Letters to the Editor
December 17th, 2009

To the Editor:
In response to L. Durand's Letter; He wrote ....."The fact that the district can support the soccer program is BECAUSE of the football program. The revenues taken in by the football program is given to the ASB. This revenue pays for the soccer program, swimming program, track program and basketball program etc. Without the funds raised by the football program her child and many others would probably have to pay a large amount of money so that the high school could have a soccer program."
Don’t try to take all the credit Mr. Durand! Our soccer kids pay for their share, sell their share of shirts, sell their share of dinner tickets and still have to pay money to be involved in soccer! Please don’t make it seem like the football team carries all the sports! Contributions come from everywhere, especially our sponsors, which have nothing to do with the football team!
How tacky is looked for us to be playing on a field that was shorter than we normally play on! How tacky it looked that we had a perfectly good field behind us and we couldn’t even use it! How tacky that we had to sit on the ground or stand! Let’s just hope we didn’t have a person in a wheel chair show up! Where in the world would we have placed them! Also, how inconvenient it was to find a restroom. Thus the reason for us having access to the field! All those problems would have been taken care of. So you see it has more to do with the football team needing to practice on the field!
That’s wonderful that the football Flashes made it (at the time) to the next round but the soccer team is also representing our school! Please don’t make it seem like the coaches didn’t know about the game, they knew, they did have access to schedules and they could have turned to their right and see the two teams warming up and obviously getting ready for a game!
I think all our Flashes teams/sports matter, but if it comes to hosting a game, let us give that team/sport priority! Flashes Football does not come first... The Flashes do!!!!
I also want to add a thank you to the Girls Flashes Soccer team, they have been out there on most of the home games cheering on the Boys Flashes Soccer team!!! Way to support your fellow soccer players!!! Good luck Flashes!!!! :)
Christina Carrial-Vasquez

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To the editor:
Ashamed FUSD employee has struck again! Ashamed employee wrote a lengthy letter last week, directly criticizing me, by name. But, once again, ashamed employee neglected to sign his or her own name. Since I am not privy to ashamed employee’s secret identity, the only way to communicate seems to be through the pages of the Gazette. So, here it goes:
Attention Ashamed Employee:
Thank you for the compliment at the end of your recent letter. I do take exception however, to the rest of your letter. You claim that my opening argument is that “there just aren’t that many charter schools in Ventura County.” You characterize this argument as too dumb to waste time on. Since you don’t explain exactly what makes this argument too dumb to waste time on, it is a little hard to respond to, but I’ll try.
To begin with, you have misrepresented my argument. Here is an exact quote from my article: “Of the eleven charter schools in the county, only four are elementary schools with site based instruction. Two of them are in Camarillo, one is in Thousand Oaks, and one is in Ventura. “
I further note that each of the four charter elementary schools is one option among many, in relatively large communities. Three of the four elementary charter schools in Ventura County were start ups. That is to say, they started in facilities that were not currently in use. The fourth elementary charter (Meadow Arts, in Thousand Oaks) took over a school site that had been slated to be closed due to under-enrollment.
My point was that Piru would be the only elementary charter school in the entire county of Ventura to take over an existing successful running school site. This is more than unusual. It is unprecedented. It is unprecedented because it is a really bad idea.
It is a bad idea for multiple reasons. To begin with, conversions simply don’t perform as well as start-ups. A 2003 RAND Corporation study of charter schools in California (Charter School Operations and Performance: Evidence From California) found different results for charters schools depending on whether they were start ups or conversions. Start up charters had better results than conversions. In this study, charters that were conversions from conventional schools (which is what the Piru petitioners intend to do) did not improve student achievement.
In addition, charter schools are not intended to replace (or in this case displace) the local elementary school; and certainly not when the overwhelming majority of parents have indicated they oppose the charter. Successful charter schools find an appropriate site, and garner significant parental support for their project. The Piru petitioners have done neither.
Charter schools are supposed to be opt-in programs, that parents may choose to send their children too. Placing a charter in Piru, taking over the only neighborhood school in a small community, makes it an opt-out program, completely counter to the whole idea of charter schools. Of all the elementary schools in FUSD, Piru is the worst site for a charter school for this reason. It is the only site where students who do not wish to attend a charter would have to be bussed down the highway to attend a non-charter school, rather than finding a relatively close alternative school in town.
In regards to the Stanford CREDO National Charter School Report (2009) I cited, you are absolutely correct that you can find differences in achievement among various sub-groups. For example, on page 6 of the full report you find this statement: “Charter schools have different impacts on students based on their family backgrounds. For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins.” Since 91% of Piru’s students are classified as Hispanic, you would think this is would be an important bit of information. But, I guess the charter school petitioners forgot to mention it in their presentation to the school board.
You are also correct that charter schools have had relatively better results for children in poverty and English language learners. For example, on page 27 the report states “We see positive results for charter school students in poverty – these students realized statistically superior learning gains in reading compared to their TPS (traditional public school) peers… The magnitude of the difference was about the same as was seen for the overall reading effect, .01 standard deviations, though here the sign is positive. While significant, the effect is small.”
In the context of this quote the word “significant” means statistically significant. That means the results are not likely to be due to chance. It does not necessarily indicate that the results are practically important, since, as noted, the positive effects for those particular subgroups is small. And since there is enormous variation in results among charter schools, there is no guarantee that these results would be replicated at Piru.
According to Piru School’s 2007-2008 School Accountability Report Card, non-English learning Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, Asians and African Americans combined make up 52% of Piru’s students. All of those sub-groups tend to perform, on average, either more poorly in charter schools or no better in charter schools.
The Stanford report also noted that “the effectiveness of charter schools was found to vary widely by state. The variation was over and above existing differences among states in their academic results.” California is cited as one of four states that had mixed results or were no different than the gains for traditional school peers. Obviously, 100% of Piru’s students live in California.
Also according to the Stanford report, “students generally experience a significant negative impact on learning in reading in their first year of charter enrollment, in the range of -.06 standard deviations.” While this negative impact tends to disappear over time, that would be cold comfort to the families of Piru whose children are currently enrolled, and would likely experience this decline.
On page 9 of the report we read this conclusion: “This analysis shows that in the aggregate charter schools are not advancing the learning gains of their students as much as traditional public schools.”
Another important study, by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), titled “A Closer Look at Charter Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling” (2006), and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reached this conclusion: “After adjusting for student characteristics, charter school mean scores in reading and mathematics were lower, on average, than those for public noncharter schools.”
In 2009 the Center for Education Reform published a report on accountability in charter schools. They found that 13% of all charter schools ever opened have subsequently closed. 41% of those closures were due to financial difficulties, often due to declining enrollment (a distinct possibility in the case of Piru, since dozens of parents have already indicated their intent to un-enroll their children if Piru becomes a charter school.) 27% of the closures were due to mismanagement. 14% of the closures were due to poor academic performance.
Charter advocates routinely overstate the effectiveness of charter schools, cite only the data that supports their case, while rationalizing or ignoring data that undercuts their case. They like to cite only the studies or even just portions of studies (as you did in your last letter) that support their position, while ignoring the overall picture.
I argued that “the body of research on charter schools is less than impressive,” and I absolutely stand behind that statement. The research on charter schools does not justify a radical change of governance and personnel in a school that is making solid academic gains. Piru charter advocates like to speak of converting Piru to a charter school as “the next step of school reform.” Variations of this phrase are repeated no less than seven times in their petition. Unfortunately, there is no compelling evidence that this next step would necessarily be an improvement.
Incidentally, a group of parents and teachers from Piru recently visited Fenton Avenue Charter School in San Ferndando Valley. Fenton is characterized as “one of the oldest and most successful charter schools in the state of California” in a recent Gazette article about the trip. Now, I am sure Fenton is a nice school, but between 2007 and 2009 Fenton’s API scores rose by exactly zero points. In fact, between 2007 and 2008 its score dropped seven points. The next year Fenton (“one of the most successful charter schools in the state”) regained those same seven points for a grand total of zero improvement. Over the same time frame, Piru (as a non charter school) saw its API scores climb by 71 points.
As noted in the Gazette article, Fenton has high percentages of students from Hispanic families, second language learners, and students receiving free or reduced lunch. This is likewise true of all the schools of Fillmore, including Sespe. Last school year, on the 2009 API test Sespe scored 770 points. Fenton’s score was 747.
There is an even closer match between the demographics of Fenton and Piru. In the words of Chris Pavik’s article on their trip, Fenton has demographics that “almost exactly mirror those of Piru School: 87% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, 54% are in the English as a Second Language program, and come from a primarily Hispanic community.” The two schools also have almost identical API scores. Fenton last year achieved an API score only eight points higher than Piru’s (747 for Fenton, compared to 739 for Piru.)
My point about district administration is that Fillmore is at almost exactly the median for a district of its size in both the number of administrators in the district, and the portion of district money allotted to administrative services. The claim, made by representatives of our teachers’ union, was that Fillmore is uniquely overstaffed compared to comparable districts, and that district administrators have given themselves huge raises, up to 48%. This is completely untrue.
In the penultimate paragraph of your letter you credit me with saying that Piru is the most successful campus in the district. Unfortunately, you have habit of misquoting me. I never said Piru is the most successful campus in the district.
Here is an exact quote of what I said in that regard: “Charter schools are typically started for one of two reasons. 1.) The charter embodies a distinct educational vision, for example a commitment to open education, or an emphasis on technology or the arts; or 2.) the charter replaces a failing school. It is hard to see for which of these reasons the Piru charter is being proposed. The philosophy and approaches to education articulated by the charter team seem perfectly fine, but not at all out of the mainstream of educational practice. And they have seen three years of solid growth in their state testing scores, so the school, in its present configuration and personnel could hardly be considered failing.”
The jump from “three years of solid growth” and “hardly considered failing” to “the most successful campus in the district” is, I am afraid, a product of your still rather active imagination. (I won’t even discuss your odd penchant for conspiracy theories concerning John Garnica.)
In terms of API test scores, the most successful elementary school in FUSD is Sespe. It has seen greater growth overall, and has achieved higher scores than any other elementary school in the district. Since the start of API testing in 1999, Sespe’s scores have climbed by 243 points. Piru, over the same time, improved by 197 points. Last year Piru and Sespe improved by almost identical amounts (fifty-two points for Piru; fifty-one for Sespe), but Sespe’s API score last year was also 31 points higher than Piru’s. Sespe had a score of 770, while Piru’s score was 739.
I did not say, and do not agree, that Piru is the most successful school in FUSD. All the schools in FUSD are excellent, with terrific dedicated staffs. My point was that Piru has been experiencing success as part of Fillmore Unified. Your theory seems to be that if a school has been experiencing success, the best way to continue that success is to radically change the governance and personnel.
In fact, your point about Los Angeles Unified converting schools into charter schools due to, as you say in your letter, “declining student achievement”, makes my point for me. Piru has not seen declining student achievement, but rather the reverse, as a part of FUSD. There is every expectation that it would continue to do so as part of FUSD. On the other hand, breaking apart a successful team of teachers and experimenting with a charter is a much riskier proposition.
One last comment: It is unusual for any newspaper to publish anonymous letters. You have submitted two, and in both instances you harshly criticize me. You misquote me and mischaracterize my arguments. You accuse me of being a “hired gun” for the district, and “a true champion of the status quo.” You call my arguments “ridiculous” and “dumb.” And you have done all this from the safety of anonymity.
This hardly seems fair. There are basic principles of fair play, and you are breaking them. I don’t mind being disagreed with. That is certainly your right in a democracy. But if you feel compelled to write another letter mentioning me, please have the courtesy and the courage to sign your name.
Greg Spaulding

* * *

To the Editor:
Response to Spaulding:
Greg,
Yes. I do think some of your arguments are “ridiculous” and “dumb”, you do act like a “hired gun” for the district, and you do support the “status quo”. And yes, “I’ve done all this from the safety of anonymity.” It has nothing to do with “fair play”, “courtesy” or “courage” Greg. The newspaper is protecting my identity in order to prevent retaliation from my employer. Fillmore Unified administrators have a track record of unethical behavior targeting individuals who speak out against them. Conversely, you routinely rise in support of district policies and have nothing to worry about. Being good friends with the Garnica’s doesn’t hurt either.
You continue to use selective evidence to back your anti-charter position and hypocritically accuse charter-supporters of doing the same. For example, from page 6 of the CREDO study you cite, “For Blacks and Hispanics, their learning gains are significantly worse than that of their traditional school twins.” You leave it there and attack Piru charter founders. These findings are contradicted in the more accurate NYC Charter Schools Report, “On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86 percent of the Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap in math and 66 percent of the achievement gap in English.” This is just one example of Blacks and Hispanics outperforming traditional public schools. Regrettably, the data you cite in most of your recent letter is flawed. The Hoxby report, also from Stanford University, found the CREDO report, “contains a statistical mistake that causes a biased estimate of how charter schools affect achievement.” And, “the CREDO study violates four rules for the empirically sound use of matching methods to evaluate charter schools' effects.” In other words, the CREDO data and conclusions are faulty. Regardless, I challenge you to convince one NYC charter school parent to pull out based on your analysis their child would do better in a traditional public school. Good luck!
Despite countless studies with contradictory conclusions, one thing is clear. Fenton Charter, Piru Charter, the 250 new charter schools in Los Angeles, the state of California, New York State, the Presidents’ Bill promoting charter schools (I could go on and on) all indicate policymakers, parents and educators want out of the public school rut. Then again, this could all be part of my “rather active imagination.”
The point of my original letter (which Sweeney and Board Members failed to directly respond to) was not to get into a charter debate. It was to point out a pattern of poor ethics, poor management, and poor decisions by Sweeney, Bush and Townend. Board Members routinely prefer a tall glass of Sweeney Kool-Aid to thinking for themselves. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s harmful.
I disagree with you Greg, and as you said, in a democracy, that is my right to do so. My criticisms were never intended to target you personally, and if you felt attacked or harmed by my remakes, I sincerely apologize.
We need more Geoffrey Canada's and fewer Jeffery Sweeney's. See http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5914322n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnAre...
An Ashamed FUSD employee

 


 
Letters to the Editor
December 10th, 2009

To the Editor:
To the Communities of Piru and Fillmore:
While the Piru Neighborhood Council realizes it has no jurisdiction over the policies which affect our local school, we do wish to express our concern and disappointment that we could not bring both the petitioners for the Piru Charter School and parties concerned by the proposal to a forum that would allow the public to ask questions of both sides.
We chose a format that we hoped would avoid conflict, and planned to have the public write their questions down. The PNC Board would then have taken turns asking questions of the groups concerned with the school. We invited everyone on November 5th and reminded them on November 12. On that weekend, a petitioner called me, requesting assurance that the meeting would not be confrontational, which I gave. Then I received a text message November 16 stating that “the two-sided format doesn’t work for us”.
The general Piru Community, and apparently many parents and teachers, were unaware of the proposal to break Piru School away from Fillmore Unified until after the petition had been officially recorded and a special Board of Education meeting scheduled the night of our October meeting. We postponed ours to allow the public to attend the District’s October session, and later that month received a request from the Charter petitioners to appear at our General Meeting November 18.
The Piru Neighborhood Council Executive Board met on November 3 to finalize our agenda, and agreed on several points: taking a position for or against the proposal was outside our area of concern as defined in our by-laws; we had a duty to try to provide the community with information that would help them decide what position to take; four out of five Board members felt that another presentation was unnecessary, as the petitioners had already explained their ideas in a well-attended public meeting.
The Piru Community has gone from a total lack of information to an abundance of discussions, rumors, statements that are incomplete or unclear, and contradictory “information”; we are now in a state of confusion. The PNC regrets that the opportunity to clarify information and reduce confusion has been denied to the public, and hope that when the issue is finally resolved, the result will be a healthy thing for the school and the community that depends on it.
Respectfully,
Janet Bergamo, President
Piru Neighborhood Council

To the Editor:
I really feel sad that a parent of a student in the Fillmore Unified School District is pitting one school team against another. Christina Carrizal-Vasque feels that soccer was slighted because the Fillmore Football team won league and then went on to successfully go to the second round of the playoffs. She asks does football come first? Yes, when a team has been successful they are given the opportunity to continue to use the field to practice and play. Why did the soccer coach schedule a PRACTICE game when he/she knew there was a good possibility that the football team would go to the playoffs just as they did last year? The football coaches probably had no idea that a game was scheduled. When the soccer team has won an gone to the playoffs every effort has been made to give them support including usage of the field for practice and games. Should the football team not be afforded the same opportunity?
Perhaps, Christina does not understand that we are in bleak financial times. The fact that the district can support the soccer program is BECAUSE of the football program. The revenues taken in by the football program is given to the ASB. This revenue pays for the soccer program, swimming program, track program and basketball program etc. Without the funds raised by the football program her child and many others would probably have to pay a large amount of money so that the high school could have a soccer program. Football happily supports all the other sports and the more successful the football program is the more funding other programs have. The football program wishes all teams continued success. I hope this misunderstanding and criticism of the Football program was the result of lack of information. The Fillmore Flashes of 2009 deserve nothing but praise. I attended all but on game and the football team and their coaches well represented Fillmore. They were fantastic!!
I am saddened that Christina is not happy for every team’s success. A positive supportive letter congratulating the football program and thanking them for all they do to financially support the many wonderful sports programs at Fillmore High School would have been more appropriate. The school and all the teams are equally important and deserve all the parents support not criticism. Go Flashes!!
L. Durand
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Attention Greg Spaulding:
Your arguments against a Charter School in Piru are flawed. The most ridiculous might be your opening argument that “there just aren’t that many Charter Schools in Ventura County.” I won’t waste anyone’s time describing how dumb that is and move right into what you describe in your own words as “the most relevant question, how charter schools perform.” You cite a Stanford University study: 37% of charter schools report gains worse than traditional public schools, 17% report gains better than traditional public schools, and 46% demonstrate no significant difference. You also claim that I have a “rather active imagination.” Is it just my imagination or did you “forget” to include any positive information from the report about Charter Schools? Since you chose selective information from the study, I’ll do the same. You failed to mention the report concludes “Nationally, Elementary and middle school charter students exhibited higher learning gains than equivalent students in the traditional public school system.” Piru Charter is an Elementary school with plans to add Middle School. The report goes on to conclude “In addition, some subgroups demonstrated greater academic growth than their traditional public school twins. Specifically, students in poverty and ELL (English Language Learning) students experience larger learning gains in charter.” Many Piru students are low income and ELL. According to the study, there are good arguments for a Charter School in Piru. Why would you not include such critical findings from the report? I guess it was also my imagination that Board Member Garnica gave you a big smile and congratulatory handshake after the Piru Charter hearing.
Since you brought up your email regarding administrative overstaffing and claim it “put the issue to rest”, let me state, for the record, you did not put the issue to rest. Fillmore Unified, along with public schools throughout the nation, is clearly overstaffed at the top. This bloated bureaucracy takes money away from students and forces bad decisions onto principals, teachers and students. These problems are compounded in Fillmore with unethical administrators, a weak superintendent, and a school board unwilling to think for themselves and question their actions. Is it just my imagination or did one administrator just slither away in the middle of the night? What? No going away party for Townend?
You are a true champion of the “status quo” Greg. Perhaps it’s this type of “inside the box” thinking that keeps our schools trapped in state improvement. After decades of increasing district administration resulting in declining student achievement, the LA City Board of Education voted against the “status quo” by converting 250 campuses into charter schools. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Apparently the LA Board of Education is tired of acting insane.
One thing you are right about Greg. Under the leadership of Richard Durborow, along with the great work of Piru teachers, parents and community, Piru is the most successful campus in the District.
Regardless of what happens outside the classroom Greg, you are one of Fillmore’s finest teachers and we are fortunate to have you. Thank You.
An ashamed FUSD employee

To the Editor:
Recently our city council was remediated in a Brown Act workshop as a result of a settlement between the City of Fillmore and Richard McKee of Californians Aware. Evidently the county’s district attorney was satisfied that our city council cured its ills and with how it handled its unintended violations. But why the settlement unless the city was more guilty than innocent? And why would it agree to pay Mr. McKee’s attorney’s fees for something unintended?
What hasn’t happened is an apology, or has our council become politically calloused? We’ve all been bumped into in a crowd and typically, both parties exchange an apology. Here, our city council hasn’t seemed to notice where it steps or how it can brush public contact aside.
We’ve seen enough of the acrimony surrounding this legal embarrassment. Isn’t it time that our city fathers just walk circumspectly and move towards the civic matters that improve our community?
Bert Castel de Oro
Fillmore

 


 
Letters to the Editor
December 3rd, 2009

To the Editor:
Several years ago our then City Attorney Roger Myers, gave me $50 to buy Marie Callender Pies for some needy families for their Thanksgiving Dinner. Since then I have had donated "Pie Money" given by more and more Fillmore people each year. These people that give are people that aren't going to be home or they just share and extend their Pie Order. Last year we changed the plan to giving to the "seniors". So we sent the pies to the "Meals on Wheels" and the for the people that have their lunch/dinner at the Senior Center. Antonia said the seniors were very happy with their pies and that the pies were delivered that Tuesday just in time to be cut and served.
So thank you all that have given in the past and the ones that donated this year (again): Marge Le Bard,
Dani Steiger, Martha Gentry, Patrick Maynard, Bev Haase, Jane Kampbell, Jim Herbert, Don Downey, Trinka Reynolds (Mortgage).
Very Sincerely,
Raelene Chaney
Grad Nite Live

To the Editor:
El Dorado: Some of our residents received a Rental Agreement. The idea that the board of the HOA has formed a committee to “negotiate the Rental Agreement” is obviously absurd. To begin with it is not a “lease” it is a Rental Agreement. And they can’t honestly think that the owners will sit down and even talk with them, let alone negotiate with them? These so called HOA members think they own the park! These people and some town residents don't realize the money the nincompoop’s have cost the city ($20,000+). El Dorado’s chaos and discord is directly attributable to their actions. Because of their previous rent control demands we got Measure F. Because of their insults and accusations of the owners and management, now we are only offered a rental agreement instead of a lease. What is next, an all age park? Please wake-up. They are destroying this park and the enjoyable life style we used to have. Their Collective Stupidity will destroy us all. El Dorado has two enemies: Those who want to destroy us from the outside and those who created this mess will destroy us from within.
A Concern Citizen of El Dorado
Raul Torres

To The Editor:
Attention Ashamed FUSD employee:
Your misconception is that two district office employees can control the thoughts and minds of so many. You would have us believe that anyone who shares an opinion that might be in agreement with Dr. Bush’s or Mr. Sweeny’s position then that thought must have been place there by them. You have them in control of the thoughts of parents, teachers, and board members. You would have us believe that only a fortunate few like yourself has been able to escape their powerful ability to transfer their cognition to another. Do you wear some special helmet that deflects their thoughts or is your skull just naturally thicker than rest of ours?
Not ashamed to be an employee of FUSD,
John Schaper

To the Editor:
I am writing in response to a recent anonymous letter, signed “ashamed FUSD employee.” The author was not willing to sign his or her name, but was willing to write critically, by name, about other Fillmore Unified School District employees. In particular, the anonymous letter writer mentions me in connection with a petition to recall Fillmore Unified Teachers’ Association (FUTA) president, Theresa Marvel. This isn’t exactly accurate. There is a petition, but it is not to recall Ms. Marvel, it is to call for a vote to recall Ms. Marvel.
Oddly, “ashamed employee” makes no mention whatsoever of a second petition. There is also a petition to call for a recall vote for FUTA vice-president Chris Pavik. I am a cosponsor of both petitions. In fact, there are cosponsors from every school site in the district, except Sierra High School. This recall campaign is widely supported throughout the Fillmore Unified School District.
In an online comment, “ashamed employee” accuses Superintendent Jeff Sweeney of “attempting to orchestrate the removal of Marvel.” This is completely false. Mr. Sweeney had absolutely nothing to do with instigating or encouraging a recall vote.
The anonymous writer also states in online comments that “the petition to recall Fillmore Teacher's Union President Theresa Marvel was signed by a small group of union members well connected to you [Sweeney], Bush and School Board Members.”
I don’t know how many the letter writer considers a small group. The minimum number of signatures needed to force a recall vote is 48. We collected the signatures of 78 Fillmore teachers for the recall of Ms. Marvel, and 86 for the recall of Mr. Pavik. We quit gathering signatures early, since we had more than enough to force a vote.
“Ashamed employee” characterizes me as “Bev and John Garnica’s good friend and apparent “hired gun” when it comes to issuing detailed emails and public statements supporting school board decisions.” I readily admit to being friends with the Garnicas, but I categorically deny in any way being a “hired gun” for the district. That’s a figment of “ashamed employee’s” rather active imagination. Anything I have ever written, any analysis I have ever done, any opinions I have ever expressed, are completely my own. No district administrator or school board member has ever suggested that I write on any topic, or has assisted me in any way.
Greg Spaulding

To the Editor:
Soccer v. Football
I find it every sad that while attending last nights JV Soccer game I had no where to sit but on the ground! I turn around to see a beautiful field behind me empty of soccer players, but plenty of action going on with the football players! I understand that the football team has made it to the next round but it is really necessary for them to take up the field while the soccer team is hosting a game? How embarrassing for the Fillmore Soccer team to have to play on this felid when we have a perfectly good field! How embarrassing for us to have our parents, fans and community members sit on the ground! Does football come first? Why did the coaches feel the need to use it during the soccer team’s game time! Shouldn’t it be whoever has a game gets to use it and if it is a practice session then you are voted off! Why couldn’t the football players use the baseball field for practice! At one point that’s all they had to use! But now it is only good enough for the soccer players to host a game!
What’s more important here? There have been times where the soccer team has gone to the playoffs or have made it all the way too! Is The football team special compared to the soccer team!? What will happen at next week’s tournament? Will this happen again!
I will say that the Varsity game was allowed to use the field for their game and so many people showed up and the seats were nearly full with fans, parents, and community members! How great it looked!
Note: the pictures of all the standing fans, parents and students who attended the JV game! No one is supposed to be standing behind the goalie but there are several students there!
Unfortunately, our Flashes did not win!
Christina Carrizal-Vasque
Fillmore

 

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Letters to the Editor
November 26th, 2009

Attention School Board Members: Time to stop being led around by the nose by Jeff Sweeney and Mike Bush and time to start thinking for yourselves.
First, you followed Sweeney down a legally confusing and morally bankrupt path leading to Townend’s misconduct going unpunished and rewarded. Instead of firing Townend, as Sweeney had the legal right to do, he “granted her request” for a new position where she’s not doing a damm thing and continues to receive her same superintendent level salary and benefits in excess of $100,000 a year. And to make things worse, Sweeney hired an expensive consultant, in the middle of a budget crisis, to take over Townend’s responsibilities, depleting the district’s already reduced operating budget. Furthermore, some district employees, who are still adjusting to last rounds salary and benefit cuts, are now being asked by Sweeney and Bush to give up their healthcare benefits entirely. What a mess.
Second, Sweeney was advised by the Ventura County Office of Education to approve the new Piru Charter School because “if you don’t approve it, the state will” and “don’t waste any money on legal fees trying to fight it.” Instead Sweeney and Bush (known as the “Charter Killer” referring to the charter school he defeated during his tenure in Santa Paula) did just the opposite. They fought it and fought it hard. They demoted Piru Elementary School Principal Richard Durborow (who oversaw the most improved campus in the district) for considering going charter. Bush and Townend rigged the Piru Principal Election Committee to block another charter school supporter, Susan Jolley, from becoming Piru’s next principal. Sweeney and Bush used Piru teachers sympathetic to the district’s anti-charter position to intimidate charter-supporting teachers, indicating that “if they backed out now, no harm would come to them”. Sweeney prohibited any talk or meetings about going charter on school grounds, forcing charter supporters to go “underground” setting the stage for the district’s “information war” spreading fear and uncertainty amongst Piru parents. These same parents were bussed to the Piru Charter School hearing to make sure board members witnessed overwhelming anger and dissatisfaction over going charter. Its ironic that board member De la Piedra stated “We don’t like the division” while sitting next to the people who caused it. By pitting long time friends against each other, Bush and Sweeney have caused permanent damaged to the Piru community.
So, what happens now? Lacking any axes to grind or “Charter Killers”, and happy to take advantage of the Sweeney Bush blunder, the County of Ventura or State of California will approve the new charter school and receive monies (monies that Fillmore Unified could have received) for providing services to the new school. More unethical behavior and bad decisions will now lead to further depletion of Fillmore Unified’s budget, reducing services to our children and guaranteeing more salary and benefit cuts to Fillmore Unified teachers and staff. Another mess.
Third, it looks like Sweeney and Bush have led you down yet another unethical and potentially illegal path. Just last week, a petition was submitted to recall one your most vocal critics, Fillmore Teachers Union President, Theresa Marvell. The petition was signed by a group of teachers not only sympathetic to the school board, but related to several school board members and Bush himself. The petition signers include Rene Bush (Mike Bush’s wife), Bev Garnica (School Board Member John Garnica’s wife), Magaly Dollar (School Board Member David Dollar’s daughter in-law), Greg Spalding (Bev and John Garnica’s good friend and apparent “hired gun” when it comes to issuing detailed emails and public statements supporting school board decisions). But somehow, I have a feeling you already know about all this. Shame on you.
What bad decision or unethical behavior will you be involved with next? Time to get rid of Sweeney, Bush and Townend once and for all.
An ashamed FUSD employee

Response by Jeff Sweeney, FUSD Superintendent
It is unfortunate that the letter submitted by the anonymous “ashamed FUSD employee” stoops to the level of personal attacks, name-calling and the dredging up of old issues in an apparently misguided attempt to garner sympathy and support for the Piru Charter School proposal. While I could respond to each and every one of the misstatements and unfounded allegations contained in the letter, that would serve no purpose but to further inflame and divide the community.
The letter’s author attempts to ascribe unsavory motives to Mike Bush and myself, and blame the failed charter attempt on an alleged inappropriate agenda by the two of us. As was clearly evidenced at both District Board meetings, as well as in other forums during the District’s consideration of the Charter, the overwhelming feeling of the entire community, particularly including Piru parents and District employees, was strong opposition to the Charter. The Charter itself contained a number of flaws and misleading and/or incorrect information, much of which is specifically addressed by the Board’s Resolution of Denial.
But the most fundamental cause of the Charter’s failure was the fact that it was demonstrably unlikely to be successful because the Charter petitioners failed to garner virtually any support for the Charter proposal. The families whose students attend Piru School, and most District employees, opposed the Charter. The families made clear that they simply would not send their children to the proposed Piru Charter School. Without students, the school obviously would fail.
The bottom line is the petitioners did not present the District a workable and potentially successful charter proposal, and for this reason, the Charter was denied. Mr. Bush’s and my purpose in recommending denial of the Charter was only to protect the interests of all District students, including the Piru students. The petitioners have the right to appeal the District’s decision, if they so choose, and that decision and the ultimate fate of the Charter request are now out of the District’s hands.
On a final note, I am aware that the membership of the Fillmore United Teacher’s Association submitted a petition for the recall of their current president, Theresa Marvel, and vice president, Chris Pavik. This recall effort was not instigated by the Board, Mr. Bush, nor myself, and it is not within our control, but, rather, is an internal decision for the FUTA membership. The District will, of course, continue to work for the best interests of the District, including its students and employees, with Ms. Marvel and whomever else may serve in leadership positions in FUTA.
I hope that we can all move forward from here in order to continue to provide the quality education that all of our students deserve, rather than concentrating on past disputes.
Sincerely,
Jeff Sweeney
FUSD Superintendent

 
Letters to the Editor
November 19th, 2009

To the Editor:
The most important responsibility I have as a board member is to review and study any and all situations that concern students who attend Piru and Fillmore schools and to vote or work towards anything that I believe will be in their best interest.
I voted to deny the Piru Charter School after many hours of studying the situation along with my fellow board members. Unfortunately, the Piru Charter was presented once the process had begun without any notification to our district. The petitioners failed to include administration, certificated, classified and more importantly parents and community members in the planning, the design, and the decision making processes of the petition that was submitted.
I am not opposed to charter schools; however, I am without a doubt opposed to this petition creating the Piru Charter School. I am not opposed to “something new” as was stated at the meeting held in Piru although that “something new” must be in the best interest of our students, which I did not find in this proposed Charter. The presenters stated that there were “great things” this Charter would provide, yet they failed at both meetings to provide us with what these “great things” would be. The Charter only replicated the current instructional offered at Piru, with the promise of reducing some classes in the upper grades and even the reduction of the upper grades classes were not guaranteed.
Another factor in my decision was the lack of support demonstrated by the community. At both the October 21 and the November 9 meetings in Piru, there was very little support for the Charter. Eighty-five percent of the speakers at our public hearing on October 21 spoke against the Charter. Over 200 attended that meeting and even those who did not speak, were against the charter because they were excluded from the planning process and did not see how the Charter was going to improve upon the great progress the school has made. Their fear was that it was going to derail that progress.
Piru is a successful school making great strides in achievement. There are a select few who now wish to take credit for this success, and such prideful boasting is an insult to everyone's hard work. I have observed time and time again the combined efforts of everyone who is employed and volunteers at the site, and I have witnessed the positive results they have accomplished.
Simply put, the Piru Charter was overwhelmingly not supported by the community and without support it cannot be successful.
Virginia A. de la Piedra
FUSD Board Member

To the Editor:
Piru Charter School Moves Forward…
Despite what some may think, the plans for Piru School to become an independent charter school, run by a Board of Directors composed of Piru parents, community members and staff, continues to progress. It is the intention of the petitioning group that Piru School will open as an independent charter school next school year. In the State of California, approval of a charter petition is a multi-stage process. By law, the petition must be submitted first to the local district. However, since most local districts have an inherent bias towards preventing any competition or loss of control or loss of funding, the California charter law has built into it the provision that County or State Boards of Education may also approve a charter even when a local school board has turned it down. The Piru School charter petitioners want what is best for the children of our community, and believe that it is important that parents have the right to choose their child's school. We welcome questions and/or enquiries about the plans for the upcoming year.
Sincerely, Chris Pavik
You may reach the Piru School Charter Petitioners with your questions at: pirucharterschool@earthlink.net or you can reach us at our address: Piru Charter School, P.O. Box 555, Piru, CA 93040.

To the Editor:
I am writing concerning the FUSD Board of Education’s recent decision to deny the Piru Charter School Petition. For me, this decision was a simple one to make for the following reasons:
1.) The lead petitioners failed to involve the Piru community in the process. I could have voted for a Charter School if the petitioners had simply ensured the success of the school by getting buy-in from the parents and community. As made evident to me by the hearing on Oct 21st, they did not do this. The standing-room-only crowd that overwhelmingly opposed the charter on that night made a huge impact on everyone that attended. It was glaringly obvious that the petitioners did not involve more than just a few parents. They also did not involve Piru staff other than the petitioners. Nor did they involve the wider community of Piru. In short, they totally misunderstood one of the key ingredients necessary for the success of a charter, especially one in a small, remote town like Piru: You need community buy-in.
3.) The petition itself did not bring anything new to the Piru School or community. One petition supporter complained saying, “When are we going to start talking about all the great things this charter school is going to do?” Well, we gave them all the time they wanted to make a convincing argument about those great things at the Oct. 21st meeting. We also gave them unlimited time to counter the problems identified by Superintendent Sweeney in his recommendation to the board at the Nov 9th meeting. Yet they could not articulate any of these “great things” to me or any other board member well enough to get even one vote. I could have voted for a well-thought-out, innovative charter petition. This one was neither.
John Garnica
President, FUSD Board of Education

To the Editor:
I am writing this to possibly save you the time and frustration that I recently went through. I received an e-mail from Bank of America (it said.) It informed me that someone has been trying to access my on-line banking and would I try to open my banking account to see if was still active and everything was OK. It said that if I didn’t access my account it would automatically be cancelled in six hours. The letter had an official place to “click” and it led to an equally official Bank of American on-line sign in page. I was to enter my on-line ID and pass-code. Now, I didn’t fall for this for two reasons: One, I do not have an account with Bank of America and two; If I did, I am not that dumb to be taken in by this scam. I am sure that there are a few in thousands that might fall for this and that is all they need to clean out an account with little effort spent on their part.
Thinking that law enforcement would like to have their e-mail address and possibly back track them somehow, I called the District Attorney. After three passed calls I finally got someone that said they were not interested and I would have to call my local law enforcement. If they thought it was important they would get in touch with us. I called our local Sheriff Department and told them the story. They immediately said they were not interested as there are so many scams they cannot possibly take the time to run them down. They just hope the public is aware and doesn’t fall for this sort of thing.
I thought, maybe Bank of America would want to know that someone is using their system to get some illegal money. I called Bank of America with a number I got from Google. I tried for about ten minutes and could not get a “live” person. Then I called the branch in Santa Paula and again could not get a live person. I finally gave up and took a copy to my local bank, gave it to them and told them to pass it on to B of A if they knew how. You can’t say I didn’t try to be a good citizen but sometimes you wonder if it is worth the effort.
It is no wonder we have so much of this going on if there is no one to pursue the bad guys. You would think there would be just one place you could call to report things of this nature. The D.A. and Sheriff’s departments sure didn’t refer me to anything. Its open season on us folks; so be aware and suspicious at all times.
John Heilman
74 year native.

To the Editor:
The recent Brown Act violations now admitted by the Fillmore City Council illustrate how easily elected officials can impede the public’s right to be involved in the decision-making of their local government. From the facts, it can be argued that the Council acted improperly to avoid embarrassment. That is, they violated the Brown Act in an attempt to avoid the embarrassment of having to admit they had violated the Brown Act.
Now, by executing a settlement agreement to end the lawsuit McKee v. Fillmore City Council, the City Council will remedy errors in judgment by agreeing to a 2-hour retraining on the requirements of the open meetings law.
However, there remains an even greater concern for the residents of Fillmore, and all the citizens of Ventura County - - a District Attorney’s Office either ignorant of the law or willing to compromise itself by sanctioning these obvious violations.
Acting on no formal complaint, but only an opinion piece in the local newspaper, the District Attorney says his office instituted an “investigation” into Fillmore’s actions. Then the office issued a baffling 5-page opinion, which included legal interpretations long ago repudiated by both the courts and the California Attorney General’s Office.
For example, the DA says it was proper when the Fillmore City Council included the opposing party to pending litigation in a closed session to discuss the issues and reach a settlement. Yet, in more than 30-years of opinions, the courts and the Attorney General have said such a closed session with a potential plaintiff violates the Brown Act.
The DA also says that the Council may cure its violation of denying the public an opportunity to comment prior to the Council taking action, by offering the public a chance to comment after the Council’s vote had already been announced. However, the Attorney General’s pamphlet on the Brown Act says, by the plain language of the statute, the public is always guaranteed the right to provide testimony before any action can be taken by the Council.
Why would the DA distort the law to support the City Council? It couldn’t be politics, could it? Is this evidence of an attorney “good old boy” network at work?
In this regard, it should not go unnoticed that the DA never contacted those making the allegations of Brown Act violations, even though we filed suit more than a month before his Office issued its opinion. However, while investigating these open meeting violations, the DA’s Office had no problem finding time to meet secretly with the attorneys representing Fillmore.
It is precisely this type of corruption that severely weakens the public’s ability to retain control over their local government. Fortunately for me, I live in Los Angeles County where DA Steve Cooley’s Public Integrity Division has a proven track record of vigorous Brown Act enforcement, most likely the best in the State.
I suggest that at the next election, the people of Ventura County should assure themselves a District Attorney who is more interested in protecting the public’s rights, than the backsides of political cronies.
After all, the promise of a government of, by, and for the people depends on the ability to exercise control over its elected representatives. Or as the California Legislature stated clearly when revising the open meeting law, “complete, faithful, and uninterrupted compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act is a matter of overriding public importance.”
Richard P. McKee
Richard P. McKee is president-emeritus of Californians Aware, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the public’s right to open government by enforcing the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.

To the Editor:
The District Attorney’s Office agrees with Californians Aware that the Brown Act (public meeting law) is an important right of the public. Each year we investigate and evaluate a number of potential violations regarding city councils, school boards, and other legislative bodies. We take this responsibility seriously and take appropriate action, including sending warning letters.
Regarding the allegations against the Fillmore City Council, we obtained and reviewed all of the pertinent documents and video recordings. We concluded that the council violated several provisions, including an exchange of e-mails that constituted an improper “serial meeting,” and irregularities regarding a closed session to address the original violation. We do not agree that Councilman Conaway was a “potential plaintiff” who should have been excluded from closed session discussions – he had not threatened to sue and was never a party to any litigation in this matter.
The Brown Act specifically provides that a public body may not be sued to void its actions unless it is first given the opportunity to “cure or correct” the violations. The city council did so here by discussing the issues in a properly-noticed open session, including an opportunity for public comment. A lawsuit by the DA against the city would have been an unnecessary and inappropriate expenditure of public funds because the council took prompt action to resolve the problems and no additional violations were threatened.
I understand that Californians Aware disagrees with some of our conclusions, although the inflammatory tone of their comments is unfortunate. Public access to the meetings of legislative bodies is a hallmark of our democracy and the District Attorney’s office will continue to ensure that this right is honored.
Very truly yours,
MICHAEL D. SCHWARTZ
Special Assistant District Attorney
Ventura County

 
Letters to the Editor
November 12th, 2009

To the Editor:
We gratefully thank "The Bag Ladies of Fillmore" for their generous donation to the St. Vincent De Paul Society at St. Francis of Assisi Church. As you may know we operate a Food Bank for Fillmore residents every Tuesday morning and we have been serving 125 to 140 families each week, up until a few months ago. We now help over 175 families a week. We estimate this to be about 700 or more people. They thank you also!
You may have seen many stories in the newspapers about donations to Food Share being down and needs up, they are true, so we again thank you.
We may not know who you are, because you want it that way, but we do know you are a wonderful group of caring women. You are what makes Fillmore great.
Tom Montali, for
St. Vincent De Paul Society,
Clients and Members at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Fillmore

To the Editor:
Thank you for the Gazette's support of the residents of El Dorado Estates in their effort to defeat Measure F. We won this battle by an outstanding margin, 969 votes (86%) against the measure, and 159 votes (14%) for it.
We also thank all those who helped get the message out, and to the voters of Fillmore for taking the time to cast their votes, especially with only one issue on the ballot. Their concern for the future of El Dorado residents and the City of Fillmore is tremendously appreciated.
Board of Directors
Voice of El Dorado Mobile Homeowner's Association
(The results printed in the Gazette were taken from the VC Elections webpage and read “100%” return. Mr. Schifanelli’s letter reflects the correct tally.)

 
Letters to the Editor
November 5th, 2009

To the Editor:
Fillmore Pool: Reality or is it?
The dream had come to reality! Fillmore once again has a swimming pool! One that not only the High School uses, but also the local Heritage Valley Aquatics; all of who were commuting to Santa Paula for practice. Wow – no more driving to practice. Wow – the kids will have something local to do during the hot summer months. Wow – lap swim for the adults in town. Wow – water aerobics! Wow – swimming lessons. Wow – family night! Wow - employment for the summer months for some very excited people!
Reality has set in. Sorry – the pool is closed for some reconstruction. Sorry - the pool is closed because the chlorine is too high. Sorry - the pool is closed because the chlorine it too low. Sorry - the pool is closed because the heater is malfunctioning. Sorry - the pool is now closed because the pump motor is broken. Sorry – the pool is closed until further notice. Sorry – pool facility is closed – no paycheck for you.
What has to happen for Fillmore to finally become a town that has facilities that can be counted on? None of these issues are a result of the people employed at the pool facility itself. I don’t run it and I don’t have the knowledge of what it takes to keep it in proper functioning condition. I do know (well I am sort-of sure) that everyone has paid their share of the taxes that went toward the building and maintenance of the pool. It was a long and hard fought battle that involved many people. Why isn’t there someone who can properly monitor and maintain it to keep it in working condition?
Don’t let this be another sad Fillmore story with people saying, “What did you expect? It’s Fillmore.”
Heidi Popp
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Dear Editor and citizens of Fillmore,
In regards to the recent letter to the editor, (Oct. 15, 2009) from Marlene Schreffler, we at Fillmore & Western Railway Co. would like to thank Ms. Schreffler for her concern and for bringing this incident to the attention of law enforcement officials and to the citizens of Fillmore. We are very concerned about the safety of pedestrians and motorists along the railway corridor. Safety is our number one concern and priority. Because of the close proximity of the apartment development at the Central Avenue railroad crossing, vision by the locomotive engineer has been severely impaired and has caused us considerable concern for the safety of pedestrians.
The railroad crew that was on the train the day Ms. Schreffler refers to in her letter, reported that they saw children near the tracks, the engineer did “holler” out the window to them to vacate the premises and stay a safe distance, but as the waiting motorists witnessed, at least one of the children did not heed the warning.
Fillmore & Western wants to remind all residents to practice caution around the railroad tracks and crossing, whether there is a train coming or not. If you do see unsafe activity near the railroad at crossings or on the tracks please call 911 and report it. Near Central Avenue and on most crossings, there are posted signs that direct people to stay off the tracks and the railroad right of way.
As the saying goes, “It does take a village to raise a child.” Parents, as witnessed, are not always present when their children need direction. We can all be better neighbors if we watch out for youngsters who might be displaying dangerous behavior around the railroad tracks.
Better that adults find themselves in the uncomfortable position of warning someone else’s child, than that child have a severe injury or even worse, death, because we did not take action to ensure their safety.
We appreciate Ms. Schreffler bringing this important issue to the attention of the citizens of Fillmore and hope that it makes everyone more aware and to take care around railroad tracks and crossings. The Fillmore & Western Railway Co. takes its responsibilities to ensure safety very seriously.
Thank you again, Ms. Schreffler for being a good citizen of Fillmore and a friend of the railroad.
With sincere regards,
Dave Wilkinson and the staff at Fillmore & Western

To the Editor:
I was misrepresented at the school board meeting gathering information about the Piru School Charter Petition. I am the teacher who taught at Piru School, and "He is now teaching at San Cayetano." I was always against Piru School going charter. In discussion after discussion I argued strongly against going charter. When we voted whether or not to even continue gathering information about the possibility of Piru School going charter, I was one of the 2 people who voted no, against. The charter school choice was possible for me. I was strongly opposed to it. Not because it didn't fit for me personally, but because I believe the present Piru Charter School movement is greatly hurting the students and staff of Piru School as well as the entire communities of Piru and Fillmore. I have always been and remain completely against the Piru School Charter movement. I felt extremely uncomfortable being brought up in any other category than that at the school board hearing on October 21.
Sincerely,
Bill Raymond
Piru School Teacher For 20 Years

 
Letters to the Editor
October 29th, 2009

To the Editor:
A Grateful Mom wants to say THANK YOU to the person who found my letter a week ago this Monday and made sure it would get back to me. Your kindness restored my faith in people. Thank you again…
A grateful mom
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Short note to Roy Payne and Brian Sipes; please boys, give it a rest!
Dorothy Lynch
Texas

To the Editor:
My husband and I moved to El Dorado Estates two years ago with retirement in mind. We thought that in a few years, we could retire and travel (our children live on the East coast.) If Measure F passes, we will not be able to retire at all. All we see is the proposition of condo conversion taking our retirement monies. If we opt to rent, we could be living in a mobile park with some of the highest rents in California. How would we be able to retire and travel then? The owners talk about low rent options. This is a one-time offer to very low and extremely low income residents. Because my husband and I both work, this is not an option for which we can participate. We need both of our incomes currently to pay the rent. We are now in our 60’s. If Measure F passes, we could be working into our 80’s. This is not the future we anticipated. I hope we stay healthy, because getting sick would not be an option either. Fillmore residents; please get out and vote for us. Say NO to Measure F. You could be in the same situation yourself someday. Help save our homes. Thank you in advance.
Dave and Tricia Harms
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Letter to Fillmore Voters
I just want to remind all you voters here in Fillmore to be sure to get out and vote next Tuesday. Even though there is just the one measure to vote on, it is very important to all the senior citizens living in El Dorado Mobile Home Park.
In a recent straw poll taken at the park, every single resident who voted indicated he/she does not want to purchase his lot.
If you have any question as to how you should vote on this measure, just read the seven plus pages of the full text of measure F in your sample ballot and it will become quite clear how you should vote. You can be very certain the owner of the park paid some law firm a great deal of money to hand craft this measure so everyone would know exactly what this proposal will accomplish.
So please take a few minutes Tuesday and go by your polling place and give the El Dorado seniors your support.
Ralph Rees
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Last week, Bob Stroh, in his typical hypocritical and manure-like fashion, accused Martin Farrell of writing thirty editorial “attacks” against the current city council since last December. Mr. Stroh failed to tell you that during the same time period Stroh has written twenty-two letters to the editor (during the same time period I have written twelve letters to the editor). Most of Stroh’s 22 letters are focused on attacking the previous city council and administration and trying to shift or deflect the blame for the incompetence of the current city council. Stroh accuses Mr. Farrell of engaging in the very same kind of malicious negative attacks that Stroh and others engaged in for 2-3 years leading up to the 2008 council election.
Stroh also accuses Mr. Farrell of exaggerations because Mr. Farrell stated there would be mass firings at City Hall and multi-million dollar lawsuits against the city because the voters approved Measure I. In response to Stroh’s accusations, one Gazette blogger wrote “Stroh how disingenuous can you be?? The atmosphere there with the new city council was so bad, some very good employees quit. Think of the combined years, knowledge and expertise that were lost to the town of Fillmore. No, technically they didn’t fire anyone, did they Bob....” It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that the mass exodus of employees was related to the veiled 2008 campaign tactics employed by Brooks, Washburn, Walker, Westling, Creagle, Sipes and Stroh. With regards to the costs of Measure I, the jury is still out. The costs to implement Measure I are still accumulating…about $150,000 to date.
Speaking of Measure I, it is my understanding that the City is now faced with revising its Housing Element to plan for increased housing density of 20 or 30 houses per acre throughout the City in order to make up for Measure I which reduced the density in North Fillmore to 5 houses per acre. Stroh, did you Walker, Washburn, Westling, Brooks, Creagle, and Sipes tell the voters that when you were advocating for Measure I? Incompetence, hypocrisy or deceit?
One of Stroh’s most recent attempts to try and polarize the community occurred on August 6, 2009 when he wrote a letter to the editor stating “I was surprised that the preliminary city budget report went unreported by the local news media. I was not surprised by the report’s conclusions. In spite of the rosy projections given by the last city manager and finance director just a few months ago, even the most casual observer of the state of our economy and the housing crisis should have foreseen the trouble we find ourselves in. Many did. A year ago people (including Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn and then council member Patti Walker) were urging the past council to exercise restraint in handing out pay raises for top managers to no avail. Now we are told that at our current rate of spending we will be out of money in eighteen months; the cost-cutting will have unfortunate consequences for many people”. Contrary to Stroh’s statements, the city budget is balanced, the last city manager and finance director were correct, and the City has almost $5.3 million in reserves! Regarding council restraint for pay raises, no restraint has been exercised to date by the new council and management pay raises of 6% to 20% were recently granted by the newly elected city council…hypocritical?
Back in February 2009 Stroh tried to upset the community by exaggerating the costs of the new sewer plant and had to be corrected by Public Works Director Bert Rapp because Stroh had overstated the costs of the new sewer plant by $16 million…more than a slight exaggeration on Stroh’s part. Stroh continues to try and polarize the community and to shore up and cover up the 2008 campaign misstatements about the new sewer plant, management salaries and the stability and solvency of the city budget that were made by the newly elected council to gain public office.
Stroh keep shoveling the horse manure and pretty soon you will be covered in it.
Roy Payne

 
Letters to the Editor
October 22nd, 2009

To the Editor:
My husband and I have lived in the El Dorado Mobile Home Park for nearly fourteen years. When we bought our home, we honestly thought that we would live there as long as our health permitted. In the past years, I have seen numerous residents sell and move into Orange Blossom or a comparable facility, as well as others who have opted to stay in their homes and receive home health care for their needs. I have seriously considered the latter when the time comes. You can imagine the shock when we started hearing of condo conversion. At my age (75), I cannot visualize buying my space lot. We have not been told of the cost, but we already know how much the value of our homes have dropped. Homes in our park have been on the market for months, and in some cases; even years. Based upon the value of the homes, and the fact that many of us are on fixed incomes, I am not sure we could obtain a loan for the land. Even if there are two receiving social security checks, should either the husband or the wife pass away, that figure would be reduced to one social security check. That situation may also affect pensions and other investments, especially 401k’s. Please help El Dorado seniors by voting “NO” on Measure F.
Marion Schuck
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I’ve lost count; did last week put the count over thirty of absurd editorial attacks by The Fillmore Gazette’s, Martin Farrell, against the current city council before the end of its first year? Last December Farrell started his attacks sounding very spooky. He said there would be mass firings at City Hall and multi-million dollar lawsuits against the city because the voters approved Measure I. The City’s survival was in serious doubt.
To date, no one has been fired, there have been no Measure I lawsuits and low and behold we’ve survived. Farrell seems disappointed. Don’t lose hope Martin, there must be at least one scary crazy notion you have that we can be convinced of. Happy Halloween, Martin.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Last week, CNN ran a ticker tape at the bottom of the screen: Obama approves HB 1388, to assist Palestinian (Hamas) refugees from Gaza to the U.S. The amount approved was $20.3 million. Check it out at: www.thefederalregister.com.
There are millions of illegal immigrants coming from China, yet nothing is said about it. The immigrants come to America in hopes of a better life. In reality, they work in the underground economy in slave-like conditions. Last week Congress scrapped plans to complete the border fence. At the same time, borderinvasionpics.com released a video of 440 people walking into the U.S. unimpeded. We must tell Congress we will no longer accept those who are voting against the American workforce. We have had enough.
House Representative, Elton Gallegly has introduced HR 133, HR 142 and HR137 all of which deal with the problems occurring today with illegal immigration; primarily Social Security Adm. and the IRS. Also, he is working on HR 124 and HR 138 which would deal with legislative and executive government contractors to verify the legality of their workforce. It is very important that we get behind the legislators who are actually working for us!
Go to the Town Hall meetings and Tea Parties! Be informed. Don't let anyone take our country away from us! We are not alone. There are more of us thinking alike than not! This is America! Stand up and be counted while we still have a choice!
Elaine Bashford
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
October 15th, 2009

To the Editor:
Dear Lions,
The Friends of the Fillmore Library extend a gracious and appreciated Thank You for the $200.00 donation you granted to us. Your continued support of the Friends allows us to provide greater learning opportunities for the entire Fillmore Library community.
Sincerely,
Patti Walker
President of the Friends of the Fillmore Library

To the Editor:
Last Thursday at about 1:00 pm, I was driving north on Central Avenue and had to stop, as did many others, while a train was on repositioning maneuvers (back and forth many times through the crossing.) All of the vehicles on both sides of the tracks had to stop as the crossing "arms" were properly down, however, on the west side of central there is an area crossing the tracks which is open to pedestrians. Most people walking on the sidewalks on both sides stopped and watched the movement of the train. Additionally, there were people on the balconies of the apartment building watching. Unfortunately there were two children, one boy and one girl, about 10 to 12 years of age on the south side of the tracks who did not remain at a proper distance from the tracks. They seemed to be playing "chicken" by running up close to the moving train and then backing up. Finally the girl stopped but the boy continued and disappeared from my sight. Apparently he went between to cars of the train or underneath without getting hurt or killed.
In discussing this with Fillmore authorities, they surmise that the children were probably students at Sespe school who are let out early on Thursdays. I was asked if I had seen any RR personnel monitoring the crossing while the train was being repositioned. I told them that I had only seen one individual at each end of the train. I was told that if the crossing arms are functioning and are down that the RR Company is not responsible. My question is "If a person is hurt or killed in such a case here in Fillmore, who is responsible? The City?, The School?, The person? The parents in the case of children such as I saw?"
To me, this seems to be a potential accident ready to happen.
Marlene Schreffler, a concerned citizen
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Let’s look at what happens to property tax providing Proposition F is passed and the El Dorado is converted into a condominium. (All the data I am using is from the Ventura County Tax Assessor and Tax Collector web sites.) The El Dorado Mobile Home Estates sits on 37.5 acres and the Ventura County Tax Assessor has calculated the value to be, for property tax purposes, $4,367,410.00. The park has 302 mobile home spaces. Dividing the assessed value by the number of spaces equals $14,461.62 per space. This assumes that each individual space would be valued the same as any other and also include a portion of the ‘common’ areas, such as the buildings, streets and utilities.
Prop 13 (remember that?) took effect after the El Dorado was built and therefore limits the amount of increase in the valuation for tax purposes. Each year the county tax assessor may raise the valuation by only a fixed amount due to the limitations of Prop 13. However, once the property is sold, the county tax assessor may (will?) raise the valuation to the selling price of the property! If each and every lot were to sell for $14,461.62 then the total property tax would remain at the current $52,971.40 for the entire 37.5 acres. This works out to be $175.40 per space.
But you and I and the county tax assessor know that this isn’t going to happen! If the ground under my mobile home is offered to me for $15,000.00 then I want to buy two, three or four spaces at that price. Simple math will tell you that if the lot is sold for ten times the current tax evaluation or $144,616.20 then the property tax will go to at least $1,754.00 per space!
Get the spare bedroom ready; Grandma and Grandpa are moving in!
Yours in freedom,
Jay C. Wood
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Kudos to Ventura County during the Guiberson Fire. From all indications, the reverse 911 system worked beautifully to all residents in Bardsdale, etc.
A big THANK YOU to ranchers and custom farmers who made their water trucks which are primarily used for farming available to helping supply water to fire truck in outlying areas. I also understand that some of these ranchers and custom farmers supplied trucks, water, and personnel to the Station Fire.
A big question for me is: Why was there no evacuation center set up in Fillmore? The day of or the day after the Guiberson fire started, TV and radio news welcomed potential evacuees to the Goebel Center in Thousand Oaks. This was fine for the people of Moorpark but with Grimes Canyon and Balcom Canyon closed, where could any Fillmore, Bardsdale, and Piru people to go. After four days, an evacuation center was opened at the Santa Paula Senior Center. I heard that this was a "Ventura County fire" and as such it was up to Ventura County to ask for evacuation centers. Did VC ask for one here in Fillmore? It was needed. Is there a problem between City of Fillmore and Ventura County for emergency operations and needs?
Marlene Schreffer
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I find it sad and unfortunate that our only published newspaper in Fillmore appears dedicated to the city's destruction. Whatever personal vendetta motivates both Mr. Farrell and his fellow naysayer, Mr. Payne, they don't evidence much concern for our city and its reputation. I wonder how we were even able to attract a city manager given the hornet's nest that has been created. The present council (all five) was elected by the citizens, serves endless hours trying to make Fillmore a better place, and, for that civic interest, they get castigated, belittled, and threatened every Thursday when the paper comes out. How many potentially good council candidates are reevaluating their desire to serve our community?
I could write the editorial response to this letter as I've seen enough of them - a "holier than thou" misguided interpretation of free press. I read many newspapers that manage their role of holding people of authority accountable while maintaining high standards of journalism. I believe the Gazette could do this as well. I urge the paper to have a more thoughtful approach to the power of the press and to remember that community pride is a precious commodity.
Sincerely,
Susan M. Cuttriss
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
October 8th, 2009

To the Editor:
It is heartening to see the "No on Measure F" signs all over town! Voters must be aware that there is no "fair" in this measure which is sponsored by the park's manager/owners, who incidentally, are the only ones who would benefit from the passage of Measure F. Speak with the residents of El Dorado and you will agree that to support and defend our seniors there we must vote "NO on Measure F".
Lynne Brooks
Fillmore

To the Editor:
As a homeowner in El Dorado Mobile Estates, I’m asking Fillmore voters to vote NO on Measure F. I moved to El Dorado from Leisure Lake, a mobile home park in Lancaster, three years ago. Leisure Lake was under a rent control ordinance, and I was able to adjust for the small space rental increases each year. The passage of Measure F would have devastating consequences for me personally. I have no means financially to purchase the space lot beneath my mobile home; nor could I manage to pay the excessive rents that have been proposed to mobile home owners in other parks that have undergone condo conversion. I would probably be forced to sell my mobile home at a greatly diminished value, and move into the home of one of my children. Not only would that take away from my independence as a healthy senior, but it would be a difficult living arrangement for any of my children who have their own families. Help me and other residents of El Dorado, and vote NO on November 3rd.
Elenora (Dee) Dicey
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Mr.Payne,
Thank you for bringing to light my service as a board member for the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce. I enjoyed participating in serving the business community of Fillmore. I served two years on the board and was pleased with the progress that was being made. At that time when I served as a board member, there were many instances as to how all board members, including myself, contributed to making the Chamber of Commerce a success. Presently, the Chamber is still bringing businesses (new and old) to the forefront so they too, have a strong voice in the community. During these caustic times, I feel its imperative that we as a small community support each other, so we remain solvent for years to come.
Mr. Payne, you being one with a selective memory; here are a few activities I volunteered my time when I served as a board member for the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce.
In 2005, I spearheaded efforts to bring proposals to find a qualified publishing company for the citywide directory. As many members of the Chamber of Commerce remember, there were numerous problems with the publisher of the citywide directory in the past.
I was not satisfied with this company for many reasons, mainly the fiscal elements of the contract that the Chamber was responsible for. My role, since I wasn't pleased with the company, was to bring qualified proposals to the board of directors. My solution to the problem was to hire an experienced company that primarily focused on Chamber directories, but most importantly, they had the proven results of doing so. I feel this process opened doors to better decision making when selecting individuals/companies that seek to provide services to the Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, I assisted in membership drives, monthly mixers, and among other programs that the Chamber of Commerce participated in. The board of directors make no City authoritative decisions with regards to fiscal matters concerning the City or anything pertaining to City politics. The City Council & City Manager only possess this power of official decision making.
In regards to you being discontent with my comments and disagreements with Mr. Smedley & Ms. Cuevas: I stand firm by my comments and beliefs. By the way, I'm perplexed as to why Mr. Smedley and now yourself, still haven't addressed former Council Member Cuevas' refusal to vote for the 2008-2009 budget. Why the abrupt walk out? This issue is of paramount importance since you for the last 10 months have denigrated this Council with primitive lies and distortions, which at the end of the day has harmed the spirit of our community more than you'll ever care to know. In light of your ingenious media blitz, let me remind you, Roy, that you're still collecting a lifetime pension, a portion from which I might add the taxpayers of Fillmore are obligated to pay you.
I imply the following statement, Roy: STOP BITING THE HANDS THAT FEED YOU!
Brian N. Sipes,
Resident and Local Business Owner in Fillmore

To the Editor:
The whole oral scenario that was concocted by Walker, Washburn and Brooks on September 22, 2009 regarding the events surrounding their illegal serial meeting email communication on August 14, 2009 does not stand the smell test and is contrary to the written facts. First, on August 27, 2009 an article in the Ventura County Star reported “Fillmore admits violating state open-meeting law”. In the article, Walker conceded that members of the city council unintentionally violated California’s Brown Act on August 14. So we know and Walker, Washburn, Brooks and the City Attorney know that they committed a Brown Act violation on August 14. However, they claim the Brown Act violation was of no consequence since no City Council action resulted from the illegal serial meeting. Walker, Washburn and Brooks now claim (after the fact, and after they had been caught) that since they gave instruction to interim city manager Larry Pennell to proceed with reference checks on a third city manager candidate on August 11; then it does not matter that they participated in an illegal serial meeting email communication regarding the third city manager candidate on August 14. Walker also claims that travel arrangements were made on August 13 to check the references of the third city manager candidate; and Walker claims that since a third councilmember did not respond to the serial email communication until after travel arrangements were already made; that this was conclusive proof that interim city manager Pennell was not seeking direction from the City Council after August 11 on whether to proceed with the reference checks on the third city manager candidate.

There are no written documents available to support their September 22, 2009 story. Public records obtained from the City through the California Public Records Act tell a different story. The records obtained show that in Walkers own words in an email dated August 14, 2009 at 11:20 A.M. she states that on August 14 (not August 11 as claimed by Walker, Brooks and Washburn) “Larry obtained approval from 3 council members to do due diligence as to third candidate”. Larry is Larry Pennell the interim city manager who initiated the illegal serial communication via email.

Here is the chain of events concerning the illegal serial meeting email communication:

1. 2:08 P.M. - Thursday, August 13, 2009; email from Pennell to Walker, Conaway, Hernandez, Brooks, Washburn, and City Attorney Schneider; subject “Houston, We Have a Problem”; email discusses issues with one of the two city manager candidates and Pennell specifically states in the email “I am recommending we contact third candidate. I am soliciting your comments and advice on this matter”. If Pennell had clear direction on August 11 to proceed with the third candidate, then why did he feel the need to solicit comments and advice from the City Council on August 13 from the City Council just two days after he supposedly received direction from the City Council?

2. 3:12 P.M. - Thursday, August 13, 2009; email from Walker to Pennell in response to Pennell’s 2:08 PM email; subject “Houston, We Have a Problem”; Walker states in the email “I support contacting third candidate”. Sounds like to me that Walker is providing direction to Pennell on third candidate.

3. 3:32 P.M. - Thursday, August 13, 2009; email from Washburn to Pennell in response to Pennell’s 2:08 PM email; subject “Houston, We Have a Problem”; email from Washburn specifically states “I concur with your recommendation”.

4. 3:36 P.M. - Thursday, August 13, 2009; email from Pennell to Washburn in response to Washburn’s 3:32 PM email; subject “Houston, We Have a Problem”; email from Pennell states “Thank you. Patti felt the same”. This confirms that two of the city council have now participated in the serial communication regarding the third city manager candidate.

5. 9:53 A.M. - Friday, August 14, 2009; email from Brooks to Pennell; subject “Recall: Houston, We Have a Problem”; email from Brooks to Pennell states “If xxx has not paided [sic] xxx income tax (both federal and state) as recent as 2008, and if it is a continual financial practice, that would be a reason for me to eliminate xxx as a possible city manager. One needs to manage one’s own finances well in order to be a keeper of a city’s finances. Call zzz.” “Call zzz” indicates that Brooks is advising Pennell to proceed with the third city manager candidate. This confirms that three of the city council (Walker, Washburn and Brooks) participated in an illegal serial communication (Brown Act violation) regarding the third city manager candidate and that through the illegal serial email communication they gave their approval to proceed with reference checks on the third city manager candidate.

So now the question is was the illegal Brown Act violation of no consequence or did it provide direction from the City Council to Pennell to proceed with travel plans to interview references for the third city manager candidate? Here is the chain of events for the travel plans:

1. 11:18 A.M. - Friday, August 14, 2009; email from Southwest Airlines to Debbi Boschee; subject “Ticketless Confirmation– WALKER/PATTI – NLZ7A6”; email confirms airline travel for Walker from Burbank to Reno, Nevada. On September 22, Walker claimed that travel arrangements were made prior to the illegal serial email communication. However, according to public records the illegal serial email communication ended at 9:53 A.M. on August 14 and travel plans to the third candidate were consummated at 11:18 A.M. on August 14. Thus the expenditure of public funds for travel to the check the references of the third candidate was also not properly authorized. Debbi Boschee is a Fillmore city employee. She is classified in the city budget as a Confidential Employee. I believe she works in the Finance Department. Typically, a city employee would be responsible for making travel arrangements for a city council person when the city council person is traveling on city business. Ms. Boschee was properly doing her duty as a city employee and is not party to or responsible for any of the actions and directions undertaken by Walker and Pennell on August 14.

2. 11:20 A.M. - Friday, August 14, 2009; email from Patti Walker to Steve Conaway; subject “Travel Arrangements for CM”; email from Walker to Conaway specifically states “Larry (i.e. interim city manager Larry Pennell) obtained approval from 3 council members to do due diligence as to third candidate”.

To anyone with a rational, logical and open mind, public records show that the 3 council members gave direction to proceed with reference checks for the third city manager candidate through an illegal serial meeting email communication and that direction resulted in Pennell and Walker proceeding with travel plans and with the expenditure of public funds to check on the references of city manager candidate number three and that the Brown Act violation was of consequence. Pennell and Walker should be required to reimburse the city for all public funds that were expended for airline travel, meals, lodging and hourly charges billed to the city relating to this action.

Submitted by
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Piru Charter School- Nothing New
The Piru Charter School petition does not have any new ideas other than the wish to provide smaller class sizes for upper grades. There are ways that Piru School can continue to benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship with FUSD and still be innovative, such as becoming a magnet school.
The Program Elements described in the Charter include teaching practices that are already in place at Piru School. Piru students are currently taught California State Standards at their grade levels. Teachers are encouraged to be innovative and flexible to meet the needs of their students and to ensure mastery of the curriculum. Teachers should be using these good instructional practices and activities now, if they are not, they have chosen not to do so.
However, in the charter’s list are a couple of practices that are not currently part of the FUSD practices. One is teaching Yoga, certainly this should not be a primary reason to kill Piru Elementary and open Piru Charter School. The other is to reduce the class size ratio of students for teachers in the fourth through sixth grade. While the student to teacher ratio for primary grades would remain the current FUSD’s 22 to 1, the ratio for fourth through sixth grade would reduce to 24 to 1. A worthy goal, but is it achievable? The answer is yes. And, it is possible now in FUSD, but teachers would have to make concessions in our current contract that would shift money towards that goal. How would Piru Charter School achieve this? This is an open question that the charter does not address.
The Charter petition acknowledges the difficulty of class size reduction, as it states on page 10, ““…PCS reserves the right to adjust classroom/grade level enrollment, including the option of offering multiage classes if necessary.” This clause will not only allow PCS to increase the class size ratio from the hoped for 24 to 1 at the 4-6 level, but the Charter school may also need to create undesirable combination grade classrooms. Last week’s Fillmore Gazette’s article states “Currently Mrs. Jolley [a charter petition signer] has 32 students in her 5-6 combination classroom. Teaching two very different curriculums at the same time does not follow best educational practice. As class sizes increase achievement drops and students begin to fall between the cracks.”
Fillmore Unified School District has long held the goal of educating the whole child. Piru has done this with wonderful results without a Charter School. Aided by a Low Performing Schools Grant, and support from the district, Piru’s scores on state tests have gone up by 94 points. Piru School has great teaching practices in place now. FUSD has supported the innovative practices at Piru, and staff from other district schools have visited to learn from Piru’s successes. All this is happening without a Charter.
Over a year ago, the District created a Reconfiguration Committee. Charter schools and Magnet schools were discussed. The idea of a Green Technology Magnet School intrigued some Piru staff members. A Green Magnet School would teach environmental responsibility. Programs could teach the whole child focusing on healthy life styles, including but not limited to organic gardening on the school’s farm, and as well as on recycling, reducing, and reusing resources while the school uses less toxic products on site, solar and wind energy might be harnessed to reduce the schools carbon footprint. This option was not pursued. The option is still there to create a magnet school without a charter.
Piru Community, take the time to examine the Charter. If your desire is for a charter school then ask for more than this one offers you. You deserve better than this attempt at a school takeover.
John Schaper
Teacher at Piru School for 32 years

To the Editor:
The Gazette continues to publish letters from Roy Payne that are critical of our City Council, salary paid to the new City Manager, and criticism of Brian Sipes. In a past letter to the Editor, I stated that "Enough is Enough" from Roy Payne.
It is apparent that you chose to let Mr. Payne continue to criticise the City of Fillmore and it's citizens. I regret to inform you that your continued support of Mr. Payne's criticism has cost you my support. I will no longer read the Fillmore Gazette.
If you take the time to listen to the feelings and opinions of the people that live in Fillmore, you'll find that the Fillmore Gazette is out of touch, and further articles of criticism from Roy Payne will cost you subscriptions, to your paper.
Kenneth Creason
Fillmore
PS. Please cancel my subscription.

 
Letters to the Editor
October 1st, 2009

To the Editor:
The employees of the Fillmore Unified School District and members of the community are disappointed that the Board decided to create a new position for an employee about whom there are so many unanswered questions. It seems that the problem is more encompassing than we thought. Many are asking if other District personnel could be implicated. If the Board considers her so competent, why is it not appropriate to keep this employee in her former position instead of creating a new one at added expense? The Board is depleting its exchequer, the financial resources of our School District.
Speaking of depleting the financial resources, there is still a great deal of anger among the employees of the Fillmore Unified School District as a result of the District Office reorganization. Director positions were elevated to Assistant Superintendent positions with enormous increases in salary. Other new positions were created in the District Office while some school staff positions were eliminated and others had their hours cut. The Assistant Superintendent of Personnel position received a reported 48% salary increase. The Assistant Superintendent of Business received a reported 31% increase. What other benefits were included in this sweetheart deal? How many back room deals are being perpetrated now?
The employees are also upset about the questionable hiring practices in the Fillmore Unified School District. It seems that favored people don’t even have to apply whether or not they are fully qualified. Other deserving people are not considered for reasons that are not professionally legitimate. Credit is often not given where credit is due.
The representatives of both employee unions, FUTA and CSEA, are often frustrated with the apparent lack of contract knowledge exhibited by District negotiators. School District attorneys are constantly consulted, presumably at added expense, because the contracts have not been thoroughly read or followed. If one lacks the capacity to read, follow, or understand the contracts, then that person should not be negotiating and should not be employed in that position.
Does the Board know that someone representing the District [is alleged to have made] intentionally false statements under oath to an Administrative Law Judge in a Labor Board matter? If our school officials are capable of lying and perjury, what else are they doing? How much potential legal liability has our school district been exposed to because of this and other questionable and possibly illegal actions? The financial cost would mean a greatly reduced ability to educate our children. In this time of fiscal crisis, the Board must take action and become more informed to avoid serious legal and financial problems. The Board must begin to show more leadership and do a better job of dealing with the problems created by the District Administration.
Mary Ford,
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Clarification on the September 24, 2009 edition of the Gazette
The article by Carol Wilson concerning the September 22, 2009, Fillmore City Council meeting did not include key parts of the dialogue between the council members and staff regarding the proposal for a new City Auditor. To borrow from Paul Harvey, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
City Manager Larry Pennell promptly brought this matter forward for council discussion and decision when it became apparent to him that to wait for replies to the distributed request for proposals (RFP) would not allow for the city to timely file state fiscal reports. Ms. Young had been the assistant to our previous finance director for many years but was not able to complete the reports to be filed as she had not been mentored or trained by her supervisors to do so.
Ms. Wilson was incorrect in her statement that the RFP was distributed to just one accounting firm. As I stated at the council meeting, it was sent to the previous firm as I read from an email from one of that firm’s partners who acknowledged receipt of the RFP.
Ms. Wilson also left out that the budgeted amount of $32,000 is from the general fund with an additional $15,000 budgeted for the audit from the Redevelopment Agency funds as Mr. Pennell pointed out at the council meeting. The proposal to do the audit, including timely submittal of the reports due in October, is $40,920 and is well within the budget. This proposal is just over $900 from the previous firm which, by the way, raised its price approximately $5,500 from last year’s audit.
Patti Walker
Mayor

To the Editor:
Mr. Sipes stated in his September 24, 2009 letter to the editor that he is a fiscal conservative and he is against salary increases. I could be wrong, but I do not recall Mr. Sipes standing up and taking issue with the 6% to 20% city management salary increases that were recently approved by Walker, Washburn and Brooks. Nor do I recall Sipes standing up and taking issue with the 18% increase for the new City Manager which raised her salary to $156,000 per year and a total compensation package of over $240,000 per year. Sipes claims that this is the worst time for hefty increase in sewer and water bills, but where was he when the current City Council allowed the current sewer rate increases to go into effect without even putting the matter on the City Council agenda for discussion? It does not appear that he is as concerned about people staying afloat in these rough economic times as he would like you to believe. Where was Sipes when interim City Manager Pennell claimed the City was going to run out of money in 18 months and that $1.8 million would need to be cut from the budget and at the very next City Council meeting the City Council adopts a $69.8 million expenditure budget, the largest in the history of the City with huge salary increases and no cuts in expenditures or revenue enhancements? Sipes says he wants to help make Fillmore the most financially secure City in the County, but I guess he wants to wait until an election year to start, rather than criticize those who Sipes campaigned for; who are now in office and spending the city’s money like there is no tomorrow.
I believe Mr. Sipes served on the Board of the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce for a number of years. Can Sipes tell you what he accomplished there to make that Board the most financially secure Chamber in the County?
I think it is hypocritical of Sipes to criticize Ken Smedley for pointing out Sipes’ position on matters and to say that Ken has never spoken to Sipes on these matters and then for Sipes to turn around and criticize Ken and Cecilia Cuevas when I know Sipes has never inquired of them as to their opinions.
I recall the campaign promises of Brooks and Washburn to cut management salaries and to get rid of out of town managers. Well, they failed on both counts. Salaries have increased significantly under their watch and out of town managers are still being hired. By the way Brooks and Washburn conveniently voting no on the $156,000 salary for the new city manager after the Council went into closed session to count the votes to make sure that the salary would be approved and Washburn and Brooks could maintain their political cover by voting no on the salary increases was a typical politician CYA maneuver and anyone with a lick of common sense (even Sipes) could see right through it. Sipes, along with Brooks and Washburn talk a good story and will say anything to get elected.
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
I am asking the voters of Fillmore to help me defeat Measure F at the polls on November 3, 2009. My wife Joyce and I have lived in El Dorado for more than 5 years, and we believe that our community is one of the nicest and friendliest of all the places we have lived in. Here are just a just few reasons to vote NO on Measure F.
Upon subdivision (condo-conversion) the park’s owner will retain total control until 51% of the spaces are sold. In my opinion, that will not happen soon, partially due to the economic environment, but mostly because historically, space prices have been highly inflated in other parks undergoing condo-conversion, devaluing the equity in the mobile home.
Those extremely low and very low-income residents, that do not buy, would have a “one time only” opportunity at inception of condo-conversion, for very limited rent control under Measure F, however, County and State Rent Control Ordinances offer more comprehensive protection. For the rest of us, God only knows what kind of hardship we could be forced to endure. Currently, many of us are paying some of the highest space rents in a senior mobile home park in Ventura County, as Fillmore is the only city in our County without any type of rent stabilization. Although Measure F is presented by the park’s owner as “The Fair Rent and Homeownership Initiative”, all 135 responses, representing over 200 residents in a recent park-wide HOA survey on Measure F, was NO! There were 0 affirmative responses.
A converted park becomes a hodge-podge of renters, owners, and speculators. Instead of “one for all and all for one”, it is everyone for him/herself. WHAT A NIGHTMARE! Does this sound like a community in which you would want to invest?
It came to my attention recently, that former Mayor Roger Campbell, was hired as a consultant by the park’s owner, and management, to promote Measure F. Knowing Mr. Campbell (not an El Dorado resident) personally, and having worked closely with him on issues regarding El Dorado and Griffin Industries, I asked him why he would support a measure that benefits the out of town park’s owner, with potential to financially harm many of his friends and former constituents. His answer was that in his opinion, it would be better for the people of El Dorado if Measure F passed. After discussing several items in Measure F, Mr. Campbell admitted that I had given him quite a few things to think about, and that he would do some research regarding those items, and also on possible future ramifications if Measure F passes.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite Mr.Campbell to attend a Voice of El Dorado HOA Board meeting on Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 6 P.M. in the El Dorado Club House. The first portion of the meeting is an Open Forum for all El Dorado residents. The park’s owner, Nancy Watkins and Star Management’s Mike Cirillo have been invited both to HOA Board and General meetings to answer residents’ questions why they think Measure F would be good for El Dorado, however, neither have attended.
Thank you for printing this letter in its entirety. Please, vote NO on Measure F!
Paul Schifanelli,
Fillmore

To the Editor:
A few years ago a previous city council member told me The Fillmore Gazette was a “rag” and that she didn’t read it. A couple of weeks ago the Gazette’s owner, Martin Farrell, was invited to cover a meeting about Measure F at the El Dorado Mobile Home Park and instead of an honest report we got an attack piece directed toward a council member who was invited to attend. Based on the letter last week from the El Dorado Homeowners Association it seems they were a bit surprised by Farrell’s behavior, they must have been expecting fair and honest reporting.
I’ve been reading The Fillmore Gazette for as long as Farrell has been in business and in my opinion it is the last place one should go if they want honest reporting and thoughtful editorials. If you can’t attend or watch public meetings then you will be closer to the truth by having no information then if you read about it from Farrell. It’s difficult to find an argument against that former council member’s assessment of the Gazette.
Bob Stroh,
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Mayor Walker and Interim City Manager Pennell should be embarrassed. Walker's letter to the editor of October 1, 2009 is intended as "Clarification" on the September 24, 2009 edition of the Gazette regarding the article by Carol Wilson concerning the September 22, 2009, Fillmore City Council's hiring of an auditor. As Walker stated, when Washburn pointed out that the City had only budgeted $34,000 for auditing services, Pennell quickly stated that he thinks the budget has more money for the audit as the Redevelopment Agency also contributes to the cost of the audit. And guess what? At the meeting they bought Pennell’s explanation and now Walker is repeating it as if it is gospel! Problem is Washburn got it right, there is no extra money budgeted for the audit, $34,000 is all there is. Page H-15 of the budget shows $34,000 budgeted for the annual City Audit. This page also shows all of the transfers to help pay for the $34,000 budgeted audit including the $10,000 transfer from RDA Central Project and the $5,000 transfer from RDA Housing. There is no "extra" $15,000 of RDA funds as Walker and Pennell have claimed. So Pennell and Walker are either intentionally misleading the Council and public when they claim the budget has more money budgeted for the audit, or they do not know how to read the expensive budget that they just foisted on the public in the name of transparency.

Walker attempted to keep this transparency argument going at the September 22, 2009 meeting when she stated that last years budget raised concerns because of a zero balance in the General Fund; that there were budget transfers that were hidden; and there was improper funding of city operations with RDA funds that needed to be addressed. All of these claims by Walker are false and just shows she did not know how to read the old budget and she does not know how to read the new budget. For many, many years, the objective of the City Council was to make sure the General Fund was balanced (i.e. revenues matched expenses) and any extra funds were transferred to the General Fund Reserve. This is how the past administration was able to build up the General Fund reserves to over $3.8 million as reflected in the 2009-10 budget as the July 1, 2009 beginning cash balance. Walker should know this because she pariticpated in the adoption of those past city budgets for 6 years! The 2008-09 budget that she alludes to as being troublesome because it has a zero balance in the general fund; in reality the general fund balance is $8,073 and is shown in the Summary of Funds page of the adopted 2008-09 city budget.

Regarding Walker's claim that the old budget had "hidden transfers", these so-called "hidden transfer" are clearly shown on pages K-1 thru K-4 of the adopted 2008-09 city budget. In fact, without this page for guidance, interim Finance Director Wooten and interim City Manager Pennell would not have had a clue as to how to include the transfers in their new "transparent" budget. Regarding Walker's claim that there were "improper funding of city operations with RDA funds that needed to be addressed"; the new budget shows $9.2 million of RDA funds used for city operations and the old budget shows $7.1 million of RDA funds being used for city operations. So, I guess the way Walker and Pennell addressed the "improper" use of RDA funds was to increase the amount of RDA funds used "improperly by $2.1 million.

Remember it was Pennell who stated to the City Council on July 23, 2009 that the City at its current rate of spending was going to run out of money in 18 months and on July 28, 2009 Pennell stated that in order to balance the General Fund budget he would need to cut $1.9 million. Well, on July 28 the General Fund budget was $12.9 million and on August 25 the City Council adopted a $13.3 million General Fund budget; an increase of $400,000. Pennell never produced the $1.9 million in cuts that he said were needed to balance the budget. In fact, the budget that Pennell convinced the City Council to adopt is $2.6 million greater than last year’s General Fund budget.
Roy Payne

 
Letters to the Editor
September 28th, 2009

Tidbits I Learned This Past Summer About Parenting and Family Life…
1. I will always be several lifetimes away from being organized enough to have my picture albums up to date.
2. Just cuz my kids were exposed to classical music in-utero does not mean that as teens they will want to listen to it on family road trips.
3. In the life span of a child, the first 10 minutes he/she is late getting home from Anywhere seems to last forever. But the rest goes by really fast.
4. If you are camping at the beach (30 minutes away) and the kids get the flu...don't fight it! Just go home.
5. "You must be this tall to ride" signs put the shorter 13 year old boys in bad moods.
6. And, Anonymous was right: You're only as happy as your least happy child.
7. For as much as I loved my childhood, I still find it exhilarating not to have to ask anyone if I can borrow the car.
8. Sometimes it is ok for the little brother to love his big sister so much that he just has to wrestle her to the ground and punch her.
9. World peace is a lofty goal considering the diplomatic challenge of deciding who has to sit in the middle of the back seat.
10. I now appreciate and revere my own parents like never before.
OFFICIAL PUBLIC APOLOGY TO MY PARENTS:
I am sorry for everything I ever did to worry or upset you between June 10, 1959 and the present. Honest, I had no idea.
I love you both dearly,
Marie Alviz

 
Letters to the Editor
September 24th, 2009

To the Editor:
As a relatively new resident of Fillmore, only here since 1999, I have maintained a silent voice regarding our local government. I have voiced objection only about the constantly increasing cost of our sewer bills which are at the least exorbitant. I was promised by the city manager that they were working on a more equitable breakdown of the costs, similar to that of Ventura, by using winter water usage as a gauge for sewer usage. This promise has been either tabled or ignored.
We can all accept that change is inevitable in life. We know that seasons change, we increase in age, things become outdated and need replacement. Change that is expected is more readily accepted, however, when those we trust reverse their values and let us down it is time to call them to account for their action. At a time when our state is in economic distress, those we have elected to represent us are ignoring the mandate of the citizens and bowing down to special interest groups, and the welfare of the nation is in jeopardy both financially as well as politically, it is difficult to accept that our local politicians have voted a tremendous increase in the salary of a new City Manager. The increase in salary from $133,000 to $155,00 plus the additional benefits will bring the total expenditure to close to $200,000 per year.
It is understandable that Steve Conway would vote for this increase. He campaigned for and voted for the overpriced treatment plant. I honestly have no idea why Laurie Hernandez voted for increase and will not speculate. I do know that Mayor Patti Walker, whom many trusted to represent the best interests of Fillmore, cast the deciding vote for the increase. For this I say SHAME ON YOU PATTI WALKER. You wrote you name on the list of past bonehead mayors and council members.
CONGRATULATIONS J. Brooks and L. Washburn for showing integrity and fiscal responsibility.
Stan Mason,
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Once again, Mr.Smedley, a former council member and failed 2006 incumbent for re-election, has contrived to gossip over actual facts about my positions. For the record, Mr.Smedley has never once inquired my opinion on City issues. Assuming and stereotyping individuals is the route Mr.Smedley has chosen to take now and when he was a council member. Let me brief you on the facts: I'm a fiscal conservative and always been, thus, my position in regards to salary increases, not reductions, is the same as it was in 2008; they were not warranted then and to date. That's a difference of opinion I've had with Mayor Walker, Councilwoman Hernandez and Councilman Conaway on this matter.
Your mischaracterizations are unfair and disrespectful to me as well as citizens whom have a desire to be active in our City government. I make decisions based on actual facts and the overall picture. When speaking on City affairs, I do what has in past been rare; I take peoples concerns to heart and strive to bring inclusiveness instead of wedging people in select groups or "mobs" as you stated in 2006. I am not here to channel any council members opinions. I have always been a independent thinker and people who know me, will attest to that.
In regards to your comments about the City of Fillmore's financial status, I believe it took years to build up a financial shield of reserves, hence, past city councils going back to the early 90's should be acknowledged and commended. Currently, the reality in Fillmore specifically for families, small businesses and schools are in financial limbo partly due to hefty increases in our water-sewer bills. This is the worst time for non-stop utility increases when people are struggling to stay afloat during these rough economic times. A flashback in time (voting records and comments from the minutes) states that both you and Cecilia Cuevas were staunch supporters of our overpriced sewer plant. Let's give credit to where it's due.
Your admiration for Cecilia Cuevas record is respected. However, I respectfully disagree on all counts. My previous letter was factual. Yet, you failed to address Cecilia's weakness during last year's budget vote. You know, the one in which Cecilia conveniently walked out before the vote so it wouldn't conflict with her 2008 re-election efforts. Again, these are fundamental differences in leadership and authoritative decisions made by Cecilia Cuevas and yourself. Going in depth of your voting record Mr. Smedley, your record is synonymous with Cecilia's; poor decisions and aloofness towards the meaning of citizenry. Results of 2006 & 2008 elections were clearly evident.
You're correct on one account; the 2010 election will be interesting. I intend to bring forth solutions and a civil debate to help make Fillmore the best and financially secure town in Ventura County.
Brian N.Sipes,
resident and local business owner

 
Letters to the Editor
September 17th, 2009

To the Editor:
Well it looks like the amazing Mr. Sipes is breaking out the cabal playbook to try and discredit Cecilia Cuevas for her eight years of commendable and dedicated service to the citizens of Fillmore. Contrary to Sipes’ twisted and closed mind, during her term on the City Council, Cecilia consistently made sound business decisions for Fillmore taking all the factors into consideration, particularly the financial aspects. Even though she and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything, when it came to city business involving financial issues, I had utmost respect for her knowledge. Unlike Mr. Sipes’ friends on the council today, she possessed an incredible ability to read and interpret spreadsheets, pro-formas and balance sheets.

While trying to provide political cover for the incompetence and hypocrisy of the current council majority (Walker, Washburn & Brooks), Sipes attempts to label Cecilia Cuevas as a big spender and supporter of management increases. What Sipes fails to tell you, Walker won’t, and Washburn & Brooks haven’t yet realized, is that they just approved the most costly budget in the history of Fillmore which included raises of 6% to 20% for management employees. Is this kind of reckless decision Mr. Sipes supports to “… make the City of Fillmore the best and most financially secure town in Ventura County”?

This is sheer incompetence of the highest order in the face of a severe economic downturn and knowing that there still may be severe budget cuts coming from Sacramento that could soon affect the Fillmore city budget. By the way, the only reason they were able to make these huge budget expenditures and to grant unprecedented raises is because of the fact that the prior City Council (including Cecilia Cuevas) left the city in great financial shape. Even Mayor Walker acknowledged this fact back in March 2009 when she reported that Fillmore's conservative budgeting has resulted in $1.8 million dollars in reserves and the City's economic health was just fine.

As I recall, Sipes along with his mentor Gary Creagle, and other cabal cronies Stroh, Washburn, Brooks, Westling and Walker have been the most outspoken critics of what they claimed were excessive management salaries that were too expensive for the little town of Fillmore. So how do they justify paying the new city manager $156,000 per year in salary with a total compensation package of over $240,000 ($37,000 more than the previous city manager) and giving 6% to 20% raises to other management employees? Mr. Sipes has conveniently forgotten complimenting Walker last year for voting against the budget because it contained management salary increases. What is different about the management salary increases Walker voted for this year and the ones she voted against last year?

You and your group are well recognized for your ability to disregard facts while continuing to talk out of both sides of your mouth, saying whatever is necessary to gain political traction at the moment. Yes, November 2010 should be interesting.
Ken Smedley
Fillmore

To the Editor:
On November 3rd, the registered voters in Fillmore will be asked to vote on Measure F which adversely impacts senior residents in El Dorado Estates. Measure F is labeled “The Fair Rent and Home Ownership Initiative.” An advertising piece recently mailed to Fillmore homes sells this measure as a solution to the growing financial burden to seniors with fixed incomes. It states, “With a small mortgage our cost per month would stay fixed.

That is important now that we are on a fixed income.” The fact is, property taxes would increase as an assessment would include both the mobile home and the space lot. Residents purchasing space lots would also be required to pay homeowner’s association dues. These additional costs alone guarantee that additional expenses would negatively affect fixed incomes. The mail piece states that individuals who purchase space lots in the park would have a say in keeping El Dorado a senior park. Once the first lot is purchased, the park owner has the option to convert El Dorado to an all age park. The bottom of the advertising piece says that it was paid for by “Residents for Fair Rent and Home Ownership Measure F Sponsored (sic) by El Dorado Estates (sic) a Limited California Partnership.

It’s interesting that “residents” of El Dorado paid to support Measure F. The park was recently surveyed regarding a yes or no vote on this measure. The results contradict that statement. There are 302 spaces in El Dorado with a large number vacant. The 135 surveys returned vote-NO, and 0-YES. This number represents approximately one half of the spaces in the park. Measure F is not good for the seniors at El Dorado. Protect our homes; vote NO on Measure F.
Sandra Pella, Voice of El Dorado HOA, President
Fillmore

To the Editor:
To Cecila Cuevas: Are you planning to run next year? Acceptable answer: NO!
To Roy Payne: Is there an opening in the city for an Oracle? You should apply.
Gloria Hansen,
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
September 11th, 2009

To the Editor:
During the past two weeks the news media has covered the fires in So. California at length. I for one, would feel much more secure if they would focus on, and devote as m time to the fire storm that has been developing in the White House and spreading through Congress. I find it most disconcerting that the major networks are more concerned with the loss of some forest which will replenish itself and the possible loss of some personal property than the loss of our heritage of freedom in America. The smoke clouds rising over our mountains may be blinding and bring some tears to our eyes, but the smoke screen being thrown up by our current administration will be far more devastating should we allow it to continue. ABC, CBS, and CNN, have been ominously silent about the daily occurrences in our Capitol while NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC only report news favorable to the administration.
I have been both surprised and inspired to find that of all the media networks, only Fox News has not been intimidated and is continuing to report documented evidence about the heavy handed tactics being used by the White House to achieve their goals. I urge anyone who has not yet found the Fox News Channel to tune in and be informed about the threats to our freedom before the newly appointed head of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, and Obama’s new diversity chief, Mark Loyd, begin to implement Loyd’s threat to shut down all independent broadcasts which do not reflect the views of the administration. He has made it clear that he believes freedom of speech is overrated and no longer prudent.
When have you been informed by the major networks about Obama’s appointment of over 30 new advisors or heads of agencies which required no background checks or Congressional confirmation. Many of these agency heads like Van Jones, the green labor czar, have admitted anti-American affiliations. When has the media reported on the millions of tax payer dollars given to Acorn or the Apollo Group and used to train Obama’s national police force, or given to the NEA to design new propaganda for the administration to sway public opinion to their side?
Friends and neighbors, we are in trouble and facing the greatest threat to the loss of our GOD and Constitution given liberty, our right to government ‘by the People, for the people’. Although God’s Word tells us to be anxious for nothing, I am extremely concerned by our elected representatives talking publicly about ignoring their sworn oath to defend our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Representatives from both parties, Republican and Socialistic Democrats, are casting votes for Bills before Congress that they have not read. Most have not even addressed the question of whom it was that authored the legislation. I want to know how many were involved in writing over 1400 pages of the Health Care Bill now being disputed in Congress, and clearly being disputed by, and in disfavor with the majority of Americans.
This attitude is only a shadow of things to come if the people do not question the motives and the actions of the administration. When we think back and visualize the miles of white crosses in Europe, in Korea, in Vietnam, and across the landscape of America, we see lives sacrificed for our freedom from Nazis, Fascists, Communists, Socialists, and most recently Islamic radicals. Now our president has brought into the seat of government many of these same radical extremists as advisors to help him implement and communicate the agenda he is promoting. This agenda will lead to removal of our Constitutional rights. This attempt to overthrow our system of government has roots that reach far deeper than are immediately obvious. Obama, as an accomplished orator is only the one chosen to carry the banner of change.
Because we as a nation have withstood the outside threats to our “One Nation- Under God”, the ACLU has been working to undermine and destroy our laws and liberty from within our borders. The only ‘civil liberties’ the ACLU attempts to represent are those of the perpetrators of injustice and disobedience against our laws. Those who are victims of crime are ignored and left to search for justice on their own.
WE, A PEOPLE ACCUSTOMED TO THE FREEDOM AFFORDED US BY OUR CONSTITUTION, MUST RECOGNIZE THAT OUR FREEDOM IS A PRIVLIDGE, AND THAT FREEDOM COMES AT A PRICE.
A glance at the rows of crosses should convince anyone that Freedom is not Free. Americans must stand up and voice their objections and if necessary, and I believe it is, remove those who we have elected and start fresh with those who will honor the oath of allegiance to America.
An Irish statesman who served in the British Parliament, Sir Edmund Burke, has been quoted many times as saying, “All that is required for evil to triumph, is for good men to nothing”.
I will close by adding another lesser known quote also attributed to the same author.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only little”.
Whatever you do in response to this letter, DO SOMETHING, and pray for protection for those voicing the truth, that they are protected, such as Glen Beck.

 
Letters to the Editor
September 10th, 2009

To the Editor:
City of Fillmore citizens recently received a direct mail piece entitled Measure F “The Fair Rent and Homeownership Initiative” from the El Dorado Estates park office. There is nothing in the provisions of this measure promising “fair rents”. Many homeowners in El Dorado pay some of the highest space rents in Ventura County for a senior mobile home park, because Fillmore is the only city without any type of rent stabilization.
This mail piece is most deceiving in that it targets only prospective buyers who would be required to purchase a space lot in addition to the home on that lot. To date, the costs of lots have not been made public. Prices for lots will be determined at a date unknown, and by the park owner’s discretion. HOW can anyone make a sound decision on voting without all the details?? In addition, financing space lots will be extremely difficult for individuals on fixed incomes and with minimal assets. Currently, mobile home values and equity in our homes are at an all time low, some selling as low as $10,000.
The mail piece also states that buyers would have “a say in keeping the park a senior park”. There is no language in Measure F that assures El Dorado will remain a senior park, nor has the park owner responded to any inquiries regarding this measure.
Vote NO on Measure F. Save El Dorado homes!
Voice of El Dorado Mobile Homeowner’s Association

To the Editor:
After reading Cecilia Cuevas' letter to editor last week, I must admit how sad it must be for Cecilia to have not come to grips with reality as to why her bid for re-election failed so harshly. We've heard from Cecilia that she lost because of her opponents campaign slogans and signs. The people of Fillmore did not vote for a specific candidate(s) because of a slogan or the appearance of a campaign sign. These excuses that Cecilia Cuevas has expressed shows the continuation of undermining the electorate of Fillmore. I believe with my mind and heart that the people of Fillmore vote their consequence and above all else, issues that pertain to them and their pocket books. In light of Cecilia's loss and her refusal to accept the poor decisions she has made, now she wants to portray her record as something that deserves such high praise and collaboration. I respectfully disagree. Once again without any solutions, Cecilia Cuevas is complaining about the construction of the 2009-2010 budget. Her complaints are a little premature. First, as I expressed at the last City Council meeting-08/25/09; the City of Fillmore, thanks to our progressive City Council and City staff, the budget is currently on-line so the public has ample opportunity to download a copy at their leisure. Also, a full five minute allotment of speaking time during the public comment portion of all City Council meetings is back in motion. It should be noted when Cecilia Cuevas was in office, requests by citizens for the budget to be published on-line were virtually ignored. At the same time, the public comment portion of all meetings were between 3-4 minutes per former Mayor Conaway's request.
Going into further detail, I remember not too long ago in 2008, Cecilia Cuevas whom at the time was our acting Mayor Pro-tem, walked out before the official 2008-2009 budget vote. This vote would be a consequential vote since Cecilia Cuevas was a stalwart for colossal spending increases and upper level City staff salary increases (yes on record). All this knowing that there were severe threats from Sacramento on pending state budget cuts and a potential unbalanced budget that would soon effect the entire State of California. So, Cecilia's solution would be the oldest trick from the Washington D.C play book: skip the vote with minimal consequences right before the election and pray no one notices! This is just of many poor decisions that has overwhelmed Cecilia's voting record and the ability to lead.
In the meantime, shall I delve deeper into Cecelia Cuevas' voting record as a former elected official (2000-2008)? I think I'll wait until 2010 and continue on enacting my democratic rights as a citizen; one who cares enough to help the people of Fillmore and assist the City Council in bringing forth worthwhile solutions to make the City of Fillmore the best and most financially secure town in Ventura County.
Brian N. Sipes,
A Fillmore resident and local business owner

To the Editor:
The Ralph M. Brown Act is a state law requiring that the actions of public agencies be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The Brown Act states that the people of a community do not give a city council the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The Brown Act also states that the people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the city council members that they have elected.

On August 25, 2009 after conducting an illegal one-hour “emergency” closed session Mayor Patti Walker violated the people’s trust by stating that “there had been an unintentional Brown Act violation, that there were no significant consequences to the violation, and that the matter was closed”. Since Walker intentionally withheld any information about the Brown Act violation, she did not give the community the opportunity to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.

Ms. Walker also failed to let the public know that she and Interim City Manager Larry Pennell were put on notice that they had violated the Brown Act and that they should not act on the ill-gotten information and they chose do otherwise. Is it too much to ask of an experienced city council member (Walker) and an experienced city manager (Pennell) to conduct business fairly, openly and with the highest ethics? Apparently so. Did Walker and Pennell’s acting on the ill-gotten information result in the expenditure of public funds? I suspect that it did and Walker should be required to disclose what the ill-gotten information was, and as a result of that information what action did she and Pennell take and why. All public funds expended by Walker and Pennell as a result of the illegal action should be paid back to the city.

In Walker’s first term of office on the City Council (2000 – 2004) she was censured by her fellow council members for unethical conduct, and adamantly refused to sign the city council’s Code of Ethics. Then in November 2007 during her second term of office (2006-2010), Ms. Walker demanded that the city’s Code of Ethics be changed, contending that it trampled on her and others’ freedom of speech. In support of Walkers’ opposition to the Code of Ethics, Jamey Brooks said “what you need is people to be ethical …you don't need a system to punish them”. Based upon Ms. Walker’s track record, I strongly disagree with Brooks and strongly believe that you do need a system to punish them.

Walker claims that the Brown Act violation was “unintentional”, but she fails to let the public know that once she was put on notice of the “unintentional” violation, that she and Pennell intentionally compounded the violation and chose to act on the ill-gotten information. You just can’t trust Walker to say and do the right thing even when she’s admitting fault….if proper ethics would have followed she would have fully disclosed her actions, provided detailed information on the incident, and what is being done to correct it”.

There are other recent Brown Act violations that Walker has been involved in that have been bro
ught to the City Council’s attention by a state wide watch dog group called Californians Aware. And these are just the ones they know about. Could there be others? A public records request to the City requesting copies of all e-mail communications between Pennell, Walker and other members of the City Council would be appropriate. Additionally, someone should contact the Ventura County District Attorney’s office and have them investigate the Brown Act conduct of Walker and Pennell over the last 4 months.

Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Enough is enough!! The Roy Payne Letter published in your September 3rd edition was Annoying to say the least. For the record, a man’s greatness is judged by his actions, not by his words. The costly new Fillmore Sewer Plant, will define Mr. Payne’s actions and words in a very negative way, for many years.
Mr. Payne resides in Thousand Oaks, and his constant critical letters to the Gazette, criticizing Mayor Walker, along with Council members Brooks and Washburn serve no useful purpose. Regarding his comments about the salary discussions for the new City Manager, you would think that Mr. Payne was present when the City council was making the decision.
If Mr. Payne is so interested in what happens in Fillmore, why doesn’t he reside here?? He has never lived in Fillmore, and yet, he thinks that he is a member of our Community. I wish Mr. Payne, Good Health and Happiness in his retirement, but it is time for him to find something else to do, in the Community where he resides. Enough is Enough!!!
Sincerely yours,
Kenneth Creason
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
September 3rd, 2009

To the Editor:
On August 16 our son Jason passed away after fighting cancer for over 2 years. It was a long valiant fight.
During those two years he had a lot of prayers and support from those who knew and loved him from Fillmore and other parts of the country.
His mother and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those out there who not only prayed but called and encouraged him.
We would also like to express our gratitude to Skillins-Carroll Mortuary for what has to be the kindest, most professional, and compassionate care I have ever witnessed. From the young men that came and took charge of our son, to the director that we met with to handle the service and everyone else that participated in his service they were professional, compassionate, and extremely kind. Their attitude helped us tremedeously in this trying time. Vince you have done a fine job and have a staff you can be proud of.
We would also like to express our gratitude to all that came out to support us and to see Jason off in style.
Especially his classmates that not only came to pay respect but have called us, e-mailed, posted messages online, etc.
They also started a memorial fund for Jason at Santa Clara Valley Bank to help us with the expenses.
When you go out to Barsdale to visit Jason and you see his headstone, when it gets delivered, I want you to know that it came from all those out there that loved Jason and who contributed to help, it was paid for in full by you. Thank you.
Thanks to all of you again,
Mike and Phyllis Steel

To the Editor:
In response to Payne’s 941 word letter (the rest of us only get 250 words).
I never “pronounced a steadfast commitment to …salary reductions”. Here are my answers to the Gazette’s questions on that issue:
9/17/2008: My response was …”the City has a big payroll. While our management salaries and benefits are high, I am more concerned with our consulting payroll. We paid enough money to Boyle Engineering over the last couple of years to hire over 50 full time engineers and assistants. “
9/23/2008: How will/would you vote on the current city staff salary increases and why?
“I would vote to put a freeze on management salaries for at least 6 months. There is currently a crisis in financial markets that will have an impact on our future revenues. “
This is what happened last Tuesday. The proposed budget was adopted without salary increases or decreases (other than represented employees) with the exception of the Assistant Finance Director – of which I voted “no”.
While we are on the subject of salaries, I was shocked to see that the management salaries that you went to great effort to justify by benchmarking with other cities, did not include the City Council salaries, leaving our Council members paid 400% less than Santa Paula’s and 900% less than Ojai’s. While we are clearly not in this for the money, I find it self serving of you to look after your staff but not the residents, i.e. Council.
Nearly every sentence of your current and past letters contains twisted mistruths and misleading statements. What a disservice you do to the community that nurtured and paid you for years and made it possible to pay you over $100,000 per year for the rest of your life. I would hope that you would behave like a professional and respect the opinions of the voters and citizens (like me) that have provided a comfortable life for you at our expense.
Gayle Washburn
Fillmore Councilmember
[Ms. Washburn, if you had read The Gazette in the past few months you would have noticed that your statement “the rest of us only get 250 words” is false: Patti Walker 08/27--479 words, 07/16--1,392 words; Bob Stroh 07/23--399 words, 07/16--655 words, 07/02--441 words, 06/18--344 words, 06/11--517 words; Brian Sipes 07/16--655 words. It always helps to come to the editorial page and council meetings prepared. Martin Farrell]

To the Editor:
Well the duplicity of Brooks and Washburn and their budget-wage-cutting sword was in full political double-speak action this past week. As you will recall, both Brooks and Washburn on several occasions before and after the last council election, have pronounced their steadfast commitment to management and mid-management salary reductions; to cuts in employee benefits; and to reductions in expensive management compensation contracts. In fact on June 3, 2008 Brooks said he had come to create division and not peace and that the City was paying too much for the poor city management and mid-management that we are getting.
So what have they done to put your money where their mouth is? On last Tuesday, they adopted the most expensive budget in the history of the city. Management and mid-management salaries were increased by 6% to 20%, and overall budget expenses were increased by $1.5 million. Not only did they adopt a budget with 6% to 20% increases for management and mid-management employees, they unilaterally reduced the salaries for public works employees and custodians in violation of negotiated contract agreements with those employees. But they did not stop there; they also violated Section 54954.2(a) (2) of the Brown Act by taking up a matter that was not on the agenda in order to grant a special raise to the Interim Finance Director. Hypocritical? You bet. Political double-speak and duplicity? Their political effrontery is only matched by their political incompetence.
And while they were on their janus-faced roll, they held another meeting last Friday to discuss the proposed terms of an employment agreement with the new city manager. This discussion proved to be quite interesting and revealing. Mayor Walker started the discussion by pompously emphasizing that the proposed employment agreement with the new city manager was based upon the previous employment agreements for retired city manager Payne and resigned city manager Ristau. This in the face of previous pronouncements by Walker, Washburn and Brooks that the previous city managers were overpaid and their contracts were too expensive for the community of Fillmore. So they proceeded to review the contract for the new manager to make sure that each and every benefit that was granted to the previous managers was provided to the new manager! When it came to the salary discussion, Washburn and Brooks weakly whimpered that they would like to see the starting salary at $128,000, but they quickly wilted to the prodding of Mayor Walker who said the new manager deserved to be paid at the same $133,000 rate as former Manager Ristau (who Brooks had said on several occasions in the past was vastly overpaid). Mr. Brooks what has happened to your salary cutting sword? When it came to city manager benefits, Ms. Washburn glibly stated that Fillmore’s benefit package was very generous and above and beyond all other cities. Ms. Washburn then proceeded to support the inclusion of the full Fillmore benefit package for the new city manager. Both Brooks and Washburn were also fully supportive of a “cooling off” provision in the contract which prohibits a future duly elected council from terminating the city manager for a period of six months after a council election. This provision is so hypocritical as to be laughable. You may recall that both Brooks and Washburn wanted to review Mr. Ristau’s employment agreement as their first act of business after they were elected. Given the pre-election rhetoric of these two individuals, there is no question in any logical person’s mind that their intent was to terminate Mr. Ristau. But now that they are in office, they do not want a future elected councilperson to have that authority.
So how did Brooks and Washburn justify their actions to grant management salary increases, generous benefits and a contract for the new city manager that is equal to or better than the one they opposed for previous city manager Ristau? They did what all good politician’s do, they did their best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation and “kicked the can down the road”. Better than that, like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, they handed off the responsibility for cutting management and mid-management salaries and benefits to the new city manager and will allow her to be the heavy with the city staff in this matter. Speaking of the Wizard of Oz, I will address Mayor Walker’s Brown Act and ethics codes shenanigans of the past week at a later date, once I do a little further research.
As you will recall Brooks and Washburn back in January 2009, as one of their first orders of business requested copies of all employment contracts. So they have had that information for over 7-months, but you would have to wonder if they ever read the stuff based upon the questions they asked at the meeting on Friday. They did not have a clue as to what General Leave is; how much life insurance the city manager receives (it is clearly spelled out in the contract); and how much deferred compensation the city manager receives (also spelled out in the contract). They also had to ask who has the authority to cut salaries, the city manager or the city council. The City Attorney had to advise them that the City Manager is responsible for recommending yearly individual and merit/step raises, the City Council has the discretion to deny all salary increases, excepting mandatory Union negotiated raises. Too bad the City Attorney did not tell them last Tuesday night that they had no authority to adopt a budget that reduced Union negotiated raises. How many ways can you spell Hypocrisy and Incompentency?
I am off to research the Wizard.
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Stroh wrote, "Farrell claims that Mayor Walker has shunned ethics, 'as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code." A reminder, nobody signs the city ethics code because there isn't one."
In 2006 when Patti Walker was elected, the City did have a Code of Ethics, which carried the weight of law in Fillmore. Patti was elected while the Code was in effect and she refused to sign it. Her actions speak for themselves. I was the member that made the motion to toss out the Code as it was my belief that it was tearing the council apart. Better to toss it out and start fresh. Perhaps the recent Ralph M. Brown Act violation would have not taken place had a code been in place.
Previously you wrote "in spite of the rosy projections given by the last city manager and finance director just a few months ago, even the most casual observer of the state of our economy and the housing crisis should have foreseen the trouble we find ourselves in." Many did. A year ago people (including Jamie Brooks, Gayle Washburn and then council member Patti Walker) were urging the past council to exercise restraint in handing out pay raises for top managers to no avail. Now we are told that at our curent rate of spending we will be out of money in eighteen months; the cost-cutting will have unfortunate consequences for many people." Are you surprised that the projections by the last city manager (Ristau) and finance director (Smith) have been proven true? The new budget reflects increased revenues, higher spending and increased reserves. Thanks to past City Managers Payne and Ristau and Finance Director Barbara Smith. Today's council reaps the rewards for past decisions.
At last Tuesday night's council meeting Walker successfully led the effort to hand out a wage increase for one individual. So much for exercising restraint. Be careful all, no one is watching how fast these new council members in charge are spending the money, we (former councils) work so hard to build, with virtually all projects dead in the water...what will happen when they burn through all the reserves? Unfortunately, most don't notice until services are cut. I hope WE CAN TAKE OUR TOWN BACK in one year from those who are running it into the ground!
Cecilia Cuevas
Former Mayor Pro Tem

 
Letters to the Editor
August 27th, 2009

To the Editor:
HYPOCRISY, INCOMPENTENCY OR BOTH?
On May 13, 2009 Mayor Walker hired an outside consultant at $80 per hour to "help prepare the city’s 2009-10 fiscal year budget". Walker said the contract would "terminate on June 30 if not sooner". Two weeks later, Mayor Walker was quoted in the Ventura Star (May 28, 2009 after the resignations of City Manager Ristau and Finance Director Smith) of stating "we are on track, on board to have a budget before the council before the end of June, and we have cohesiveness at the dais." Retired Finance Director Smith had submitted a draft of a balanced budget to Interim City Manager Pennell on April 14 before her retirement on May 14. So the interim City Manager, city staff and the City Council had a working draft of the budget a full 2 ½ months before the June 30 budget adoption deadline. But instead of the outside consultant getting the budget done on time, the Walker led council majority decides to change the budget format to make it more "transparent" and tells the council that the budget won't be done on time, and that the outside consultant’s contract will need to be extended for at least 45 days beyond the June 30 deadline. It is now August 25 and the financial consultant is still under contract.

For the first time in Fillmore’s history the City Council was unable to adopt a budget on time and extended the budget adoption date to August 25, 2009, 56 days beyond the June 30 deadline.

The city council held three budget workshops to discuss the “newly formatted” budget. At the first budget workshop on July 28, the interim City Manager tells the City Council and the public that the City will need to cut $1.9 million from the budget and that the City will run out of funds in 18 months. At the second budget workshop on August 11, Councilmember Conaway finds 37 errors in the budget document prepared by Pennell, sending Pennell back to the drawing board to revise the budget document. Then a revised budget document appears on August 24 giving the public one day to review a $69 million expenditure plan and 192 page document.

The August 24 version of the budget corrects the errors found by Councilmember Conaway and low and behold, instead of running out of funds in 18 months Pennell finds that the budget is balanced and the City has almost $5.3 million in reserves! Revenues are up $14.3 million in the revised version which tells me that the version that had the 37 errors was totally out of whack and that Pennell unnecessarily (intentionally or unintentionally) raised the alarm about the need for $1.1 million in cuts and the forecasted going broke in 18 months. If you look at the expenditure side, expenses in the revised are UP $1.1 million, so instead of CUTTING $1.9 million from the budget Pennell ADDED $1.1 million in expenditures.

While other cities in Ventura County (Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura) because of the state of the economy and the state takeaway of funds from cities are cutting their budgets and eliminating job positions from their budgets, Fillmore has increased its expenditures and has added four new job positions to the budget.

Walker and Washburn state that “the City Council, the Interim City Manager, staff and financial consultant have spent many hours of effort in budget revisions and project deferments to try and balance the budget and still maintain services.” In fact, they have wasted many hours and spend over $100,000 to “reformat” the budget which caused the budget to not be adopted on time, extended the number of hours that consultants had to be paid, resulted in numerous errors in the budget, misled the public into thinking that the city was going to run out of money in 18 months and misled the public into thinking that $1.8 million would need to be cut from the budget when in fact they ADDED $1.1 million in expenditures, and failed to provide the public with adequate time to review the budget.

But it is not over; the latest draft of the budget contains significant raises for management and mid-management employees. Raises that I hope are errors and not real raises of 6% to 20%. It is difficult to discern how much each management and mid-management employee is actually making and how much they are getting in raises because the Council and Pennell refuse to include a summary of payroll costs in the budget. This payroll summary had been included as a part of the budget document for the past 20+ years, but with the decision to “reformat” the budget; this information was intentionally omitted from the budget. By the way, Washburn, Walker and Brooks think that they as City Council members deserve a raise because of all their hard work. What have they done to justify a raise in pay?

So with these latest errors in the budget, the finance consultant’s contract will probably get extended again, along with Pennell’s contract. Pennell has already chewed up 800 hours at $110 an hour in just 4 months. That’s a total of $88,000 for four months of work and the financial consultant was paid $25,000 for about three months of work.

If the previous city management (Ristau and Smith) had made these kind of budget blunders and misleading statements and had released a budget document with only one day for public review, you can bet that the cabal of Walker, Washburn and Brooks would have called it malfeasance, intentional avoidance of transparency in government and demanded their resignations. This cabal used to cry, snivel, wring their hands, gnash their teeth, because THEY weren't individually, each and every one of them, notified about whatever was going on at City Hall. From budgets to the sewer plans to the North Fillmore Specific Plan, they would moan that there wasn't enough notice given so that they could each and every one of them review and comment...so, they take power, and what happens?

It will be interesting to hear how they justify their own acts of incompetence and lack of transparency.
Roy Payne

Responce to Roy Payne from Mayor Patti Walker:
By unanimous vote, the council hired Larry Pennell as the Interim City Manager on April 22, 2009. John Wooner was brought in as a consultant to bring a budget forward in May, 2009. At that time, the consultant was given, again by unanimous vote, the daunting task of reformatting the budget to make it more transparent for the citizens.

Of the items Council Member Conaway brought forward some were formatting errors - wrong map was shown, incorrect wording of budget items and the like. He did make a request to include over 200 transfers within the specific fund line item which was supported by council and a request to use RDA funds for payment of stipends (which we have learned from our RDA attorney we cannot do). Of the 37 comments he had 33 were questions (some were duplicates) and four were suggestions for the council’s consideration.

The budget calendar submitted by Ms. Smith and approved by the council on March 24, 2009, showed department budget requests were due by April 23, Mr. Pennell’s second day on the job. The Preliminary Budget was originally calendared for adoption on June 23, with the Final Budget up for consideration and adoption on September 8, 2009.

The council was able to retain employees, something all should be thankful for and celebrate. The new employees are maintenance personnel for beautiful new pool and Two River’s Park. The council was the entity which increased expenditures by the hiring of three paramedics to be added commencing January 1, 2010, an additional $400,000 for special litigation (a request by the city attorney regarding the ongoing sales tax agreement litigation), and the possible purchase of software to provide better public access to the city in the sum of $22,000. It was through the working relationship of the department heads and Mr. Pennell that a total reduction of over $865,000 was located, all the while not reducing services to the community. Mr. Pennell also located an additional $750,000 in property taxes and $435,000 in motor vehicle in-lieu tax, for a total of $1.185 additional revenue.

This is the first time in the city’s history that the budget has been available, throughout the entire process, on line for public viewing. And as noted by Mr. Payne, it was a venue he utilized and provided his input by way of his letter. I and Mayor Pro Tem Washburn submitted a notice to the community which was published on the front page of the Gazette on August 20, 2009, urging the community to attend last night’s council meeting and view the draft budget at the city’s website. I was personally contacted by members of the community, which I acknowledged last night, providing their input and comments. As stated last evening by Brian Sipes the new format is “progress.”

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Mr. Payne’s comments.
Patti Walker, Mayor

REBUTTAL TO Patti Walker by Roy Payne: Submitted by Roy Payne on Wed, 08/26/2009

Ms. Walker's response to my letter regarding the Hypocrisy and Incompetence of the City Council just reinforces the hypocrisy that I discussed in my letter. Ms. Walker fails to mention that the draft budget that the City Council approved last night was not available on-line to the public until August 24, giving the public only one day to review the 192 page document. Ms. Walker attempts to fool the public by saying the budget was on line during the entire process instead of acknowledging that the version the City Council approved on August 25 was only available for one day. Ms. Walker defends this lack of public notice rather than agreeing that transparency in the budget process was circumvented. This is hypocrisy at its finest given Ms. Walker and Ms. Washburn's past track record of demanding open and adequate advanced notice and advanced copies of important city public documents. Ms. Walker has also demanded in the past that the City Council be given agenda items on the Wednesday preceding the Tuesday council meeting. However, of late, including the August 25 budget meeting, agenda items are not available until Friday or Saturday. Why the change of heart Ms. Walker?

Ms. Walker attempts to confuse the public about the budget adoption process by stating that the budget calendar submitted by retired Finance Director Barbara Smith called for adoption of the preliminary budget on June 23 and the final budget on September 8, 2009. However, Ms. Walker fails to acknowledge that for the first time in the history of Fillmore that a preliminary budget was not adopted by June 30 and that the preliminary budget was not adopted until August 25th. Ms. Walker provides no plausible reason as to why she stated on May 28 "we are on track, on board to have a budget before the council before the end of June".

Ms. Walker stated that "Mr. Pennell also located an additional $750,000 in property taxes and $435,000 in motor vehicle in-lieu tax, for a total of $1.185 additional revenue". Ms. Walker, you just don't "locate" $1.185 million in revenue, it was always there, it's just in the city's haste to "reformat" the budget it was overlooked by your paid consultant's and city staff. Why did it take from April 23 to August 10 for Mr. Pennell to locate this money (it did not show up until the August 10 draft). And where did this money come from? I believe it came from the hard work of previous administrations who worked diligently to improve the economic vitality of the community by supporting controlled and planned development in the community. Again, neither you or Mr. Pennell created this $1.185 million of new revenue, it does not just drop out of the sky, it takes years of hard work to grow the revenues of the city.

You state that Brian Sipes stated that the new budget format is "progess". What makes Mr. Sipes an authority? Isn't he one of your avid supporter's? And isnt't he planning to run on your platform for City Council next election? I think it is highly inappropriate for you as an elected offical to use your office to promote council candidates.

Ms. Walker, one thing we do agree on is that the City's finances appear to be in excellent shape, but it is not because you and your crew "reformatted" the budget. It is because of the prudent fiscal practices of prior administrations and the planned growth development plans that are finally coming to fruition. Again, you, Pennel and Wooten did not just invent $1.185 million in new revenues and you did not just invent the $5.3 million that is in reserves. This money did not fall out of the sky and I doubt that their is a money printing press at city hall. The money is there (even without the funds from the Sales Tax Agreements and the expense of defending those agreements) because of what was did in the past. You and your crew are now responsible for seeing that it is not mishandled in the future. A good place to start would be to take a close look at the generous salary increases you have included in your budget (another example of hypocrisy when the pre-election battle cry was that managers/mid-managers were overpaid and that their salaries should be cut). You may also want to look at your auditing and appropriation practices. I cannot find where or when the City Council ever appropriated any funds to pay Mr. Pennell beyond June 30 and that may be a problem for the auditors (even with the hand-picked auditor you and the Council will be selecting).

One question I forgot to ask
Submitted by Roy Payne on Wed, 08/26/2009 -

One question I forgot to ask Ms. Walker; why was it so important for you, Washburn, Brooks, Stroh and Creagle to report how much I made as a consultant when you were trying to get rid of me and it is not now important to disclose Mr. Pennell's cost to the city? By my calculations, Mr. Pennell has charged the city $100,000 for 4 months work. This equates to $300,000 per year which is 3-4 times my consulting cost for a years work. I guess if someone is willing to do your bidding, then the cost does not matter.

To the Editor:
Re. Martin Farrell’s 26th Realities piece since last November expressing his undying fondness for council member Conaway and his disdain for all the others:

Farrell claims that Mayor Walker has shunned ethics “as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code.” A reminder, nobody signs the city ethics code because there isn’t one.

This brings us to the ethicality of the sales tax scheme. Thank goodness the judge ruled in Fillmore’s favor. We didn’t break the law but did we act ethically? Farrell thinks so. The scheme’s front man, Roy Payne thinks so. Payne went so far as to justify the deal by invoking Karl Marx – “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” He said that Fillmore needs the money more then Livermore; a plausible argument but Payne, a Marxist? Who knew? Because of our scheme the cities of Livermore and Industry lose roughly $5.3 million per year combined. Fillmore sees about $800,000 of that, the company collecting the tax gets back roughly $2.26 million as does the out-of-state broker of the deal (not a bad days work). Does Payne’s Marxist justification work here too? No. In fact Payne has tried to run from his culpability in the matter; after taking all the credit for his list of accomplishments he tries to lay the sole responsibility for the sales tax scheme on the council. They do deserve some but Payne is the primary owner, it was his baby.

It’s been reported that Fillmore is the only California city to do this and we succeeded in bringing the state legislature and the governor together in a rare bipartisan effort to pass a law forbidding the practice in the future. If only Payne had applied the Golden Rule instead of Karl Marx, or how about common sense? If every city and business adopted the practice the sales tax revenue for every city would be reduced by 85%.

Payne did raise an interesting ethics question; should we now give the money back? It’s called the “whore’s dilemma”; ashamed of the practice but can’t feed the family any other way – what to do?
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

Responce to Bob Stroh from Roy Payne:
Well, I see Bob Stroh is at it again. Bob, what can I say about the Sales Tax Agreement that has not already been said? I will rely on the judgment of the Superior Court rather than your warped judgment to determine the appropriateness of my actions. Judge Michael L. Stern (Los Angeles Superior Court) stated in his ruling, “The evidence submitted by plaintiffs for their argument is tenuous.” And, “…there is no showing of any malfeasance or bad intent.” Judge Stern’s ruling also entitles Fillmore to an award of attorneys’ fees.

Oh Bob, I am also glad to note that after harping on this issue for almost a year now, you finally acknowledge that the City Council (including Walker) were the ones who approved the Sales Tax Agreement, not me; which makes your whole argument about ethics rather tenuous. On the one hand you want to condemn my “ethics” for supporting the sales tax agreement, and on the other you want to defend Walker for not having enough ethics to sign the city ethics code, but do not condemn her ethics for supporting the Sales Tax Agreement.

On August 19, 2009 Fillmore Mayor Walker said, “The ruling of the court only confirms the city's position on the agreements. This is a tremendous victory in more ways than one”.

By the way, I never once said that Fillmore needs the money more than Livermore, so do not try to put words in my mouth to justify your own convoluted logic. I stand by my remarks of June 11th 2009 when I stated “It appears Livermore certainly needs it more than Fillmore to pay for the 179 Livermore city employees whose salaries exceed $100,000 per year and to maintain their cost of per capita services at a rate twice that of Fillmore”.

Bob, I know you are disappointed that Fillmore won the law suit, and I know you are going to be even more disappointed that the City budget does not require cuts in expenditures and in fact the City is adding three full-time paramedic positions to the great volunteer Fillmore Fire Department (which you tried to get dismantled). How many other things (including your rabid opposition to the new Sewer Plant) are you going to be proven wrong about?
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Another week and another letter from Bob Stroh
Collectively Fillmore yawned.
Steve Conaway
Fillmore City Councilman

To the Editor:
Nancy Pelosi - AMERICA’S BETTER STIMULUS PACKAGE
You must read the following quote from the Speaker of the House carefully.
'We need to raise the standard of living of our poor, unemployed and minorities. For example, we have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in our country who need our help along with millions of unemployed minorities. Stock market windfall profits taxes could go a long way to guarantee these people the standard of living they would like to have as 'Americans'.'
It is more than evident that the elected representatives in Washington in general and California in particular are morons of the first degree, not even educated enough to know the definition of “illegal”. There is no intelligent reason for American citizens to be taxed to support illegal aliens or immigrants who have chosen to come to America without proper documentation. These misfits must be removed from office, and my suggestion is that we start first with Nancy.
Consider the immediate financial benefit received from such an action.
We save the American tax payer approximately $6,500,000 per year which is spent for her personal travel. These funds could be used to hire many more policemen. Their primary duty would be to round up illegal, undocumented aliens and deport them. This action would save the tax payers more than $100,000,000 per year, probably much more, as medical costs and insurance premiums would be reduced, costs that are charged to citizens that pay their bills.
The above are only the immediate financial benefits. Jobs would be created that are now filled by ‘illegal’ aliens. Jobs could be created to patrol our harbors and borders to insure that they do not return. Possibly the more important benefit would be that the American citizen can send a message to our elected representatives that they must shape up or prepare to ship out.
Nancy Pelosi should be allowed to find a job and work 20 years for her retirement. She should be allowed to be covered by the same inferior government sponsored medical coverage that she proposes for the citizens. Her private transportation should be taken away and she should be allowed to ‘thumb’ her way home to California. If we are fortunate, she might not even come back to California. WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, WE MUST ISSUE A RECALL FOR THIS IDIOT.
Stan Mason,
Fillmore, CA

To the Editor:
Fillmore Unified School District First Day
I am so very pleased with Fillmore Unified School District. What a great place for kids. The first week of school has been outstanding! I work with some of the staff in a part time position and hold my co-workers in the highest esteem. However, my greatest appreciation comes from what I see on the outside as a parent looking in. My biggest concern was my child entering Fillmore Middle School.
For the last 8 years I have participated in many school committees, parent groups and advisory boards. I have worked closely with Fillmore’s district administration on several occasions and been apart of the “big picture”. I have heard the good and the bad, been there for the setting and completely of goals and also witnessed the district handle a number of serious challenges. I have wanted to be apart of my children's education as much as possible. I wanted to know everything about the district, I wanted to be prepared for the looming roomers of how bad everything was going to be. Interestingly enough, the more I learned the more devoted to the district I became.
Today, I speak only as a mother, though I have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes it’s what my children’s experience that is most important to me. My son walked on to has elementary campus as if he was returning home. He was greeted by his principle and then into the room of his very devoted teacher. My son is enjoying the unique experience of having the same teacher at two grade levels. The respect he has for his teacher is second none, a very traditional relationship of mutual adoration. My middle school student was greeted in the same comforting manor. As we walked together around the campus in a constant flow of children, I was as nervous as she was. Strategically placed for quite a distance along the path, we encountered middle school administration. With welcoming encouraging words each staff member greeted all the children they could. Balloons flew above the entrance gate and below the principle tried his best to welcome enthusiastically every one of his students. What a perfect beginning to such a huge mile stone in a child’s life. My daughter came home from her 1st day of middle school more excited than she has ever been the first day of school. My son was the very same way. I realize that no school is perfect and there will be bad days and good days. But the first day of school could not have been better. Thank you Fillmore Unified for caring so much and starting the year off right!
Tressa Saviers
Fillmore

To the Editor:
BARDSDALE 4-H THANKS ANIMAL BUYERS
Twelve members of Bardsdale 4-H raised and sold large animals at the recent Ventura County Fair. This weekend they will hold their annual Appreciation Banquet to thank the generous buyers who purchased their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction held August 14th, 2009. Nine members raised pigs: Brooke Aguirre’s pig bought by Fruit Growers Lab, Chris Berrington’s pig bought by Rigo and Laura Landeros, Natalie Garnica’s pig bought by Santa Clara Valley Bank, Adrian Gonzales’s pig bought by Beylik Farms, Daniel Gonzales’s pig bought by Burns Equipment Services, Sonya Gonzales’s pig bought by P.W. Gillibrand Co, Jessica Manginelli-Beylik’s pig bought by Quality Ag, Inc., Jessica Mayhew’s pig bought by AAA Propane, and Michael Mayhew’s pig bought by McKnight Farm Labor and Clint McKnight.
Lambs were also sold by three members: Timmy Klittich’s lamb purchased by Burns Equipment Services, Samantha Manginelli-Beylik’s lamb purchased by Rigo & Laura Landeros and Quality Ag, and Tabitha Tucker’s lamb purchased by Rosalie Meyer of Ventura.
The 45 members of Bardsdale 4-H also had over 100 other prize winning entries at the fair including table settings, crafts, sewing projects, posters, poultry, succulent dish gardens, pygmy goats, woodworking projects, eggs, and produce. Everyone did a great job and learned a lot in their projects throughout the year. A special thanks to our patient adult leaders for teaching the members new and interesting skills and knowledge!
New member and project sign-ups will start at our next general meeting on September 28th at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Building. Contact Cindy Stines (524-0650) or Cindy Klittich (524-4466), Community Club Co-Leaders, with any questions.
Thanks again to our generous buyers who make raising an animal for fair worthwhile!
Cindy Klittich

Reporter Sought - The Fillmore Gazette is looking for someone to cover City Council and School Board meetings. Call 524-2481 if interested. Congratulations to Mariandrea Mueller, our out-going reporter, on her new position as a Junior Litigation Paralegal in Century City. Andrea, thank you for all the great coverage this past year.

 
Letters to the Editor
August 20th, 2009

To the Editor:
Good customer service is a dying breed. So I want to publicly thank two businesses in town for their kindness--Element Computers and Walt’s Jewelry. Both performed small repair jobs for me at no cost. Walt’s repaired a pair of eyeglasses after another business in town refused to. So thank you to both for showing good business sense and being good neighbors.
Wanda Castel de Oro
Fillmore

To the Editor:
It was suggested by a resident of El Dorado, and I know others in the park believe this, that the reason that we are faced with a condo conversion that we don’t want, is because of the rent control movement of the last 2+ years. I want to illustrate how silly that notion is. This belief is based on the assumption that the owner and management are seeking revenge and want to prevent rent control.
1. In all of our encounters with Mike Cirillo, the owner of the management company, he has never shown an ounce of emotion. Revenge comes from emotion. So throw that idea out. 2. The initiative that the owner is sponsoring says it is rent control! Throw that idea out as well.
What is really going on?
When Mike Cirillo took over management of our park rents were fairly low. He has stated to us that his only concern is to make the maximum amount of money for the owner. Since then he has systematically raised rents so that we have many vacancies due to the high rents. He knows he can’t go much higher and still be able to collect rent, many more of us would have to leave.
When a condo conversion happens the park is appraised as a commercial property (on the income flow). He is at the highest level of rents the market will bear. This will give him the assessment he desires. This is why he applied for the condo conversion. Simple math, a business decision that was easy for him to make. The reason it happened while a rent control movement was going on was because many residents in the park could see the writing on the wall and knew we were being squeezed out.
If Cirillo’s condo conversion goes through the lots will likely have a price tag of about $150,000. If 300 lots sell that’s $45 million on a property with a 37 year old infrastructure and a tax assessor value of a little over $3 million. That’s kind of a no brainer if you ask me.
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

To the Editor:
In two town hall meetings on health care, my president, in response to statements that the private insurance companies cannot compete with government option health care said "Of course they can, Fedex and UPS are doing fine, its the postal service that is always in trouble."
On its face that statement is true. What President Obama did not say is that the Postal service delivers mail to every household six days a week (First class for $ 0.44 an ounce). The others are prohibited by law from delivering First Class Mail, so their job is much easier.
He made a Quotable sound bite at the expense of the Postal service, out of context to the facts. Misleading at best, distorting information by omission of facts, misdirection of thought like a illusionist, disingenuous by design. You decide!
As for me, when someone is trying to convince me of something this important using patently obvious distortions such as this I turn it off. What can I really believe in any other statements?
Remember in Feb of this year we had to have the stimulus right now or unemployment will go to 8%. The stimulus got signed into law and unemployment is now 9.4%.
Whom and what do we believe?
Ray Johnson
Fillmore