Brad Breithaupt: Sometimes local officials pay a price for speaking out
THEY CAN PLAY political hardball in the Marinwood Community Services District.
Less than a month after the district board's fire tax proposal narrowly won voter approval, directors voted 5-0 to kick an outspoken opponent of the measure off the park and recreation commission.
Stephen Nestel [Editor's Note: that is yours truly.] bit the hand that appointed him. To be more accurate, he chomped and gnawed on it.The board's fire tax increase won in November by just five votes more than the two-thirds required for passage.
The results were announced on Nov. 18. Nestel was removed from the commission on Dec. 13.
The county has a long-standing policy that when someone is appointed by the board to a two- or four-year term they aren't removed until their term is finished.
In Marinwood, it just takes a three-vote majority of the board to remove someone mid-term.
One of the reasons given for Nestel's ouster was that he had been "disruptive" at a board-sponsored community forum. Nestel doesn't dispute that assessment. He was upset and complained at the meeting that its format was a one-sided "sales pitch" for the board-authored tax measure.
The board also complained that he was spreading "incorrect" information, a complaint Nestel doesn't agree with.
He also crossed the board by putting his title on letters he wrote, including one to the IJ's opinion page. [Editor's Note: See the letter by a candidate supporting Measure H here. Incidentally, I agree with Measure H too, however the CSD Board says that this is different]
Bruce Anderson, CSD Director
District board members give that "stature" to people and, I guess, they can take it away.
Nestel says he used his title because it gave his letter to the editor "context," informing readers that he had some insight into the district's operations and its budget.
It is not uncommon that officials, elected or appointed, include their titles when they write letters to the editor.
For instance, Sausalito City Council members Linda Pfeifer and Carolyn Ford haven't been shy about including their "context" or putting their political titles on letters and columns they have written expressing their individual opinions and opposition to the council-approved annexation into the Southern Marin Fire District.
Anderson says that's different because they are elected. "You are bound to the people who elected you," he says. "We're not supposedly kumbaya on our boards." [Editor Note: Bruce essentially claims "I own all appointees opinions". Maybe this is the reason the Park and Recreation commissioner entered the race for CSD]
When you are elected, you have an individual responsibility to the people you have been elected to represent. [Bruce Anderson was originally appointed. Had only one competitive election and all others he has won by "default" when the CSD failed to vigorously notify the public of upcoming candidate's deadlines. The November 2012 elections were "announced" with 6 pt type like this deep inside a legal ad on a Monday morning in July 2011. The chance is pretty great that you have never had a chance to vote for anybody else ]
Some readers are irritated when I let council members or other elected officials who write use their titles in expressing political views, especially when they part company with their council or board's majority.
Their titles provide context. They also reflect political trust and leadership, whether elected or appointed.
Some Marin councils and boards have policies that require members who write letters or columns to have them first screened by staff or the mayor or board president.
That is wrong.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn't ask Republican Speaker John Boehner to review her comments before she makes them. I'm certain that Supervisor Judy Arnold doesn't run her comments past Supervisor Susan Adams for an OK.
Why should it be different for a city council member or a school trustee?
Should elected officials give up their right to express their individual opinions outside of meetings? They certainly express their individual views when they are running for office.
When votes are cast and a council member is on the losing end of a vote, has he or she also lost their freedom of speech?
Voters have a right to hear the individual opinions of their representatives, not just groupthink where dissent and free speech is supposed to end after the votes are cast and counted.
Nestel's tactics may have crossed the line. The Marinwood board certainly agreed that they had and rewrote his "context" by removing the official title after his name.
Then again, even the title of "former commissioner" offers some context.
Brad Breithaupt is the IJ's opinion page editor. His column runs on Wednesdays.
[P.S. I supported the fire tax like the CSD board at the time as a practical matter . The facts used to support the arguments for the measure did not tell the whole story of the CSD finances or the need for serious financial overhaul. The CSD objected to this public opinion. We have seen a $1.2 Million Dollar deficit since the publication of article. Eventually, we can expect a push for a massive bond issue to bail out our debt instead of sensible cost reductions and budgeting]. Correction: the Marinwood CSD is now over FIVE MILLION dollars in debt as of August 2019.
|It is time for Change.|
Post a Comment