The City Council and the Fort Bragg City Manager are not talking. The “why” is not for the peasants to know but the political landscape of the city has been shattered in a good way.
An official explanation would be more than we deserve.
Marie Jones, the swaggering dominatrix of city political spin and former city manager Linda Ruffing’s stoutest soldier, has left the building. Gone. Fired? Terminated? Or just cashing in? Nobody knows — but she ain't coming back.
Go on your wondering way, the suits know what they are doing, they have their reasons. You certainly don’t get to know what they are.
Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller has made it clear that the people of the city, for whom she putatively works, who pay the bills and suffer the consequences of local governance, don’t rate a reasonable explanation to one of the most stunning developments in recent local political memory. Tabatha Miller will not even answer emails from the AVA. Total communications blackout. It's not only City Hall — the City Council is not talking either.
It's only a revolution folks. Nothing to see here. What we can look forward to with confidence is the mandatory thank you Marie Jones celebration, I am quite sure with “Plaque Master” Will Lee at the helm, she rates a massive plaque.
Beyond that, you know exactly what they are going to say. The greatest development director since they zoned the garden of Eden. The driving force behind The Coastal Trail, that very nice trail that crawls around the great empty space filled with broken concrete and rubble, that used to be the Georgia-Pacific mill.
Our nice trail only took the better part of two decades?
They won't mention the clogged stinking toxic creeks that the innocents want to daylight. The relentlessly nice George Reinhardt has tagged along behind the Marie Jones-machine for decades. He says he admires her. When his daylighting idea got rolling, Marie Jones conducted on-site tours of the area for a couple of days and then announced that daylighting the creeks was possible and that it would take about 14 years. A very precise estimate from the occult world of super-planners that you, gentle reader, are not EVER going to remotely comprehend.
You can count on Councilman Lindy Peters to be passionate in his appreciation. Bet on it they are going to lay it on thick. They are going to have to.
For one thing, they are going to have to cement the pretense that there are no actual reasons for the sudden termination. It's just a happy little incident beneath the need-to-know for the city.
And for another, they're going to have to try and put a bandaid on the massive embarrassment that keeping a blundering incompetent in office for 20 years might present if there was an open discussion. That’s what they don’t want.
Running down the sins of the Development Director is tempting but daunting.
Her ineffectuality was so consistent she made it look like procedure — her blundering was so extensive that out of context it can hardly be credited.
She conducted major negotiations on crucial issues about the mill site without informing the council or anybody else. Lied as long as she could and stonewalled when she got caught.
More broadly, she ran up the flagpole an unending series of proposals for the mill site, one after the other for decades. They came and went in geologic time spans.
In the latest episode, she grandly presented a plan for the development of the mill site that left 30% of the site open space and put 70% of it into high-density housing and a crazy parade of industrial applications.
When she took the new program to the Coastal Commission (all by herself), the Commission ungently flipped her numbers like a pancake and demanded 70% percent be left open space and 30% could be developed.
Marie slid that little modification past the City Council without directly mentioning it and nobody ever asked her a question. That left 70% of the mill site a field of broken rubble owned by GP and no expectation that GP could either sell it or would have any reason to clean it up.
No discussion of that little issue was ever raised at the City Council, the Planning Commission or any place else by our uniquely forthcoming and candid Development Director.
The Coastal Trail will be her legacy. Naturally, it took 14 years. That was difficult to finesse since the Coastal Conservancy was always dying to give us the money.
What the hell, everything took 14 years or would take 14 years. It was a kind of mantra.
City Manager Tabatha Miller won’t answer queries from the AVA, but people have been sending me her emails and apparently, she is open to public participation in the process of navigating the future of the always dead, now officially dead, Development Department.
In the dynamics of local governance, there is a time for anger and a time for conciliation. You need both.
People don’t like being mad. I understand.
But in the wake of the long-overdue departure of the person most (directly) responsible for our little city's lack of economic progress for TWO DECADES, I really think that at this juncture just a little anger would actually be useful.