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March 14, 2006 > Editorial: Welcome Back Anu

Editorial: Welcome Back Anu

Welcome back, Your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back, To that same old place that you laughed about.
Well, the names have all changed since you hung around, But those dreams have remained and they've turned around.
Who'dve thought they'd lead ya? (Who'dve thought they'd lead ya?) Back here where we need ya? (Back here where we need ya?)
Yeah, we tease him a lot, Cuz we've got him on the spot. Welcome back.
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

Welcome Back Kotter theme song

Maybe some of you remember the Welcome Back Kotter television show from the '70s starring Gabe Kaplan, John Travolta, Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, Ron Palillo and others. If you do, the setting was eerily similar last week for Fremont councilmember Anu Natarajan. In the Kotter show, a Brooklyn-born teacher returns to his inner city high school alma mater to match wits - and wisecracks - with streetwise, dysfunctional outcasts of the academic system, the "Sweathogs."

Anu may be unaware of Kotter and the "Sweathogs," but if she has watched some of the old episodes on TV Land, at least a portion of the meeting may have seemed like a replay of their antics. After her long absence from council life and Fremont to take care of family matters in India, Anu found the boys here at home a bit rambunctious. She meticulously dismembered a Centerville development of townhomes on Central Avenue that had the blessing of the Planning Commission and staff but although the professor was in, the class wasn't listening. Usually Anu's planning acumen results in detailed discussions of technicalities (massing, slope, texture, color, and as the King of Siam would say, "Etc., etc., etc.") which, when on a roll, consumes extended periods of time. Sometimes these lectures test the consciousness limits of even the most alert in the audience. At times, it appears she can rule the day through sheer verbosity and technical detritus. In any event, her conclusions carry much weight and are typically a significant hurdle for developers. Not this time!

Even though the same old "Sweathogs" were in attendance (minus the mayor who is still recuperating from pneumonia), the tune has changed a bit. When the planner turned councilmember voiced serious and immutable objections to the small development on Central Boulevard in Centerville, instead of the usual warm reception to her studious and microscopically detailed evaluation, she was cold-shouldered and voted down unanimously by the others. It wasn't that she didn't have good points, but it appears that the boys have had enough time to themselves to wonder why these issues are not raised earlier in the process. By the time the planning staff has shepherded the project through their maze of requirements and brought this to the Planning Commission for approval without controversy, it is somewhat amazing that a councilmember would conclude that the entire design is contrary to the General Plan and totally unacceptable.

A suggestion from Councilmember Wieckowski (put this on your refrigerator door, Bob - I don't always agree with you) asking for a work session of both city council and planning commission to meet for a reality check to determine whether they both reside on the same planet is a good one. He and Anu ought to know about this since they lived across the chasm in planning land during those raucous years. After years of contentious logjams between these two bodies, it is about time for them to discuss planning philosophies and, maybe at that meeting, Anu can assume professorial status to a more receptive group.

The time is approaching when the city of Fremont will tackle a new General Plan; it would be a good idea for our elected, appointed and hired officials to be reasonable, rational and honest about the direction of city character and growth. At an earlier work session on the same day, Fremont's early financial decisions came under scrutiny. Under the guise of redevelopment, massive amounts of money were designated for regional grade separation projects.

Now, years later the Washington Boulevard/Paseo Padre Parkway Grade Separation Project is reaching a point of no return and the city is finding itself in an interesting position of asking its "regional partners" on bended knee for $20 million. These are the same folks who must still be smarting from Fremont's intransigence on Highway 84. The shell game and suggestions of moving funds from here to there while Councilmember Dutra exalted that the "A's are coming" was worthy of a Welcome Back Kotter episode.

Dutra indicated that this project is the #1 priority while in the Highway 84 debate, the Mission/I-880 interchange was without a doubt, the top priority for the city. He even talked about shifting money from the old top priority to the new one while waiting for state money to bail out the new #2. How much has been put away into the Downtown fund? Why don't we use that money? Excuse me Mr. Kotter, but I think the Sweathogs have done it again. All this frenetic activity must have stunned Transportation and Operations Director Jim Pierson who presented the dilemma with the statement that he had never seen a situation where a city had fronted so much money for regional transportation projects. Will this be yet another project that flounders? Stay tuned for the next episode.

Welcome back, Anu.

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