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Skyline - Houston, Texas

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Once again, all politics is local (updated)

Wal-mart has plans to build a large distribution center on the edge of town. A group of citizens has been fighting it citing congestion, air pollution, noise pollution, plus it's Wal-mart.

The conservative folk here in town disagree. Until today, it's been relatively civil. Both sides have held meetings and written letters.

The arguments, pro and con, are typical. What appeared in today's paper surprised us all.

Disclaimer: Dr. Nancy Goodban, her husband, and Dr. Mostern are my friends. We work together locally as progressives. I have never met Mr. Attabe.

Take a look and afterward check on this story about bloggers selling out to Wal-mart . Thanks to both Delilah Boyd and epm.

Merced Sun-Star today:

Loose Lips: Academic freedom be damned

By David Chircop

Last Updated: March 7, 2006, 10:39:21 AM PST

A political bobcat fight was uncaged last week when a local businessman demanded a top University of California, Merced, official rein in anti-Wal-Mart activists.

An angry e-mail sent by Jim Abbate to John Garamendi, Jr., the university's vice chancellor for university relations, said: " ... there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of some within the local UC system to fight any kind of well-planned strategic economic development."

The e-mail was sent to about 60 government and business bigwigs.

Specifically, Abbate is upset with opposition to a 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse proposed by Wal-Mart in southeast Merced.

Speaking as president of Citizens for the Betterment of Merced County, a local political action committee, Abbate said the 900 jobs promised by Wal-Mart are sorely needed. He wants a united front of public and private partners to welcome the facility in lockstep.

Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, who was included in the e-mail exchange, wrote that others in the community are concerned about outsiders with different priorities.

"I was at a meeting at noon today and the same concern came forth -- there was a concern that folks who have been here for many years and probably have a vision of what they would hope for the future is being overridden by folks who are either new to the area or from the outside trying to drive the local direction," she wrote.

At least two people affiliated with the university through marriage (Kenny Mostern and Nancy Goodban) have organized against Wal-Mart's plan.

Mostern, a UC Berkeley Ph.D., is married to Ruth Mostern, an assistant history professor. Goodban, a Harvard University Ph.D., is married to Kenji Hakuta, the university's dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

"There is some concern as to who is the dog vs. who is the tail," wrote Abbate, whose parents own the ALIA Corp., which owns local McDonald's restaurants. "If you (Garamendi) and Larry (Salinas, the university's director of governmental relations) are the dog, then you will bark. Otherwise, you are the tail."

In a phone interview Monday, Abbate said UC Merced should screen applicants and their spouses to make sure they are a "good fit" for the community.

Kenny Mostern is the treasurer for the California Green Party and is not a good fit for the more conservative Merced, Abbate said.

"These guys are straight out of Berkeley," he said. "They've hardly spent any time in the Valley and they're going to come here and tell us how our city should be run. It's pathetic."

That notion drew a harsh rebuke from UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey.

She said the university should serve as a broker for discussion and not a tool for quashing it.

"University comes from the word universe," she said in a phone interview Monday. "We are supposed to be open to all of the ideas on the planet and to welcome a diversity of ideas and diversity of opinions. It's one of the principles we hold most sacred. It has endured for 400 years from Galileo to the current time."

And another thing about limiting the political activities of UC staff and their families: "It's illegal," Kenny Mostern said.


  • At Tuesday, March 07, 2006 2:54:00 PM , Blogger -epm said...

    Three cheers for Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey!

    Abbate is a throwback to the days of segregation and Red scare McCarthyism. I can almost see the mirrored Ray-Ban's and hear the contemptuous drawl, "Boy, we don't like your kind 'round he'ah"

  • At Tuesday, March 07, 2006 3:08:00 PM , Blogger Stephanie said...

    Scary stuff. But yay for Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey!

  • At Tuesday, March 07, 2006 3:19:00 PM , Blogger Granny said...

    There are some things about Mr. Abbate I didn't put on the post - even more disturbing.

    I heard them second hand and, while I believe them, I haven't had time to document. If true, he even more reprehensible.

  • At Wednesday, March 08, 2006 7:43:00 AM , Blogger Worried said...

    That kind usually is. It is sometimes difficult to plumb the true depths of people like that - like trying to see down into a cesspool.

  • At Wednesday, March 08, 2006 10:41:00 PM , Blogger Gary said...

    Ahhh Walmart - wallpapering the earth with bargains and low paying jobs...

    In our town of 15,000, when Walmart came looking to have the town re-zone a big piece of waterfront property, a bunch of local business people quietly bought the land and announced it wasn't available to any large box store. Four years later and it's being developed into seniors housing, apartments, green space and shops.

    The city of Vancouver does not have a Walmart (can you believe it?). They came close but council said no.

  • At Wednesday, March 08, 2006 11:31:00 PM , Blogger Worried said...

    Ah Gary. I'm a die-hard Texan and I'd give my life's blood for America -- but I swear you make your home town sound more and more appealing. I might bungee cord that backpack onto my electric scooter and flee to Canada any day.

  • At Friday, March 10, 2006 2:34:00 PM , Blogger Melhi said...

    (Linked in from DU) I don't usually pimp my blog, but after reading this, I thought you might enjoy the parody I posted, yesterday: "Dyin' For The Discount Store (Big Box Blues)" to the tune of "I've Been Working On The Railroad"

  • At Thursday, March 30, 2006 1:47:00 PM , Blogger rayana said...

    I go to UCM and everyone has been talking about this "controversy." I personally know Professor Mostern (Ruth) and they are very concerned about the reaction that they are receiving from the community. I'm actually writing a paper about the Central Valley Vs. The Berkeley intellects. I hope the Berkeley intellects (including myself) stand their ground and show the people like Abbate that they are being irrational and unAmerican.


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