Editorial – Let’s Denounce These Tactics

Editorial by Bill Coburn, posted 4/5/14 I had been thinking about doing an editorial that discussed the fact that there are several highly qualified candidates for City Council who will not run for office because of the toxicity of the political atmosphere in Sierra Madre, and that Sierra Madre is ultimately the loser when qualified candidates won’t run for office.  These are long time residents, with experience in committees, commissions and Sierra Madre, but they don’t want to subject themselves or their families to the scorn and derision that candidates and officeholders have had to go through the last few election cycles.  I decided that I wasn’t going to do it just yet, that if I was going to do it at all, I’d wait until after the election.

In the meantime, however, I’ve now decided to write one about the tactic of anonymously attacking the people that are running for and/or holding office.  These are people that are offering to serve the public.  They’re putting in seemingly endless hours during the campaign, knowing that if they win, they’ll be putting in countless hours over the next four years, in service to their community. One would think that anybody willing to work that hard for us would be deserving of thanks from the people of the town.  Even if they have positions we don’t agree with, they deserve our gratitude and our respect for all their hard work.  If we disagree strongly, we can do what we can in the next election to see that someone else ousts them from the seat.  If they’ve broken the law or done something equally egregious, we can even go so far as to recall them.

Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a different attitude around here.  Well, not just around here, it seems to be a nationwide thing, but it’s more disheartening when you think about the fact that it’s your friends and neighbors that have taken on this attitude.  The attitude that it’s okay to say whatever I want about people I disagree with, insult them, call them names, accuse them of things they haven’t done.  And here’s the best part – it’s okay, because nobody will know it’s me that’s doing it!

Yesterday, an anonymous mailer was sent to some Sierra Madre voters that flat out called one of the candidates (Gene Goss) a liar, and another candidate, Noah Green, a hypocrite.  Gene was accused of taking campaign contributions from a union after saying he wouldn’t, and Noah was accused of not having voted in this millennium, despite telling us at the Candidate Forum that “It’s our job to vote.”  Noah was also accused of being an “Anti Constitutionalist who wants to drastically limit or altogether eliminate guns”, and was quoted out of context as saying he wants “to work out a deal” regarding development projects at One Carter and the Monestary” (sic).

Implications were made regarding Gene’s accountant, and he was criticized for saying that we really don’t pay our police officers very much, when, according to our anonymous critic, they are already compensated more than $100,000 a year.

I contacted Noah and Gene to get their response to the attacks on them.  Gene told me that he had in fact returned the union’s check the day he received it, but other than that he was going to go with a statement he published on the Issues page of his website, www.GeneforSierraMadre.com.  That statement was: “I must be doing something right because today some knuckleheads sent out a cheesy last ditch mailer about me. It did not have a return address or the legally required ID and it includes the expected lies attendant to this sort of thing. As a college teacher for 23 years who is married to a teacher of 28 years, I am proud to be endorsed by the United Teachers of Pasadena, but I have not accepted any contributions from them.  I have a professional campaign treasurer keeping my campaign’s books because of my concern for absolute accuracy in my public campaign financial statements. She’s doing a great job and is not in any way a political consultant. My campaign has been successful because I am sincerely trying to pitch in and do my part to maintain the wonderful things about this town we love.  The people of Sierra Madre expect its leaders to walk the high road and set a proper example. That is what I have been doing and will continue to do.”

Noah responded that “The part about me not voting is totally false, I always vote.   Otherwise,  I stand behind every quote they attribute to me in the mailer.”

Now one thing that amuses me is the potentially counter-productive manner in which these anonymous folks went about attacking the candidates.  It would seem to me that if you have two candidates being attacked, there are going to be some people out there that think that the attacks must be coming from the other two candidates, or their supporters.  And that some of those who disdain tactics such as this are going to hold it against those two candidates, even if it was their supporters and not the candidates themselves who perpetrated the act.    I can’t help but wonder if the folks who sent this out took into consideration that this mailer has the potential to pull some votes from their candidates?

So, I thought I’d see what the other two candidates thought about it, and I asked Rachelle and Denise if they had any comment regarding “the mailer that went out yesterday attacking Gene Goss and Noah Green?”   Ms. Arizmendi said “I have not seen the mail you have described. But after speaking with more than a thousand voters, I would say that people have already made up their minds about who they will vote for.”

Ms. Delmar, on the other hand, was pretty upset about it.  She responded by e-mail that she was unaware of the mailer, but asked me to call her at home because “this disturbs me.” When we spoke, she made it very clear that she was unhappy that the campaign has come to this, and that she hopes her supporters had nothing to do with it.  When she got off the phone, she posted the following on her web site,  www.electdelmar.com: “It was brought to my attention early this morning a very negative mailing was delivered yesterday to Sierra Madre residents regarding City Council Candidates Gene Goss and Noah Green.  I do not know who produced such a disgraceful postcard, and do not share any opinions represented by that piece of junk mail. I sincerely hope the recipients of this postcard will discard it in the trash.  Gene and Noah, you both have run an honorable campaign and it disheartens me to have something like this come out the last weekend of the campaign.”  She also informs me that she has reached out to both candidates to offer her support.

Folks, we really need to fight back against these people who have no appreciation for these public servants, and no respect for how hard they are working for us, their occasionally opposing viewpoints notwithstanding.  These people aren’t willing to admit that they’re the ones employing these tactics, and as such the tactics should be ignored. Anybody who knows the people that did it, and are aware of it, should stand up to them and tell them that’s not how we do things here in Sierra Madre.  It didn’t use to be, anyway.  I kind of have a feeling I’ll be writing that editorial after the election after all.

10 Comments on "Editorial – Let’s Denounce These Tactics"

  1. Maria Decker | April 11, 2014 at 8:29 am |

    Bill–Thank you starting the conversation on a topic that is on many Sierra Madreans’ minds. I came across a great quote that fits in very nicely here:

    “Democracy relies on an informed electorate to make educated decisions at the ballot box. You can only do that if you have access to truthful, timely information. The public has a lot of responsibility here…” Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

  2. John Crawford | April 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm |

    According to a records check Noah Green has only voted 4 times in the last 10 years, Bill. I’ve posted a screen shot on my site.


    You were right not to endorse him.

  3. Russ Verona | April 6, 2014 at 3:38 pm |

    The FPPC has no jurisdiction over political mail if less than $1,000 is spent. Since you have zero evidence that $1,000 or more was spent why are you throwing around accusations of criminal acts with no evidence?

    And why aren’t you deploring the Yes on Measure UUT card that just landed everywhere that has no return address when for sure the Yes on Measure UUT people have spent more than $1,000 and thus are subject to FPPC regs?

    Like I said…incoherent hypocrite.

    • Gee Russ, you seem to be laboring under the impression I said things I didn’t say. Throwing around accusations of criminal acts? What I said was “If there’s a law being broken…” Not exactly an accusation. An accusation would be if I said something like “There’s a law being broken.”

      As to the Yes on Measure UUT mailer, it’s my understanding that the Yes on UUT people have legally filed with the FPPC (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Misc/filerSearch.aspx?SEARCH=yes+on+measure+uut), so if they broke the rules by sending that mailer, I’m assuming they’ll be caught (or reported) and dealt with accordingly.

  4. Jake Lesley | April 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm |

    Too bad Goss didn’t tell the truth. Then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    • Well, since we apparently are having this conversation, perhaps you’d care to enlighten us as to what you think it is that Gene didn’t tell the truth about?

  5. Denise Delmar | April 5, 2014 at 8:28 pm |

    Thank you

  6. Russ Verona | April 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm |

    And as usual here you are doing the very thing you are pretending to deplore. Gene and Noah basically admit everything on the mailer is true so why are your panties in a bunch? Are you the only one allowed to exercise your 1st Amendment rights? So what if there is no return address. The Federalist Papers were published anonymously.

    And of course here you are “wondering” if people shouldn’t take it out on the other candidates who you do not support. Remember that? Candidates you smeared by saying you had mysterious “questions and concerns” about.

    As usual, you are an incoherent hypocrite.

    • Apparently I’m not the only one allowed to exercise my first amendment rights, Russ, because here I am, again, posting your comments, despite the fact that in the first one you implied I was misleading my readers and ignorant, and here you’ve called me an incoherent hypocrite. So to answer that question, no. Secondly, Gene and Noah did not admit everything on the mailer is true, so you’re wrong on that point, too. And the Federalist Papers were written a few years before there was an FPPC and laws requiring return addresses on political mailers. If there’s a law being broken in order to publish false information about candidates, that’s why it’s important.

      I also never wondered if people shouldn’t take it out on the other candidates who I do not support. I suggested that there might be people out there who would, but I never suggested anyone do it. And as to the notion that I’m doing the very thing that I’m pretending to deplore…Look at the top of the article Russ. See what it says there? Editorial By Bill Coburn. That means it’s not anonymous, and since my editorial doesn’t misrepresent facts about the candidates, it would seem I’m not doing what I’m saying shouldn’t be done.

      So basically, there doesn’t seem to be much of anything in your comment that’s accurate, but you’ve certainly exercised your right to free speech. But be advised, if you want to continue to post in this manner, I will exercise my right to moderate the comments. It is possible to disagree with someone without being rude.

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