Well, it’s finally happened; a perfect storm of letters flagellating the publisher for his editorials condemning the city’s new council majority and its core of minions has landed. The issue immediately before me is: how do I respond to four recent letters and last week’s screed from Kazenjammer sympathizer Bob Stroh. Stroh’s persistent and creative criticisms have taken-up a lot of space for a long time. But never, it seems, enough for him.

Since I have to keep my promise of last week and respond to Mr. Stroh’s last letter, as well as his letter this week, forgive me if I’m beginning to feel like this is the Stroh that threatens to break the camel’s back.

I’ve decided the only way to address all of these complaints is to do so piecemeal. I will try to answer each charge or question individually, as briefly as possible. and add some questions of my own. Oddly, I don’t ever remember receiving an answer to any of my questions, questions which are the basis of my criticisms. Let’s hope my luck will change beginning this edition. If I happen to run too long I will finish-up next week. But no further questions will be taken from Mr. Stroh on the bogus “issue” of (then) Mayor Steve Conaway’s trip to Washington D.C. This has become one of Stroh’s pet red herrings (sorry for the funny metaphore) and as such (and having been thoroughly answered numerous times), I will put it last on the list.
Mr. Stroh’s letter of this week:

As to the allegation that I have devoted “over 300 column inches” to criticizing all council members. I only regret that 300 appears to be insufficient to halt your wild and fallacious accusations, Bob. It’s my business to criticize political activity when I believe it is damaging city government.

Please be specific about your accusation that I have “slandered” anyone, or made “grossly fallacious claims”. Please give due respect for legitimate hyperbole; this is, after all, a place for opinion, not a place for scientific speculation. Again, show me the statements; it’s impossible to reply without them.

You have made a great deal out of the fact that I omitted Mr. Bartels’ assigned work on the north Fillmore plan. This was Mr. Bartels’ assignment as an employee of the city. That fact in no way changes my conclusion that he has been sympathetic to the new council membership. As far as I know, sympathy is not a crime, nor does it in any way “besmirch” Mr. Bartels, who, as I have acknowledged, is a gentleman I have known for many years. You paint with wild colors, Bob – try getting more on the canvas and less on yourself.

Answers to questions concerning AECOM bids will have to wait for next week. They have, however, been answered before by our Director of Public Works, several times, as well as explained to the council at its last meeting.

Bob, why don’t you save yourself embarrassment by not demanding an answer to the “emails released by the city”? Would any thinking person find anything, anything at all wrong with this stream of correspondence? These people are traveling to a conference, paid for by the conference, for the purpose of providing evidence of the usefulness of the Design Build and Operate (DBO) system for the water treatment plant – AFTER the contract was signed, with full knowledge and approval of city council, legal counsel, and after much discussion. Why should this sound so spooky to you? It was not an issue then; it is not an issue now (to reasonable people). This is why I question spending any more time explaining this “issue” of yours. Questions about Conaway “being objective”? Please provide evidence of any non-objectivity! How many other bad activities do you suspect Mr. Conaway of doing simply because you have no evidence of them having occurred? It would be equally credible to believe that you and I have conspired (“good ol’ boys club”) to sell newspapers by causing this useless debate to drag on for so many months. And, you know, Bob, maybe it does.

“It’s the people’s money Martin...” This part of the last sentence of your June 30 letter is one of the facts I worry most about. Our former City Manager Roy Payne has spelled-out the fiscal dangers of government by the new majority. He should know, after more than 20 years with the city. If you’re thanking God for this new leadership, please show us ANY progress they have made since taking office. I can show the damage. Please refer to Mr. Payne’s article in this edition of the Gazette. He speaks of facts, Bob, not empty, emotional platitudes. Please point out any error in his remarks, or in any of a half-dozen other of Mr. Payne’s letters and blog posts. I dare you to – double dog dare you.
This ends comments on Mr. Stroh’s June 30 letter.

Next, a letter from a member of a distinguished pioneer family, Donna Voelker. I hesitate to argue with a Voelker, since my parents were long-time friends many years ago. So, let me provide some answers to these questions: “Rehash old issues? What good does that do? There are so many positive aspects to our Fillmore community that could be featured in the space you are taking up with your attacks on each other. Why not spend the time and energy expended attacking each other and rehashing past events that cannot be changed, in coming up with positive solutions to the problems currently being faced. My grandmother always said a house divided cannot stand; is this what we want for our community.”

Why spend the time? “Rehash old issues?” “What good does that do?” “ that cannot be changed.” All good questions. After observing city government close-up for 20 years I believe great damage is being done by the new majority on the council. Again, please refer to Mr. Payne’s article in this week’s edition. When considering city development most of the issues are always “old” but still vitally important. When changes are whimsically made, disregarding enormous financial consequences, the city loses many millions. “Attacks on each other”, as far as I am concerned, are not personal, they go the heart of the problems, which are caused by individuals making very bad decisions. Any good this may do stands to save the economy and standard of living in Fillmore for decades to come. I will continue to point out these problems until they are corrected, or become beyond correction. That’s the job of a local community newspaper. I have only one voice, but the paper is always open to numerous, differing opinions both in print and online.
Thank you very much for your opinion.

Remember, the campaign war cry of Washburn, Brooks, Westling, Stroh, Walker, and (former failed Mayor) Creagle, was “Take Back Our Town!” As Mr. Payne’s letter demonstrates, they have taken it back from success and a bright future, and are proceeding to destroy what was built over so many years by their ignorance, inexperience, and incompetence. Watch the last council video again (Channel 10, 6:30) it’s very instructive; “That’s option four.”

Now to Ms. Washburn’s personal letter of July 7.
Gayle, I have watched with great interest your words and actions since you became interested in running for a seat on the council. At first I saw promise. Then it became apparent that you were driving a hard-line agenda which ran contra to virtually all existing city plans.

You claim some expertise at understanding city accounting. Why didn’t you assist with attempts to finish this year’s budget? - still not done despite the fact that former Finance Director Barbara Smith left a completed, balanced, preliminary budget, and could not find anyone to meet with her to finish the job before leaving. We still have no Finance Director – at least none has appeared at council meetings as Ms. Smith did for about 20 years.

You argued loud and long against the use of a Design, Build, and Operate (DBO) method for the water treatment plant knowing nothing about it. You later changed your mind and supported it, after both Santa Paula and Piru followed Fillmore’s example and adopted it.

I listened to many of your insistently argued, inane, and uninformed statements against the present plant, its engineering, and cost. Example: “Couldn’t we save some money by not using this non-reactive concrete?” You have been on the wrong side of just about every critical decision the city has had to make. This doesn’t inspire my confidence; neither does your habit of holding numerous, lengthy, closed-door meetings with other Katzenjammers and staff. Is this the “open government” you folks promised?

My editorial comments are not “malicious” Gayle; they are designed to point-out dangerous ideas and decisions taken by an incompetent new council majority. I have never heard you “abuse” a staff member by “written or spoken word”. Staff can be abused, to the point of having to leave their positions, by the noxious atmosphere created by a newly minted council majority. Top city management has fled precisely because of this ignorance, and inexperience, coupled with insufferable micromanagement policies, and a refusal to extend job protection to long-term top employees after they publicly expressed fear for their jobs (because of the new majority). You, and the other Katzenjammers, insult key employees by insisting that some new city manager in a year or so will “evaluate their job performance.” What would a new manager know about properly evaluating employees on the job for 20 years? Again, please refer to Mr. Payne’s article. It is this outrageous attitude of disrespect and the unfriendly environment it creates that has killed cooperation at city hall. You permit campaign manager Bozos (and a failed mayor) like Gary Creagle to invade city hall and intimidate staff? This is the “abuse” to which I allude.

You find my opinions “shocking, hateful and disruptive to the community”? My column is entitled “Realities.” You should not be shocked if you had a clue to the reality of the free-fall you, Mr. Brooks, and Ms. Walker have brought to city government. “Hateful”, never, though you may hate to hear the truth so frequently. It’s not so much that you get things wrong so often, Gayle. The thing is, you tend to cling to your mistakes for dear life in the face of reality, the reality of you being wrong. The problem is your inability to admit mistakes.

“Work together?” This is an example of your hypocrisy. Where was your sense of togetherness when you refused to provide reasonable contracts for the only remaining two top-managers, Mr. Rapp and Mr. McSweeney, after they have worked for the city successfully for an average of nearly 20 years? Visit Mr. Payne’s article, again.
“Lies?” I challenge you to find any lies in my editorials. I’m not infallible, but any errors of fact are always corrected. A lie, as you Katzenjammers should know, is an intentional falsehood. Find one!

“Divisive?” Wasn't it your fellow council curmudgeon who opened his first meeting with the warning: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword"? The new council majority has caused a division of historical proportions. Just ask the several former city top-management personnel who have fled the city expressly because of treatment by you and Brooks and Walker. I was forewarned of this well before the election.

What you need is not a “retraction” Gayle; what you need is further reflection on the mess you and your cohorts have made of city government, finances, and future plans.

But don’t take my word for it, read Roy Payne’s article this week, and the many others he has had published during the past several months. You may also wish to re-read the paid political advertisement (November of 2008) by FIVE former mayors of Fillmore, expressing their fear of a Katzenjammer coup.

It’s late. I’m not finished. If I am unable to finish this response for this issue, I will continue into next week.
Ms. Washburn’s expectations will remain unfulfilled. But, my hope for a recall begins to bloom.