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Bizarro Measure B yard signs

Letter to the Editor

By I-T letters

Editor, Index-Tribune:

It’s to laugh. Yard signs that read, “Protect Our Voice” or “Increases Taxes” or “Save Our Plaza,” or some other such nonsense. And these are signs in opposition to “yes,” on Measure B, which will keep new hotels small.

So by keeping hotels big in Sonoma, voices will be protected, taxes will be increased and the Plaza will be saved. What?

Who thought up this campaign and what were they smoking? This has got to be the funniest thing yet in Sonoma politics. Is the campaign to build big hotels in town channeling Ted Cruz?

Measure B, the hotel limitation measure, provided the people of Sonoma with a voice to vote on an important issue that a majority on the City Council has fought from the get-go. The council majority – Brown, Rouse and Cook – didn’t want voters to have a voice in the matter and neither did Protect Sonoma, a hotel developer-sponsored group opposing Measure B.

Do these people think Sonoma voters will fall for this bizarro stunt? The election is Nov. 19. Let the City Council and the big hotel developers know what you think of their ludicrous tactics. Keep hotel development small and preserve our unique small-town character.

Will Shonbrun

Boyes Hot Springs

  • Chris Scott

    Mr Shonbrun;

    I thought the Measure B proponents were studiously about civility, reasonable debate of the issues and respect for the opposition and their viewpoints?

    It’s interesting Measure B proponent’s, your words have changed quite a bit over the course of the campaign. The 80% message has all but disappeared from proponent’s talking points. The claim of “…(80%) a difficult but reasonable threshold” collapsed under the weight of city’s actual historical hotel data and analysis showing it to be unreasonable and virtually unachievable.

    Another talking point fading away, “only less than 25 room hotels allowed.” The argument 25 room hotels are good and 26 room hotels are bad, evil and will irreparably harm Sonoma’s character is less and less a plausible. Everyone knows we have a number of hotels that are between 25-30 rooms, three recently expanding to that range with no harm to Sonoma

    Last, that bright red herring you keep dredging up about democracy and citizen’s voices. You think democracy happens once by citizen’s right to voting once on Measure B which covers all future hotel development in Sonoma.

    We believe democracy in Sonoma means citizens having the right and opportunity to voice our opinions and be heard on each hotel or any proposed development in Sonoma judging each on its own merits. The process has been the same since the founding of Sonoma. It has worked, it continues to work and there is no reason to change it.

    Measure B takes away Sonoma’s citizen’s democracy; our citizen rights to voice our opinions on each individual future hotel or any development project based on its individual merits.

    Keep democracy in Sonoma.
    No ban on Hotels in Sonoma.
    Vote No on Measure B.

    Chris Scott

    • bob edwards

      Those opposed to Measure B do themselves no favor by promulgating lies and distortions about it in a what is increasingly a desperate attempt to defeat it. As Mr. Shonbrun has noted, their flyers and yard-signs have become truly bizarre.

      The truth is that when Measure B passes, ordinary citizens will continue to have a voice in ANY and EVERY new hotel project that comes before the Planning Commission or City Council, just as they do now. 

That will be true when any hotel of 25 rooms or less is proposed.

      And if the annual occupancy
rate of existing hotels hits 80% (as it has in a number
      of California towns and cities, including Yountville in 1999) and a big hotel
      of 25 rooms or more is proposed, ordinary citizens will have the same voice
      they have now.



      Of course, in the face of large development of any kind, the effectiveness of their “voice” under the existing process is often illusory. For example, residents are now limited to only three (3) minutes of oral presentation before the Planning Commission and the City Council; of course they can write letters which may/may not get read. 

Compare that tiny “voice” with the hundreds if not thousands of hours of planning, proposals, presentations, studies and lobbying by friends, allies & hangers-on that multi-millionaire
      hotel development consortiums — and their well-paid staffs of architects,
      accountants, lawyers, engineers, urban planners and lobbyists — are able to
      “voice” to the same Planning Commission
and City Council members, often before
      a single ordinary resident even knows there 
is anything to talk about. And
      there is NO ‘3-minute’ restriction on what 
they have to say.

      

Consider also that our Planning Commissioners and City Council members are – with few exceptions – also ‘ordinary citizens’ with no more professional development
      expertise in such complex matters as the rest of us. Particularly in large
      development projects with potentially wide-ranging impacts on Sonoma’s quality
      of life, they are often no match for the self-serving ‘expertise’ and influence
      that large developers can bring to bear.

      
“The existing process” needs periodic re-drafting & direction from the voters – by amending the General Plan — to guide public officials in making the
 important decisions they must make.

      Their job is not easy. When it comes to large hotels, our City Planner agrees that Measure B gives them that guidance in terms that are clear
      and be easy to apply to every application to build a hotel in Sonoma.

      

In development matters that threaten to change the very character of our
      town, ALL ordinary residents are entitled to decide the limits and
      character of development in order to preserve the town we love. “Yes on B” is
      the only sure way to preserve Sonoma against the overwhelming pressure of
      hotel developers, which are threatening Sonoma, Healdsburg and other wine
      country towns as well. Letting the “existing process” work is to leave
      Sonoma’s Quality of Life spread wide open to a Midas-like lust for commercial
      growth and money.

      

As has been said before, those who think ‘the existing process’ is protecting Sonoma from the tsunami of tasting rooms, traffic, loss of open space, noise from entertainment venues, commercial ‘re-use’ of historic sites, off-book vacation rentals, invasive formula stores, howling dust-storms from swarms of leaf-blowers, etc. — probably think
      it will protect us from powerful multi-millionaire hotel developers/investors who regard Sonoma as just another wine-country ATM to be tapped for more cash.

  • Chris Scott

    BE: Those opposed to Measure B do themselves no favor by promulgating lies and distortions about it in a what is increasingly a desperate attempt to defeat it. As Mr. Shonbrun has noted, their flyers and yard-signs have become truly bizarre.

    ……… It is just plain bad manners to call people names.

    BE: The truth is that when Measure B passes, ordinary citizens will continue to have a voice in ANY and EVERY new hotel project that comes before the Planning Commission or City Council, just as they do now. That will be true when any hotel of 25 rooms or less is proposed.

    ……. Measure B will take away citizen’s right to have a voice in hotels larger than 25 rooms. A fact you readily admit; “…will continue to have a voice – that will be true of 25 rooms or less.” You thereby admit citizens will have no voice for larger than 25 rooms hotels. Why would we want to pass Measure B since it takes away our rights.

    BE: And if the annual occupancy rate of existing hotels hits 80% (as it has in a number of California towns and cities, including Yountville in 1999) and a big hotel of 25 rooms or more is proposed, ordinary citizens will have the same voice they have now.

    Achieving 80% ? disproven by the city’s lengthy historical data presented in the city’s Impact Report. As Bill Blum noted hotels would have to remain full year round to achieve annual occupancy of 80%. Year round full occupancy will only occur if you, Measure B, change the earth’s rotation on its axis as well as mammalian behavior in general. Neither of which is part of Measure B, although it might be one of the many subtexts we’ve been entertained by the last months.

    ….. Yountville? The town Measure B loves to hate, except when it suits their purpose. Ok, 1999 80% occupancy in Yountville – everyone knows that as the millennium approached and people got all emotional they “Partied Like It’s 1999” afraid the world was going to end and there would never be a good vintage ever again so they filled up hotels rooms. The same will occur in 2999 on the eve of another millennium, and possibly in Sonoma too. (A little known fact about that partying, all the rooms were left 80% full of wine bottles.)

    …..The Measure B Impact Study? Well it listed a number of cities that reached 80%+ showing that Sonoma could be just like those cities achieving 80% occupancy; New York, SF, Miami, Las Vegas, Boston, LAX Area (a city named LAX Area?), Atlantic City, among others. So Measure B wants Sonoma to become just like New York or Las Vegas so it can reach 80% thus proving 80% in Sonoma is a distinct possibility? What happened to small town?

    ….. One of those cities Measure B listed achieving 80% occupancy is really quite interesting, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Did you know, according to the 2010 census there were exactly eleven (11) residents in Lake Buena Vista? Do you know what else; Lake Buena Vista is the town in which Disney World is located? It’s in the greater Orlando, Florida area. Orlando is the Theme Park capital of the World, more in Orlando than any other place on the planet.

    BE: Of course, in the face of large development of any kind, the effectiveness of their “voice” under the existing process is often illusory.

    Here’s the thing about democracy, it’s terribly messy. We like it that way. We like those “illusions” as you call them. You see, that’s your view, which you are entitled to. But Measure B takes away our citizen’s right to decide what something is or is not for ourselves, at the time a question or project comes up, on its merits. Measure B is preemptive democracy, AKA no democracy. You must understand, illusion is in the eye of the beholder.

    BE: …residents are now limited to only three (3) minutes of oral presentation before the Planning Commission and the City Council.

    ….. That is a bit of misrepresentation. Additional time is made available if prior request has been made to the council or planning meeting. I have been to council meeting as far back as 2000 where this was the practice. Mr Barnett was mayor at the time. You and Mr Barnett raised this objection at the council’s Impact Study review meeting and were informed prior request was needed.

    BE: “…compare that tiny “voice” with the hundreds if not thousands of hours of planning, proposals, presentations, studies and lobbying by friends, allies & hangers-on that multi-millionaire hotel development consortiums — and their well-paid staffs of architects, accountants, lawyers, engineers, urban planners and lobbyists…”

    …….. You feel victimized by all those ‘forces’. I get that. I don’t consider myself a victim. I don’t think the vast majority of Sonoma’s citizens feel themselves victims as hard as you, Mr Barnett and your campaign try to convince us. As far as lacking a voice, what about your voice on Dog matters in Sonoma? You’ve had countless voices occasions per the meeting minutes from 2006. You extol the virtues of the Ledson Hotel, yet it was a product of the every process Measure B would dismantle. Oh, that’s right – the current process is good for less than 25 rooms but is a complete failure for 26 rooms. I know the song, “One is the Loneliest Number.” But Measure B’s one more hotel room, number 26, means the downfall of Sonoma? It just escapes sense making that one hotel room could damage Sonoma the way you want us to believe.

    BE: Consider also that our Planning Commissioners and City Council members are – with few exceptions – also ‘ordinary citizens’ with no more professional development expertise in such complex matters as the rest of us. Particularly in large development projects with potentially wide-ranging impacts on Sonoma’s quality of life, they are often no match for the self-serving ‘expertise’ and influence that large developers can bring to bear.

    …… How and why you and your fellow Measure B folks walk into these buzz saws tearing you and all your Measure B thinking and arguments to shreds is mystifying. This statement is astonishing and utterly jaw dropping coming from you, Mr Barnett and Preserving Sonoma’s comments over these last months. Now we have arrived here – a simple expression of contempt and disdain for ordinary citizens, “…’ordinary citizens’ with no more professional development expertise in such complex matters as the rest of us.” How possibly do you or would you know what expertise the ‘ordinary citizens have or do not have?

    …… First, possibly in the future you might consider limiting yourself to speaking about yourself alone and thereby not expose magnitude of your lack of knowledge about ordinary citizens.

    ….. Second, the message is clear for Measure B as drafted and Preserving Sonoma, you lack all the same knowledge, expertise and experience for drafting an initiative on development projects.

    ….. Third, let’s look at the case of those portraying expertise; Preserving Sonoma Committee and the drafting of Measure B. Mr Barnett a three term council member, two as mayor and 10+ years owner experience as a hotelier, and yourself a lawyer, to name but two of the committee. How is it the initiative was crafted with parameters that could so easily and conclusively be refuted, 80% average annual occupancy, by the city’s very own statistics. M. Barnett lived and breathed the occupancy data for the whole city while 12 years on the council and as a hotelier. Did the subject of the city’s actual occupancy data never come up? Did you not ever question the 80% claim or assertion? Did the $35,000 SF Legal team, paid to draft the initiative, never ask about the parameters in the initiative and whether they could withstand scrutiny?

    ….. The same questions confront the claims and arguments involving TOT vis-à-vis the specific parameters of the 1954 TOT state law. The TOT law applies exclusively to ‘transient occupants’. Yet Mr Barnett suggests applying the TOT tax to vending machine candy and notions, spa treatments, etc.? It is incredulous to think one could have administered the TOT law as a council member and paid the taxe as a hotelier to propose such a idea. It would take a change to the state law to permit this, a statewide initiative or enactment by the state legislature and possibly a 2/3’s vote depending on the added tax is classified

    ….. Last, Mr Barnett and Preserving Sonoma propose as a means of increasing TOT creating the Sonoma TOT Police, ‘ordinary citizens’ become the vacation rental agents spying on neighbors turning them into the TOT police? This is the professional expertise and applied knowledge you champion as superior to ‘ordinary citizens’? The questions that arise from just this brief review provoke a “what were they thinking” moment.

    ….. You and I attended rather different civics classes. I learned, in the United States democracy is founded on the principles of all men are equal and our government is wholly dependent on the participation by ordinary citizens in determining their own destiny.

    ….. Imagine if you will for a moment, all the ordinary citizens of Sonoma in front of you, Mr Barnett, and the Preserving Sonoma Committee, please tell us, which ordinary citizens do and or do not have expertise in the areas of development, medicine, law, humanitarian causes, dogs or whatever category you choose? Who among them p are a threat to Sonoma? Who is a moneyed interest vulture waiting to suck the life out of Sonoma? Who will build the next Ledson Hotel? You nor I nor anyone has any way of knowing. Or knowing if any or what any future proposed development might be. Which begs the question, why Measure B? The only answer, Measure B proponents do not have faith in nor trust the ordinary citizens of Sonoma to act in their own best interests and the best interests of Sonoma. Measure B is a decidedly and unfortunately negative viewpoint of Sonoma and it’s ordinary citizens.

    BE: As to the rest of your comment concerning threats to Sonoma. There being only one way to ‘preserve’ Sonoma “Letting the “existing process” work is to leave Sonoma’s Quality of Life spread wide open to a Midas-like lust for commercial growth and money.”

    BE: As has been said before, those who think ‘the existing process’ is protecting Sonoma from the tsunami of tasting rooms, traffic, loss of open space, noise from entertainment venues, commercial ‘re-use’ of historic sites, off-book vacation rentals, invasive formula stores, howling dust-storms from swarms of leaf-blowers, etc. — probably think it will protect us from powerful multi-millionaire hotel developers/investors who regard Sonoma as just another wine-country ATM to be tapped for more cash.

    ….. For all the fear and divisiveness you, Mr Barnett and Measure B proponents have tried to stir up the last months, the evidence is very clear, Sonoma has not had a developer or development problem for more than ten years and there is not one currently. A fact Mr Barnett himself has acknowledged in print and at the Measure B Citizen’s Forum. Measure B is a solution in search of a problem where none exists.

    ….. There are four very obvious conclusions to this too long rebuttal;

    1. Sonoma’s government and planning processes have work successfully for more than the last ten years, and in fact since Sonoma was founded.

    2. Measure B takes away Sonoma’s citizen’s rights to have a voice in determining our own future and having a say on each and every individual proposed development project bases on the project’s content, context and the times.

    3. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it !

    4. Vote NO on Measure B. Do Not BAN Hotels in Sonoma. It’s just too extreme.