Someone asked me several weeks ago who would win the three seats on the Atascadero City Council.
I replied that I thought Tom O’Malley was a sure thing and the other two depended on how voters felt about getting a mega Wal-Mart in their city.
If you opposed it, you’d vote for Ellen Beraud and Mike Brennler. If you wanted it, you’d cast your votes for Bob Kelley and "Grigger" Jones. O’Malley was my constant.
My gut feeling is that there is a lot more unhappiness over the potential for a huge Wal-Mart in Atascadero than civic leaders believe there to be. Based on what I was hearing at club meetings and social events, I felt there would be a major change in the complexion of the City Council.
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I said repeatedly that the municipal election for 2006 would be a referendum on Wal-Mart.
And so it was.
Last April, when word surfaced there was the possibility of a Wal-Mart Supercenter coming to Atascadero, the council asked residents to let them know how they felt about a major retail center at El Camino Real and Del Rio Road.
We were assured that Wal-Mart hadn’t been locked in to that potential commercial development. But that seemed to become the force around which everyone focused. Such fears were justified when, by July, front-page headlines announced that Wal-Mart had indeed purchased 26 acres at the much-talked-about corner.
So now city leaders have their answer.
A slow-growth council under soon-to-be-mayor George Luna and with support from Beraud and Brennler will indeed present a much different face to any future retail and residential development in the city.
It isn’t good or bad, only different from what we’ve had for the past dozen years.
George, Ellen and Mike will have to deal with what to do about lagging retail sales and mounting needs for additional revenue. But I’m still not convinced we’re in the dire financial straits that we were presented with last spring.
What I have observed, as I said last April, is that local residents appear to be satisfied with what Atascadero has become, except for a desire to clean it up, enforce its ordinances and preserve its oaks and hillsides.
It seems there has been a general satisfaction since the 1920s with us being a bedroom community. If not, there wouldn’t be the instant contentiousness every time plans have been put forward to enhance our industrial and/or commercial makeup.
There is the argument that only a little more than half of those registered to vote had a say in changing the makeup of the Atascadero City Council.
But that’s the best yardstick we have. Besides, I generally believe that those who fail to vote don’t deserve a say in things anyway.
And I predict that down the line, a Wal-Mart for Atascadero will be a ballot issue.
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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