From SUSAN SHER
It has become apparent that locally-owned businesses remain the life blood of our community. CEOs and boards of directors of the large chain stores with which DDR promises to populate its mega-mall simply do not have the interest or commitment to sustain our community.
Recently, as a member of a board of directors for a local non-profit organization with an upcoming benefit event, I had the task of requesting raffle prizes from local businesses. Virtually all of the local merchants who were approached generously donated to the cause despite the fact that many were facing challenging financial times themselves. In response to the same request made to some of the chain stores which have all ready infiltrated Ukiah, I was told that the management of the local store did not have the discretion to make a donation; I should submit a written request to out-of-town corporate headquarters. No doubt, staff in these corporate headquarters would not have heard of this Ukiah non-profit agency, the corporate executives would not be attending the event and having no familiarity with the community in which one of its many chain stores was located, would have no concern for the wellbeing of local folks relying on the services provided by this local non-profit.
Throughout this campaign, Ohio-based corporate giant, DDR has argued that changing the zoning of the Masonite site from industrial to commercial/retail use and the resulting construction of its mega-mall would be an economic boon for our community, a way to put substantial amounts of cash into our dwindling local coffers.
While DDR has made many illusory promises of future benefits, it has thus far, provided one concrete example of the hypocrisy of its purported concern for the economic vitality of our community. Last month, the UDJ compared the campaign spending of both DDR, the only contributor to the Yes on Measure A campaign with that of Save Our Local Economy (”SOLE”), the grass-roots community group opposed to Measure A.
As of September 19, 2009, DDR had contributed over $500,000 to its own campaign. During this past filing period, large amounts of campaign funds were not spent locally; rather, DDR patronized a Marin County law firm, political and marketing consultants from San Francisco and Santa Rosa, and out-of-town printers and graphic designers. SOLE, on the other hand, has made it a point to spend the approximate $50,000 it has raised for production of its campaign literature on Ukiah based printing, graphics and copying businesses. (SOLE of course, does not have access to the massive funding possessed by DDR for high-priced consultants.)
DDR’s failure to support our local economy during this election is merely a prelude of what is to come should Measure A pass. This is one of the many reasons I have voted no on Measure A.
From TIM HEMLOCK
As a frequent traveler of our beautiful country I witness the crass generification that developments like DDR have wrought on the landscape.
They turn every town in this country into the same bland arena that is built solely to earn various chain stores an opportunity to send gross amounts of money back to corporate HQ. They make empty promises to the locals painting themselves as good corporate citizens but, the bottom line always being whatever they may plunder from the local economy. The recent, well attended Pumpkin Fest illustrates what a vibrant downtown is all about. Why build a phony downtown, this temple of avarice and greed when we have already a downtown ripe for intelligent development. A place for dual purpose growth, that saves the Masonite site for a possible green, local based economic area that creates real jobs that pay a living wage.
Do not let these slick hucksters turn our valley into anywhere USA but lets build something proud futuristic. We don’t need to add to the 101 corridor disease as evidenced in Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Novato and Marin. Travel the small towns throughout the Midwest and see what unchecked growth has done to their down, ghost, towns. Vote No on A.
From ANTONIO ANDRADE
With Reference to Measure A, I take issue with DDR’s representations of their concerns about the environment, and the planning obstacles they faced in our County. Citizens For Adequate Review (CFAR) sued the County and DDR to stop the final phases of the demolition of the Masonite facility. CFAR’s contended that, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the demolition was in fact the 1st phase of the Crossroads project and, as such, the project as a whole required environmental review before demolition began.
When going through the mandatory settlement process, along with cessation of the demolition, CFAR had three demands:
1) The slabs, foundation, and underground utilities not be removed prior a comprehensive environmental review. DDR agreed to that condition but then turned around and initiated Measure A which circumvented CEQA and attempts to undercut the agreement for environmental review by demanding the County issue a demolition permit within 30 days of application. See Ch. 8.3.2, Pg B 224 of Measure A;
2) The environmental review agreement would be binding on subsequent owners. DDR was adamantly refused to making that agreement and we dropped that demand. Therefore, I question DDR’s real commitment to comprehensive environmental review. Their financial interests took precedence over our environment being protected; and
3) CFAR did agree with DDR that the County permitting process was slow and fundamentally inadequate. Though we agreed for different reasons, CFAR proposed we share financial responsibility with DDR and the County and hire a mutually acceptable outside consultant who would review the County permitting process and either deem it acceptable or come up with a set of recommendations for improving the planning process, as this would benefit all parties. Again, DDR and also the County (under the direction of Supervisors Pinches, Delbar, and Wattenberger) steadfastly refused. In short, DDR had a chance to have their permit issues addressed and they refused. We heard DDR spin the situation in last week’s Measure A debate, saying they were acting on the recommendations made by these three Supervisors to not proceed ahead with their application, thereby leaving out their refusal to act.
Though not wealthy, County residents dug deep and spent $20,000 to bring this action. DDR hired the top CEQA attorney for developers in the state. Had CFAR the financial resources to continue to Court, we would have held fast on our demands. However, we couldn’t match their deep pockets and settled for environmental review going forward.
Given how DDR positioned themselves in the negotiations, the tireless phone surveying that was done, and the subsequent Measure A initiative, be forewarned that DDR are masters at cherry-picking and spinning the facts to suit their overall objectives. Should they succeed, I see no reason to believe things would be any different going forward.