From JAMES HOULE
Member of the County Council of the Green Party
To the Editor:
The following was presented to the City Council of Ukiah on January 19th:
You, the City Council of Ukiah, are scheduled today (Jan. 19th) to approve, in secret session, an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Costco. Most of your fellow citizens are at a loss to understand why you would sell 15 acres of land bought with Redevelopment Funds to a retail emporium when it is well established that our real need is affordable housing, not more stores. We hold you answerable to us for your actions and ask for your response to the following questions:
Why is it OK in your view to place a Big Box Retail Outlet in Ukiah after we the voters resoundingly defeated such a Big Box Complex at the Masonite site (1 mile north of town) by a 62% to 32% vote just 3 months ago? Did you somehow fail to hear the voice of the people?
How can you accept the loss of local jobs and the demise of local business that will inevitably result if Costco moves in? How can you explain this to those local merchants who are the likely victims: food stores, clothing stores, opticians, hearing aid suppliers, tire shops, druggists, florists, and book stores? We do not suffer from a shortage of local stores meeting these local needs and returning far more to the community than out-of-state monsters like Costco and Wal-Mart. We can see from the experience of other small towns that when the local market fails to meet their profit forecasts, the Big Boxers nail shut the doors and quickly get out of town. We will regret our gullibility and like a jilted bride sadly survey the abandoned stores along State Street and School Street that the once-welcomed groom has left as his only legacy.
You chose to invest $2.74 million to buy this 18 acre parcel of land suitable only for retail enterprises with our redevelopment funds when our most obvious real need was affordable housing? If Costco does buy 15 acres of this parcel, what will you do with this money? We have hundreds of low income working families now living in very small converted motel rooms south of downtown and in dilapidated shacks and old mobile homes in South Ukiah and Calpella. We happily exploit these workers in our vineyards and business enterprises. May we have your commitment that the proceeds from this sale will be invested in the construction of affordable housing, not in another unneeded retail complex? How can we trust your word? Will you now respond to the community’s real human needs rather than to the selfish complaints of our higher income citizens for a little more convenience in shopping?