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David Gauny: Grassroots campaigns: a view from the jungle

SCV Voices

Posted: July 10, 2010 7:57 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

There are a few variations of an old lawyer’s adage, but the following is my favorite: “If you have facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have law, argue the law. If you have neither, pound the table and change the subject.”

I like this quote because it helps me understand why so many of our leaders today can’t stay on point in rational debate.

For example, illegal immigration is an issue of law that has a direct impact on our nation’s safety and our economy.

Regardless of your position, how does this issue become an argument over race?

And while many leaders on the right complain about BP’s cozy relationship with the current administration, why do so many balk at enacting meaningful financial reforms on Wall Street? “It’s complicated,” they tell us. But is it really?

When motives are self-serving, leaders must defend the indefensible. And regardless of where their bread is buttered, their preferred escape route is the same: an irrational change of subject.

So it is in Santa Clarita. I ran my 2010 City Council race on issues that matter to our homeowners and small-business owners. When these facts gained traction, the opposition brought out the weapon of the defenseless: a good old-fashioned smear campaign.

Councilman Frank Ferry made it clear in January, “We’ve been doing opposition research on you for a year, and now you’re going to learn the hard way.”

I pre-empted Ferry’s attack in February by publicly revealing my mistakes of 15-20 years ago. But when I came a little too close to victory, the campaign was launched post-election:

* A month after polls closed, incumbent campaign manager Scott Wilk attempted to suggest in his May 14 column that I sold out my neighbors in the fight against G&L Realty’s office project back in 2008. Titled “Honest Campaigns Are the Best Medicine,” he deliberately left out the most critical portion of that negotiated agreement: a committed hospital expansion prior to G&L’s final office building.

* On May 25, Ferry referred to me and another leading challenger as “developmental terrorists,” fabricating a shared alliance designed to misinform and stir up homeowners against proposed projects. He suggested developers sue us both personally for losses and delays.

* On June 1, weeks after the election, “opposition research” was delivered to business leaders and news outlets across the city with many personal and family details. The attached unsigned cover letter claimed to be from a former business associate, but the report was dated just one day before Ferry’s threats of Feb. 26. Hmm.

* The next day, a second letter was delivered to business leaders, news outlets and the board of directors at the Canyon Theatre Guild, urging the removal of TimBen Boydston from his post as CTG’s executive director. Also unsigned, it was clear the source was the same.

I expected a few punches below the belt in this campaign — our family will take it okay. But my real concern is the recent “circling of the wagons” by our re-elected council members; a coordinated voting bloc working to penalize Councilman Bob Kellar for not playing ball.

The effects of this foolish retribution are far-reaching:

* Despite objections from both the public and Kellar, the council voted him off his alternate position on the Sanitation District board at a critical time without reason. Facing a controversial $250 million tax increase that Ferry and Weste postponed until after the election last year, the board now must pass the measure immediately or face massive fines without Kellar’s leadership. He was removed by a 4-1 vote.

* After the city’s baffling study session on “immigration education,” Kellar made a motion to declare Santa Clarita a “rule of law” city, declaring our intent to uphold and enforce existing immigration laws locally. He lost 4-1.

* Most recently, Ferry made a motion for a near-300-percent increase to personal campaign contribution limits, from $360 to $1,000. Despite opposition from every public speaker and the sympathies of Kellar, he went down again in a 4-1 vote.

That last issue is big. Ferry’s 2010 local fundraising efforts were matched with a 150-percent gift from the Citizens for Integrity in Government political-action committee this past election. Now, along with McLean, Weste and Ender, he seeks to enhance these infusions by raising limits on personal contributions. 

If successful, the group of people holding power in Santa Clarita will be very narrow. No one will bet against the incumbent stronghold and outsider candidates will find it tough to compete with smaller checks from neighbors and small business owners.

Here’s a fact: As our council grows deaf to our voting public, it’s increasingly beholden to outside companies seeking profit at our expense.

Here’s the law: our city can limit the amount people contribute to PACs, just as they do in the cities of Santa Monica, Claremont, Los Angeles and elsewhere. They have refused.

Don’t let them change the subject. Contribution limits will be up for a final city council vote on Tuesday at 6 p.m. It’s on the consent calendar and will be heard early in the evening. I urge every reader to show up and demand responsible governance from our City Council.

For more details and speaking points, please visit www.city.davidgauny.com

David Gauny is a Valencia resident and former Santa Clarita City Council candidate. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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