Guest Editorial by Bruce Hagen, December 7, 1995
More people are talking about negotiations over the Lafferty/Moon issue, but I'm still waiting for some action.
At the August 21 City Council Meeting, I invited swap supporters to begin an informal dialogue, giving out my phone number, waiting afterward in the lobby. No one accepted. In early October, the Argus published my guest editorial repeating my offer. No one responded. Later that month, Lafferty supporter Jerry Price and I presented a 3 page analysis of the possibilities for a mutually beneficial solution to the four council swap supporters. We met with two of them to discuss it, the other two did not respond. None of them have followed up on our offer.
Peter Pfendler is now quoted as saying "they've had their negotiations." I'm sorry, but private offers made to select council members, like my speeches and letters, are not "negotiations." Nevertheless, Mr. Pfendler's offer to allow three days of supervised public tours each year, if the trade is approved, deserves a thoughtful response.
This doesn't mean you and I will get three days a year on Lafferty (even if we could make the dates.) The County's 1994 Lafferty/Moon study predicted 30,000 annual visits to Lafferty. Generously assuming 80% of these would want to go to Moon instead, that's 6,000 visits to Lafferty. This is a conservative estimate, considering the overwhelmingly positive response to the public tours.
6000 total is 2000 in each of three days, or five two-hour tours with groups of 400. Would that be good for Lafferty's ecology, much less the people of Petaluma? It would be like a cattle drive! Realistically, of course, most people would be turned away. If it was limited to the 250 per day of the recent tours, that's an eight year waiting list. Even the fortunate dozens would have no opportunity for quiet and solitude.
Mr. Pfendler is wrong to think we regard Lafferty like the White House, where one tour satisfies your curiousity for life. For those who don't love hiking in wild nature, it's like allowing you one Giants game every eight years, or one day at the beach. Some say this is better than nothing, but they act as though Mr. Pfendler already owns Lafferty, or that Lafferty is the price we must pay to get a regional park. Neither is true.
Mr. Pfendler understands it's best to negotiate from a position of strength, and that you don't negotiate if you can get what you want without negotiations. His greatest strength is that he owns Moon Ranch; he can claim we won't get the Moon unless he gets Lafferty. Too bad, because the County Open Space District was negotiating purchase of development rights on Moon before Mr. Pfendler bought it. OSD has the authority and resources to buy land for parks, and could have bought Moon if Supervisor Jim Harberson and Petaluma's OSD representative (and mayor) Patty Hilligoss had fought for Petaluma's interests the way they appear to be fighting for Peter Pfendler's.
What about Lafferty? In 1992, when a citizens' plan for public access to Lafferty began to gain support, Mr. Pfendler hired lawyers and biologists who painted an exaggerated picture of Lafferty's ecological fragility and liability risks. The City, instead of abandoning Lafferty in a panic (or cutting a back room deal?), could have worked with Mr. Pfendler, the County and the community to fine tune the citizen's plan, addressing any legitimate resource management concerns. The OSD's standing offer to buy Lafferty's development rights could have been accepted; the City could use a fraction of that money for Lafferty's minimal development, and interest on the rest could cover annual operation expenses.
So, without Mr. Pfendler's help, we could now be enjoying year-round access to Lafferty and Moon, at no cost to the City.
That's water under the bridge. Where does it leave negotiations? First, we must not assume Mr. Pfendler understands the needs of this community, much less puts those needs above his own. If he is not willing to guarantee the level of public access to Lafferty we would have without his involvement, we call off the deal. Then, our County Supervisor and Mayor press the OSD to buy Moon outright from Mr. Pfendler. If they won't do it, we replace them with folks who will. If Mr. Pfendler won't accept a fair negotiated price for what he calls a "huge, beautiful regional park"-- if he keeps it from the community he claims to care about-- we aggressively pursue alternative parksites.
Lafferty supporters are still willing to talk. But maybe we don't need negotiations. Maybe we need politicians who will truly represent us.