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The California Healthy Communities Network is organized around a simple idea - that at strategic moments our many organizations should join forces around a clearly articulated agenda to promote and uphold the rights of a healthy community. 

Our Network stands for three main objectives to ensure the rights of healthy communities: 

Process Reform ~ Raising Standards ~ Legal & Political Accountability

Suisun pipeline study authors call on PUC, PG&E for more info
July 06, 2011 | Posted by Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY — A city resident is asking the state’s Public Utilities Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric Company to come across with information on the natural gas pipelines running through Suisun City that will show whether those lines are safe.

Anthony Moscarelli, with the support of the California Healthy Communities Network, is expanding on a study of the two PG&E natural gas pipelines and aviation fuel pipeline that supplies Travis Air Force Base. He went to the press Wednesday trying to break loose a refusal by the PUC to provide information about recent pipeline inspections, classifications and what pressures the pipelines operate under.

So far, a PG&E spokesman’s reply to the press conference was that the information that Moscarelli and the Healthy Communities Network wants is only available to public safety and government officials for security reasons.

Click here for the rest of the story


Suisun City Residents Ask PG&E For Pipeline Records SUISIN CITY: Residents Fear Pipelines Near Homes Aren't Safe
Posted: 1:09 pm PDT July 6, 2011Updated: 6:16 pm PDT July 6, 2011

SUISUN CITY -- A group of neighbors in Suisun City has banded together in hopes of forcing PG&E to open up its records about pipelines in their neighborhood.

Residents said they are worried about a new development plan that could affect two major PG&E transmission pipelines, one 32-inches and the other 16-inches long.

Residents said they have no documentation on whether the pipeline has been inspected and if it's up to safety standards. They said they fear a repeat of the San Bruno explosion.

Anthony Moscarelli of Healthy Community Research of Suisun City said the blast radius of the pipeline would be 575-feet, almost three football fields long. If the pipeline blew up it would take out all the homes 575-feet back.

Click here for the rest of the story

Sound Clip from Press Conference
Starts at 39:29 (after a lead-in about San Bruno) Ends 41:42

The Pacifica Evening News, Weekdays - July 6, 2011 at 6:00pm

Click to listen (or download)


Group worried over Solano County gas pipelines

July 6, 2011

SUISUN CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- A watchdog group in Solano County is worried a pipeline explosion similar to the one in San Bruno last year could happen there.

The group Healthy Community Research says PG&E is ignoring heavy development around major gas transmission lines.

On Wednesday, members stood on a street in Suisun City where a new Wal-Mart is expected to be built.

The group says heavy trucks will cause constant vibrations no a street with a major gas transmission line running underneath it. The group also claims PG&E has not produced safety records for that line, adding to what they call a "recipe for disaster."

"If it blew up right here, it would take out all the homes," said Anthony Moscarelli, adding that 575 homes would be gone.

Click here for the rest of the story

Blue-ribbon blast panel rips PG&E and state PUC
Friday, June 10, 2011 (SF Chronicle)
Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

A panel commissioned by California regulators to investigate the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion last year issued a scathing report Thursday, criticizing Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s management as lax on safety and the state Public Utilities Commission as weak on oversight.

The Sept. 9 blast, said the five-member group of academics and labor and energy industry veterans, was a "consequence of multiple weaknesses in PG&E's management and oversight of the safety of its gas transmission system."

PG&E has a "dysfunctional" corporate culture that placed safety far down the priority list, contributing to the disaster that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes, the panel said.

Click here for the rest of the story

Cal Berkeley Labor Center
April 2011

Big box retailers are seeking to expand into major metropolitan areas in the United States. Elected officials and policy makers are struggling to understand the impact these retailers would have on their cities. Some cities are considering “living wage” policies that would establish higher minimum wage standards on retailers of a certain size. As the largest retailer and largest employer in the United

States, Walmart’s expansion plans have attracted the most attention and focus from policy makers. The growth of big box retail is a mixed blessing to local communities. There is strong evidence that jobs created by Walmart in metropolitan areas pay less and are less likely to offer benefits than those they replace. Controlling for differences in geographic location, Walmart workers earn an estimated 12.4 percent less than retail workers as a whole, and 14.5 percent less than workers in large retail in general.

Read Complete Research Document

Is the Wal-Mart Way the American Way?
Martin J. Bennett, Dollars and Sense
March-April 2011

"We need to uphold the law, we need to apply the law and we need to allow this project to move forward. I believe that not to do so would be un-American." So stated Rohnert Park (Sonoma County, California) City Councilwoman Amy Breeze last year when the council voted to approve a controversial Wal-Mart supercenter-despite a year long campaign against the project by a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and community organizations.

The Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County challenges Ms. Breeze's definition of Americanism. Though we respect her point of view, we think she is dead wrong. Wal-Mart, we believe, has betrayed fundamental American values. As the largest retailer and private employer in America, no other company has such a profound impact upon our economy and labor markets. It is time for Wal-Mart to change, or face a growing opposition to its plan to build at least one supercenter in every county of California.

Click here for the rest of the story

For more about the anti-Wal-Mart superstore campaign in Sonoma, click here

Group sues to stop Walmart Supercenter plan in Antioch
By Paul Burgarino, Contra Costa Times
November 1, 2010

ANTIOCH -- Wal-Mart's bid to expand its store here into a Supercenter is headed to court after an environmental group sued to block the plan last week.

Antioch's approval of a 33,575-square-foot expansion of the Lone Tree Way store in September violates its own municipal code and state environmental law, representatives from a coalition of environmental and labor groups said in a suit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

The suit, filed by California Healthy Communities Network, will delay the company's plan to bring its first Supercenter store featuring a full-service grocery to the East Bay. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is responsible for all city legal costs in the suit.

City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland could not be reached for comment Monday.

Council members said they were not surprised by the suit.

Angie Stoner, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company is frustrated.

"At a time when the city is facing potential bankruptcy and record unemployment rates, it is troubling to see, yet again, out-of-town special interest groups abusing the (environmental) process," she said.

The area surrounding the store has undergone substantial change since the environmental documents for Williamson Ranch Plaza were approved in 1998, according to the lawsuit.

As a result, Antioch should have prepared a subsequent environmental study that addresses new issues and changes to the severity of other issues, mainly the

proposed expansion's effect on local grocers in the trade area, said Phil Tucker, the group's project director.

Antioch's general plan also requires leaders to consider imposing reasonable conditions on approvals to protect public health and safety.

City leaders ignored substantial evidence from three months of public meetings showing that the approval of the expansion would harm public health and welfare, according to the suit.

The City Council's approval Sept. 28 was a reversal of its initial decision to deny the project on the grounds that an environmental study for the project underestimated the potential effects on the area's economy.

The council based the approval in part on a state appellate court decision this year involving a San Diego redevelopment project that raised questions about a city's ability to consider possible environmental effects when looking at a design review application.

Attorneys for Wal-Mart and an attorney retained by the city argued that an environmental study was not required to approve the expansion.

The council did what was legally required, Councilwoman Martha Parsons said Monday.

Tucker disagrees.

"The process to approve this project was legally defective," he said. "We believe the original decision of the council, before city staff intervened, was appropriate and correct."

Wal-Mart has been trying for six years to expand its Antioch store to include a bakery, produce section and full-service deli.

The City Council narrowly defeated a larger expansion plan in 2007.

No scheduled court date for the lawsuit has been set.


Lawsuit seeks to stop Wal-Mart expansion
September 15, 2010

Foes of a Wal-Mart Supercenter have sued Rohnert Park, challenging the City Council’s approval in August of the company’s application to expand in its Redwood Drive location.

In the lawsuit, the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action argue that the council’s decision effectively violated the land use policies outlined in the city’s general plan, which calls for encouraging supermarkets to be “close to where people live.”

The general plan is “essentially a legally binding document, it’s almost like a constitution for the city, and the City Council doesn’t have the right to abrogate it,” said Rick Luttmann, a Sonoma State University professor and a Sonoma County Conservation Action member.

Click here for the rest of the story

City Council Approves Wal-Mart Supercenter Wal-Mart
Opponents Called "Un-American"

by Al Norman
Wal-Mart Watch, August 2, 2010

On May 10, 2009, Sprawl-Busters reported that a newspaper poll in Rohnert Park, California indicated that the public is losing enthusiasm for big box stores.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that its readers were "generally opposed to many of the pending big-box plans in Sonoma County, including a proposed Lowe's in Santa Rosa and a Wal-Mart expansion in Rohnert Park."

54% of readers opposed a plan by Wal-Mart to expand its Rohnert Park store on Redwood Drive by 32,000 s.f., and another 12% were unsure.

Only 34% supported Wal-Mart's expansion plans. "Please, we do not need an expanded Wal-Mart in Rohnert Park," wrote a Rohnert Park resident. "I never go to that store."

Click here for the rest of the story

Antioch Citizens for Smart Growth

Please Mark Your Calendar - City Council Public Hearing Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Please mark your calendar and plan to attend the city council public hearing on Tuesday, July 27th at 7:00 pm. the meeting is located at Antioch city Hall on Third and "H" Street.

We need to show the city council our opposition to Wal-Mart's proposed expansion. A Wal-Mart Supercenter will drastically increase crime in the area, harm local businesses, and impact our existing grocery stores to the point that some will close.

KPFA Morning Show Wednesday, July 7th: Bay Area anti-Wal-Mart Superstore campaigns

Living Wage Coalition Co-Chair Paul Kaplan and California Healthy Communities Network Executive Director Phil Tucker were interviewed by labor journalist David Bacon on the KPFA Morning Show today, Wednesday, July 7th. The segment focused on Bay Area anti-Wal-Mart superstore campaigns in the cities of Rohnert Park, Milpitas, and Antioch.

To hear the program click on the link below and scroll about one-half hour into the KPFA Morning Show.

June 30, 2010
-- No Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rohnert Park!!
City Council to Consider Wal-Mart Expansion Thursday, July 29th

On Thursday, July 29th, the Rohnert Park City Council will consider the appeal by Wal-Mart to expand their existing discount store to become a supercenter selling both groceries and retail merchandise. On April 22nd, the Rohnert Park planning commission by a unanimous 4-0 vote, rejected the proposed Wal-Mart expansion because the project does not conform to the city's general plan.
Please attend this meeting at 6 pm at City Hall, 130 Avram Ave., Rohnert Park, to demonstrate your opposition to the proposed supercenter. Arrive as early as 4 pm to ensure a seat in the council chambers. Food and entertainment will be provided for those who arrive early. There will be overflow seating outside the city council chamber and a video monitor for those who arrive later. This is a special meeting just on the Wal-Mart expansion proposal, and the council will accommodate all who wish to speak for 3 minutes.

Who Opposes the Wal-Mart Supercenter?

A coalition of community organizations and concerned citizens has formed to oppose the Wal-Mart supercenter that includes: Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County, Go Local Sonoma County, Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sierra Club Sonoma Group, Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club, Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, North Bay Labor Council, California Healthy Communities Network, California Faculty Association Sonoma State chapter, and the Sonoma State University Academic Senate.

Support the Rohnert Park Planning Commission Decision to Just Say No to the Wal-Mart Supercenter Expansion

The event is free and wheelchair accessible

For more information on the issue and the meeting go to:

To contact the Living Wage Coalition, email: or
call (707) 623-7395


Antioch Walmart Expansion Challenged
By Paul Burgarino
Contra Costa Times

ANTIOCH - Don't add lettuce, onions and fresh meat to that Walmart shopping list just yet.

Opponents of the company's plan to expand its Lone Tree Way store into the East Bay's first Walmart Supercenter want the City Council to stop it.

The council, which narrowly rejected a Walmart Supercenter plan three years ago, is expected to hear the appeal sometime next month, officials said.

The plan to add a full grocery store would put several supermarkets out of business, leave people without jobs, and burden police and traffic, opponents said. The Planning Commission approved the environmental report for the 33,575-square-foot expansion last month.

That report used flawed data in predicting the expansion's effect on the local economy, said Phil Tucker, project director for California Healthy Communities Network. It did not consider new grocers and stalled home construction in the region, he said.

"There is a serious understatement of the situation. It's misleading," Tucker said.
A larger Walmart could cause area grocery sales to drop 3 to 6 percent, but they would return to normal within three to five years, according to the report.

But a study commissioned for the healthy communities network paints a different picture. Jim Watt of consultant Retail Strategies estimates that the expansion would cause grocery sales to fall by 11 percent and stay in decline through 2015.

At least two of the four Antioch Save Mart stores, including the Lucky on Lone Tree Way, likely would close because of the Supercenter, said Save Mart's vice president of real estate, Jim Cipolla, in Watt's report. About 167 jobs at those stores could be lost, Tucker said.

The Walmart expansion would create 85 jobs, most of them full-time and all with health and retirement benefits, said Angie Stoner, a company spokeswoman.

Antioch Citizens for Smart Growth, a coalition of residents opposed to the store's expansion, fear that crime and traffic would increase.

"Crime there has doubled since the last time they tried to expand, and more people will mean more crime. There are too many things wrong in that situation," said group member Bob Caughron.

Planning commissioners said the proposal satisfied environmental and design guidelines.
Stoner is disappointed about the appeal but confident it will fail.

"We feel the environmental analysis is sound and the council will uphold the decision. Now more than ever, the city needs the new jobs and sales tax revenue," she said. Though most grocery items aren't taxable, the company thinks shoppers will buy more taxable products while in the store.

Walmart's expansion and remodel would include a bakery, produce section and full-service deli, bringing the store's total floor area to 175,073 square feet.

That plan is about half the size of the company's expansion proposal three years ago. The company wanted to stay open 24 hours then, but its current plan would not change operating hours, which are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.


by Ian Bauer, Milpitas
San Jose Mercury News

"The end result of our meeting tonight is the Walmart expansion is denied," said Mayor Bob Livengood to the hundreds of Walmart supporters and opponents who crammed into the Milpitas City Hall Council Chambers Tuesday night.

Milpitas City Council voted 4-1 June 1, with Councilwoman Debbie Giordano dissenting, to overturn on appeal Milpitas Planning Commission's prior approval to allow Walmart to build a nearly 18,500-square-foot addition to allow liquor sales, groceries and 24-hour operation at 301 Ranch Drive.

Months of debate followed by three hours of testimony from more than 50 speakers at the meeting culminated in applause after the council's ruling.

Appellant group Milpitas Coalition for a Better Community a loosely knit band of Milpitas and San Jose residents and labor representatives was formally opposed to what many in the group called Walmart's job-killing Supercenter that would destroy smaller local businesses, create more traffic, air pollution and crime and ruin the city's overall quality of life.

The local anti-Walmart group claimed the project's final environmental impact report and conditional use permit for the expansion should not have been certified, that the project did not meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, and the project was inconsistent with state and local planning and zoning laws.

Prior to the council vote, Walmart representatives and Milpitas Coalition members were granted 15 minutes each to present their respective sides on an expansion that aimed to add to the southern portion of Walmart's existing 131,725-square-foot store, expanding the business to nearly 150,200 square feet.

"We are concerned that our community will be negatively impacted by this expansion," Arthur Balangue, a Milpitas Coalition spokesman and Save Mart employee, told the council.

Balangue said Milpitas was "already over-served by supermarkets" that sold groceries and fresh produce and added Walmart's planned Supercenter would kill jobs at other stores such as Save Mart. "The single fact is if this expansion is approved it will close down more stores," Balangue said.

Conversely, Walmart representatives said the Milpitas store was popular among residents, that it had been a community partner for years donating monies to the city and community groups since it opened here in 1994, and they urged the council to uphold the prior ruling.

"We were very pleased with the planning commission's decision and hope you will also vote for this small expansion and move this project forward," Angie Stoner, a Walmart spokesperson, told the council.

Stoner added the new store would provide a more customer friendly shopping experience with a deli, a bakery and fresh produce. She added the opposition's opinions of Walmart were based on perceptions: "And their aim is to keep out competition."

In addition, she noted that Target would soon open a "super store" a couple of miles away in North San Jose off state Route 237 that could potentially suck more sales tax dollars from City of Milpitas. Stoner said Walmart contributes about $500,000 in sales tax to the city's coffers.

"As the mayor and council, you all want to keep your tax dollars local," Stoner said.
But the majority of people who came to the meeting many wearing fluorescent yellow and green "Say No To Walmart" stickers on their chests said a bigger Walmart would be detrimental to the city.

"Obviously, this store will not pay good wages to anybody," Jose Garcia, a Milpitas resident, said. "There's no wealth, no good paying jobs here."

Opponents also said Walmart destroys choice and competition with its "predatory pricing" tactics.

"Maybe it helps some people, but it hurts a lot of us in the long run," Debbie Rankin, a Milpitas resident, said. Others cited crime as a factor.

"A 24-hour operation in a remote part of town is asking for trouble," Greg Reeves, a Save Mart employee, said.

Phil Tucker, a California Healthy Communities Network representative, said other Walmart Supercenter stores including one in American Canyon had dramatically increased crime in that area.

Speakers also cited inadequate pay to those people Walmart hires.
"This is about values, this is about wages and benefits and this is still the most expensive place to live," Brian O'Neil, a Service Employees International Union county chapter chair, said.

O'Neil added Walmart's project conflicted with the Milpitas General Plan and did not promote business retention.

Raymond Quebec, a Save Mart bagger, said Walmart's expansion would close businesses here and leave City of Milpitas more vulnerable and dependent for sales tax dollars from the big box retailer.

"As those businesses close, Walmart will be even more important to Milpitas," Quebec said. "We'll be forced to give in to whatever they need... I ask you to vote no' and keep Walmart small and manageable."

Walmart supporters many wearing white, blue and yellow "Walmart" stickers on their chests stated the store is inexpensive and convenient.

DRIVE (APN 22-29-016), MILPITAS, CA 95035.

WHEREAS, on January 26, 2009, Walmart Stores, Inc., submitted an application to the City of
Milpitas for an amendment to its current site development permit to allow for an 18,457 square foot building expansion, remodel of the exterior building façade, installation of associated site improvements, replacement of existing signage with Walmart's new corporate branding, and an amendment to its current conditional use permit to allow for grocery and alcohol sales. The property is located within the General Commercial Zoning District and Site and Architectural Overlay (C2-S); and

WHEREAS, on March 24, 2010, the Milpitas Planning Commission held a duly noticed public
hearing on the Project's development application and approved the application, subject to conditions of approval; and

WHEREAS, on April 1, 2010, the Milpitas Coalition for a Better Community filed an appeal of
the Planning Commission approval. The City Council reviewed the application for hearing de novo and held a duly noticed public hearing on the matter on June 1, 2010 and considered public testimony and reviewed various written submissions and materials and the underlying record.

NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Milpitas hereby finds, determines, and
resolves as follows:

1. The City Council has considered the full record before it, which may include but is not
limited to such things as the staff report, testimony by staff and the public, and other
materials and evidence submitted or provided to it. Furthermore, the recitals set forth
above are found to be true and correct and are incorporated herein by reference.

2. The project is inconsistent with the Milpitas General Plan as follows:

a. The project does not encourage stable and balanced economic pursuits which
strengthen and promote development, contrary to Policy 2.a-I-3.

b. The project does not promote a strong economy which provides economic
opportunities for all Milpitas residents within the existing environmental, social fiscal
and land use constraints, contrary to Policy 2.a-I-5.

c. The project does not promote the creation of a balanced economic base that can resist
downturns in any one economic sector, contrary to Policy 2.a-I-6.

d. The project does not provide opportunities to expand total employment in Milpitas
and promote business retention, contrary to Policy 2.a-I-7.

e. The project does not foster community pride and growth through sufficient
beautification of existing development, contrary to Policy 2.a-I-10.

f. The project would draw community, economic and business focus away from Town
Center and Midtown, contrary to General Plan.

1 Resolution No. ____

3. The proposed location of the project will be injurious or detrimental to property,
improvements, and/or the public health, safety, and general welfare. The project would
cause urban decay and neighborhood deterioration impacts that cannot be adequately
mitigated through conditions of approval.

4. Based on the foregoing findings and the evidence in the record, the City Council hereby
denies the application for Conditional Use Permit Amendment No. UA09-0002 and Site
Development Permit Amendment No. SA09-0003.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this day of June 1st, 2010, by a 4-1 vote

Walmart  Expansion Plan Advances in Antioch

By Hilary Costa
Contra Costa Times

ANTIOCH - Wal-Mart Stores is a step closer to expanding its store here into the company's first Supercenter in the East Bay.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project's environmental documents this week. The City Council will take up the matter only if the Planning Commission's decision is appealed.
The seven-member commission appeared before an unusually packed house Wednesday, with dozens debating the giant retailer's business practices and role in the community.
In the end, however, the decision dealt only with whether the proposal met environmental and design guidelines.

"We're not up here today to speak to (whether) Walmart's a good operator," Commissioner Stanley Travers said. "We're just here to speak to whether the environmental impact report is still valid."
The 33,575-square-foot expansion and remodeling would include a bakery, produce section, full-service deli and enhanced outdoor living department, bringing the Lone Tree Way store's total floor area to 175,073 square feet.

The expansion would create 85 jobs, most of them full-time and all with health and retirement benefits, company spokeswoman Angie Stoner said.

More than 30 people spoke in favor of the retailer's plan to add a supermarket.
Fewer than a dozen spoke against.

Those who said they want Walmart to expand included several current employees, as well as residents who said they want to buy cheaper groceries without crossing into neighboring Brentwood to shop at WinCo.

"These are dire economic times," Antioch resident Hans Ho said. "Free us from the grasp of greedy organized labor."

Opponents included employees of other nearby grocery stores, who said they fear that a Walmart expansion would put their employers out of business and cost them their jobs.
"The pie has been split too many ways," said Steven Burke, who has worked for Lucky stores for 33 years.

The City Council narrowly denied a request three years ago to expand the store by about 65,000 square feet. The Planning Commission had initially approved that plan, but its decision was appealed.

In the years since, Walmart scaled back the plan and withdrew its request to operate 24 hours a day. The new plan would keep current business hours of 8 a.m.- 10 p.m.

Commissioner Mike Langford said he approved the environmental documents the first time around, and his opinion hadn't changed.

"I feel confident the EIR has been done in the way it should be, and I have an obligation at this point to endorse it and have this project move on," he said.

Several commissioners and members of the public pointed out that the city's Target store recently expanded its sales to include groceries without attracting similar attention. Similarly, the Planning Commission approved a 2008 expansion at the Antioch Costco without encountering widespread opposition.

"I don't think America was built on exclusionary practices," Travers said.

Opponents of the approval of the expansion have until 5 p.m. Thursday to file an appeal at City Hall.

Wal-Mart Agrees to Pay $86 Million for Wage Claims (Update1)
May 12, 2010
Bloomberg Business Week, By Karen Gullo

May 12 (Bloomberg) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. agreed to pay as much as $86 million to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming it failed to provide vacation and other wages owed to thousands of California employees when they left the company, lawyers for the former workers said in a court filing.

About 232,000 former employees in California will share in the settlement, according to court filings yesterday by attorneys for the workers in the group lawsuit.

“The settlement represents a monumental result for class members,” the lawyers said in the filing.

Click here for the rest of the story

VEOLIA, Novato Sanitary 'End-Run' Around Voters Described as 'illegal'
May 11, 2010

NOVATO - The embattled Novato Sanitary District - already faced with a voter-inspired referendum to overturn its decision to hire a foreign company to run its wastewater operations - has been notified that a recent decision to make an "end-run" around the voters is patently "illegal."

Click here for the rest of the story

Wal-Mart takes another run at Rohnert Park expansion

Wal-Mart, the giant retailer whose bid to supersize its Rohnert Park store by adding a grocery section was rejected by the city's Planning Commission, has appealed that decision to the City Council.

The appeal states that the project is ”fully consistent with the General Plan” and argues that the commission was wrong to turn down the project.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Angela Stoner, who represented the Arkansas-based company at the commission's decisive April hearing, did not respond Wednesday to calls seeking comment.

Opponents quickly vowed to mount an assault on the application similar to the one that succeeded in April — arguing the expansion will push more workers out of jobs than it will create, and that any jobs that might be created at Wal-Mart would be low-paying jobs.

Click here for the rest of the story

Letter to the Editor - Marinscope Newspaper
April 28, 2010
Full Article

Veolia only cares about bottom line

Since September 2003, I’ve been a resident of Richmond where my family and I purchased our first home. I’ve been dealing with Veolia on a direct basis since December 2004 when Richmond’s city engineer told me that Veolia would be addressing our continual and ongoing neighborhood flooding problem.

Since that time, Veolia has assigned three different neighborhood “supervisors” and various employees. With each new management change, not only have I had to repeat the details of our situation and the flooding in my neighborhood, but I’ve had to essentially go back to the end of the “squeaky wheel” queue and reassert myself all over again. The only consistency I’ve experienced in the last six-plus years is an incredible amount of inefficiency, redundancy, and incompetence.

Cities decide to privatize their essential services because they conclude they are unable, or worse, unwilling, to effectively and efficiently manage the services themselves. They are seduced by the illusory promise that it will be a cost-saving measure, entering into the agreement believing the private contractor will provide better, streamlined services, and the panacea for all of their problems. It’s a pollyannaish view that the private company they hire has the same motivations for signing the contract as the city does. The city maintains the delusive notion that the private company is merely an extension of their government and its primary goal is to provide for the citizens as conscientiously and honorably as the municipality would. The only difference is the city will now be relieved of the financial, bureaucratic, and logistical headaches of the services contracted. Imagine, all of that with lower costs. Well, if it sounds too good to be true...

The private contractor, in this case Veolia, has only two concerns:

First, its obligation to its shareholders. Second, its obligation to its contract.

The fine print: The obligation to the shareholders is what defines the contract. Period.

The shareholders have only one concern: is the bottom line getting larger?

Does anyone truly believe that a private company whose primary obligation is to maximize profits is going to go out of its way to find the best solution for a particular situation and the citizens involved?

It is important to understand that even with an agreement the city remains the contractor, ultimately responsible for the work and its citizens. The private company is merely the sub-contractor who is only obligated to its contract with the city.

Cities and its citizens are delusional to believe that relinquishing control of their services will free up both human and financial resources. So, why did Veolia spend $25,000 in the campaign to re-elect pro-contract board members? Was it merely Veolia’s altruistic nature and genuine concern for the citizens of Novato, acting as an extension of Novato’s government?

Wake up and smell the sewage.

Jason Myers


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Contact: Dennis Welsh 415-497-1577
Current and former elected officials join fight to stop SF Bay polluter from taking reins of sanitary district plant, urge Novato voters to reject Measure F June 8

NOVATO – Former and current Novato and Marin County elected officials are endorsing a “No” vote on Measure F on the Novato ballot June 8, expressing major concerns about turning over a new water treatment plant to a private company with a poor environmental record, and a history of raising rates for consumers.

In fact, one Bay Area mayor whose city is stuck in a contract with Veolia Water – which wants to run Novato Sanitary District plant – is warning Novato voters to not privatize their current public-owned facilities.

"There are three wastewater treatment plants in Richmond and those ratepayers served by the plant operated by Veolia are charged three to four times as much.  I caution other cities of going down this same path,” Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin said, endorsing a “No” vote on Measure F. Veolia has an 8 percent rate increase on the table this year in Richmond.

Others opposed to Measure F include former Novato mayor Jim Leland, Novato Planning Commissioner Peter Tiernan, Fairfax vice-mayor Lawrence Bragman, San Rafael city councilperson Greg Brockbank and Fairfax city councilperson Pam Hartwell-Herrero.

“Clean water and sanitation are basic human rights that should not be corporatized...Novato is ground zero for the anti- privatization movement in Marin County,” said Bragman, a former Novato businessperson and resident.

The Sierra Club of  California has endorsed a “NO” vote on Measure F, which was placed on the ballot by outraged citizens – 4,000 voters, twice the number needed,  signed a referendum to put the decision on the ballot after only two weeks of signature-gathering.

Veolia is expected to spend freely in the election to claim a $15.6 million contract. It spent $38,000 last November to try to re-elect the same board that awarded it a contract.

Environmentalists note that Veolia has a terrible record. The Veolia-operated plant in Richmond has the 4th worst record for sewage spills in California, according to the State Water Board. Burlingame was sued after a Veolia-operated plant reportedly dumped more than 10 million gallons of wastewater and untreated sewage into San Francisco Bay. –

Novato Flow.Org Press Release, Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GUEST OPINION: The hidden costs of Wal-Mart's plans for RP store
April 28, 2010
Press Democrat

This expansion adds a grocery component, and the Rohnert Park's City Council, which will soon review the plan, will likely focus on the assumed sales tax generation and job creation such an expansion will provide.

It is important to recognize that an expansion of mainly grocery items will not generate a large amount of additional sales tax revenue, and the assumed loss of Pacific Market could lead to fewer jobs, reduced tax revenues, less consumer choice and create a significant vacancy problem at Mountain Shadows Plaza.

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Walmart expansion EIR rejected by RP planning commission, 4-0
The Community Voice

By Jud Snyder  April 23, 2010 10:45 am

By a 4-0 vote, Rohnert Park's Planning Commission turned thumbs down on an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from Walmart to add another 35,256 sq. ft. to their existing store so they could sell grocery items and produce.

City Council chambers in City Hall were filled to capacity before the meeting started at 7pmThursday April 22. A TV screen high up on the wall in the lobby displayed the action and folding chairs crammed in the lobby filled that space. It was SRO everywhere. Several police officers barred admission to the council chambers unless attendees already had a seat guarded by their seatmate.

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Press Release: Sonoma State University

Tuesday, March 11, 2010 4:30 pm

The Academic Senate of Sonoma State University has joined the Sonoma Chapter of the California Faculty Association in voting to oppose the expansion of the Rohnert Park Wal-Mart into a SuperCenter.

In the Senate's vote, which occurred today, the resolution passed nearly unanimously, with only one opposition vote. The CFA Chapter voted on March 3 and passed a similar resolution unanimously.

The Senate's resolution states that the body opposes the expansion of the Rohnert Park Wal-Mart "because of the adverse effect this expansion will have on the community in which Sonoma State University is located."

The rationale for the resolution explains that, while many local residents may be attracted to being able to purchase groceries more cheaply than at present, there are significantly high costs to such low prices. These costs include:

+An adverse effect on the labor market in the area, since Wal-Mart's typical positions include few or no benefits and pay so far below a living wage that employees must rely on government-funded services;

+Driving other local grocery stores (such as Pacific Market or Oliver's) out of business, with the attendant urban blight spreading through the shopping centers they anchor;

+bypassing local suppliers, many of which will be unable to survive without access to customers; and

+Funneling local dollars spent on groceries out of the area instead of recirculating them within the economy of Sonoma County.

Although local city governments are struggling financially, an expanded Wal-Mart would not bring in significant additional revenue since it would be selling primarily groceries, which are not subject to California sales tax.

The Rohnert Park Planning Commission will consider Wal-Mart's request for an expansion permit in the near future. A party that is unhappy with the decision of the Planning Commission may appeal the decision to the Rohnert Park City Council.

For more information contact Professor Rick Luttmann, Department of Mathematics,
664-2543 and

KPFA interview about disenfranchised voters in Novato Sanitary District

The section starts at 49:57 of the news.

Click here to hear the interview

Upfront: Witness for the prosecution?
Newest board member has Novato Sanitary District in another fine mess...
by Peter Seidman, Pacific Sun


It didn't take long. Just days after the lone opposition candidate to win a spot on the Novato Sanitary District took his seat, the first confrontation erupted in a district that has been wracked with dissension. 

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Infants At Risk as Store Sells Outdated Products

San Jose Ethnic Supermarket Selling Expired Products More Than a Year Old, Endangering Infants; Local Community Groups Call on Owner to Stop

SAN JOSE - A supermarket here with a long history of selling expired food products more than a year past the expiration date and which pose a real health hazard to consumers - especially infants - will be asked to sign a "code of conduct" here Thursday at a news conference. 

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Wal-Mart to pay $40 million to settle labor lawsuit in Massachusetts
David Schepp, Daily Finance

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has agreed to pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts that alleged the big-box retailer cheated 87,500 current and former employees in the state out of pay and failed to obey work rules. The class-action suit, filed in 2001, accused Wal-Mart of altering time cards, refusing to pay overtime, and denying workers rest and meal breaks.

Under the terms of the agreement, filed Wednesday in Middlesex Superior Court by attorneys representing employees, anyone who worked for Wal-Mart between August 1995 and the settlement date will receive a payment of between $400 and $2,500, depending on the number of years they worked at the store, The Boston Globe reported on its Web site. The average worker will receive a check for $734, the newspaper said. "The magnitude is large -- it's bigger than most settlements paid in wage-and-hour cases," said Justin M. Swartz of New York-based law-firm Outten & Golden, wh! o has ha ndled similar cases, including a pending case against the Bentonville, Ark.-based company. "But you would expect it to be bigger since Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer," he told the Globe.

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Novato Water Treatment Fight a Sign of the Times
December 4, 2009, 12:36 am

Novato is a key local battleground in a regional war over how to manage its sewage treatment facilities to maximize economic and environmental benefits. No sooner had it signed a contract this fall with Veolia Water North America, a subsidiary of a French-based international firm, than a local resident spearheaded an effort to nullify it.

It is a timely subject of debate in the Bay Area, where communities have been wrestling with the broader question of whether private-public partnerships in municipal services make financial and environmental sense during tough economic times.

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State Lawmaker, Mexican Consular Back Plan to Help Workers
December 1, 2009

A Bay Area labor rights coalition for workers employed by small neighborhood "Mercado" (grocery) stores - supported by local legislators, Mexican Consular officials and community leaders - said it is now seeking to improve the working conditions of those workers, and consumer confidence in the Mercado stores.

A NEWS CONFERENCE will be held Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 11:30 a.m. at 240 S. Market Street to release details of a plan to help workers. Community leaders and lawmakers, including Joe Coto, a San Jose State Assemblyman, will participate.

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Novato Sanitary referendum heads to ballot June 8, 2010
Jim Welte
Posted: 11/24/2009

Nearly one year after the Novato Sanitary District board voted to privatize a
new $90 million wastewater treatment plant, its customers will get a chance to
affirm or reject that decision.

The board voted unanimously Monday to put the matter on the ballot for the June
8, 2010, primary election, setting the stage for an encore of what has already
been a turbulent battle over the issue.

"We look forward to the June 2010 election when all the voters in the district
will hopefully be allowed to vote," said Phil Tucker, project director for
Martinez-based California Healthy Communities Network, which spearheaded the
referendum along with a trio of opposition candidates in the Nov. 3 board election.

The group collected more than the necessary 2,178 signatures needed to get the
issue on the ballot, and Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold
certified the petition drive's success late last month. June 8 is the next
regular election scheduled in California. It could cost the district up to about
$77,000. Getting it on the ballot sooner could have cost the district as much as

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Bay Area Water Plan Referendum Election Set for June Next Year

November 25, 2009 - Novato voters to decide in June if embattled Bay Area water district - facing federal probe - can outsource local jobs and control to French-owned firm

NOVATO - An embattled Bay Area sanitation district - under investigation by the
EPA for allegedly dumping millions of gallons of untreated waste into the Bay -
decided Monday night it would reluctantly place a citizen-initiated referendum
on the ballot June 8 that could reverse the district's plan to outsource much of
its operation and control to a French-owed corporation.

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Expert to Tell Salinas Small Businesses How to Fight Wal-Mart and Big Box
November 5, 2009

Small business entrepreneur promoter makes special appearance in Salinas Thursday SALINAS - How can smaller independent businesses and entrepreneurs fight against national, big box retailers"

That will be the subject of a presentation in Salinas California, Thursday, when Jeff Milchen, founder of the nation's first Independent Business Alliance and expert in small business preservation, speaks. 

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Novato Sanitary referendum gets green light
Jim Welte, Marin IJ
Posted: 10/30/2009 12:04:32 AM PDT

Privatization of the Novato Sanitary District's $90 million sewage treatment plant will go to voters next year. The Marin County registrar of voters said Thursday that critics of the privatization plan garnered enough signatures of registered voters to put the issue on a 2010 ballot. The announcement came just five days before Tuesday's hotly contested election that will determine the majority of the five-member district board, which approved the privatization deal earlier this year.

Registrar Elaine Ginnold said organizers of the referendum obtained the necessary 2,178 signatures, or 10 percent of the votes cast in the district in the November 2006 gubernatorial election. The campaign, which was spearheaded by an opposition slate of three candidates for the board and the California Healthy Communities Network in Martinez, had turned in more than 4,000 petition signatures.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (See also KPFA Radio News Clip at bottom or release)
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Contact: Cres Vellucci, Cal-HCN media relations, 916/996 9170

Ballot measure to prevent Bay Area water agency from outsourcing jobs to foreign company qualifies for vote; referendum will save millions for ratepayers

NOVATO – Environmental and taxpayer groups Thursday confirmed that a ballot measure designed to reverse a highly controversial decision by a Bay Area water agency to turn over control and operations to a foreign company has qualified for election in Marin County.

Phil Tucker, project director for California Healthy Communities Network/Tides, said the citizen referendum to block a multi-million contract between Novato Sanitary District and Veolia Water was surprisingly easy.

"We gathered the signatures in about two weeks, and we collected nearly double the number needed. We are very happy this has succeeded," said Tucker. Nearly 4,100 signatures were submitted to the Marin County Election Dept., and only 2,178 were needed.

Tucker said the NSD Board erred in calculating supposed savings, and that hidden deals would cost ratepayers millions of dollars more under privatization. "We have uncovered millions of dollars in unreported costs that will be borne by the ratepayers," he said Tucker.

In fact, Petaluma – with an operation similar to Novato's – recently severed a deal with Veolia Water when it was found going back to a public operation was less expensive to taxpayers. Fairfield-Suisun has also returned to public operations.

Tucker said the board – under investigation by the EPA after an FBI raid looking into illegal dumping into the Bay of millions of gallons of sewage – is being unduly influenced by Veolia, which has kicked in tens of thousands of dollars to influence the board's re-election Nov. 3.

Tucker urged NSD to rescind the current contract with Veolia Water to stop an election, and save ratepayers even more money. Or NSD could fight the election, and the right of ratepayers to vote, using, ironically, the ratepayer own monies to disenfranchise them," he explained;

"We would prefer the NSD board be reasonable, realize that there an overwhelming ratepayer concern about this bad contract and vote to end their relationship with Veolia Water," said Tucker.

Click here for KPFA radio news clip
(50:13 starts, through 53.34)

Wal-Mart foes target Merced distribution center plan in suit Groups contend not enough is being done to mitigate impacts.

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2009

Wal-Mart distribution center opponents said Tuesday they found flaws in the environmental review and will file a lawsuit demanding more be done to minimize the center's impact.

"We should be commended for picking up the torch that has been dropped," Merced Sierra Club Chairman Rod Webster said.

The case will be filed either today or Thursday in Merced County Superior Court. Sacramento attorney Keith Wagner, who represents the opponents, is still finishing up his arguments. A copy of the appeal was unavailable.

Click here for the rest of the story

Video: Wal-Mart opponents say they'll file suit this week
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009

Opponents of the Wal-Mart distribution center said today they would file a lawsuit demanding more measures to minimize the center's impact because the environmental report was flawed.

"We should be commended for picking up the torch that has been dropped," Merced Alliance for Growth member Rod Webster said in an exclusive interview with the Sun-Star. 

Click here for the Video and the rest of the story

El Cerrito and retailers reach agreement
By Dale F. Mead Correspondent
Posted: 10/08/2009 09:50:46 AM PDT Updated: 10/08/2009 09:50:48 AM PDT

El Cerrito has reached a three-way deal with Safeway, Inc. and Target Corp. to develop the empty Target store property at Hill Street and San Pablo Avenue — one with a last-minute twist: land instead of cash. Proposed a month ago, it was not made public until this week.

Acting as the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency, at 11 p.m. Monday City Council members unanimously approved an agreement to acquire nearly 38,000 square feet of the property Target would sell to Safeway to develop in the future. In exchange, Target Corp. will forgive a balance of $672,706 on a loan to the agency in 1992 to cover property development costs.

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Novato Sanitary District board race heats up
By Jim Welte
Posted: 10/15/2009 06:34:26 PM PDT

The already testy Novato Sanitary District board race got even feistier this week, as candidates engaged in heated exchanges at two board meetings and a coalition submitted petitions Thursday to put the district's privatization plans up for a public vote.

"We all just need to cool off a bit," said board member Bill Long on Tuesday, a day after multiple shouting matches broke out at the board's Monday meeting and a day before Long himself responded angrily to one of the opposition group's leaders.

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Bay Taxpayer Revolt; FBI Raid Leads to Ballot Measure in Novato
October 15, 2009

Thousands of petition signatures will be submitted here by voters Thursday to qualify a ballot measure to stop a Bay Area wastewater agency - already under federal investigation - which plans to outsource jobs and local control to a French company with a poor environmental record.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009
Contact: Cres Vellucci 916/996 9170

‘Hidden costs,' outsourcing jobs and local control cause Bay Area ratepayers to announce a ballot measure; EPA continues probe after FBI raid

SAN RAFAEL – More than 4,000 petition signatures were submitted here by voters Thursday in an effort to qualify a ballot measure to stop a Bay Area wastewater agency – already under federal investigation after a major spill into the Bay – from near-secret plans to outsource jobs and local control to a French company with a poor environmental record.

At a news conference Thursday at the Marin County Civic Center, Novato ratepayers and environmental and tax organizations carried in the signatures - each "book" had more than 100 pages of documents and signatures - to election officials.

The coalition turned in 4,084. The county requires 2,178 to qualify for an election.

"Our staff and consultants have...uncovered millions of dollars in unreported costs that will be borne by the ratepayers. The race to off load operational responsibility was rushed through that has not been transparent," said Phil Tucker of the California Healthy Communities Network/Tide Center.

Ratepayers are upset about recent increases in rates, the loss of local control over their own sanitary district and millions of dollars in hidden costs in the contract to outsource operations.

The Board – already facing criminal investigation by the EPA after a daytime raid by the FBI earlier this year over alleged illegal discharges into the Bay – is being challenged for re-election Nov. 3 in what has become one of the hottest election races in the Bay Area.

The board's unpopular action to give up local control comes after a probe by the FBI and EPA, accusations that NSD dumped millions of gallons of raw sewage in the bay, $500,000 missing from the NSD bank account and the death of a contract worker.

OCTOBER 15, 2009

On behalf of California Healthy Communities Network, a project of non-profit Tides Center, I am pleased to join our Novato community citizens committee in presenting 4,084 signatures of voters of the Novato Sanitary District to the Marin County Registrar of Voters today.

Over 25 community activists have joined in the signature gathering effort to qualify a referendum of Novato Sanitary District’s September 21, 2009, action approving a contract for services outsourcing the operation, maintenance and management for the new $90 million Waste Processing Plant to Veolia Water North America, a subsidiary of French-owned Veolia Environmental.

After more than 80 years of providing local waste water treatment services, Novato Sanitary District turned over local control of essential waste water treatment to a third party operator of questionable reputation. This race to off load this operational responsibility was rushed through an approval process that has not been transparent and has questionable and contested cost savings produced by NSD consultants.

Responding to this action, over 4,000 voters and ratepayers of Novato Sanitary District are seeking a referendum ballot measure that would allow a vote to determine whether or not this contract outsourcing of essential water treatment services will stand.

Our staff and consultants have reviewed the contract Exhibit attached to the referendum petition and have uncovered millions of dollars in unreported costs that will be borne by the ratepayers of NSD. The exaggerated savings being publicized by the NSD Board and administrative staff do not take into consideration hidden costs and subsidies to Veolia that undermine the claimed savings.

By letting the voters and ratepayers of NSD decide this measure through the democratic, public process of a referendum election, the ambiguities of this 111-page contract will see sunlight and the citizens and voters of Novato Sanitary District will have a voice in this important decision that will impact every NSD ratepayer.

Merced's Debate Over Wal-Mart Distribution Center
FSN-TV - Fresno
August 19, 2009

Merced, CA (KFSN) -- The Merced Planning Commission held its first public hearing on Wal-Mart's plan to put a massive distribution center in Southeast Merced. Supporters said they want the jobs. The company says up to 12 hundred workers will be hired. Half of those will be full time employees. Opponents were concerned about the environmental impact, primarily the air pollution from the five hundred semi-trucks that will be coming and going from the center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, along with nearly two thousand cars driven by employees and others. Attorney Thomas Libby represents a citizens group fighting the project. He questioned the accuracy of the environmental impact report the city staff prepared for the project. "Are the elected representatives more interested in jobs for some people, or are they more interested in health for everyone." He said.

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Merced Debate Over Proposed Walmart Distribution Center
August 19, 2009

There was a packed room at the Merced City Hall Wednesday night for a public meeting over a proposed Walmart Distribution Center.

The plan is stirring debate over jobs, road congestion, smog and more.

If approved the center would be very large, taking up over 230 acres of land.

Many passionate people showed up for the meeting to have their voices heard. Half of them made signs and wore pins that said “Walmart jobs grow our economy” while the other half shared the opinion of an article that says “Walmart jobs threaten lives”. It’s a very heated debate with no compromise from either side.

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Walmart Planned Distribution Center in Merced - Public Hearing
Wednesday August 19, 6pm
Merced City Hall

Upfront: Novato flushed with controversy Can a sanitary district get a little privacy around here?

by Peter Seidman
Thursday August 13, 2009

How did an organization known for its opposition to Walmart become involved in the debate over whether the Novato Sanitary District should turn over operations of a new wastewater treatment plant to a company started during the rule of Napoleon III? And how did that question get wrapped in a charge of union busting?

The Novato Sanitary District has been a generally quiet spot on the Marin scene--but not without its share of controversy. In May, federal agents entered the district's offices and carried out a search warrant. Exactly what they were looking for wasn't clear. Speculation ran through the district that the agents, who were with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation unit, were looking for information regarding possible environmental violations that occurred in 2006 and 2007.

Even the district's manager-engineer, Beverley James, said she was unsure what the agents really were after in their search. The district still doesn't have a definitive answer; the case is remains an active investigation. The district "has not received any information" about the raid or any action that may come in its aftermath, says James.

Wal-Mart Critics Calls News Conference, Charge Warehouse Threatens Lives

MERCED - Citizens from throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley - concerned about the dangerous pollution from a planned 1.2 million square foot Wal-Mart warehouse here they charge will threaten lives - will make a last-ditch appeal to residents Tuesday morning to join them in the fight to stop the world's largest retailer.

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Bay groups urge delay of outsourcing plan to EPA plagued French water company
July 27, 2009

NOVATO - A controversial plan to outsource jobs of a Bay Area water agency under investigation by the EPA to an international French water company - which has a record of environmental violations around the U.S. - should be delayed, according to a report to be released Monday by a prominent land use non-profit organization.

A NEWS CONFERENCE will be held Monday (July 27) at 5:30 p.m. behind the Margaret Todd Senior Center, 1560 Hill Road, Novato. to unveil the report and increasing opposition to the plan.

The Novato Sanitary District - meeting at the same location at 6:30 p.m. - is expected to finalize contract negotiations Monday with Veolia Water - only a week after announcing details to ratepayers and the public.

More than 100 people opposed to the plan attended a hearing last week at a NSD meeting where loud voices of opposition pointed to the lack of transparency by the district, and concerns the outsourcing would cost jobs, lead to sewage spills and rate increases.

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Novato Sanitary forges ahead on privatization plans
Jim Welte

In front of a packed house that included two on-duty Novato police officers, the Novato Sanitary District board voted unanimously Monday night to proceed with plans to privatize the operations of its $90 million wastewater treatment plant. While the meeting highlighted broad opposition to the proposal to turn over plant operations to Veolia Water North America, it stood in stark contrast to the board's acrimonious, messy meeting on the same subject a week earlier. The move gives the district the green light to begin contract negotiations with Veolia.

The board cited the $7.148 million the district says it would save by handing over the reins of the plant to Veolia, saying it was simply too significant to outweigh the opposition's concerns. Much of the criticism centered on the plan's long-term impact on the job security of the plant's nine current employees.  

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Bay Area Water Agency, Faced With Critics and FBI/EPA Raid
July 18,2009

NOVATO - The Novato Sanitary District has kept details of plans to outsource control over a new, $90 million wastewater plant largely secret from the public, and is now only holding a "public" meeting in response to intense and increasing criticism from the community, a citizens group charged today.

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Wal-Mart gets OK SuperTarget downgraded, but still a go
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press Thursday, July 9, 2009.
By BOB WILSON Valley Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER - After more than eight hours of presentations, citizens' comments and rebuttals during two days of meetings, the Planning Commission on Wednesday cast a pair of 6-1 votes that will pave the way for development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter across the street from Quartz Hill High School. Nearly three hours later, the commission cast another pair of 6-1 votes to approve development of a Target store and shopping center on another corner across from the high school.

All dissents were cast by Commissioner Johnathon Ervin, who said he appreciates Wal-Mart stores but he could not support construction of one that would be fed primarily by two-lane county roads.

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Monterey County defers big box issue to committee
By Leslie Griffy • • July 8, 2009

Supervisors could have asked that staff bring back an ordinance banning single-occupancy stores more than 90,000 square feet, but instead they decided to create a committee of interested parties to develop a proposal and report back to the board and the county Planning Commission.

Supervisor Louis Calcagno, whose dairy works with a Wal-Mart milk provider, abstained from the debate and voting. The remaining supervisors' vote was unanimous, and supervisors did voice support for limiting large stores in unincorporated areas.

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Salinas City Council repeals big-box ban
4 to 3 vote ties Wal-Mart's future to use permit, negotiations with city

By MIKE HORNICK • • June 3, 2009

The Salinas City Council repealed its ban on big-box stores with more than 5 percent of retail space in groceries late Tuesday, but by a 4-3 vote tied future discussions with Wal-Mart to a conditional use permit at the former Home Depot in Harden Ranch.

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Wal-Mart Distribution Center Meets With Strong Resistance
Published: May 06,2009

MERCED - A massive Wal-Mart distribution center - which would service stores throughout the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley as far north as Sacramento over to the San Francisco Bay Area - is meeting with strong resistance from residents here, according to letters sent to the City here.

Hundreds of Merced residents have expressed serious concerns - from air pollution and the safety of children in nearby schools to traffic and sinking property values - over the 1.2 million-square-foot facility planned for their city.

A news conference held Thursday, April 30, revealed the contents of some of hundreds of letters submitted to the City at the close of the 60-day comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).

The City of Merced must now ensure that all EIR deficiencies are resolved and that there is an honest and thorough assessment of the impacts of the distribution center on the neighborhoods, and the environment.

The project is expected to generate hundreds of diesel trucks daily, exposing thousands of residents, including children in nearby schools and neighborhoods, to pollution as air quality worsens.

Property values of adjacent homes are expected to sink further because of the 230 acre size of the 1.2 million-square-foot Wal-Mart project.

"I am very concerned about the environmental hazards," wrote Jason Flores about the Wal-Mart facility. He said his family had developed respiratory problems already as residents of Merced. "I have nephews who are toddlers who live in the area...and with three schools within 2 miles (of the Wal-Mart) the Merced City Council should be taking the health of the community seriously."

The "huge increases" in truck traffic because "trucks and kids don't mix," wrote citizen David Martin in his letter to the City of Merced. He said he thinks the environmental laws are not being followed.

And, Jaime Enrique, a local teacher, wrote that he already has many students missing classes because of respiratory problems (22 percent of area children carry inhalers now).

"Please think thoroughly how this distribution center will affect students will respiratory issues," he said.

Coincidentally, the American Lung Association today/Wednesday released findings that the San Joaquin/Sacramento Valley remains the most polluted region in the country resulting in thousands of premature deaths because of air pollution.

Signature validated in Salinas big-box ban issue
Staff reports, The Californian
April 29, 2009

The path is clear for Wal-Mart Supercenters to make their case to Salinas voters after the Monterey County Registrar of Voters confirmed on Friday that enough valid signatures had been collected on a petition to force a referendum on the city's ban of big-box stores.

The pro-Wal-Mart group Salinas Consumers for Choice collected 7,195 signatures, in excess of the required 4,600, or 10 percent of Salinas registered voters.

The City Council is expected to consider the matter at its June 2 meeting. Unless the city repeals the big-box ban, the vote would happen in a special election or at the next regularly scheduled election in November 2010.

When the signatures were filed on April 6, Councilwoman Jyl Lutes - a ban supporter - said this November is more likely than next.

"The earliest would be June, but I'm going to guess this November," Lutes said. "There could also be a tax measure for public safety, and that is very like to be on the ballot for November."  

Click here for the rest of the story

Suisun Wal-Mart hits snag
By Melissa Murphy/

Plans to build a Wal-Mart in Suisun City hit another obstacle -- the state's water board.

The State of California Regional Water Control Board announced that it has rejected an application for a proposed 227,000-square-foot Wal- Mart SuperCenter in Suisun City.

In a letter addressed to Wal-Mart, the board explains that there are several questions left unanswered and notes that the application, among other things, "does not appropriately consider off- or on-site alternatives."

The plans to build a Wal-Mart in Suisun City near the intersection of Highway 12 and Walters Road have been riddled with controversy for more than a year, including a recall effort of the City Council that voted in favor of the project and a failed attempt to put the issue on a ballot for voters to decide.

Nevertheless, opponents of the Wal-Mart believe the water board pointed out the problems that they said were there from the outset.

"They still have questions to answer," said Anthony Moscarelli, spokesperson for Save Our Suisun, the group opposed to the project. "They can't ignore the EIR anymore."

He added that the group isn't anti-Wal-Mart, but that it is opposed to a mega-store being built amid wetlands.

He explained that last year, the state notified Wal-Mart and the city three times that their application was unacceptable and that Wal-Mart and the city both knew the land that was purchased by the store in 2006 was protected delta wetlands and all development on it was conditional.

Moscarelli as well as the water board pointed out that there are seven other Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Suisun City.

In fact another store is set to open shortly in Fairfield, just five miles away.

"Why do we need two stores that close," he asked. "It's not necessary."

The water board also wondered why Wal-Mart does not consider renovating existing stores instead.

Moscarelli explained that the area the Bentonville, Ark., corporation, the world's largest retailer, wants to take over is covered in wetlands and that the proposed 227,000 square-foot store would cover a natural canal.

"We want the least-damaging proposal," he said. "Why not build a smaller building that won't cover the creek?"

"The State Water Board read the same Environment Impact Report that we did and they also found the environment documents deficient and lacking in detail sufficient to protect the delta wetlands and its water quality," he added in a press release. "They bought that property knowing the obstacles."

The water board added that it is unclear how the company came up with the ideal size of the store and how it will meet the unmet needs of the area.

The water board's decision did not surprise Moscarelli.

What will happen next?

Moscarelli is unsure what Wal-Mart will do, adding, "The ball is in Wal-Mart's court."

Representatives of Wal-Mart and city officials could not be reached by press time Wednesday.

City Council Blocks Super Wal-Mart In Salinas Council Voted For Big-Box Ban Last Week

March 11, 2009
SALINAS, Calif. -- The proposed super Wal-Mart set to take over the empty Home Depot building at the Harden Ranch Plaza has been blocked.

The Salinas City Council voted for its second and final time Tuesday to pass the ordinance that bans big-box stores from also having a grocery store.

Under the ban, any big-box stores with more than 90,000 square feet in retail space cannot dedicate more than 5 percent of its floor space to selling non-taxable items -- mostly food.

A large crowd showed up at City Hall to discuss putting a new Wal-Mart superstore in at the former Home Depot building.

A big-box ordinance passed last week that bans stores that combine a large retail operation with groceries is currently preventing Wal-Mart from putting in a superstore.

The council voted 5 to 2 -- with Mayor Dennis Donohue and councilwoman Janet Barnes opposed -- for the ordinance at last week's meeting.

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City Council bans big-box stores Supporters, opponents speak out on ordinance at City Council meeting
March 11, 2009

After listening to supporters and opponents of a proposal to ban big-box superstores, the Salinas City Council approved the ordinance Tuesday night.

Scores of residents, business owners and union members gathered at the City Hall Rotunda - while others filled overflow rooms inside City Hall and watched the proceedings via cable - and spoke passionately for and against the ordinance.

After more than two hours of public comment, including the councilmembers' responses, they approved the ordinance with a 5-2 vote.

As they did in the first vote on the ban last week, Mayor Dennis Donohue and Councilwoman Janet Barnes were opposed.

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Salinas Spars Over Wal-Mart Proposal Big-Box Ordinance Proposed
March 4, 2009

SALINAS, Calif. -- The Salinas City Council voted Tuesday evening to approve a big-box ordinance that will ban stores that combine a large retail operation with groceries.

The council voted 5 to 2 -- with Mayor Dennis Donohue and councilwoman Janet Barnes opposed -- for the ordinance after the community spent hours in public debate over having a Super Wal-Mart come to town.

Backers of the ordinance said the stipulation protects other grocery stores in Salinas, but opponents said a supercenter would give consumers more choices...

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Breaking: Jet Fuel Spill in Suisun Near Controversial Wal-Mart -=- A jet fuel pipeline that supplies mammoth Travis Air Force Base - and is near a controversial proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter - has apparently ruptured along Highway 12.

You can read the full story at this URL:

Quartz Hill residents rally against proposed Wal-Mart
Antelope Valley Press, Saturday, January 31, 2009.

By JULIE DRAKE Valley Press Staff Writer

QUARTZ HILL - At least 30 residents, including parents and students, rallied early Friday morning at the intersection near Quartz Hill High School to demonstrate their opposition against the proposed construction of two shopping centers across the street from the school. Demonstrators waved picket signs and handed out fliers to passing cars at the intersection of 60th Street West and Avenue L between 6 and 8 a.m.

"It's an informational rally to get the information out to the public about what they can do to stop the rezoning of these areas," said Loretta Berry of Quartz Hill Cares, which was founded in December 2006 to oppose the proposed developments.

"It's a grass-roots effort at its finest, just citizens from all walks of life coming together," Berry said.

A Wal-Mart Supercenter and several other buildings for retail and fast food are proposed for the northwest corner of the intersection. A Super Target, Home Depot and several other buildings for retail and fast food are proposed for the southeast corner of the intersection.

Another center with a Lowe's home improvement center is planned near new homes at 60th Street West and Avenue K, about a mile away.

"If they put in these supercenters, the kids are going to be truant, not to mention the close access to cigarettes and alcohol," Berry maintained as a passing driver honked the car's horn.

Theresa Lea passed out fliers with information about the proposed projects and letters that residents can sign and submit to the city in opposition to the project.

"We need to get this information out to the public that they can stop it if they write a letter to the city of Lancaster," Berry said.

Berry said the property at 60th Street West and Avenue L is zoned residential and must be rezoned as commercial before the shopping centers can be constructed.

"If this were already zoned commercial, yeah, you know, we could fight it and we might have a voice, but the fact that they have to rezone it to commercial … we have a chance. We can stop the rezoning," Berry said.

Berry said her research shows that when a Wal-Mart moves in, all of the smaller family-owned businesses within a five- or 10-mile radius go out of business within three to five years.

"That's all that Quartz Hill is, everything that Super Wal-Mart and Super Target want to bring here to this corner, a florist, a bakery, a tire shop, that's what downtown Quartz Hill is. It's just madness. We just don't need it," she said.

Berry said the supercenters will not add any new tax dollars to the city but simply redistribute the money the existing stores earn.

"And the wonderful community of Quartz Hill will get all the crime, the trash, the pollution - all the garbage that goes with supercenters," she said.

Katlin Walters, 15, a sophomore at Quartz Hill High, held a sign with "No more Wal-Marts" spelled out in red and blue letters.

"I go to school here and I don't think it will be done by the time I graduate but for the generations after me they're going to have more crime; more traffic, which is already a complaint; more trash, which is worse; and then we're going to have to deal with all the people coming in and out and possibly sneaking on and off campus," Walters said.

"I like this school because I feel safe at this school and with this I don't know how safe I'd feel."

Frank Hsu, who held a "Say No to Superstores" sign, said his children are students at Quartz Hill High and he does not want to see the shopping centers built because he is concerned about the safety of students and about air pollution.

"We have clean air here, we don't want air pollution," Hsu said.

Cleo Goss wore a sandwich sign equating commercial centers with crime and carried a sign in each hand, one featuring plastic merchandise bags attached to photos of discarded bags in the desert.

"I took these pictures at the Home Depot, the Wal-Mart and the Target. You can see what kind of trash. This trash stays with you for life, it will be there long after you or I are dead," Goss said.

"People coming to the Antelope Valley, seeing all of this trash spread out, are going to think that the California state flower is a white plastic bag."

Near the corner where the Wal-Mart Supercenter is proposed, Ken Turner stood with a silver counter of the type used to count cars. He said he had counted 618 cars headed westbound on Avenue L from 6 to 7:30 a.m.

Paul Harris stood on the dirt shoulder along Avenue L looking north toward the Tehachapi mountains. He said that view will be gone if the Wal-Mart Supercenter is built.

"This is residential … We came out here for the ruralness and then they're going to change it to commercialization," Harris said. "It will be 24/7, the noise, the pollution, the crime."

John Mendez, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, disputed the claims put forth by the project's opponents.

"These are different economic times and people are desperate to hold onto their jobs and are worried about being laid off," he said.

Mendez said many people have been laid off and the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter will provide a local stimulus to the Antelope Valley by providing almost 400 new jobs, plus jobs in construction.

He said the supercenter also will support jobs through the purchase of supplies such as household items and mortgages by the company's employees.

He cited a recent Navigant Consulting Inc. consumer research study, commissioned by Wal-Mart, that showed building permits and the total taxable sales increased after a Wal-Mart Supercenter went in.

Mendez also disputed the notion that small businesses suffer when a Wal-Mart moves into town.

"It's a misnomer about what happens to small businesses when a supercenter is built," he said.

Mendez said a supercenter will bring in more customers for small businesses and help stimulate downtown business shopping. He said a new Wal-Mart would be a really good local stimulus through new construction jobs, permanent retail jobs and increased suppliers.

The city's Planning Commission will take public testimony concerning the environmental impact reports of the proposed center during a special meeting scheduled for Feb. 18.

Alameda Fire Department Brownouts Begin

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KCBS) - Rotating firehouse "brownouts" were scheduled to begin Monday in Alameda. That could mean a delayed response by emergency officials, to incidents in the community.

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Big, empty boxes By Stacy Mitchell
Last update: January 15, 2009 - 4:46 PM

Abandoned big-box stores, dead and dying strip malls and empty storefronts are about to join foreclosed houses as one of the defining features of the American landscape in 2009.

Within a few months, more than one-eighth of the country’s retail space will be sitting vacant, according to some estimates. That’s about 1.4 billion square feet, or 50 square miles, of empty store space, ringed by roughly 150 square miles of useless parking lot.

It will be tempting to blame the weak economy for all of this wreckage. But the recession has merely been the trigger. This avalanche of vacant retail, much like the mortgage crisis, has been a long time in the making.

Since the early 1990s, the pace of retail development has far outstripped growth in spending. Between 1990 and 2005, the amount of store space in the United States doubled, ballooning from 19 to 38 square feet per person. Meanwhile, real consumer spending rose just 14 percent.

With big chains, like Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot, leading the way, retail development became, to a large extent, a predatory enterprise. Waves of ever-bigger big-box stores and new shopping centers have succeeded, not by satisfying growing demand, but by cannibalizing sales, first from downtowns and older malls, and then from other recently built shopping centers and big-box stores. City officials have been largely complicit in this merry-go-round. Many have clung to the idea that building new stores creates jobs and tax revenue, when all most of these projects do is siphon economic activity from other parts of town. By zoning plenty of open land for retail, cities have given developers little incentive to redevelop older shopping centers. Why bother when fresh ground waits a mile up the road?

Long before the financial crisis hit, Pricewaterhouse¬Coopers had deemed the United States vastly "overstored." In a 2003 report, the investment research firm declared that the "most overretailed country in the world hardly needs more shopping outlets of any kind." But few cities heeded that warning. Indeed, even as the economy began to slow in 2007, retail development continued at a furious pace, with more than 140 million square feet of new shopping centers and big-box stores opening.

We now face a painful reckoning. Already, many communities are saddled with dying malls and derelict big-box stores. In Minnesota, abandoned Wal-Mart stores have been sitting idle in Albert Lea and Owatonna for years, while Brookdale, the mall in Brooklyn Center, is fast approaching 50 percent vacancy. The situation is likely to get much worse in the coming months as major chains and smaller retailers close tens of thousands of outlets nationwide. Vacant stores are not only eyesores. These blighted properties can drag down home prices in surrounding neighborhoods, undermine otherwise healthy businesses nearby and deter new investment. Sometimes cities manage, often with a great deal of effort, to find a new use for one of these sites, but most abandoned big-box stores and strip malls remain that way for years. These buildings are not particularly suited to activities other than retailing, and there are far more of them than potential uses. The only way to ensure that the coming wave of deserted stores and shopping centers does not become a persistent blight on the landscape and a drag on local economies for decades to come is for cities, working together across metro regions, to sharply limit what can be built on undeveloped land. If colonizing fresh land were no longer an option, developers would be far more likely, once the recession ends, to recycle idle malls and vacated big-box stores. These constraints would also encourage more efficient use of land. Single-story box stores with surface parking would give way to multistory buildings that mix housing with retail. Indeed, this is precisely what is happening in Oregon, where urban growth boundaries limit sprawl and protect the countryside from development. In the Portland metro, developers are eyeing aging strip malls built in the 1960s and ’70s as sites for new multistory buildings that would combine housing on the upper floors with retail below. According to one estimate, as much as 70 to 80 percent of the metro region’s growth could be accommodated by redeveloping empty or underused properties. It’s too late to prevent the rash of retail vacancies that will emerge in the coming months, but, by putting an end to years of massive overbuilding and sprawl, we can ensure that these sites are first in line for redevelopment. Stacy Mitchell is senior researcher with the New Rules Project ( at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance of Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. She is the author of "Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses."

Loose Lips: Distribute that idea elsewhere
MERCED SUN-STAR, Friday January 16, 2009

Would the pro-business Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce let the voice of the anti-Wal-Mart distribution center movement be heard in concert with the company's hired spokesman for the project? Nope.

The Stop Wal-Mart Action Team, or SWAT, sent a letter Wednesday to the chamber asking asking that it be able to present "an alternative vision for how to move Merced in a positive direction" during the chamber's "State of the Community" event Wednesday.

At the meeting, county honcho Dee Tatum, city leader John Bramble and smiley-face retailer spokesman Marko Mlikotin are set to speak. We think it'll go like this: Economy bad. Distribution center good.

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Opposition to Alameda Development Plan Heating Up
Wednesday, 07 January 2009

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KCBS) -- Opponents of a development project at Alameda Point claim the city is considering a $700 million bailout for developers at a time when Alameda is facing bankruptcy. Alameda is considering using city redevelopment funds to "privatize" land that used to be part of the Alameda Naval Air Station, according to "Save Our City! Alameda" (SOCA), a coalition of Alameda residents and local organizations

The group launched a television ad campaign on cable news channels Tuesday in an effort to sway public opinion against the development project. The commercial claims SunCal, a private developer, wants $700 million in taxpayer money to subsidize infrastructure upgrades for the project, so it can profit from building housing, said David Howard, a spokesperson for SOCA.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, January 8, 2009
Contact: David Howard 510-673-0998

City of Alameda misleading public, closer to bankruptcy than it admits; $700 million 'bail-out' to developer is key to solvency, charges community group

ALAMEDA – The city of Alameda is closer to bankruptcy then it will admit, and is misleading the public about the very real threat to insolvency and public safety, charged a community group today opposed to the city granting a nearly $700 million bail-out to a private developer to re-shape Alameda Point.

"If city is in such great financial shape, why is it pushing for rotating fire station closures, and for a reduction in the number of firefighters from 27 to 24? Remember that disputes between the City of Vallejo and their public safety unions were a first step towards Vallejo's bankruptcy," said David Howard, a spokesperson with Save our City! Alameda (SOCA), which blew the whistle on the bail-out earlier this week.

"In its haste to discredit us, the city of Alameda planning department - whose salaries are paid by SunCal, the Alameda Point developer - ignored the source of the ($700 million) figure, which came from SunCal, not us. SunCal estimated that infrastructure would total $679 million. With cost overruns and rounding, let's call it $700 million. Further, in a March 2007 response to the City of Alameda, SunCal indicated it would seek "tax-increment financing" - a city sponsored subsidy - for "infrastructure," Howard said.

Although the city planning department now asserts the projected "bailout" of SunCal for infrastructure could be no more than $200 million, it is a "classic case of 'bait and switch, ' " said Howard.

"If a ballot measure backed by SunCal is approved, we can expect the planning department's $200 million figure to increase. Any talk of 'fiscal neutrality' is a joke. When the City uses tax-increment financing to subsidize a developer, the money used to pay back the bonds never reaches the General Fund - the redevelopment mechanism prevents it from appearing as revenue for the General Fund and the money is spent before it arrives," said Howard, noting the city faces tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits, which would impact the city's solvency.

SOCA will hold a free public forum Jan. 24 at Alameda Free Library.

NEWS CONFERENCE ADVISORY For Immediate Release Monday, January 5, 2009 Contact: David Howard 510-673-0998

ATTENTION: Daybook/Assignment Desk

Another city near bankruptcy; ‘bail-out’ to privatize Alameda Point will edge city of Alameda closer to insolvency, CNN advertising spot warns

ALAMEDA – A new advertising spot now running on CNN and other prime-time news program warns that Alameda may be the next Bay Area city to file bankruptcy – especially if it adopts a plan to be announced this week to privatize Alameda Point.

Alameda is near bankruptcy – rolling “brown-outs” of city fire stations are being planned and the city faces tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits – yet a $700 million “bail-out” using city redevelopment funds may be used to “privatize” Alameda Point, charges “Save Our City! Alameda” (SOCA), a coalition of Alameda residents and local organizations

The group says the situation is so dire it is running the hard-hitting television campaign beginning to inform the general public about the mess. Details of the project will be provided at Tuesday’s news conference where the spot will be previewed only for the news media.

The television spot – airing on CNN, Fox News and other cable news channels in the Alameda area – asks Alameda citizens to “Stop the ‘bail-out’” and “Protect public safety” by urging Alameda officials to reject the proposal, which be the subject of a public hearing later this week in Alameda.

"SunCal, a private developer, wants $700 million in City funded redevelopment bonds to bail them out, and subsidize the required infrastructure upgrades for the project, so they can profit from building housing. Alameda taxpayers will be left footing the bill for this bail-out of SunCal,” said David Howard, a spokesperson for SOCA.

Suit against Suisun City leaves Walmart in legal limbo By Ian Thompson
Daily Republic
January 02, 2009 12:41

Walmart is awaiting the final ruling on a lawsuit against its proposed supercenter in eastern Suisun City before deciding what to do next.

'The project is still in litigation and we do not have a timetable at this point for moving forward,' said Kevin Loscotoff, a Walmart spokesman.

The Suisun Alliance, which opposed the supercenter, sued Suisun City over the project's environmental impact report, contending it inadequately addressed the project's impact on the community and environment.

The alliance was handed a reverse in November when a Solano County Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling in Suisun City's favor, upholding the EIR. A final ruling is expected in mid-February.

Save Our Suisun, another group opposing the supercenter, continues to keep a close eye on the project and has been critical of the project's potential impact on wetlands and watercourses in and around the site.

The proposed supercenter at Walters Road and Highway 12 still needs the blessing of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The board turned down the retail giant's application without prejudice on Nov. 21, stating it was still incomplete by the time it reached as one-year approval deadline.

As of Friday, Walmart has not reapplied to the board for permits, according to Bruce Wolfe, executive officer for the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board.

Having to submit the application again means more work for Walmart, which will have to re-evaluate the design of the supercenter to minimize its impact on wetlands and devise a comprehensive storm water runoff plan.

Walmart wants to build a supercenter, gas station, car wash and restaurant on the 21-acre site.

With the exception of the board, all other agencies have stated publicly that they have no problem with the project. Suisun City unanimously certified the EIR.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

The next bubble to burst?
Jeff Milchen
Sunday, January 4, 2009

When economic growth stalls, some businesses fail to survive, so our recession inevitably is accompanied by such failures. When it comes to retail, however, the trickle of store closings last year may soon become a torrent now that the temporary stimulus of the holidays is past. As with the collapse of housing prices, the economic downturn is not the root problem, but simply exposed a long-building bubble. 

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City leaders to consider SunCal plan for Alameda Point
By Peter Hegarty
Alameda Journal
Updated: 12/31/2008 06:05:28 PM PST

As city leaders get ready to mull over the latest proposal from SunCal Companies for Alameda Point — including the possible construction of up to 4,500 homes at the former military base — its opponents have launched a television commercial, slamming the plan.

The TV spot from "Save Our City! Alameda" will air on local cable stations during the first week of January, or the days before the City Council holds a public hearing Wednesday on SunCal's draft master plan for the former site.

Along with new housing, the developer's plan calls for a library, a new elementary school, parks and a variety of transit improvements.

Opponents of the massive project note that it calls for the transfer of public land to a private company and, with Alameda's ongoing financial crisis, helping fund the project could push the city toward bankruptcy. The City Council trimmed $4 million from the budget in 2008 and more cuts are projected for the coming year.

"SunCal wants $700 million in city-funded redevelopment bonds to subsidize the required infrastructure upgrades for the project," said David Howard, a leader in the campaign against SunCal's plans. "Alameda taxpayers will be left footing the bill for this bailout of SunCal."

Howard said he would prefer the land be converted into a public land trust.

SunCal's housing proposal, which includes multi-unit complexes that would be at least five stories tall, likely will end up in the hands of Alameda voters since it does not comply with Measure A, which restricts most housing in the city to single-family residences and duplexes.

The issue could be on the ballot as soon as November.

The proposed housing units would be built on 226 acres.

"I would be of two minds about something like that," said Jonathan Trebbitt, 33, of Alameda as he rode his bicycle at the former base, which closed in 1997. "The small-town atmosphere is what draws people here. But I also understand that a developer needs to design a project so that it's profitable. If they can't do that, nothing will happen. Then you just have blight."

If the plan moves forward, SunCal estimates demolition could start in 2010 or 2011, with construction beginning a year later. The entire project could be completed by 2025.

The upcoming public hearing follows a Dec. 18 meeting on the USS Hornet, where representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs outlined their plans to build a hospital, out-patient clinic and offices at Alameda Point.

A columbarium to serve veterans and their families also would be built on the site, which consists of former runways and now hosts a nesting colony of the endangered California Least Tern. Speakers at the December meeting voiced concerns about the impact of the project on the least terns.

Along with housing and commercial redevelopment, SunCal's plan includes a supermarket and the restoration and reuse of some former Navy buildings, including the "Big Whites" and the bachelor officer quarters.

Along with saying SunCal's plan will stretch the city's financial resources, opponents say it will increase traffic and lead to more "big box" stores on the Island, which will undercut smaller, neighborhood businesses.

But supporters say larger stores can inject sales tax revenue into the city, which will help stave off future cuts and keep vital services going.

Reach Peter Hegarty at or 510-748-1654.

Raley's Denied Civil Rights of Residents in Wal-Mart Controversy
December 11, 2008

West-Sacramento-based Raley's wrongfully denied the civil rights to residents in Suisun because it doesn't even own the property it has banned petitioners from, charged a Sacramento civil rights firm here this week in a motion to dismiss the controversial case in Solano Superior Court. If the court agrees, residents would regain their civil rights.

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Wal-Mart ditches Hercules development plans
By Tom Lochner West County Times, 

Related Dec 4: Concord approves Lowe's shopping center after two years of debate Wal-Mart has abandoned plans to build a store in Hercules and has put up for sale a 17¼-acre spread it owns there.

The move could spell an end to years of wrangling among the mega-retailer, the city and residents who said a big-box store drawing regional traffic would betray the vision, enshrined in the Central Hercules Plan, of a pedestrian-friendly waterfront area.

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Concord approves Lowe's shopping center after two years of debate
By Tanya Rose Contra Costa Times

Related Dec 4: Wal-Mart ditches Hercules development plans CONCORD — A controversial Wal-Mart shopping center is coming to North Concord — but without the Wal-Mart.

After two years of applications, appeals and emotional hand-wringing, the Concord City Council approved what is now called the Lowe's shopping center, which will sit on 28 acres along Arnold Industrial Way.

City leaders promise that though the building originally planned as the 24-hour Wal-Mart will be built, it will stay empty until another, less controversial retailer is found. 

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Backers of a movement to recall Suisun CITY Mayor Pete Sanchez and two council members will be allowed to collect petition signatures at two locations of the Heritage Shopping Center, a Solano County Superior Court judge ruled today.

Mark Merin, attorney for the recall group Save Our Suisun, said Judge Paul Beeman agreed the shopping center is a quasi-public forum for the expression of free speech and ruled the petitioners can collect signatures in the monument area of the mall and at the Ace Hardware store.

"Both sides will agree to a stipulated order," Merin said. Save Our Suisun is still appealing the judge's earlier decision prohibiting the petitioners from collecting signatures in front of the Raley's supermarket, Merin said.

Merin called the judge's ruling "a limited victory" because the judge recognized the shopping center as a quasi-public forum. Petitioners, however, will not be able to freely roam through the shopping center gathering petitions, Merin said.

Petitioners will be able to collect signatures at the two locations six hours a day, six days a week, Merin said. Another hearing on the issue is scheduled for Aug. 1, Merin said.

Linda Ward, the attorney for the shopping center was not immediately available for comment.

The Heritage Shopping Center's owner asked the court for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the group from gathering the signatures on private property.
The Save Our Suisun group wants to recall Sanchez and council members Jane Day and Michael Hudson.

The group claims they have risked the public's safety by approving a 227,000-square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter on 21 acres at state Highway 12 and Walters Road near Travis Air Force Base over the objections of public safety experts, including the county's Airport Land Use Commission and the California Department of Transportation.
Merin said the California Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that the PruneYard shopping center in San Jose was obligated to allow free expressive speech even on its private property and must yield to the public interest.

He said Suisun City has no central downtown and that malls have become the new public market places in many communities.

Save Our Suisun is already appealing the court ruling that prohibited signature gathering outside Rayley's, Merin said.

"This is a very significant question for all free speech activity. This (the mall) is the preferred venue," Merin said.

Save Our Suisun has until Aug. 8 to gather enough signatures to put the recall measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Landmark Civil Rights Battle Over Free Speech; started with Wal-Mart

In what could become a landmark case, civil rights lawyers Tuesday will go to court to fight attempts to criminalize free speech at a Solano County shopping center where residents have been threatened with arrest for peaceably petitioning in public places as guaranteed by state and federal law.

A hearing to decide whether a Suisun shopping center owner should be granted a restraining order against residents is set for TUESDAY, 10 a.m., at the Solano County Superior Court (321 Tuolumne St., Vallejo), Judge Paul L. Beeman, Dept. 1.

A PRESS BRIEFING will be held at 9:45 a.m. at the courthouse entrance.

The Law Office of Mark Merin, a major civil rights firm based in Sacramento, will appear on behalf of "Save Our Suisun," an all-volunteer community group gathering signatures to recall Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez, and council members Jane Day and Michael Hudson.

Merin - considered an expert on free speech issues involving shopping centers - argues that the Heritage Mall in Suisun is violating the constitutional, free speech rights of residents circulating recall petitions and literature. He calls attempts to ban or restrict peaceful petitioning "unconstitutionally restrictive."

SOS is working to recall the city council members because they have risked the public safety by approving a Wal-Mart SuperCenter near Travis Air Base over the objections of public safety experts, including the County Airport Land Use Commission, and CalTRANS. SOS also charges the council members have lost the public trust by raising their own compensation plans 118 percent, making questionable loans, and other deals with taxpayer monies.

Copyright © 2008, NewsBlaze, Daily News

Police Covered-Up Grandmother's Complaint Against Suisun Councilman

The Suisun City Police Dept. - investigating a complaint that a Suisun City Council member harassed and accosted a grandmother gathering signatures to recall him from office - did not make any real attempt to seriously explore the charges, a spokesperson for a community group said here today.

Police have told civil rights attorney Jeff Kravitz, representing Suisun grandmother Mina Guerrero, that the Solano County District Attorney did not find any reason to pursue the criminal probe - but police also failed to interview any eye witnesses, or even the accused, councilman Michael Hudson.

"We are not at all surprised. The police association has put up billboards announcing its opposition to the Recall Election. Despite their assurances, we knew they would not fully investigate the charges," said Cres Vellucci, a spokesperson for "Save Our Suisun."

"We did, though, expect them to at least interview eye witnesses and Michael Hudson. But, they did not even do that," added Vellucci. He added that an outside agency, possibly the California Attorney General's office, is being contacted to oversee a objective investigation.

Members of "Save Our Suisun" - since they began gathering signatures in April - have been sued, threatened with arrest by the same police who did not probe the Hudson matter and accosted by Hudson, and other Recall opponents. SOS has until August 8 to submit about 2,030 signatures to force an election to recall Hudson, Mayor Pete Sanchez and Vice-Mayor Jane Day.

Sanchez, Hudson and Day are the targets of a recall because, said "Save Our Suisun," they risked public safety by approving a Wal-Mart SuperCenter near Travis Air Force Base, despite the warnings of air safety experts.

The councilmembers also raised their own compensation plans 118 percent and have made a series of questionable city financial decisions. In addition more than $100,000 is missing from the city coffers, according to one tally.

Recall Campaign in Suisun Turns Dirty

City Council member accosts petition gatherer, may have broken law A Suisun City Council member - facing a possible recall on the November ballot - may have broken state election laws and made what could be considered racist remarks when he accosted a recall signature-gatherer at a public event, proponents of the recall said today. 

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Recall effort hit with order
By Danny Bernardini

The group leading the recall effort of three Suisun City council members was hit with a 30-day temporary restraining order Thursday by Raley's and will no longer be able to collect signatures near the two entrances. Ordered by Solano County Superior Court Judge Paul Beeman, the group Save Our Suisun (SOS) must now vacate the doorways of the Raley's supermarket in Suisun City for at least 30 days. They may, however, still collect signatures in the surrounding parking lot and shopping center, said Cres Vellucci, spokesman for SOS.

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Wal-Mart yanks Vallejo project Friday announcement draws mixed reactions from city residents
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer

After four years of wrangling with the city and vocal opponents, Wal-Mart on Friday withdrew its application to build a supercenter in Vallejo's White Slough area, a company spokesman said. "Wal-Mart had hoped to open a new store in Vallejo, but current growth plans, coupled with the increased costs since the project was first proposed in 2004, have made the project infeasible at this time," spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said.

The announcement elicited a wide range of reactions.

City Economic Development Program Manager Susan McCue had not heard the development Friday, saying she had to digest the information before commenting. 

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City Council Being Recalled Over Wal-Mart Vote
'Mayor Pete Sanchez...has not kept his public campaign promises to oppose a proposed big box development that has negative impacts on the health and safety of residents,'

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Residents hear critiques of big-box retailers
OAKLEY: Large, new stores are in direct conflict with plans to restore downtown, activists say

A few weeks after Wal-Mart abandoned its plans to locate a Supercenter in Oakley, a local citizens group opposed to the megaretailer held a town hall meeting to discuss the impact of big-box development on the evolving city.

The speakers at Thursday's meeting addressed community concerns about the proposed 77-acre commercial project where Wal-Mart was planning to move. They discussed the environmental review process and future public hearings surrounding the River Oaks Crossing shopping center.

"It's not too late to include the citizens and taxpayers of Oakley in the process of deciding what kind of commercial growth we want in our community. Bigger is not necessarily better," Save Oakley Now spokesman Bob Caughron stated in a news release.

The panel of speakers urged Oakley residents to get involved in the young city's impending commercial growth and hold public officials accountable for any related impacts. Land use attorney Mark Wolfe and Phil Tucker of California Healthy Communities Network spoke about how big-box development in Oakley could harm ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

According to Tucker, the development of big-box shopping centers and the redevelopment of Oakley's downtown represent two competing visions. He added that the area doesn't have enough potential shoppers to support both retail endeavors.

"These plans overlap each other and what that means is they are drawing their primary shoppers from the same area," Tucker said. "The downtown development plan doesn't have much of a chance."

Wal-Mart officials said that the Oakley Supercenter application was withdrawn because of the nation's sluggish economy and stagnant stock values. Wal-Mart has decided not to construct more than 140 planned stores.

The Supercenter was expected to bring more than 450 new jobs and $700,000 annually in sales tax revenue. Meanwhile, city leaders are pushing forward with River Oaks Crossing by luring other major retailers to the site.

According to Wolfe, Wal-Mart realized the demand is not strong enough in Oakley. "It still boils down to these competing visions and the delusion that it doesn't exist," he said to a crowd of area residents attending the forum at Vintage Parkway Elementary School. Wolfe mentioned several California cities that have banned superstores or imposed limitations on retailers like Wal-Mart. Among those cities are Los Angeles, Oakland, Turlock, Stockton and Vallejo, he said.

As Save Oakley Now's land-use counsel, Wolfe asked residents to get involved in the public process for River Oaks.

"What we can insist upon is that all that information is laid out in front of us," he said. Mark Gagliardi spoke as an Oakley resident and board member of the Contra Costa Central Labor Council. He said he is also interested in seeing the downtown successfully redeveloped.

"I just think there is a smart way to do it," Gagliardi said. "We don't need to put up a big store that is going to take out the competition."

Oakley resident and Delta Green Party member Paul Seger said Wal-Mart's way of doing business is un-American. He asked Oakley residents to demand accountability from local officials.

"There are so many ways we can use this land," Seger said.

Paula King covers Oakley. Reach her at 925-779-7189 or

Recall bid gains traction Article Launched: 03/09/2008 08:12:59 AM PDT

Opponents of the recently-approved Wal-Mart store in Suisun decided Saturday to move forward with a recall effort against some members of City Council.

More than 40 people reportedly attended the community meeting, which was put on at Grace Baptist Church by a group calling itself Save Our Suisun. Those assembled decided in favor of a recall effort aimed at Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez, as well as council members Jane Day and Mike Hudson.

The other two council members, Mike Segala and Sam Derting, are not being included in the recall push because they are up for re-election in November.

Describing the group that came together on Saturday, Suisun Citizens' League member Dwight Acey said, "They were very, very energized."The group's main grievance is the council's unanimous approval of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, which is to be located at Highway 12 and Walters Road.

In a press release this week, opponents claimed that council members "disregarded public safety warnings by aviation experts and other land-use professionals when they approved the controversial project."

Acey said the intent is to file the necessary paperwork in the coming days and to begin gathering signatures "within a week or so." He added that the goal is to collect 3,000 signatures over the next month.

Note from Save Our Suisun: Please go to our website for future news:

No removal of airport panel chair By Danny Bernardini/Staff Writer Article Launched: 02/21/2008 06:16:08 AM PST

A motion to remove John Foster as Solano County Airport Land Use Commission chair died Wednesday night on a 3-3 vote by Solano County's mayors. The issue to remove Foster was discussed during the mayors' Solano County City Selection Committee meeting in Fairfield.

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VACAVILLE REPORTER: Council must be sure of its numbers

(EDITORIAL 2/10/2008) For months, the question of whether a Wal-Mart Supercenter should be built on the northwest corner of Walters Road and Highway 12 has divided Suisun City. But when Suisun's City Council meets Tuesday to resolve the issue, it must consider more than its own municipal matters. The project's potential encroachment on Travis Air Force Base is of countywide concern.

The possible conflict with Travis came to light when the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission rejected the project in November on the grounds that it could draw more people to the 20-acre site than is acceptable under the base's Land Use Compatibility Plan.

That plan restricts development around the air base, mostly for safety reasons. The site in question is inside "Zone C," which limits the number of people at any site to an average of 75 per acre, with no more than 300 within any one acre at any given time. Depending on how they are calculated, estimates for the project in question - which includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a sit-down restaurant and a gas station - come out at well below the limits, pushing the limits or over the limits.

There are legitimate differences in the way estimates are made. But as a consequence, those in favor of the project are inclined to use the methods that produce low numbers, while those opposed to the superstore base their calculations on the methods that produces high numbers. It is imperative for the Suisun City Council to base its decisions on realistic calculations, no matter on which side of the limit they fall.

What the council should not do is downplay the Land Use Compatibility Plan's restrictions, as the consultant who prepared the final environmental impact report suggests. That report claims the standards set around Travis are arbitrary and more restrictive than the state of California requires.

If they are more restrictive, it is because the citizens of Solano County years ago agreed to protect Travis Air Force Base so that future Base Realignment and Closure commissions could not use incursion as an excuse to shut down the county's largest employer. Remember, Travis contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy each year.

As the environmental impact report points out, Travis has a decent safety record - only five crashes since the base opened, none in the vicinity of the proposed Wal-Mart - and the store won't lie directly in the flight path. The report also notes that planes flying in and out of Travis are too heavy to be blown off course, but that assumes only the big planes will be flying in and out of there in the future. Plus, should Travis ever be pulled out, the county will almost certainly want to explore the possibility of using the site as a regional airport. Unwise incursions now could affect that decision down the road.

Councilmembers will have tough choices to make on Tuesday. Suisun City certainly needs the tax base a Wal-Mart store would bring. But the entire county needs Travis, and the city must not do anything to jeopardize the air base.

Wal-Mart Gets Planner Ok Despite Huge Public Outcry About 'Safety'

Ignoring safety concerns of scores of residents who fear a new Wal-Mart project here could lead to deaths along adjacent "Blood Alley," or from low-flying planes from Travis Air Base or a buried jet pipeline, the Suisun City Planning Commission recommended Tuesday night the controversial project be approved by the City Council.

The decision to rubber stamp the Environmental Impact Report at a hearing attended by an overflow crowd of 150 residents was not unexpected. The planners made it clear that hoped-for sales taxes were more important than the environment or lives of residents. Speakers even questioned the tax gain, saying stores in Suisun and Fairfield would "cannibalize" each other.

The next step is approval by the Suisun City Council Feb. 12. It will first have to vote, by a four-fifths margin, to override the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission, which refused to approve the 227,000 square foot project because, the ALUC said, the project is too big to be that close to Travis Air Force Base.

The ALUC ruled the project was "unsafe," and would encroach upon the base something that could cause the military to move the base, a major concern for 65,000 military retirees in the county. Travis AFB is the county's largest employer ($1.1 billion a year, 14,000 jobs).

"This is the biggest project in town. It will be the biggest disaster in town," charged Dwight Acey, chair of Suisun Citizens League, one of the community groups opposed to the project. He said the EIR shows there will be as many as 70,000 additional vehicle trips along Highway 12 known as "Blood Alley" because of all the accidents making it even more dangerous.

Resident Anthony Moscarelli citing letters from a national pipeline trust said there are major issues about a buried jet fuel pipeline within feet of the project. "There's not one mention of the fuel pipeline danger," he said, adding the city may be liable for damages, and that an increase in insurance coverage would eat up all of the anticipated sales tax gains.

"I object to my neighbors who will be killed by the project," said Wayne Monger, a geologist who lives near the site, and Paul GreenLee of Suisun Alliance, said "People in the community have said we do not want it. It does not fit our city." Another speaker called the decision a "betrayal" of the people. Another called for a "recall" of elected officials.

Copyright © 2008, NewsBlaze, Daily News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, February 11, 2008 Contact: Cres Vellucci, spokesperson, Suisun Citizens League, 916.996-9170 (cell)

Attention: Daybook/Assignment Desk

SALES TAX or COMMUNITY SAFETY? Wal-Mart project, deemed 'unsafe' by state agency & airport oversight group, is up for final vote on Tuesday

SUISUN CITY – With the threat of a recall hanging over its head, the Suisun City Council will decide whether to put sales tax revenue over and above the safety of its residents when the Council meets TUESDAY at 5 p.m. at Suisun City Hall (701 Civic Center Blvd) to decide whether to approve a controversial Wal-Mart Superstore project.

There will be a 4:30 p.m. NEWS BRIEFING by neighborhood groups, who have threatened to recall council members if they vote for the project over community concerns.

The independent Solano County Airport Land Use Commission already rejected the Wal-Mart project in November for "safety" reasons because the project interfered with the Travis Air Force Base "compatibility plan." The Cal TRANS Aeronautics Division supports the "safety concern" recommendation.

But, the Suisun City Council is considering overriding the ALUC safety determination because the city wants the tax money from the development. The Council could vote Tuesday with a "super-majority" to take the highly unusual step of overriding the ACLC, which consists of many pilots and other safety members who called the project too "unsafe" to build.

"It's a simple matter of the city and staff believing the hoped-for taxes will offset the risk to us, the residents. That's wrong," said Dwight Acey chair of the Suisun Citizens League.

Acey also said the City will never see those big tax proceeds. A Dixon councilperson Monday said his town is only getting a fraction of what they anticipated from a Wal-Mart Supercenter which opened there in 2005, and warned Suisun City officials to be wary.

Suisun City residents also cite high traffic danger (Wal-Mart will be located just off Highway 12, known as "blood alley" because of the high number of accidents), pollution, threat to nearby wetlands, noise and an underground fuel pipeline located next to the Wal-Mart.

URGENT NEWS ADVISORY Sunday, February 10, 2008 Contact: Cres Vellucci, CIPI Strategies, 916.996-9170 (cell)

More bad economic news; Wal-Mart either failing, or under-reporting sales & robbing city of taxes, Dixon councilmember to charge Monday

DIXON – Wal-Mart is either grossly under-performing , or is cheating the city of Dixon out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes a year, a member of the Dixon City Council will allege at a major news conference here Monday.

Details of the charges will be revealed at Monday, Feb. 11, at 11:45 a.m., at the Dixon Wal-Mart main entrance (235 E. Dorset Drive, off Highway 80).

Councilmember Michael C. Smith, in a letter late last week, warned the mayor and city council of Suisun City to "verify" lofty claims made by Wal-Mart that it would generate as much as $800,000 in sales tax the first year of operation in Suisun.

City officials in Suisun have said they need the projected sales tax revenue from the project, and the taxes would mitigate the safety concerns of residents and the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission that rejected the project for "safety" reasons.

Suisun will vote Tuesday on whether to approve the controversial Wal-Mart project over the objections of numerous neighborhood groups, who have cited safety concerns over the proximity of Travis Air Force Base, a buried jet fuel pipeline and increased traffic on so-called "Blood Alley" on Highway 12 where the project is to be built.

Councilmember Smith said his investigation now shows that rather than hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue, Dixon has seen only a tiny fraction of that since Wal-Mart opened in 2003, and expanded to a Superstore in 2005.

"We received the same rosy picture of hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional sales tax now being floated to the city of Suisun," said Smith, who will make public details of his probe on Monday.

Officials May Fire Commission Pilots Who Rejected Wal-Mart Project

Elected officials here are ignoring warnings about a public safety threat from a Wal-Mart Supercenter project and instead have initiated a plan to oust military pilots sitting on a county airport commission which voted in November to oppose the project because of those same safety concerns.

A news conference will be held TUESDAY, 10 a.m. at the Solano County Board of Supervisors Meeting (675 Texas Street), regarding not-too-secret plans to "decapitate" the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission (SCALUC) leadership for political reasons.

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Wal-Mart Gets Planner Ok Despite Huge Public Outcry About 'Safety'

Ignoring safety concerns of scores of residents who fear a new Wal-Mart project here could lead to deaths along adjacent "Blood Alley," or from low-flying planes from Travis Air Base or a buried jet pipeline, the Suisun City Planning Commission recommended Tuesday night the controversial project be approved by the City Council.

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Toll free Hot line Available to Help Mercado Workers

California Healthy Communities Network has announced it has established a free "hotline" for Mercado workers to obtain help if they are being exploited, abused, sexually harassed, underpaid or otherwise mistreated in their workplace. Workers or supporters can call the hotline without fear of recrimination at work or by authorities.

That number is toll free 1-866-917-5605


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