Political Fix (3/6/2014)

Tulare County Democrats Introduce Their Slate of Candidates

The Tulare County Democratic Party (TCDP) held a meet and greet February 23 for Judge Michael Sheltzer, where several Democratic candidates running for office attended. Ruben Macareno, Chairman of the TCDP, hosted the evening. Mr. Sheltzer, (pronounced seltzer) was appointed as a Tulare County Superior Court Judge by Governor Brown. Before his appointment, he had worked at the Tulare County Public Defender’s Office.

In between mingling with the candidates, Judge Sheltzer gave a short speech where he said, “I’ve never been in front of so many Democrats before in Tulare County.” Though he is a registered Democrat, his position as a judge is non-partisan. “It’s a political dance between the two,” but he hopes to bring diversity to the bench by being innovative and creative in his decisions. Judge Sheltzer also encouraged everyone to not shirk their jury duty responsibilities. He said, “It’s not a duty, it’s a privilege. A miraculous thing happens at the end of the day of a trial by jury, the truth emerges.”

About eight candidates were on hand to discuss issues with their constituents. Whereas several of the offices up for re-election are safely Republican, two of the seats promise to be an interesting battle. Assemblywoman Connie Conway’s 26th District has attracted the most interest, with five strong candidates vying for her seat. Three are Democrats and two are Republicans. The three Democrats on hand were Ruben Macareno, Tulare Vice-Mayor Carlton Jones and Derik Thomas, also of Tulare.

The other hotly contested race will be for District 5 of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. Virginia Gurrola and Greg Shelton, both of whom sit on the Porterville City Council, and Felipe Martinez, a former city council member, are challenging incumbent Mike Ennis. Ms. Gurrola and Mr. Martinez, Democrats, were in attendance. Mr. Shelton just announced his candidacy for the board of supervisors through this paper. The primary is in June, and if none of the four candidates receive more than 50% of the vote, the two top vote-getters will have a runoff in November.

Guns Anyone?

The Dave Whaley campaign and the media have made a big stink about Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux illegally raffling off eleven automatic and semiautomatic firearms. Raffles can only be used for fundraising by nonprofits, which Mr. Boudreaux’ campaign is not. But isn’t there a larger issue here? Yes, the person running for sheriff should understand fundraising laws, but more importantly, shouldn’t our law enforcement be working diligently to get guns off our streets, versus handing them out?

Does anyone else have a problem with the fact that our law enforcement is raffling off guns?

To mark the anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, in which 28 people lost their lives, cities around the United States held gun buyback events.

Captain Brian Ferrante of the San Jose Police Department said, “the goal is to reduce gang violence and take more guns off the streets.”

Sounds like a plan to me. Mr. Boudreaux couldn’t have raffled off a weekend getaway or an ATV?

Granted, the winner of the gun raffle has to pass a background check before they take their gun home. But that background check on Mr. or Ms. Donor, who just wanted to give $20 to the campaign, doesn’t verify they have a secure place to store the gun. The background check does not verify that they don’t have serious mental health problems, have engaged in unreported spousal or child abuse, or currently live with a violent criminal.

What if one of the raffled guns is used in a suicide, robbery, or murder? What if it kills a child or is used in the next school shooting? What if the gun, given away in an innocent-sounding raffle, kills a cop? How would the media and Mr. Whaley feel then? Upset that the raffle did not meet the legal requirements for a fundraiser?

Rep. Devin Nunes Quietly Files

Rep. Devin Nunes quietly filed papers last week to defend his 22nd Congressional District seat. First elected in 2003, Rep. Nunes has worked his way up to be appointed on the prestigious Committee on Ways and Means and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Nunes practically became a national household name during the sixteen-day government shutdown with his well articulated critique against those responsible, during which time he incurred the wrath of the Tea Party Patriots.

His only opponent will be Democrat Suzanne Aguilera-Marrero, also known as Sam. She was born in Porterville but now lives in Tulare. Sam decided to run for congress so she could give the constituents of the 22nd District a choice on who to vote for and a chance for change. In fact, Mike Maldonado, a local Democratic activist, submitted a video to Bill Maher’s “Flip a District” program to solicit help in getting Sam elected.

According to Sam’s website: “I was also a member of the California Correctional Health Care Services Division. I retired from the department as a captain in 2013. In 2007, I became the first Latina to serve as president of the Women Peace Officers’ Association of California.”

Governor Jerry Brown finally makes it official

In announcing his bid for an historic fourth term, Governor Brown did so on Twitter. “Taking out papers to run for re-election,” was his post, accompanied by a picture of himself at the counter of the Alameda County elections office.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Brown sent a letter to supporters Thursday laying out priorities for the next four years. They include continued fiscal prudence, steps to shore up public employee pension funds and investment in water management, roads, public buildings and other infrastructure.” His statement included, “By the grace of God and habits of perseverance instilled in me by my family, the Dominican nuns and the Jesuits, I am here and ready to go,”

According to Republican candidate for governor, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, this race is “a showdown between socialism and freedom.”

Comrade Brown doesn’t seem worried. He went on to say, “At this stage of my life, I can say — without any hesitation — that I am prepared and excited to tackle these challenges and the many others that lay before us,” he wrote. “In fact, there is nothing I would rather do.”

Another Republican candidate, Neil Kashkari, is making some waves but he has no political experience and no name recognition. Another darkhorse is the mayor of Laguna Hills, Andrew Blount, who just rolled out his gubernatorial bid with the motto, “He Gets It,” begging the questions: What does he get– and where?

It would be tempting to say Mayor Blount’s story has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit. Having arrived in California with $17 in his pocket, he has since developed a phone app called Skado. Every year, Mayor Blount creates a Christmas light show synched with music and featuring something that might be a ginger bread man. But my heart melted when I found out his light display included a tour through his family holiday-decorated house where he and his wife handed out 2,000 gallons of apple cider to 100,000 people.

Cider or no, the top two candidates are Mr. Brown and Mr. Donnelly, and if Republicans are faced with a choice between someone on parole or Jerry Brown, they might just stay home. And that’s bad news for Rep. David Valadao and State Senator Andy Vidak, whose districts lean Democratic in voter registration. These two at-risk Valley Republican incumbents need their party to come out in force. Which begs another, bigger question: Where is the Republican leadership in terms of dealing with Mr. Donnelly?

Process has begun to convert Visalia to district elections

The Visalia City Council took the first step at its February 18 meeting to comply with a lawsuit forcing the city to convert to by-district elections. The vote was 3-2 to hire a demographer to research how to separate Visalia into districts, with Amy Shuklian and Mayor Steve Nelsen voting no. The goal is to have the districts approved by 2015.

Before the vote, during public comment, Vincent Salinas asked the council to consider the possibility of creating seven districts instead of five, and to also consider electing a mayor at-large. He said that history was being made and everything should be on the table. In an email response, Mayor Nelsen said that, “the council in previous discussions, and blue ribbon committee discussion, is opposed to a strong mayor form of government for Visalia. The council has also stated during discussions that they are opposed to going to seven districts and have instead agreed to five. I have to say though that minds and decisions can change and may be guided by public input.” Mayor Nelsen also stated that, “the demographer will present several options which will be vetted through public outreach. “

On February 6, the court ordered the City of Visalia to elect council members by district and in even years beginning in 2016. Two council members will be up for re-election in 2016 and the other three in 2018.

And Finally–the Ridiculous

Visalia School Board Member Charles Ulmschneider seems to be at the center of another financial squabble. His first financial peccadillo was getting paid for school board meetings which he did not attend. Last year, he missed four school board meetings and a joint meeting with the Visalia City Council. His latest kerfuffle was last month when Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) received a letter from Stockton Unified School District wanting reimbursement for those times when Mr. Ulmschneider missed work. He is currently employed by the Pacific Law Academy in Stockton as a Spanish teacher.

In speaking to the Human Resources Department at the Pacific Law Academy, it was confirmed that, when Mr. Ulmschneider leaves his teaching job to attend Visalia school board meetings, Stockton Unified has to pay a substitute teacher an entire day’s salary for the two periods he misses.

When school board president Jim Qualls asked Mr. Ulmschneider why VUSD should pay Stockton Unified for his substitute teacher, he responded, “It’s the law.”

So to get this all straight, Mr. Ulmschneider wants to be paid when he is not there, and cost VUSD double when he is.

Here’s a stupid question: If Mr. Ulschneider is working in Stockton and presumably only comes home for the VUSD meetings, why is he on the school board in the first place?

According to the Fresno Bee, when Mr. Qualls pressed him about where he really lives, Mr. Ulmschneider responded, “This is my home of residence. I work out of the county and I have a long commute.”

Mr. Ulmschneider is no stranger to controversy.

From 1999 to 2008, Mr. Ulmshneider was a Spanish teacher at Los Banos High School. In 2004, he was placed in the Peer Assistance Review program (PAR), which is designed for teachers who need assistance in improving their teaching abilities. Feeling discriminated against, he filed several civil suits against Los Banos High School, all of which were ultimately dismissed. According to one suit, Mr. Ulmschneider was in the PAR program for five years–after which he was asked to resign. In 2008, he was suspended without pay, and officially terminated in September of 2008. According to a former Los Banos School Board member, “We were very happy when he was gone.”

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