Grover Beach Democrats blast party leader over flyer
October 16, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
Two Democratic candidates for the Grover Beach City Council are accusing San Luis Obispo Democratic Central Committee leaders of making false statements in a flyer that aims to persuade voters to reject Measure I-12.
Ballot measure I-12 proposes to change Grover Beach from a general law city to a charter city.
The flyer, mailed and handed to Grover Beach residents last week, claims the measure will result in higher costs to taxpayers, an increase in pay for council members and is the result of meddling by special interest groups.
The claims could not be further from the truth, Councilmembers Karen Bright and Debbie Peterson said.
“I am appalled,” Bright said. “We need to give people accurate information so they can make good decisions.”
The text of the city’s proposed charter states that it does not give the city greater authority than general law cities to raise the level of or create new taxes and fees. It also does not provide for an increase in council wages which are currently set at $300 a month and it was not funded by special interest groups.
“I am so disillusioned, sad and quite alarmed,” Peterson said. “It is just not acceptable to lie.”
Earlier this year, the City Council voted 3-2 to ask voters to change the city to a charter city. If passed, the city will have more control in handing out contracts to local businesses, the ability to avoid paying prevailing wage on city-funded projects and the legal right to have volunteers perform some jobs.
“We are trying to reduce costs,” Bright said. “A person holding up a sign at a public works project would get $22 an hour and not prevailing wage, $42 an hour.
Opponents of the measure, most with union affiliations, contend the change would hurt workers. San Luis Obispo Democratic Central Committee leaders agreed and informed Bright that she would not have their group’s endorsement if she continued to support Measure I-12.
SLO Democratic Central Committee Chair Pat Harris declined to discuss the misrepresentations on the flyer other than to say that it was not officially sponsored by the committee.
“We oppose Measure I-12, we are not going to comment on the flyer,” Harris said.
In addition to the controversy about the flyer, some local democrats question why the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party is failing to follow its own bylaws. Amended in mid-2011 to create diversity in its ranks, the bylaws require committee members to invite elected local democrats to become committee members.
“We have been busy working on elections,” Harris said. “It is something new in the bylaws and we simply haven’t done it yet.”
A Sacramento businessman who printed the flyers and a San Francisco designer who created the No on Grover Beach I-12 website refused to disclose the person or people behind the committee.
Nevertheless, Google searches of a phone number placed on the California Secretary of State committee application led back to a prominent member of the SLO Democratic Central Committee and the owner of Public Policy Solutions, Cory Black.
Black, the 2011 vice chair of the Democratic Central Committee and the current region 10 director, was last year accused of plagiarism. Andrew Russo of Paramount Communications said Black plagiarized the content of his website, reproducing his words in an attempt to garner clients.
The year before, Black sent out slate mailers to registered Democrats that recommended Republican Ian Parkinson as “the best choices for San Luis Obispo Democrats,” a move that outraged several members of the Democratic Central Committee.
“The current democratic party leadership has fallen from the ethics of Leon Panetta, the architect of many central coast victories, who followed that everything that was put out had to be of the highest integrity,” said a Democratic Party source who asked to remain unnamed.
The anti-measure I-12 flyer also appears to violate disclosure rules. While the flyer asks Grover Beach residents to join the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party and the Tri-Counties Building & Construction Trade Council in voting no on Measure I-12, it does not clearly identify who is behind the mailer as required by law. Instead, small print that blends into the flyer says it was paid for by No on Grover Beach I-12, a group that Grover Beach City Clerk Donna McMahon said has failed to file with the city.
Campaign laws require the print to be displayed clearly and legibly in a conspicuous manner. Violators are “liable for civil or administrative action or a fine of up to three times the cost of the advertisement, including placement costs.”
Nevertheless, Black is a popular political consultant who this election cycle has been hired to work on the campaigns of San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, Councilman John Ashbaugh and council candidate Jeff Aranguena, according to their campaign disclosures.