Do you like builders and contractors?
Well, if you live in a dry, warm, safe dwelling odds are you have a builder and his contracts to thank for it.
How about Realtors? For most of us who’ve ever bought or sold a home we relied on a Realtor to guide us through the mired legal requirements and contracts and it was our Realtor who was looking out for our best interest during what can be a complex transaction transferring ownership of real property.
How about developers? I live in the idyllic neighborhood of Sunny Brae, a residential subdivision that was once open pastures and someone’s ranch and now it is home to me and all of my wonderful neighbors. What many of us love about our communities are at least in part qualities that are indicative of a developed neighborhood.
Now here’s a tougher one. How do you feel about land speculators? I am ignorant of what if any benefit the land speculator provides to the rest of us. But I do know that in the futures markets some economists claim that speculators there play a role in stabilizing volatile markets. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission maintains that speculators serve a function in the market. It may be a bit of an overreach to suggest there could be any redeeming benefit to the community at large or to society in general from land speculators, but I’d be willing to hear any such arguments.
Now, have you ever tried to build a new home? How about just a deck or a water storage facility or even a tree house? If so did you enjoy dealing with the bureaucracy of a government agency in order to obtain a permit, with all the hoops and hurdles that must be cleared and the mired zoning, codes and regulations that must be followed?
Not likely is my guess.
So I’m going to assert that most of you could agree that our lives are better off for the work that the contractors, builders, developers, real-estate agents and the many vendors they rely on, do for themselves, and in turn do for all of us.
And I’ll further stipulate that codes, zoning and building regulations make it difficult to get something permitted. Even really good stuff that most everyone agrees they’d like to see built!
Have said all that, I’d like to address the divide in local government that is most evident at the county level. While it’s true there is a great divide, it is NOT along party lines or even liberal vs. conservative. Supervisors who’ve found themselves at odds with each other about the issues that are the purview of the Board of Sups may well agree on say, marriage equality, or a woman’s right to choose, or immigration or even healthcare. But they rarely if ever exercise jurisdiction over any of those issues in a significant or direct way.
What the supervisors do have the greatest amount of jurisdiction over is land use, zoning, planning. And, of course, the mother ship of these issues is the infamous General Plan Update (GPU)!
Lets hope we all agree that we want a strong and sustainable economy, we need housing and we want to protect our environment for not just ourselves, but for our children’s children. Why then is there such heated disagreement on how best to achieve these goals?
I’ll try to lay out in a future article the roles and goals of strategic civic planning and how a well-articulated plan can provide a more lucrative opportunity for the developers, builders and the industry that supports them while also serving the long term best interest of our society.
When it comes to a Planning Commission, it is perfectly reasonable that these self interested industry representatives should have a seat at the table.
To however, appoint a majority of industry representative to a Planning Commission to decide our community’s future would be insanity.
Have you ever been on a freeway in LA or the Bay Area during rush hour and marveled at how the infrastructure is so totally inadequate for the population? Didn’t the civic planners in these wealthy markets, with their well-paid administrators and engineers and their access to the world’s greatest minds from Berkley, Stanford, UCLA and USC, couldn’t they foresee this result if they continued to allow development that would result in their infrastructure to be so over capacity?
Here is a little history lesson before I leave to contemplate these thoughts for the next week. In Southern California starting in the 1800s and up to the 1920s the Red Car system was the largest electric railway system in the world. This mass transit system in Southern California consisting of electrically powered streetcars covering 1,300 miles of track connected cities in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County and Riverside County.
The elected officials of the time, in their wisdom and foresight allowed for the Red Car lines to be dismantled in favor of buses. Some believe there was a profit motive involved in this ill-fated decision as General Motors would build the buses with their significantly shorter life span then the street cars they replaced.
Whatever the motive then, 70 years later, Los Angeles began building a new Red Line of subways and heavy rail. Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, running just under 4.5 miles, this first segment has cost more than $1.4 billion. Not hard to understand now why dismantling the light rail system back then, was a bad idea.
Good planning should be directed by people who’ve studied the subject. The developers deserve a seat at the table, but if you think folks who stand to profit from the short term decisions we as a community make now should be entrusted with providing us the vision of a well-planned future, I know of a spectacular bridge I’d love to sell you.
That’s my point of view.
Richard Salzman represents applied artists from around the world who work as illustrators in the communicating arts. Recent clients his artists have completed projects for include, Hyundai, Sephora and Money Magazine. He may be contacted my email at: Richard@RichardSalzman.com
Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Today
1656 Union St (HM office): SILVER Alert
1656 Union St (HM office): SILVER Alert
Mad River Union: New Alibi Wing To Fill Plaza’s ‘Missing Tooth’
Tuluwat Examiner: BASS Biffs It Big time
Mad River Union: New Tax For ‘Boots On The Ground’ in Mck?
Jesse Unruh, the 1974 California State Treasurer, said of political campaign contributions: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” President Obama raised over $1 billion (that’s with a “B”) for his 2012 re-election campaign. Mike McGuire, our leading State Senate candidate, is sitting on over $300,000 cash and Jim Wood, our leading State Assembly candidate, has a cash war chest of over $200,000. Oh, did I mention President Obama, Mr. Unruh, McGuire and Wood are all Democrats? Next time someone tells you Democrats can’t raise money, be sure to correct them, “No, your no-growth candidates can’t raise money.”
The other day I ran into a District Attorney candidate at the elections office. After the cordial small talk I stood in the background while they conducted business with the elections staff. I could see the look of concern on their face when the subject of filing fees came up. So they suggested I should write a column about the costs of local campaigns.
Just to file the paperwork to get your name on the Humboldt County District Attorney ballot costs 1 percent of the salary of the position, or $1,580 per candidate. If you want a candidate statement next to your name on the ballot, plan on another $999, and that’s if you’re running against three opponents. If you run unopposed, quadruple that number.
It costs money to run for elected office. A lot of money. Those yard signs, buttons, bumper stickers and media buys aren’t free. So if you plan on attending any of the District Attorney candidate’s events, don’t be surprised if you get “asked” for a contribution. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for a District Attorney candidate, or any candidate for that matter, if they didn’t “ask” of the crowd. You have to be shameless to run for public office.
To run a simple county race, the basic budget is $60,000, give or take, for the candidate and the type of campaign you want to run.
- County filing fees: $1,500
- Signs: $5,000
- Flyers/ buttons/swag: $5,000
- Mailers: $5,000
- Graphic design: $2,500
- TV ads : $10,000
- Production costs: $2,500
- Radio ads: $5,000
- Newspapers: $7,500
- Phones/polling: $5,000
- Web servers: $1,000
- Food & beverage: $2,500
- Office/location rentals: $1,500
- Campaign manager: $5,000
This is just a framework, as some costs may be higher or lower. The exception was 2006, when former Supervisor Bonnie Neely paid Chris Kerrigan over $46,000 to be her campaign manager. I would have put that money into TV, radio and print ads and wouldn’t have paid 5-10 times the going rate for a campaign consultant, but hey, it wasn’t my cash.
If you’re running against an incumbent, you’ll have to increase the media buys significantly. If you’re running against a well-funded incumbent, plan on doubling your costs just through the June primaries. If your race goes into the November general election, plan on near doubling these costs once again. The new number is $200,000 to run against a well-funded Supervisor incumbent. I know as that’s what it cost Virginia Bass to match Bonnie Neely in her 2010 Fourth District Supervisor race. [Ed. note — The author assumes you remember that for some reason Supervisor Bass shares a roof with him.]
Is there too much money in our local politics? Of course. Who doesn’t think that? We can thank a certain person who changed the money dynamics of our local politics in 2004. This is why the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee came out with a resolution to limit campaign contributions to $1,500 per year/per donor including unions, tribes, and PACs.
Now, there will be those who say campaign contribution limits will “restrict the larger donations that our no-growth “smart growth” candidates tend to rely on Bill Pierson by a few wealthy patrons, the Blue Lake Casino tribes or unions (public unions are a major player on the state level, not the county/city levels) who share our desire for hugging trees quality of life … .”
It’s the same tired excuse the no-growth candidates trot out every two years: “We can’t raise money from the general public so we have to rely on Bill Pierson and the Blue Lake Casino for their money bombs.” Sounds to me like two contributors trying to buy status quo. We got ours and don’t care if you get yours. Doesn’t sound very Democratic to me.
We’ll see at the next 460s (campaign contributions disclosure statement) filing deadline on March 24th how each of the District Attorney’s candidates are coming along with raising funds. They’ll spend money faster than they raise it. This I guarantee.
Just maybe our local mainstream media will research the 460s and report the large contributors who are trying to buy influence with their money bombs in Humboldt County. Nahhhh.
[Ed. note: Let’s all give a warm Lost Coast Outpost welcome to Richard W. Salzman, our newest political columnist! He joins local mover/shaker Matthew Owen in providing you, the Lost Coast Outpost reader, with basically everything you need to think. Both generously give these services to the community with the expectation of absolutely no recompense whatsoever, apart from the SEO boost.
Longtime Humboldt residents will remember Salzman as the swashbuckling campaign manager who steered DA Paul Gallegos’ first and second campaigns to victory. He has volunteered or worked for many political campaigns since, but — for whatever reason — usually in a more “behind the scenes” kind of role. You know?
In 2012 he defeated the City of Arcata in a lawsuit brought against that town’s “aggressive panhandling” ordinance, which, Salzman argued and the court agreed, violated the panhandlers’ civil rights.
Mr. Salzman is the inspiration for the handle used by frequent LoCO commenter “salzman’s cat.”
Huzzah for Richard Salzman! Let’s hear what he has to say, shall we?]
I want to thank Hank Sims for allowing me to write this column for the Lost Coast Outpost. I intend to share my own thoughts and those of people with whom I share a “point of view.”
While I can’t draw my way out of a brown paper bag, I take the title of this column from the best advise I’ve ever heard given to aspiring illustrators. Early in my career as an Artists’ Representative and a few years after first signing Everett Peck, who was to become a celebrated illustrator and later the creator of the animated television show Duckman, I accompanied Mr. Peck to a lecture he was giving to a graduating class of commercial art students where he counseled them that the most important thing for an illustrator was “to have a point of view.” It is my suspicion that the same advice applies to a columnist.
What came as no surprise but was confirmed in the Times-Standard’s headline on Feb.12, “Closing the Budget Gap with Cuts…,” was that our Board of Supervisors have essentially run our county’s budget and local economy into a ditch, and their plan to dig their way out is by further destroying our economy through budget cuts (e.g. firing county workers).
For those of you who don’t believe that government workers have “real jobs” and who do not believe in Keynesian economics that would argue for stimulating the economy during downturns in the private sector by increasing spending in the public sector, and for those who think government employees get a free ride with their fancy health benefits and cushy retirement accounts, you may applaud this action. For the rest of us, these cuts sound like a very bad idea.
But what made the story even more interesting was the timing with the release of the 460 contribution forms by at least two of the Gang of Four majority on the Board. Those were also posted on Liberal Jon’s blog and what they show us is that while these Supervisors have mismanaged the taxpayers’ finances and run up a $3.6 million budget shortfall, they have done a phenomenal job of lining the pockets of their own re-election committees!
The icing on this cake is Rex Bohn’s introduction of a so-called campaign finance ordinance through which they will attempt to now limit donations to just the amounts they are most able to receive. But, they will restrict the larger donations that our “smart growth” candidates tend to rely on by a few wealthy patrons, tribes or unions who share our desire for quality of life over short-term profits and that offset the rather modest donations that the majority of our supporters can afford, given Humboldt’s medium annual income of some $30K.
If these Board members really wanted to reform campaign finances they’d be pushing for a limit of $100.00 per person, and not one of $500.00 or greater. Who do you know that can afford to give $500.00 as a political campaign contribution? How about $1,500.00? Rex Bohn is quoted in the Times-Standard as saying he recommends the limit be $1,500.00 per person or entity (of course if you happen to own or control a dozen different “corporations” or companies, you’d be able to give 12 times that amount).
This gang of four has had no trouble keeping pace with their political opponents by receiving multiple donations of between $500.00 and $1,500.00, which they are able to generate from dozens of different well-healed backers, so of course they’d very much like to limit the ability of their opponents to compete with the support of labor unions, or others in a position to level the playing field.
Rex Bohn approached Maggie Fleming to run for D.A. and promised her that he would raise (it’s called bundling) a minimum of $50,000.00 for her campaign if she ran! Does this sound like someone trying to keep money out of politics? (Full disclosure, I am supporting Maggie’s opponent, Élan Firpo for DA).
If we could have public financing of elections I would be all for it. I agree that too much money can distort the electoral process, but in the wake of Citizens United when anyone can form a PAC and make “independent expenditures” of an unlimited amount without having to disclose who the donors are, the result of limiting donations in our local elections will only serve to deprive the electoral process of the transparency required of donations made directly to a candidate.
That’s my point of view.
Richard Salzman represents applied artists from around the world who work as illustrators in the communicating arts. Their clients include publishers, advertising agencies and graphic design firms in all major markets. He may be contacted my email at: Richard@RichardSalzman.com
To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and anonymous blog comments.
A couple of local urban blog legends are “developer controlled money buys our local elections” and “whoever spends the most wins elections.” Neither could be further from the truth.
Many anonymous bloggers have an obsession with local developers. So define “local developer.” Does that include someone who runs a cab company? How about a local financial firm? Insurance agent? Banker? Nurse? Rancher? Timber? Waste disposal? Recycling? Contractor? Fabricator? Grocery store? Retail store owner? Automotive? Office equipment? Medical? Pharmacy? Attorney? Liquor distributor? Music? Animal care? Public employee? Law enforcement? Union? Housewife? How about someone who’s retired?
I’ve always said there’s a fine line (a really, really fine line) between huge campaign contributions from a single contributor and a bribe. However, there’s only been a handful of Humboldt County candidates over the past 10 years who have received $10,000 or more from a single source (and it’s not who you think). Paul Hagen received a $10K contribution from his mother, so I wouldn’t consider that potential collusion.
In a 2006 Measure T video Paul Gallegos stated, “The greatest threat to legitimate power in the United States is the influence of money… .” Which makes it sad that candidates who are associated with being “progressive” are the biggest recipients of special interest money bombs. Did the so-called progressives and former Measure T supporters denounce the big money trying to buy our local elections? No, they endorsed the candidates who took the checks. Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s “Do as we say,” not “Do as we do.” My bad.
Here’s a partial list of the $10,000+ aggregate donors from 2004-2013:
- Joan Gallegos, attorney (and his wife) – Eureka, CA: $43,700 (campaign loan)
- Ester Saunoras & Richard Cogswell, Lost Coast Winery – Petrolia, CA: $32,620
- Blue Lake Casino: $30,000
- David Gallegos: $25,000
- Jennifer Keller, attorney – Irvine, CA: $18,500
- Rob and Cherie Arkley, Security National – Eureka, CA: $17,000
- Jaime O’Donnell – developer, Trinidad, CA: $14,228
- Bear River Casino: $10,000
- Orlando Gallegos – New Mexico: $10,000
Bonnie Neely is a close second with:
- Blue Lake Casino: $61,000
- Bill Pierson, Pierson Building Center & Sedgefield (Bill’s middle name) Properties: $52,590
- Master Plan Development, Inc. of Dana Point, CA: $10,000
And in third place is Patrick Cleary with:
- Blue Lake Casino: $25,000
- Bill Pierson: $15,000
Considering that Blue Lake Casino spent $94,475 in the 2010 elections alone, where was our local mainstream media writing about the “influence of money” in our local elections? If you think the Times-Standard and the North Coast Journal are in the news business, you’re wrong. From their perspective, which do they think is more important: in-depth investigative journalism or selling advertising? That’s an easy answer.
Here’s a phone call a few days from now.
RING … RING
“Hello, Publisher? Yeah, this is Campaign Money Bomb. I understand that some blogger researched the amount of money I’ve given in local campaigns and wanted you to know that if I see one article in your publication, you can kiss off my advertising dollars.”
“Excuse me, you’ve heard of Freedom of the Press?”
“Yeah and I’ve got freedom of my dollars. Ya understand what I’ve said?”
If campaign finance reform is good enough for the cities of Eureka and Arcata, why not the County of Humboldt? Now would be a good time for the County of Humboldt to enact campaign finance reform with an annual cap per donor of $1,000 or $2,500. This would go a long way to curb the influence of big money polluting our local elections.
Back in 2010 we had Paul Gallegos and Allison Jackson involved in a campaign “war of ad-buy attrition” with the two candidates spending almost $400,000. Our 2014 District Attorney’s election will be a grassroots, issues-oriented campaign. Through Dec. 31, 2013, Elan Firpo has raised $7,184 and Arnie Klein raised $6,020. Maggie Fleming did not file her 501s (Candidate Intention Statement) until 2014 and Allan Dollison did not begin fundraising until 2014.
Which is why our 2014 District Attorney’s race is so refreshing. The DA candidates can talk about the serious issues facing Humboldt County, such as marijuana environmental damage, the grow house social pollution of our residential neighborhoods (knowing with 495 plants or less they won’t be prosecuted by our current District Attorney), drug/alcohol abuse issues, people with mental illness issues, the homeless issues and the AB 109 fiasco on our local level with career criminals who are “caught & released” only to get let out and commit more crimes. These are the important issues with our 2014 District Attorney race. That and not using the DA’s office for political gain.
As to the myth that whoever spends the most in our local elections wins, that money somehow buys a political office, may I remind you:
- In 2002 Charlene Cutler-Ploss outspent Jeff Leonard 7-1 for the Eureka City Council 3rd Ward seat and lost.
- In our 2010 elections, we had Meg Whitman spending $141 million of her personal cash, outspending Jerry Brown 6-1 before losing in the California governor’s race.
- Also in 2010, Johanna Rodoni outspent Mari Wilson for Humboldt County Assessor by 4-1 and lost.
- And finally, in 2010 Peter LaVallee outspent Frank Jager for Eureka Mayor and lost.
I’m naïve enough to believe that voters should decide our local elections, not cash.
# # #
Pick of the week: Murder of a politician, death of a politician, careers destroyed, reputations ruined, sexual affairs, extortion, blackmail, bribery, fraud, lies, deceit, undue influence, back stabbing, “Et Tu, Brute?,” The Illuminati, etc., etc.
Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Humboldt County local politics or Netflix’s House of Cards? I could argue Shakespeare, however Netflix’s House of Cards is in a whole different category by itself.
For those of you with Netflix streaming, I highly recommend watching all 13 episodes from season oneof House of Cards. Season two premieres this Friday (Valentine’s Day), although you’d have to be a major political junkie to watch this on February 14 with your sweetheart.
Think Humboldt County politics are rough and tumble? Sure, we’ve experienced almost all of the above, but we haven’t had the murder of a politician. Death, yes. Murder, no.
In this week’s YWIO, your coastal correspondent neglected an important victory in local efforts to reduce ocean trash. As of tomorrow, Feb. 1, single-use plastic bags are persona non grata in A-town. To both the delight and confusion of passersby, the Northcoast Environmental Center took to the streets to celebrate.