Letters to the Editor

July 13, 2001
Fireworks To the Editor:Who doesn’t love the Fourth of July? Summer fun, warm nights, barbeques with friends and family, watermelon, patriotism, fireworks.FIREWORKS. It seemed like Santa Paula’s were extreme this year. I was surprised but glad to hear there were no bad injuries or fires because I was sure I was going to hear about both.We live in an old house on nearly a half acre with many ancient, tall trees and overgrown foliage. Fireworks were being thrown or launched from adjoining neighborhoods which exploded in showers over these dense trees, wood fences, wood decks and a couple of wood sheds. My pets were terrified and it definitely put me on edge because there was too much, too close to burn. It was hard to enjoy the evening. I never knew what was coming next. It went on for a long time.I would not want to ruin anyone’s holiday celebration. I even questioned myself that night as whether or not I had become a grump in middle age. It’s not like I don’t have fond memories of backyard sparklers, even though it’s against the law. This year, though, what was fun for some was not fun for others. It was just dangerous.Wouldn’t it be better to have safe and sane fireworks again at Harding Park? Could we try, now that we have all experienced the difference of not having them? I know fireworks are expensive and we can’t expect the two Chambers or the city to cough up all the money but there’s got to be a way to have some sort of community-wide event rather than having everybody walled off, doing their own (illegal) thing.This year I really missed the sense of togetherness and shared joy that Independence Day symbolizes in small-town America. There’s something very unifying about everybody looking upward at the same time to a beautiful night sky awash in color. I’m just an ordinary citizen who is far from rich but I managed to come up with a small donation for the fireworks show in the past when asked and I bet others will now, too.You don’t even have to be down at Harding Park to enjoy the fireworks if you want to avoid the crowd. “Professional” fireworks are so high up in the sky that you can see them from almost any place in town, maybe even while chatting with your neighbors on lawn chairs in your own front yard, feeling happy that you helped contribute to something that is for everybody and not just a few.Vicki Glazener EntrekinSanta PaulaThe money treeTo the Editor:After reading last week’s article in the SP Times reference the council’s decision to allocate $800,000 plus more dollars of taxpayers’ money to defend their rears, I feel I need to respond.Far be it from me to involve myself with city business and city issues, however, when is this nonsense and slapping of the face to our police officers going to end? In other words, the same council that claims they cannot afford the raise increase recommended by our SP police officers are the same individuals that can suddenly pull $800,000 off of their selective money tree. Where are your priorities at? It’s pretty black and white to me. When it comes to your own well being, the money is automatically there. When it comes to equal treatment for the hardest working of the city staff, they are left in the dust. Your decisions to spend taxpayers’ money is a direct slap in the face to our officers. If the money wasn’t there 4 weeks ago, how did it appear 3 weeks ago? If it appeared 3 weeks ago, why not do what you all promised to do; support our city law enforcement. Isn’t it amazing what some people will say to be elected? While the majority of you sit back in your chairs at your council meetings (supposedly representing us all) and take large sums of money to benefit your own situation, our police officers are out patrolling in police cars with well over 125,000 miles. You claim the city cannot afford to purchase new police units, however I think $800,000 would be more than enough to buy several. Our local Sheriff’s Dept. retires their vehicles at 100,000 miles for obvious safety and mechanical reasons. Why don’t we? Please don’t say you can’t afford it! We all know that’s not true. Forget the voting precinct lawsuit. Someone should be suing the city for placing our officers in decrepit working environments.What it all boils down to, which I should have known long ago, is a politician is just what everyone says they are. They’ll say anything to get elected only to lie in voters’ faces time and time again. However I do applaud those council members who have tried numerous times to bring this lawsuit to a peaceful and cheap end.I guess the old saying “people change” isn’t true after all. Selfish people will be selfish people. Liars will be liars. Jealous people will be jealous people. When one’s stuck in their ways from the beginning of time, I guess there is no changing that. When council members talk about our officers behind the backs, again, I guess there is no changing that also. I learned a valuable lesson recently. Those that care about you will make an effort to support you. Those that don’t and never did, won’t. In their family life and as a politician, it’s all the same game. So batters up! You’ve defended yourselves long enough and lied to our officers long enough. You’ve neglected their safety and ours for far too long. Give them what they deserve and remember, election time isn’t that far away. No matter how morally responsible and decent some claim to be, there’s a lot behind the scenes that many haven’t seen. Belive me, I know. No inference intended.Chris C. CookSanta Paula
Money well spent?To the Editor:On several occasions, a member of the City Council, or more than one member of the Council, as well as some regular citizens in the City, have made the statement that the expenditure of over $300,000 [to date] and further authorized amounts up to $800,000 paid to Los Angeles Attorney McDermott were prudent, necessary and proper because: [to paraphrase];‘We haven’t done anything wrong’ - ‘We don’t know what we’re being charged with’ - ‘The Department of Justice will not speak to us [or our attorney]’ - ‘The DOJ is stonewalling’ - ‘We have no choice’ [whatever that means?] - ‘It’s worth it’ - Etc, Etc.It has also been reported that some of the same individuals have said, in essence, if it bankrupts the City to fight this matter - it is money well spent - and so what?The plain truth of the matter is, the City, up to this point in the litigation, need not have hired any specialized, outside Counsel at all. The City Attorney, it is presumed, went to law school and has a proper license to practice and should have been able to file a demurrer or General Denial. No charge to the City. The DOJ would have then proceeded as it has anyway to investigate and develop a case if it felt one were justified. The City could have designated a committee to meet with the DOJ to talk reasonable settlement - again, no charge. That alone would have saved the first $300,000. At any point, if settlement were not effected, the City could have then hired outside Counsel. Plenty of time - no rush. Even, if in the extreme case, settlement could not be effected, or the suit dropped, does the City Council believe that means the DOJ “automatically” wins - like a default judgment on a civil lawsuit for damages, for instance, - and that then the DOJ would come to town with a map and ruler to cut up the City willy-nilly into geographic voter districts? Is this what attorney McDermott has told the City? Ridiculous! The City is always entitled to its day before a Federal Judge in court. And that is when you retain counsel.Now, what has $300,000 bought the City? How many hours, at what hourly fee, has McDermott billed the City, and for what, exactly? Are this attorney’s hours being carefully monitored, and by whom? Was competitive bidding employed? Who recommended this attorney? What is his win/loss record? Is he just billing in big round numbers with no detail? Is the City’s $1 million surplus about to become Attorney McDermott’s surplus? If McDermott’s win/loss record is “unknown” or spotty, is the City of Santa Paula financing his on the job training to develop strategies for future litigation on behalf of other cities? Who is making the big decisions for the City; the Council, the City Manager, or - Attorney McDermott? Now think about that.What will $300,000 buy today in the legal field? Certainly, a first class defense in a complicated first degree murder case can be obtained. And that is work! Extensive civil litigation, say over a $1 million dollar dispute, could be in hand. Top flight legal counsel in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles - big name lawyers - can be obtained for $300,000. What has Santa Paula gotten for its $300,000, going on $800,000? “We don’t know what we’re being charged with?” “Once Janet Reno is gone the case will evaporate”. “The Bush Justice Department [aside, which is actively courting the Latino vote] will drop it”. Well, apparently not yet!Another way to look at this problem with the Department of Justice is on the reward/risk basis. To date, the City has risked at least $300,000, on the way to $800,000. The City of Santa Maria has expended, I am told, over $2.5 million on similar litigation - and with the same defense attorney, I believe. They haven’t won anything either yet. So, here in Santa Paula it appears to be all risk and no reward as far as the eye can see. If the Justice Department folds its hand tomorrow, we win only the hollow victory of being able to say - “We won”. But there is no prize, only a close-out bill from the attorney. The DOJ isn’t even going to say “Sorry”. But if the City is found to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act, not by having “done anything wrong” - that’s not the standard - but by structural, de facto under-representation of Latino population, which can be wholly unintentional and innocent, that is, no specific intent to deny representation is alleged or found, the City loses all the way around and gets to pony up an additional half million to one million dollars, not including appeal costs. Oh yes, if the City loses at trial, isn’t it a foregone conclusion that the specialist attorney will recommend appealing to the very liberal, the most liberal in the entire United States of America, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, which will almost certainly uphold the lower court decision against the City. More bills, more fees, Aaah, but there is always The United States Supreme Court - allegedly a conservative dominated body - maybe they’ll give us a victory! A victory for the attorney and his accountants, anyway! There is no prize for the City of Santa Paula, only bills, a dwindling surplus and very possibly, bankruptcy. For what? Pride?Ladies and gentlemen, what is wrong with this picture? Everything.Doesn’t it make sense for the power structure in Santa Paula - the Chamber of Commerce - people who have been here for years who are known and respected - to start asking the hard questions regarding the above?Dividing the City into geographic/voting districts to “guarantee” more Latino representation on the Council is no panacea, and until someone seriously talks with Justice, there is no reason to believe that is the only solution that might be suggested. There are alternative remedies to the perceived [by some, not all] problem of under-representation of Latinos in the City. It is not an either/or scenario, but no one can get anywhere on the matter if people don’t have the good sense and reasonableness to try to work it out.Now, who, exactly, “brought” the Department of Justice to Santa Paula. Last week Ms. Johnson said in this newspaper that it’s the same small group who have tried to manipulate the City’s affairs before - and, by the by, supported John Procter for Council. So, that must mean, also, the supporters of Measure I, SOAR, those opposed to the Adams Canyon Plan, Etc. are the ones who brought this grief down on the City. Well, the undersigned supported Measure I, made a small donation to John’s campaign, believing him to be a good and decent man with long term Santa Paula credentials, opposed the Adams Canyon Plan, and so on. Now reader, please, read carefully. I have asked many people “in our group” who made the complaint, if any was made at all, to the DOJ. I can and will swear under oath, I do not know. No one I have asked seems to know. The only name that has surfaced is “Martha Machaca”, who wrote a book about Santa Paula. Don’t know her. No one seems to know her, but, Ms. Johnson says “the same little group” did it. If this is true, let’s hear the names in the next broadside. If they know something for a fact, people ought to stand up and name names, or forget it!Why does the undersigned take the time to write such a letter as this, risking enmity and ridicule from those who see it another way. One reason only, fellow Santa Paulans, I hate to see the City squander away its hard won surplus of $1 million. That’s it in a nutshell. I have no opinion at all vis-à-vis electing-at-large vs. district voting, or some type of hybrid system for that matter.Richard Main, J.D.Santa Paula

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