Friday, May 22, 2009

The end of public review?

The mayor is planning to undermine government regulation and the public voice yet again.

The public's most powerful protection against destructive development is called the "Environmental Review" process. It's not about ecology. It's intended to be a public assessment of the impact of a proposed development on the entire community -- on population density, traffic, housing, services... And it includes crucial public hearings.

Developers hate this process. It's an obstacle in their way. They prefer to avoid public review or eliminate it entirely. And now the mayor wants to help them. Take a look.

The mayor's Economic Development Corporation is seeking to "streamline" the process to "reduce the costs and delays" specifically for "property owners." The questionnaire is designed as a first step towards making it easier for developers to bypass Environmental Review.

Note the wording of the first topic: Topic 1 - Obstacles and Roadblocks
"We are interested in understanding the obstacles and roadblocks that may be experienced by applicants for projects subject to environmental review...."

I urge you to go to the questionnaire and explain why public review is important and should be strengthened. Let the EDC know that
1) The independence of the public review must be ensured. It should not respond to developers' needs, but to the public's needs.
2) The objectivity of the process must be protected. The Environmental Review must not become a rubber stamp for development.
3) The comprehensiveness, detail and thoroughness of the Review must be ensured and expanded. All aspects of impact on the community and surrounding communities must be carefully and objectively assessed by an independent party.
4) Public hearings and public outreach must be expanded.
5) Means of informing the public must be enhanced.

Remember that this is the same mayor who came up with a plan to restrict legal challenges to illegal developments. Without public review, residents and small businesses have no protection against development, against demolition, bulldozing, eviction, gentrification. It's giving the entire city over to developers whose interest is not the public good. It undermines government regulation and public oversight of destructive private interests. It's taking the city away from the public and handing it over to the few who just want to make a killing off your city and your lives.

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