Posted on Sun, Nov. 09, 2003



GROWTH IS COMING to the East Bay. How we handle that growth will determine the quality of life here for the next few decades. The Times wrote about this in an editorial last Monday, which was a follow to a Sunday story written by Times reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen and reported by a number of other staff members. It won't be the last story readers of the Times will see on this subject.

The Sunday story centered around the Shaping Our Future project, which is a five-year, $750,000 plan designed to provide a more cohesive and sensible approach to the region's growth. It is a plan that was funded by cities and the county in an effort to explore ways of cooperatively managing the coming growth. To say the least, there is a broad spectrum of opinion out there about this plan. Depending upon one's perspective, it is either a forward-looking, visionary masterwork that will get people out of their cars and transform the county into a much more livable place or it is social engineering devised to take away the "local control" of the people and raise their taxes.

Unfortunately, in some measure this issue has become one in which the debate is far too often both defined and dominated by those extremes. That should not be the case. There is much in Shaping Our Future that needs to be discussed. It is a discussion that the East Bay must have. Whether Shaping Our Future is the correct vehicle for action remains to be seen. But for this area to be the kind of place we all want it to be in 10 years this discussion must take place.

The Times has committed itself to helping that discussion along. We plan to do so on several fronts. First, we plan to provide extensive news coverage of the issue. I can't exactly speak to this aspect of it because we keep the news department and the opinion department separate here.

But Times Managing Editor Chris Lopez said that his reporters and editors are committed to covering every possible meaningful aspect of this story. He has made assignments at every level for coverage to be as complete and exhaustive as possible. His reporters plan to detail the actions of every politician who has the opportunity to vote on Shaping Our Future. No votes will be allowed under the radar screen. [VOTES?? SOF IS NOT ON THE BALLOT!!]

Second, we plan to make growth, growth management and Shaping Our Future regular themes on the editorial pages. We think these issues are critical to the future of this region, and we will be writing about them often. Very often.

Third, realizing that many local elections are coming next year, our editorial board will make questions about Shaping Our Future part of every candidate interview. In fact, we think this is so important that local candidates who come to see us hoping for an editorial endorsement should understand that it will be the first question asked of them. [AND I'M SURE YOU'LL SLAM ANYONE WHO DARES TO BE AGAINST REGIONAL GOVERNMENT]

Fourth, our editorial pages and Perspective section will devote a great deal of space to Shaping Our Future. It will provide a forum for people to express opinions and ask questions through letters to the editor. We also will solicit longer opinion pieces for Perspective from people who live here. With these I will tend to shy away from elected officials and self-appointed "community activists" [OUCH!!] and attempt to gather works written by ordinary people who are concerned about the quality of life in the East Bay. [YOU MEAN PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON AND WILL RESOND TO LEADING QUESTIONS!!]

Fifth, several of the editors of this paper periodically will use this column to let you know how things are going. More growth -- much more growth -- is coming to the East Bay. It will affect us all. As much as some of us would like it, we cannot simply pull up the drawbridge and say, "Sorry, we've got ours. You should go someplace else to get yours." It doesn't work that way, and it is not going to work that way here. To ensure the best possible result, this community discussion must be calm, informed, reasonable and respectful. [MUCH MORE GROWTH IS COMING FROM THE ARTIFICIALLY CREATED LACK OF SINGLE FAMILY HOUSING, CAUSING HOUSING COSTS TO SKYROCKET..THANKS A LOT!]

I know that flies in the face of conventional politics, but this discussion must transcend politics, or at least the demagoguery of normal politics. It is simply too important to us all.

Hatfield is editorial page editor for Contra Costa Newspapers.

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