The subject is serious, but the latest twist in the saga of the proposed Rio Mesa project area is worth a belly laugh. So go ahead and laugh until your ribs hurt or you fall off the couch.
The thought of the city of Fresno suing Madera County -- or any other neighboring county -- for failure to adequately study the consequences of growth is akin to Charlie Sheen testifying about the ills of doing drugs and shacking up with porn stars.
Fresno is a monument to poor planning, urban sprawl and concentrated poverty. Now, having recognized the errors of its ways, the city has morphed into the ex-smoker complaining when someone else lights up.
Thickening the hypocrisy: the closed-session decision authorizing the city attorney to sue Madera County was made by a City Council dominated by touters of free-market virtues.
The city does have a legitimate point. It says that big projects such as Rio Mesa, which 100,000 people would someday call home, require regional planning.
But our local governments aren't much for collaboration. It's always about getting while the getting is good regardless of what happens to the guys and gals on the other side of the line or the river.
Considering the San Joaquin Valley's challenges with air quality, water scarcity and poverty, you'd think that leaders would wise up and team up.
The problem is, Fresno -- the 800-pound gorilla that anchors the Valley -- surrendered its moral authority one rezone at a time when it was pushing north with reckless abandon and ignoring the deterioration of its urban core.
Maybe Fresno someday will reclaim the mantle to lead by successfully implementing its 2035 general plan and rebuilding its neighborhoods.
This is a big maybe. The attempted derailment of the Southeast Growth Area plan by council members, the continuing rezones and the failure to untangle the planning knot west of Highway 99 suggests that Fresno may never abandon its build-and-abandon growth pattern.
The difference between today and the past is a fear at City Hall that middle-class residents will flee the city for Rio Mesa -- just as they left Fresno for Clovis.
The bright spot for Fresno is that environmental and citizens groups opposed to Rio Mesa and its individual components may keep the project area bottled up in court for years. Opponents have plenty of fodder, especially with the state bent on reducing greenhouse emissions and the federal government restoring salmon in the San Joaquin River.
Regional planning is coming to the Valley. The environmental consequences of growth and the challenges of providing supporting infrastructure are too big to ignore. The question is whether the collaboration is voluntary or forced on cities and counties by judges and state and federal dictates.
City Hall can best do its part by leading by example.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6632, email@example.com
or @fresnomac on Twitter.