Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Typically, I don't write many posts that don't revolve around Gay issues, GOP politics, or Cal. Still, there has been a little known news story that caught my attention in the media recently.

Way down in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley lies rural Kings County. The county's economy is primarily based on agriculture, is surrounded by dairies and fields, and is known to be one of the poorest counties in the state. Some of the largest, non-agricultural businesses operating in the county are PG&E, Chemical Waste Management, and Standard Oil. Each have been identified historically as some of the worst polluters in the region.

Now in the virtually uninhabited area South of Kettleman City (home to the In-N-Out on Interstate 5) a massive new green community is in the planning stages.

As a Californian, my heart warms a little whenever I hear of a privately planned development that would function in such a way as could conserve environmental resources. This one certainly intends to do that.

Quay Hays vision for Quay Valley Ranch is a city that would produce all of its own energy through solar panels, would rely totally on energy efficient cars, and would be the model city of the future with efficient homes with a minimal commute to work or play. The city plans call for parks, hotels, tourist attractions, schools, and (perhaps most appealing) as many as 40,000 new jobs.

Unfortunately, Hays is very much akin to the Medicine Man roaming into a small town, preying on naiveté, and selling cure-all potions before moving on to the next town. It seems that Hays has a history of selling investors more than he can provide.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Around 1985, Neal Levin, a now-retired financial adviser for Hollywood celebrities, said Hays came to him looking for money to start a Chinese restaurant called Bao Wow. Those who invested included satirist Weird Al Yankovic, singer Melissa Manchester, Olympian Bruce Jenner, rock band Devo and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin. The restaurant didn't make it in Beverly Hills and moved to Encino. It was sold after five years because it was not profitable, Levin said.

In 1992, Hays started the General Publishing Group out of his home. For his first book project, he persuaded the Democratic National Committee to commission a coffee-table book on the history of the Democratic Party for its 200th anniversary.

Before going bankrupt in 1999, General Publishing issued scores of titles and generated positive industry buzz for its rapid growth.

The Chronicle goes on and on about the failed business ventures started by Hays.

My hope is that these small communities don't get duped by the razzle-dazzle this big city businessman is peddling. Before investing in a green city in the shadow of three large polluters, it would be smart to make sure the city isn't sitting right in the plume, that other buyers plan to move there, and that the developer hasn't failed on every business venture he has ever attempted.


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