September 14, 2009

The anti-Neiman Marcus strategy: Gum up the works with legal maneuvers and confuse the hell out of every body

So, another City Council vote on Neiman Marcus tomorrow night. No disrespect to Elisabeth Nardi of the Contra Costa Times, but I read her story and I thought, “huh?” What’s the City Council supposed to do tomorrow not, or not do, and what does it all mean about the future of a new Neiman Marcus in Broadway Plaza?

So, I went to the city’s handy-dandy website and tried to get through the staff report on this latest city council action. I’m still scratching my head, so it looks like Nardi had some pretty confusing material to work with, and I’m not sure I can do better.

And what about anyone else in Walnut Creek, someone who is not deeply immersed in this issue for professional or personal reasons: The City Attorney, the lawyers for Broadway Plaza developer Macerich, the lawyers for opposing developer Taubman Centers; Ann Hinshaw and Selma King, our Citizen Confusers in Chief.

Basically--if you can say such a thing—the council can decide to repeal its decision, made earlier this year, to allow Neiman Marcus (or another department store) to be built in Broadway Plaza. Or it can place on the ballot two referenda that challenge this development agreement. Hinshaw and King are the referenda proponents—with financial backing by Taubman.

Are you following me? Because I’m not following me.

The thing is that there is--was--an initiative, submitted by the pro-Neiman Marcus side, with financial backing by Macerich.

The initiative asked for the city to put the Neiman Marcus development proposal on the ballot—for voters to decide. The City Council did just that, on August 4, calling for a special election November 3 to coincide with the special 10th congressional election.

So, doesn’t that, in effect, negate the council’s earlier approval of the project? The council is saying, okay, we approved it, but ultimately we’re gonna leave it up to the voters.

Actually, for election law reasons, the city council had to put this initiative on the ballot within a certain time frame, because more than 15 percent of registered voters signed a petition supporting a city-wide vote on this initiative.

But the anti-Neiman folks were not happy that their referenda—not to be confused with the initiative, but I’m confused---would also not be considered for the election. They filed a lawsuit, asking a Contra Costa Superior Court judge to order the city to repeal its approval of the Neiman Marcus project (even though the council had already decided to put the matter up to a vote) or to put their referenda on the ballot. The judge granted their request to force to the city to do either.

The idea of having to go to the voting booth on November 3 and decide which of these three measures—the initiative and referenda—to say yes to or no to … The idea of having to pick up apart the subtle differences and legalistic/electionspeak wording of the initiative versus the referenda…

Well, it just gives me a headache. And I’m sure it gives some other residents a headache, too.

It’s stupid, annoying, and I strongly suspect that this the strategy that Taubman and their citizen representatives have devised to kill this project. Clever of them, isn't it?

This is just a department store, right? As I’ve said before, I don’t really care if Walnut Creek gets a Neiman Marcus. And I think the City Council initially mishandled this project.

But that was then, and this is now.

And I resent people, whether they be citizens or outsider, deep-pocket developers, pulling stunts like this. To confuse the issue for ordinary folks to decide whether or not a certain development in town. To gum up the works. It’s selfish.

The city has better things to do than keep rehashing this issue, in the City Council chambers, and in the courtroom. It needs to, like, try to find ways to preserve the city’s economic vitality in the face of the most serious global economic disaster since the great depression.

Residents have better things to do than to try to sort through these different measures. Yeah, like go to work, and take care of their kids, and keep their homes, and, if they care about civic issues, pour their hearts into ones that have really important consequences--issues involving life and death, public safety, the safety of kids, homelessness, hunger.

I'll say it again. This is a department store. It doesn't deserve this much fuss.

Oh yes, I know King and Hinshaw believe they are standing for principle.

But more and more, I think they are standing for their own need to be right, and they are getting a big company, with deep-pocket vested interests to fund what more and more strikes me as their own ego project.


LeftCoast said...

O let me be the first to comment then. Having to put this to a vote is a waste of tax payer time and money. I don't care if it goes in or not, let the council decide, that's why I elected them, or some of them anyway. If it needs a vote let the two developers pay for it, loser gets to pay for more parking to be created somewhere.

DumbAsBricks said...

I agree with you on the point that it was mismanaged by the city council. It is apparently being mismanaged now as well.

Anonymous said...

Vote Yes on Measure I and we get jobs, sales tax revenue and more parking. Or, side with Selma & Ed & Ann and convicted felon "Big Al" Taubman and kill all that.

Very simple, very easy.

If you want to understand more about Big Al Taubman, google Albert Taubman with West Hartford Connecticut. Or, go to the following website. The consultant that helped Big Al Taubman get a cushy prison cell is now helping world record holding Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff:

Here is an excerpt. Check paragraph two:

July 4, 2009

Bernard Madoff hires help to survive hard time.
James Bone in New York

The 'Supermax' jail in Colorado where Madoff could find himself:
Bernard Madoff has hired a veteran prison consultant to help him to find the best possible jail in which to serve his 150-year sentence for Wall Street’s biggest fraud.

After his sentencing this week Madoff, now Prisoner No 1727-054, met Herb Hoelter, of the National Centre for Institutions and Alternatives, whose previous clients include the jailed Sotheby’s chairman Alfred Taubman and the financiers Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky.

Heard enough?


Anonymous said...

Sorry SM,

My attempt to add the link to the Madoff-Taubman connection was not successful due to the peculiarities of the engine for your blog.

However, I think most web users should be able to track down the information.

Madoff and Taubman are two peas from the same pod.

Anon 3:31pm

Anonymous said...

Have some respect SM. Calling Hinshaw and King Citizen Confusers in Chief is out of order. They are my neighbors, and I resent you representation of them as corporate shills. They are concerned, as am I, of what happens to the town where I live. If they are pawns funded by big business, what would call the WC City Council? The Chamber of Commerce buys their election ads; Macerich funded there campaign; who's pimping who?

The linked CCTimes article clearly outlined that the City failed to send out ballots overseas voters, that was their mistake. Quit blaming ordinary citizens for exercising their democratic rights.

Any WC voter who now whines of a 'waste of money' should have been at meetings against the underground garage at the new library. The city's own studies has repeatedly shown that city garages are now fully utilized; and one is a block and a half from the new library. Of course, everyone must drive as close as possible to the Healthy Walnut Creek lectures.

They will get their bronze plaque and a name on a bookshelf. The citizens of WC will be paying for the fiscal mismanagement of this city council for years..,.

Anonymous said...

not, instead of now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:51

This is baloney!

"The city's own studies has repeatedly shown that city garages are now fully utilized; and one is a block and a half from the new library."

Show me your source for this nonsensical allegation.

Anonymous said...

Anon: Actually the story today said the referendas couldn't be added to the Nov. 3 ballot because of deadlines mailing ballots overseas. The initiative is on the Nov. 3 ballot already and can't be taken off.

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

I'm confused as heck! I don't live in Walnut Creek though. I'm actually surprised there are enough wealthy residents to support these big department stores. I know very little about the financial health of Walnut Creek, but isn't there a Macy's and other higher end stores that are already struggling?

Soccer Mom said...

4:51 p.m. Hinshaw and King may be very nice neighbors and no doubt have an admirable record of community service.

It would depend on your definition "shill." Hinshaw and King have a cause and they have made interesting partners in advance of that cause. Partners who can finance it.

They want to exercise their democratic rights? Fine. But their doing so, by associating themselves with a deep-pockets company likie Taumbman on these lawsuits, interferes with others' ability to exercise their rights.

I'm sure they think they know what is best for the city. So do the pro-Neiman Marcus people, so does Macerich.

What do I think is best? To get this issue resolved once and for all, whether it means Walnut Creek gets its Neiman Marcus or not.

The city had/has that chance with this initiative on the ballot November 3. The legal machinations of Hinshaw and King--funded by Taubman, which has a very questionable history of such machinations--threatens to derail the city residents that chance.

Just because the city council screwed it up with the library garage, if that's the case. And just because the city council screwed it up with their initial approval of this department store project, doesn't mean that we, now, can't move on. It sounds like grudes--ancient and recent--are at play.

IMO, we don't have time for that. The city needs to move on, get this department store issue resolved. I truly think the city was trying to do that by putting the initiative on the ballot. Well, they had no choice.

It's entirely possible that the majority of registered voters don't want Neiman Marcus, think it's a bad idea, fiscally and otherwise, and would have gladly voted it down.

Hinshaw, King, and Taubman may think voters should have the right to also consider their referenda in November. That they are advocating for WC residents' democratic rights. But, it would most likely be in Taubman's interests--financial!--to put those referenda on the ballot, to further confuse voters, turn them off the issue, maybe get them to not even want to bother to vote. It would be a slam dunk for Taubman.

Another way to resolve this? Neiman Marcus gives up on Walnut Creek, packs up, and leaves.

Even though I don't care about ever shopping at Neiman Marcus, for the company to do that, after this protracted, expensive, manipulative tussle, such a move would leave a very bad taste in my mouth. And probably others, too.

Maybe it wouldn't leave a bad taste in the mouths of Hinshaw, King and others, but they could bask in their sense of righteousness and victory.

Anonymous said...

Hinshaw, King & Dimmick only care about PAYBACK for when their Citizens Against Walnut Creek cabal was voted out of office. Our city demographics have changed and they will never regain control.

However, they can still cause problems with outside funding from Taubman even though none of them personally makes the slightest monetary commitment. How easy for them. Can I laze around in my hammock and create havoc too?

Anonymous said...

I too read the staff report on the City's website and have followed this whole issue rather closely as I see it as an interesting exercise of our democratic process.

Correct me if I am wrong.....the referenda, funded by Taubman, were qualified first. Then one month later, Macerich, funded
"concerned citizens" Regalia et al, qualified the initiative. Council had the choice of putting all or any of the three on the ballot in November.

In their infinite wisdom, the Council felt that the citizens of Walnut Creek were not intelligent enough to sort out the differences between the measures. They selected only the initiative to be put on the ballot for citizen consideration. Fair? I don't think so and that is why King, etc. challenged that decision in court. Evidently the assigned judge felt the same way which is how we ended up where we are today.

My fervent hope is that the Council will learn something from this experience, but then again I thought that they had learned something last Fall when Macerich had to pull back and downsize their plans.

This whole mess could have been avoided by having a City Council who really "listens" (their pet phrase not mine) to concerned constituents, not just the big money downtown interests when it comes to quality of life and planning issues within our town.

Big Al said...

Hinshaw and King are old geezers! They resist so much change that they still use their typewriters from the late 60s. They haven't been downtown to shop/dine in the past 20 years!

Anonymous said...

Big Al,

Does it make you a bigger man when you hurl personal attacks at "old geezers" King and Hinshaw? Do you know these ladies and their shopping and dining habits?

Resaonable and intelligent remarks about their views and how you disagree with them would better represent us all.

Being the playground bully doesn't accomplish anything.

Big Al said...

They are your typical old people with a grudge against change. Remember... change here in Walnut Creek is a Neiman Marcus! Whoop Whoop!

Anonymous said...


You are making a huge assumption about someone you don't even know. Anyone who knows Selma King would not call her "your typical old people with a grudge against change"! She is well known as a supporter of liberal causes and was an early follower of Obama, who of course is the king of change.

Don't make statements that you can't back up with facts. Your arguments accomplish nothing in what is a very important debate within our City.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lemon Lady,

Thanks for raising the awareness of the community and providing us opportunities to help.

Supposedly Neiman Marcus will bring in big $$$, but not necessarily from locals. The store will be attracting wealthy shoppers from all over the Bay Area. That's why traffic and parking are such a concern for visitors and store employees.

Anonymous said...

11:34 am

Are traffic and parking not a concern for residents of Walnut Creek who may wish to shop downtown or even drive through town? Why only include visitors and employees? Let me get this straight.....we residents pay taxes that support the police department and pay for traffic control and improvements plus building and maintaining city parking garages and we don't even rate being included in your concern? Something is wrong with this picture.

Big Al said...

If this is an important issue in our city, then this city doing pretty well. Get real... we're having a special election over what? Neiman Marcus??? Crazy. You need to get your head examined! Go relax, do some yoga and take two and hit to right!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:50

"we residents pay taxes that support the police department and pay for traffic control and improvements plus building and maintaining city parking garages"

You are aware that in 2008/10 cycle about 34 millions are from property taxes (of wich a substantial part is non residential, but commercial) and about 40 millions are from sales tax.

Thus maybe the who pays should have the say argument is not the one you probably want to make.

Anonymous said...

3:25 Well, who pays Does have the say in WC. If you were involved in the GP you would know that car dealerships got whatever they wanted as far as rezoning Land Use Areas. All GP amendments, including the changs that would allow NM downtown, have been in business interests. Had the CC followed the GP they would not be in the situation they find themselves. In addition, the head of the Library debacle, a commercial realtor from Danville (!) will not have to worry about his property taxes going up to fund the vanity project now being constructed.

SM, you continue to argue that the contesting citizens are just fronts for Taubman somehow going to gain financially from their opposition. Prove it. Accusing them of 'basking in their righteousness' is a presumptuous accusation that doesn't even deserve a refutation, so I will ignore it as the hollow argument that it is.

Al, you add nothing to the discussion but disrespect and name calling. You are a Troll.

Anonymous said...

I can't even remember the last thime I "dined" and shopped in Downtown Walnut Creek. First off - there are very few restaurants (and those there are expensive, and overpriced) Second off - it is impossible to park (dispite so called "garages") note: these "garages" would work if most people drove sedans - that is not the case in Walnut Creek. You take your life and limb in hand in those "garages." Rude, aggressive drivers, tires screaming around corners, and gerbil sized "parking" spaces for cars the size of tanks. I would rather take my chances on the "meters" outside - and the crazed parking cops. Third - "shopping" is a chore and stressful in Walnut Creek. Even going to Whole Foods or Trader Joes is exhausting, traffic clogged, congested - narrow isles, and claustaphopic. The whole town gives me claustraphopia - and is like a mosh pit - NEVER anywhere have I heard so many horns honking, or seen such aggressive driving. It's a mean town. No other place in Contra Costa feels like this. I live and pay taxes in Walnut Creek - I shop (and recreate) in Concord, Martinez, Lafayette, Orinda, and Pleasant Hill - even Danville sometimes. I grew up in Walnut Creek - and North Main was a suburan cruising strip (a place for all to congregate and cause trouble) and just on the edje of anarchy. The days were basically for the elderly (who now have had thier beloved Longs drugstore hijacked by a so called "better" store - nobody shops there unless they are desperate) just look at all the controversy around a Neiman Marcus - please. This speaks of a very divided and stressed out community. A store is not going to solve anything. Where is the heart and soul of Walnut Creek? We've sold out to an American dream myth - that has no town center.

Anonymous said...

forgive my spelling on the post above - I was engrossed in what I was writing. I appreciate this forum, and the talented journalist that created it.

Anonymous said...

"I can't even remember the last time I "dined" and shopped in Downtown Walnut Creek."

Sorry to hear about your Alzheimer's.