition signed by about 400 of her constituents. Despite disagreement about what the advisory measure would actually say and without determining how much it would cost to put it on the ballot, Supervisors Susan Lacey and Kathy Long joined Mikels in approving it.

A week later, Mikels sheepishly asked the board to never mind, saying that she had been given faulty information about the cost and that she "nearly choked" when she learned that the nonbinding poll would set taxpayers back at least $25,000 and perhaps as much as $93,000.

Whatever Mikels' rationale for scrapping the countywide vote, we urge the Board of Supervisors to follow through and resolve this lingering controversy. Everyone agrees that the intersection should be enlarged, for the convenience of drivers and the efficiency of cross-county traffic flow. Fortunately, safety is not a major problem here, as it was in the decision to four-lane California 126 a few years ago.

The question is whether the upgrade should be a modest one or the grandiose interchange proposed by Caltrans. Critics say the Caltrans plan is so obviously the cornerstone of a future four-laning project of both highways that the California Environmental Quality Act demands an environmental impact report on the entire plan.

We favor the smaller upgrade to get things moving in the short term and, in the longer term, vigorous pursuit of a bypass that would improve traffic on California 34 without destroying the tiny town of Somis.

More importantly, we favor county supervisors making the decisions they were elected to make. As explained in the editorial above, we believe voters elect their representatives precisely to crack tough nuts like this one. Going to a countywide vote every time 400 residents (that's about 0.05% of Ventura County's population) feel unheard is a mighty expensive way to run a county.

Ventura County residents have many ways to tell their elected representatives what they want. We encourage all residents to write, phone, e-mail and speak out at public meetings. We agree with Somis farmer Craig Underwood, who told the board, "An initiative on the ballot represents a failure of public policymaking."

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