Imagine our fair city seven months in the future. It is a Tuesday morning in September. A heat wave has encompassed the Bay Area. Grasses are burnt brown. Leaves are green. The community swimming pool is empty. An exhausted staff occupies city hall preparing for another epic city council meeting scheduled for the evening. It is just another quiet sunny summer day in Hercules.
Sycamore North had been sold a few months earlier for a $25 million loss. It was the best result the city could have hoped for. The sale prevented further losses–stopped the bleeding, so to speak–and helped save the Intermodal Transit Center project, which has been put off for another year as the city searches high and low for additional funding.
The Cultural Festival and 4th of July celebration were cancelled earlier in the year in a last-ditch effort to trim the budget. There are now only two patrol units on the midnight shift.
The city moved forward with plans for an urban Safeway at Sycamore Crossing, effectively killing three birds with one stone–the need for an updated grocery store, the sale of city-owned property (which had grown to a portfolio of more than $50 million), and the conversion of vacant land into tax revenue and tax increment. Safeway is already on schedule for a planning commission review in November.
Parcel C, better known as the former Walmart property, was rezoned and sold to a developer interested in expanding the North Shore business park, recouping redevelopment agency losses and expanding job opportunities in the city. Planning review is months off, but the mountain of soil that had occupied the site has been sold and hauled off.
A developer agreement was finalized with AndersonPacific for the waterfront project, Hercules Bayfront, in June. The agreement included the transfer of property necessary for the Intermodal Transit Center. The timing couldn't have been more nerve-wracking; the governor's plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies was approved. Construction of retail buildings along Bayfront Avenue is scheduled to begin the following spring.
The New Town Center project has been put on hold indefinitely, following staff's recommendation that the current plan is an impossibility in the market. The city is mired in a lawsuit with the previous developer, Red Barn, who had re-branded themselves Yellow Shack to avoid the feeding frenzy of negative press.
The City of Hercules had decided to recommit with the City of Pinole for an upgraded joint wastewater treatment facility. A sale of Hercules Municipal Utility to PG&E is underway. The plan to annex 77 acres is abandoned.
Although this alternate reality is entirely fictional–and imperfect–it can be accomplished, or something resembling it. And considering the hard work and difficult decisions required, the people that come to my mind that are capable of making it possible are the likes of Charlie Long, John Delgado and Myrna de Vera–and, of course, unnamed dutiful staff.
I do not think of Don Kuehne and Joanne Ward, the councilmembers that face recall due to indefensible records that led to nepotism and corruption at city hall, and a nearly incomprehensible pending financial disaster that may reverberate for years.
Residents will ask themselves if the city will be better off in two years with or without Kuehne and Ward on the city council as they ponder recall, and whether or not residents can afford to take that risk.
Kuehne and Ward have not offered their vision–not how to survive the recall effort, but their vision for the city and the residents they were elected to represent.
Vision drives emotion and progress, a hope for a better future no matter how good things may seem at present. The vision for Hercules is grand. It is a vision I remain proud of and a vision I hope is realized. It is a vision that requires strong leadership, and that, for me, is the heart of the recall.
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