Political Fix (3 December, 2015)

Tulare County Supervisor Election For District 1 Gets Even More Crowded

When I first reported on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors District 1 race back in October, I neglected to mention that Visalia Unified School District Board member Jim Qualls was also running. Since October another contender has thrown his hat in the ring, Angel Galvez of Exeter. That makes a total of five candidates running for Supervisor Allen Ishida’s district. Mr. Ishida decided not to defend his seat, opting instead to run for governor of California.

Four of the candidates seem equally qualified, and what the youngest candidate lacks in experience, he makes up for in money. Kuyler Crocker, a 28-year-old from Strathmore, has already raised $16,825 for his campaign and the support of Mr. Ishida. The other four contenders haven’t reported any fundraising but have impressive resumes.

Vincent Salinas was on the Visalia City Planning Commission for 11 years. Ted Macaulay was mayor of Exeter for 12 years, and Mr. Qualls has been a well-respected Visalia Unified Board District member on and off since 1989. Though his current school board term runs to 2018, he didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to run for an open seat.

The newest entrant into the District 1 race is Mr. Galvez. When I mentioned to Mr. Galvez it was going to be a crowded field he said, “Yes, I’m aware of all the three (Mr. Qualls was again forgotten). I have a strong work ethic which I hope will be transparent to the voters.  I also have a diverse set of supporters. I agree that it will be an interesting election.”

Mr. Galvez is probably the least known, so has the steepest hill to climb in getting elected. He was born in Tulare and was raised in the Woodville Labor Camp by migrant parents. At the age of 18 he moved to Fresno, and attended Fresno City College, where he received his Associates Degree in Liberal Studies. He then transferred to Fresno State, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology.

While going to school he worked in social and behavioral health services in the County of Fresno but ended up in the banking business. In 2002, Mr. Galvez managed Allied Home Mortgage, a Texas-based corporation, where he led a seven year career in finance and investments. He earned his banking and real estate credentials as well, attending foreign graduate programs in Bogota, Colombia and Mito, Japan.

In 2006, Mr. Galvez returned home and began a career with the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, Mental Health Branch. He also attended Fresno Pacific University and earned his Master of Arts in Organizational Leaders Studies. Mr. Angel Galvez currently lives in Exeter with his wife and children.

Candidates will file their official declaration to run for office starting January 1, 2016. Right now candidates are filing their financial forms so they can start fundraising.

Who Is Out To Get Councilman Francisco Ramirez?

Francisco Ramirez is a first-term Hanford City Council member who has been besieged since August by an army of “well funded and well organized” constituents who call themselves, “Residents of Hanford working for a better tomorrow.”

Or is this just an army of two?

Mr. Ramirez was swept into office on an anti Measure S position that would have raised Hanford’s sales tax. He beat out incumbent Lou Martinez for District D in the November 2014 election. A year later, it seems the same people who campaigned for a Ramirez victory want him gone.

The anonymous attacks have come from a large number of Hanford residents in the form of letters, postcards and phone calls, all of which curiously seem to share the same computer and blocked telephone number.

“Restricted” popped up on my phone’s screen a few weeks ago. I never answer restricted numbers, but I’ve had to start since working on an article involving the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. I discovered in the last two months that Edison repair people and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department only make calls using restricted numbers so crazy people like me don’t call them back.

This time the questionable caller was on the other end of the line. He said his name was Joe Gomez, which I guess is the Mexican equivalent to John Smith. He wanted to mail me a strange letter he received concerning Mr. Ramirez. Mr. Gomez, who said he had no idea why a regular guy like him would get such a letter, read parts of it to me over the phone. The letter, which referred to Mr. Ramirez as being of questionable character and engaging in unethical conduct, said a group of concerned citizens had hired a private investigator and were handing over the findings, none of which were divulged, to the proper authorities. But the main gist of the letter was a demand that Councilman Ramirez resign his seat on the Hanford City Council immediately and stop all public appearances.

The letter made a point of saying, “this is not personal.”

Mr. Gomez recited a long list of everything wrong with Mr. Ramirez, describing him as a hustler and dishonest. But when I posed a difficult question I was “accidently” disconnected mid-sentence. I quickly called Mr. Gomez back using the phone number I pressured him into giving me at the beginning of our conversation, but it was a disconnected number.

Two days later I received the actual letter in an envelope with no return address and signed by a group I am fairly certain does not exist. I also received a mass produced postcard that said “Councilman Francisco Ramirez, suspect-victim-witness, or just another CORRUPT POLITICIAN.”

The letter and postcard were an encore of a failed production put on three month ago.

During the August 18 Hanford City Council meeting, Mayor Russ Curry read four “constituents’” letters out loud that accused Mr. Ramirez of lying about his background, not reporting campaign donations, and requested that the council members press felony charges against him. When Councilmember Justin Mendes asked the mayor to stop reading the letters because he was out of order, Mr. Curry said, “I was asked to read these into the record and that is what I’m doing.”

The Hanford Sentinel did their research and discovered that Mr. Curry’s letter writers were not registered voters in Kings County, did not live in Hanford, and apparently did not even exist. In fact, it appeared that the letters were written by the same person. When asked how he came into possession of the letters, Mr. Curry said that someone delivered them to his house.

Who delivered them to his house? Why did the letter writers not use email or an old fashioned mailbox? Who knows?

Well, most likely Mr. Curry does. Because of the similarities, it’s obvious the people who got Mr. Curry to read the letters “into the record,” and those who produced the current letters and postcard, are one and the same.

“If these individuals are real, they should come to the September 1 meeting,” Mr. Ramirez told the Hanford Sentinel, “Approach the dais and tell me I did this.” Alas, no one showed up at the September meeting to defend their accusations or demand felony charges be filed against Mr. Ramirez.

Hardly a week after Mr. Curry’s letter incident, the director of Big Brothers and Sisters’ organization received a call from a blocked number. Without providing any evidence, the caller accused Mr. Ramirez of stealing money from their organization. The caller identified himself as Paul Martinez, then forgot and referred to himself as Frank, then became agitated and demanded to have Mr. Ramirez removed from the Big Brothers and Sisters’ board of directors. The call was taken as seriously as Mr. Curry’s letters.

So what’s the rub?

To start, the Hanford City Council has been at each other’s throats, bickering, backstabbing and bullying for years – so this is just another day in Mayberry. But in Mr. Ramirez’ particular case, it seems that some former supporters aren’t feelin’ the love. A handful of people campaigned for him when he was opposed to Measure S, but now hate him because he voted with councilmen Gary Pannett and Justin Mendes to change a 2002 city ordinance that prohibited building movie theaters outside the downtown district. Vice Mayor David Ayers and Mayor Curry voted not to change the ordinance.

The vote to allow movie theaters to operate in commercial zones outside of downtown, such as 12th Avenue and Lacy Boulevard, happened August 4. Two weeks later the attacks started against Mr. Ramirez and have not stopped. Mr. Pannett said during the following council meeting, “What I am seeing now is more vicious attacks. If you don’t vote one way, you’re going to get wiped out the next day.” Mr. Pannett offered to speak to the Kings County Grand Jury, the district attorney’s office or local law enforcement to “tell what I know.”

Some downtown business owners took the vote as a personal attack. “You’re going to kill downtown,” declared a Hanford resident during the council meeting in reaction to repealing the protective ordinance.

But other Hanford residents think downtown had 13 years of protection with which they did nothing. All Hanfordites have now to show for their lousy ordinance is two crappy old theaters that haven’t been renovated since the 1990’s while Lemoore has a state-of-the-art movie theater.

Visalia went through the exact same growing pains and Mr. Ayers and Mr. Curry should know that. The Visalia downtown business group fought hard against the construction in the 1960’s of the Visalia Mall. Before that they fought against the new location in 1938 of COS because it was “way out in the boonies.”

What if the Visalia Downtown retailers had gotten their way? Visalia would have stagnated and the downtown would have suffered for it and possibly died. Ironically, while being roundly criticized, the decisions that Council members Mendes, Pannett and Ramirez are making today will be what keeps Hanford thriving tomorrow.

Another motive for wanting Mr. Ramirez gone might be the reorganization of the city council. On December 1 the Hanford city council picked a new mayor, Mr. Mendes, and vice-mayor, Mr. Ramirez.

Former councilmember Lou Martinez had this to say during the November 2014 election, “I think it’s time for people to quit the infighting and disagreeing and learn to work together to find a solution for the problems we have at hand.”

He then went on to lose the election by a landslide.

And Finally …..

When the terrorists attacked Paris–on Friday, the 13th no less–it crossed my mind how lucky we were to be bordered by Mexico. Except for the drug cartels, which Americans had a hand in creating, Mexico is a peaceful country of people with whom we share a religion and an alphabet. Over the last 70 years when waves of “illegal’s” swept over our boarder it was to pick our fruit, clean our hotel rooms and enjoy the American way of life, not destroy it. While the immigrants’ lives got better, Californians’ lives got better also. California reaped the benefits of an expanded tax base and businesses thrived with a huge willing, able and affordable workforce. Immigrants are a major force behind California’s being such an economic powerhouse.

California Immigrant Policy Center concludes that immigrants in California pay roughly $30 billion in federal taxes, $5.2 billion in state income taxes, and $4.6 billion in sales taxes each year. In California, “the average immigrant-headed household contributes a net $2,679 annually to Social Security, which is $539 more than the average US-born household.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “it would actually hurt, not help, the economy and the jobs situation. The key intuition here is that while unauthorized immigrant workers add to the supply of labor, they also consume goods and services, thereby generating economic activity and creating jobs. .. unauthorized immigrants are not just workers, they are also consumers. We could remove them, which would indeed reduce the number of workers, but it would also reduce the jobs created by the economic activity they generate. So the right choice is to bring the unauthorized immigrants who are already here out of the shadows so they can help the country realize its economic potential.”

So just to clarify, the Mexicans take our crap jobs, get crap pay, and keep our state’s economy humming and vibrant. Then people like Donald Trump and his ilk want to spend billions of our tax dollars to kick them out? As Bill Maher said, “We need to build a fence to keep them in,” which is true because the recovery from the recession has been so uneven that the Pew Research Center reported that more Mexicans are leaving the United States than coming in.

But there is a huge difference between our Mexican immigrants and Europe’s African and Middle Eastern immigrants arriving on their land to find work. Can you imagine a Mexican-American in a suicide vest sitting at Starbucks? That is exactly what happened in Paris. While our terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was perpetrated by foreigners, Paris was attacked by French and Belgium citizens.

I knew the minute the news broke about the Paris attacks that the terrorists were born in France. First, second, and third generation descendants of immigrants are treated horribly in France. Those of European decent do not accept them into their circles. France’s ultra right political party, the National Front, hates non-whites and is practically mainstream and growing.

On the other hand, in California, white supremacist groups are laughed at and their members are considered crazy. Immigrants, even more so their children, assimilate into the American culture–to the point you can’t tell who is born of immigrant parents and who isn’t. Looking at Sen. Marco Rubio, would anyone ever guess his parents were born in Cuba? It is the American attitude of inclusiveness of different religions and nationalities that has been our greatest protection against terrorists.

Not so in France and Belgium. Their immigrant population and their children are resentful how they and their parents have been segregated. Thus, Europe has become a fertile ground for radicalization and homegrown terrorists.

So for all of those who still can’t understand why Obama and most Democrats will not use the term “Islamist terrorists” it’s because we don’t want homegrown terrorists in the United States. There are 3 or 4 million Muslims in America and we want them to feel welcome, not build bombs. We didn’t use the term “Christian terrorist” for Terry Nichols and David Koresh, even though they were Christian, so we shouldn’t use the term Islamist terrorist just because some nutcases happens to be Muslim.

That is why, when Americans are killed by terrorists, it’s not by American Muslims – a little fact our electorate should take into consideration when looking at a ballot with Mr. Trump or Dr. Ben Carson’s name on it. We don’t want to start treating our migrants like they are treated throughout Europe or we will endure the same fate.

After the terrorists attacks Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “Tonight we are all Parisians.” I could not disagree more.

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