Saturday, July 31, 2010

No conflict of interest! Oh, oops.

The Saltworks folks posted an article saying Rosanne Foust, SAMCEDA interim CEO and Redwood City Council member, had no conflict of interest in pushing forward Cargill's plan to destroy, uh, I mean develop the baylands by putting 8000–12000 homes out there. The Redwood City gov't page also has the article.

But now I see this story in the Mercury News (someone says it was copied from the Daily Post -- which isn't online -- but I haven't confirmed this) which says (excerpted here for fair use -- btw stories disappear from their site after a while):

Foust won't participate in future Saltworks decisions

By Bonnie Eslinger

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 07/30/2010 08:23:23 PM PDT
Updated: 07/31/2010 12:39:20 AM PDT

Redwood City Council Member Rosanne Foust said Friday she would abstain from voting on any further matters related to Cargill's controversial Saltworks project, after being rebuked by a state political ethics agency for having done so despite having a conflict of interest.

In a letter to the editor, Foust wrote that she was "disappointed" in the California Fair Political Practices Commission's ruling but would accept it.

"Henceforth I will abstain from voting on issues related to the Saltworks Project," Foust wrote, adding in a subsequent e-mail to The Daily News that she would also recuse herself from discussions about Saltworks.
Well that's good. I've heard a lot of concern because council members make money from real estate development. (Being on the city council isn't a full-time job, so most people can't give up their day jobs, divest from any real estate or equity holdings, etc., when they join the council.) I'm therefore quite relieved to hear Ms. Foust won't be voting on any future issues regarding the saltworks. More from Bay Area Citizen here and here.

8,000–12,000 new homes.... The plus side is: such a development would alleviate our housing shortage. And job shortage too. So why do I hate this project? Let me count the ways:

  1. Increased traffic.
    Transit-oriented? Gimme a break! This is near no trains or public-transit corridors. Let's develop the areas near downtown, where SamTrans and Caltrain already run. Don't tell me you're gonna run SamTrans buses into this new development -- they're cutting service, not adding routes!
  2. Water.
    I mean the water level in the Bay (how much will it rise in the next half-century?) as well as water consumption on these homes and whatever else these guys want to put out there. Yeah, they say they have someone in the central valley with rights to however much water... but are they gonna haul the water from there to here? For the next half-century? C'mon, guys, we know the plan is to have a short-term kluge and then stick my grandchildren with the ongoing costs. Look, I have enough other things I'm gonna stick them with; I don't need you to add more!

    And how about that rising water level in the bay? One word for you guys: Pacifica.

  3. Environment.
    Jeff Ira likes to say he doesn't care what 125 other bay area politicians think, and I'm sure he doesn't care what environmental nazis think either. The trouble with that approach is that others aren't always 100% wrong. What if the ecology of the bay, which does affect all of us who live here (even registered Republicans), really will be damaged by this development? What if 50-100 years from now, people marvel at how stupid we were for allowing this idiotic development to wreak its damage to our bay? (The same argument applies to the water and traffic issues too.)

But back to the conflict of interest. Suppose I were the interim CEO of a railroad (work with me here, please) and also on the city council. Suppose that my company's board (not me personally) wanted the city to approve a zoning change to allow the company to build more tracks, run more trains, carry different materials on the right-of-way, etc., and in spite of opposition from citizen and environmental groups and 125 Bay Area politicians I voted to move the process forward... I don't get how that would not be a conflict of interest.

What am I missing here?

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