Some big news for sleepy little San Diego this week, as both Sierra Club of California and Attorney General Kamala Harris joined a local lawsuit challenging SANDAG’s 2050 regional plan.
For her part, the Attorney General had previously weighed in on the plan, cautioning that it failed to meet the state’s standards for emissions reductions and warning of trouble on the horizon if action wasn’t taken. And yet, no action was taken. Despite being explicitly warned that its plan would have significant legal problems, SANDAG’s leadership just went ahead and did it anyways. And now SANDAG Chairman Jerome Stocks is very sad that the state’s Attorney General would spend tax dollars to ensure the law is followed.
Not so much chagrined, but frustrated and disappointed. There is rather less of the same sentiment from Stocks that after all the time and money invested in coming up with the plan, it couldn’t manage to address legal problems that were flagged in advance. Instead, his lament is that anyone would bother to care whether the plan is legal. Stocks, of course, has publicly railed against the enforcement of basic environmental protections on principle before, so perhaps his reaction to the law applying is understandable.
It’s a disturbing trend throughout the region — elected leaders who are indignant about steamrolling the law to get whatever they want, and telling anyone who cares to stop wasting time. But laws aren’t optional. Neither individual people nor government agencies get to pick and choose what laws apply based on what’s convenient. And applying a standard of ‘would you personally prefer the law not apply to you’ would empty our prisons pretty quick.
Is this the best our current leaders can do? It isn’t even the bare minimum anymore. We’ve somehow even managed to descend past that to ‘barely legal if we’re lucky’ and a debate over whether the law should even apply when it’s inconvenient.
The idea that we have to pick between the law and getting things done is just not true — it’s a canard of the lazy and those who can’t accomplish their goals legally. If a judge asked “Why did you rob that bank?” and the robber replied “Because working takes too long,” we wouldn’t all turn around and say “Exactly! Legalize bank robbery!” For leaders like Stocks to push such a premise should be embarrassing.
But this is the same mentality we’ve seen with Snapdragon. With Balboa Park. With the city permitting process. With the proposed Convention Center expansion deal. What’s a hundred grand between friends? Public review isn’t fast enough. Making sure we don’t poison each other takes too long. Taxpayers are too careful with their money to sufficiently subsidize developers.
This sort of whiny excuse-making ought to be laughable, but somehow it passes as an acceptable standard of leadership. If it’s inconvenient for those who think we have to choose between the law and getting things done? Good.