Friday, December 09, 2005

Shaking the Squirrel

Little item yesterday in our local Davis County newspaper, the Clipper, about David Putnam's dogged pursuit of Wal-Mart and Centerville City. The city has been through an agonizing, years-long ordeal on the front lines of the "we hate Wal-Mart" wars. Due to a lot of reasons, some articulated by commenters on this blog in months past, Centerville has had to follow its adopted and legal ordinances and approve the project. Some, most notably Putnam, just can't let it go.

Putnam moved out of Centerville years ago, and now lives in west Weber County. Yet he continues to fight the battle in his former place of residence. When the Centerville City council took action a few weeks ago to give the final final final approvel to the project, Putnam threatened to take the whole issue to court.

Now Putnam says he doesn't have the money to pursue the court battle, but will start a referendem petition to relook the traffic and air quality studies. Even other vigorous battlers of the Wal-Mart project who still live in Centerville have acknowledged the fight is over and have declined to join with him in further action.

What Mr. Putnam doesn't seem to understand (as many citizens don't) is the difference between a legislative act and and administrative one. The recent actions taken by Centerville City have been administrative, which are not subject to referendum.

But more importantly, and the reason why I bring this up on the blog, is that it shows to me the mentality that is becoming more prevelant with those who don't get their way on a land use issue. It used to be, "we're going to take you to court!" But now, the weapon of choice seems to be, "we're going to do a referendum!" It may take some time before citizens learn what is properly referendable -- in the meantime, planners and local government officials, expect some extra work on controversial projects.

The whole situation with Mr. Putnam and Wal-Mart in Centerville reminds me of a great story that Mayor Jerry Stevenson of Layton told at a recent meeting. Jerry was raised on a farm in west Layton and spent a lot of time outdoors in the fields. He said one time he was working outside and had his dog nearby, when the dog spotted a squirrel and took off after it. The squirrel holed itself up where the dog couldn't easily get to it, and when the dog stuck his muzzle in to get at the little fella, the squirrel took a pretty good chunk out of his nose. Well, eventually the dog got ahold of the squirrel and killed it, then went over to lay down by the truck and nurse his sore nose. Jerry said as he watched the dog, every so often he would get up, go over to the dead squirrel, grab it in his muzzle and shake it vigorously, then drop it and go lay back down. Seemed like the old dog was trying to still get in his licks on that darn squirrel who had done him damage, even though it was already dead.

Sometimes, people like Mr. Putnam are like Jerry Stevenson's dog. The issue has been beat around and is dead. We don't like what it did before it died, so we go back and shake that dead squirrel, just to make us feel better.

Time to bury the dead squirrel, Mr. Putnam. Sure, maybe we all don't like Wal-Mart or big boxes, and wish things had turned out differently. But shaking that dead squirrel, in the end, isn't going to do anything but churn up a little dust.


At 5:59 PM, Blogger Former Centerville Citizen said...

Good points Wilf. It's just too bad that we can't go back in time 5 years and take the preventive measures that should have been taken care of then. I always have a lot of "what ifs" in my mind. What if Ron Russell hadn't been edged out by Deamer by 80 votes in 2001? What if there hadn't been all of those NIMBYs from the southwest part of Centerville who were paranoid about high density housing (and who are now ironically upset about Wal-Mart coming)?

But you're right Wilf, it's time to move on. I'm ready to put it behind me. On the bright side, I've learned a helluva lot from getting involved with the Wal-Mart fight, and so I understand the public process better. So now I'm trying to think about what other issues might be in the not-too-distant future so that I can be ready. Centerville City owns 181.59 incorporated acres on the hillside, some of it developable. I figure if the city sold off the old ballpark to a private entity, the city could do just the same with its hillside property. I can just see it now: the city realizes that it could make quite a pretty penny by selling portions of it to the Smoots. And I can see the city staff being in support of it, and a city council not having the spine to say no to it. If any proposal like that ever comes up, mark my word, I'll be fighting it like hell. If the city was in bad financial shape I could see the reason for doing it, but since Centerville is operating in the black, right now there's no justification for it.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Wilf said...

Centerville Citizen:

No question, things could have been quite different for the Wal-Mart site, but in our political system, those are the choices that are made, and people have to live with them. Like Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Is there a move afoot to sell the hillside acreage by city officials? I agree with you, it would be a real tragedy to sell something that has been a public resource for so long, much like the Mountain Park in Kaysville. What wonderful places for people to go and enjoy something in a relatively un spoiled state.

Good luck to you.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Former Centerville Citizen said...

No, there is no talk of selling the property, and I hope there never is, but it's not something I would put past the city.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger ARCritic said...

I don't disagree with you about Mr. Putnam. I would say however, that I am less concerned with private citizens begin the dog than I am about public entities or officials.


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