This is one of those days when I wish I had more time to do this subject justice. But I don’t.
Last night’s council meeting was the occasion for what may become one of this town’s most memorable (infamous?) decisions. It was a three-to-two vote rejecting the El Dorado owner’s offer to settle the three-year litigation with the city.

The city has spent $236,000 to date in its attempts to assist the residents of El Dorado Mobile Home Park against its bullying owners. Many issues have evolved, from rent control, to condo conversion, CEQA regulations and FEMA mandates. So far, the city has won all of its contests, but issues and arguments continue. In rejecting the settlement offer (which provided several important protections for senior and low income residents) the council has guaranteed continuous litigation for years to come, with the outcome uncertain.

I am wholly sympathetic with the El Dorado residents concerns. They are dealing with a nasty, greedy, bully in my opinion. Unfortunately, the law does not discriminate against nasty, greedy, bullies in the interpretation of contract and real property law. An American can be, and often is, a real SOB and still entitled to equal protection under the law. It’s in the book.

Councilmen Brooks, Sipes, and Gonzalez gave noble and emotional excuses for rejecting the settlement, and received standing ovations from a packed house. They had just been informed by our city manager that the State of California would probably leave the city to pay-off some $400,000 owed on the now defunct Towne Theatre. The city is several million in the red. Even film revenues have dropped from $40,000 to $6,000. Then there is the pool, some $300,000 in the red, the loss of 12 employees and nearly all top management. Things like this worry me.

Councilman Gonzalez admits, as do Sipes and Brooks, that, “The reality is that the city does not have the money to pay the estimated amount of $500,000 to $600,000 more to defend ourselves”. More than the $236,000 in legal fees already paid, should we be expected to pay a million?

But the city is not “defending” ourselves in the normal sense of that term. We have instigated the proceeding and have refused to let it go.

The El Dorado owners are making it hell for residents of their park, and it will only get worse. Issues of children’s play areas, parking, traffic, lighting, etc. are very serious for the 290 residents; that’s a fact. But the city has fought for 3 years already and should not be compelled to drag this fight out for another 3 to 5 years, for an additional half-million dollars. The city (council) has a strong fiduciary to safeguard Fillmore’s fiscal health. This duty is owed to all of its 14,000 residents, not just the 290 residents of El Dorado. I say this with sadness because their grievances are real and serious.

But Fillmore is in a dire fiscal crisis, as are most California cities. And, “doing some bake sales to help pay for the legal fees”, as Councilman Gonzalez recommends, will not succeed. If we can sell a couple of million cupcakes at a dollar per cup, maybe we would have a chance – a fat chance.

By rejecting the settlement, Sipes, Brooks, and Gonzalez have condemned this town to years more of legal fees. This was an absurdly emotional and illogical act.

Let’s try to reverse this decision. Then I would stand and applaud.