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FIGHTING EMINENT DOMAIN

Posted by xaviervir on October 13, 2010

The following article appeared in the West County Times:

Foe of eminent domain takes on San Pablo incumbents

By Tom Lochner
Contra Costa Times

http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_16294286?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com

10/11/2010

In May, a vocal group of residents, urged on by the national libertarian group Institute for Justice, packed a San Pablo City Council meeting, threatening to vote out or even recall council members if they reinstate the Redevelopment Agency’s lapsed power of eminent domain.

The group included Annabel Peterson, who hopes to unseat one of two incumbents seeking re-election Nov. 2, Mayor Genoveva Garcia Calloway and Vice Mayor Paul Morris; the three candidates are competing for two council seats.

Peterson and her group feared that reinstating eminent domain authority would empower officials to kick residents out of their homes and turn their properties over to developers, notwithstanding a state law that bars agencies from seizing property by eminent domain to turn it over to private entities for development.

Calloway and Morris had argued at several prior council meetings that the agency needs eminent domain authority to assemble sites for development to benefit all residents.

But on May 3, the council caved in, voting 4-0 to abandon the effort, with Councilman Arturo Cruz abstaining.

Today, the eminent domain issue is dormant, although the council could try again as long as the redevelopment plan is in effect. Recent council meetings have reverted to what they used to be before the frenzy over eminent domain: untelevised, un-Webstreamed affairs witnessed by just a handful of people every two weeks.

City officials have announced a campaign of “civic engagement” that is supposed to inform residents about redevelopment and more generally involve them in local government. Today San Pablo is the only one among the five West County cities that does not broadcast council meetings on cable TV or post meeting videos on its website.

Hercules, Pinole and Richmond have had televised candidate forums; San Pablo has not.

Peterson, who is running as a champion of homeowner interests, blew a chance to get her message on the air when she declined an invitation to a planned televised candidates round-table in late August at the Contra Costa Television studios in Martinez, saying she did not have enough time to prepare. Morris, who recently had hip replacement surgery, declined as well because a doctor’s appointment conflicted with the time of the taping. With Calloway the only prospective participant, the studio canceled the forum.

Last week Peterson and Calloway each got a 10-minute slot to make their case for election at “Rock the Vote,” a forum for candidates in several West County races sponsored by the Contra Costa College Associated Students Union; Morris did not attend.

Calloway, a councilwoman since 2002 backed by the Contra Costa County Democratic Party, cited redevelopment projects completed or begun during her tenure, including the Abella Paseo homes, Giant Road Apartments, Pulte homes and El Paseo Family Apartments; Walgreens; Auto Zone; Helms Community Center; and a county health clinic to be built at the former Circle S Mobile Home Park. Calloway also mentioned youth, health and education projects and the civic engagement campaign and said San Pablo must think regionally and partner with local agencies, such as the school and college districts.

Peterson portrayed city government as isolated from its residents, and sometimes directed against them; she accused the code enforcement division of harassing some residents while ignoring legitimate complaints raised by others. She said the city, ignoring pleas from residents, created a security problem in planning public trails behind homes along Davis Park; called for a moratorium on the construction of new apartments; and criticized a planned international student housing complex as a subsidy to wealthy foreign students to the detriment of needy local ones. She said officials lack a “plan for survival” in the event a planned Las Vegas-style Indian casino is built in Richmond — San Pablo’s Lytton Casino has electronic Bingo machines that are less popular than Las Vegas slots. The Lytton Casino provided about $12 million, or about two-thirds of San Pablo’s general fund last fiscal year.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760.

VOTE FOR: ANNABEL PETERSON  AND XAVIER VIRAMONTES (write-in candidate) – San Pablo City Council

VOTE FOR : SHELBY CHAPEL  (write-in candidate)  for City Treasurer

SAN PABLO NEEDS A CHANGE AT CITY HALL!

__________________________

 

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