Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And they keep on playing

I asked in last week's column where Let Children Play Now went to. We got a response.

One of the group's organizers sent in a letter to the Tracy Press. The letter makes clear the intent of the group to form as a nonprofit organization, characterized in the letter as an extention of the drive to get a sports park built on Schulte Road come hell or highwater.

The group's nonprofit standing (depending on what type of nonprofit they file for) could add a new wrinkle to the upcoming Tracy mayoral election between generally pro-growth Mayor Brent Ives and slow-growth advocate Celeste Garamendi. As a nonprofit, Let Children Play Now would be free to funnel as much cash into the election as it wanted — as long as it was not "coordinated" with any specific candidate's campaign.

Any bets on if the group donates?

Let Children Play Now received support from one of the developers offering sports facilities in exchange for guaranteed building rights. Aside from being trade bait to secure a future payday, the sports parks were beneficial to the builders in and of themselves — they're serious amenities that would be located near or in the proposed Ellis and Tracy Hills developments.

Remember that Garamendi has been an outspoken critic of these plans. And despite her loss in the 2006 mayoral election, she and her political allies have continued their work to convince the City Council that the deals (and at times the developments themselves) were bad for the city and that the Schulte Road location is not the best option for a sports park. Now that she's running again against Ives, who consistently backed the developer agreements, the developers' projects and the sports parks, you can bet the groups with vested interests in the success of the developments will come after her just like in 2006, when Ives was the beneficiary of a concerted ad blitz against Garamendi.

Now developers have another way to insert their will into the campaign. And the middle man could be an independent nonprofit that they helped get off the ground in the first place.

This, of course, is speculation. But the connection is there, and so is the possibility. The question is, will it become reality?

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