West Park, county must gain trust
Jun 21, 2012 | 889 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s not too surprising that county supervisors approved an extension for developer Gerry Kamilos’ proposed West Park project on Tuesday.

It’s true that Kamilos failed to meet timelines he agreed to 15 months ago, but he has gotten every vote he needed from supervisors thus far, so there was little reason to expect a change. Besides, it appears he is finally making progress on the project despite major financial setbacks, and his proposal right now is a dramatic improvement from the one he first touted five years ago.

What is surprising is that Supervisor Terry Withrow, who voted against a project extension last year, recused himself from the vote following an 11th-hour e-mail to the county and to local media from someone claiming to be Bill Lyons, alleging a potential conflict of interest.

Apparently, his in-laws owned land that was within 500 feet of the airbase, and he was unaware there was a potential conflict. So, the question lingers: Why did this e-mail come the day of the vote?

Is it the same reason that pro-West Park community activists sprung up out of nowhere in 2007 and began calling for term limits for Patterson City Council leaders? Or perhaps it was the same reason that in 2008 celebrity attorney Mark Geragos took the case of former Republican political staffer Serena Essapour against Supervisor Jim DeMartini, a West Park critic. At the time, Geragos insinuated his client had a romantic relationship with DeMartini after she used his personal information to charge nearly $10,000 to credit cards, a baseless allegation that DeMartini denied.

The fact of the matter is strange things seem to occur when people oppose West Park.

None of this engenders trust among West Side residents. Nor does the fact that Patterson city officials voices were stifled Tuesday, as the board of supervisors meeting was scheduled at the same time as the Patterson City Council meeting.

Even if county officials had no ill intent in scheduling the meetings simultaneously, it would have been wise to have been in dialogue with city officials to avoid a conflict. By failing to do so, it adds to the sentiment among many West Siders that they are an afterthought.

While promised monthly meetings between Kamilos and Patterson city officials ceased last year, meetings with advocates in other parts of the county appear to be ongoing, judging from the number of Modesto Chamber of Commerce representatives who spoke in favor of the project Tuesday.

To be fair, Kamilos has succeeded in improving West Park’s focus and in rallying support from the Union Pacific railroad and the Port of Oakland despite his failure to meet project deadlines and his company’s financial troubles. And his financial situation appears to be looking up now that he is able wrest the project from the grip of Lehman Brothers.

What he and the county have failed to do is wholly gain the West Side’s trust. It would be hoped that relationship could change in the months ahead.

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