Letters to the Editor
RP council was wrong, vote was about values
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The Community Voice:
One thing impresses me about the Rohnert Park City Councilís decision to OK a super Walmart center: the assertion that values and principles had nothing to do with the decision.
The council asserted their decision was based on narrow parameters of a noise ordinance. The four yes votes said it was not about values, that values were a separate issue. The council members who spoke though, did reveal their covert values: it is up to the market to decide, not them. Sorry, this is as much of a subjective, values-driven conclusion as any, and the assertion the decision was about a narrow procedural matter is laughable and a farce.
This council could have voted no, and whatever reasons they had would have been fine. Thatís the councilís job Ė to make value judgments, to lead, to take principled stands. People serve in government precisely because they have values and an agenda, and to duck that inherent truth is disingenuous and false.
This is the same dance I see over and over, a huge public dispute as to what the facts are muddies the water; a council then avoids leadership or revealing their core values and votes on the basis of some narrow procedural interpretation at the same time that a pro-business, Chamber of Commerce-backed, big money issue or powerful financial special interest is at stake. Many councils go for the money, the revenue and donít take principled stands otherwise; the big money puts on big pressure. What is morally right, fair, just and less harmful gets lost in the sauce. The conclusion I have to reach: money rules everything even to the exclusion of agreed upon values otherwise.
And letís be clear, money represents a certain set of values that is often if not always counter to social and environmental justice values.
Were all the people who showed up in Rohnert Park debating a noise ordinance? No, they were not. It was clear from Councilman Jake Mackenzieís comments it was permissible to vote no on the basis of inconsistency with the General Plan, if the members needed an excuse to camouflage their own inherent values decision.
No, people were not there to debate a noise ordinance. Itís an insult to the public to sit up there and condescendingly tell us what this is really about (a narrow noise issue), when it is crystal clear what this is really about: community values against a giant corporate vampire squid. The council members just didnít have the spine to vote their conscience over big money, or they buy into big money but didnít quite want to come out with that hard truth.
The Rohnert Park City Council could have turned down the request to expand Walmart into a supercenter should they have felt like it. We saw there were no reliable facts anyway.
It is clear from the way Rohnert Park looks, as a nondescript, nasty highway corridor strip development, and from the fact that Rohnert Park has more than 800 units of housing for more than 2,000 people slated for development during the worst drought in 400 years, clear that the cityís values line up squarely with ďfree marketĒ ideology and that these values were the basis for the city councilís approval of the Walmart project. Rohnert Park was probably incorporated with a market agenda in mind.
This Walmart vote was a clear values issue and the four yes votes did not even have the spine to stand up and say so, they ducked under cover of their city attorney and planning director.
They all want the money; it is their jobs, their campaign coffers, their values and ideology, and we can all see what Rohnert Park really stands for: sell out to development as much as possible.
Iíve seen this enough times in local public hearings: the public sees a values issue, the council takes cover under narrow procedural cover and maneuverings and the big moneyed interests win out. In Sonoma this plays out over and again with tourism, wine tasting and gentrification forces gradually taking over everything and values counter to that are submerged by similar arguments as made by the Rohnert Park City Council.
To conclude, public policy often devolves to a zero sum game with money, (economy), standing against social and environmental interests. Why is this? Is it really necessary to make as much money as possible with no consideration of the consequences? My suggestion, start to move to a Three Pillars or Triple Bottom Line model of public policy where a complete set of public and private values at stake has to be on the table and included proportionally for all decisions: three legs of a stool for the policy to stand. Make this a General Plan requirement. Then at least values will be on the table and Wal-Mart expansions not hiding behind some noise ordinance or behind weasel-worded rationales.
Reader takes issue with Elias column
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The Community Voice:
Thomas Eliasí Jan. 2 article equating the UC studentsí vote to join the international movement of BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) to anti-Semitism is well known to be a threat intended to silence any opposition to the oppressive policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians.
His reasoning is faulty, myopic and drenched in victimhood. The reality is most thinking humans are beginning to understand the brutal Israeli occupation of the Palestinians since 1967 is at the heart of much of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East today in relation to the West. None of my Jewish friends and co-workers would agree with Eliasí analysis and interpretation of the student vote on UC campuses as being anti-Semitic. Rather, anti-Semitism, as many Jews and others all over the world recognize, stems from Israelís greed for Palestinian land and its total disregard for the human rights of the Palestinian people. Many of us working for understanding and a just peace in Palestine/Israel, for both people, need all the allies we can get, not the likes of Elias, whose unenlightened arguments are getting boring and only add to the problem.