So, Walnut Creek voters may decide after all whether to bring a Neiman Marcus to town, but not because anti-Neiman Marcus forces succeeded in getting all the signatures they needed to put the issue on the ballot.
Because the people who want Neiman Marcus to come to Broadway Plaza have come up with their own ballot initiative, which the Contra Costa Times reports, was filed Friday. The new initiative, backed by the owners of Broadway Plaza, "is basically the same plan submitted and approved by the City Council in May," the Times says.
Now that this initiative is filed, it must be reviewed by the city attorney. He'll give it a name. Then another group of petitioners will hit the streets, seeking signatures of 15 percent of registered Walnut Creek voters.
Is it possible that we'll have two rival groups, hitting us up outside our local Safeway for signatures?
Things get even more confusing: The Times says it is unclear "what would happen if both a referendum and initiative were placed on the same ballot and passed."
One side, which includes Macerich, the owner of Broadway Plaza, and the local business community, thinks bringing this luxury retailer to Walnut Creek is vital to Walnut Creek's future prosperity: the potential sales tax revenue and the prestige of having Neiman Marcus as an anchor store in a prominent location, the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and South Main Street, Walnut Creek's traditional "Corners."
These Neiman Marcus supporters also talk about Walnut Creek residents being able to decide their own destiny, free from the influences of outside forces. Those "outside influences" would be Taubman, a mall developer based in Michigan that owns Sunvalley mall and is the possible retail developer of San Ramon's new City Centre.
Of course, Macerich is based in Southern California. So, in that sense, outside forces on either side of the debate are trying to have influence over Walnut Creek's destiny.
I'm still going to stay neutral on the question of whether Neiman Marcus should come to Walnut Creek. But as I read more about all the time and energy either side is putting into this issue, I'm wondering if all this time and energy is worth it, when there are so many other pressing issues in our community.
Cuts to schools, mental health, child welfare, and elderly services. Law enforcement. Nonprofits having to shut their doors because they're losing donor support.
All this fuss about a luxury department store--often derided as "Needless Markup"--that some of us probably won't shop at.
But if its arrival will help revive a downtown, hit by a souring economy and dotted with empty storefronts, then let it come.