Isn’t government great?!

The Gazette just received a memo from the Census Bureau “to survey nation’s spending habits.” Please refer to this notice to the right of this editorial. Note especially the second part of the survey, where “12,500 households will be asked to keep two consecutive one-week diaries of smaller, more frequent purchases that may be difficult for respondents to recall later (such as a…soda or candy bar…)”

No doubt the Bureau will find 12,500 fools who will do just that.

Where in the Constitution does the government find the power to intrude itself into the minutest parts of a citizen’s life?!

American citizens have become electoral sheep – and their shepherd is a diabolical wolf. My words are too strong? I don’t think so, if you take a stand from the traditional Christian point of view. From that point we see a fairly un-Christian president (spiritual director: Rev. Wright and his “G.. Damn America” congregation) who has invited into government some of the most loathsome, devious, and dangerous people ever to associate with an American chief of state. And the government wants to take charge of our health care!

***

Just a reminder that, as of February 1, subscriptions will go to $50.00 per year. Any subscription up to that time will be at the old price of $35.00. Also, single copies of the Gazette will be sold at $1.00. This was necessary to cover the present cost of producing, printing, delivering, and distributing the paper. Please note that the new prices still do not cover all costs. However, I purchase a cup of coffee every morning of the year. That cup costs me $2.15. The Gazette takes a full 7 days to produce, and unlike the cup, does not require a refill. We hope you find it worth the price.

 


 

I want to thank Larry Jennings for alerting me to the proper use of the word Ott, as I applied it in last week’s editorial.

However, I knew people did not say “naught” when referring to years in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, such as “nineteen naught six”. So, I spelled it “Ott”, just guessing. My spelling was incorrect, but I was right phonetically; the word was sounded as Ott.

This very important issue caused me some puzzlement, then I remembered the nation’s favorite hunting round of well beyond the 1950s. It was the 30-06, referred to as the thirty “aught” six, and certainly never referred to as the thirty “naught” six. This was (is) the famous .30-06 Springfield cartridge, 7.62x63mm metrically. Yeah, I remember all about the 270, but the aught-six was king (and ammo was cheap!). This designation came from the fact that the Army adopted this round in 1906, or, as old-timers say, nineteen-aught six.

Therefore, although my spelling was (characteristically) incorrect, the pronunciation was correct. Anyway, the aughts are now behind us. Now we’re into the “tens”?

***

I have a few important announcements to make concerning the Gazette.

The publisher is always the last person wanting to raise rates, but this must be done for the following reasons. Beginning February first, the single copy price of the Gazette will go to $1.00. This would be consistent with every weekly or bi-weekly community paper in Ventura County that I’m aware of. Most raised their prices several years ago.

The reasons are many and important. Basically, costs have risen in an increasingly down market. Taxes are up significantly becoming almost confiscatory, and are soon to rise again sharply under the Obama presidency. The Gazette hasn’t raised costs for anything in years. We can no longer afford to ignore new fiscal realities.
Secondly, annual subscriptions, starting February first, will go to $50 per year. Again, after increased mailing and distribution costs, taxes, and anticipated tax increases, our rates must be raised. These rates will not take effect until the first of February, leaving three weeks for current subscribers to re-subscribe at the present rate.

There is some good news, however. Within the next few months the Gazette will inaugurate its third version of its website: fillmoregazette.com.

For three years, the Gazette has absorbed the very considerable cost of developing, equipping, and maintaining its websites. This has been done because there is a very real need for online communication and news for the City of Fillmore.

The present (second) site has been phenomenally successful, at no cost to viewers. For example, for the year 2009, the Gazette site has registered 13 million hits, with 1.5 million pages read. More important, the site has attracted a monthly average of 16,000 “unique” visitors, totaling nearly 200,000 for the year. A “Unique” visitor is one coming from a new computer, and one who stays at the site for at least a half-hour. The new, extensively expanded version has been under development for nearly a year. Its new features will make available a huge variety of news sources and many other valuable uses. This, all to the credit of our web creator and webmaster, Scott Duckett.

These are the reasons for the price increases. The new website is expected to be launched in the first quarter of this new year.

 


 

Happy New Years to everyone. The Gazette staff and I wish everyone a prosperous new year.

***

My intention to compare the accomplishments of the previous city council and the new majority of the present city council will take longer than expected. So, that project has to be postponed for a few weeks. I would appreciate your patience.

***

As a kid I recall the “old-timers” making historical references to the first decade of the twentieth century. For example 1906 would be referred to as “Ott-6. To a 10-year-old kid it sounded like they were talking about ancient times. Now that I have finally become an old-timer the “Otts” don’t seem so long ago. But, what a dynamic first decade of the second millennium it has been.

I wish I could be more optimistic about the near future, but the realities of the world condition make that impossible. Perennial problems, like feeding and clothing the hungry and defending the innocent and helpless, seem only to have gotten worse.

What compounds the seriousness of the situation is America’s now in-grown habit of Political Correctness – having to be accepting of everything whether obviously and intrinsically evil (resurgent communist governments, murderous Muslim Jihadists, or a corrupt American government, led by a radically socialist president).
We’re in the middle stages of a global perfect storm. As usual, we are unprepared, and in denial of what is approaching at full speed.

Whatever may be America’s fate it has been brought upon itself by an ignorant, indulgent electorate. We have elected (and re-elected) the most crooked and incompetent bunch of grifters ever in our history. The sweep of the problem is almost incomprehensible.

Can I take comfort in the recent ravings of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s statement that the “system worked” in preventing the latest airline catastrophe? I’ve begun to think that the whole American way of life is based upon the incompetence of our fifth column enemies; the enemy’s trigger devices have recently saved us by failure of design, for now. Our economy, our government, our moral compass are all out of plumb.

Thanks to 54 percent of the American electorate, in my opinion, the country we have known for going-on three centuries will be (without immediate attention) mostly gone within the next three years.

 


 

Well, Bob Stroh has condescended to offer a “correction” to the statement which he read to the Fillmore City Council December 14. His “correction” in part reads: “…The owner of the Fillmore Gazette did not say that I had a favorite abortion clinic; my apologies to him and the council members. With that exception, however, I stand behind my statement in its entirety.”

Thank you, Bob. I accept your apology, and wish you a Merry Christmas.

Now, if you would only explain what on earth caused you to make such a bizarre statement? In fairness, maybe you should read your “correction” aloud from the dais for the benefit of the TV viewers?

***

Speaking of Christmas, a few quick examples of American culture’s decent into anti-Christian, neo pagan anarchy.

I stopped by two large booksellers in Valencia this past week. Over the years I have spent many dollars in each. For a long time haunting bookstores was a major weekly social event for me. A longstanding complaint of mine was the often brain-grinding “music” they played throughout the stores. Complaints did no good and I would often cut my usual shopping hours to minutes, leaving my armload of books on a table and then just walk out.

I finally became fed-up with both the parking inconvenience and the highly distracting noise which corporate suits thought passed for music. Corporate executives are often deaf, dumb, and blind.

First, I visited Barnes & Nobel. I hadn’t been there in a long time. The “music” was so bad (terrible lyrics, and the voice had been electronically manipulated to sound as though it were coming from a carpenter’s saw – very wavy) that I asked a manager to please change the CD. I received the same answer I have received over many years, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s controlled by corporate”.

I reminded the lady that it was Christmas, and that such “music” was offensive; why not put some beautiful Christmas music on? There was no sympathy for my request, just another bland “I’m sorry”. I left the store.
Shortly thereafter I entered Borders, for which I have carried a “business and professional services” card for many years. They were also playing garbage “music”. I had a cup of coffee, prepared to make a couple of purchases, got impatient with the “music” and waiting in line, then left, just in time to be recognized by the alarm bell as I exited the store.

I have no doubt that both stores deliberately shun Christmas as the second most important Christian celebration, and as a national holiday. However, they bend over backwards to facilitate sales, with Christmas wrappings, etc., to celebrate the secular holiday. It’s all about Santa instead of Jesus.

I no longer shop at any retail establishment that refuses to celebrate Christmas as Christmas and not just another holiday.

The American secular, and political, anti-Christian groups are in the ascendency today. They have majority control over government, the media, and our commercial economy. Just this morning I heard over the radio that the California Assembly had approved a holiday to honor the late Harvey Milk. What were his accomplishments you might ask? He was a San Francisco supervisor, one of two murdered by a third supervisor who had quit his job and wanted it back. But he is being honored because he was openly homosexual. Every resident of the State of California is now forced to honor someone for his/her sexual proclivity, the same conduct that for 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian history has been divinely condemned in the strongest terms. The outrage here is that “honor” is being paid to deviant behavior, not for honorable accomplishments. I’m sure many persons who happen to have been homosexual, have been properly honored in the past for their accomplishments, but not for thier personal sexual preferences.

Barack Obama awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year as well. As twisted as this is, it can be understood if we consider that Obama’s spiritual inspiration comes from the “Reverend” Jeremiah Wright, who touts himself as a Christian hater of whites, Jews, Catholics, etc. Why not do the same for Eleanor Roosevelt for her lesbianism, instead of her social work?

While we’re in the cultural scrap pit, let’s pause for a moment and understand that Congress will soon vote on the abominable health care bill which forces everyone to pay taxes for abortions. The vote will occur on CHRISTMAS EVE! I guess our “leaders” have forgotten that Christmas became a national holiday in recognition of the fact that Jesus Christ was BORN on Christmas day. What an obnoxious and sacrilegious act to use this sacred time to vote in a bill which will promote the continuance of the slaughter of millions more innocent children.
Where are the voices? Where is the Judeo-Christian expression of outrage for these several blasphemies?

 


 

He’s back!
Monday’s joint meeting between our Parks and Rec. Commission and city council turned out to be more interesting than expected.

Congratulations, first of all, to our Fillmore High School Flashes for their outstanding season. We’re all proud of your hard work and success which took you well into the CIF playoffs. You are all well deserving of the recognition you received at Monday’s meeting.

However, during public comment time, the specter of my old nemesis Bob Stroh dampened the atmosphere somewhat by imploding with some old, some new, and some nutty condemnations of me personally, the Gazette in general, and Councilman Conaway in particular.

A veteran Katzenjammer, when Bob takes to the dais with notes in hand I brace myself in expectation of a shower of complaints, flavored with a sprinkle of spicy falsehood. But this time he far exceeded expectations, launching a verbal MOAB (Mother of All Barefaced-lies) with his usual blather. Either that, or Bob suffered some sort of cerebral catastrophe while preparing his statement and was possibly unaware of what he was saying.

I’m not referring to his typical misstatements, which have been exposed many times. I’m referring to a bizarre comment about some “favorite abortion clinic.” After searching the website, and other sources, no one at the Gazette could understand what you were referring to or what might have set you off. But, for the record, that statement is utterly and incomprehensibly false, as were your comments on the Brown Act violations and those responsible for discovering and curing the problem.

As so often in the past Bob, your “facts” are missing altogether or are so confused as to be meaningless. I would greatly appreciate your mustering a few coherent moments for the purpose of explaining your bizarre remarks to me and to those TV viewers who will hear them repeated daily for the next week. Now is the time to become something more than a jabbering Katzenjammer! I would hate to have to put you into another Time-Out.

***

Happy Hanukkah!

 


 

The citizens of Fillmore owe a debt of gratitude to Richard McKee of Californians Aware, and his attorney Kelly Aviles for discovering several Brown Act violations by the Fillmore City Council majority, and for insisting that the violations were admitted and cured.

There remains a stubborn reluctance in the council majority to fully admit these violations, even though they have a signed a settlement with McKee and Aviles. The settlement mandated that a refresher course on the Brown Act be attended by the entire council. This was accomplished at last night’s regular meeting at city hall. It was an ego-bruising embarrassment, and some of their expressions showed this. Councilman Brooks is reported to have stated that he didn’t need this sort of schooling, but recent history proves he is wrong.

***

Councilwoman Washburn took time during the meeting to criticize general comments by Councilman Conaway, in a recent Ventura Star. Washburn stated that she didn’t appreciate having the entire council characterized as being shocked or disappointed upon learning of the shut-down of the Boys & Girls Club. Brooks chimed in, stating that he, also, was not “disappointed” upon learning of that fact. However, the Star article did not quote Conaway in that regard. This sort of pettiness has become a hallmark of the Katzenjammer coalition on the council.

Conaway has been correct in just about every important issue that has confronted the new council this year, and is rarely listened to. Most recently, he was correct about the Brown Act violations for which the city has had to pay $6,000 in legal fees to Aviles. The council majority also repeatedly rejected Conaway’s complaints of legal irregularities.

This has been the worst year of the past 20 in terms of willful, negligent, and very costly actions taken by the new council majority. Determined hostility and deliberate lack of cooperation with the council minority (Conaway and Hernandez) by the majority (Walker, Brooks and Washburn) is an unwelcome leftover from last November’s election. The Katzenjammers intended to wipe-out all incumbents, including the city clerk. They almost got a clean sweep, putting in Brooks, Washburn, and Westling (city clerk), all under the auspices of ex-(failed) Mayor, Gary Creagle. They got three of four.

This was the most intense, well-planned and focused campaign in Fillmore’s history. This group promised everything in its effort to “take back our town” – and has delivered nothing but confusion, confrontation, and the most costly series of mistakes and blunders in city history.

Before year’s end the Gazette will compile a report on the state of the city, its finances, its achievements, and its failures. It will include a brief comparison to the previous council’s achievements and failures. I can promise some stunning differences.

 


 

It was a great relief for us all to learn that the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley has reopened. I am puzzled, however, by the odd way this episode unfolded. First we had an abrupt notice of closing, then, a short time later, an equally abrupt notice of its reopening. Many of the children were greatly upset upon hearing of the closing.

The matter was handled very unprofessionally. No reason has been given for either event, but apparently a shortage of funding was to blame. I’ve been told that a Good Samaritan was responsible for the reopening. Our thanks go out to that person, as well as a lot of smiles from about 200 Fillmore kids. More details will be available soon.

Our B&G Club is very important to the welfare of many children. And, it’s not just all play. Homework is an essential part of the program, and homework is finished before other activities take place. It’s a great atmosphere, and a good, safe place for kids to let off some steam and socialize while waiting for mom or dad to return from work. In short, the B&G Club is critical to the safety and welfare of many local kids – that’s why financial support is so important.

***

A very talented and experienced group of teachers have gone forward with plans to create a Piru Charter School. Charter schools are encouraged by both state and county educators, and approximately one third of LA County schools are operated under charters. Charters empower schools through their independence. This independence has proven to spark educational creativity (not like the bogus “creativity” of the 1970s and ‘80s) but creativity that produces enhanced opportunities, higher learning achievement, and a new sense of socio-educational community.

Charter schools have a greater ability to prioritize their own spending and structure their curriculum. While not all charter schools have proven to be successful, most of them are highly successful.

I have followed this struggle between School District and the Charter promoters for several months. In my opinion the District has been heavy-handed in discouraging the charter. Much disinformation regarding the charter proponents and the proposed charter itself, has been disseminated by the District, and furthered by the Board. That is a fact.

With no intention of fanning the flames of discontent and anger, I hope the County (which will soon decide whether or not to support the charter) will see through the fog of anti-charter disinformation, and approve this exciting idea of a Piru Charter School. I know the proponents of the charter, exemplary teachers all, and I am convinced that this charter will be a wonderful success.

***

Gazette staff has just learned of the passing of former Fillmore City Manager R. Wesley “Wes” Nichols. Wes served as city manager in the early 1980’s and was well known in our small community. He will be missed.

 

The whole Fillmore community was shocked to hear that its Boys & Girls Clubs were to be shut down, immediately, with no warning or explanation. After all the financial and voluntary support we have provided to this club over the years we deserved, at least, a professional explanation and a little advance warning. A thorough investigation of the club’s staff and books is warranted. This is, after all, a national organization. The president should be fired if he is anywhere to be found.

Now, how do we resurrect an activities club for our youth to replace the defunct B&G organization? Send in your ideas.

* * *

Hundreds of Fillmore residents can breathe a sigh of relief now that FEMA has postponed the approval of its latest flood map. Homeowners in the flood plane can now put-off buying insurance until 2012. I just hope we don’t have a 200-year flood in the meantime.

* * *

I posted an exceptionally good article from American Thinker on our website (fillmoregazette.com) at the Government page. It’s entitled “Anatomy of a Failing Presidency”. With all the commotion at city hall this past year I have been deflected from contributing my two-cents-worth on national politics, especially on America’s first Indonesian president. Now that our new City Manager seems to have stabilized the council majority, and brought professional order to city affairs, I hope to express a few opinions about the nation’s misdirection. In the words of someone I deeply respect, “America is dying.” We have, at the highest positions of power, public servants who deny America’s Christian heritage. We have a president who habitually bows to our enemy’s heads of state. We are spending ourselves to death; our public debt will never be paid, except, maybe, if we engage in war with the main enemy, China, and win. War seems inevitable – victory seems dubious.

I’m no longer surprised to hear, more frequently now, warnings of an American insurrection, or even revolution, spoken by some of the most respected experts on social issues. Obama and the Democrat Party radicals are threatening the basic underpinnings of our nation’s society. They reject our Judeo-Christian heritage. Seeing the weakness and inexperience of the Obama organization, our powerful and ruthless enemies are tempted to come after us. I believe we, as usual, will be totally unprepared.

* * *

Happy Thanksgiving to all; and be sure to thank God that we do not live under Shaira law.

 

I’m pleased that the controversy over Brown Act violations has finally been resolved, as has the dispute concerning the mysterious Requests For Proposals (RFPs) to find a new auditing firm for the city.

In both cases the new city council majority (Washburn, Brooks, and Walker) have come out losers. In both cases their repeated public representations have proven to be false. Credit goes to Councilman Steve Conaway for detecting the violations in both cases, ignoring the storm of criticism from his detractors, and maintaining a calm equilibrium throughout this controversy. This shows confident leadership.

I should comment briefly on the Brown Act violations and our District Attorney. As the D.A.’s letter (this week) indicates, reasonable men may differ, as they did here. Mr. McKee’s intervention is greatly appreciated, and I support the work of his organization. However, I also have good reason to support the exemplary integrity of our D.A.’s office because, over the years, that has been my experience. We should be satisfied with the fact that these important issues have been identified and dealt with quickly, fairly, and professionally. Thanks to all who participated in the outcome.

***

Now, can the issue of a Piru Charter School be solved quickly and fairly? In my opinion a charter school is an exciting possibility, surely one worthy of a try. Nearly all of the strident objections to the charter I’ve heard are simply not true. I urge those interested in this issue to get the facts – not just wild, unfounded opinion. I think a charter school for Piru would create a golden opportunity for state-wide academic recognition. Let’s give it a chance.

 

I have to keep my comments short today.

It’s a great relief for many of us to find our new city manager to be intelligent, competent, experienced, and imminently independent. Yvonne Quiring will no doubt set many things straight again in city government. One thing that stood out during Tuesday’s regular council meeting is, for the first time, Asst. City Manager Bill Bartels actually prepared and produced information for council consideration. The comedy team of Washburn and Brooks put on a good show as well. Both expressed disdain for city ordinances: in Brooks’ words “I disagree with the municipal code”. Washburn wanted to waive a lien ordinance. Neither understands the negative precedent this would set. On another issue, W&B urged the merger of meetings. Last year they engaged in heated debate against same.

* * *

Mayor Walker recused herself from the Equestrian Center discussion. Upon returning to the dais, someone in the crowd welcomed her back with a ‘you missed the good stuff’ comment. She was heard to say, “I’ll read it tomorrow”: To which Washburn responded, “Not in the Gazette I hope”. Ah – it’s great to be loved.

* * *

City Manager Quiring told the council that the controversial audit RFP was never completed and never sent out, contrary to Mayor Walker’s repeated assurances. Interim City Manager Pennell, Walker, Bartels, and Leo Young had to know this. So much for open and honest government. I also understand Pennell instructed everyone to avoid
emails.

* * *

After many months of following the machinations of our school board, and school district regarding serious misconduct by employee at will, Evalene Townend, and nasty efforts to quash the Piru Charter School proposal, I have lost all confidence and respect for both entities. Go ahead – challenge me – I dare you.

* * *

On the Fort Hood terror event: We have an utterly gutless President, mostly gutless media, and mostly gutless Congress; they find it impossible to stand up against the Politically Correct forces in our midst. The Army major who murdered 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood is both a traitor and an Islamic terrorist. They should stand this cowardly bastard up against a firing squad, immediately following his conviction. Too bad his sympathizers
can’t enjoy the same fate.

 

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.
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How’s that for hard news.
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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.