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Measure B bogeyman

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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.

  • umberto smith

    It’s hard to believe you fail to openly debate without conviction. Please attend the emergency forum debate on measure B at Grinstead Theater.

    There will be no amplification. It will be open dialogue with moderators decided at the flip of a coin.

    Citizens from both perspectives will be able to answer unscripted questions. Debate begins at 3:00.

  • Jim Pacheco

    Mr. Bolling, it looks like you did not ask the right question. The plans I saw on the Patch showed that BofA continues to have a branch at that location. So it is obvious that the branch is not closing. So given the response of the of the BofA SVP, “We have no plans to close the banking center in Sonoma or to sell the property.” You should have asked, “Does BofA have plans to tear down the existing branch, and replace it with a smaller branch within a building housing a hotel?”

    Not very good investigative reporting.

    • Chris Scott

      Jim Pacheco • 10 hours ago −
      “Mr. Bolling, it looks like you did not ask the right question. The plans I saw on the Patch showed that BofA continues to have a branch at that location. So it is obvious that the branch is not closing. So given the response of the of the BofA SVP, “We have no plans to close the banking center in Sonoma or to sell the property.” You should have asked, “Does BofA have plans to tear down the existing branch, and replace it with a smaller branch within a building housing a hotel?”

      Not very good investigative reporting”

      Yes, BA is branching out into hotels; keeping it branch in order to branch out. I think you have crawled out on a branch too thin.

      You are the only person to post comments on the I-T web site giving any reference or credence whatsoever to the Patch. I think you are a spy.

      • Jim Pacheco

        From American Banker web site: americanbanker dot com/bankthink/the-branch-is-dead-long-live-the-branch-1060575-1.html

        “New brick-and-mortar branches will be a fraction of the size once required. Banks will also become pretty creative in carving out and repurposing existing larger branches in prime locations that they do not wish to exit, but can no longer fully utilize. Mini-business centers with various professional offices will begin dotting the landscape with banks being the anchor tenant of their own buildings.”

        In Sonoma, there is not much demand for professional offices. What commercial use would you think would be good to have on the Plaza? How about a hotel?

        • Chris Scott

          You found one pundent’s view who’s conclusions conveniently fit your narrative. Tracking the banking segment over the long haul would provide a much better balanced understanding of trends and developments.

          Generally the same analysis and predictions are cyclical and fashionable. It’s like predicting the market’s eminent crash and catastrophe, there is always an audience. It’s them pesky Bears dang nab it.

          ATM’s followed soon by internet banking were each to be the demise of brick and mortar banking. Turns out customers wanted a wide range of services of all types, available all of the time, each easily accessible, in multiple venues and channels.

          One last thing, none of the branch banks in Sonoma are large bank branches. Sonoma has never justified it. It’s part of Sonoma’s small town charm.

    • Chris Scott

      I checked, Dodd-Frank specifically prohibits and bars banks and financial institutions from being or becoming hotels. As I eventually learned it’s because Congress feared they would screw around.

  • Phineas Worthington

    On the topic of your aside, the Venona Papers proved McCarthy correct.