Friday, June 27, 2014

Lahti and Stephen: So Happy Together

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Right on the corner of Main & Goodrich, there's a big "Stephen Development" sign, and next to it a sign touting IQ Modular Homes, which is supplying the pre-fabricated bits of Stephen's new shopping center.

Recall for a moment that Paul Stephen has been actively funding and supporting school board candidates who want to cut and weaken the school district. Recall that his are the deep pockets that fund Lisa Thrun's tinpot AFP astroturf effort to ensure that kids get to school in unsafe, dilapidated, rusting, broken-down buses. These are people for whom student safety takes a back seat to an extra $6 per year in the bank. (Now you know the price that the tea party places on your kid's safety.)

Paul Stephen has been vocal in town about ensuring that a proposed local law limiting multi-family housing be made more flexible. I favor smart growth in the town that follows the principles of new urbanism; walkable neighborhoods that are built for people rather than cars, and mixed-use development that doesn't require residents to have to drive to accomplish every activity of daily living.

So, while Stephen seems to have good ideas about Main Street, this project at Goodrich is about as far away from new urbanist principles as you can get. It's nothing more than a copycat of the plaza at North French and Transit - ground-floor retail, 2nd floor residential, and parking in front. If you want to build a proper walkable community, you build to the sidewalk and put the parking out back. Stephen talks a good game about urbanist principles, but he's not delivering, what with the trailer park and the motels.

Furthermore, among a large number of school families, Stephen's name is mud.

Stephen's reputation isn't only because he bankrolled the 2013 no vote, or the anti-bus effort in 2014, or backing Worling's campaign.

The unforgivable thing he's done is to back tea party activists to implement a "divide and conquer" strategy pitting school families against seniors.

The resentments are still raw even today, and people are angry at seniors. But the "seniors" aren't some groupthink collective that votes in lockstep, and dividing the town this way is cynical and completely counterproductive. Those who stoked these divisions are not deserving of respect or support.

So it is that Paul Stephen is doing business with IQ Modular, which is a company owned by the Lahti and Showalter families.

iQ Modular Homes was founded in 2005 by Lahti and his in-laws – members of the Showalter family – who own and operate Buffalo Tungsten Inc., a local manufacturer of tungsten powder products. At the time, there were no modular homebuilders in the area.
To what extent are Lahti or Showalter colluding with Paul Stephen to, e.g., elect Worling or agitate against the bus proposal that they voted for as board members? This whole thing reeks to high heaven, and our kids' futures are being held hostage by big business interests in town. But even worse, in order to get what they want, these deep pockets are dividing the town for their own financial self-interest.

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