Growth, Greens, and the Mayor of Moraga

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The little town of Morega, CA in Contra Costa County is the site of a show down between pro-growth and moneyed land-owners against anti-sprawl “open space advocates” in town, including the town’s Mayor, Green Party member Lynda Deschambault, whose term is up this year. The battle has heated up, resulting in two opposing land-use measures that will appear on the November 4 ballot:

The first measure is an effort by open space proponents to bar most new homes and businesses outside of downtown Moraga.

The second is a defensive measure that sticks closely to the city’s current plan and allows up to 300 luxury houses, and mandates $7 million for the city’s use. The measure is sponsored by the Bruzzone family, longtime Moraga landowners who could lose most of their development potential under the other initiative.

Growth proponents point to the town’s dwindling budget and say it needs a modest infusion of shops and homes to boost its tax base, while critics cite negative traffic and environmental impacts of sprawl.

From here the local politics turn personal:

Lee Bren, a 31-year Moraga resident who lost to Deschambault in the 2004 election, has launched an all-out e-mail assault against the mayor. He accuses her of misrepresenting her background and conspiring behind the scenes to advance her political agenda.

Another group has been quietly conducting opposition research on Deschambault, filing public records act requests seeking verification of the contents of her resume and 2004 ballot statement.

Deschambault, however, has decided not to run for re-election, which means that the pro-growth groups will have to campaign on the merits of their plans rather than negatively against the out-going Mayor. That may not stop them from continuing their character assassination attempts though.

This is a great story of the Green Fight on the Ground.

Read the story online here, but in case it gets dropped from the web, I’ll repost it here.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen column: Moragans take sides in growth war
By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 07/26/2008 04:49:35 PM PDT

MORAGA, THE smallest village in the Lamorinda trifecta, renowned for its upscale homes nestled amidst wooded enclaves, is poised to become the next front in Contra Costa County’s recurring growth wars.

A pair of dueling land-use measures are headed for the Nov. 4 ballot and pistols have been drawn.

Some pro-growth Moragans are investigating whether Mayor Lynda Deschambault, an open space advocate, lied about her background.

Deschambault has fired back, calling one of her outspoken critics the “Karl Rove of Moraga.” (No, she didn’t mean it as a compliment.)

Here’s the background on the two initiatives:

The first measure is an effort by open space proponents to bar most new homes and businesses outside of downtown Moraga.

The second is a defensive measure that sticks closely to the city’s current plan and allows up to 300 luxury houses, and mandates $7 million for the city’s use. The measure is sponsored by the Bruzzone family, longtime Moraga landowners who could lose most of their development potential under the other initiative.

Growth proponents point to the town’s dwindling budget and say it needs a modest infusion of shops and homes to boost its tax base, while critics cite negative traffic and environmental impacts of sprawl.

This is an oft-played tune in California, where competing factions increasingly turn to the ballot to resolve conflicts over if, how and where to grow.

Contra Costans have twice adopted a countywide urban limit line that bars sprawl on the urban fringe. In the other camp, major landowners in Antioch and Pittsburg persuaded voters to OK measures that expanded the development footprint.

The political tension is already palpable in Moraga, where the growth joust coincides with the expiration of three terms a majority on the Town Council.

But no one is getting more jabs than Deschambault.

She’s an environmentalist and Green Party member whose politics, take-no-prisoners leadership style and role in several town brouhahas have generated passion on both sides. This is a historically conservative town that saw its party registration tip Republican to Democrat only a few months ago.

Lee Bren, a 31-year Moraga resident who lost to Deschambault in the 2004 election, has launched an all-out e-mail assault against the mayor. He accuses her of misrepresenting her background and conspiring behind the scenes to advance her political agenda.

Another group has been quietly conducting opposition research on Deschambault, filing public records act requests seeking verification of the contents of her resume and 2004 ballot statement.

That group intended to form a committee solely for the purpose of defeating Deschambault in November. But she deflated their plans when she announced she would not run. (Fellow Councilmembers Mike Metcalf and Rochelle Bird are seeking re-election.)

None of this had anything to do with her decision, Deschambault said.

She highly suspects the one group has ties to the Bruzzones and seeks to sink the open space measure by trying to discredit her. As for Bren, she says he’s disgruntled after his loss four years ago.

She’s leaving public office, she says, because she has obtained a grant to start a countywide sustainability effort and being an elected official is a conflict.

So, what about this resume flap?

No one disputes that she is a highly educated woman with a master’s degree, undergraduate degrees in chemistry and soil science and a job at the Environmental Protection Agency.

But she may have misled people with her choice of words in her 2004 candidate statement.

It states that she had a California teaching certificate.

What she had was an emergency teaching certificate. The state requires a teaching credential to work as a permanent teacher at public schools.

Deschambault confirmed that she had an emergency certificate to teach at a private school in Danville.

It also states that she “taught” at Los Perales Elementary School. The school district says she was an instructional aide earning $9.28 an hour between 1997 and 2000. Most people differentiate between fully credentialed teachers and others who work in the classroom even though they may be eminently qualified to teach.

For her part, Deschambault calls her resume “completely truthful.”

The November election will be all about “grow or don’t grow. It’s a very clear platform,” she said.

But so far, the election has been all about Deschambault and she’s not even running.

4 thoughts on “Growth, Greens, and the Mayor of Moraga

  1. G.E.

    Absurd.

    Anti-sprawl people only inflate the values of the homes already held by the rich and make homeownership and renting more expensive.

    Why the hell would “moneyed land owners” want to increase the supply of housing, thereby lowering the point at which supply and demand intersect and decreasing the market value of their homes? Not a very nefarious plot. Or maybe they’re as ignorant about economics as the anti-growth people.

    Better question: Why do the “anti-growth” (i.e. pro-poverty) people want to provide this price support for the rich against their will?

    Absolutely absurd.

    It’s like the secret agenda of the Greens is to benefit the rich.

  2. ronaldkanehardy

    Because the “moneyed land owners” want to sell develop “300 luxury homes”, which translates to 300 x $250,000 (min), which equals $75,000,000.

    “Moneyed land owners” want 75 million dollars, which is a hell of a lot more than “decreasing the market value of their homes”. Even if they are only scoring $25K per home, seven million dollars is still a bucket load of money – which the “anti-growth” crowd is potentially denying them.

    It is all about GREED, not growth vs. no-growth.

  3. G.E.

    This is idiotic.

    I know liberals hate economic reality, but you have to realize that increasing the supply of housing is going to reduce the value of existing housing, right?

    Or not?

    Who exactly are these evil rich people hurting?

    Answer: Only people who already own homes, who will see the value of their homes decline.

    Renters and prospective homebuyers will benefit. Heaven forbid someone make a profit serving his fellow man.

  4. G.E.

    “Greed” — the ultimate totalitarian bugaboo.

    You mean that which an individual does without initiating force for the maximization of his own benefit? i.e. the basis for civilization?

    The greedy bastards who gave us modernity, with its advance medicine, reduced workload, surplus food, longer life expectancies, etc. are the ultimate sinners in the eye of Luddite progressives who see man’s existence on the planet as a cancer.

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