October 29, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

Bruce Tarzy is supporting John Mullin, Don Higginson, and Carl Kruse for Poway City Council.

Who'd of thunk it?

Tarzy, Mullin, Higginson and Kruse go way back in Poway politics. Tarzy was elected to the first council 30 yrs ago. Kruse was appointed 2 yrs later to fill the term of Clyde Rexrode, who died the day before he was re-elected. Mullin served on a committtee to advise the council whether Poway should form a redevelopment agency in 1983, and was chairman of the first official Redevelopment Advisory Committee in 1985. Higginson's was first elected nearly a quarter of a century ago. Their voices are not new voices in Poway politics. What is new is seeing old political foes regroup.

It is no surprise that Tarzy is supporting his longtime friend, Carl Kruse. They both served as officers of the Green Valley Civic Association (GVCA) and they even vacation together. Some people have said that Carl Kruse is Bruce Tarzy's personal council member.

It is surprising that Tarzy is supporting Higginson and Mullin. Back in the mid-1980s, one of the chief political issues was how Poway should grow. Tarzy (and Kruse) were on the side of slow, controlled growth. Mullin and Higginson were pushing for more development. In 1988, the 2 sides lined up behind competing ballot propositions, Prop FF (slow growth) and Prop GG (the developer's alternative). Prop FF was sponsored by a group called "Poway Citizens for Limited Growth". Bruce Tarzy, Jerry Hargarten and Bob Emery were key architects of Prop FF. The competing proposition, Prop GG, the "quality of life initiative" was written by council member Linda Brannon. Higginson and Mullin favored Prop GG.

Before I get into the Prop FF-GG contest, I want to paint a little picture of what Poway was like in those days. There was no industrial park in the hills of south Poway. There was no Old Coach development or Maderas gold course. Scripps Poway Parkway, known as "alternate this" or "alternate that", was only a pencil mark on a map. The houses in the Arbolitos development were just starting to show up on the horizon. A brand spanking new shopping center, anchored by a Target store just opened. There was no Wal-Mart. Our original "town center", Creekside, was a grazing area for cows. There was nothing between the Poway city limits and the freeway except open space.

When Poway incorporated in 1980, one of the first things the council did was to impose a building moratorium until a new development plan was approved. The first council was dedicated to keeping Poway rural and controlling growth.

In the 1986 election, Don Higginson and Linda Brannon defeated Linda Oravec and Mary Shepardson, two of the original Poway councilmembers. This was the only election that any incumbent Poway council member ever lost. The moment marked a major shift in Poway politics. Higginson and Brannon were both considered "pro-growth" in a community that had incorporated, largely to control their own growth.

In the 1988 election, Bruce Tarzy (who had decided not to run for re-election) and Bob Emery (who was running for re-election) teamed up to write and support a proposition that was later named Prop FF on the ballot. Tarzy and Emery hoped to prevent future councils, ones with the likes of, ummm, say a Brannon or Higginson, from being able to ruin their vision of what Poway should look like.

As a competing measure, Brannon wrote Prop GG, the "quality of life" initiative, the kind of thing developers love. Higginson and Mullin supported Prop GG.

Prop GG qualified for the ballot after paid signature gatherers obtained the necessary number of signatures. The council passed resolution 88-085 on August 2, 1988, thereby putting Prop FF on the ballot.

A few days before the election, a group of five Poway residents delivered a letter to City of Poway special counsel complaining about some campaign hanky panky between Bob Emery's election committee and Poway Citizens for Limited Growth, the committee that was formed to get Prop FF passed by the voters. Specifically, the group claimed that Bob Emery's campaign committee was controlling the Prop FF committee (Poway Citizens for Limited Growth) and that they were sharing campaign expenses.

(The Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Nov 3, 1988. pg. B.8)

The seven-page letter contends that Emery's committee controls the FF committee and has violated Poway's campaign-finance laws by collecting contributions above the $100 amount allowed for controlled committees.


The complaint given to Knoepp contends that Poway Citizens for Limited Growth became a "controlled committee" Sept. 24, when two airplane banners touting Emery and Proposition FF flew over Poway during the city's Poway Days celebration.


The difference in the shared cost indicates that the Emery committee controls the Proposition FF committee's financing, the five said.

When a committee is considered "controlled," under Poway's campaign ordinance, a contributor can give no more than $100 to each campaign.

According to campaign disclosure statements filed with the Poway city clerk, nine contributors have given $100 or more to the Emery re-election committee and $100 or more to the committee for Proposition FF, which would require voter approval to increase density in rural residential areas. Three people, including Councilman Bruce Tarzy, have given the $100 maximum to Emery and $500 or more to Poway Citizens for Limited Growth.

Hmmmm. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It is a classic campaign maneuver. Just before the election, one or several of a candidate's supporters file a letter of complaint against their candidate's opponent. The complaints get some press, and it goes to a special counsel who holds off on looking at the complaint until after the election and then he/she dismisses it.

One of the 5 people who signed the letter of complaint against Emery and the Prop FF committee was John Mullin. Mullin's complaints against Emery and the Prop FF committee were found to be without merit. But for the record, special counsels appointed to oversee election complaints generally dismiss all of the complaints. Serious complainers must file a signed grievance with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). During that same 1988 election, somebody did send a couple of complaints to the FPPC that resulted in stipulations and fines. One was against Emery's opponent, Larry Valente and the other was against developer Kuebler. Valente was fined $1500 for sending a late campaign mailer titled "The Republican Update"which did not identify Valente's committee as the true source of the piece. Richard Kuebler, a Poway developer, was fined for $17,500 for not disclosing campaign donations in Escondido and for failing to identify himself as the source of two "hit piece" mailers against Bob Emery.

Prop FF beat Prop GG 2-1 in the election. The rest is history.

Fast forward to 2010. Why is a slow growth guy like Tarzy supporting his old pro-development enemy, John Mullin? Mullin has made no secret that he wants to make development easier in Poway. He has proposed a "streamlining process" as a first step. The streamlining will allow staff to approve projects that now require public notice and council approval.

John Mullin is also a member of CALPASC, (California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors). In fact, Mullin is on Government Affairs Committee of CALPASC. When Poway Patch's Margie Palmer queried Mullin about his involvement in this group, Mullin didn't see the inherent conflict of interest.

"My being a member of Cal-PAC is no different than me being a member of the Chamber of Commerce," Mullin said. "It's a trade association. And people who continue to propose that having some sort of significance with regard to my role on the council are incorrect."

Uhmmm, no. CALPASC is not simply a trade association like the local Chamber of Commerce. Now if Mullin was referring to the US Chamber which spend buckets of money, some of it from foreign entities, to influence legislation in the US that is advantageous for businessfolk and disadvantageous for workers, well he may have a point. While the local Poway Chamber does advocate for their members, they don't bring it to the level that CALPASC does. Check out their CALPASC's webpage. They have paid lobbyists who help write and push for certain legislation, de-regulation and judicial remedies. Our local chamber is doing street fairs, not filing "amicus briefs" in court on behalf of contractors.

According to Cal-Access, the California Secretary of State's database, CALPASC has hired 2 firms to lobby for them: Government Strategies, Inc, (2003-2009) and California Strategies & Advocacy, LLC (2009-2010). CALPASC spent just under $300,000 lobbying in 2007-2008 and have reported over $73,000 spent so far in 2009-2010.

It is pretty unethical to be on a legislative body, even a local legislative body and to belong to a group that is lobbying for legislative remedies at the same time.

So why is Bruce Tarzy supporting John Mullin for council? I've got a theory, but I'll save that for a future blog. What's your theory?


PowayVotes said...

Kruse keeps the development out of Green Valley. South Poway becomes the City, the hills than cannot be seen in Green Valley get turned into tract housing and McMansions. Tax base goes through the roof for a while. Quality of life drops through the floor.

Anonymous said...

Mullin is completely deceptive about his positions on both Calpasc and the San Diego BIA. He sits on two committees - one the Government Affairs Committee which review pending legislation and how to create new developer friendly legislation in municipalities. He also sits on the Political Action Committee of the San Diego BIA. Here is a direct quote from the website's description of the committee:

"Prior to consideration by the BIA million-dollar Political Action Committee, which allocates our political dollars, this group interviews candidates and studies ballot measures to ensure a thorough understanding of the stakes by all industry members. Its recommendations go to the independent PAC for consideration, and the BIA endorsements are communicated to members to aid them with their voting decisions."

To anyone who doesn't think Mullin isn't bought and paid for with developer dollars you're mistaken.

Waiting to do the Mullin financial review. Not for any real errors - but just to see who the rank and file are that paid for Mullin's seat. Same with Higgy.