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Visions of the Future

Councilmembers Don Kuehne and Joanne Ward lack a vision for the city.

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.

Mr.Windemere February 10, 2011 at 07:38 AM
While our professionals move out, who will replace them? Since our homes will be so financially depressed and a great emphasis has been on low income housing, we can expect them to be replaced with low income individuals and the crime and violence that follows them. We saw that temporarily in Baywood when the section-8 people moved in and in the apartments adjacent to Victoria By The Bay. You can expect to observe a change in the city's demographics toward more low income criminals. I know of a person who calls the Sycamore developments of William Lyon Homes and John Laing Homes, "Slum Gulch". He predicts these homes will eventually corrode into slums. Steve Lawton had high expectations for the future of these bay communities, but that was based on the Waterfront District and the ITC being built. The city has grossly failed and has squandered this opportunity. It has lost the financial resources it needs to improve and grow as it planned to. It has lost its leaders needed to follow through with this growth. The dream is over ! Now Hercules will return to becoming just another East Bay town. City services and schools will be in jeopardy and squeezed hard. Home values will remain in the gutter. Highly desirable businesses will leave or locate elsewhere. The quality of the individual demographics will decay over time. This is how I calculate the future of Hercules to be. Because of the above, I am making plans to give my house back to the bank in 2011.
Jeffrey Wisniewski February 10, 2011 at 07:46 AM
Or, we can pitch in and do something about it, and prevent the destruction of our town as you've so gloomily imagined. I have hope.
Susan D.Keeffe February 10, 2011 at 08:49 AM
Mr. Windemere, It is clear now that you speak out of anger and bitterness. Fortunately, it is not as bleak as you say. The problems were there when you purchased - they didn't just happen overnight. The first steps needed to fix problems is to acknowledge they exist. Only then can solutions be sought. You can choose to dig in and work with a positive attitude to make things better, or you can quit and make things worse. Some of us were raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression and WWII. Their stories of fortitude, perserverance, a can-do attitude and a philosophy of never giving up is what made America great. Our country was founded on adversity by those willing to fight for their dreams. For those of us who have lived here for many years who did not move here because we were sold on one idea, this is still a wonderful city filled with good people, located in a great location in one of the most beautiful areas of the world. Things could be a lot worse! We have identified the problems and begun the steps to correct them. Some of those steps involved getting rid of the cronyism, nepotism and conflict of interest situations that scattered the City's focus in all directions while squandering millions. Fortunately, its fixable. But it will take time. Hercules will be what the citizens choose to make it. You can quit and search for utopia somewhere else, or you can dig in and help. What goes down invariably goes back up, but not for those who quit.
Susan D.Keeffe February 10, 2011 at 09:02 AM
Phil, Loved your You Tube references! Especially the Four Horses! Great to have a good sense of humor injected in all those gloom and doom!!!
Dwayne Hoover February 10, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Mr.Windemere Interesting how you view so positively the aspect of the value of having the urban development on the waterfront. To bad that the things Balico told you did not happen. He along with the rest of city hall took their eye off the ball and moved all of the growth effort over to Syc N, Red Barn, and other projects. Had they moved forward on the things they told you about it would be very different now. The recall would not be happening mainly because the disasters that have put us all on the brink would not have happened. So here we are. Apocalypse Now. Captain Ben Willard chasing down and removing Colonel Kurtz. Forcing city hall to take on a new manager. Replacing the city council. Pulling together the resources that are left to fix the problems and free the people from their cult leaders. "The Horror, The Horror"

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