The Case for YES on Measure G

If you haven’t voted, yet, we certainly hope you will. This may be the most important election in your lifetime, starting at the top of the ticket all the way down to the bottom.  In terms of the St. Helena election, we have already made our endorsements very clear:

    • Geoff Ellsworth for Mayor
    • Leslie Stanton for City Council
    • David Knudsen for City Council

But there’s one more item on the ballot we haven’t really talked about yet. Measure G.  Krys Smith makes the best case we have seen, yet, in favor of Measure G, a ballot measure we fully endorse. This is reprinted from the St. Helena Star;

The misinformation being spread that a hotel on Adams Street will ‘save” St. Helena is a disgraceful disservice to the people of this city being asked to weigh in on selling our own public land to a private developer.

This [Measure G] is not an anti-hotel opinion. In fact many of us opposed to selling the Adams Street public land to a private developer, are in favor of the Farmstead and Krug hotels on Highway 29. They are both long-time local businesses that have invested in St. Helena for decades, and are on their own land.

“The Adams story has a breadcrumb trail of big money trying to use scare tactics to get our community confused enough to sell off our incredible public assets to a luxury resort chain.”

The SHAPE Committee did not recommend selling Adams Street (read the final report on the city website).
The Financial Task Force did not recommend selling Adams Street (read the final report on the city website).
All city council meetings to date have had a large majority of residents against selling Adams Street (see all meetings on the city website – go back and count – we did).
Over 500 people recently signed a petition to stop just three people on the city council from having the power to sell Adams Street without public vote.
This information was taken directly from the Task Force Final Report on the city website: Here’s what it would take to get to the revenue they say an Adams Street Hotel will bring to St. Helena:
    • Fill 56 rooms at $1,200/night all 365 days (rainy winter months, fire months, Covid, etc.);
    • Each room must spend $900 every day all 365 days within the resort;
    • Each room must spend an additional $400 every day for 365 days within St. Helena city limits;

This does not include any money spent outside, at most Napa winery visits like Hall, Freemark Abbey, Duckhorn, Far Niente, Cakebread, etc. and wine purchases, dinner at Press, Auberge, Limos, etc.

The hotel does not pay St. Helena until the full development plan and the full Environmental Impact Report is complete and approved by both the Planning Commission and City Council. That could take years, or they could stall building it like the Four Seasons in Calistoga, and the city would not get paid for the land. Did you know that?

St. Helenans, it’s more important than ever to do the reading and not rely on hearsay – even when the hearsay sounds legitimate. The power spreaders are very effective at altering the truth. After all, they have a lot of money at stake.

“Yes on Measure G puts a hold on hotel development only on Adams Street for only 20 years. With two other local hotel projects on their land, endless devastating fires, COVID and climate change altering our lives, we can wait just 20 years, evaluate the new hotels, and let the next generation weigh into their future too.”

Krys Smith

Do Not Be Mislead – St. Helena is NOT “Broke.”

As we get closer to the election, and making a decision on Measure G, we’re going to start hearing more and more comments implying the “The City is Broke” by a number of local noisemakers.

This is not only not true, it is a deliberate scare tactic being put forth by some, and repeated by others, with the intention of making the voters believe that selling the Adams Street property to a resort developer is imperative to St. Helena’s financial health.

A Request for Proposals for a resort development on the Adams Street property was issued in 2016 and met with vigorous objections by the residents of St. Helena. Former Mayor Alan Galbraith, with the backing of Vice Mayor Peter White, then attempted an end-run by selecting one of the 3 proposals that had been submitted, without consent or consultation, by placing a last-minute item in the agenda to approve the one they favored, again without any input from the community. Again, the citizens voiced their objections and it was tabled, again. But only temporarily.

Mark Smithers, CPA and Chairman of the SHAPE Committee (St. Helena Assets Planning Engagement Committee) offers the following to clear up recent misstatements and information omissions that have been published in the local newspaper:

 

  1. Adams St is not going to be the funding source many are describing to fix our municipal funding needs.  I’ve been involved in property transactions for 40 years and no sane purchaser / developer is going to pay $25 million for this property until their project is approved.  The City may get $1 million earnest money, but the remainder comes upon project approval and that will be at least 7 years from when the property is sold.
  2. Adams St doesn’t need to be sold.  A more favored form of municipal financing for infrastructure (City Hall, Police Station, Library improvements) is General Obligation Bonds.  The City Manager and the City Finance Director both confirmed that your property taxes would go up less than 3% under a $25 million GO Bond.  I’ve asked them to publish this information to the public to eliminate the confusion.
  3. The City Council, in a September 2018 meeting, approved building City Hall at its current site.  Some folks are suggesting this never happened. As a consequence we went down some tangled path and as a result we still haven’t started building a much need City Hall.  SHAPE was asked to provide recommendations and the overwhelming favorite of the committee was to rebuild City Hall at its current site.  It’s all in the report.
  4. Regarding Water and Wastewater CIP (construction and major repair), the staff report and The Star editorial suggest the CIP is “mostly unfunded.”  That’s not really right.  The 2016 rate study only went out 10 years, not the 20 years the recent CIP Engineering Report provided.  The 2017 staff report on the new rates did go out 20 years and it provided for $22 million of water CIP and $15 million of wastewater CIP.  If you look at this issue more clearly and transparently, our current rates by and large are based on the project totals that are in the engineer’s report.  It is not right to say they are unfunded and suggest there is a financial disaster in the Water and Wastewater entities.  Financially they are in very good shape with incredibly high reserves and positive cash flow adding to those reserves.
  5. As to Storm Drain replacement, which is funded through the General Fund, not the water or wastewater entities, nearly $12 million is for drainage improvements.  This means $7 million is for repair and replacement over 20 Years; that’s $350,000 a year.  Yes, we have storm drains that need to be replaced, but it isn’t the financial catastrophe being suggested.  And yes, let’s make improvements, but these can be mapped out and staged as our General Fund allows.  We lived without storm drains on many of our more rural city roads (Dean York, South Crane, Sulphur Springs, Mills Lane, etc.); we don’t need to rush to add storm drains to all them now.

My points above are to provide correct information and information that wasn’t shared.  Some folks are using aspects of the information to scare us into thinking we need to sell the farm and that just isn’t so.

— Mark Smithers

For a complete copy of the SHAPE Report, click on the link.