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November 21, 2006 > It all comes down to trust

It all comes down to trust

In a striking division between those with “institutional memory” and the new kids on the block, the Fremont city council evenly split 2 – 2 when voting on continuation of the Niles Boulevard/Gold Street connection linking Union City and Fremont. Mayor Wasserman and Vice Mayor Cho were not persuaded to continue this full access rather than honor a previous commitment made to Fremont citizens. Councilmembers Natarajan and Wieckowski (councilmember Dutra recused himself due to a possible conflict of interest) relied on staff traffic reports to override a citizen petition to close the street to all but emergency vehicles.

When examining such a situation, it usually helps to understand how this all came about. Initially, through an agreement with KB Home on November 26, 2002, access through Fremont streets was granted until a Union City connection could be completed to service 119 single family homes and 216 townhomes in Union City plus an additional 6 single family homes and 40 townhomes in Fremont. Due to weather delays, an extension was granted in May and another to November 30, 2006. During the final extension, a traffic study was conducted to assess the impact of the access. Fremont had agreed to allow secondary emergency vehicle access only; the connection would be gated.

While the traffic study came to some obvious conclusions of circulation and congestion when you add hundreds of residences and some multiple of that in cars, the question remains of promises made and promises kept. This housing project was proposed and built with a set of assumptions including the closure to general vehicular traffic of the existing right-of-way at Niles Boulevard and Gold Street. The ultimate resolution of this “temporary access” should be no surprise to the city of Fremont, Union City or KB Home. Yet now it seems that Union City and Fremont want to discard earlier commitments.

Now that the time has come to show its citizens that Fremont’s promise and commitment is taken seriously, we find that once again, trust is not in the lexicon of this group.  Do these elected majordomos of the public understand the frustration of its citizens as staff and council again fail to adhere to their own promises? So soon after Proposition L suffered ignominious defeat, these guys are again walking down the same path that has led to such distrust. It is an amazing act to watch. Vice Mayor Cho expressed this best when he said, “Here we are trying to build public trust. We make promises…and yet we change it.” Mayor Wasserman joined him by noting that he had serious reservations about “changing a commitment that was made.”

A tie vote usually results in failure of the proposal. Not with this crew. In true form of rubber political backbone, after the mayor noted that the vote would defeat the proposal for permanent unrestricted access, councilmember Wieckowski did the fuzzy-wuzzy and asked for a continuance of 60 days for staff to respond to questions raised and review the interim access agreement. Mayor Wasserman and Vice Mayor Cho quickly folded and agreed. Why? Watch the webcast of this November 14 meeting on and you will probably agree that there is little need for such a review.

Reiterating questions and answers of the council meeting will not result in much enlightenment, but will waste time. Do we need a regurgitation of the traffic study and statements from those around when the deal was struck? Mayor Wasserman, Vice Mayor Cho and City Attorney Harvey Levine were involved in the agreements and have already provided “institutional memory.” The only reason for delay appears to be the hope to sway or add a vote in the meantime. Why was it so easy to put this away for another day and another hour or two of comment and debate? Why not make a decision and stick with it? Maybe the answer is in the change of council members; Wiekowski betting on picking up another new kid on the block vote. In that case, will Bill Harrison show leadership and honor prior city commitments?

Although the council session was brief by Fremont standards, it was long enough to hear about the issues confronting the Family Water Play Facility which will soon return for another round of funding and scrutiny.  This council needs to take action when it can and begin to show a bit of leadership. Waiting 60 days to slip this issue into a crowded calendar was not a good idea.

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