James Houle

James Houle: Costco Needs Another Look…

cBefore and After Costco
Northbound entry to Ukiah

Redwood Valley

This letter was presented to the Ukiah City Council meeting Wednesday October 15th.
Dear Council-members:  Re: DEIR for Talmage Road Interchange Modification

During the five-year history of the Costco Project, no local government entity has seriously considered and reported upon the economic impact of the project nor upon its financial viability. The City’s purchase of 15.3 acres of land for $2.34 million under the Redevelopment Program assumed further build-out of the Redwood Industrial Park made good sense although no examination of the expected new tax revenues, nor of the prospect of significant taxes lost as a result from shuttered enterprises was ever reported to the citizens. As originally planned, the $2.34 million land acquisition would be paid back to the City by Costco and used for the Talmage Interchange project. Any addition funds for traffic improvements and the like could be obtained under the same Redevelopment Account.

James Houle: The ISIS Crisis and the Biden Blurt…


Redwood Valley

Perhaps as a result of the Lunar eclipse at 3:30 am, and the appearance of the blood moon, many things have been revealed covering one of the major enigmas of the modern age: namely the Obama Strategy in the Middle East:

First the facts:

James Houle: Head Chef Kerry (Heir to the Heinz Family Fortune) Stirs His Middle Eastern Stew…

Redwood Valley

Our square-jawed replacement for the collapsing face of Hillary Clinton made a disastrous series of drop-by visits across the Middle East this past week. (You may remember that the once-peacenik Kerry married into the Heinz Katsup fortune and bought himself a seat in the Senate in 1984).

In Cairo, where General Sissi overthrew an elected government last year and placed the elected President Morsi in jail without trial, Kerry released an additional $572 million for military aid and approved shipment of ten Apache helicopters that had previously been withheld after Sissi’s coup. He expressed his commitment to the universal rights of Egyptians and “strongly sensed Sissi’s commitment to human rights” as well. The General currently holds 20,000 political prisoners in jail and has sentenced 2,000 political opponents to death. Just 24 hours after the Kerry drop-in, President Sissi, wiping off the Holy Water that John Kerry had so generously sprinkled upon his head, approved the 7 to 10 year sentences for three Al Jazeera journalists found guilty of “spreading false news”. Washington denounced the sentences but let the Apaches, good for crowd suppressing, to continue on their way to Cairo.

Jim Houle: The Fantasy World of Costco…

Redwood Valley

To The Ukiah City Council

Our City Manager fantasizes that a Big Costco Box will bring in great sales tax receipts and that the city will be able to pay off its indebtedness from the RDA fiasco, as well as new loans to build $6.2 million worth of access roads to Costco. This, they hope, will put the City on a sound financial footing. But there are a few problems with living in such a fantasy world:

There is no need for Costco: Ukiah people are not under-dressed nor poorly fed for lack of another big box discount store. We already have plenty of clothing stores, food emporiums, gasoline stations, and drug stores to meet our needs.

There is no money to build the new highway 101 interchange: The State Finance Department has said that the City Council cannot use revenue from the 2011 RDA bond nor from the expected sale of 15 acres to Costco to develop roads and interchanges needed to funnel shoppers into Big Box parking lots. Show us the money!

There is no adequate plan for the proposed interchange:

Jim Houle: Those who believe in the future are idiots and already have a lot of political power…



A recent article on Ukiah Blog was entitled: “Those Who Do Not Believe We Will Have a Future Should Not Be Placed in Charge of It.  I would take the contrary position: “Those who do believe in the future are idiots and already have a lot of political power“. 

The Evangelical Fundamentalist Christians say the end is nigh, that only they will survive and be raptured into heaven. The Israelis claim that those damned Persians are about to build the Big Bomb that will crisp the “Land of God’s Chosen People”. The only alternative is to crisp the Iranians immediately. Yet the Evangelical Fundamentalist clan do not believe there is any place in heaven for the Jews regardless of the Persians’ plans (its in the Bible).  Surprisingly, both the Israelis and the Evangelical Fundamentalists believe they have a future.

President O’Bomber insists that we must protect our oil supplies and dominate any country that resists us. He seems to believe there will indeed be a future if we can just keep the oil flowing.

Hard-headed geologists explain that the world’s oil reserves are running out regardless of O’Bomber’s policies. Our Financial Overlords foresee a probably-fatal weakening of the dollar

James Houle: The Willits Bypass and the Ukiah Costco…

Redwood Valley

To the Board of Supervisors
Mendocino County

The Willits Bypass will allow through traffic on the Freeway to bypass the streets of Willits.  CalTrans advises that this will be good for our community, because it will get some of those big rigs off local streets and reduce air pollution. Phase I will cost over $200 million and the total could well be over $350 million if it is ever completed. It will not improve downtown backups for traffic headed toward Fort Bragg: this traffic will need to exit the new Highway 101 several miles north or south of town and drive through downtown streets to reach Highway 20 just as they do now.

While all of this is being discussed and protested to the north, the Ukiah City Council is proposing the opposite solution to their traffic problems. They want to use $6.2 million of local tax funds not to allow traffic to bypass Ukiah but to move it more efficiently into town. They want to expand freeway off-ramps and feeder roads so as to shuttle shoppers into Ukiah’s expanding Big Box stores along Airport Boulevard. Our visionary City Council feels this will be good for our community: generating new sources of sales tax revenue, even while admittedly forcing many smaller businesses to close.

Recommendations: First: The Board of Supervisors should lend its support to the effort by Senator Noreen Evans to get CalTrans to explain its justification for selection of what many see as the worst of the Bypass Options. Second: Insist that the Ukiah City Council explain to the public how their highway project will be financed, how loans will be repaid, and how this will impact the revenue sharing talks that continue between County and City.

James Houle: Costco Urban Decay Report…

c1c2Before and After Costco
Northbound entry to Ukiah
See expanded version below…
Courtesy Dale La Forest & Associates

Redwood Valley

The ALH Urban & Regional Economics Analysis prepared last August by Environmental Science Associates, Inc. does a very inadequate job of characterizing the sales impacts of the proposed Costco Store upon retail food and beverage businesses in the Ukiah Market Area. Of all commercial sectors, ALH believes the food and beverages sector will be impacted most severely. There are a total of 26 groceries and supermarkets stretching from the Hopland to Willits and eastward to Lake County that ALH identifies as likely to experience some impact upon their sales volumes. Of these, seven are quite large including 2 Safeways (Ukiah and Willits), 2 Grocery Outlet Stores (Ukiah and Lakeport), Lucky (Ukiah), Raleys (Ukiah), and Food Maxx (Ukiah). ALH says there is “a potential for one of these larger supermarkets to close” and that large scale vacancies

James Houle: Stop That Sprawl…

Redwood Valley

At the Ukiah City Council meeting on Feb 20th, we heard a number of justifications for the City of Ukiah taking out a new loan to pay for the road improvements necessary to provide easy access to the planned Costco Store. Councilwomen Mari Rodin said that “It’s about avoiding sprawl”. Later, Sage Sagiacomo, Deputy CEO, said an aim of the City government was to “keep development within the park and discourage urban sprawl”. Vice Mayor Phil Baldwin said that “while the majority of the people in the city don’t love the big box culture and our dependence upon it, this at least keeps business corralled on Airport Park Boulevard” and avoids the hated sprawl. None of these condemners of sprawl explained to us what they meant by the term nor why they so feared it.

Therefore, I went back to the basic law establishing the RDA – Redevelopment Act (Health and Safety Code Section 33031), the original source of the funds that our local government wants to use to prevent “urban sprawl.” I discovered that sprawl, either of the urban big city type or the small rural town type is not mentioned in the Redevelopment Act at all! The first purpose of the RDA was to promote low to moderate income housing that the private sector does not provide. The second purpose was to cure “blight.” Blight is defined as “areas with unsafe buildings, stagnant property values, high business vacancies, high crime rates and residential overcrowding.” As County Supervisor Pinches commented several years back, we don’t really have any urban blight in Mendocino County. Sprawl is generally defined as the tendency to place housing in single family zones some distance removed from public and commercial services and thus vastly increasing the reliance upon automobiles for shopping and essential services. The Redwood Business Park along Airport Park Boulevard already qualifies as a contributor to sprawl and to encouraging reliance upon the automobile.

Sagiacomo opined that the City has known for a long time that, in order to realize its potential, the roads leading to it would need to be improved. Yet, just last year when Walmart applied for expansion to Superstore status, the City did not apply RDA funds to expanding the capacity of roads leading to it and the Planning Commission was forced to reject the Walmart application. Very puzzling this. Council member Mari Rodin explained that Costco shouldn’t be expected to pay for traffic improvements

James Houle: Heck of a Job, Hillary…

Redwood Valley

We are mercifully at the termination of Hillary Clinton’s masterful four-year career as Secretary of State. She has managed, despite her lack of experience in international affairs, to supervise international disasters in two countries, Libya and Syria. Leading the US-NATO coalition, she transformed Libya from a peaceful oil exporter who had long since given up any nuclear ambitions, into a chaotic and totally leaderless exporter of weapons and Al-Qaeda mercenaries to the Syrian rebellion. Now Libya is also the source of fighters in Northern Mali. As cheerleader-in-chief for those hell-bent upon the overthrow of President Assad in Syria she has arranged for the shipment of many hundreds of tons of weapons and mortars abandoned in the Libyan desert to bolster the Syrian rebellion forces over the past twenty-two months. These foreign rebels have now managed to destroy a large part of Aleppo’s ancient citadel, built over the past 4000 years and a World Heritage Site..With this last accomplishment, she approaches the record of her predecessor, Condelesa Rice, who as Bush’s Secretary of State shipped 4 million US manufactured cluster bombs to the retreating Israeli Defense Forces which they dropped all over southern Lebanon. At least 50% of these bomblets are still unexploded