September 1, 2009

This is getting ridiculous: Judge nixes council's latest Neiman Marcus decision, while store opponent says "the little people can ... win!"

So, I'm trying to make sense of the latest complication in the ongoing Neiman Marcus muddle ...

The Contra Costa Times reports that a Superior Cour judge ruled Tuesday that the Walnut Creek City Council gave "an unfair advantage" to the pro-Neiman Marcus side. The city council did this, according to the judge, by putting the supporters' initiative on the November 3 ballot, while putting off voter consideration of two referenda, supported by opponents. These referenda would have blocked the upscale retailer from coming into Broadway Plaza.

My first head-scratching moment: Isn't this the same judge, David Flinn, who wouldn't, at the behest of a last-minute lawsuit filed by opp0nents, stop the council from voting August 4 to let the pro-Neiman Marcus initiative go forward?

Seems like Flinn--or whoever the judge was back in August--could have, at that point, said, wait, hold on, there are some problems here, guys.

Because, evidently, this judge had some reservations, enough that a ruling came today that the city council's actions on August 4 were "unreasonable." That's a pretty harsh thing to say. But Flinn used more scolding phraseology. He said that the council's failure to act on the two anti-Neiman Marcus referenda, and its willingness to consider one ballot measure and not the others, violated a "a fundamental precept of this nation's democratic electoral process" because, as he said, "a government cannot take sides."

Really?!? Governments don't take sides?!?

Since when in my lifetime? Or in the lifetime of any human civilization on this planet?

Okay, okay, let's allow that Finn, as judges in legal rulings tend to do, operated from the lofty ivory tower of legal principle. And, he thought the council's decision to go forward with what the city is now calling Measure I was unfair and unreasonable.


But what a (f-bomb alert) a f------ waste of everyone's time.

The result of this ruling is that, once again, this muddle goes back to the City Council for further discussion. On September 15.

Can I pull a Sylvia Plath? Or at least, run out to Trader Joe's and scoop up one of their big pound bars of dark chocolate with almonds?

Okay, it's not like I am that personally vested in whether or not this department store comes to Broadway Plaza. But, I am feeling supremely annoyed from the lofty principle vantage point:

This is a waste of time. The time and energy of everyone on both sides. And the time of city staff, who, yeah I know are not supposed to take sides, but probably have, and ... that's life?

And I'm sorry, but Selma King, what are you talking about when you speak for the "little people"? Who are these little people? Walnut Creek Munchkins or something?

Ms. King tells the Times that the ruling "shows that the little people, if they have the assistance of a nice big company, can rise up "... and win."

The "nice big company" she's talking about is Taubman Centers, which has spent $234,000 on two referenda aimed at blocking this project. And, to be fair, Macerich, the owner of Broadway Plaza, poured $217,000 to support the initiative.

Back back to King's "little people" comment. Ms. King, what a condescending thing to say.

The little people.

You know what? The Munchkins right now are dealing with losing their jobs or pay cuts (moi!) and the reality that they probably can't put any money aside now for their kids' college fund, and their retirement is, as Margaret Mitchell said, Gone with the Wind. Or, they have car maintenence bills (moi!). Maybe their home is being foreclosed. Or, among those who have lost jobs, their unemployment coverage is running out, or they still have unemployment benefits coming in, but it all goes into their health insurance payments...

The little people, whom you say you are speaking for, really don't give a flying fig whether or not Walnut Creek gets a Neiman Marcus--because they won't be shopping there any time there in the future. However, they might see secondary benefits from the store, if it generates sales tax revenues, from the "big people" who shop there. Those revenues might pay for city services on which these Walnut Creek Munchkins might rely. And, maybe one of those Munchkins might get a job there.

Or maybe not. Still, their time, energy, and finances are strapped, and they perhaps don't want to see their public agencies--city government, courts, county elections departments--weighed down by an ongoing battle over a development of a department store.

Need I say it again? It's just a department store. All this fuss over just a department store.


Anonymous said...

The "little people" King refers to just might be those of us who have written to the council and spoken before the council regarding ill conceived projects. Many letters went unanswered and speaking before the council was a waste of time. Now they are forced to take notice and yes it feels like a win.

Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek residents are such douchebags.

Anonymous said...

Seems like Judge Flinn wants both the pro and the anti NM initiatives on the ballot and probably is secretly hoping that either both pass or both get defeated which means years of job security for him to come.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound like it's ABOUT a department store. The City does what they please without truly soliciting input from the entire community. This is the outcome of their arrogant behavior.

Soccer Mom said...

Anon: 10:10: I agree, and have said so, that the City Council behaved with haste, and, yes, with arrogance and probably greed, when they rushed through the first proposal last fall.
(BTW, I don't live within the city limits and can't vote, either on this initiative or for council members. But I am a resident and enjoy what the city has to offer and get annoyed by its faults... )
As a resident-of sorts--I was, yes, annoyed by what I considered the unfairness of the council's actions back then. I, too, though, they aren't listening, they aren't listening.
And their failure to listen came back to bite them big time.
A new proposal came forward--a reaction to the Taubman-funded referendum and to the lawsuit by Neiman Marcus opponents. Those actions, unfortunately, were necessary to get the Council and Macerich, owners of Broadway Plaza, to listen.
Macerich listened, and came back with a new proposal that, yeah, I don't think is ideal (to the extent that an amateur like me can judge a development proposal).
But you can (or could have) voted "no" to it in November, with Measure I.
Now, IMHO opinion, I think the legal actions of Taubman and of Selma King etc smack of arrogance (from King) and greed (from Taubman). Just like the council's actions last fall irked me and a number of other people in town, the actions of Taubman and of King etc are bound to irk a number of people in town, and not just the "big people."

Anonymous said...

Please post a photo of Selma King. Something tells me she's short, fat, unattractive, and probably more of a Dress Barn type. What's her beef, anyway?

Also, I know this is mean to say, but my frustration with the NM issue needs venting and she's the (un)lucky target.

Soccer Mom said...

Oh, and Sept 1, 10:24 p.m.

Yeah, I gotta say, I sometimes agree with you that people in Walnut Creek, including myself, can be douchebags. Won't get an argument here.
Something about this whole Neiman Marcus muddle proves that point. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have big money DBs coming into town and using locals to wage their battles for them.

Anonymous said...

As to Judge Flinn's decision: It is NOT ridiculous, it is Democracy working as it should. Very likely Judge Flinn does not live in Walnut Creek and even more likely he has no personal interest in this case. Certainly, his job as a judge is not in jeopardy as it is for life or until he cares to retire. Electors do have the opportunity to vote on Superior Court judges every 6 years but very seldom is a sitting judge voted out. To imply (11:42 pm) that he made his decision based on job security is an ignorant and basless statement. He very probably privately wishes the whole thing would go away so he could get back to his job of putting really bad guys in jail.

8:28 am - Ms. King is an elderly woman who has lived in this town for many years and cares about it's future. She has always been a politically active individual and once served on the Planning Commission so she has paid her dues. So you see it is not unusual for her to be actively involved on local hot button issues.

Personal attacks on someone with whom you obviously disagree serve no constructive purpose in what should be a lively discourse. Using the excuse that you are "frustrated" with the NM issue is no excuse for being "mean" and deriding someone else for where they may choose to buy their clothes.

Anonymous said...

9:03 maybe you should take some civics lesions again. I hope the judges actions are not democracy at work but judiciary at work. If you ever were on a jury you would know that for example jurors are not asked to vote whether somebody is guilty or not but are clearly instructed to weigh certain facts and to decide whether the evidence proofs the case or not.

Anonymous said...

The Judicial branch of our government serves to interpret the law as passed by the Legislative bodies. Is this not part of the Democratic process or Democracy? Independent, yes, and also intertwined.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever bought anything at a Neiman Marcus aside from Christmas season lunches at the Rotunda in San Francisco -- but after all the waste of time and money on this whole WC NM debate, I am personally going to go and buy some big-ticket item at NM if and when it opens. Hah. And if I were unethical, I'd charge it to the opponents' account. But no, I won't go that far.

Anonymous said...

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.....why on earth do you think that opponents of the Neiman project would have accounts there.....spend away baby and we all (proponents and opponents alike) will benefit from your purchases

Anonymous said...

I heard the Obama-care Death Panels are going to rent out this space and euthanize Rossmoor shopers.

Could Glenn Beck/Sarah, (the Saintess), be wrong??