Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"PARD battle hits Pullman in pocketbook"

Congratulations to Ryan Bentley. He's only been covering the Wal-Mart story for a week or so, but he's seen right through the PARD propaganda. This is Ryan's front page story in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The cost to bring a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter to Pullman is stacking up for the city.

Pullman City Supervisor John Sherman and Finance Director Troy Woo said Friday the city has spent $36,300.25 in response to litigation against the proposed super center.

The primary objector to the super center is the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development, which formed in October 2004 and believes the retail giant would endanger the economic foundation of the community and jeopardize the environment and the safety of motorists.

Sherman said the city doesn’t want to inhibit anyone’s rights to appeal its decisions, but the bills are starting to pile up.

“There is a balance of power,” Sherman said. “People have a right to appeal, and the city has to respect that. I don’t think the laws have to be changed.”

In October, Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier dismissed PARD’s appeal against the city of Pullman and Wal-Mart. He found insufficient evidence presented by PARD to overrule a decision that favored Wal-Mart by Hearing Examiner John Montgomery.

PARD announced Monday it will appeal Frazier’s decision to the 3rd Court of Appeals in Spokane.

PARD spokesman TV Reed said earlier this week that a super center would not mesh with the community, and that PARD will fight Wal-Mart and the city all the way to the Washington Supreme Court and beyond if it must.

Throughout the litigation process, PARD has maintained there is not a significant cost to the city as the organization fights the city’s approval of Wal-Mart’s environmental checklist.

Woo and Sherman disagreed, saying there has been a direct cost to Pullman.

Reed said earlier this week that city attorney Laura McAloon is on retainer, which Sherman and Woo confirmed.

The retainer fee — $7,000 a month — covers McAloon’s professional guidance at City Council meetings, and she answers legal questions that arise for elected officials and city staff.

McAloon is paid for 46 hours a month, according to her contract. Any further service, such as litigation, is charged separately.

The city has paid $25,302 toward legal fees related to the proposed super center thus far.

McAloon said if PARD loses its appeal, it will have to pay the city’s attorney fees under the Land Use Petition Act. PARD would not have to pay back the $36,300.25 incurred during the local and Superior Court hearings, but it would have to repay the costs incurred at the appellate court level if its appeal is denied.

Woo said the legal costs have a direct impact on Pullman’s budget. He said the money to pay the attorney fees came from the city’s financial reserves.

Woo said the city budgeted money for projected legal fees in 2006, but not for 2007.

McAloon said, based on her experiences previously, it can take seven months to a year for the appellate court to hear a case.

Woo said if the city must pay before the next budget is finalized, it can make amendments to cover the expense. The money will come out of the reserves.

Sherman said a Wal-Mart Supercenter would benefit the city financially in the form of sales tax from construction and retail sales.
The city won't say it, but I will. The law DOES need to be changed. If not, any group with enough money can hold up ANY project in Pullman indefinitely with NO proof. It's unconstitutional. Wal-Mart is being denied it's equal right to protection under the law. A similar civil law suit against an individual would be dismissed before ever getting this far.

It's time to call PARD's bluff and BUILD IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Paul E. Zimmerman said...

We ought to write up a mock invoice for these expenses, get individuals to sign off on them, and have each and every one delivered the the PARD ring leaders.

If we get every supporter of Walmart to sign off on these, then maybe between the number of people in support of Walmart and seeing the actual amount PARD is costing all of us, some of the wind will be taken out of their sails.

April E. Coggins said...

I heard the oddest rumor yesterday. Something to the effect that if Wal-Mart would reimburse PARD for their legal expenses, PARD would drop their appeal.

Tom Forbes said...

That's funny April. I heard the exact same thing from a highly informed source, only it wasn't presented as a rumor.

I also heard another interesting rumor involving Wal-Mart, but I don't want to say anything until I learn more.

Ray Lindquist said...

Well if Wal-Mart rep's are watching this blog. I would hope that they would start to build. PLEASE DON'T be blackmailed by PARD. You have a right to build. The city has said they will issue permits now so I say give PARD a gift for Christmas and get your building permits and set a ground braking for sometime just after the first of the year, and let the party begin. Our city needs the money, maybe by next year we can have a NEW Super Center in town.

April E. Coggins said...

I'm curious about your opinion. My first reaction was NO! Make PARD pay. It's ironic because if Wal-Mart does reimburse PARD, the money will be used to pay for yet another appeal in some other town.
They are blackmailing Wal-Mart into pay for their effort to shut down Wal-Mart. A very old Jesse Jackson trick.

Tom Forbes said...

Well, I guess it depends on whether Wal-Mart is like the US government and has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists.

Just going ahead and building seems like the best option to me. Call PARD's bluff and make them run to the court and try to stop it. If they can't, as I suspect fork over the big bucks for the appeal bond, let the bulldozers start rolling.

Tom Forbes said...

This is a chess match between Wal-Mart and the unions, with the taxpayers of Pullman serving as pawns.

Both sides will have to carefully weigh out their strategies, consider setting precedents, etc. Its unfortunate that we, the residents of this town, have absolutely no control over what is happening. As I said a long time ago, when the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.