January 10, 2010

Endorsements and the Rexford Recall

The Rexford recall gang has a full page ad in this week's  Poway News Chieftain.  The ad says, "Add your name to the list of thousands of Poway residents and business owners including Sharon Cafagna, Mayor Don Higginson, Councilmember Merrilee Boyack, Sue Herndon, Chic Hume, Nazem Agha, Steve Vaus, Howard Lomas, Bill Racicot and others who support the Recall of Rexford and the election of a replacement."

My first thought when I saw this ad was,  "Who is paying for this?" My second thought was who in the samhill is .....well, let's just say I wasn't familiar with at least one of those names. But google is my friend and now I know who they are.

The recall group has  opened an office on Poway Rd and is sending out paid signature-gatherers.
It's crunch time. They have about 3 weeks to go and I don't think they have enough signatures yet.
The signatures are due Feb 10th, but in order for them to be counted and certified for the June election, they need to get them in around the end of January. A financial report is also due at the end of January, but it will only include expenditures through Dec 31st, so we may not know who is paying for the ad, the little office the group has opened on Poway Rd or the paid signature-gatherers until the next reporting period.

In the last few weeks, councilmember Merrilee Boyack has come out of the closet and exposed her rather significant role in the recall. Around Christmas, she sent out an email telling folks that she had set up a Kool-Aid booth a recall table in front of her house. And, if people couldn't make it to her house to sign, she'd send her son over to their house to get their signature. Could he be one of the paid signature-gatherers? Not that that would be illegal, or anything. But it would be interesting to know.

During the public comment portion of last Tuesday's city council meeting, Vaus and Boyack performed a little one-two punch on Rexford although Rexford had already wisely left the room before Vaus spoke.

During the public comment period, Steve Vaus, the leader of a movement seeking to have the 69-year-old councilwoman recalled from office, said the evidence is overwhelming that she demanded a firetruck be stationed near her home during the fire even as other Poway homes burned.Rexford has adamantly denied the claims in the past.“I recently got a call from someone you spoke to shortly after that 2003 fire,” Vaus said. “And way back then, you told the truth. You told that person you asked for a firetruck and got it — in fact, they said you took great pride in having a truck at your house. Do you remember that conversation?”

Like well choreographed kabuki theatre, Boyack then spoke her lines.

“I was the person that spoke to Mr. Vaus about that. Within a week of the Cedar fire, I was having a conversation with Betty and she personally told me that she had gotten a firetruck to protect her home and her neighborhood. I’ve been surprised that she has denied it. That makes no sense to me because she told me she had done that. … I know that to be fact.”

Rexford's husband then went berserk and called everyone a liar. Mayor Higginson (who recently revealed that he enjoys the the recallers livening up boring city council meetings) was obliged to tell Paul Rexford to sit down and STFU or he would have him kicked out.

I suspect the recallers are trying to poke a stick in Betty's eye and provoke a response so they can get a little attention in the press.  Maybe smoke out a few recalcitrant folks to sign their recall petition.

So, exactly where do I stand on the recall?

I did not support Rexford for re-election in 2006. I would love to see someone else on the council. Not just anyone, mind you, but someone who reaches out to the whole community, not just to one or two people or special interest groups.  The recall is also the best opportunity to get a fresh new face on the council. That is something I think Poway desperately needs. Despite my hope to see Rexford (and pretty much everyone else on the council) replaced, I will not join in the recall.

It's not because I'm opposed to recalls. I'm not. In fact, my husband and some of my friends were involved in a recall of Cafagna and Higginson some years back. The primary issues of that recall were a proposed amphitheatre in the industrial park and higher flood insurance premiums for the Pomerado Rd residents.  When those two issues were hot, the signatures poured in. When the council axed the amphitheatre and solved the insurance problem, tempers cooled and the recall drive fizzled.

The Rexford recall is a whole different animal from that recall. In my opinion, the Rexford recall seems particularly vicious and personal. I was appalled when the recallers served Rexford with the recall papers in the home of her dying son, who was in hospice care.  That just crossed the line of human decency.  Steve Vaus also asked folks who supported the recall to send email messages to Betty while she was at her son's side. Really, couldn't it have waited a week or two?  Or was the intent to try to upset her at a very vulnerable time in the hope that she would hysterically resign and pave the way for the council to appoint a replacement?

Betty Rexford is serving her 16th year as a councilmember. When she ran for re-election in 2006 she was endorsed by a whole bunch of people and newspapers. The Poway News Chieftain endorsed her in 1998, 2002, 2006. Now they have asked her to resign.  Likewise the SDUT and North County Times endorsed her in 2006 (and other years) but have now asked her to resign. Did those newspaper endorsers not know Rexford very well when they endorsed her? How fickle to ask someone who really hasn't changed at all to step aside so an appointment can replace them after they told the voters to vote for this person 3 yrs ago. I think they need to check the quality control criteria in their endorsement departments.

Merrilee Boyack also endorsed Betty Rexford in 2006. Now Boyack says she had a conversation with Betty Rexford after the 2003 Cedar Fire and Betty bragged to her that she got a personal firetruck. She claims that Betty abused her position as a councilmember. And yet, Boyack asked the voters to re-elect Rexford in 2006, 3 yrs after the purported phone conversation. If Boyack thought Rexford had abused her position on the council, why did she ask the voters to re-elect her? That's not ethical.

Why has Boyack waited 6 yrs to make the conversation about the firetruck public? Was it something she never would have revealed, if, say, Betty had voted to make Boyack mayor instead of voting for Higginson to replace Cafagna? One wonders.

My personal opinion is that all those people (and newspaper editors) who successfully convinced the Poway voters to re-elect Rexford in 2006 should just learn to live with the consequences and be a little more careful with your endorsements in the future.

And speaking of endorsements, what's up with endorsing someone before everyone has had a chance to throw their hat in the ring? I mean, if you haven't seen all the candidates, and you are endorsing, then it pretty much looks like you are really shilling for that candidate because you have them on a leash and they are YOUR candidate, YOUR proxy, YOUR lapdog, YOUR protege. Whatever you want to call it, it is a signal to everybody that you expect to have power and sway over that candidate's decisions.

Last month, Carl Kruse, flanked by Bruce Tarzy and Merrilee Boyack,  announced he was going to run for re-election in 2010.

Kruse was appointed to the City Council in May to fill the remaining 18 months of Councilman Don Higginson’s term. Higginson had been appointed mayor that month to fill the vacancy created by the death of Mayor Mickey Cafagna in April.
At the time, Kruse said he intended only to serve for 18 months, but just weeks later, he said he wasn’t sure what he would do. Yesterday, during a news conference in front of city hall, Kruse said things have changed in the city and he viewed next year’s election as being pivotal to Poway’s long-term future.

My guess is that "what's changed" is that Bruce Tarzy is a little unsure that some known or unknown candidate, that he doesn't own, might get elected in 2010. So, just to be safe, he convinced Kruse to run despite the fact that Kruse's "not running" was a big factor in his appointment. 

Boyack also endorsed Kruse and Sabrina Butler (who was expected to announce her candidacy). But, lo and behold, things changed and Butler has stated that she isn't running and will not accept an appointment to the council.  In a very strange twist of logic, Merrilee also announced that she will not endorse Higginson if he runs. 

Boyack said she would not support Higginson's bid for re-election because he had said he would not run again after being appointed to mayor, and she wants to hold him to his word.

OK, let me get this straight. Carl Kruse is appointed to the council, based partly on his assertion that he will not run for re-election. Kruse changes his mind and runs for re-election.  Boyack endorses him. She doesn't "hold him to his word" because "things changed." But before Higginson can pull the same trick, Boyack announces that she will not endorse him if he does, because she wants to "hold him to his word." But Carl doesn't have to be held to his word because....because...because...why?  This is one I really, really don't get. If you do, please post a comment and help me out here.

I'm not endorsing anyone for 2010...yet. I'm not "not endorsing" yet either. I'm going to wait until all of the candidates have announced and revealed at least a little bit about themselves and their philosophies. I'm really ready for some new faces on the council and I hope all the people who take the time and effort to run, get a fair chance to introduce themselves to the voters before the power elite throw their weight around by endorsing. I would also advise the voters to ignore the endorsements of those who change their minds a few years later and want us to throw out the person they told us to elect. Enough! Bring on the candidates and let us make up our own minds.