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Who says the system is broken ?

Posted on April 19, 2017 by Fred Allebach

It seems clear where “the system is broken” rationales, about city commission appointments, are coming from. This is a campaign by the FSE developer, Caymus Capital, and its surrogate, Bill Aron, to intimidate the Planning Commission, intimidate the mayor, intimidate the city, and to produce an AstroTurf, hearsay e-mail campaign which it appears a council majority has bought into. (see the scurrilous e-mails below) This is all hearsay, because no one can know what e-mails said what? From who? But all evidence points to the said e-mails, that have guided some councilmemeber opinion, as being generated by the Bill Aron/ FSE AstroTurf campaign. This is a low-brow smear campaign against the mayor, to impugn her character, and her good will, and care for Sonoma’s future. It is really astounding some council members have so easily bought into this smear, and displayed such a paucity of critical thinking.

FSE manipulation

It is pretty clear that council small-minded, petty personal grudges are being exploited and manipulated by the FSE cohort. The public expects better from our elected leaders, at least an honest airing of the actual issues, and some display of independence and thoughtful analysis. What we have instead, is an attack on procedure, a procedure that has worked fine for 25 years. The procedural criticisms are cover, and camouflage, for the underlying interests of Caymus Capital, the power behind the FSE hotel proposal.

McTaggart bullies the Mayor and no one steps up

This was coupled with a shocking lack of decorum at the 4/17 council meeting displayed by a clearly agitated former Mayor Ken McTaggart who served in the 1980s. NO members of the council, NOR CITY STAFF, stepped up to defend the mayor from McTaggart’s intermittent, out-of-order bullying; this was most disturbing. FSE then had the nerve to produce two people, one a consultant from Windsor, to lobby the council BEFORE their project has barely begun its consideration by the Planning Commission, and to talk about sustainability and workforce housing, of all things. This shows the FSE people are not even concerned about the Planning Commission; their end game is to obfuscate the issues, and get three council votes, which it appears they now have. This is all very transparent, walking like a duck.

Sustainability obfuscation is here in spades

Look for FSE to fund a reactionary big money candidate for council coming up. This will not do much for any actual sustainability initiatives, other than to obscure and obfuscate what sustainability is, just like the Darius Anderson, anti-Measure B campaign did. We in Sonoma are headed for the exact same kind of pitched-battle future now unfolding in Napa, between the NapaVision 2050 sustainability coalition, and the wine hospitality industry. Somebody with some sense better step up and start advocating reason here, before we melt down to total war, if we are not already there. At least the Anderson group now is showing itself to be tactically smart, and not intemperate and half-cocked like the Caymus group.

Who are the “elite”?

In the Aron letters below it is amusing to see him accuse others of being the “elite”, when it is the Caymus Capital 1% financialized elite who are behind this whole imbroglio. Caymus Capital is revealing itself as an entity willing to say and do anything to get their “exceptional (investment) returns”. The Caymus website associated with Ed Routhier is recently password protected, so the public cannot view their Wall Street strategy. Who would ever say Wall Street is sustainable!?^%^%$#%$^ It will be revealing to watch how they spin their project as “sustainable” for Main Street. Stay tuned and watch the fog machine work.

Council goal to balance residents and tourism: grade F

The city council goals of “balancing city character”, and finding a nexus with residents and tourism, are now shown to be a complete failure, and the city is about to be plunged into the same conflict as if Measure B never even ended. What happened for all those years when we could have been getting on the same page?

Inability to make a convincing argument

I am afraid we are entering a period of some very nasty politics, where taking a larger view of the town’s good, and independent thinking, has been subsumed by small-minded, petty personal grudges, and hard-ball, manipulative spin campaigns by big $. This will not stand without being called out for what it is. I was very disappointed with the 3 to 2 vote against Lynda Corrado last night. No one was able to convincingly articulate why the system is broken, other than show congruence with Bill Aron’s and Caymus Capital’s spin campaign. There was no good reason to not approve Lynda Corrado, except for spite. No one said she was unqualified.

Power struggle between big $ and triple bottom line

I suggest some council members take a larger view here, and display a little more independent analysis of the situation. How long are we going to wait for any commission appointments now? How will it go when the push back comes to your commission candidates who buy into FSE’s “smart growth” propaganda?  Every applicant will act like a Supreme Court nominee, and be very careful to not say anything at all. If they say too much, council grudges and FSE pressure will lie in wait to cut them down. And who is supposed to believe that a candidate acceptable to FSE will be seen as objective by anybody?

This will unfold in some nice private quiet public hearing? Bill Aron is going to go lie down? If, as he said, David Cook’s mayoral year was ruined by this same dynamic of challenging the commission appointment process, why do that to someone else in such a destructive and inelegant way now? In the absence of any convincing council argument as to why anything is broken, a perceptive public can read between the lines to the grudges exploited by FSE and their surrogates.

Time to reassess, or dig the hole deeper

To say the commission appointment process system is broken, but to not be able to convincingly explain why other than appear congruent with Caymus Capital spin, which has made a naked character attack on the mayor, and then be offended by any questioning of motives as a character attack, and then let the mayor be bullied in public, her character impugned, this is about all going to go over like a lead balloon, and serve to destroy any comity necessary to work together. Time to step back, reassess, get the real cards on the table, get honest, and not appear as puppets for vested interests.

The only sane course at this point is for council members to explicitly disassociate from Caymus, and show the independence and integrity to be critical of their low-ball tactics. Then you can be your own person and talk about how to agree on any new appointment process.

There is no shame nor hidden agenda to talk about sustainability, and to focus on Sonoma’s desired future. That’s what this is all about. And if you want to know what is actually sustainable, look for evidence a triple bottom line method. If you hear the word sustainable, but in the end, find only money and an economic bottom line, chances are you are being taken for a ride.

Below are Bill Aron’s proxy letters for Caymus Capital.

My fellow Sonoman:

I’m writing today because I strongly believe participatory democracy means you get to have your say; you just don’t necessarily get your way. That is the reason we have a City Council.  We look to them as our elected representatives to be good stewards of our government and to act in the best interests of our town and its citizens.

I’m gravely concerned our Mayor, the Honorable Rachel Hundley, is attempting to hijack the Planning Commission and the democratic process by stuffing the Commission with zero growth candidates. The mayor’s last three appointments to the Planning Commission all have spoken out publicly against multiple development projects.

She cleverly ousted Commissioner Ron Wellander by not reappointing him to a second term even though he served admirably and capably. The Mayor then proceeded to appoint James Bohar who is on record of speaking against the First Street East Project, among others.

See my video here.

She cleverly placed his nomination on the “Consent Calendar” of the City Council. Council member David Cook said at the last City Council meeting he had asked the City Manager who the Mayor had appointed to the Planning Commission. The City Manager would not tell Council Member Cook who that was.

Our Mayor has violated the spirit of the Municipal Code that requires she secure the ratification of the City Council for each appointment to the Planning Commission. This disrespectful, irresponsible behavior has the potential to irreparably damage our town.

I do not expect everyone to share my vision for Sonoma embracing smart growth. Just don’t violate the spirit of the Municipal Code by not reappointing a Planning Commissioner without the ratification of the City Council. Don’t appoint Planning Commissioners that have taken activist positions against projects that are coming before the Commission like James Bohar and Lynda Corrado.

Please send a note to the members of the City Council on this vital issue. Go here to make your voice heard.

Sincerely,

Joseph M. Aaron

 

Dear City Council:

I have now heard back from a few of you, thank you for your responses. I want to be sure you all received the email I sent last Thursday and have had the chance to review it.

As I’ve become more involved in the fight for a fair and balanced planning commission, I see a trend unfolding that would radically change our special little town’s General Plan.

The story begins with Ron Willers. Mr. Willers has said unequivocally, the First Street East Project should be re-zoned.  He has publically stated this area should be affordable housing only, not mixed use.

Next comes Mayor Rachel Hundley’s close friend Kelso Barnett. Mr. Barnett lives on First Street East, a block from the FSE Project. Mr. Barnett has publically spoken against the FSE Project. Yet the Mayor reappointed Barnett to the Design Review commission against protest from members of the community.

The trend continues to unfold as Mayor Hundley nominates James Bohar and Lynda Corrado to the Planning Commission who have both spoken publically against the FSE Project.

What do Willers, Barnett and Corrado have in common?

1. They all live in the FSE neighborhood.

2. They all want to rezone the land in the area north of the Mission.

3. They have all have spoken out publicly against the FSE Project.

The Mayor has cleverly circumvented the process to create a Planning Commission which benefits an elite few. With this simple wave of the Mayor’s magic wand, she eliminates for the City a revenue generating Mixed Use project with housing opportunities. It begs the question, is our Mayor working for the greater good of Sonoma, providing housing and smart tourism like she promised when she was on the campaign trail?

I urge the City Council to put a formal process in place to make an applicant’s qualifications, and impartiality a meaningful factor for their approval.

Sincerely, Joseph M. Aaron

 

Hello Jim,

My name is Joe Aaron. I live on Third Street East.

I wanted to see if you would take my call and have a conversation with me about the Planning Commission.

I know you have spoken out against the FSE Project. But that was as a private citizen. The Planning Commission requires you to take a different view.

I feel you have had a baptism of fire. The result is you have inadvertently found yourself in a difficult position.

Planning Commission members never gets 15 minutes of fame. They never get to be Mayor. The Developers dislike you and think you are unreasonable. And after they speak the NIMBYs get up and say you are unreasonable and that they dislike you. My skin is too thin to sit in your chair.

Please respond with a good time to call if you would.

Joe Aaron

It is 3 PM on Thursday evening. You did not call.

I am deeply troubled by the fact you were not more forthcoming when you met with Mayor Rachel Hundley and City Council member Amy Harrington to discuss your appointment to the Planning Commission.

The Sonoma Index Tribune published an article on March 23rd concerning the Planning Committee and the resignation of Commissioner Chip Roberson. The article alluded to Mayor Hundley’s failure to reappoint Commissioner Rob Wellander for a second term. It also covered the standard questions Mayor Hundley asked Commissioner Ron Wellander as part of their interview process, and by extension, the questions asked of you. I quote the Mayor, “We asked if people had taken a public stance on things…we were trying to find people who WEREN’T going on the record about projects that were coming up before the Planning Committee.” I also would like to reference the April 3 Sonoma Index Tribune where Mayor Hundley said she was not informed of your public statements against multiple development projects, despite having queried you on the subject during the Commission-nomination process.

I have provided everyone on the planning commission with a video of you addressing the Planning Committee in March of 2016. In that appearance you publicly opposed the First Street East project.

The very large elephant in the room Mr. Bohar is the inescapable conclusion that either you did not answer Mayor Hundley’s question truthfully; or Mayor Hundley isn’t being truthful with the public she serves. There is a third option of course, which is that the two of you colluded to deceive the Public. To what end I do not know but the good people of Sonoma deserve to know.

None of the citizens whom you serve were in that meeting room. If the Mayor did not ask you the same question she asked Ron Wellander, this is your opportunity sir, to clear your name. If the Mayor did not ask you if you had a taken a public stance against any projects currently before the Planning Commission the good people of Sonoma deserve to know.

If not Sir, you should resign from the Planning Commission effective immediately and open the seat up for a public servant who can serve this town with honesty and integrity.

Sincerely, Joseph M. Aaron

 

The views expressed by SUN columnists do not necessarily represent the opinions of SUN management or its editorial board. 

 



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