Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"Forum on Hawkins deal brings questions, answers"

Let me sum up last night's Moscow Com, er, Civic Association forum on the Hawkins development.

Moscow will receive $170,000 a year for selling Hawkins the same water Hawkins could have been pumping themselves, versus nothing.

Leftists still view national chain retail as some sort of capitalistic murder-suicide plot versus an investment.

And Gerard Connelly is still against any retail development in Pullman.

Now, can everyone please shut up? It's a done deal.

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
MOSCOW - Secrecy in government and a hurried business deal became fodder here Tuesday night for a bevy of questions and answers, some lengthy explanations and at least one concession.

"Has the council learned a lesson? Absolutely," Councilor Wayne Krauss said during a public forum about the city's recent closed-door deal with Hawkins Companies developers. "Should there be more public process? Absolutely. I agree with that."

The city council voted 5-1 last month to provide water and sewer service across the state line to Hawkins' proposed 714,000-square-foot shopping center. The action came after 22 hours of secret mediation and no public input.

"We got bad results from a process that was dubious at best," said Dennis Baird, owner of the Wine Company of Moscow.

Krauss and Baird were joined on a panel by Councilor Tom Lamar and Tri-State business owner Gerard Connelly. The forum, attended by about 100 people at the 1912 Center, was co-sponsored by the Moscow Civic Association, the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, and the Palouse Water Conservation Network.

Lamar, the only council member who voted against the agreement, said while the city council was on firm legal ground, "morally I feel like we should have done a lot of things differently."

Connelly defended the intentions of all elected officials. "I believe that every single person on the old council and the new council, and the mayor, acted honorably. And don't question anybody's motives."

But he said retail development is not economic development. "Retail follows economic development," Connelly said, adding he couldn't think of a more important vote taken by a Moscow City Council than the rushed decision with Hawkins. And yet there was "woefully inadequate public comment."

Krauss pointed out the lack of public involvement and secrecy started when Mayor Nancy Chaney and members of the old city council went into executive session last year and apparently came to a consensus to appeal Hawkins Companies attempts to secure water rights for the development. Then the city, without public input, decided to enter into mediation, Krauss said.

"We suddenly found out, guess what, we're going to mediation next week," Krauss said of how the process was sprung on new council members. He, Chaney and Councilor Walter Steed attended the mediation session with Hawkins in Spokane. All had to sign a confidentiality agreement.

"We felt that the Hawkins development, it was coming no matter what Moscow did," Krauss said. If the city didn't supply sewer and water, Hawkins would drill its own well and sewer system. "So the next best thing was hammer out the best deal we can."

Krauss estimated Hawkins will pay the city upward of $170,000 annually for water and sewer service on top of thousands more for hookup fees.

Most of the written questions at the forum focused on details of the water and sewer deal, rather than the secrecy of the decision making.

Baird expressed his doubts about the development, saying local businesses will lose out. "And then the place will close ..., and the whole community will be stuck with less business and less tax revenue than we have right now. That's the scenario that I'm really afraid of, that the mall will succeed just long enough to sink a whole lot of ships in Moscow and Pullman ... and then fail."

Connelly predicted the shopping center would amount to the latest exercise in "economic displacement," not growth. Nonetheless, if the development is inevitable, he'd rather have it right next to Moscow than farther away. "The closer you can be to your competition, the better."

Concerns about the development using too much water, Krauss said, should be less under the proposed agreement because Moscow will be able to regulate the amount. He also said people who fear excessive water use by Hawkins need to be more concerned about residential developments that go in with little or no discussion about their drain on groundwater supply.


Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

It never ceases to amaze me how tenaciously some people cling to the notion of zero-sum economics.

Scotty said...

No mentions of the sales leakage? It is like we are in a vacuum and no one leaves the area to buy anything. Therefore, new business will sink old business.

April E. Coggins said...

Also no acknowledgment of the growth at Schweitzer and WSU. But as Tom has pointed out, the deal is done. All the moaning and wailing at this point isn't going to accomplish anything other than to further alienate Whitman county.