Letters to the Editor
June 26th, 2008

To the Editor:
I have for several years now, while serving this fine city, refrained from stating a contrary position to what is published in our local paper, however, due to the fact that there were so many misstatements of fact given regarding our amended travel policy, I felt it was important to reply. The Gazette reported that the "long standing" policy changed in 2005, of council members having to request permission to travel out of state or county, was changed because I "subverted" the Mayor's position on this matter. In fact, the City of Fillmore was the only city in the entire county that had just three years ago implemented a policy that required elected officials to obtain a majority vote of council in order to receive approval for out-of-town travel. The first misstatement was that we increased our travel budget from $1,000 to $2,000, this is incorrect. Historically, at least since I was first elected in 2000, council has had a $2,000 travel budget per council member, not $1,000 as reported. The second misstatment was that specific approval was required by the council for reimbursement, this was implemented in 2005, and was not required prior to that change in policy. The 2005 trip I made to a conference for NALEO (the National Association of Latino Elected Officials) was not paid for by the city, in fact, I was a guest of a national sexual assault coalition that had invited me to speak at their national conference scheduled immediately at the conclusion of the NALEO conference. This organization paid for my travel and lodging, not the City of Fillmore.
In speaking for the Gazette, Mr. Farrell expresses his opinion about the dense development the Council has approved in the recent past years, in particular the Shaw mixed use retail-residential project within the downtown specific plan area, I as one of five elected officials certainly could not have shoehorned in a project all on my own, it takes a majority. This project was approved within the limits established for the downtown specific plan area and utilizes smart growth planning concepts and makes use of available infill sites, rather than look to develop in areas outside the growth initiative curb negotiated by the City and open space proponents...seems we just can't please everyone.
Finally, the Gazette also reports that I am off to Washington, DC for yet another NALEO convention, perhaps to "meet the great Obama!" In fact, I will be on travel, coincidentally during the same days as the NALEO conference, June 25-27, but I will be in New York, not Washington, DC attending a [national investment firm] Conference for top performing Women Financial Advisors, completely sponsored by my employer. As for my future political ambitions, the Gazette reports as if it had insight into my personal goals and ambitions that I, in the very near future will be working for some state or federal politician...this cannot be further from the truth. I have become quite successful in my position with [a national investment firm] as a financial advisor, I am currently enrolled in a graduate program at California Lutheran University and am half way finished to obtaining a Masters of Financial Planning degree. My plan is to continue my education in the financial services industry and maintain a long and successful career. Whereby in my success, I can provide a tremendous amount of support to my community, perhaps not with time, but money, as opposed to the time I am contributing to the City of Fillmore, instead of money. Quite frankly, it has been somewhat of a personal struggle to devote as many "unpaid" hours as I do in my role as Mayor Pro Tem, while pursuing my graduate degree, working a full time job and helping to support a family of four. If not for the love of serving my community and feeling that I can contribute my skills in a meaningful way, that I would just assume walk away from the criticisms, judgments and outright lies. I do not plan to have Fillmore a distant memory, in contrast, living and serving the community of Fillmore has provided me an honor that I will never forget and will forever be grateful for...I only hope that when I do choose to leave the "politic-ing" to someone else, that Fillmore will not "forget me" or my efforts to enhance the quality of life we all enjoy in this beautiful little town.
Cecilia Cuevas,
Mayor Pro Tem,
Elected Nov. 2000

A Response to Councilwoman Cuevas’ letter by Martin Farrell:
Ms. Cuevas’ letter seems to come close to missing the whole point of my criticism.
Whether $1,000 or $2,000 is irrelevant. The issue is how money earmarked as travel money for city business is spent. No one should have a problem with council members receiving $2,000 for the work they do to maintain a functioning city government. However, to tell the citizens of Fillmore that you are traveling to Puerto Rico for a NALEO conference to gain information on the issue of obesity (Ms. Cuevas’ original expressed intent) was a sham. Most reasonable people looking at that trip will quickly understand its essentially political nature: networking with nationally recognized political players. That’s the primary reason for NALEO’s existence. Every such convention has dozens of workshops, any one of which could justify a trip. The point I wish to make is, that political trip was taken for personal political purposes. Why else should Ms. Cuevas need permission? Permission of her peers on the council is not required to take a vacation. If she did not use her stipend on the trip, why ask for permission? The fact is that Ms. Cuevas asked for permission to attend the first convention and was approved. She asked again this year and was denied. I assume it was too late to apply after the policy was changed.
It would be better to abandon entirely the policy of providing money for travel on city business, with or without the assent of other council members. This would eliminate the nonsense of sham excuses. Let’s just provide $2,000 to each member as just compensation for the work they do.
Ms. Cuevas’s political and ethnic bias has cost the city more than $35,000 during the past several years – most of it wasted, like her repeated insistence on forcing Spanish films on our Towne Theatre. After years of struggle, the Theatre finally crept into the black, only to be plunged into the red again by 18 months of this unwanted, unused, and expensive venture. For as many as five or six weeks at a time not a single person would attend these films – yet Ms. Cuevas had the original 6-months experiment extended, twice.
As to Ms. Cuevas’ political intentions, I merely stated my opinion. I’m (I guess) relieved that she will not succumb to the allure of high political office.
Ms. Cuevas’ work for the city is appreciated, although I find her penchant for supporting what a high majority of residents consider overly dense housing disturbing. I note that Councilman Lee questioned the fact that next to no discussion was entertained before final approval of the Shaw project at the railroad tracks was granted.
If such a “tremendous” amount of financial benefit can be created, as you say, by concentration on your successful business and educational endeavors, why not concentrate on them exclusively? That way, you can “walk away from the criticisms, judgments, and outright lies” that seem a plague to you. However, I challenge you to identify any “lies”.
The job of Mayor Pro Tem may have been a Hobson’s choice for the council. Recalling your tantrum at being passed-over for the Mayor position, which necessitated the Mayor to recess a council meeting until you gained your composure, indicates part of the problem.
Ms. Cuevas, my criticism would cease if you would act more like a council member for all the people and less of a lobbyist for “your people” and for related personal causes.

To the Editor:
Dear Fillmore,
Thank you for being a very nice, accepting community for our two AFS foreign exchange students this year. Aaron (Switzerland) and Zeynep (Turkey) became Fillmore Seniors last August and finished out their school year at the Fillmore High graduation ceremony last Thursday night. These two students have had a year of new friends, new cultural experiences, new foods, and many memories. You have seen them in the newspaper with service organizations and in sports competitions. As a host parent, I thank you for helping make this year special for our student. Teachers, community members, fellow-classmates – you’ve each shown these international students what Fillmore, California, and the United States is all about.
This month is hard for our exchange students as they are very sad to leave and at the same time excited to get back to their home country and reunite with their natural family and friends. Hopefully, their friends here in Fillmore will keep in touch.
This is also the time to look ahead to our next school year. Fillmore needs students next year for on-going cultural enrichment. If you would like to have an international experience in your own home, please talk with me about being a host family. AFS has students from countries around the globe who are waiting to be matched with a host family. Fillmore is a welcoming community.
Thank you for your support. Please contact: Sandy email: yosoysb3@hotmail.com or go to www.afs.org for information.
Sandy Butts,