Tonight the Calimesa City Council meeting room was standing room only. The issue of the night was, of course, the Gateway Warehouse. I want to thank City Councilwoman Joyce McIntire for encouraging the council to have a discussion item about the Shopoff project added to the night's agenda. In the end the council unanimously decided to give the We'll Find A Way Gateway committee a chance. They are comfortable allowing Superintendent Marion Ashley to run out the clock and delay the decision until after the election. This is why Ashley established his committee, to give the elected officials cover from having to take a position. It was disappointing to watch the council listen to the concerns of their citizens and then fall in line with Ashley's plan.
The show began with a presentation by McIntire in which she told the crowd she had a meeting with The Shopoff Group and another meeting with myself and the leaders of the No Way Gateway group, Nancy Carroll and Steve Mehlman. She spoke highly of the Shopoff group and presented a number of their concerns as facts. She told of their visit to the 2,000 acres of warehouses in Redlands and marveled how clean and nice it was and was pleased that she didn't see any trucks. She told us the warehouse would be low to the ground surrounded by berms and out of sight. She said the trucks would be regulated and not high polluting. She assured the citizens that trucks wouldn’t be allowed to idle more than five minutes and that they, the city, would be able to do things to keep them off Calimesa's roads.
When she spoke of our hour long meeting, all she could say was that we had many really good concerns but she failed to mention any specifics. She said she found it interesting that Beaumont was eager to sign a resolution against Gateway while working on developing three of their own warehouses in the city. She claimed that there were many rumors going around and implied that the data No Way Gateway provided her was questionable. As Nancy Carroll later pointed out, all of No Way Gateway's info is posted for all to see and question on their website however Ms. McIntire wasn't sharing any of the specific details she received from Shopoff. It was clear early on how this was headed. Ms. McIntire brought up the Beaumont warehouses again and said with some incredulity that they (she was quoting me) "wanted to stop all of them." As if that's a bad thing.
After McIntire was finished, the public comment session followed. A number of Calimesa citizens made passionate statements telling the Council that on no uncertain terms did they want this project in their backyard. I wasn't planning on speaking and I know neither was Nancy but after we heard McIntire's spin on our meeting, and belittle our position since it was coming from Beaumont, we felt we had to speak up. We believe that since McIntire obtained her facts from Shopoff, on behalf of her constituents, she is duty bound to make her information available to the public, as we have.
In the end, Councilman Hyatt (up for re-election), used his position on Ashley's committee as justification not to speak. Councilman Hewett (also up for re-election) said no one was going to make him do anything now, he was going to wait for the committee. McIntire and Councilwoman Zanowic also argued for Ashley's committee. Mayor Davis appeared to show sympathy to our cause but stopped short of calling for a resolution. As predicted, Ashley's political ploy is providing cover.
Really, how hard is it to listen to your citizens and decide a project is not wanted and then regardless of the developer's ability to mitigate the negative issues come out opposed to the zone change Ashley is pushing for Shopoff? They keep telling us they have no authority and what they do will have no effect. If they believe this, then why not listen to the people who elected them to work for them and take a position?
After the meeting, it was pointed out to me that Calimesa's City Council made Beaumont's look good. The irony was that it appeared Calimesa's Council was an opposition just because Bad Ole Beaumont passed their resolution and no one was going to tell them what or when they had to do something. They will wait until October, probably sometime in 2015 (according to Ashley) and then do what's right. Meanwhile the committee evaluates and the bureaucracy moves right along.
There was some good news tonight. The Beaumont Unified School Board has a study item on their agenda for tomorrow night. The meeting starts at 6 PM.