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December 21, 2004 > Editorial: Ban Party Politicking

Editorial: Ban Party Politicking

By the time TCV readers look at this editorial, the die will have most probably been cast for a new city councilperson in Fremont. From a list of 17 applicants, the four elected members of the council each selected six of their favorites to be tallied. Those receiving the most votes were entitled to interview on the following Monday (December 20) for the right to take a fast (and inexpensive) track to two years as a fellow councilmember.

The "transparent and open" process produced a list of favorites with few surprises. Former bureaucrat Dan Lydon and technocrat Anu Natarajan, both currently on the Fremont Planning Commission garnered 4 votes each and three others - Dirk Lorenz, Cynthia Mozzetti and Henry Yin - received 3 each.

It is interesting to note that during Bob Wieckowski's acceptance speech at the December 7, 2004 Fremont City Council meeting, among those thanked were his "Campaign Chairs," Gus Morrison, John Dutra and Anu Natarajan who "forced me to stay focused throughout the campaign, not only on my law work, to make sure that was completed, but on the campaign message so it was clearly delivered to the public" (speech located at on city archive webcast at 1:19:58). With 3 votes necessary for appointment, Anu's chances are pretty good considering she was a campaign chair for the newest councilmember and a co-chair with the father of another councilmember.

I have previously written about my opposition when sitting councilmembers attempt to further the appointment of those who have served in a major campaign position for them. A close association of this type leads to unhealthy speculation and innuendo that can undermine public confidence in subsequent council decisions. Again, a candidate for appointment and the council face a decision of conscience.

Another aspect of this process is bothersome. A comment by Vice Mayor Dutra during the same session indicates that although he agrees with the need for wide representation on the council, he is of the opinion that when the electorate cast votes for the new mayor and councilmembers, they somehow endorsed Proposition V (Utility Tax). He says that people who supported these people "didn't vote just for the person, they voted for the issues those people supported" (speech located at on city archive webcast at 2:35:27). Does this mean that he is convinced that only those candidates who represent his views on Measure V should be considered? If so, that narrows the field and removes the views of a majority of the electorate from participation on the council.

Mr. Dutra's statement is also interesting since he proudly says that in the past, he has voted with and against the returning members of the council and will probably do so over time with Mr. Wieckowski as well. I guess he is unable to extrapolate this idea to extend to the electorate as well. Sometimes people will vote for a candidate without endorsing every position they take on every vote. Apparently Mr. Dutra has forgotten that Proposition V failed at the polls even with his enthusiastic campaign for passage. Although Mr. Wieckowski was a member of the Measure V fan club, people may remember that the remainder of the councilmembers indicated the need but were somewhat less energetic about it in the campaign. If Mr. Dutra used logic of a fair representation of the electorate, maybe the appointee should be someone who opposed Measure V. He needs to understand that opposition to Measure V was not necessarily a vote against fire and police protection; a segment of the negative vote might be considered as a "no confidence" vote of the city council and staff's handling of current fiscal problems.

Finally, Mr. Dutra complained that the press had misrepresented his position on appointing a fifth councilmember. I believe he is stretching his argument considerably when he makes this claim. Making the public aware of political links and connections are not accusations of "selling" a vote. Mr. Dutra is free to make his case but so are the people he represents as well as the press. This paper has never denied Mr. Dutra or any other politician space to present his or her views. He claims that each person who applies for appointment should be judged solely on merit. I agree wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, Mayor Wasserman in comments during the same meeting (speech located at on city archive webcast at 2:46:38), hit the nail on the head when he commented on the partisan nature of the last election. He went on to say that rampant partisanship in nonpartisan contests, can lead to corruption. Bill Harrison wisely has withdrawn from consideration at this time, not due to any impropriety, but rather to free the process from any appearance of favoritism. I applaud his decision and understand how hard it must be to remove yourself from a process when you are eminently qualified.

It is a problem for someone who takes a highly visible and active position with a winning campaign to avoid the charge of cronyism when appointments such as this are being made. It may be unfair and it may be unjust, but in order for the system to operate effectively, appearance and substance should engender a confident electorate. Some municipalities may not care and the electorate might expect such appointments, but I hope Fremont is not one of them.

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