A Winters Tale: A measured response

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With a week to go before the election, I thought nothing more needed to be said regarding Measure A.

Guess I was wrong.  

Mona Biasi, the Mayor Pro Tem’s wife, wrote a letter to this paper last week that made false and misleading statements about the joint ballot Initiative co-authored by Keep Winters Winters and the City Council.

Her comments also appeared on several Facebook pages, in an apparent attempt to dissuade citizens from voting “yes” on the measure.

“I’ve heard it could cost the City $1-$2 million,” she wrote.

“I’ve also heard legal fees related to the Initiative have already exceeded $100,000,” she added.

Let me attempt to correct the record.

All legal fees used to prepare the initial ballot measure known as Keep Winters Winters were paid for by citizens and other community members.

These were in the form of donations, most of them small, which were used to pay KWW’s lawyers and for advertising. 

When KWW and the five Council Members agreed to devise a new and more comprehensive Initiative, fees were paid by the City to KWW’s lawyer–$5,000.

The City’s attorney, Ethan Walsh, whose work was largely advisory, likely also billed his clients. But I doubt it amounted to $95 thousand.

As to the measure costing the City $1-$2 million, this has no foundation in fact. In the debate over the measure, no such figure was ever raised.

It’s unclear where Mrs. Biasi pulled this number from, or what she’s basing it on.

I think there’s not a person in Winters who believes that the Council, on behalf of our cash-strapped town, would have agreed to that.

To explain this charge, Mrs. Biasi posted on Facebook that consultants and engineers “will be needed to facilitate and document a change to the General Plan.”

This is technically accurate, but, again, misleading.

When major changes are made in the General Plan, the City always hires consultants.

In the case of Measure A, however, experts would be called in near the end of the process, not the beginning, as the citizen-Council coalition would have already conceived much of any new planning framework.

Think of it this way. You want to remodel your bathroom. You and your brother-in-law install the drains and pipes.  You save money doing the rough plumbing yourselves.

When you’re ready, you call the professional plumber to set the finish.

Mrs. Biasi wonders if current landowners might sue the City for changing the zoning of their property.

Again, this is misleading.

The property in the Sphere of Influence, to which she is undoubtedly referring, has never been zoned. It’s only been “pre-designated,” which, as I explained in an earlier column, has no effect of law.

It is simply the way City leaders imagined the town might look when they adopted the General Plan in 1992.

“Will there also be another lawsuit regarding affordable housing?” she wonders.

Surely Mrs. Biasi remembers that the lawsuit she is most likely referring to was filed against the City not because of any ballot measure.

It was because Winters officials located their required affordable homes in a flood zone.

Hint to City: Don’t do that again.

Finally, Mrs. Biasi complained that, except for Winters Express columnists, there has not been enough coverage of this important issue.

On that, I agree.

So let me be the last word in print before the election: Measure A will give the people of Winters more input than they’ve ever had in the future of our town.

Winters needs that.

Along with the truth.

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