If you attend enough Council, Board, or Committee meetings and witness enough members of the public going off the deep end of this issue or that, then you might just develop an ounce of compassionate sympathy for the Board, Committee, or Council members who, by regulation, must sit there placidly, forbidden to react or respond.
Fort Bragg has seen some over-the-top speakers of the (arch) conservative ilk at the last two City Council meetings, pon
tificating against the “others” who make up the homeless and mentally ill portion of the populace. There's another variety of meeting-goer who never dares to step to the speaker's podium, but usually sits far enough back in the room that they can make crude remarks loud enough to be mildly disruptive while being heard by like-minded pals nearby; however, those simple-minded, fearmongerers don't have any edge on their Mendo-lib brethren and sisteren.
The proof of that un-tasty pudding was on display at the January 28th meeting of the Fort Bragg Planning Commission. More than a hundred souls packed the John Diederich Center on Dana Street at 6 p.m. Another dozen or so could be seen just outside the open doors. The purpose of the meeting: to adopt or deny a mitigated negative declaration for a 29,500 square feet shopping center just west of the intersection of Highways 1 and 20 and just north of Hare Creek (within the Coastal Zone) and whether to approve or deny permits for said shopping center. The centerpiece of the development: a Grocery Outlet store. Before the hearing started, Commissioner Stan Miklose (an owner of Down Home Foods at 115 South Franklin St.) recused himself because of financial conflicts.
Next, Fort Bragg's Community Development Director, Marie Jones, gave a fifty minute synopsis of the plan and mitigations the City has requested of the applicants (the property is owned by the Patton family who settled in Fort Bragg more than a century ago). Fifty minutes sounds long and here's where we get into the paradoxical contradictions of those you might label liberals of the Mendocino Coast (at least half the audience was made up of non-Fort Bragg residents). Many sat through Jones' explanation listening closely, perhaps even gaining the beginnings of an inkling of how much work goes into creating the documents necessary for the hearing. Others got restless, muttering snarky rejoinders to their closest neighbors, waiting for any slip of Marie Jones' tongue to grumble their displeasure – tiny mispronunciations stoked their restiveness as they awaited their turn to carry figurative torches and pitchforks of self-righteous liberal indignation to the speaker's podium.
But when the time came for public input, the muttering, grumbling snarky types were much like their cranky conservative counterparts two nights earlier at the City Council meeting. Most of those who had been disruptive enough for Planning Commission Chair Derek Hoyle to mildly admonish failed to rise to the podium. As usual, the grumblers pretty much always sit on their thumbs and gutlessly continue to mutter cheap, crude asides.
Most of those who took to the podium made valid points in a sane manner. Those points included questioning why Fort Bragg needs another large store, particularly a non-union outfit like Grocery Outlet. Doubts were raised about the location itself, one of the first Fort Bragg sites locals and tourists see as they drive west on Highway 20. This writer agrees that one of the last things anyone needs to see in the rolling fields west of the Highway One and 20 intersection is another shopping center.
Several speakers demanded that a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be completed before the plan goes any further. Several others cautioned against traffic problems that the shopping center might create. Dale Moyer implored the Planning Commissioners not to “pave over paradise,” and all was groovy, baby, except for a few lapses in fact like one speaker chastising Grocery Outlet for only selling processed and GMO laden food while ignoring a recent news item that details how Grocery Outlet is expanding its natural, organic, specialty, and health food items. The reason, of course, is monetary. Those healthier products have been flying off the shelves.
This is what I despise about my fellow liberals: slipshod, slippery slope references in the public square. What's worse, most coastal liberals will listen to a half truth, nod agreement, or sing hosannahs just as fast as any Fox News worshipper in Ogallala, Nebraska. Even more aggravating are the most pompous libs, who, at whatever age, act like immature babies when they can't bully someone to their way of thinking. Case in point, one Cal Winslow. After he spread his more than three minutes of “I-have-a-degree-from-Berkeley wisdom some of the trained lib-labs offered applause, though Chairman Hoyle had cautioned against it from the onset of the meeting. When Hoyle reminded the crowd once again, in a relatively genteel manner, that applause could prove intimidating to those with opposing views, Mr. Winslow was clearly heard snarling, in a tone unsuitable for addressing a biting dog, “F**k Off!”
And there it is, the mantra of the BABY Boomers, the battle cry of Sixties refugees when they don't get everything exactly their way: F**K Off!
I am reminded of the “wave speech” at the end of Chapter Eight in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.… So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
The wave rolled back some more when the Fort Bragg Planning Commission finally considered the question of adopting the “Mitigated Negative Declaration” on the Hare Creek Shopping Center. They voted 3-1 (Commissioner Teresa Rodriguez the lone dissenter) in favor of the project. A majority of the crowd began chanting E-I-R over and over for perhaps thirty seconds. Perhaps not exactly what Mario Savio envisioned, but he might have smiled in bemusement.
Meanwhile David Gurney (If you don't know Dave Gurney, you've missed some great demonstrations of modern Mendocino Coast liberalism run amok whenever Dave's emotions get the better of him.) paced the back of the hall shouting, “Shame on You! Shame on You!” I think it safe to bet an acre or two that his comments were directed at the three Planning Commissioners who dared vote in a manner not befitting the mind of David Gurney.
To complete the ironic wave rolling back on the old Sixties and Seventies Libs, as the Commissioners took up discussion on whether to approve or deny the permits for the Hare Creek Shopping Center, and while Commissioner Sage Statham verbalized doubts about part of the permitting process, little Davy Gurney shouted out that Commissioner Statham was in violation of a conflict of interest. If he hadn't been yelling, Gurney might have noticed which way Statham was leaning.
“There's a conflict of interest,” Gurney hollered. “Sage Stratham [sic] wants an office out there. That's a conflict of interest.”
Chair Hoyle said, “David Gurney, could you please be quiet,” then proceeded with the vote. Commissioner Rodriguez: No; Commissioner Hammon: Aye; Commissioner Statham: No.
And with that, before Hoyle cast a second, “Aye,” the permits were denied because a 2-2 count shoots down a project that needs a majority vote. I couldn't see Gurney's face, but let's hope there was a brief moment of embarrassment, if not awareness.
Members of the Patton family stated that they would appeal to the Fort Bragg City Council, so this issue is far from over. Here's hoping that by the time of that City Council meeting some of the angry old libs learn how to behave in public.