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Video, email agitate Sebastopol CVS debate

Kathleen Shaffer


A Sebastopol council member’s misdirected email and a refusal by the mayor to allow a critic’s slide show during public comment have become issues in the contentious debate over a CVS Pharmacy proposal.

In the first instance, opponents sought to have Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer disqualified from making a decision on the fate of the CVS project, contending that the email showed that Shaffer was biased in favor of the project.

In the second, opponents said being barred from using visuals to argue their side was a violation of their free speech rights.

Neither presents a legal problem that will hinder the City Council as it weighs whether to give the developer the go-ahead, said City Attorney Larry McLaughlin.

However, it does reveal the depth of the opposition to a project proposed for one of Sebastopol’s most prominent locations, and the emotion it has stirred.

“We are never going to throw in the towel, we will continue to work to get something really good there,” said Helen Shane of the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol. “We are not subverting the democratic process; we are working with it. This is not a totalitarian government.”

Armstrong Development Properties of Sacramento wants to build a 14,576-square-foot CVS Pharmacy and a 4,327-square-foot Chase Bank branch at the site of the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership at an estimated cost of $10 million.

Both CVS and Chase would move to the Pellini location, 2.4 acres at the busy intersection of Sebastopol and Petaluma avenues, from elsewhere in Sebastopol.

Fifty-five people spoke at a 4½-hour public hearing on Monday, about evenly split in opposition and support, although the crowd of 250 was heavily weighted with supporters of the project.

The City Council is considering an appeal by Armstrong Development of a denial by the city’s Design Review Board, which found the design clashed with Sebastopol’s small-town character.

A decision is expected Feb. 7.

Critics have focused on the design, which they consider a gussied-up strip mall more appropriate for Modesto, and the traffic it would generate.

Opponents demanded Monday that Shaffer recuse herself from the issue because of an email they contend shows her bias.

In a Jan. 8 email, Shaffer gave advice to a friend on how the friend could write a letter to the council in support for the CVS project, which Shaffer has admitted that she does support. In the email, she wrote that “I am working ‘under the radar’ ” to help a different friend draft a similar letter.

“My friend asked what she could do. I said she could write a letter to the council, and she accidentally forwarded it to the full council,” Shaffer said. “I would in no way try to sway the council. This was an accident, and I take full responsibility.”

McLaughlin said that Shaffer is permitted to have a position and still take part in the deliberations as long as she keeps an open mind. He also said Shaffer was not trying to sway the council through an intermediary, which would be a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open-meeting law.

Mayor Guy Wilson said he rejected a request to present a slide show because there were many people at the meeting waiting to speak and he was afraid it would consume too much time.

Wilson held fast to his decision, even though Councilwoman Sarah Gurney and Vice Mayor Mike Kyes wanted to see the slide show.

“For the issues we were hearing, pictures convey a wealth of ideas; pictures are worth 1,000 words,” said Gurney.

4 Responses to “Video, email agitate Sebastopol CVS debate”

  1. John Reed says:

    Hang in there, Kathleen! Don’t let the crazy people get you down. You have every right to have an opinion on a public policy issue and to seek to recruit others to support it. That’s the essence of politics.

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  2. Nightmares says:

    The Committee for Small Town Sebastopol? Really? And populated with members of the Flat Earth Society I would imagine. So Sebastopol, the drug free, microwave free, nuclear free, green little town wants to stay that way? Might as well add job free, because businesses that close their doors are not being repalced by new ones, and no new jobs are created. How green and friendly is it when you tell the residents to get in their cars and drive to the back side of town in order to shop at CVS? Maybe they’re trying to protect the Mom and Pop stores, who might get closed because of all that “big box” competition. Perhaps the town can go all the way, and become an Amish community, thereby ridding themselves of all those nasty modern conveniences and discoveries that are destroying the rest of society. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

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  3. Western Cluebird says:

    I wonder if Kathleen Schaffer is still glad that she drafted and passed that letter of solidarity with the no growth, flat earth occupy group.

    … “He also said Shaffer was not trying to sway the council through an intermediary, which would be a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open-meeting law.”
    The Brown Act seems to have little meaning in Sebastopol council meetings. If some lawless, rogue group wants a back and forth conversation or question and answer session with council, so be it!If their attorney wants a special meeting where he gets unlimited time to bully council, he gets it.

    Also, why are people who are unwilling to pay their fair share ($350.00 per day)to use the town square for a tent/propaganda palace and spiteful class warfare signs, many of whom are not Sebastopol residents, allowed a voice in deciding what business to allow in Sebastopol?

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  4. Shaffer's Shady Subterfuge says:

    As reported in today’s paper, there were numerous “supporters” of the CVS project at Monday evening’s Sebastopol City Council meeting.

    The appearance of this group was personally engineered by Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer, who directed an “under the radar” (her words, not mine) email campaign thru intermediaries. She conspired with others to provide the illusion of widespread support to her fellow council members and influence their perceptions during the public hearing of the applicant’s appeal. Not only is this ethically reprehensible, but it is of questionable legality, despite the determination of the city attorney. It should be remembered that he reports to the city council, and his primary role is to protect them.

    The article fails to mention that attached to Shaffer’s email was a professionally-produced four page color brochure that appears to have been likely provided to her by the applicant, Armstrong Development. The graphics in this promotional piece were drawn directly from the applicant’s PowerPoint presentation that they gave to the city council and the text reads like an advertisement for the project, extolling its virtues. Readers are directed to contact Armstrong Development should they have questions.

    In her role as agent for the applicant, Shaffer has further exposed her fervent long-standing advocacy for this project and destroyed any remaining facade of impartiality in her views. As a result of her demonstrated bias, she has proven herself to be unqualified as an objective participant in any future deliberations on this matter. Her refusal to recuse to herself only continues and reinforces her unethical behavior. Her comments during Monday evening’s meeting did not express remorse for her actions- merely regret for their discovery by her colleagues and constituents.

    Her inexcusable actions have sadly demeaned the office to which she was elected.

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