My advice: If it’s a Wal-Mart, then say so

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Reluctantly returning to the notebook while expressing no surprise that Tiger Woods is returning to the PGA tour. After all, I knew he’d get back to golfing once he got his affairs in order ... Something else that needs to be put in order is what is really happening with that so-called Conkey project on Highway 49. You know, the one where Jim Conkey reportedly is hard at work to bring a Costco store to North Auburn. Putting aside for a moment those environmentalists who protest the addition of anything larger that a hot-dog stand, there now are other whispers and rumors emerging from throughout the village. Whether they are true or false is immaterial, although in the interest of fairness it should be pointed out that rumors surrounding proposed developments usually are not quite correct. Still, what I hear lately is intriguing. People whom I trust in county government ranks and the environmentalist community are wondering out loud whether that really is a Costco penciled in for Highway 49. More than a few of those sources insist that Costco is little more than a code word for Wal-Mart. One noted environmentalist told me that if it is Wal-Mart, “it knows better than to announce its plans out loud.” I commented earlier that the Costco negotiations with the City of Auburn withered and died. That was true then, although it was never publicly reported that the deal fell through because the landowner valued the worth of his property much higher than did anybody else. However, I now have two pretty good city sources who hint that the talks with Costco are being revived. Those same sources insist that talks have also been resurrected with the Trader Joe’s folks — especially now that the latter is back in the expansion business. And it also needs reporting that Lowe’s continues to look for a local spot so that it can keep its streak alive by having a plant within the same community as Home Depot. Getting back to the Costco/Wal-Mart item: It’s time for the county to come clean and quit hiding behind the old wheeze that it’s up to the client to make announcements. If it’s Wal-Mart, say so. Who knows? You might be surprised at the number of people who’d like to have Wal-Mart here, while at the same time, you already know who’s against it ... More rumors: A few weeks ago I opined that Auburn’s vacant Gottschalks store was close to getting a tenant, and that name would be very familiar to shoppers. Well, that deal is somewhat in peril, but only because banks are so reticent to loan any of the free money they’ve received from taxpayers. The city remains in contact with said suitor, but now has developed a backup plan should that offer wither. Plan B calls for splitting the old Gottschalks in two to make it easier to attract leasers. And — even better — there is already a solid understanding with a well-known merchant that earlier tried to find an Auburn location. Meanwhile, the city reportedly has reached an agreement with three very well-known local entrepreneurs who are teaming up to try to bring a pasta restaurant to the vacant Pizza Palace. Once you hear the names, you’ll want to sample the food. That trio earlier tried to do the same project at the vacant Pub site, and it’s no coincidence that they’re trying to locate in the Streetscape zone ... Bear facts: While visiting Orange County this past week, I learned about the recent commissioning of the USS Dewey (DD 105) at the nearby Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. While the local Register newspaper had it wrong while claiming that the Dewey is the first-ever Navy warship to be commissioned at Orange County (some patrol craft were commissioned at Newport Beach during World War II), it provided excellent coverage and background on the event. But perhaps most interesting part of the reportage was where the Register wrote about the berthing areas in the new warship. I quote: “... Crew are given two small lockers for personal items and uniforms. Each bunk is allowed one 10-inch stuffed animal ...” The gentle readers are encouraged to provide their own comments; I’ll be too busy hiding my certificate of Honorable Discharge.