Political Fix (17 December, 2015)

Hair on Fire

The Visalia Times-Delta printed an op-ed on December 10 written by Tulare County Supervisor Phil Cox that set Visalia’s staff and city council’s hair on fire. Mayor Steve Nelsen said, “I take exception to his op-ed,” which was one of the more tame comments.

The lingering message Mr. Cox wanted the reader to hear was that Visalia hasn’t learned the “secrets to maintaining a good financial state,” which is, “you spend less than you earn.” Mr. Cox said in his commentary, “Not a week goes by without a local citizen asking me how the County of Tulare maintains its strong financial position while the City of Visalia sends the message to its residents that it is struggling.”

Can you say, “condescending?”

I don’t know what city Mr. Cox is talking about, but I attend a majority of the city council meetings and I’ve never heard that Visalia is struggling. Sure, Mayor Nelsen can be very cautious about incurring on-going expenses, and it can be difficult to squeeze a nickel out of Councilman Greg Collins, but the city sends the message that things are going great.

Mayor Nelsen said that, in fact, Visalia is not struggling.

“During the recession we did not lay off one person nor did we reduce any city programs. It amazes me that someone who represents Visalia on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors would say something like that.”

Council Member Amy Shuklian added that the city has an A+ credit rating from Standard and Poor. “I think that a city that is struggling does not receive an A+ credit rating. How can the city and county have a spirit of collaboration when he spews uncorroborated statements?”

I wondered how a former Visalia City Councilman such as Mr. Cox could have such a lack of understanding of his own town’s finances.

Then, maybe he knows more than we give him credit. Reading between the lines, one can see that his commentary is an obvious political jab at Visalia City Councilwoman, Amy Shuklian, who is running against him for Tulare County Supervisor District 3. She said, “I think he sees his job is on the line. It’s the season for this type of behavior, and I don’t mean the Holiday season, I mean it’s election season.”

Councilwoman Shuklian pointed out that this is a perfect example of why she is running for supervisor.  She has been saying from the beginning of her campaign that there needs to be more collaboration and consensus between the Board of Supervisors and the city, not backstabbing. She explained that she is sure that the county is on firm financial standing just like Visalia. But she pointed out that eight cities contribute to the county’s coffers with the county getting a piece of each city’s sales and property tax.

“So when the cities prosper the county prospers and Visalia is their biggest contributor.” She continued, “So why would you want to knock the city that you represent and contributes the most to your budget? It’s a sign of his attitude and arrogance.”

Mayor Nelsen wanted to point out that if Tulare County were doing so great financially then why did the Board of Supervisors wait seven years to drill a new well in Mooney Grove? The old well stopped working around 2008 and Mr. Cox, whose district includes Mooney Grove, basically allowed all those valley oaks and redwood trees to die.

The SEIU workers also have wondered, if the county is doing so well, then why do some of their employees not make enough money to buy groceries at the end of the month or even have five dollars to cover the co-pay to see a doctor? In the September 4, 2014 issue of the Valley Voice, we printed a copy of the pay stub of a county employee that showed she had$103.78 to live on, after paying rent, and was on the verge of having her electricity turned off.

Despite Mr. Cox’ lack of leadership in some areas, I don’t think Ms. Shuklian can beat an incumbent, and have told her so. But she hardly ever listens to me and her ardent supporters disagree with my prediction–though I have to say my last election predictions were 98% on the money. Still, she may be right. The average Joe may never see Mr. Cox’ editorial, but Visalians who read the newspaper are voters and do not appreciate their city being thrown under the bus.

That son-of-a-bitch

Talk about hair on fire — Bob Ramos, regular commenter at Hanford’s City council meetings, called the editor of the Valley Voice and chewed his ear off for 20 minutes. Mr. Ramos took offense that we printed a quote “son-of-a bitch” in reference to him. Mr. Ramos complained by saying that neither myself, nor the editor, knew his mother and that we just lost a reader.

The Valley Voice would never use that term — but Dave Thomas, a former Hanford City Council member, is a private citizen and he did call Bob Ramos a son-of-a-bitch. Mr. Thomas was shocked that Mr. Ramos would tell a boldface lie to the city council and then implicate him. The interaction between Mr. Ramos and Mr. Thomas was an integral part of the process Hanford went through choosing a new mayor and vice-mayor. So we printed it.

Now Mr. Ramos has even more to be mad about. He has a major bone to pick with Councilmember Francisco Ramirez and now, not only was Mr. Ramirez elected vice-mayor despite Mr. Ramos’ efforts to derail him, but Mr. Ramirez received a prestigious award three days later honoring top young professionals.

Mr. Ramirez was named by the Business Street Online as one of the “40 under 40.” The online newspaper is a business daily publication that covers Central California. Every year they recognize local outstanding business professionals who have demonstrated a strong work ethic and leadership abilities in the private and public sectors who are under 40 years old. They had a reception and party to honor all the winners on December 3 at Chukchansi Park.

It was reported that Mr. Ramos did not attend.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis Makes it Official

California Assemblyman Devon Mathis announced during a press conference at the Visalia Veterans Memorialon December 4 that he is going to seek re-election. He made it clear when first electedthat he plans on serving six terms in the assembly, until he terms out in 2026. At the press conference, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, Tulare County Supervisor Phil Cox and Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen were in attendance and gave their endorsements to Mr. Mathis.

When asked about his endorsements, Mr. Mathis said: “I don’t have the endorsements if I didn’t do the job.”

In light of this statement, I look forward to Mr. Mathis’ gainingmany endorsements from local leaderswho will notneed his return endorsement like these three will when they face reelection.

As a Republican getting the job done, I also expect him to get the endorsement of at least one our local congressmen, such as Rep. David Valadao or Rep Devin Nunes. It is true that both congressmen endorsed Rudy Mendoza in the last election, but so did Mr. Ward, Mr. Nelsen and Mr. Cox.

Someone who has experience running for elected office in Tulare County said, “I did see that he is being un-enthusiastically endorsed by some elected officials. It will be interesting as Devon truly does not have a base yet. He started as an unknown as I haven’t seen any development in him building a base other that the title he holds. I still think a well known Republican can take him.”

It is unclear if a slate of endorsements will even be necessary though. According to the Visalia Times-Delta, “Mathis said he was unaware if any other candidates have already declared for the seat.”

I found that, in fact, someone has declared his candidacy for the 26th Assembly District, a 23-year-old Republican from Porterville, who, according to the Tulare County Registrar of Voters, has never voted in an election. His name is Alexzander Acevedo and he has a 2016 campaign Facebook page with three “likes” and has filed his preliminary paperwork. It is too early to officially declare, but he filed back in September his form 510, intention to run, and his 410 to form a committee so he can start fundraising. During a phone conversation he said that he has a good chance of winning and “wants to put Tulare County on the map.”

Why Mr. Mathis’ campaign team did not revealAlexzander with a Zcould be one of two things. Either they are incompetent, or Mr. Acevedo is a plant to split the Hispanic vote in case a certain someone, who got slammed in the last election, decides to run again.

As I see it, Mr. Mathis’ seat is vulnerable. He had virtually no legislative success except one bill on illegal dumping. Healso lost his entire staff, either by firing or quitting, in less than a year. Only one inexperienced office worker is left out of his original team. He has a paltry $47,000 in his war chest and has hired a campaign manager who doesn’t know the first thing about Tulare County. She also happens to be the Chief of Staff’s wife from Walnut Grove. This neither shows good leadership nor cooperation, two traits he extolled during his last campaign.

Is my assessment accurate? I don’t know but I would like to get some feedback from Matt Shupe, Mr. Mathis’ Communications Director. But communications do not seem to be his strong point. I am still waiting for his response to anotherone of my articlesreporting that Mr. Mathis threw his hat in the ring to be the Republican minority leader. Mr. Shupe categorically denied that Mr. Mathis considered running for this position. In the meantime, all we can do is wait for Mr. Acevedo to decide to start campaigning, the Democrats to field a candidate, and for Mr. Shupe to return my emails. Fortunately, I am a very patient person.

Little Miss Grows Up

With four much older siblings, all too willing to show my daughter Mercedes the facts of life, no one could say that my youngest was sheltered. But she always invoked a sense of innocence and trust in others. She still does, despite what she has been through.

Mercedes had a pretty happy childhood filled with birthday parties, lots of friends and family get-togethers. Things started falling apart the beginning of her freshman year of high school. During the last two years she watched me almost burn down the kitchen after I spent an afternoon on the phone trying to pry out of the hospital staff if my son was alive. She had to hear the sickening sound of a stranger’s car horn in our driveway, with the horn blower there to serve us legal notices, always at night, sometimes on holidays, letting us know her grandparents were suing us. She had to listen to her older sister cry over the phone as I tried to calm her down a few days before her operation because my mom had just hung up on her. Worst of all, she had to remove all her drawings and posters from her bedroom walls, give away her stuffed animals, and pack the things she could in card board boxes, because her grandparents were evicting her from the only home she had ever known.

There is actually more but I think you get the picture. You might have thought that, as a result, a moody teenager would act out and become one of the trouble kids. She decided to do the opposite.

As a junior at Exeter Union High School, she is one of the most beautiful girls there but does not act like it. She takes honor classes, is college bound, and always has good grades.Now, at 16 years old, she has her driver’s license and a job. She just bought herself her first iPhone. Her accomplishments though are not my main source of joy. I love to hear her laugh in her room when talking with friends. I love to hear her sing in the car to the loop of Christmas Carols played on 98.9. I love taking her to the gym (she now insists on driving me) and watch her act like she is dying after doing 30 sit-ups. We go hiking, traveling and shopping and I love hearing her talk about her life and boys.

One day recently she looked at me and said, “I’m going to save this family.” She said she was going to marry someone with awesome parents and siblings and the in-laws and our family would have great times together. She said holidays would go back to what they used to be when the grandchildren, parents and grandparents all celebrated around the table together then stayed up late to play games.

This Christmas season, I was faced with decorating a house that was not my home, and contemplated buying presents after having to give away three-fourths of our belongings. Still, the decorations in our rental home ended up looking pretty festive, and I picked out some amazing gifts. But more importantly about this Christmas season is that my kids survived the last two years and the family is closer and stronger than ever.

I sometimes kid and tell people that we were “kicked off the island.” But then I looked around our dinner table and realized that we are the island. I have five awesome kids, who are my parent’s only grandchildren, and they are the future of this family.

And when Mercedes says she is going to save us, I believe her, but we no longer need saving. Just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, because we weathered the storm together, we were always home. The only thing that changed is that my Little Miss grew up.

One thought on “Political Fix (17 December, 2015)

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  1. I’m not a fan of Phil cox and hope he loses or a fan of Amy Shuklian’s but as a former part-time city employee with the Recreation Dept. the city of Visalia is wrong when it says they didn’t lay people off during the recession. What about the cooks and help at the senior center and other part-time workers in the city? Don’t they count too? I know one who lost his job cleaning buildings including the police station and than died at the age of 50 and he worked for the city for over 25yrs. They said he had a bad heart but you can’t tell me him losing his job and becoming homeless didn’t maybe play a little role? Now, why couldn’t the full time employees take a pay cut or forgo a bigger raise or cut there big pensions to save others jobs? I think that is more christian than going to some prayer breakfast every year.

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