June 12, 2009

Neiman Marcus petitioner wars: “Aggressive” petitioner arrested on an “outside warrant” and the Yellow Shirts are Coming, the Yellow Shirts are Coming

UPDATE Sunday 7 a.m.: Lt. Brian Hill updated me on the petitioner arrested on the outside warrant. Dwight Benina, 59, was wanted out of San Luis Opisbo County on nothing terribly exciting: a misdemeanor littering charge. But the nature of the warrant was such that police had to hold him, Hill said.

FRIDAY EVENING: A reader alerted me to the Walnut Creek police daily bulletin which said that a petitioner was arrested at the Palos Verdes mall just after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Someone called the police to say that “petitioners being overly aggressive.” The RP (Reporting Party) has received "several complaints from customers."

The log indicates that police arrested a 59-year-old fellow named Dwight Benina for an “outside warrant,” and that he was booked into County Jail in Martinez. The log doesn’t indicate what the “outside warrant” involved, including what charge, or which jurisdiction issued it. I’m hoping that Walnut Creek police can fill in some of those details.

I’m guessing, but haven't confirmed, that Benina was working for the company funded by Michigan-based mall owner Taubman to gather signatures from registered Walnut Creek voters. This petition drive is to force the Neiman Marcus project to a citywide ballot.

Taubman is the owner of Sunvalley mall and the potential retailer developer of San Ramon’s proposed City Centre. Taubman is reported to be funding the petition drive in an effort to block luxury retailer Neiman Marcus from coming to Broadway Plaza, which is owned by Taubman’s rival, Macerich.

It’s not likely that Benina was working for an opposing petition drive that supports the Neiman Marcus proposal. That’s because those petitioners were to wear bright yellow T-shirts and to start hitting the streets of Walnut Creek after a kick-off rally Saturday, according to an announcement from Walnut Creek’s Downtown Business Association:

Three local citizens have put forward a voter initiative that would approve the project set to bring Neiman Marcus to Broadway Plaza. This is in response to referendum petitions backed by an affiliate of Taubman Centers that have targeted the City Council approvals for this project in downtown Walnut Creek.

Proponents of the initiative are former Walnut Creek Mayor Gwen Regalia; David Smith, a leader in the Rossmoor community; and Carole Wynstra, former Walnut Creek Arts Commissioner and a member of the Walnut Creek Library Foundation.

According to Broadway Plaza representatives, the city will see new signature gatherers with bright yellow T-shirts and signage that say: "YES -- Support Neiman Marcus at Broadway Plaza." Proponents say their petition-carriers will include local volunteers, local students and non-profit groups who know the Walnut Creek community.

They hope to gather 10,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. A rally to kick off their efforts will be held this Saturday, 10 a.m. at the former David M. Brian site.


Anonymous said...

I was shopping Safeway at Ygnacio/Oak Grove. The petitior wasn't rude. He was definitely an out of towner. Even said he sleeps in his car. Thought that was interesting. They come from far away for this job. I didn't know that before. I guess I just didn't think about it.

Anonymous said...

Lost in this self righteous rhetoric is the fact that Macerich can build anything they want as long as it meets the guidelines of the General Plan. There would be no need for an amendment and there would be no need for even a council vote. Neiman Marcus would be under construction now if Macerich played by the rules. Instead, Macerich waited until the General Plan was passed with reasonable development guidelines for that corner and then came forward with a plan that would triple the allowable density knowing that City Hall would jump through hoops for it. There was already an unwitten agreement to that arrangement because the powers that be knew that trying to increase density on that corner would be difficult to get through the GP process.

Anonymous said...

I gave a signature collector $60 for a page with 10 signatures. I figured it's my chance to mess with the big corporations. Maybe I'll try to sell the page to the other side for $80.

Anonymous said...

5:40 PM

If what you say you did is true, you are not messing with the big corporations, you are messing with the law! People signed that petition in good faith and according to the elections code. You have now destroyed their legally signed signatures which is a real no no.

How immature are you? Do you also pull the wings off of flies for fun?

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

Soccer Mom,

I sent an email to you. It is Sunday and I'm out the door...

Have a good day!

Anonymous said...


I "buy" signatures from measures that I am against all the time. It's no big deal, its the way modern government works. Someone needs to get their panties out of a bunch.

Anonymous said...

Dude, just because your comment is posted under 'Anonymous', don't think it really is if it comes to breaking the law..........

Anonymous said...

9:56 -

The government is not working, modern or not, if this is how you conduct yourself. Denying someone the right to free speech and an honest electoral process is not a "working" government.

Stooping to your level, my panties are not in a bunch, but by God my boxers are when I hear crap like this.

Anonymous said...

People should be aware that door-to-door petition gatherers are back in town and once again using misleading spiels. One just knocked at my door in the WC/PH area, and when I told her I was in favor of the NM construction, she said, "OK, well, this is just to get it on the ballot."

Just to get it on the ballot? That means force another costly election on whether or not to have the construction. We've already been THROUGH that, haven't we?

Beware of these misleading presentations by the paid signature gatherers for the anti-NM forces.

Anonymous said...

3:28PM I thought that was what this was all about. Give residents a chance to vote on NM. Aren't both sides pushing for that? I'm soooo confused.

Anonymous said...

Well, shoot, maybe I'm confused now. I thought the anti-NM people were the ones pushing to put it on the ballot. ... LOL .. Have I got this all backward? Or, god forbid, are there two COMPETING ballot initiatives (similar to what happens on the state level over and over with some measures)?

I'm still thinking this door-to-door signature gatherer was with the anti-NM campaign, because she wasn't wearing one of the pro-NM yellow shirts. (I'm hoping the pros wear those whenever they do their campaigning. It'd help sort this out!)

--3:28 poster

Anonymous said...

Hello 7:37, it's not true. But it seems fair. These people will say whatever they can, factual or not, to get a signature. This doesn't seem like "good faith". Example, do you want your children inhaling excess amounts of carbon dioxide due to gridlock in parking garages. If you don't please sign here...

The process is a joke.

Anonymous said...

6:47 am,

Why bother to post such a lie? Are you not just as guilty as the petition gatherers who you say are full of misinformation?

If the voting public is not smart enough to READ the petition before signing then they deserve the kind of government they get. These are the very same people who are to lazy to read their ballot proposition booklets before and election and are swayed by celebreties' and newspaper endorsements.

I was "mislead" by one of the "volunteers" outside of Longs downtown. Very nice lady but didn't know squat about facts of the issue when I questioned her. There you go. What is the difference?

Both sides will do whatever it takes (that is legal) to get their point across and we, the voting public, must do our part by studying the issues, then attempt to make an intelligent decision.

Good luck one and all.

Lets look at this as a positive - while the economy is down and people are not flocking to shop in WC, paid petitioners who eat and stay in motels in town, printing businesses and political consultants are spending money in our town. All is not lost.

Anonymous said...

If the pro NM petition states clearly that a NM will actually occupy the building, does that mean that the backers of this petition are legally on the line if, God forbid, something happens and NM backs out?

Anonymous said...

You have me thinking. Is the proposition to allow NM or to allow a building variance and parking plan for a retail establishment?

Anonymous said...

Off topic

Look at the headline in the CC Times:

'Soccer mom' declares candidacy for Tauscher's House seat

Anonymous said...

From Elizabeth Nardi's article in the CC Times on June 8th:

"Broadway Plaza owners are backing a ballot initiative that would allow the building of a Neiman Marcus store — a move they hope will end the drama that has plagued this project for more than a year.

The initiative would, in essence, put in the hands of voters the decision on the fate of a proposed Neiman Marcus store downtown.

Filed with the city Friday night, the initiative is basically the same plan submitted and approved by the City Council in May. If passed, it would allow the building of a 92,000-square-foot "anchor retail building" at Mt. Diablo Boulevard and South Main Street."

Ms. Nardi points out that the pro-neiman Marcus initiative "allows" the building of a store according to plans unanimously approved by the City Council after due process.

I hope that answers some of the recent queries in this thread. I gladly signed the pro NM initiative Saturday morning.

Anonymous said...

Just read the petition backed by the pro Neiman Marcus (yellow shirts) forces. It reads....allows a store SUCH AS Neiman Marcus to be built as a 3rd anchor. Nowhere does it read that the store WILL BE Neiman Marcus! Read it for yourselves. Hope the folks at CC Times read it too so they can report the story accurately.

Anonymous said...

No chance.

The Times is obviously 100% behind this project and all of the articles concerning it have been very positive. Even at times totally ignoring any opposition from local citizens.

This type of reporting is exactly why it is so important for local blogs such as this to be active. Here people can freely express their feelings and share their thoughts while only being censored for bad taste and language. This is the true free press.

Thanks Soccer Mom for providing this forum.

Soccer Mom said...

I'm glad to be providing this forum over questions, concerns over what seems to have become almost a battle over the soul of Walnut Creek. To those raising the question about how the pro-Neiman Marcus petition reads, I'll have to get a look at it myself. Brad Kofoed, chair of the Yes for Walnut Creek group, acknowledged that there is no guarantee that Neiman Marcus will come to Walnut Creek.

The retailer has apparently said it is committed and wants to come to Walnut Creek, but, with the souring economy, new developments are being put on hold, and the luxury retail market is hurting. Things are supposedly going to start to pick up by the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

The first petition out of the box, the one against the council's approval of the NM plan, has been submitted to the City Clerk according to Elisabeth Nardi of the Times. Over 7,000 names and they need 4,000+ valid signatures of registered voters to qualify.

Thought they would have a more difficult time getting the signatures this go around but apparently people still don't like the plan or the council's decision.

Will be an interesting few months in this old town so brace yourselves for a long ride.