It looks extremely likely that Saratoga National Golf Course will get its zoning and comprehensive plan changes through the City Council.
There is a bitter irony here. In 1987 when my wife, Jane Weihe, ran for city Mayor, our friend, Ron Edsforth came up with the slogan “City In The Country” to describe the Democratic slate’s vision of maintaining low density primarily residential development on the outskirts of the city while directing higher density residential and commercial development downtown. We still have the literature and when I return I plan to scan it and post it. Since then there have been many bitter fights to maintain this vision Our city finally developed some pretty good zoning policies to strengthen that goal but not before many projects eroded much of the charm of our outer district.
Now it appears that three Democrats will be responsible for putting a major breach in the greenbelt. It is even more ironic that one of the two officials opposing the breach is a Republican.
It appears that Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Commissioner Michele Madigan, and Commissioner John Franck will be the three votes.
It seems especially foolish for Mayor Yepsen to do this because in many ways she is the most vulnerable. The newly established PAC has targeted her and Chris Mathiesen. Mathiesen is a target for his steadfast protection of the greenbelt. For Yepsen it is her conflict with the City Center and, more importantly for the PAC, it is for control of who appoints the land use boards.
Control over the land use boards is worth millions of dollars to the network of developers, lawyers, construction companies, and real estate people. They want a friendly face making those appointments and they have it in John Safford. Mr. Safford is unabashed in his zeal for growth and property rights. His recent comment on my site makes that clear. We are not talking evil here. We are simply talking about a very different approach as to what is good for our community. To his credit, Mr. Safford is quite transparent in his thinking.
So the result is that the PAC is coming for Joanne Yepsen. One would think that based on purely practical terms, Mayor Yepsen would be playing the hero in the tradition of the Democrats along with Mathiesen in her defense of our conservation district. Judging from history, the way that a Democrat wins in this city is that they solidify their base among Democrats and reach out to independents. In many ways, this was how she beat Shauna Sutton.
Instead, it appears that she is under the delusion that she can placate the business community at the expense of both the greenbelt and her own constituents. It is easy for a politician to fall into this kind of thinking. They are usually surrounded by staff who want to support her and are loathe to challenge her thinking. In the meantime, a wealthy player like Saratoga National Golf Course has the resources and the contacts to find many, many ways to schmooze someone like Mayor Yepsen to influence her thinking.
In the end, the only way to turn this kind of thing around is to turn out in force at the public hearing in the kind of numbers that offer a dose of reality to the elected officials. Have no doubt that Saratoga PAC will be doing its best to turn out their people.
John Safford is not a particularly strong candidate. While he presents himself extremely well, he is relatively new to the city. On the other hand, with the support of the PAC he should be able to generate quite a campaign in October.
The PAC is coming for Joanne and they are rigorously networking to get the word out among their network and among the Republicans to put on the full court press. Mayor Yepsen probably believes that her efforts to reach out to the business community along with her vote in support of SNGC will neutralize these forces. I think she both under estimates those forces along with the profound damage she will do to her credibility among Democrats for betraying the history of her party. She may be able to still pull off a victory anyway. Hopefully she will change her mind and come out strongly for protecting the greenbelt. We will know on Tuesday and we will know even more on Election Day.