PLUS is not a MINUS

Three of the thousands of events that orbit my life have lined up into a syzygy of understanding. Last week I attended a seminar on database modeling. I'm also writing a final project for a Java programming class. And the big topic in the county right now is the PLUS or Partnership Land Use System proposal.

Some people argue that PLUS interferes with private property rights. I found that to create a good database model to accurately represent a business, you create an Entity/Relationship diagram by locating all the separate things someone wants to track. Yet after mining these conceptual nuggets of reality, you must discover and define the natural relationships in the pile of entities which weld them together in an organized fashion. And one of the basics of the Java language is its orientation toward objects -- individual programs that come with their own methods for how others can use them. Yet there are also language-wide Interfaces that provide relations between very disparate objects.

No object or entity exists without relationships. No man is an island. No property is completely private. The value of a parcel is modified by many unowned and other-owned parts of the environment. The view and the climate for example. The price a farm receives for development depends on its proximity to towns with jobs for making money or activities for spending it. Just as all the animals and plants together create the atmosphere which sustains each, we humans and our institutions create the climate that affects land values. PLUS is not just a Mighty Irritating No-Use System. It is a conscious attempt to encapsulate rules and procedures on how we can best live together with the least trouble.

But when creating a database diagram, one of the key problems for geeks is not asking enough questions of the users. Then we write bad definitions of poorly understood concepts and end up with a useless database. Writing a bad regulation is even worse. At least with a bad law, a jury can choose to ignore evidence and cancel the law in a particular case. With a regulation, you're often at the mercy of an appeals bureaucracy where no one is safe if the issue is politically volatile.

One complaint the proponents of PLUS have is that people didn't participate when the idea started and now they're trying to derail the schedule. That complaint is irrelevant. I'm going to turn in my Java project in a good enough condition. A couple parts don't work, and many would work a lot better if I reprogrammed their methods of interaction, but I have a deadline.

When a new government initiative is announced, many people ignore it. We don't have time to deal with everything -- that's why we elect and pay for governing bodies. And many seeds of projects never reach fruition, often dying of budget strangulation or when a sponsor doesn't get reelected. And the speed with which PLUS has progressed so far is actually due to the lack of participation of citizens. If hundreds had showed up at every meeting, each one would have lasted longer and more meetings would have been scheduled, more notes taken, and more concerns considered. That's happening now, and the county needs to take advantage of it.

With more partners, a dance gets more complicated, yet also a lot more interesting, and each step must be accurately choreographed. The Partnership inside PLUS is vital to all of us, so let's shoot for an A instead of settle for something less, imposed by a deadline we have set based on false expectations.