YOLO SUN OPINION :

Updated cost figures related to the plausible, if not preferred option of holding a mail-in-ballot election to timely fill the current vacancy on Woodland City Council — are five-fold city hall’s original estimate: $15,000 to $75,000. 

Such a dazzling dimension of cost correction makes appointment more attractive than election for the city, still slogging through fiscal turmoil of the Great Recession.

City council action is scheduled for February 15, to either appoint another member or hold a special election in June.

Appointment candidates have been narrowed from 26 to 2, with perhaps those sporting the conventionally strongest resumes (not always a fateful factor within politics) proceeding toward final city council selection: David Sanders and Tom Stallard.

Their written responses to several basic council questions contain, however, a number of statements potentially giving rise to various community concerns.

Both Stallard and Sanders reply to council query focused on top issues in the same basic manner:  (a) balancing the municipal budget, (b) responding to various and uncertain demands of municipal restructuring, and (c) creating new local opportunities for quality employment. 

Likely, no one would seriously contest any of these items being obviously the most prominent aspects of civic affairs, especially during the Great Recession. 

Along this top-most shelf of civic fiscal affairs, there exists (with a few exceptions) not much of durable political interest and worthy of authentic scrutiny within their candidate appointment packets.

Once afield from those snug (albeit challenging) quarters, however, in their replies to other questions of council members there appears some grist for political grinding.

____  Items Of Minor Interest  ____

Water, always a consummately bedrock issue, is something Stallard waxes “passionate” about, in avid response to council query about such feelings.

Stallard correctly contends that: “[Woodland’s] industrial base has been in decline for years. Our community has taken on more of a bedroom aspect than a lively job center.”

Again, a very common perception of local civic reality, but nonetheless quite frankly stated.

Stallard also questions (tacitly, as he would have to remove himself from council action on the basis of conflict-of-interest rules because of his ownership of proximate properties): Why should the city “consume[] vital and limited open space” for Opera House expansion, “when several thousand square feet of unused printing plant space is sitting idle (sic) at the rear of the [Daily] Democrat building[?]” 

Stallard bluntly describes present city plans in this regard: “unfortunate and ill-advised.”

Such a novel efficiency / utility / conservation may not be broadly popular among Opera House supporters; yet, Stallard candidly speaks his mind about it, a good sign of capabilities for outside-the-box behavior, of limited resource on council at present.

Sanders repeatedly emphasizes an impending state (to local) “reallocation / realignment” of various social services, which — “will have a profound effect” — on the City of Woodland.

“Meeting these challenges will require a fully staffed and engaged City Council,” avers Sanders.

“I believe the problems facing the city are complex and intertwined,” reports Sanders, in reply to council inquiry regarding “three discrete [top] issues,” implying his intricacy of perception / conception (again, a too limited resource on council at present); yet, he strays very little from the basic script of: jobs, budget, realignment. 

______  Sanders On Development  ______

Alongside his tripartite, memorandum-style script, Sanders is “passionate” about municipal development (hence his decade-long formal participation, often as chairperson, with the Planning Commission), also being “involved in the Measure ‘A’ Urban Limit Line project in 2006.” 

After intoning rudimentary trivialities about “balanc[ing] natural tension between developers” and the city, Sanders strongly announces: “I believe that Woodland has significant potential for high quality infill development projects which will allow the City to increase jobs, (sic) and revenue while improving the community as a whole.” 

This plainly observes easily the most credible statement of basic fact / truth contained within the council-appointment material. 

Woodland now (immediately) needs to focus on infill development, rather than (historically) continue its virtually perpetual peripheral sprawl. 

“Overall, Woodland has done a good job in managing development by balancing zoning, project approvals, design review, and the rate of growth,” espouses Sanders by contrast, in what is easily the least credible statement contained within the council-appointment material. 

______  Impressions Of Civic Reality  ______

Explicating these vividly contrasting circumstances of purportedly beneficial community development (sprawl = good planning / infill = good planning), Sanders deftly delves into: “[o]ne area that I am concerned about[:] a perception among members of the community that the Council is to (sic) ‘cozy’ with developers and far too quick to accede to their demands. Whether that is accurate or not is less of an issue than the fact that some people have that impression.” 

Sanders unctuously refuses to specifically identify any “decision or action that the Woodland City Council has taken that you have disagreed with” (and why) — “because [he] do[es] not have access to all the information the council had to reach any individual decision.”

Obsequiousness here politely harnesses obsessional (quasi) professional discontent, perhaps even simmering confusion and outrage.

“Whether the rationale for the approval of a project is fiscal, legal, or a finding by the Council that a project is a good fit for the City, it is important that the reasons for the decision be explained so that the citizens fully understand that rationale and not that the City succumb (sic) to pressure from developers,” pointedly tutors Sanders.

Sanders, of course, has closely participated within the previous decade of planning and development within Woodland, often as chairperson of the Planning Commission.

If Woodland’s planning and development is perceptibly askew, Sanders is already at its fulcrum (consistent with reality of council authority, which is, by his prior inculcation, likely the source of such turbulence).

Sanders at one point claims that, lacking a comprehensive and timely grasp of municipal affairs, it would be “somewhat disingenuous to set goals which may or may not be relevant to the City’s [current] needs.”

Yet conversely, Sanders appears completely disingenuous with his refusal to identify even a single objection he might have entertained to city council decisions. Such a tidy, orchestrated unemployment of his obviously copious awareness, interests and discretion seems politically suspect.

Pouring ironic fuel over such a gleeful little political campfire, Sanders strangely posits that:  “Whether [public impressions of council coziness with developers] is accurate or not is less of an issue than the fact that some people have that impression.”

______  Reality Of Civic Impressions  ______

Clearly — “accura[cy]” attaching to the city council being too — “cozy” — with developers and far too quick to accede to their demands” — is much more (- not less -) of an issue than local people simply having “that impression.”

Sanders slyly seeks to abide and preach the regular / standard legal ethic against even appearances of impropriety, by identifying and emphasizing the frightening smoke that is publicly perceived (perhaps only / mis- “impression[s]”) — while frantically (“disingenuous[ly]”) denying knowledge of the actual existence of any “cozy” fires. 

Well, there’s the “cozy,” stark and incontrovertible fact of the city council permitting Paul Petrovich to practically run amok, recklessly trampling this community’s best interests; for instance, by unnecessarily / unreasonably allowing him — six and a half years (78 months) — to mitigate economic impacts to downtown commerce from his (peripheral) Gateway Center development project, as well as granting him virtual carte-blanch over what he actually accomplishes to that end. 

Woodland also narrowly dodged the cruel bullet of a[nother suburban, strip-mall) Rite-Aid spectacularly dislocating prominent community plans for an eastern gateway for its downtown — depending on its Downtown Specific Plan that its council isn‘t defending.

Or, consider the fact that the utterly basic design of his (our) Gateway Center development was hopelessly obsolete, before it was even constructed, antagonistic to various municipal percepts (for instance, key environmental and cultural goals), an anachronistic strip-mall on steroids recklessly flung into an immense sea of asphalt.

And Petrovich now wants to build a Gateway 2 (three times the size of Gateway 1) at the municipal outskirts. If the city council finally begins to balk a bit, is this because of its experienced belief in the enormous, intrinsic value of Petrovich’s various development schemes?

Infill priority (as Sanders promotes) manifested as a council policy should become a new developmental paradigm for Woodland.

Supposedly, Sanders would disfavor such new development as Gateway 2, by his stated emphasis on exploring infill opportunities. A strong proponent of infill development on the council would be forward motion.

______  Emotion and Commotion  ______

“Many projects generate significant emotional reactions from the community such as the State Theater, Spring Lake, or the Gateway developments,” describes Sanders.

Well, why is this?

Are all of these various, “emotion[al]” matters considered to be simply caused by publicly pervasive “impression[s]” of vaguely unusual civic collusion with certain developers (Petrovich being the primary example) — separate, distinct from any reality (“accura[cy]”) perhaps reliably attaching to them? 

Proponents of State Theatre certainly perceive an awkwardly interposed undermining of its restoration and expansion project, through ongoing city hall collusion with Petrovich: (a) contriving an “entertainment district” oddly comprising — just the eastern half — of an only six block span of Main Street, (b) based on wholly speculative conjunction with a potential (and since declined) parking structure for the new county courthouse, and (c) including an unjustifiably prioritized (upstart) rival (Petrovich’s proposed Cinema Square development project) to the originally proposed State Theatre project.

Recently energetic, pre-application level assistance of city hall for Chase Bank to suddenly forestall the most advantageous course of State Theatre renovation and expansion — by (allegedly) intensively violating the Downtown Specific Plan and eviscerating crucial due process rights of the public — has given some local folks a pure and ripe — “impression” — that something significant, indeed, is quite awry within city hall. 

Friends of State Theatre have very recently filed an extraordinary and lengthy municipal appeal against such (alleged) violations of the Downtown Specific Plan and their rights to due process, in advance of potential litigation against the city.

But, perhaps such civic suspicions are merely wispy “impression[s]” of something, somehow much too “cozy,” between Petrovich and city hall.

More likely, though, is that the (now pervasively obsolete) 2003 Downtown Specific Plan was deliberately and precisely adjusted — warped — by city hall to best suit the developmental plans of Petrovich, thereby virtually shredding practical prospects of achieving any feasible (historic) State Theatre renovation. 

Even the present partner of Petrovich within their pending, downtown cinemaplex application (CinemaWest) has plainly testified in person before the city council that mid-decade he was unreasonably obstructed from renovating State Theatre (related to city parking policies) — which is likely due to Petrovich’s influential but entirely unjustified priority project: Cinema Square.

Rather than a “Stroll Through History,” Woodlanders should perhaps begin celebrating a “Stampede Against History,” using Petrovich’s cowboy-style sculptures as icons?

Perhaps a new breed of municipal cattle-car could cunningly ply the consumer trade route betwixt Gateway Center(s) and a Cinema Square?

Sanders should openly, frankly concede that Woodland has longstanding, very serious problems with its community development program. Otherwise, he becomes part of these (denial) problems rather than best operating to help restore not just State Theatre, but the sorely abused confidence of the public over a broad range of civic affairs. 

Of course — to do that — he would risk losing this council appointment. Such, he clearly perceives, is the sour state of politics at city hall. 

______  Stallard On Calm Stability And Civility  ____

Stallard’s replies to council questions are very concise.

Among his civic goals and directions, Stallard would: “Be a force for calm and stability in our community. [  ] I have reached a point in my life where I think we need to focus on civility, collegiality and maintaining calm,” curiously inveighs Stallard, since until quite recent civic issues involving State Theatre (as well as Woodland Public Library), Woodland City Council is consistently perhaps — overly / obtusely — calm and collegial (even cold and complacent, witness the wan and frigid reception given to State Theatre proponents during the recent (Jan. 18) council appeal). 

Installing calmness at city council chambers seems perversely redundant.

Stallard continues, explaining that: “’how’ we do things is, in fact, as important as ‘what’ we do. The feelings of people matter. I want to make progress, but I want us to have as united a community as possible.”

The feelings of people certainly matter a very great deal; but of course, not as much as their genuine (public) interests.

What quickly comes to mind when confronting Stallard’s call for calm and civility in the troubled face of entrenched problems described above, within our municipal development, is this hopefully accurate political slogan: No Justice, No Peace.

Many local folks are lately feeling politically betrayed; for instance, by city council / city hall conduct, (potentially) with deliberate calculation violating due-process rights of the public related to Chase Bank and State Theatre projects. That’s a for instance, with other issues close in trail. 

Consolidating contented “stability” and “unit[y]” is simply not where Woodland exists at this time. 

The last thing Woodland needs now is an inspired political overlay of faux calm / civility, when confronting such problems. It’s more like what is truly needed is a bald truth and reconciliation process, or perhaps a spate of unnecessary, badly managed, costly litigation.

The matter for these “feelings” is that many folks, for instance, won’t be feeling any better, until the (historic) State Theatre project obtains municipal approval and Petrovich’s soiled schemes dissolve.

Until then: No Justice, No Peace.

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