Let’s Be Fair

With the Farmers Insurance departure becoming a key focus of the election, the emotions are sure to swing upward a bit and if you’re a human being like I am, you may be inclined to respond emotionally. But let’s try to be fair.

If you listened in to the live discussion last night with the challenging City Council Candidates, you heard a lot of criticism of the sitting Council and City Management regarding Farmers leaving the city. However, you may have also heard that none of the candidates had any definitive answers on what to do about it. The truth is that both a newcomer and a seasoned veteran would need to take a step back and consider the best game plan. I can choose to believe what everyone tells me about the Farmers Insurance training center, but unless I’m sitting in front of the Farmers Insurance decision makers, there’s no way to really know why it moved out of Simi Valley and if it truly marked the start of their ultimate exit plan. For all we know, it was a decision based purely on logistics. Either way, it’s done and the focus should be on filling that space.

If this weren’t an election cycle, we’d be looking at our current leadership for a strategy on how to make that happen. We’d be expecting them to represent our interests and interface with city management to entice a new tenant. But it’s election season, so naturally we wonder if new representation is needed.

In a time like this with a situation like this one, people are inclined to take risks. Some may consider the best risk to be voting for someone with new ideas. Others may consider the best risk to be voting for someone with experience in City Hall. But no matter what, I don’t think that now is the time to make that decision. We don’t know enough and we haven’t heard from everyone. Put those emotions on hold and wait for the discussion to continue.

And this may seem off topic, but it’s important to me to say…

Barbra Williamson is one of the boldest people on the City Council. It takes guts to put yourself out there like she does. You may not agree with her but you cannot argue that she isn’t honest. Before you get upset, I’m not talking about her positions, her policies or her opinions — I’m talking about her willingness to post on these blogs and engage the people on their turf. It’s hard, thankless work that’s got to sting at times. Barbra, thank you. Not everyone realizes it, but you are a very good listener even if you throw in an argument or two, and it means a great deal to me.

Moving on…

I plan to coordinate a chat with the incumbents to address many of the same issue we covered last night and to give them an opportunity to respond. I think you’ll see we have thoughtful people on both sides here. I’ll follow-up here when I’ve got more details.

13 thoughts on “Let’s Be Fair

  1. Did you and I listen to a different discussion? I thought the challengers talked about the things that would be needed to fill the Farmer’s building space. Also, what has the city council done to fill the Mervyn’s space? Or the half completed condo project on Tapo?
    I don’t know, but if Target decides they only need one store in Simi what happens to the one on Cochran? Do you know if the council has ideas if this happens?

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  2. Ken,
    I can guarantee you that there are communications going on with the Mervyn’s site. Unfortunately neither I nor anyone at the city is at liberty to disclose those talks as is the same thing with Applebee’s location. Sometimes it’s because they are trying to work out a deal with the property owner or they are looking at several different sites. A portion of the Tapo project has been purchased, however because of the economy no one is doing anything at this time, which is understandable. The other half is in litigation. There has been no indication that the Target store on Cochran will close. With the population at that end of the valley, and with the future growth of Lost Canyons and Runkle Ranch, I don’t see them making a move any time soon. If they do, then that will be something we will have to address. I hope this answered some of your questions.

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  3. I know there had been rummbles, but nothing substancial. We were as shocked as the rest of the city. When major corporations decide to do this, they are pretty tight lipped for many reason, one I would think is so not to scare their employees.
    Actually I have a couple of ideas about the building, but I am not willing to share them here because I will most lightly be chewed to pieces, as evedenced in other blogs. Naturally the City is concerned about this vacancy and the surrounding businesses, and we will do everything in our power to fill the gap….As far as timing, who knows? Again with the ecomony is, it’s anyone guess.

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  4. An excellent post, Mr. Chandler. Too much supposition has been written about the training center without any evidence. Farmers said in the news media articles that they made a decision based on business, and the fact that they had a better facility elsewhere. Yet some of your readers (and some local political challengers here) quickly made their own reasons.

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  5. “walkout and find a replacement no big deal”…where did that come from? I don’t remember anyone making that comment.
    How do we “learn” to keep our customers? If their prices are too high or they have terrible customer services, do we blame the customers for not patronizing their store or do we blame the city? Why did Applebee’s leave? Was it their menu, did their lease come up, prices out of whack so customers just stopped going there? Why did Pier1 Imports leave? Was it the customers, location or leasing price? What Ted, do you want the City to do to fill Mervyns? or the Farmers building? You can blame the city all you want about Farmers leaving, but in fact that wouldn’t be true, and I think you probably know that. Everyone is pretty fast to point their finger at the City because of the business failures that have occurred, but no one seems to question the business practice of the owners.

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  6. My plan is to call you and ask if you have any customers who would would be interested in leasing the Target Buildling. So that’s my plan. Is that unreasonable?

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  7. Barbra,

    Here’s some 5 minute brainstorm ideas for the “Red Team”:

    LA picked off one of ours, let’s pick off two of theirs.

    Reconsider Shop Simi & the business liaison budgets and consider serious outward campaign to let the pool of prospects know we’ve got something great to offer and we’d like to talk.

    Assemble the list of companies occupying 1.5x-3x the current office space in a 20 mile radius. Someone may be looking to downsize. Someone might be tired sharing a building. Farmers could be all theirs. Develop a custom message for these prospects.

    Baxter successfully shares the former well known GTE building. Is this a shared building move.

    Ask for Farmer’s commitment to good faith negotiating if a competitor property & casualty insurer seeks the space.

    Could Pratt & Whitney cash in on some prime San Fernando Valley floor real estate and move a segment of their employees out to Simi?

    Think GROWTH categories which fit the building such as healthcare industry (from Baxter types to US Healthworks types to HeathNet types).

    Get into the local North Ranch, Moorpark, Spanish Hills, Las Posas, Calabasas, and Sherwood country club member lists to determine if we’ve got any major employer execs living nearby. Inquire with Lost Canyons too. They get an interesting mix of regular VIP guests. These could be target corporations.

    Look at our other major employer segments. Competitors generally headquarter in the same areas. Do our large employers have ideas or an interest in the Farmer’s building?

    Out of the box idea: Our closed geography, valley floor, and marquee tall city centered building present interesting city-ISP partnership opportunity. Go after United Online, AT&T, TWC or another competitor and offer a city-wifi ISP management contract with Simi corporate tenancy. The Farmers building is situated ideally as a central access point for a Simi Valley municipal broadband solution. Simi would instantly up the ante to attract other companies looking for modern facilities because we had great city-wifi. The company would have the idea research facility with a great corporate office and testing bed on the Simi city wifi infrastructure. An interested company could leverage this site for municipal ISP contracts nationwide generating more profits and more jobs.

    Another out of the box idea: DeVry type, Phoenix University type, Law School, or Seminary (e.g. Dr McArthur) educational campus.

    General large employers in a range of ‘types’ that pop to mind: MannKind, Nestle, Wellpoint, Kaiser, Marsh, Credit Unions & Banks, Time Warner, “Merchant Services”, ADP, Salem Communications, Ixia

    Solicit ideas from the community. If there were rumblings within the community about Farmer’s leaving then there are certainly ideas within the community for new large employers.

    Everything I’ve seen written suggests the entire council and city management was caught off guard on this significant economic blow to the community. I saw your explanation on Mike’s blog to reasons for this. This said, Mr. Sojka should reevaluate the timing of his mayoral bid and the needs of our city. It would be courageous and selfless if Mr. Sojka set personal accomplishment aside to allow a “different” willing and qualified voice come aboard the council by the choice of the electorate (there are three mayoral candidates at this time). Farmers loss is a citywide game changer. Mr. Sojka continues to serve on the city council regardless of the outcome of the mayor race. Does he feel both candidates are unfit to serve? If so, why? Does Mr. Sojka feel the council can implement the will of the voters by effecting the selection of the vacant seat? Is Mr. Sojka willing to divide many of the good intended citizens and business people split between Mr. Sojka and his opponent(s) at this time? Mr. Sojka would earn tremendous respect by delaying a mayoral bid for this term by allowing the voters to enlist just one new voice on the council.

    I appreciate your presence on this forum and wish the other council members would participate. Please demonstrate our council is open to ideas from outside. Please encourage the city to be open to ideas and yes, criticism sometimes for the good of the city.

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  8. Ferris,
    Thoses idears are certinally worth looking at, and I thank you for taking the time to explain your ideas and thoughts. As you know, I can’t make anyone do anything. I am but one Council Member communicating with all of you on this blog.
    Ted, I didn’t say I was going to negotaqte anything. I was going to leave that to you. You’re the Real Estate Guy…that’s your gig, not mine.

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  9. Barbara,

    For shame you will call and ask what to do. Maybe you and the council and Sedell should have not approved a business that we all know is going to make the existing business fail. You are all but acknowledging this is a realistic issue, and the best you’ve got is to call a critical blogger and ask what is your plan? Really? Super Target never should have been built. You were negligent if you didn’t vote no. I’m really getting tired of you, Sojka and Becerea’s “Im just one person” rap. It takes three votes, we all know it and that means you all are responsible. Outrageous.

    Maybe you outta find out who this Ferris guy is. He seems rather brilliant. Fire your tour guide.

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  10. Monty…..In case you haven’t heard, this is a “free” county and if Target wants to build in the old K-Mart location there isn’t a darn thing you or I can do about it. And if they want to close their store on Cochran, that’s also their right… However, if they are making $3M a month because of shoppers, then guess what? They won’t be going anywhere, so I suggest you get out your check book and start spending since you’re so concerned. I think that a multi-million dollar corporation knows a little more than you about where to locate their business.
    You’re tired of me? Boy do I have a news flash for you….

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  11. Honest? read the statement where Barbra said that a candidate will say anything to get elected. That does not seem honest to me, but she has more more experience than I do at running for an office. As well, look at her reason for being against the food vendors, the cost of the business, which is none of the City’s business.

    Also, I think you are wrong in claiming that there were no solutions given. That does not sound objective, plus it is wrong. What was said that the process for permits and approval needs to be fixed as it is far more difficult than it should be to open a business, as well as taking too long. Hiring a person and spending more money is not a solution to the real problem. I have heard many issues about tiny details, such as what specific door is acceptable, which delay the opening of a business.

    The City can not lease the property and if you think about it, the owner has no real incentive to lease the property because of the payments for the next 7 years. The City needs to do what it can in areas in which it is control of, not try to get involved in other areas.

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  12. @ Ferris, regarding this statement, “Does he feel both candidates are unfit to serve?” I say, only one candidate for Mayor filed a frivolous lawsuit against the City of Simi Valley, which cost us taxpayers untold thousands of dollars to defend, which it did successfully, thankfully. A fit candidate would have either politely referred the client to another attorney, or offered sound legal advice that it was not the best case to file. Yet, someone who claims to “love” this community had this $5 million frivolous lawsuit filed anyway. That’s unfit to serve for this voter. There’s only one lawyer running, by the way.

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