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Measure B bogeyman


It’s hard to believe that, after all the thousands of words written and published, after all the meetings, forums, formal presentations and casual conversations, after all the rhetoric, ranting, the recriminations and retorts, that there’s anything more to say, anyone left who hasn’t said it and anyone who hasn’t already made up their mind about Measure B.

But apparently that’s not quite true. Whether or not all minds have been made up, there appears to be a final paroxysm of hotel passion, for and against B. Witness the last-minute letters and opinion pieces submitted for this edition of the Index-Tribune.

Wading through all the words we’ve read and written, we’re led to the conclusion that, for whatever it’s worth, there remain a few points that, from our perspective, need to be reiterated, all having something to do with the subject of bogeymen.

Many of us have a bogeyman tucked in our childhood closets, a spectral presence that Merriam Webster defines as, “an imaginary monster that is used to frighten children.” But children are not the only targets of the bogeyman, as Sen. Joseph McCarthy proved during the communist witch-hunts of the 1950s. The bogeyman, it seems, is also haunting the Measure B debate in the guise of an unfounded fear, whipped into inflammatory rhetoric, that Sonoma is on the verge of a frontal attack from demonic developers, driven by greed and the desire to dump a giant hotel on every empty lot. The nadir in this wave of fear-mongering is the deliberately fabricated rumor given life by an irresponsible, spotlight-hungry blogger who has repeatedly and publicly claimed – with no substantiating evidence – that the Bank of America is planning to close its Plaza branch and sell the land to a developer who will then erect a three-story hotel.

City officials have heard nothing formally or informally about such a plan, and according to the bank’s senior vice-president for corporate communications, in response to a question from this newspaper, “We have no plans to close the banking center in Sonoma or to sell the property.”

Those assurances may not satisfy the lunatic fringe, but they should assuage the latent paranoia of anyone with a rational mind.

But the Bank of America rumor is a transparent red herring. The more troublesome bogeyman is the widely-expressed opinion, revealed in various online and in-print formats, that the interests behind the proposed West Napa Street Hotel are voracious, rapacious developers more interested in profit than public opinion. That’s a comically absurd assumption when you review the names of those involved. Beyond Darius and Sarah Anderson (for whom those caricatures are a bad fit if you actually know them) there are esteemed architect Michael Ross, plein air artist Keith Wicks, Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown, planning commissioner Gary Edwards, Parks Commissioner Karen Collins, former alcaldessa Kathy Mazza, restaurateur Sondra Bernstein and the list goes on and on.

In four days, the campaign will be over, the rhetoric will cool, but memories of what has been said will linger. We hope the bogeyman can be put back in the closet, or at least under the bed.

We also hope that, whoever wins, and since Measure B really won’t solve any of Sonoma’s problems, both sides can come together in the aftermath and plan a real strategy for preserving the town we all love.