Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, June 13, 2008

Send PARD The Bill

It’s time to drive the victory home. With the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development still threatening to obstruct the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, both Wal-Mart and Pullman should step on their opponents’ throat and put an end to PARD and its meddling. In its effort to prevent the construction of a Wal-Mart in Pullman, PARD has lost city council elections and every legal appeal it has filed and has just about reached the end of the legal road. It’s time they paid the toll.

Just over a week ago, the State of Washington Division III Court of Appeals denied PARD’s latest effort to prevent the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. In its decision the court wrote: “There is no evidence in the record that the proposed Wal-Mart is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the physical environment in downtown Pullman. The fact that some identified local businesses will compete with Wal-Mart does not support a conclusion of economic blight.”
If the court ruled on PARD’s complaint that building a Wal-Mart would attract “undesirable social elements” to Pullman, I did not read about it in any news reports. From my standpoint, Washington State University attracts enough undesirable social elements in the form of far left leaning faculty, such as those who formed PARD, but I wouldn’t oppose WSU’s expansion on those grounds.
The only legal option still left open to PARD is an appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court. The clock is ticking as PARD only has 30 days to file their appeal. Wal-Mart expressed confidence that the Court of Appeals ruling left no room for an appeal, but Wal-Mart and Pullman could preempt the possibility of yet another frivolous appeal without having to wait 30 days, by pursuing recovery of legal fees from PARD.
According to Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jennifer Holder, the company is entitled to recover legal fees incurred during its nearly 4-year battle with PARD. If that’s true, then it makes sense to this legal layman that the City of Pullman could do so as well. At the last accounting I am aware of, back in 2006, Pullman had spent $20,000 fighting PARD’s appeals. That number has certainly gone far higher. And I would imagine that Wal-Mart has spent considerably more than Pullman. Presenting PARD with the bill would probably go a long way toward discouraging any further gratuitous trouble-making.
Considering that PARD’s members have so far managed to have their fun with little cost to themselves, taking a generous slice out of PARD’s hide would probably cool their enthusiasm for any further obstructionism. Wal-Mart is a savvy corporation that knows how the media would portray such a strategy. I can see it now: Here’s Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer turning its limitless resources against a small group of idealists who were only trying to protect their town’s identity. But, if the City of Pullman led the way, then Wal-Mart could simply piggyback its claims against PARD with Pullman’s. In fact, a strong case could be made that failing to recover its costs from PARD would constitute fiscal negligence on the city’s part.
PARD has not only forced Pullman and Wal-Mart to incur legal expenses, but its nearly 4 years of obstruction has cost Pullman a fortune in revenues that would have started pouring into the city’s coffers more than 2 years ago. In addition, the city has lost a considerable amount of indirect revenue that the increased indirect economic activity would have generated.
Pullman has suffered economically in another way as well. Unlike the sanctimonious snobs who stand in the way of Wal-Mart, most Americans, including those in Pullman care, about the prices they pay. As Mark Twain tried to explain in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” lowering prices is the same as putting more money in people’s pocket. Having a Wal-Mart come to town essentially gives everyone a raise by stretching their dollars.
PARD insists that it is not quitting just yet. And while PARD is still pondering whether or not to waste more taxpayer money on another appeal, PARD chairman T.V. Reed darkly hinted at, “other things, besides legal options.”
What does he have in mind – emulating Rachel Corrie by standing in front of a tractor? Earth First-like eco-sabotage?
Whatever nefarious schemes might be swirling around in the minds of the PARDners, I have little doubt that they would be calmed considerably were they presented with a six figure legal bill.


April E. Coggins said...

Unfortunately, according to RCW 43.21C.075 the most that can be recovered is one thousand dollars.

(9) The court in its discretion may award reasonable attorneys' fees of up to one thousand dollars in the aggregate to the prevailing party, including a governmental agency, on issues arising out of this chapter if the court makes specific findings that the legal position of a party is frivolous and without reasonable basis.

This is a law that needs to be changed. Most, if not all other appeals allow for full recovery of attorney fees. SEPA does not.

Tom Forbes said...

The last published figures of the city's legal costs back in December 2006 stated the figure was $36,300.25.

Satanic Mechanic said...

I can give the city of Pullman and Wal-Mart advice on going after PARD, but I think Conan the Barbarian said it best- "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. "