I guess I should apologize somewhat to the four kids who were skateboarding down the front steps of city hall Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Maybe a polite word of admonition would have been better than raising my voice.
However, after we have spent more than one million dollars on a state-of-the-art skateboard park, I find it difficult to politely ask skateboarders who are tearing-up the steps at city hall to cease and desist. Besides, their parting words to me justified (retroactively) my raised voice.

***

Vote NO on Measure F
I grew very tired of the bitter civil war over at El Dorado Mobile Home Estates during the past couple of years. For that reason I have pretty much avoided the controversy over Measure F. After reading the Measure more carefully, listening to the great majority of El Dorado homeowners, and reading a nicely summed-up editorial in the Ventura Star entitled “Don’t be fooled by Measure F (Tues. Oct. 27, page A 14) I’m voting NO on F.
The name of the Measure is certainly misleading as “the Fair Rent and Homeownership Initiative”. Rent stabilization would not apply to many residents, and most of the elderly have no interest in taking-on a mortgage to purchase space in a condominium. The vast majority of residents oppose Measure F, and they are the ones who will have to live with the results. That’s why I urge Fillmore residents to vote NO on Measure F.

 


 

As things stand now regarding our new city council majority, it’s clear to me that a recall election would prove to be far less expensive (at about $30,000), than permitting Walker, Washburn, and Brooks to continue in office. The damage they have done to city government, city finances, and staff morale, is truly unprecedented in our history. Virtually everything they have gotten their hands on has turned to mud. Just ask any former council member for their opinion of the present council majority if you want valid corroboration of my opinion.
Mayor Walker, the only council person in Fillmore’s history to be censured for misconduct, would receive her second censure for lying about the recently exposed fraudulent RFP procedure (undertaken to hire a new, unneeded, audit firm) if two other council members were not personal friends and political cronies. The whole idea of seeking a new audit firm when our former Finance Director had just quit (under duress after 20-plus years on the job) and the budget unfinished, was preposterous, especially when heavy fines threatened any late audit submissions.

I am confident that our new City Manager Yvonne Quiring has the independence and intelligence to discover what has been happening, and to put our city government back in order. Ms. Quiring comes to us with a unanimous council recommendation. In any event, as the citizens of Fillmore wake-up, I’m confident the corrupt, disgraced, and incompetent Katzenjammer insurgency will be defeated. What good of any significance has the new council majority of Walker, Washburn, and Brooks achieved in their first year? I can think of nothing – but confusion, misrepresentation, and waste.

***

Don’t forget the FEMA meeting, Thursday, 6:30PM at the Veteran Memorial Bldg.

 


 

I’ll be glad when this year runs out. I don’t think I’ve ever observed so many serious problems before, and none of them have been resolved as yet.

I will repeat my welcome to our new City Manager Yvonne Quiring, and I do wish her every success. That success may depend upon recognizing the insurgents that have come to live at city hall, the ones who succeeded in running-off most of our experienced upper and mid-management without a thought about just who would pick up the pieces or how that would be done. The Katzenjammers also failed to understand how expensive their conduct would be for the taxpayers of Fillmore. I’m confident that after everything is tallied-up the new council majority will have squandered more than a half-million from the general fund.

At this week’s joint meeting held in the north Fillmore Police Storefront Ms. Quiring apologized for the fact that no RFPs (Request for Proposals) were sent out to secure a new auditing firm for the city. Quiring’s candor and quick action are greatly appreciated. This independent conclusion also confirms that Mayor Patti Walker and interim City Manager Larry Pennell lied when they repeatedly stated that RFPs were sent. This all happened before our former, reliable, auditing firm was arbitrarily kicked out. No wonder Pennell could not answer Councilman Conaway’s questions. If the council majority were not composed of dedicated Katzenjammers, Mayor Walker would be subject to her second censure.

But, stay tune; more colorful council revelations are expected soon.

So much for the new council majority “taking back our town.”

***

Flood insurance! Due to FEMA’s new flood map some 1,500 Fillmore residents will soon be forced to purchase flood insurance. This will prove to be a back-breaking challenge for many homeowners, as the annual cost could exceed $1,800 per year, on top of the mortgage. Everyone is urged to attend the October 21 meeting concerning this new insruance. It is my understanding that those who purchase flood insurance before December 20, 2009 can save up to 50 percent. Please check this out at city hall.

***

With all the trouble stirred-up by allegations of malfeasance by an Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources (now former Assistant), I would have thought things in the District would have settled-down.
Not so. Another huge contest is in full bloom over the creation of Charter School in Piru. The necessary papers have been signed and filed but last minute objections by a few Piru School teachers, and strong opposition from the District cloud the waters.

Allegations from the proponents of the Charter School accuse unnamed District and School Board officials of threatening to blackball any teacher who signs-on to the Charter School by never again employing them in the District should they leave in the future. It is claimed these sorts of threats are strictly unlawful. We hope things are quickly corrected.

***

Don’t miss the re-opening of the north Fillmore Police Storefront festivities Wednesday, October 21, at 4:30. Come and see what a great job volunteers have done to expand and refresh the original site.

***

I’m sure that Fillmore’s Central Avenue merchants now appreciate the costly new storm drain after our first rain. There will be no more flooding in the area from Highway 126 to First Street on Central. No more need for those pedestrian crossing boards to avoid the usually high water.

A big Thank You should go out to Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, for this successful project, as well as the superb paving and curb work on Central.

***

Finally, thank God. It’s great to see the rain!

 


 

My apologies go out to our new City Manager Yvonne Quiring for not having attended the welcome party last week. Although the Ventura Star received an invitation, the Fillmore Gazette did not. Isn’t that special?
All the same, Ms. Quiring, on behalf of the Gazette I welcome you and wish you every success.

***

While I’m on the subject of curious city management practices, I would ask, for the fourth time, that Asst. City Mgr. Bill Bartels pay the second half of the city’s obligation to the Gazette for legal notices (2009-2010). In 20 years the city has never before split this sum; and never before has it been 3 months late.

***

Our newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, with the past cooperation of temporary City Manager Larry Pennell, seems to be painting herself into a corner on the issue of a serious Brown Act violation. I encourage everyone to read former City Manager Roy Payne’s letter on the subject this week. In short, Walker and Pennell deliberately ignored the warning of Councilman Steve Conaway and thereafter ran amuck of the law. The city has since been sued on the issue. Walker has brushed-off the violation as though nothing of consequence happened. We shall see.

 


 

A response to Mayor Walker’s letter:

Mayor Walker:
As has been your habit for many years, your communication is deliberately misleading, to the point where it can fairly be characterized as a lie. It’s not possible for you to tell “the rest of the story” when you can’t seem to get the basic story right. Allow me to place this story into its clear, accurate historical context.

Our last city auditor was instructed not to begin his pre-audit work back in early July. Larry Pennell did not seek council authorization for an RFP (Request for Proposal) until August 23. At that meeting Pennell told the council that regional auditing firms would be allowed to submit bids for the work (he had earlier recommended a search for a new auditor, another of his “re-sets”).

City staff sent RMS the previous auditor’s invoices, which common sense tells us resulted in a non-competitive bid (completely contrary to the intent of a “re-set”).

For several weeks Councilman Conaway asked Pennell and Bartels to produce the RFP. Both Pennell and Bartels would not respond to this email. Conaway also requested a list of companies that received the RFP. This was not provided. Conaway asked the city’s previous auditor if his firm had received the RFP; his answer was at that time, “no”.

The RFP states that the bid process is open until late October. There seemed to be no urgency to the matter. However, at the last council meeting Pennell and the new council majority stated that it was imperative to give the work to Pennell’s preferred company because time was of the essence due to “excessive” fines charged for late completion of the work. This urgency was caused by the mistaken decision by Pennell and Bartels to inform the previous audit firm to halt all pre-audit work back in early July.

None of this should have been a surprise to Pennell or Bartels.

I have to ask why any experienced city manager or assistant city manager would halt the extremely important audit work in July, and then proceed to do nothing for 6 or so weeks before having to declare an emergency which, they claim, necessitated choosing their preferred audit firm and ignoring the others. Some “re-set”. This was a sham.

What makes this whole matter even more suspicious is the fact that before our former City Finance Director, Barbara Smith, was provoked into early retirement after 23 years (due to gross disrespect from Bill Bartels, you as mayor, as well as Council persons Washburn and Brooks) she had repeatedly warned of this situation. She had a list of 13 critically important financial issues that had to be undertaken in a short timeframe. Smith did everything in her power to convey this message but was completely shut out of all communications with Bartels, Pennell, and you, Ms. Mayor. Smith told me of this in an interview shortly before this gross disrespect caused her to retire prematurely – she had expressed her desire to work two more years to full retirement. In an interview with the Ventura Star, Smith characterized Bartels in these words: “That gentleman doesn’t know what he is doing” (this is a close paraphrase of her words).

Ms. Mayor, you state that Ms. Young was not adequately trained, yet you voted to give her a 5 percent raise for her excellent work. Why wasn’t Ms. Young provided temporary assistance by Pennell? Mr. Pennell was provided the above mentioned list of 13 critical tasks (which needed to be completed prior to the pre-audit work) before Finance Director Smith retired.

This entire situation is the direct result of gross incompetence on the part of Mr. Pennell and Mr. Bartels.
Tapes of most of these statements are available to corroborate my remarks.

Nice try, Ms. Mayor.

P.S.
Had Ms. Smith not been so grossly disrespected, ignored, and insulted By Pennell, Bartels, Washburn, Brooks, and you, Ms. Mayor. she would have continued with her job another two years and none of these problems and new expenses would have occurred. How badly was she treated? Ms. Smith volunteered to assist in finishing-up the pre-audit work FREE OF CHARGE. What was the Katzenjammer's response to this generous offer: They DECLINED the offer.
That's how poisonous the atmosphere had become after the new council majority took over.

It's becoming clear to me that a RECALL election would prove to be far less expensive than letting these arrogant Bozos continue in office.

 


 

I have to formally apologize to our VFW this week. I was invited to a presentation dinner Tuesday and failed to make it, although I had been reminded several times and had it calendared. I am dealing with a sciatic nerve problem, took some pills, went back to the office and simply lost track of the time. Again, my apologies. I hope someone took some photos.
***
How’s that for hard news.
***
I’m happy to report that the Gazette’s emails to Interim City Manager Larry Pennell, Assistant City Manager Bill Bartels, and City Clerk Clay Westling were answered. We were looking for missing pages D-18 and D-19 of the approved 09-010 budget which was posted on the city’s website. According to Westling, who witnessed the printing of the budget, the machine got the “hiccups” when it reached those two pages. These pages provide a summary of all the salaries for all City of Fillmore employees, by name and position.

But wait! We were also FAXed D-18 and D-19, and they appear to be taken from the ’08-’09 budget – unless Fire Chief Bill Herrera has reclaimed his old position. I haven’t had time to check-out the city’s website yet.
***
Both the Fillmore School District office and the School Board have been extremely reluctant to provide any details concerning the disposition of issues dealing with alleged misconduct by District employee Evalene Townend.

It was reported that Towend requested, and was granted, reassignment from her former position as Assistant Superintendent of Personnel for the Fillmore Unified School District to a newly created position with an undisclosed salary.

District employees are angry that so few facts have been made available. It is hopped that full disclosure of the facts will be forthcoming very soon.
***

Councilwoman Gayle Washburn addressed many El Dorado Mobile Home Park residents this week at a clubhouse meeting held to discuss Measure ‘F’. This measure was promoted by the Park owners to permit condominium development. Washburn has stepped into the middle of this highly controversial situation by telling the audience that the signatures gathered to put Measure ‘F’ on the ballot were fraudulently obtained.

The Gazette has taken no stand in this controversy; however, if Ms. Washburn has evidence of fraud she should present it to the District Attorney’s office. A public accusation of fraud, if untrue, can be a civil cause of action. But in Ms. Washburn’s case, another public falsehood is just more evidence of her unethical habits.

 


 

I sat through the first part of Tuesday’s regular council meeting, and finished-off watching the rest on Channel 10.

The experience firmed-up my belief that we have a spendthrift council. It seems incredible to me that we have just hired a new city manager for about $25,000 more than we paid the previous one. What bothers me most, however, is the fact that the new manager was hired for a full three years. It would have cost us nothing to provide a 6-month or one-year probation period to see how things worked out. And, it would have avoided the possibility of having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on any unfulfilled part of the contract.

Our new manager had to be bought-out of her last employment contract for a third of a million dollars when things didn’t work out at that time. The City of Fillmore had to pay out $100,000 20 years ago to then Manager Stan Greene, for the same reason. I certainly hope things work out for the city this time, but hope is not a good business basis, and our new manager doesn’t need it, she’s covered by a legally enforceable contract.

I just ask – why?

***

Watching Brooks and Washburn at the meeting also reestablished in my mind that they haven’t a clue to what they’re doing up there. It’s like watching bothersome children. I urge everyone to watch the replay on Channel 10 – see Washburn argue with our city counsel about legal matters; watch Brooks exhibit his garrulous cluelessness, as they, and Mayor Walker, seek to avoid the true financial cost of their vaunted Measure I.
Pathetic.

 

Letters to the editor, answers to those letters, and further rebuttals, are getting somewhat confused these days.

This is largely due to the fact that after being printed in the Gazette they are also posted online at fillmoregazette.com. While the Gazette is published once a week, our website is on 24/7, and many responses to these letters are posted that do not get into the paper. It’s a conundrum of sorts for the Gazette. In other words, one person can read the first letter, maybe even a response, and possibly miss many other responses and rebuttals to the letter during the online conversation. I guess the only answer is to encourage everyone to follow-up letters to the editor by keeping-up with responses on the Blogs and Forums online.

***

The Fillmore City Council has finally chosen a new City Manager. After the new Council majority, Brooks, Washburn, and Walker, managed to run-off virtually all of the city’s most talented and experienced top and mid-management personnel, and refused contracts to the remaining two who have publically expressed concern for their job security, the new Manager faces difficult challenges.

I agree with former City Manager Roy Payne that any newly hired city manager should not be given an unconditional multi-year contract. The only prudent thing to do here is to provide a trial period of perhaps six months to a year. This suggestion was rejected by a majority of the Council. This was a big, unnecessary, mistake, especially in view of the fact that our new Manager had to be bought-out of her last contract for more than $332,500. It doesn’t matter whose fault caused the last managerial contract to fail, it failed, and the city had to pay a third of a million dollars.

Since I am constantly reminded that I have supported Councilman Steve Conaway in virtually all of his council decisions, I hasten to state my firm objection to how this contract was structured. Absolutely nothing would have been lost if a probationary period had been provided. Twenty years ago the city was burned badly by one City Manager Stan Green (a Creagle idea) when his contract had to be bought out for about $100,000 (more than $200,000 in today’s dollars). That could have been avoided with a simple (and typical) probationary period of employment. Big mistake, Steve.

That said, Yvonne Quiring, welcome to Fillmore. We all wish you great success as our new City Manager. As keeper of the city’s jewels, please keep a jeweler’s eye on Council members Brooks, Washburn, and Mayor Walker.

 

The flu bug has taken its toll at the Gazette. So, amongst much sniffling and coughing, Realities will be cut short this week.

The Katzenjammers are chortling around the water cooler today, celebrating the fact that they finally cobbled together a preliminary budget. Even though it’s 192 pages long, the citizens of Fillmore had one whole day to read it. Sounds like Congress. Now it’s time for them to divulge the total cost of having Mr. Wooner and Pennell fill-in for Barbara Smith. Roy Payne believes Pennell, alone, will have been paid $116,000 for less than 6 months work if his contract is extended 200 hours.

It appears that Jamey Brooks has fallen on his budget-cutting sword. And, a biscuit for Mr. Sipes for sucking-up to the council majority with praise from the dais for the on-line budget. Are you going for that Deputy City Clerk job, Brian?
Oh, glorious day!

 

Three issues are prominent this week: the state of the budget, efforts to hire a new city manager and finance director, and the city’s recent victory in the lawsuit filed against Fillmore by the cities of Livermore and Industry.

Thanks to the chicanery, incompetence, unlawful activity, and incivility of our newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, efforts to hire a new city manager have become confused and delayed. It would be helpful if our city council would decide exactly what salary would be paid to our new manager. However, Councilmembers Jamey Brooks and Gayle Washburn campaigned on the promise to cut the salaries of top management. Brooks insists on unspecified but significant cuts. But the employment brochure sent to prospective applicants for the job of city manager is misleading, mentioning nothing about this contentious issue. Very little time remains to hire a new manager – and find a new finance director. Right now, things are adrift.

The budget remains in utter disarray. Although former City Finance Director Barbara Smith left a balanced preliminary budget, except for tax and other information unavailable at that time, attempts by the interim finance director and interim city manager to complete an accurate and timely budget have, to date, failed. While much time has been spent on reformatting the budget (using a spread sheet which is easier to read), erroneous balances and transfers of funds to the new format have rendered it wildly inaccurate. These erroneous balances caused our interim city manager to proclaim that the city would be broke in 18 months without implementing drastic budget cuts. This proved to be untrue, thanks to the errors uncovered by Councilman Steve Conaway. Time for the production of an accurate preliminary budget is of the essence because the employment contracts for our interim city manager and finance director will expire in a matter of days.

Everything is being rushed, especially any meaningful analysis and deliberation by our city council. It is obvious that four of the five council members are not up to the task of evaluating the work. Only Councilman Conaway has shown a grasp of the problems. Although he had only a day to compare Smith’s preliminary numbers with the newly formatted preliminary budget numbers before the last council meeting, he discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of mistakes – many glaring. In fact Conaway found 37 serious errors, with less than a day to quickly check about two-thirds of the new preliminary budget. The other council members were clearly unprepared to assist in this evaluation because they had not done their homework before the meeting. It appears that the new preliminary budget has been prepared with too much haste.

Had Conaway not attended the meeting I fear the other four council members would have assented to the preliminary budget formulation with only minor changes. This is truly alarming. Incidentally, Conaway had secured a commitment from former (recently retired) Finance Director Barbara Smith, to come to city hall and assist in the transfer of funds from her preliminary budget to the new format – free of charge! This proposal, presented to Mayor Walker, Mr. Pennell, John Wooten, and Bill Bartels, was rejected out of hand. How’s that for cooperation in the interest of city business – as Brooks, Walker and Washburn promised during the last campaign? This is another example of how these council members put personal feelings ahead of city business. In private business they would all be fired.

Lastly, the Cities of Livermore and Insustry have lost their lawsuit against the City of Fillmore. Our twelve demurs were affirmed. That’s like having the court say, “I understand the facts you present in your complaint, but you don’t state a cause of action”. The suit even accused us of RICO crimes! The lawsuit was bogus from the beginning.

Maybe this will finally shut-down those loudmouthed Katzenjammers who have been shouting about the “unethical” contract the city entered with Virginia-based Owen & Minor, which has enriched city coffers by millions. We not only won the case, we may very well get attorney’s fees.

I recall the meeting when former City Manager Roy Payne presented this fantastic offer from Owens & Minor (one of the country’s largest medical supply companies) which brings in over $800,000 per year in sales taxes. This 20-year contract still has about 18-years to go.

Payne explained the contract in great detail and answered many questions. The contract was then scrutinized by our legal counsel and proclaimed valid and lawful. Only recently have the Katzenjammers (like Bob Stroh) gotten sentimental over alleged issues of “ethics.” Ironically, the idea of ethics has been shunned by Mayor Walker, as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code. Stroh went so far in his support for the (then Councilwoman Walker) as to proclaim that signing the ethics code would violate Walker’s First Amendment rights.
Isn’t politics great?
We should remember in November.

 

I attended a very revealing city council meeting last night. Officially it was a “Special Budget Workshop Meeting & Special City Council Meeting”.

First of all, it was a very productive meeting, largely due to the painstaking preparation of Councilman Conaway. He obviously had spent a substantial amount of time analyzing the latest version of the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, comparing it with the base documents. He had prepared thirty-something questions for the interim Finance Director to answer. Each was addressed efficiently, in short order. These corrections and explanations caused significant, positive revisions of the budget.
Conaway’s habitual preparedness should be contrasted with other council members who came to the meeting only marginally prepared.

For example, Councilmember Washburn, as usual, had to flip madly through her budget folder, struggling to find the page to which she was referring. One of the few simi-comical moments came when Councilmember Washburn interrupted Conaway’s orderly inquiries to whip-out a sheet showing what council members in other Ventura County cities are paid. Her timing was embarrassingly bad. It was neither the time nor the place for suggesting a pay raise for herself, and other council members.

What was equally embarrassing, or humorous, was Washburn’s expression of fake surprise, as if to say, “Gee, look what I found”. Her bench buddy, Councilman Brooks, displayed delighted interest in the “discovery.” Washburn’s research shows that all Ventura County cities budget significant salaries for their council members. The City of Ojai, for example, budgets $197,000 per year for its council members. The City of Fillmore pays $150 per month, or $1,800 per year, to its council members. With one exception, I guess you get what you pay for.

City Legal Counsel, Ted Schneider, dampened Washburn’s excitement when he informed her that the council could not increase its salaries until the next election.

What I find really funny is the fact that Washburn, Brooks, and Mayor Walker have been researching this idea for months. Now the Katzenjammers see an opportunity to be rewarded for their incompetence.

Remember, these were the people who sought to cut the wages of city staff, middle and upper management. Brooks was to wield his notorious budget-wage-cutting sword, and stated, on April 14 of this year, and several times before and after the election, that “when the budget comes under review, he will discuss salary reductions, because [he] believes Fillmore cannot afford to match other cities’ salaries.” He had “not come to bring peace, but a sword.” This was the same time that Washburn described management and staff concerns for job security as “unnecessary hysteria.”

It’s got to be nerve-wracking to have to wait for more than a year (the next election) to go from $150 per month to, possibly, $3,000! This adds a whole new dimension to reasons to get on the council, or stay on. How odd that after decades of paying little or nothing for good council service, that this cabal of alleged budget-cutters would bring up this issue of council compensation. I would think that Jamey, with that sword, and Gayle, and Patti, with their concerns over management and staff salaries, would fend off the temptation to increase their public booty.

 

A response to a letter from Dennis DeCuir

At last! A worthy liberal opponent enters the fray. Thank you Dennis for breaking the bonds of Stroh-like banality. I had no idea that all of this time you were lying in wait atop that hill for the perfect moment to strike. I can sense the satisfaction involved in composing your letter. You have loosed the puppies of petulance with flair, even literary promise, though I cringe at your use of a phrase from the greatest genius who ever lived. Your 29 years in law enforcement and my 25 years in publishing newspapers provide an interesting contrast of opinion. I’m wondering when you first discovered you were a liberal; unusual for a lawman. I think I’m a congenital conservative. Were you a closet liberal all of those years?

I was elated to receive your letter because it so perfectly exemplifies the quintessential liberal. Over the years I have received a number of these disparagements. Some, such as the one I received after my short eulogy for the late, great, William F. Buckley, Jr., are so carefully crafted that they have earned a place in my archive. They would make exciting material for a first year final exam in psychology. You’re not there yet, but I see promise.

I’m not exaggerating, Dennis. I still have volume one, issue five of “fact:” magazine- from (September-October) of 1964! The “Editor and Publisher” was Ralph Ginsburg. Why did I save it? I saved it because it (also) clearly illustrates a glaring problem with the liberal mindset. On the cover, in a one-point box, are the words: “1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater Is Psychologically Unfit To Be President!” The subtitle is “The Unconscious of a Conservative [a nifty take-off on Goldwater’s book]: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater”.

The most revealing thing about this magazine is that many M.D.s and Psychiatrists actually contributed damning psychological conclusions, and signed them. One example: Alan M. Levy, M.D. (New York) “I think Goldwater has a paranoid personality which shows itself by marked rigidity, a tendency to project blame, fear of internal impulses breaking out and inherent contradictions in almost all of his statements…” All this, and the doctor had never met Senator Goldwater. Ah, savor the fruit of liberal intellect. Incidentally, in my opinion Republicans are not much better due to weak leadership and murky fundamentals.

The 64 pages were replete with outrageous pen and ink cartoons. This treatment was consistent with Democrat Party campaign tactics, then and today. I guess lies work. Kennedy won – as did Obama.

Like you, Dennis, I have neither medical nor psychiatric letters, but I know enough not to practice without a license. And, I wouldn’t practice English literature without a license either. I think it follows that the sort of pseudo-professional criticism you practice here indicates you have a “projection” issue to deal with. You need to sort-out the Stroh-like conflict you appear to have in facing the world of facts, that thorny old reality thing.

Some facts: By any meaningful standard or definition, the U.S. is bankrupt. Printing more money out of thin air only makes matters worse, unless the science of mathematics and economics no longer applies. Or, maybe we’ve entered that state that liberals love to fantasize about, some sort of parallel reality? Typical of liberal letter-writers, you have only the vaguest criticisms to offer, and zero solutions. Most of your concerns could take a book to answer; and many books have already answered them.

Left wing conspiracy? It doesn’t take much to create a conspiracy, Dennis. Only criminal and unethical conspiracies are bad. I’m not even sure that Obama and his Chicago cabal rate that sort of label, without a deliberately hidden agenda. Maybe he just heads-up a group of really bad guys with really bad ideas and an energetic agenda. It all depends upon any intent to deceive. Among the issues here: his true intent regarding abortion, national defense, the economy, government growth, socialized medical care, increased taxation, religious influence in schools and government, free enterprise, constitutional integrity, political and judicial appointments (if there’s a difference), national sovereignty, etc. Liberals see it one way, conservatives another, but all CPAs with integrity agree. Characterizing Obama is less important than understanding the long-term, detrimental consequences of his actions. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a national disaster; he’s focusing a perfect storm.

My characterizing Sotomayor as a racist “a bit Shakespearian”? Dennis, you could have Googled a better line from the Bard. I will just say that no aspirant to this nation’s highest judicial post, since Reconstruction, could ever have dreamed of approval after making the repeated, blatant, sexist-racist statements this woman has made. Considering the unconscionable personal excoriation Democrats inflicted upon Judge Bork, and every Republican nominee for the high court in the past 40 years (each superbly qualified), the cakewalk this mediocre nominee participated in is a scandalous charade. Again, her appointment is to be expected because liberal Democrats operate in that emotionally irrational, intellectually barren other-reality, and they’re in control. And, Republican Senators are, for the most part, obsequious toadies. Republicans have no guts, Democrats no soul. There are a number of Latino judges who could better fill the bill – but we aren’t looking to appoint by ethnicity, are we?

Sotomayor’s Senate interview was a shameful farce. Her testimony was completely disingenuous, and her answers contradictory. She fully intends to make policy from the bench, as she has in the past. Her support for abortion is absolute under any and all circumstances. She wants tax money to pay for all abortions. She will use foreign law in her decisions. And, she could not answer this simple (paraphrased) question: “Does a person have the right to defend himself?” She will, as in the past, attempt to diminish the Second Amendment by finding it is not an individual constitutional right under the 14th Amendment. Her presence on the Supreme Court will be like storing a bottle of Ripple with eight bottles of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam tucked into the world’s most exclusive wine cellar. She is an important part of Obama’s ethnic revenge.

Most of the esteemed justices of the court must be shuddering at the prospect of having to deal with such a flaming mediocrity, in for life. Our heritage, Christian or otherwise, “cannot be destroyed?” I don’t have the time to school you in world history, Dennis. You, and liberals like you, are causing our heritage to “morph” alright. You folks, through appointments like Sotomayor, are morphing our rights right out of our Constitution, and accelerating America’s moral degeneration. This is a continuation of that 1960s liberal mantra “If it feels good, do it.” You remember those days, don’t you? After 40 years of that, the hangover commeth. But, again, as you say, “…so be it.” In my best liberal Ebonics I say, it be.

What really concerns me, Dennis, are those radical liberals exercising government power who look down on tradition, especially conservative Christian tradition, with condescension at best, and rapacious officiousness at worst, while deliberating the fate of the citizen thought to be too religious, or too republican (small “r”), and just what should be done to impress conformity on them. In this setting, I’m sure the Founding Fathers would look pretty paranoid to you as well.

My sincere thanks for the concern you express over “…all that [I’ve] been through in the last year…” I hope the opportunity I have provided to air your grievances helps to ease your anxiety. Next time make an effort to bring some solutions along with your complaints.

 

Well, the grand finally response to Mayor Walker, Bob Stroh, and Brian Sipes has come and gone, not with a bang, but a whimper (apologies to Mr. Elliot.) I’m betting that Mr. Sipes will be appointed our next City Clerk.

This lack of response tells me that not only are readers fed-up with this political sniping and counter-sniping, but those who have accused me of making false statements are left with a bad case of egg-on-face.

To Mayor Walker I would say, since you now have a four-to-one majority on the council there is no need to continue to disrespect Councilman Conaway, and there is a need to let him speak. He’s the only one left to provide any balance to the decision-making process.

Since I still have serious concerns about the competence of the council majority, the damage it has caused to city staff morale, and the as-yet incomplete budget, I will continue to comment on relevant issues. As always, readers are invited to contribute their opinions as well. Also, dangerous and ugly things are being done to our republic – congress is about to admit the first true racist to our Supreme Court bench since Reconstruction times; the nation is bankrupt; national defense is under attack by liberals, and our Christian heritage is about to be all but destroyed by the radical left Obama has led into government – etc.

***

If anyone has a photo of me being sprayed during the swimming pool complex grand opening please sent it in and I will post it online. It was great to finally see the new pool open. The Community Swimming Pool Wet Play Area is now working. It will be on during Rec Swim 1:15-3:30pm and Family Night 6:00-8:00pm (on Friday nights).

***

The Showmanship event at the School Farm was great, in sunny weather. Photos of pre-County Fair work-up can
be seen here http://www.fillmoregazette.com/school/school-farm and we hope to have information on winners, etc. soon.

 

Due to the number of questions, the search of our data base to respond to the letters of Mayor Patti Walker, Bob Stroh, and Brian Sipes, has taken several hours. I don’t intend to turn this newspaper over to political groupies who have united in support of our new city council majority. And I don’t intend to bore our readers with an endless debate about city politics.

The rebuttal information is voluminous. To complete a truly satisfactory result would take weeks and I will not drive away readers to satisfy this tiny, tightly-wound cabal.

My thanks to former Fillmore City Manager Roy Payne (19-years on the job) for his numerous, articulate, and accurate responses to the many false charges made against him and the Gazette. I have referred to his letters and blog responses (fillmoregazette.com) in order to save time and avoid repetition. After all, he has been the consummate insider; I’m always outside trying to see in.

Martin Farrell
Publisher
The Fillmore Gazette

Answering the questions.

Patti Walker’s questions and challenges
Madam Mayor:

As to Mr. Creagle, I refer you to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Report Number 08-11953, taken by Sheriff’s Deputy Rodriguez (#3591). The report includes statements from me and two eye witnesses. Three separate contemporaneous written statements also exist. Maybe Mr. Creagle should speak for himself in this matter. Why do you mention Westling? He was not cited. He just stood by like a deer in the headlights while the spectacle grew louder.
As to statements concerning Brian Sipes (4-30-09), they are true and correct (as most recently amended). As you tacitly admit, at least one council member has approved admitting Mr. Sipes to staff meetings (plural). Any reasonable person would recognize the word “pass” in this context to be synonymous with the word “assent, permission, or invitation” because permission is required. No reasonable person would understand the word “pass” in this context to mean some sort of plastic, bar-coded physical ticket to attend the “event”.

Sipes has sought permission and has been granted that privilege (or was it a right?) on several occasions. Nothing wrong here, but it tends to indicate more than average interest in city government affairs at the local level. This may explain why the Star interviewed him (May 28, ’09 issue) as I photographed that event.

Mr. Sipes does indeed attend nearly every council meeting, and other city meetings as well. I applaud his civic interest. He has an above average, keen interest in the workings of city government which leads me to believe he may well be preparing to seek public office. Again, I applaud him for his interest but would not endorse his candidacy.

After telling me that “Mr. Sipes is in attendance throughout most council meetings” you add, “Can you say the same?” I’m surprised you ask; the answer is, of course I can. I’ve attended about every city council meeting for the past 20 years. I notice you have been absent a number of times during your tenure on the council. While I may only stay an hour or two, the Gazette’s reporter always stays to the bitter end.

As is customary, the Gazette receives a full copy of the agenda in order to inform the public of what the council is doing with its money. I may have been mistaken about Mr. Sipes having received a full agenda packet. If he had I’m sure he put it to good use. If not, I imagine he uses a partial agenda. The thing to note is that he is well and regularly prepared, which is a good thing. It doesn’t hurt to have fellow Katzenjammer, City Clerk Westling, around to assure his preparation.

For your information, a complete copy of the agenda is not available online. Please refer to Roy Payne’s letter of July 22. Mr. Payne has eloquently and accurately addressed this issue. With that, we’ll give you a moment to compose yourself.

You quote me: “It [past emails] would prove beyond a doubt that you (and your followers) have been foolish, and woefully ignorant, and fundamentally wrong in your insistence that City Engineer Bert Rapp has made a mistake in choosing the companies he has to design, build, and operate our plant. Maybe more to the point, you and yours have caused more than a years delay with plant approval and construction, which cost the city more than $1 million in wasted time and effort.”

I’m surprised to find you apparently agree with this statement, except for the last sentence. This statement is based on a professional assessment (made known to you) of time lost due to Ms. Washburn’s dithering, repeated demand for answers to irrelevant questions, and her ignoring of reports from engineers expert in the field. On these issues, please refer to Roy Payne’s letter of 7-9-09 (paragraph 3) – fillmoregazette.com. Washburn and company burned up most of two years trying to convince experts that her chosen water treatment construction company, Vertreat, was the way to go. At one time or another she favored several other unsuitable water treatment methods; each of her favorites was rejected by experts in the field. She presented herself as having expertise in the field. And, to the exasperation of those true experts, she continued to insist on these unworkable ideas. The most recent estimate is set at a range of between $700,000 to $1 million. My statement was true.

Washburn also strongly opposed Design, Build, and Operate (DBO) which is now favored all over the country. All this stubbornness (before the election) to fool voters into thinking she knew what she was talking about. Washburn and company were out to save the city tens of millions of dollars with their hair-brained alternatives. And the cost of the plant, without her changes, she told everyone, would be catastrophic. It appears today that Fillmore’s water rate may end up slightly lower than Santa Paula’s. We had to build the plant. Bert Rapp’s guidance was right. We now have a great plant, millions below budget and finished on schedule.

Then there was the war over development in north Fillmore. Six years of expense and intense planning went down the drain as Measures H and I were finally voted in. Again, the public was fooled. Business development, such as Keller Classics, has been killed-off in north Fillmore, thanks to the foolish Measures that Washburn, Walker, Brooks, and company urged on to passage.

Today, thanks to these Measures, Fillmore will have to spend at least $200,000 from the general fund to fix our problem with state housing compliance. We don’t hear much about that now, but you and your group were warned, repeatedly.

Support for the new Business Park.
After listening to Ms. Washburn contemplating the completion of the business park, whimsically say: “It’ll probably fail anyway due to the economy” I question her enthusiasm for development. After expressing that kind of support, a vote for a Community Facilities District sounds empty. When I recall her ideas and activities regarding north Fillmore, I know how very little she supports business growth.

The water treatment plant:
“use the citizen’s money (taxes) in a careful and effective manner” ”…no disgrace [to use a council person’s vote] in opposition to what they believe is a misuse of public funds.” MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS? A (mandated) perfectly completed project, on time and below budget is a misuse of public funds? This doesn’t deserve a response. Talk about an example of clueless ingratitude!

I wonder how our friends in Santa Paula (using Washburn’s vaunted PERC) are doing. Oops: Please refer to the front page of the Santa Paula Times – online, July 20, 2009 (massive roof collapse). Wow! And then there was Washburn’s total rejection of world-class MBR technology. It is a disgrace, Ms. Walker, to habitually deny that your ideas have been wrong regarding this plant, north Fillmore – or that Bert Rapp and the last city council were ever right. They did the right thing – splendidly. I can certainly admit my mistakes, Ms. Walker, when they are brought to my attention, something you have failed to do thus far.

Answers to questions from Bob Stroh

The Gazette has received so many letters from you Bob I’m going to answer randomly.

You say “it was all about a recall”. Not really. Though the damage was anticipated, it has taken several months to understand just how bad the management of city government (new council majority) is, and how quickly the freefall consequences happened. I refer you to Roy Payne’s letters.

It will save much time here to refer to Roy’s many letters, in the paper and on-line letters and blog responses that he has already provided. I am now so wary of the present council majority’s incompetence, I have decided to just collect the evidence and see if Fillmore voters wish to consider a recall. It’s an expensive, time-consuming way to reorder city government so I’m not sure it would be an attractive option. I will contribute nothing but information to any such cause. Maybe the voters agree with the present council majority. It’s up to them. I don’t intend to push the idea.

Answer: It was not about recall. It is about sounding the alarm. It is about warning the people that city government is heading over a cliff.

You’re concerned about “financial stability”? One answer – Despite several warnings from several sources, including the city attorney, Measure I was pushed forward by Washburn, Brooks, Walker, and the full compliment of Katzenjammers. Its passage will now cost the City of Fillmore $200,000 “to correct the violations of state law” (which mandates placement of 900-plus new homes) created by Measure I. This sort of conduct can only be described as stupid. What do you intend to do about this, Madam Mayor? What do you think about this issue, Bob?

The Gazette “not providing a place for the free exchange of ideas”? As I sift through a pile of your letters, Bob, this is clearly another of your characteristically phony charges. I probably publish three times as many letters criticizing my opinion as those agreeing with me. Read last week’s Realities for a complete answer. For years you have used this venue, at my expense and indulgence, to vent your ideas and beliefs. As the great philosopher, Jack Nicholson, once said, “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the very blanket of [the Opinion Page] I provide and then question the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just say “Thank you” and went on your way.”

Do you really deny your consistent and persistent support for Walker, Washburn, and Brooks? Do you deny your agreement with their opposition to our new water treatment plant, MBR, DBO, cost of land for the plant, etc.? Do you deny your support for Measure I, and Measure H? Do you deny your repetitious condemnation of Steve Conaway for taking a trip to D.C. to speak about plant technology and construction method? Do you deny repeatedly lying (or failing to get the facts after being shown your error) about who paid for that trip? Have you ever been critical of any member of the Katzenjammers for anything?

Your habitual style is to parse words and meanings until they lose their significance in the context they originally occupied. My comment “…have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views” is pretty well proved by the stack of letters, and blog postings, with which you have besieged the Gazette. The comment speaks of plurality, not a singular example. You have been a long-time ardent and faithful supporter of the views of that group I have characterized as the Katzenjammers, for the mischief they have caused. Do you now repudiate these views?

Lastly, why would you object to be identified (with many others, by several people) as a member of this political group? I commend political activity and citizen participation in city government – I just deplore the tactics and end results this group is responsible for and the casual use of false statements. Actually, there is nothing essentially wrong with attempting to get rid of political rivals, or diminish the influence of those with whom you vigorously disagree, as long as it is done lawfully and ethically. While there is certainly no illegality here, I strongly question the rationality and ethics of the cabal – especially where leaders of this group refuse to sign an ethics code. This is not an example of “guilt” by association. It’s merely an example of political identification by association.

Bob, did you really say “…signing the code of ethics violates freedom of speech” on 2-26-08? Very Katzenjammerish. Did you really say, in council, on 2-12-08, “American Water paid for his [Councilman Conaway’s] lodging and other travel expenses.”? Was this true?

You persist in bringing in the issue of Bill Bartels’ ability as Assistant City Manager. This became an issue for me only after he refused to give employment contracts to Kevin McSweeney and Bert Rapp. Then there were statements from former Finance Director, Barbara Smith: “That gentleman doesn’t know what he is doing”. After that, her interview statements to me detailing serious disrespect and complete refusal to communicate with Smith, which precipitated her early retirement, creating a budget crisis (as yet unresolved?). Then there was the extra management assistance he received, the 10 percent raise, and a serious absence of staff reports for the council’s consideration. There are other issues as well. Find an “error of fact” here.

Next you resurrect the ghost of (former failed mayor) Gary Creagle, campaign manager for Jamey Brooks, Clay Westling (and Gayle Washburn?). Refer to my previous response to Mayor Walker. Obviously five (5) former Fillmore Mayors evaluate this man as a mayoral failure, in a paid political ad they ran in the Gazette (October, 2008). His conduct in barging into city hall shortly after his candidates won the election, telling some staff members that “Your job is safe” and demanding to know the location of the new Clerk’s office, in a characteristically loud voice, shows he’s a jerk as well as a failed former mayor. “The campaign manager for the city clerk came into city hall and told certain staff that their jobs were safe.”(from city council minutes, 1-13-09, quoting City Manager Ristau.) I can’t wait to hear your rebuttal on this one. Note: Creagle isn’t a city official, nor even a Fillmore resident.

You accuse me of being Councilman Conaway’s “surrogate”. Mr. Conaway has my support because he is right on the issues and he has no hidden agenda. He has taken numerous insulting slights from the new majority. For example, being denied a chance to comment on a council issue by Mayor Walker, and having to leave the dais, fill out a speaker request card, in order to speak as a private citizen. When he is wrong I will oppose his decisions, and have. Right now, he’s the last man standing of the last council. He has integrity, something the new majority can hardly imagine. “Something to hide”? Don’t be such a child, Bob. Don’t be such a coward. Tell us what you suspect.

“Steve Conaway attended the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Water Council because he knew Fillmore saved 15% on the Water Recycling Plant using the Design Build Operate process and wanted other Mayors around the country to know about the cost saving process. The Mayor’s conference paid for Steve Conaway to attend, not American Water. No city money was involved. American Water is only one of hundreds of members of the Mayor’s Conference.”

That Mayor Walker has not defended Conaway against this false accusation (though she voted not to investigate the trip and knew the facts) is a billboard of her true hypocrisy and polarizing presence on the council. Hypocrisy in spades. Review this issue on fillmoregazette.com where it has been exhaustively explained by me, Mr. Payne, and Mr. Conaway – as you well know.

Bob, you bug-out at the thought of answering Roy Payne’s excellent letter to the editor. No one in the City of Fillmore has a more detailed file on the facts and issues. No wonder you are afraid to take him on.
By the way, was it you who made some sly remark awhile back about Roy’s comfortable retirement? Correct me if I’m wrong (please) but aren’t you a retired Ventura County Fireman? If so, are you comfortable? Didn’t you advocate the elimination of our volunteer fire department at one time? Again, forgive me if I’m wrong; I have gotten of the track a bit.
Your statement about a restaurant going out of business when its sewer bill went up to $24,000 per year is false. Prove me wrong.

Answers for Brian Sipes:

Alleged lies:
1. Brian is a “political wannabe”.

2. Brian is a “Katzenjammer” i.e. politically allied with a group I have characterized as Katzenjammers. This group includes the new council majority, Gary Creagle, Bob Stroh, Brian Sipes, and others. Members of this group voted for or support the above mentioned council members and their goals: implementing Measure I, deploring our new water treatment plant and the methods and engineering that created it. They also oppose Councilman Steve Conaway, and greatly dislike ex-City Manager Roy Payne, and Director of Public Works Bert Rapp. According to the victims themselves, each and every (recently) former holder of a top city management position was driven away by this group’s statements, attitude, and penchant for severe micromanagement. Whew!

3. Brian is targeting Ms. Hernandez’ seat on the council.

4. Sipes (due to my prognostication) will be appointed to Ms. Hernandez’ council seat.

5. Sipes receives “special privileges” from council friends.

6. Sipes receives full council agenda.

Accusation number 1:
Mr. Sipes. I’ll take your word for it. You are not a “political wannabe”. However, every famous and successful politician was once a political wannabe. Think about it. But, if you don’t wannabe a wannabe, that’s that.

Accusation number 2:
I’m sorry Mr. Sipes, but your very long association with, political and financial support of, and vocal defense of this group qualifies you as a Katzenjammer. Only a true Katzenjammer would pay for a full-page election advertisement (corrected twice for false statements) which endorsed Gayle, Jamey, and Clay. I hope you reported this campaign contribution.

Accusation number 3:
Again, I take you at your word. Anyway, my most recent prognostication (since I got my new turban) reveals you will be Fillmore’s future City Clerk. Watch out, Clay! But, I’m no Johnny Carson as The Great Carsoni.

Accusation number 4.
Refer to prognostication number 3 (as revised). You can’t hit what you don’t aim at.

Accusation number 5:
Unless you have an undisclosed “right” to attend city staff meetings, and other meetings, and in fact do, Mr. Sipes, you are exercising a “privilege”. I find it peculiar that you insist that you have neither asked for, nor received an invitation to attend such meetings, yet I know you were there. Are you crashing meetings?

Accusation number 6:
My apologies for suggesting you receive a full council agenda, as you deny this. As you know, this would not be unlawful – just unusual. I guess it was a partial agenda I’ve observed you using at council meetings. You sure do go to a lot of meetings.

 

This has turned out to be an unusual week. The Gazette has received three angry letters to the editor from Katzenjammers hostile to this column. Our newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, with Mr. Brian Sipes and Bob Stroh, have demanded their letters appear in this week’s Gazette, with confirmation that the letters have been received. In the case of Mayor Walker (who indicated the time and date of submission to insure that her letter satisfied the publication deadline) she authorized its publication as an advertisement at her expense.

Mayor Walker’s concern was that her letter slightly exceeded the standard limit of 250 words – by about 1,250 words. In this situation I would have made a special effort to publish the letter because it is highly critical of me. However, her letter was accompanied by the Sipes letter (730 words) and Stroh’s (660 words). That’s nearly 2,800 words or 2,050 words over the limit. To complicate matters, the letters all came down from 8 hours (Stroh) to two hours (Sipes) to 15 minutes (Walker) before deadline.

This has happened before with the same group. It was clearly an orchestrated maneuver designed to have me drop everything and research answers to a stream of questions and accusations. Fortunately, I am not a city staffer who must labor thanklessly to satisfy their demands.

But answers they will have, in full, to each question and accusation. It’s time to set the record straight and defend against the false allegations of “lies.” There is a whiff of a threat in these demands, particularly in the confused screed from Mr. Sipes. Truth and full disclosure is the best medicine here.

Answers to this broad range of accusations and demands for answers involve several years and various issues. Since there is insufficient time to provide them on such short notice this week, space will be created next week for all questions and issues. I will research each and every question and issue, providing necessary quotes, references, names and times.

Mayor Walker, Mr. Sipes, and Bob, now is your big chance. Make sure your questions are in order and intelligible. You have till Friday, noon, July 17, 2009, to add any new questions or sharpen-up those already asked. Please, no fuzzy allusions, hearsay, innuendo, or obfuscation. Ask your questions directly and expect direct, authoritative answers. I’m going to take the time to do this, I expect you to take your time to make your best case. Frankly, it’s my intention to make a case for the recall of Councilman Brooks, Councilwoman Washburn, and our newly appointed Mayor Walker, among other things.

 

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?” “...events 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.

 

Once again the Gazette has received a flaming letter from Bob Stroh, replete with the usual falsehoods, inaccuracies, and slurs. Again he wishes to visit his indictment of Councilman (and former Mayor) Steve Conaway for the trip Conaway took to Washington D.C. for the purpose of making a presentation at the US Conference of Mayors.

This is a bogus issue which has been exposed as such and addressed several times before. I cannot permit Mr. Stroh to monopolize the opinion page every week with witless opinions designed to fool the public. Therefore, I have deleted most of this most recent of his redundantly witless letters.

But I can already hear the whimpers and sobs from that handful of determined Katzenjammers who think this is somehow unfair, and a dark plot to keep them from expressing their opinions.

Next week, however, I will respond to Mr. Stroh’s accusations, provide a final, definitive explanation of Mr. Conaway’s trip, and explain to our readers what exactly the new city council has done, and intends to do, with our city government. At that time I will publish Mr. Stroh’s letter in full – and for the last time on this subject. I am truly tired of arguing with the emotional nitwits responsible for furthering the new city regime’s agenda.

For those of our readers who really want evidence of the abysmal incompetence of our newest councilmembers, Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks, I urge you to view the Channel 10 video of last week’s council meeting (6:30 p.m.). It’s bad enough to be found incompetent, but to be repeatedly unprepared for council meetings (Jamey Brooks), incapable of understanding the agenda (Gayle Washburn), or (habitually) incapable of preparing staff reports for council consideration (Bill Bartels) is a tragedy for city taxpayers. But there seems to be no shortage of giggling and laughter on the dais between Brooks, Washburn, and Walker, or lengthy closed-door meetings.

Former Finance Director Barbara Smith (23 years at city hall – before leaving because “That gentleman (Bill Bartels) does not know what he is doing”) left a balanced preliminary draft budget. Even with the numbers ready to go Mr. Bartels is unable to produce a timely city budget – maybe for the first time ever. In my interview with Ms. Smith, she expressed extreme frustration over Mr. Bartels refusal to meet, answer her telephone calls, messages, emails, and written requests. He simply refused to communicate, even though he knew Ms. Smith was about to leave office. How can this disrespect and lack of common sense be explained?

On four recent occasions the council has been asked to make decisions though staff, under Assistant City Manager Bartels, had not prepared reports – despite a recent 10 percent pay raise, promotion to Assistant City Manager, and an assistant to help him do his job. I don’t know to what extent our new temporary city manager assists in the day-to-day work load. We now also have a temporary Finance Director, but still no budget. Budgets can always be amended, why the delay?

These are a few of the problems which goad me to public revelation. The new majority on the council has succeeded in deconstructing city hall. In my opinion we are now, and have been for several months, in free-fall.
This is what I hope to explore next week.

 

In my 20 years as a resident of Fillmore I have not seen such anger, hatred, disrespect, and suspicion in and around city hall as I do today. This almost complete loss of civility and cooperation was caused by a very small group of highly organized and determined people who desired to take over city government.

That take-over necessitated, in the minds of these activists, the winning of two council seats (giving them a council majority with Patti Walker) and the replacement of key, upper echelon (mostly long-time) city employees. The plan was to promote the candidacies of political fellow travelers Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks, long-time associates of the group. If this could be achieved, Walker would be appointed mayor and Washburn mayor pro-tem, with Brooks locking-in the majority.

Enter non-resident (and failed ex-Mayor) Gary Creagle, campaign manager for Clay Westling, candidate for city clerk. The position of city clerk was to be radically changed. Westling had a lengthy list of changes he intended to implement, including giving orders to city staff and presiding at staff meetings. The existing city manager refused to let this happen, and shortly thereafter resigned. Westling has become, many believe, a mere go-fer for the new majority.

This new crew had fought for more than five years against the north Fillmore general plan. It promoted Measures H and I. They succeeded in achieving both goals. They also succeeded in driving-off the city’s four top employees, who refused to work with the new management.

They failed in their many attempts to destroy plans for the new water treatment plant, however. That plant, and the Design, Build, Operate method which was employed, exceeded everyone’s expectations – on time and under budget, by millions.

But the new hard core political city management drives on. For a splendid example of just how clueless Brooks, Washburn, and Walker are, Fillmore residents should be sure to view Channel 10’s video of Tuesday’s council meeting (views at 6:30). It’s my impression that Washburn got the ear of our temporary city manager and succeeded in convincing him that last minute changes should be made to the remaining 2 percent of treatment plant construction. Despite the truly beautiful job the present contractors have done, Washburn, Brooks, and Walker feel the need to make last minute changes; new bids for remaining work are contemplated.

It appears that only two objects (targets) remain on the political agenda for the new city leadership: a wish to chase away our Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, and City Planner Kevin McSweeney. Both are very long term, distinguished employees of the city. The first effort by the new majority to further this goal was to deny requested contracts by these two worthy employees, who fear for their jobs. This decision was made by a supporter of the new majority, Bill Bartels, who has been promoted to Assistant City Manager by the group, given a 10 percent raise, and two assistants to help him do his job. If we should lose Rapp and McSweeney the new management will have won a clean sweep of all top management at city hall, and with it the loss of 60-some-odd years of institutional memory and talent. Winning control was not enough. They could easily have changed council direction without chasing-off talented, long-term employees.

Some of the new management’s political camp followers contribute mightily to the cause through at-council statements and letters to the editor. Among those is Bob Stroh, with whom I have debated these past three weeks.
The Gazette has published his latest pathetic letter this week. It’s about what I expected after he could not provide a reason for his June 19 letter condemning Councilman Conaway. He asked for examples of his unfair and untruthful tactics. I provided the first example; he could not answer. This was a clear, recent example. Why waste more time supplying the others?

This nasty dialogue would not have been necessary if the new management (Washburn, Brooks, and Walker) had not implemented such a scorched earth policy from the beginning. I believe it’s my responsibility to point out to Fillmore residents the injustice, favoritism, and gross ingratitude of the new council, as expressed against the loyal staff and employees at city hall.

This new group has done incalculable damage to city government. They also completely ignore the great accomplishments of the old council and employees. Above all, they are simply incompetent.

I have absolutely nothing to apologize for.

 

This is my third consecutive response to letters from Bob Stroh. The thread is wearing thin, especially where Mr. Stroh attempts to distance himself from the Katzenjammer Party line.

Mr. Stroh’s most recent assertion that [I haven’t] accepted the challenge, and his confident denial that he has “been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views…,” has, in his words, "turned into something like, it may take [me] a few weeks of searching to find the evidence."

This is a challenge to my integrity which will not go unanswered. However, I cannot turn this paper into some kind of Bob and Martin show. Believe it or not, Bob, not everyone shares your enthusiasm for this pointless contest. You now apparently deny any expressed sympathy for the Katzenjammer view that certain high level employees have been so wrong in their support and implementation of plans for the development of north Fillmore, the new water treatment plant, and several other undertakings, that they should be replaced. Also, that former Mayor Conaway, and former Council Member Cuevas should not be re-elected.

Your denial of having expressed any demand for the “unconditional termination of a group of city employees” is as hollow and disingenuous as your phony explanation for your letter of March 19, that readers may have “assigned a meaning unintended by me.” A meaning unintended by you? You sound like Letterman dodging his recent outrageous “unintended” joke. “Unconditional termination"? This strident term is an invention of yours, Bob, not mine, or anyone else that I am aware of. This sort of clinical specificity is an effort on your part to deflect the main accusation, i.e., that you are, and have been, methodically sympathetic to the views of those who have been sufficiently critical of certain council members and high-level city employees as to contribute to their untimely departure.

I would be surprised if you voted for Ms. Cuevas or Mr. Conaway. I would be equally surprised if you failed to vote for our new City Clerk, Clay Westling. I would be surprised if you agreed with our Director of Public Works Bert Rapp, or City Planner Kevin McSweeney, or, for that matter, former Management Analyst Steve McClary or Finance Director Barbara Smith. Would my surprise be justified? I think so.

Did you support the water treatment plant, as implemented? Did you support the second north Fillmore development plan (700 houses)? Did you support Measures H and I? Did you vote for Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks? Do you support the policies of Mayor Patti Walker? Did you express any displeasure with the outrageous bluster of Washburn’s (and Brooks?) interloping campaign manager, (failed former Mayor) Gary Creagle?

These questions are designed to cut to the chase and save a lot of dance time. Would you be so good as to answer them? In this way we can decide if you are sympathetic to the policies and strategies of the Katzenjammer Party membership.

To satisfy your curiosity about your own statements on these issues, Bob, I will attempt to publish some of your past statements. Last week you finessed your comment about Mr. Conaway’s trip to D.C. I’m hoping for a more forthright explanation for this week’s evidence.I will not devote so much time to your statements in the future. Very few readers have an interest in this debate. But, I’ll make a quick attempt to answer some of your most recent questions, and ask a few of my own.

That now famous trip to D.C. has been vetted to death. No private plane or fancy hotel were involved. Mayor Villegas signed the American Water contract. Please provide any evidence of Councilman Conaway’s lack of objectivity concerning this project. Vertreat, Micromedia and PERC all failed to participate in the bidding, and are, therefore, irrelevant to any discussion. Do you still agree with Gayle Washburn’s conclusion that one of these companies should have built our plant?

Do you agree with Washburn’s belief that Fillmore’s decision to use a Design, Build, and Operate process for the treatment plant was the wrong way to go? Fillmore saved 15 percent using this process, and Santa Paula followed suit with their DBO process, throwing away about $3 million in engineering plans to follow Fillmore’s lead. Likewise, the county tossed about $1 million in plans to do the same for Piru. Did you oppose the DBO, Bob? Delays in re-bidding plans for Santa Paula and the county cost them millions in inflation and permanently higher sewer rates. Conaway was right.

Fillmore’s final sewer rate will be about $89 per month and Santa Paula’s rate will be about $88 per month ($77 plus $1.12 per unit of water or about $88 per month) for a typical Santa Paula family. Actually, Santa Paula’s rates should be significantly lower than Fillmore’s because they have twice the number of customers and have an advantage in economy of scale over Fillmore.

Fillmore’s sewer rates could easily have been $10 per month higher than Santa Paula’s without former Mayor Steve Conaway’s leadership.

 

Although the Gazette has not received an obituary or other official notice, I have learned on good authority of the death of former Fillmore Herald editor, Terry Timmons. My condolences to Terry’s sister and any other family members on his untimely death.
Rest in peace, Terry.
***
Although I am about to launch some criticism of Mayor Walker in the following comment, I want to (sincerely) commend her for the professional way in which she conducted Tuesday’s council meeting. It was, no doubt, an unhappy decision for her to name the Fillmore Gazette newspaper of record for the city when the Gazette has sharply criticized her on other issues in the recent past.
Unlike the (characteristically) childish verbal tantrum Councilman Brooks displayed before voting against the award, because of my editorials (he actually stated that his vote was entirely “political” while complementing the Gazette’s over-all quality) Mayor Walker acted with the calm and control expected of the city’s top official. Thank you for that, Mayor.
A second response to Mr. Stroh’s letter:
Bob, for the second consecutive week your letter has rung the bell.
In order to answer your attacks and challenges, I have to do some research. Receiving your letter a day before press time didn’t leave enough time to finish the job. I note that you may be the Gazette’s most prolific letter-writer. The record will show your reputation for accuracy matches your pretense at truthfulness.
The sheer volume of your correspondence is the challenge I face. A quick search of your letters alone shows it would be impossible to compress this cartload of distortion to a manageable size this week. It may take a few editions to complete the job, but I will make the effort, as you request. As for your past remarks at the council podium, retrieving video of your performance would be too time-consuming.
It’s important for readers to understand that you are sympathetic to the agenda urgently proposed by a small but highly vocal Fillmore group. I estimate the core membership of this group to consist of about 20 passionate activists (of placard-waving PETA intensity) who advance very slow (or negligible) development in the City of Fillmore. They have shown themselves to be dynamically opposed to our new state-of-the-art water treatment plant, the north Fillmore residential plan, and other major city improvements. In their pursuit of support for the cause they engage in gross misrepresentations of fact and produce contradictory results (i.e. housing density). They are also heedless of ultimate costs and consequences.
To facilitate their agenda they have targeted those city employees most responsible for completing on-going projects. At the head of this movement are three city council members (Mayor Patti Walker, Councilwoman Gayle Washburn, Councilman Jamey Brooks, and a fourth, Rumpelstiltskinian, former Councilman (and failed Mayor) Gary Creagle (no longer a Fillmore resident).
What’s most important is that Fillmore residents understand that this group is, in essence, acting like a political party – without portfolio. Nothing like this has been seen in Fillmore’s history. By replacing the City Clerk, promoting Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks, and creating a poisonously micromanaged atmosphere for employees and staff, they have taken over city hall and caused many long-time employees to flee the scene.
My preamble to this response has taken too much space so I will give just one example of your corrosive propaganda. By next week I will be better prepared to meet the challenge – with more examples.
Bob, for the Lie of the Week you state: “Regarding council member Conaway’s trip to Washington D.C.: I emphasized that I did not think for one minute that Steve did anything to benefit himself personally. My only worry was whether he could remain objective when the council was considering matters pertaining to the sewer plant. This was a legitimate concern particularly after discovering that American Water utilizes a tactic of nurturing relationships with elected officials so they can do their bidding for them. I was well aware of the details of trip...”
With respect, Bob, this is pure BS. And I’m shocked – shocked, to learn there are lobbyists in Washington trying to influence action. But the trip happened after the contract was signed; how could they influence Mr. Conaway? Here’s what you had to say on March 19, 2009, and elsewhere more than once:
“...Does that mean Washburn, Brooks and Walker cannot be independent representatives? Not at all. And you can bet that they will not accept an all expense paid trip to anywhere from a contractor being paid by Fillmore people. Conaway can’t say the same.”
It doesn’t take a genius to understand the import of your statement, which does not agree with your explanation. And your factual “details of the trip” are completely wrong.
But, I’m way over my word limit. However, this vein is too rich to walk away from, Bob. I will continue to answer your challenge with examples of your past statements and representations.
By the way, and I speak from experience, lots of curry powder and pepper makes the crow go down a lot easier.
Stand by.