Sunday Commentary: Harrington Should Let the Voters Decide on Nishi

Proposed Nishi Underpass to campus
Proposed Nishi Underpass to campus

Nishi is a Political Process Not a Legal One – In the fall of 2011, the city council in the early morning hours of the new city manager’s first meeting, rammed through the Surface Water Project. A group of citizens led by former Councilmember Michael Harrington gathered petitions and forced the council first to rescind the new water ordinance, then study it, and finally put it on the ballot.

The result of those actions was a smaller, cheaper, and far better project. Had Mr. Harrington simply stopped there, he would have done the citizens a great service and saved the community and city millions.

However, he didn’t. Instead he sued the city, put the water rates on the ballot, and while the city ultimately settled with him, it is unclear the benefit of the subsequent actions. Most recently he has taken advantage of a tactical error on the Hotel Conference Center project – about whether the city is legally obligated to have done a focused EIR (Environmental Impact Report) on the impact on Richards Boulevard. It was a tactical error to go the Negative Declaration route there, and now that project, with hundreds of thousands in potential revenue for the city, is tied up in court.

Now Mr. Harrington has turned his attention to the traffic analysis in the Nishi Gateway EIR. In the staff report, the city mentions that they will have a response to the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) comments from Mr. Harrington forthcoming.

In his communication to council, Mr. Harrington writes, “There are conflicts between the two project’s proposed plans to mitigate the traffic snarls that are likely to happen, and the City really needs to perform more analysis.”

Mr. Harrington suggests that the city “postpone Nishi vote until after the traffic analysis is improved, and realistic mitigation measures are adopted.”

Mr. Harrington has contracted with Dan Smith, an traffic engineer. Mr. Smith notes, “The traffic analysis for Embassy Suites does not consider the Nishi project either in assessment of immediate traffic impacts on existing conditions nor in the cumulative conditions (2035 development level) assessment.”

Implicit in the February 10 communication from Mr. Harrington is a threat to sue if the city does not delay the Nishi Project. A similar tactic was used previously on the Hotel Conference Center – and Mr. Harrington has followed through on that implied threat and launched a suit that has ground that project to a halt.

The city concluded that the traffic impact of the Hotel Conference Center would be less than significant with the planned mitigations. As the Vanguard has previously noted, the city would have been on safer legal and political ground having done a focused EIR rather than a Negative Declaration, but, given Mr. Harrington’s subsequent actions on Nishi, it is not clear that this would have mattered.

All of this is a very technical objection by Mr. Harrington. The city is well aware of the problems on Richards Blvd. As the Vanguard has suggested, some of this can be mitigated by re-directing traffic, attempting to access the university through Richards, to use Old Davis Road, Hutchison Drive and Russell Boulevard access points to the west.

Second, the connectivity to the campus through Nishi itself will allow for a second and more direct access point to campus that bypasses the Richards Underpass.

Third, the city has a grant through CalTrans to improve the Richards interchange and has placed, into the project baseline features, stipulations that require the completion of the grade-separated crossing to campus and the interchange improvements (set for 2020) prior to construction.

Writes staff, “The Baseline Project Features call for all backbone infrastructure, including the grade-separated crossing to UC Davis and the improvements to the Richards Boulevard interchange, be completed prior to any occupancy on the Nishi site. Construction on the Nishi site could begin only after construction has begun on the interchange and the grade-separated crossing.”

Mr. Harrington, in a communication to council back on February 2, argued, “We do not believe this project’s FEIR conforms to CEQA. Measure R requires that the project FEIR conforms to CEQA. Since it does not, putting this project as currently describes violates the letter and spirit of Measure J/R.”

He continued, “The best, and only legally viable option, is to delay voting to certify the FEIR, delay voting to put the project on the June 2016 Ballot, and demand that the project applicant continue work on the project design until it conforms to law and is otherwise acceptable to put onto a future ballot at the soonest opportunity.”

He continued, “Our position is that since the project does not conform to CEQA, a Measure R vote would be invalid under the terms of Measure R.”

The legal threat here is quite clear, but in our view completely unnecessary. We argue that there is a clear political solution here – let the voters decide

Measure R remains vague as to timelines. Mr. Harrington contends that the city must complete CEQA and comply with it prior to the vote.

The language of Measure R seems more vague, noting that it requires “[a]pproval by the City Council, after compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, the State Planning and Zoning laws and any other applicable laws or regulations…”

The question is whether the city has done enough to comply with CEQA by requiring the project’s construction be contingent upon Richards Corridor transportation issues as well as the completion of the access point to the university.

While there are technical legal issues here, much as we surmised in 2013, a judge was not going to overturn the will of the people unless the law was grossly violated. This is much more technical than even the water issue.

In our view, this should not be a legal issue at all. Let the voters decide. If they believe that the city and project developer have done enough to address the traffic issues on Richards, then then they will vote for the project. If they do not, then they can vote against the project.

If Mr. Harrington believes that Measure R is not specific enough – and he may be right on this point – then re-write Measure R, put it back on the ballot and get the voters to change it.

But let us stop with the never-ending flow of lawsuits. We do not need another lawsuit here. Lay the issues before the voters and let the voters decide. If your view is so compelling, then the voters will vote the project down. If the voters believe this is a technicality, then they won’t.  That is why we have Measure R, to allow the voters to decide.

The bottom line is there are a bunch of political decisions to be made here – not a legal one.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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83 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    All the traffic issues should be locked down and shown to be offset before any vote should ever take place.  You can’t depend on the voters making the right decision on such matters, they might just be voting on the glamour aspects of a project and not really understand its consequences.  This is why we have CEQA and other safeguards to ensure that projects will conform to the good of a community.  If these things aren’t settled before any proposed vote then I have no problem with a citizen stepping forward.

    1. Matt Williams

      The traffic issues at Nishi boil down to a “he said, she said” situation . . . with two traffic engineers looking at the same situation and coming to different conclusions.  From your personal life experience, how do you “lock down” issues like that?

      For example, you and I are in the midst of a “he said, she said” situation regarding the possibility of housing at MRIC.  We look at the same set of factual events from the beginning of the community dialogue in 2011 through the current community dialogue in 2016, and we come to different conclusions.  How do you propose we “lock down” an issue like that?  Further, in our situation, which one of us is the equivalent of Fehr & Peers and which one is the equivalent of Daniel Smith?

      1. David Greenwald

        Matt is right – there are differing opinions here.  To me that is a political issue and one the voters can decide on. Think not enough was done – vote no.

          1. David Greenwald

            We all know that there is a problem with Richards. There are several processes to limit the problems: (1) UCD access point, (2) Richards Corridor Study, (3) City proposed fixes including looking at ways to divert traffic. What if they are not sufficient? We’re not going to know that answer until this is built and if the fixes are not sufficient, then the city will have to figure out the next step. The EIR and traffic analysis is not going insure that the problem is fixed. So if that is your concern, then vote no on the project.

        1. Barack Palin

          What’s the rush?   6 more months to study the traffic and the project doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.  Over the last few weeks this all seems like a mad rush to get it on the June ballot.

        2. Barack Palin

          David

          Six months isn’t going to change anything.

          I don’t understand.  Weren’t you praising the council for how much they got done in the last month or so trying to get this project to ballot and now you say “Six months isn’t going to change anything”.  

          1. David Greenwald

            By that I meant, if you think the project is ready to go, waiting six months isn’t needed. If you don’t think it’s ready to go, see hpierce’s comment, six months doesn’t change anything.

      2. Alan Pryor

        The traffic issues at Nishi boil down to a “he said, she said” situation . . . with two traffic engineers looking at the same situation and coming to different conclusions.

        From my perspective that is not true, Matt. The Fehr and Peers traffic report for the Nishi EIR report (that I actually read) had a number of notable deficiencies including reliance on baseline traffic data that was insufficiently studied and underestimated. It also had predictions of future traffic levels that were demonstrably unrealistically low. These are the same problems and deficiencies that occurred in the Conference Center traffic study about which I have previously written and over which Mike Harrington quite rightfully filed a lawsuit for redress.

        Rather than fix these deficiencies and present a revised, more “honest” assessment of future traffic conditions at Nishi, though, Fehr and Peers doubled down and used the same erroneous assumptions and projections to paint a rosy future traffic picture for Nishi.

        That such a deficient traffic analysis was performed and prepared by Fehr and Peers for Nishi is not that surprising as they did the same thing for the Conference Center when they did that faulty traffic study. Fehr and Peers are the “go-to” firm hired by local cities and developers who want a positive traffic analysis for their development projects they are promoting. As such, the firm always gives them the answer they want no matter what is the reality. The traffic study for the Richards Blvd Conference Center was also substandard in much the same way as it used a lot of the same baseline assumptions. These determinations are clearly legal issues under CEQA which, by law, are ultimately determined in a court of law.

        Further suggesting that the traffic study for Nishi was substandard is the fact that the Transportation, Bicycling, and Traffic Safety Commission also reviewed the Nishi Traffic Report and unanimously determined that there were enough unanswered questions and questionable assumptions such that the entire traffic study should be independently reviewed by another traffic expert. This conclusion was arrived at by the Commission without ever even seeing the Smith analyses that pointed out the problems with the Fehr and Peers analysis. The independent study otherwise requested by the Transportation, Bicycling, and Traffic Safety Commission was never done and the request for such was conveniently overlooked by Staff in preparing their final report. This in itself makes the entire Nishi review process suspicious if not outright deficient.

        Well, David Greenwald says this whole brouhaha is just a political issue that the voters should decide. Unfortunately, that process favors the wealthy developers who can afford to spend countless millions of advertising dollars with slick mailed brochures and on-air advertising convincing voters that the developer’s version of the traffic analysis is correct . Opponents of such an illegal CEQA determination do not have these resources to battle it out before the voters so it is hard for me to rationalize David’s statement that it should otherwise be fairly fought out in a public vote where the wealthy have such a decided unfair advantage.

        Fortunately, our legal system is such that a challenge to the adequacy of the traffic analysis can be determined also by a vote. But the voters will be by 12 men and women fairly picked from a public pool and each side in the dispute will be given equal time to present their cases to the voting jurors. There is no advantage to a monied developer in that case because they cannot spend millions in false advertising to sway the jury. As the publisher of Court Watch and one who has used the courts themselves to obtain their desired FOIA document requests, I would have thought the Vanguard would have been more appreciative of the inherent fairness in our legal system in the rights it bestows on the underpriveleged (e.g less wealthy). Our legal system is truly the great equalizer in our society and Mike Harrington should not be disparaged from using the legal system to challenge a legally-deficient CEQA analysis as he sees fit just as the Vanguard has used the legal system when it was to their advantage in the past.

        1. Robert Canning

          For someone who uses (effectively, I might add) the public comment podium a fair amount, I’m surprised, Alan.

          I’ll go back to what I said below.  The more these land use decisions are done in court and in closed session, the less public scrutiny can be applied.  It’s not the way we should be doing business.  The courts do not afford the public enough comment and for enough give-and-take to make it a satisfactory place to have these decisions made. I don’t share your idealized belief in the court system as a “great equalizer.”

        2. Matt Williams

          Alan Pryor might have said . . . “From my perspective that is not true, Matt. I believe the Fehr and Peers traffic report for the Nishi EIR report (that I actually read) had a number of notable deficiencies including reliance on baseline traffic data that I believe was insufficiently studied and underestimated. I believe it also had predictions of future traffic levels that were demonstrably unrealistically low. I believe these are the same problems and deficiencies that occurred in the Conference Center traffic study about which I have previously written and over which Mike Harrington (I believe quite rightfully) filed a lawsuit for redress.”

          Alan, you have articulated your beliefs about the Fehr and Peers traffic report(s) efficiently and effectively.  You have used both public comment from the podium and one-to-one conversation to make your point.  I personally find your beliefs to be for the most part persuasive.  However, that does not change the fact that they are beliefs, nor does it change the fact that Fehr and Peers has beliefs of their own.

          With the above said, what I have found seriously lacking in the dialogue about the differences between traffic study beliefs, is how a change in the traffic study data can/will/should affect the project.  For the most part, the discussions have been problem-centric rather than solution-centric . . . or better yet, focused on how the problem scenarios inform various solution scenarios.

          Mike has been very clear that he will not discuss solutions anywhere other than in confidential Court administered mediation.  How does that make the project better?  I understand how it illuminates the legal I’s and T’s, but will the confidential Court mediation also be addressing how the specifics of the design and the bricks and mortar of the project have to be adjusted to address any deficiencies in those legal I’s and T’s?  What say you?

        3. Alan Pryor

          To Matt Williams and Robert Canning –

          To say that Mike Harrington chooses only to litigate rather than negotiate based on what occurred after the Conference Center approval is revising history.

          Mike Harrington has indeed chosen litigate to address the wrongs of the Conference Center approval (i.e. a deficient traffic analysis). But you really should recognize that this was a measure of last recourse for him. He submitted a number of statements to the Council prior to the approval of the project and these comments/warnings were summarily dismissed. I was also very actively involved prior to the approval of the Conference Center including an in-depth analysis of the traffic study and the inadequacies and misstatements of the Conference Center’s green-washed sustainability plan (essentially, it was a joke).

          I wrote an article for the Vanguard expressing these points before approval was given and even commissioned an independent engineering study showing the fallacy of the Patel’s statement that the did all they could on solar PV. I spoke up at the Council opposing the project for the exact same reasons and urged the Council to send it to the Commissions to resolve these problems. The Council dismissed Mike’s and my concerns and approved the project on an extremely fast track anyhow.

          It is hard to imaging that more could have been done to warn the Council of the shortcomings of the project prior to their approval. And we certainly did try to resolve the shortcomings the way it is done best in Davis which is by sending it to the Commission for review BEFORE the Council approved it. The Council specifically chose not to do so because the Council decided they did not want to slow the project down (in their own words).

          And they gave this fast-track approval in full knowledge that there were, in fact, no impending deadlines that had to be met. That is, there were no land options that had to be exercised by a certain date or financing offers that were dependent on Council approval that would otherwise expire. Council approved it on the night for the simple reason that they wanted to get it off their plate. And they were willing to bypass all of the Commissions to do just that.

          So it should be abundantly clear to any casual observer that every effort was made by myself and Mike and others to try to get problems resolved before the Council approvals were given. It was Council that made the decision to ignore these warnings and fast-track the approval process. So I find it disingenuous and self-serving to now say that Mike H uses litigation as his weapon of first choice. The reality is that litigation was the only recourse left to try to right the wrongs. The Council gave their approval with abundant warnings that they were on thin ice in approving the project. So if there are fingers to point blame, they should be directed at Council for rushing a job with a deficient CEQA analysis.

          I will also add that they appear to be posed to make the same mistake this time around on Nishi by rushing to get it approved on the last possible day for a June ballot without fully considering deficiencies in the traffic analysis (and getting an independent review as requested by the Transportation, Bicycling and Traffic Safety Commission) and functionally ignoring all requests for increased sustainability by the NRC.

          There is no good reason that Council should approve this project on Tuesday for a June ballot when they could easily take another few months to resolve these issues and get it on the November ballot.

           

           

           

        4. Matt Williams

          Alan Pryor said . . . “Mike Harrington has indeed chosen litigate to address the wrongs of the Conference Center approval (i.e. a deficient traffic analysis).”

          Alan, focusing solely on the Hotel/Conference Center, I believe that what you have described above is simply identifying a problem, not proposing a solution.

          Further, I believe it is identifying a legal and procedural problem, not a design and implementation problem.  It is reactive, not proactive.

          Let’s focus on solutions for a moment.  In a perfect world, and we all know there is no such thing as a perfect world, but if there were, how would you like to see this play out.  I suspect that you would like to see your own personal assessment of the existing traffic volumes and flows replace the Fehr and Peers assessment of the existing volumes and flows.  Hypothetically, let’s assume that that has happened.  With those ambient flows in place, how would you adjust the project design so that it appropriately mitigates those volumes and flows?

          Regarding your concerns about sustainability, It is my understanding that Chuck Cunningham has worked closely in face-to-face meetings with the sustainability community in order to address the sustainability concerns that you initially raised, and that significant progress has been made on that front.  Is that understanding on my part accurate?  If it is, then that is what I would refer to as a solutions approach.  Identify the problem and its parameters, dialogue about the problem, propose solutions, incorporate the solutions that are most efficient and effective.

           

        5. Alan Pryor

          Regarding your concerns about sustainability, it is my understanding that Chuck Cunningham has worked closely in face-to-face meetings with the sustainability community in order to address the sustainability concerns that you initially raised, and that significant progress has been made on that front.  Is that understanding on my part accurate?

          I do not know if that is accurate. Certainly nothing has been proposed to the NRC. I have not heard of any other discussions he has had with anybody in the local sustainability community. With whom have these discussions supposedly been held? What improvements in sustainability have been proposed?

          Based on what has been proposed for MIRC (their sustainability plan given to the NRC was “insufficient” to put it mildly), it does not appear that Cunningham is a strong proponent for sustainability.

        6. Matt Williams

          As I said Alan, my understanding re: the progress on sustainability is just that, an understanding.

          With that said, the shortcomings on sustainability are not an EIR shortcoming, but rather a “Davis Way” shortcoming, and as such fall into a very different category than the transportation issues. And, as such, those sustainability issues are really jist a side show thot the main tent issues regarding traffic, which both you and Mike have argued are indeed EIR issues.

          So, let me reiterate my question to you regarding the transportation issues. “In a perfect world, and we all know there is no such thing as a perfect world, but if there were, how would you like to see the issues associated with traffic to play out.  I suspect that you would like to see your own personal assessment of the existing traffic volumes and flows replace the Fehr and Peers assessment of the existing volumes and flows.  Hypothetically, let’s assume that that has happened.  With those ambient flows in place, how would you adjust the project design so that it appropriately mitigates those volumes and flows?”

           

      1. hpierce

        95% of the voters will not have read the project description, the history of the discussions, nor the FEIR…  they will be voting their pre-conceived biases, or what they have learned in “sound-bites” orchestrated by others who have strong biases… yeah, by all means, let the public vote… that’s the “strength” of Measure J/R…

        1. hpierce

          Unfortunately, yes… note the success, thus far, of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz…  they play to emotions, biases… it is what it is…

          Was not suggesting a change, but would appreciate an acknowledgement that the “people” often vote on things that they have little knowledge of… yet some say the Peoples’ Vote is somehow inerrant… the People voted to ban same sex marriage in California… the People voted to support the death penalty in CA… etc.

  2. Mark West

    Once the City demonstrated a willingness to settle on the water issue, they opened the floodgates to this sort of nonsense. You can virtually guarantee that every significant development project in town will be hit with at least one such suit. There is nothing we can do about it now except to plan for the added time and cost that will be necessary for every project. Once the City wins a few times in court, the threat will go away. If we settle again…

    1. hpierce

      Worded differently, but goes to an earlier comment I made (another thread) as to Paso Fino, and the assertion that all development proposals should be subject to “negotiation”… am expecting threats of legal action Nishi, Trackside, Sterling Homes (Fifth Street)… at the end of the day, both sides need to figure out what battles they engage in… follow the money…

    2. David Greenwald

      Mark: While you raise an important point, there is something missing. Harrington sued on both the water project and the rates. He lost in court and at the polls on the water project itself. However, when he won at the polls on the rates, the city didn’t have much legs to stand on. But the moral to the story is that where Harrington needs to win this battle is at the polls, because the courts are unlikely as HPIERCE I think correctly points out, to side with him.

  3. Robert Canning

    Former City Council member and self-styled land use gadfly, Michael Harrington should stand down on Nishi.

    Although, as the Vanguard points out, Mr. Harrington’s legal strategies have had benefits when the City’s planning has made errors. Overall, in my opinion, his efforts too often have cost the citizens of Davis time and money and decreased transparency rather than increased it.

    Consider this: When Mr. Harrington files suit in superior court, the proceedings are heard in the courthouse in Woodland, not Davis City chambers. Preparation of the City’s briefs and arguments are done in the offices of the City Attorney, not in the City chambers. Discussions among the City Council members are done in closed session, away from the public eye.  And in several cases, when agreements are reached, they are done so in private and the terms are sealed – rather than open for public inspection. Rather than give the public a chance to weigh in, Mr. Harrington’s efforts push the public aside and puts him in the driver’s seat – not the “Davis way,” so to speak.

    There are alternatives to litigation that may lead to outcomes at least as good, if not better than, the ones he has achieved. For instance, the formation of a water committee that looked at all sides of the water project in open forum and with input from all, resulted in a better understanding of the overall water project, rates, and costs. And after much money spent, the Yolo Ratepayers suit ran aground, with little to show for it.

    Mr. Harrington’s tactics and manner too often focus attention on him, rather than the true issues and decrease the public’s ability to better understand the issues at hand and the impacts for the city and its citizens. Too often litigation is about the litigators, not the substance. Mr. Harrington ought to take a break from his meddlesome litigation and let the citizens of Davis make the decision about Nishi.

    1. Don Shor

      Mike should provide his input via public comment at the council and commission meetings, the way other citizens do. Or he can apply to be on those commissions to provide more input and actually vote on the projects. Or, better yet, he can run for council again to see how much support his positions have within the community.

        1. hpierce

          Please understand, David, that if the PC/CC determines that an impact is significant and unavoidable (no reasonable mitigation measure), they can still certify the EIR, and make findings of ‘over-riding considerations’… and proceed… when that mechanism has been used, there are very few instances where it has been overturned at the trial level, and fewer yet at the appeals level…

          Another example of the ‘will of the people’, just at the representative level…

      1. Alan Pryor

         

        Mike should provide his input via public comment at the council and commission meetings, the way other citizens do.

        C’mon Don…get real! How much input into the process can you really expect in Public Comments have when Dan Wolk only allows you only two minutes to present your case (down from three minutes under the last 4-5 mayors). I guess Dan figures his time is more important that the right of citizens to speak their mind to the Council.

        And what good would it have been for Mike H to be on the Transportation, Bicycling, and Traffic Safety Commission when Staff completely ignored their recommendation for an independent traffic review. In fact, Staff did not even bring the traffic study to the Commission at all by the deadline for CEQA review and comments. The Commission actually had to demand they have a special meeting even to review the study. So much for influencing the process by joining a Commission to get a fair say.

        1. Michelle Millet

          You don’t believe public comment or commission proceedings make any difference?

          Having served on the Natural Resource Commission for two years, I can say that I have not seen any evidence the council is paying attention to the work our commission is doing, much less taking our input into consideration. (this is not meant to slam our council members, it just doesn’t seem like the commissions really have any impact on how council members make their decisions).

        2. Robb Davis

          I can say that I have not seen any evidence the council is paying attention to the work our commission is doing

          Wow, just wow.  I don’t even know what to say.  So all the work that the FBC has done around Nishi, around cost containment, around changing systems has been ignored.  All the work the BTSSC did around B Street, examining alternative grade-separated crossings at Cannery (still in process) and way finding (to name a few)… ignored.  Did CCE spring from the earth or did the NRC promote that?  What about the ENTIRE green waste collection program we are about to embark on… Who did we ignore to make that happen?  The Social Service Commission went against staff’s (and my) preferred funding scheme last year on CDBG and the CC accepted their recommendation.  They also weighed in on streamlining the CDBG process–accepted by the CC.

          And these are just off the top of my head.  I am dumbfounded by the assertions made here that we are not listening.  The fact that the BTSSC DID discuss the Nishi traffic study shows that we have safeguards in place to get things before commissions (I KNOW Alan, we failed on the Hotel Conference Center–it stands as the poster child of the meaning of “exception that proves the rule”.)

          How exactly were the innovation park principles arrived at? (Hint: hours of discussions at 5 commissions and Cool Davis)

          How do you think I developed the cost containment principles I shared at the last meeting (hint: LISTENING to the FBC deliberations for a year+).

          How is the CCE report coming forward?  (Hint:  A citizen’s committee that took direction, public input and crafted a recommendation.)

          Why are we working on broadband?  (Hint: Citizen encouragement seconded by the URAC)

          … But maybe you are right.  Since we clearly ignore the input of commissions why should I even take up hours of my time each week.  Just email me your deliberations and I will ignore them.  Saves me time. I can get a bit more biking in or spend some time with my grandchildren–maybe see my wife on a day other than Saturday.

        3. Alan Pryor

          Since we clearly ignore the input of commissions why should I even take up hours of my time each week

          Robb – The Transportation, Bicycling, and Traffic-Safety Commission was very explicit in their request that they recommended an independent review of the traffic study for Nishi because they thought there were serious doubts about the assumptions used in the DEIR study that rendered the study’s findings questionable. Look in their minutes for yourself. This request for a 2nd opinion has been completely ignored by Staff and Council.

          The NRC put forward a very detailed list of GHG mitigation measures that have been functionally ignored by Staff  and Council. As a result, it appears there will be about 13,000 metric tons of GHG produced and deposited in the atmosphere each year by the project with out ANY requirements for ANY mitigation other than Nishi has agreed to reduce parking by 10%. Whoopee!…the world is saved. In fact, Nishi is given a virtual free-ride in terms of future responsibilities for GHG mitigation because there are no mandatory mitigation measures proposed at all despite specific  recommendations from the NRC and Cool Davis.

          So while I would agree that you are quite interested in, committed to, and supportive of the Commissions and Committee’s work if it aligns with your interests and objectives (e.g. CCE, Broadband, green-waste containerization etc.) and certainly more so than any other Council member by far. However, if the Commission work is related to ensuring that massive development projects that put millions into developers pockets and spins off just a few shekels into the City’s coffers are truly sustainable and don’t result in traffic grid-lock in the City, your ardor for Commission input seems to be quite a bit cooler.

    2. hpierce

      You mischaracterize Mr H… he only uses the legal threat if he can’t get his way by power/pressure… as a CC member he tried the latter with staff (outside the parameters of the Municipal Code, which he violated), but realized that using the legal process would be, at best, a quixotic choice…

      Mr H is a “gift” to the Davis community…

  4. ryankelly

    This is an expensive hobby for Mike.  I don’t believe that it is motivated by concern for the community for a second.  The university is accepting 500 additional students this Fall with the goal of accepting an additional 5000 over the next 10 years. We can get ahead of this or expect students forced to inhabit rental houses in residential neighborhoods or drive their cars in from Sacramento, Woodland, etc.  The University is seriously considering plans to build dorms on Russell and Toomy Fields, etc and Mike’s delays will not stop this tide of building.  Nishi traffic is small potatoes in this bigger picture and I believe Mike’s lawsuits are motivated by resentment and his need to feel important and the center of attention.  He’s counting on settlements, because it is not a certainty to win trials.  [moderator] edited

    1. Frankly

      You and I disagree on many things, but not this.

      I am thinking that those in Davis that don’t like growth and don’t want any new housing developments approved should be fighting against UCD’s growth plans.

        1. Frankly

          I agree.  I really don’t get their gig.  What are they actually against?  If they are against the population of the city growing… it is already growing with UCD growth.  The question is where do these students go home to?  If they are against traffic, the increase in UCD student population will increase traffic regardless.  Even housing on campus is going to cause more traffic.

          The say they are against sprawl and hence peripheral development, but if they are not planning to live in these new developments, nor travel to them… then there is really no impact to them.

          It is clear that the people that moved to Davis expecting to retire in a small rural city of 50k – 60k people have had some bad luck.  They managed to under-estimate the success of UCD becoming a world-class research university.

          It is interesting to me that most Davis residents that I know that grew up here or have lived hear more than 30 years are less opposed to growth.  It is mostly the people that have more recently moved here that seem opposed to growth.  That makes some sense as those people probably targeted Davis as a place to raise a family and retire.  They based their opinion on what Davis was at the time they made their decision with an expectation that it would stay the same.

          But again, they are just unlucky.   Either they embrace a larger Davis (to support the growing university) or they move somewhere else.

          Blocking needed housing development is just idiotic as it will result in even more negative impacts to Davis and the region.

          If they want to stop the growth of Davis, their only hope is to succeed in blocking the growth of UCD.  I think this was done in Santa Cruz, so it is not out of the realm of possibility.

          And personally, I would be fine with UCD stopping their aggressive growth strategy.

  5. Frankly

    My Sunday morning thought related to all of this is a couple of terms: “Vetting Dimension” and “Vetting Altitude”.

    To vet is to make a careful and critical examination of (something).  Vetting dimension is my term for identifying an area of subject matter expertise.  For example: engineering, policy, or legal process.

    Vetting altitude represents the relative strength of understanding of details within a vetting dimension.

    The problem with direct democracy is that too few voters know enough to participate in many of the vetting dimensions, and otherwise fly at too low in vetting altitude to make informed-enough decisions.

    When a decision needs to be made factoring complex considerations that are not sufficiently distilled down to a common vetting dimension and more accessible vetting altitude (common voter vetting transparency), putting it to popular vote risks sub-optimization.  And over time the aggregate impacts of these “mistakes” of popular vote result in complete system collapse.  See Venezuela.

    What I see happening more and more is just the opposite of pursuing more vetting transparency.  What I see happening is the government-class elites pushing the vetting process to higher and higher vetting altitude and isolated within vetting dimensions that few voters have the time or ability to adequately participate in or even understand.

    Mike Harrington is an expert at using the legal and court dimension to disrupt development progress.

    We have two high-altitude traffic engineers in complete disagreement fighting in their own dimension that most voters don’t understand.

    There are elite politicos and policy wonks battling at high altitude in their professional dimensions that most voters don’t have the time or ability to understand.

    This is a bad-enough diagnosis of the state of direct democracy… the constant – often purposeful – adding of technical and policy complexity and decision-stalling bureaucracy that the average voter does not get to participate in.  But where the rubber meets the road in destructive tendency is the lies and distortions come raining down from the elites up high in the form of campaign propaganda.  Not only is there a lack of vetting information distilled down to work for the average voter, the little that does is often a big batch of lies… political propaganda generally intended to inflame negative voter passions to win at the ballot box.

    Attorneys infest politics.  They make the laws that serve to grow their professional dimension and then this serves them in their personal pursuits.  And here is another point about attorneys – especially trial lawyers – they are sanctioned to lie on behalf of their clients when needed to win in defense or in prosecution.  In fact, you can say that the practice of law is the only profession where lying is an expected and accepted professional behavior.  And then this is why a politician will say “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”

    I have come to the conclusion that too many lawyers, especially trial lawyers, involved in politics and campaigns, are the single biggest root cause of our debilitating perpetual expansion of government and the corresponding declining ability to solve social and economic problems and to make true progress that benefits the general human condition.

    Of course many lawyers do good work.  And they are not the only profession that pursues stronger personal advantage participating in governance by isolating their subject area vetting dimension and elevating their vetting altitude.  But it is lawyers that tend to run for office and then out of office they stay working where they continue to agitate for policy cause in their rarefied subject matter dimension and altitude.

    Frankly, (because I am), lawyers in politics have become a major conflict of public interest.

    We have met the enemy, and it is lawyers.  It is time to reject them as politicians and to isolate and reject their participation in public policy except where absolutely necessary.

      1. Frankly

        Of course I was being provocative.  Lawyers are saviors when they are needed.  My point was that there is a conflict of interest that gets scant attention… lawyers in politics making the laws and then playing in their lofty sandbox to exploit those laws.

        Mike does some good just as most attorneys do some good.  David acknowledges as much in this article.  It is just that battling in the courts is an exclusive game that most of the rest of us do not play in.

  6. Michael Harrington

    Davis is a pretty good place to live because for generations various people and groups have put time and effort into the community.  For the most part, it’s a volunteer effort and a labor of love.

    Someone should put together a timeline of city policies over the years and the persons and groups who shaped them.  For example, Mayor Skinner led the cavalry when the CC voted 3/2 to make Central Park into a strip mall …. but newcomers in town think that the Farmers Market and our Central Park as they are today were just … something easy to do.   There really should be a summary of these things …. (Hattie Webber volunteers, anyone?)

    The Nishi project has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the Measure J/R.  The strength is that the voters have to approve each new project.  That provides staff and the community with a very big and heavy stick to shape the project.

    I saw firsthand at a recent meeting of the CC the power that R hands to even just one or two CC members.  Robb and Brett working together fixed many of the Nishi issues, but not all.  Why did just two CC members run that meeting and get what they wanted, to the letter?  Because the project applicant and staff and the CC majority know that just one, let alone two, CC members can go a long way to defeating the project at the polls.  So the applicant and others keep throwing in goodies until they have a 5 CC members on board.

    But the weakness in R is what if there are no CC members up there who want to challenge the project?

     

    What about now, when I suspect there are zero CC votes to follow R’s mandate that CEQA compliance be assured and final before the R vote?

    The people will be voting on a defined R project in June.  But if there is a CEQA traffic case filed, almost certainly the plaintiffs are going to win due to the extreme mess that now defines those reports.  There very well could be different traffic studies and mitigations at the end of the litigation, changing the project itself in important but unknown ways from what the voters approved.  Is that democratic?

    That’s why I have pushed over and over to delay the project until November, and get the analysis right, with realistic mitigations and circulation plans in place.  THEN let the voters decide if they like this FINAL plan. But the CC does not want to push it back so they can follow the letter and spirit of J/R.  Why?  Because they promised Ramos the November slot.  Is his political pull and financial connections to the City and ambitious CC members so great that the CC would ignore clear language of R?  Apparently so.

    I think R needs to be revised to include several critical process failings of the current R.  For example, Tuesday night the CC will finish the FEIR certification, all the baseline features, and put the project on the ballot … all at once, in a few hours on one night.  It’s the last possible meeting to accomplish these tasks, for a June election.

    R right now requires CEQA compliance before R.  It’s clear, in black and white.

    I would amend R to build in timelines so the City cannot do all of this at the same time.  Make them finish and certify the EIR and the baselines, and all contingencies spelled out, then let the CEQA challenge timeline (30 days) expire, before voting to put the project on the ballot.  If there is a CEQA legal challenge, R has to wait until the challenge is resolved.

    I would make the baseline features far more specific.  The only reason we got what we have now is because Robb and Brett stood up for their checklist.  I was very proud of them to do it.  But these specifics should be in R, not dependent on having a certain CC viewpoint up on the dais.

    R should be permanent.

    R should have a specific private enforcement mechanism in it.  If the City or the applicant violates R, local residents or groups can file the appropriate court case, with a specific provision for attorneys fees, costs, and expert costs to the prevailing plaintiffs.

    The issue for my group of friends is how do we spend out time so that we get the best long term city benefits for the hours we put in?  It might be a legal challenge to Nishi and the CC’s expected violation of R’s language;  it might be dealing with what is shaping up to be a total disaster outside of the Mace Ranch curve;, or writing and pushing through a ballot initiative to fix some structural weaknesses in R.  Or all of the above.  Time will tell.

     

    Just my thoughts…

     

    But right now, due to the City’s failure to perform a legal analysis of the traffic mess at Olive and Richards, and failure to resolve CEQA well before putting Nishi on the ballot, Nishi is a sitting duck for litigation, like the Embassy Suites was.  The only issue is where is our time best spent to protect and promote good public policies?   After all, Ramos is coming up …

     

    1. hpierce

      How can we make R permanent, yet make changes as you propose?  Seem contradictory… and if it is made “permanent”, how is that democratic for future residents?  Even the US Constitution has provisions for amendments, or even nullification and/or complete re-do…

      I’d like gravity and the presence of oxygen to be permanent… other than those two, not so much…

    2. CalAg

      “I would make the baseline features far more specific.  The only reason we got what we have now is because Robb and Brett stood up for their checklist.  I was very proud of them to do it.  But these specifics should be in R, not dependent on having a certain CC viewpoint up on the dais.” MH

      Are you kidding? The baseline project features for Nishi are extremely vague – and notably less specific than Wildhorse Ranch or Covell Village. Neither of these projects had the benefit of Davis or Lee and their “checklists.” Nothing to be proud of here.

  7. tj

    What’s clear is that city staff are a problem, pushing one project or another, at taxpayer expense.

    As high as city salaries are, we might expect better workmanship.

    Don’t blame attorneys, blame hiring practices at city hall.

  8. Jim Leonard

    Mike Harrington is being attacked, for what reason? And, by whom?

    We live in a democracy and lawsuits are part of the process. What is the alternative and how to we achieve that alternative?

    For those of us, like myself, I see a bad project in Nishi going forward for mysterious reasons. And I see Nishi going forward at far too great a pace. Remember: we have to live with the result once it’s built.

    Mike is doing all of us a service, so, stopping bitching and give Mike the thanks he truly deserves.

  9. hpierce

    Although I personally don’t like the Nishi project, as currently proposed, I believe it is more accurate to say Mr H is “servicing the community” rather than “serving the community”… any true Aggie will understand the nuance…

  10. Michael Harrington

    I personally think Nishi is way too dense for the space, and is a bait and switch.  It started off several years ago when the City put out a request for proposals, mainly in the hope that some lucrative economic development would fund our small city’s budget that was sucking air.  (Remember that Saylor, Souza and others gave those huge staff raises using parks money in 2005?)

    Now, Nishi has morphed into housing, which does not generate money for the city.

    So all of this drama over Richards and Olive intersection, and the huge sums of money needed to “fix” it, are 95% caused by Nishi, a windfall of $$ to the couple of local developer families who own that parcel.

    Even Robb and Brett are most likely going to vote for it … how retro.   Throwing public money at private development that mostly just enriches the developers and costs the city taxpayers.  It’s like we are still living in the 50s, and have learned little.  Sad to see.

  11. skeptical

     
    The criticism of Mr. Harrington is misplaced.  The fault for litigation rests with City staff.  They establish the grounds for litigation. Mr. Harrington’s activities are clearly directed to legitimate legal and policy goals.  He is not filing on every potential case the City serves up.  He also just offered an outstanding suggestion to document the political history of Davis.  More people, especially those posting on this site, need to understand the history behind the various political issues in this community.
     

    1. ryankelly

      What history?

      Davis used to be a nice place to live, But it has become too expensive for young families.  Infrastructure is deteriorating. The City services once widely available and at low cost has all but disappeared.  When I moved to Davis, there were free afterschool programs in every park, affordable rents, a really safe downtown and lively political discourse. Now we have high rents, no low cost recreation programs, a downtown too small to accomodate Davis’s population, and a viciousness in local politics that drive people away from participating.  If you want to talk about history of politics in Davis, it should include the development of houses West of Anderson Road in response to the expansion of UCD, the development of houses and apartments North of Covell between F and Sycamore on once was agricultural land with creation of the greenbelt system, the development of all the housing East of Poleline that enabled families to buy houses in Davis, the development of housing in South Davis between Richards Blvd and El Macero.  I could go on.  None of these existed when I moved to Davis.  The vicious opposition to all development seems to come from people who moved in after all of this, not understanding that the very houses that they live in were once housing developments that went through a City planning process.  Mike Harrington seems to believe that the history of Davis is dominated by a series of battles with the citizens winning against evil empire of City government.  However, he is a late arrival and much of it is fiction.

      1. David Greenwald

        “Davis used to be a nice place to live”

        You are really going to argue that Davis isn’t a nice place to live?

        “But it has become too expensive for young families.”

        We’ve managed. I would argue that it’s expensive to live here BECAUSE it’s a nice place to live.

        1. Barack Palin

          We’ve managed. I would argue that it’s expensive to live here BECAUSE it’s a nice place to live.

          Exactly.  You live where you can afford to live.  There’s a lot of places I’d like to live also, but I can’t afford them.  Are those communities beholden to give me affordable housing?

        2. Matt Williams

          ryankelly said . . . “I would argue that it is not as nice as it used to be.”

          No one wants to deny you your right to believe it is not as nice as it used to be, but individual definitions of “nice” vary substantially.

          ryankelly said . . . “Davis used to be a nice place to live, But it has become too expensive for young families.”

          The cost of housing is definitely expensive in Davis, but after acceptance of that reality, what other components of daily life are “too expensive.”  When I look at the various components of my annual budget,  I don’t see any that jump out that way.

          ryankelly said . . . “The City services once widely available and at low cost has all but disappeared.  When I moved to Davis, there were free afterschool programs in every park, affordable rents, a really safe downtown and lively political discourse. Now we have high rents, no low cost recreation programs, a downtown too small to accommodate Davis’s population, and a viciousness in local politics that drive people away from participating.”

          The free afterschool programs were free for individuals, but definitely were not free for the City budget.  Those free programs that you categorize as “nice” are, for many other Davis residents, considered to be fiscally imprudent.  I suspect that the quantity of afterschool programs has not actually diminished in any meaningful way.  All that has changed is the price.

          Regarding viciousness in politics.  That is a phenomenon that is not limited to the local sphere.  Viciousness exists at the Federal level in much greater abundance and intensity than it does here in Davis.

  12. Tia Will

    ryankelly

    I view this differently. You provided a fairly substantial list of residential growth in various areas of town. You then seem to imply a lack of growth, or opposition to it, as the main culprit in the deterioration of our town.

    If all of this growth which you cited, has not helped alleviate our problems, how is it that you see more growth as the answer to those same problems ?

    I do not say this as someone opposed to all growth. I say it as an individual who believes in paying for what we want ourselves and not expecting others to pay for it for us, whether the others are developers, future businesses or future inhabitants. And yes, I know that that entails the ugly word taxes. But I believe in a balanced approach represented by accurate assessment of assets and expenses and obligations such as Robb Davis has proposed with prudent financial management based on those findings, adequate taxation to meet our needs, responsible business and housing development respectful of existing guidelines, zoning and the good of all of our citizens, not just a handful who stand to profit.

    1. Don Shor

      Residential growth is necessary in Davis in response to the growth of the university. There are presently thousands of employees and students living outside the city and commuting in every day. The current crisis has to do with rental housing, particularly for young adults, and the impact that is having on lower-cost homes for young families. But all of this is caused by the university’s growth in enrollment, and, of course, in part by their failure to provide their share of the housing that engenders.
      If you want Davis to stop growing, you need to press for UC Davis to stop growing. But even if that were to succeed, we still have a shortage of housing now, already, and for the near-future.
      UCD needs to build housing. They especially need to make an effort to house their sophomores, the overwhelming majority of whom move off campus and into town. But private developers in the city also need to provide some more housing, particularly rental units.
      So there is no specific upper limit to growth. There is just the reality of growth being imposed on the city by the university. That cannot be ignored, no matter how much it may irritate us.

    2. ryankelly

      Tia, that is not Harrington’s view.

      Don, you are right about this.  University planning is studying how to accommodate expansion by not only building on campus, but also the use of resources in the region.  Next year, dorms that have been used to house incoming transfer students will change to housing freshman only. They plan to secure whole apartment complexes in town for transfer students, which will displace those tenants, and so on.  With so many students, faculty and staff now living in Woodland and Sacramento, parking and traffic are now growing problems.  Public transportation is currently inadequate to accommodate the numbers of people commuting to UCD.  Is it cheaper to buy a UCD bus ( think Google bus) or build more parking?  That is one question. Until then, people will drive.  If parking becomes too expensive, people will just find parking in town.

  13. hpierce

    The title caption of this article is misleading…  Mr H has no more “power” (thank God) to ‘permit’, ‘allow’ or delay, an election item than any other citizen (who knows how to find an attorney to file the appropriate paperwork).  Anyone can be a “gnat” if they are willing to put the time/effort/money to do so…

    1. ryankelly

      Then you left and came back later.  When you came back most development had already been done. You got involved in politics when your neighbor wanted to build a building that you wanted to have control over the design. You succeeded in this, then was recruited to run for City Council.  This was thrilling and you continue to seek that thrill, trying to make your opinion the primary opinion in every planning issue.  So yes, you are a relative newcomer.

    2. hpierce

      Well, I came here in ’72, and I consider myself to be a “newbie”… know too many folk who were either born here, and/or part of this community before 1972… anyone born here are true ‘citizens’, not “newbies”, not “immigrants”.  No matter when they were born (although some conservatives might call them “anchor babies”).

       

       

  14. Tia Will

    I came here in 1979 to go to UCD, so I guess that makes me a newcomer?”

    Me too. I started UCD medical school in 1979. However, I think the duration of time that one has been here is a total red herring. The issue for me is, caring about the community as well as simply personal enrichment. Both are perfectly valid goals. I prefer including the former in one’s list of interests.

  15. Tia Will

    ryankelly

    I would argue that it is not as nice as it used to be.”

    I would agree in some areas, and not in others. Would you agree that this is largely a matter of personal taste ?

  16. Michael Harrington

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think that these inflammatory articles deliberately use my name as a sort of Trump-like throwing of red meat on the floor to get readership interest and commenting?

  17. Tia Will

    Michael

    these inflammatory articles deliberately use my name as a sort of Trump-like throwing of red meat on the floor to get readership interest and commenting?”

    As a member of the Vanguard editorial board, albeit with no say whatsoever of what gets published, I sincerely doubt it.

  18. Misanthrop

    Harrington said: “It started off several years ago when the City put out a request for proposals, mainly in the hope that some lucrative economic development would fund our small city’s budget that was sucking air.  (Remember that Saylor, Souza and others gave those huge staff raises using parks money in 2005?)”

    I remember those raises but do you remember those unfunded 3% at 50 pensions you gave out when you were on the council. Those are the votes that killed the city budget. Its funny how you forget your own hand in digging the hole that the city is in Mike.

    As for David serving you up as red meat, he does that to everyone, but the question is are you going to try to impede a June vote by using the courts? That is a fair question that will be answered in the fullness of time.

  19. Michael Harrington

    How about this for a story title:  “Voters should decide Nishi in June without Interference from Legal Actions”?     Doesn’t sell so many newspapers, does it?

     

    But the way it was written, it made the story personal about me … rather than about staff or the CC blowing Measure R process or CEQA standards.

     

    Misanthrop:  the 3% at 50 retirement packages:  that’s an untold story how that all came down.  If I told it, it would be goring some major figures about town.   But I agree with you:  those were terrible votes, the employees rolled us.     In the middle of the economic collapse a few years ago, and the CC was doing little about it, I actually obtained copies of several local initiatives from right wing conservative law firms that could have legally rolled back some of those increases and benefits, but the water project came along and that’s what I spent three years on.    More bang for an hour of my time. I agree with you on many fiscal issues, including comments made by my neighbor, Frankly. I think large amounts of public tax dollars have been misappropriated of misspent by staff and the CC over the years. I think Robb Davis is on a mission to clean up some of these problems, and I wish him the best and stand ready to help as necessary.

  20. Michael Harrington

    Frankly:  exactly.  I have a litigation skill set and political history that most don’t have.  There are a couple of other lawyers in town with the fusion, but mostly they are conflicted against such litigation because they have local practices and represent many of the elites in town who push these projects.  I am free to file as I believe is warranted under the facts and law because I don’t have those local conflicts.    I also was taught how to file referenda and initiatives by a specialty law firm, so I have that niche covered as well.   I really stay out of most of the local drama, but I have time and effort into the community, and when I see the city and staff misbehaving, I will step in if it’s important to me.

    On the water rates, I was first pulled in by senior members of the Davis Chamber of Commerce who were appalled about the rates they saw in August 2011.

  21. ryankelly

    Is there such a thing as a senior member of the Chamber of Commerce?  Regardless, name them, so your story can be fact-checked.  This still doesn’t explained why you sued the City and then settled for just your legal fees of $180K.  You obviously have taken time to prepare yourself to continue your campaign of lawsuits/confidential arbitration/monetary settlements.  I interprete this as a threat to continue to sue the City, and property owners, unless they have your approval of the projects.

    1. Matt Williams

      ryan, at the same time as Mike says he was being asked, I was also being asked to participate by a senior member of the Chamber who was appalled about the rates he saw (see copied 8/26/2011 e-mail below).  As noted in the e-mail, the meetings with the Chamber members were being held with City staff member Jacques DeBra.  There was only one meeting between the invitation I received to attend and the disbanding, by the City, of the meetings.  I do not remember if Mike was there or not.  It was a well attended meeting.

      Matt,

      Thanks for the reminder.  As previously mentioned, it would be great if you could attend next week’s meeting.

      We have a meeting scheduled with Jacques DeBra at 3:00PM, Thursday, September 1st at Public Works conference room at their offices on 5th Street.  See attached Google Earth placeholder for aerial of location as its a little hard to find.

      It’s a small conference room.  In the past month, since word of the announcement, there have been 3 or 4 informal meetings with between 5 to 8 people in attendance.  Either Jacques DeBra or Bob Clarke has attended.  Most of those attending have been property owners with concerns about the impacts of increased expenses for their tenants and the impacts on their businesses and personal lives.  Also attending have been David Thompson and Elaine Roberts Musser, representing Rancho Yolo and the senior community.  From the environmental side, Bob Schneider has also been attending.  And, you may have seen in the Enterprise, Yolo Taxpayers has also been active in getting out the word.

      The principal thrust of past conversations has centered around available options for a substantially reduced rate structure from that contained in the initial 218 announcement.

      Sorry we’ve missed connections on previous meetings.  I’m hopeful that you and Holly can attend next week’s meeting.

      Please give me a call if you need better directions or additional information.

      Sincerely,

  22. ryankelly

    An invitation to a meeting broadly sent to discuss proposed rates and their impact on business is one thing.  Suing the City is another.  Mike implies that senior members of the Chamber of Commerce recruited him and supported his lawsuit and without their encouragement, he would never have gotten involved.

    1. Matt Williams

      ryan, go back and read Mike’s words again.  You may have inferred your interpretation from his words, but he did not imply that interpretation. Based on my first hand knowledge accumulated at the one meeting I attended, Mike’s description of the situation in August 2011 is an accurate one.  Further, it was not a broadly sent invitation.  It was a very closely held (narrowly defined) invitation.

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