Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Williams gets local officials elected, then lobbies them for fat cat clients

Consultant Herb Williams has been a "political junkie" from Nashville to San Diego for more than 40 years. A Republican until three years ago--when he switched parties to manage Councilman Mike Martini's campaign against Democrat Lynn Woolsey--he ran Kansas Senator Bob Dole's reelection campaign in 1974.

Now 68 and semi-retired, he manages local non-partisan political campaigns for fun, from his home on Parker Hill Road. And for money, he lobbies local officials--including some whose campaigns he ran--for developers and corporations like Art Condiotti, North Bay Company, and Yardbirds.

When Williams works, he doesn't work cheap. "If it's not political, I don't do anything for less than $5,000 a month," he told the Press Democrat for a story Sunday. (4/17/05, "Power Player/Herb Williams: The behind-the-scenes mastermind of North Coast politics")

City Hall reporter McCoy wrote, "His primary paychecks come from consulting work he does for developers and other business interests, some of which rely on votes from officials that Williams helped get elected. His client North Bay Corp., a Santa Rosa-based garbage hauler, has won contracts from Santa Rosa, Windsor and Rohnert Park.

Yardbirds, the Petaluma-based chain of home improvement stores, and various home builders that occasionally employ Williams, are continually active in the same cities guided by Williams' elected clients."

For example, the Novato City Council approved Sonoma County developer Art Condiotti's Bahia project in December 2000. When local citizens challenged the decision, Williams ran the campaign against the referendum.

The Northern California Bohemian commented 2/8/01, "the City Council approved the controversial project in a manner that critics found most manipulative--after a candlelit protest march, which included horseback riders, and a lively public comment period at which 100 residents raised concerns, the council waited until 3 a.m. to cast its vote, when most of the protesters were nestled in their beds.

The project was passed by a 4-1 majority. It will be built by Art Condiotti, who a few years back became the target of angry Rohnert Park homeowners who took legal action over alleged shoddy construction.

Williams had campaigned for the majority that approved the project: "All four of the council members who approved the project--Mike DiGorgio, Jim Henderson, Pat Ekland, and John Mani--were aided in their election bids by Williams, who also works for Condiotti." (2/18/01, "Bahia Brawl/Novato project prompts protest")

But when Williams manages political campaigns for fun, he charges the candidates almost nothing. McCoy wrote, "Many local candidates said Williams charged them only nominal sums, between $1 and $1,000, to run their campaigns."

The story said, "Some critics contend the cost of the polls and Williams' salary are subsidized by business and development interests that shower his candidates with campaign contributions at election time."

Local political consultant Terry Price provided a succinct explanation of the principle. He told McCoy, ''If you get the right people elected, you don't have to do a lot of lobbying."

[to be continued]

Monday, April 11, 2005

PD says high-rise retail/office complexes belong in single family neighborhoods

Developer Orrin Theissen built the faux-Victorian Town Green Village in Windsor, replacing its old westside downtown. Now he wants to build 15 of his trademark mixed-use units on a single acre, next to Windsor's Oak Creek subdivision.

The Press Democrat said 4/7/05, "His 'new urbanism' or 'smart growth' style includes three-story buildings--often replicas of historic structures--with small retail shops on the ground floor and two story condominiums above."

But Oak Creek homes are on 1/4-acre to more than one-acre lots. "It's too tall. It's the proverbial sore thumb," neighborhood association president David Deakin told the PD. ("Neighbors object to development plan").

The PD editorially scolded the neighborhood association 4/11/05: "The 'new urbanism' doesn't apply just to downtowns. Neighborhoods throughout cities - including those that have traditionally included only one-story single-family homes - will be required to make space for multistory buildings that include homes, retail and office space."

According to the PD, The New Urbanism means the end of traditional California-style suburban neighborhoods. "Smart Growth" dictates the New Urbanists build multi-story complexes--including stores and offices--right next to our homes.

The PD thinks continuous growth and development is inevitable, so the only question is whether it will be high-rise, high-density city-centered growth, or suburban sprawl:

"Either that, or Sonoma County residents should give up their dreams of community separators and greenbelts. If cities, suburbs included, don't 'build up' they will be forced to build out." ("Moving up/Even suburbanites should welcome multistory development")

There's nothing "Smart" about continuous growth, and the alternative is obvious: adopt a good General Plan, and a UGB. When the planned neighborhoods and business districts are built out, the growth and development stop.