Nearly every day I receive emails from rural residents of the North County who are experiencing a water crisis in the worst way possible: Their wells are running dry. To be able to have water for their homes they are having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to drill new wells, with no guarantee that this will even alleviate their problem, and if it does, they don’t know for how long.
These emails, these stories, are factual, emotional, and ultimately they conclude by pleading for help, for leadership, from our Board of Supervisors. The sense of helplessness and desperation these folks are expressing tears at me for several reasons.
The obvious one is pure empathy for what they are going through, but the other has to do with not yet being able to respond to them with any sincere reassurance that we will do everything we can to help them.
While there are many good long-term options being explored by committees and by professionals, the people who write me are in need of some immediate help beyond drilling and trucking in water, which they are already doing, and to great personal expense.
This situation, this crisis, is, to my mind, when government matters most, when our role in the lives of our citizens and our businesses is most appropriate. Are there easy solutions? No, it is very complex for reasons of law and jurisdiction and hydrology.
But if our Board of Supervisors had committed to exploring every option, including a variety of urgency land use ordinances, if we had overcome our various philosophical differences for the sake of showing a strong and unified front to the people who are afraid of losing their homes, I would feel better about the future of the basin and the future of the many collaborative efforts needed to address this crisis.
But at this moment, based on our failure to do so the last time we had this issue on our agenda, and based on other issues we’ve seen too frequently distorted by ideological coloring and the catered talking points provided by special interests, I am not confident we can do what our rural residents deserve: Provide strong and unified leadership that can give them some small measure of reassurance.
Leadership on this issue and other difficult challenges asks us to risk alienating our friends and supporters for the sake of the common good. It requires us to admit that we don’t have perfect solutions to complex matters but that we won’t allow fear to guide us to inaction. It demands that we act with urgency when urgency is required and remind all of our citizens that we belong to a community and thus, we are in this together.
I am aware that many people believe any land use controls are government infringements. I know that many people believe that we could injure our local wine, agricultural and building communities with emergency actions. I get that and I respect that, but as someone who has spent every day in office working on behalf of economic development with a strong record of collaborative successes to show for it, I am comfortable in calling for my colleagues, especially our two North County supervisors, to act now to address this crisis which threatens not only the future of our economy, but most immediately, threatens the present-day experiences of thousands of rural residents.