By Tim Hunt
Downtown referendum appears headed to the ballotUploaded: Oct 25, 2018
It’s likely that Livermore residents will have another election next year after backers of the referendum challenging the downtown plan submitted 8,888 signatures.
The Friends of Livermore 2018 needed 5,079 valid signatures to bring the matter back to the City Council for adoption or to put it to a vote.
Backers claim the City Council ignored public input when it approved a plan for the former Lucky’s market site and thus cranked up the referendum campaign. What’s ironic is all five members of the City Council were elected with substantial financial and other backing from the Friends of Livermore and the weekly newspaper, The Independent.
Joan Seppala, owner and publisher of the Independent, and other leaders of the group were unable to convince the council to back their version of the plan. They cranked up the referendum drive and have apparently been successful with the signatures with the help of paid solicitors.
If you think you’ve seen and heard this before—you’re right. Joan readily turns her back and cuts off the finances if council members she backs do not follow her bidding. Exercise independent judgement and there goes Joan’s backing.
Friends of Livermore has operated as political action group and there’s no limit on contributions. The Seppala family and Jean King have poured tens of thousands of dollars into the committee in the last number of years. Contributions from individuals to candidate’s campaign are limited to $250.
Unlike the last several elections, the Friends of Livermore does not have a slate of candidates—in fact it started with none. Presumably because of his willingness to take another look at the downtown plan, council candidate Alan Brent Siler has been endorsed by the Independent—he’s the only candidate the paper is backing. Friends also have cranked up a paid call center to support his campaign.
That lasted until this week's edition when the paper rescinded its endorsement based upon comments he had made online (see below).
Instead, they have reached out to Rosemary Bartch who has not been running an active campaign. She did not participate in the Pleasanton Weekly's forum and said at the time she had withdrawn.
This week's Independent contained an interview (she wasn't included in earlier coverage because of her inactive campaign) plus an editorial recommending her.
Councilman Bob Woerner, who was backed by the friends last time, is on the outs and the paper decided not to recommend either Patricia Munro or Neal Pann.
For his part, Siler wanted none of the friends’ help and has a big disclaimer on his website pointing out that he did not ask for their help. He did seek and receive an endorsement from the Sierra Club. What’s unusual is that Siler is funding his own campaign and has chosen not to try and organize a support committee. He’s distributing his own signs he wrote in an email. He wrote he did accept an invitation from a couple of people for a meet-and-greet.
Siler’s candidacy came in for some criticism recently when council candidate Munro released a NextDoor web post exchange she had with him in February. She, with two colleagues, had organized a series of conversations to help people with different viewpoints sit down and discuss them. It was sponsored by Organizing for America—East Bay, the non-profit that was established in 2013 after Obama for America helped President Obama win re-election. It’s led by his former campaign manager.
Given that sponsorship, Siler declined to participate and then wrote, “I spent 10 years as a Marine in many different countries, some to protect people from getting slaughtered by people who share your ideology. I saw first had how someone who belonged to a different tribe were tortured and killed. Zionism constitutes a danger, both spiritual and physical, to the existence of people.”
Munro then asked him to explain his comment and Siler wrote, “Pat, I speak of my time in Africa, There, Africa, Zionism is replete with manifestations of deep hostility and contempt toward certain indigenous population, together with other practices form a society of discrimination, hate and genocide. This breaks the will of the affected population forcing them to flee their homeland.”
Munro wrote back, “This is very puzzling to me. Zionism has nothing to do with Africa—it simply refers to believing that Jews, as a people, have the same right to a state as does any other ethnicity. So I’m still not sure what you mean. But perhaps that is a discussion better taken off-line.”
When I asked why she raised the issue, Munro said, “The information was an example of bigoted speech against one particular group. There are other vulnerable groups in Livermore (Hispanic, LBGT, other races) that are at-risk for various types of discrimination. That’s where bigoted speech of any kind leads.”
When I emailed Siler to ask about his comments, he sent me back a detailed response. He wrote, “As written by many respondents from our community, it was uncovered that these meetings were being directly supported the Organizing for Action (OFA), and it was not to unite or listen to different ideas, it was to promote OFA's Identity Politics platform. This she would never admit too. Two of the 6 meetings took place and ended. Identity Politics ideology is meant to divide people not unite them, it is meant to pit nationalities, races, genders, and more against each other, and to fit people into categories and labels that overlook our shared humanity.
“My statements, and not as adequately written as it should have been for social media, was to reflect an experience when I was in the Marines and we were deployed to Africa to help protect and buffer fleeing ethnic groups from genocide, some who were of the Jewish, Catholics, Muslim and Christian faiths, some was because of the tribe they belonged too. My attempt was to draw the distinction between what took place there, people of different beliefs and customs, and how because of the "Identity Politics" they were singled out for persecution because they dare differ, similar as to how OFA operates and was the agenda behind the meetings. I could have deleted the post but then it would have been used against me in a different way.”
…” So as I reflect upon what was written, in haste and without clarity, I am not anti-Zionist, never have been and never will be. I have fought most of my adult life to protect those who are different in beliefs, customs or religion. I have long supported Israel independence and the right to protect their rights and way of life, much like I did as a Marine in 1990 at Be'er Sheva and later in Haifa. I did submit an apology to be published the community for my poorly crafted statement which has or did offended them. It was not my intent in any shape or form to discredit anyone of Jewish faith or beliefs. I have learned an important lesson to never to write in haste a response that is not clear in its intent.”
…” It is not until now, that we are both running for City Council, she begins to leak information which those who know me, shared with me her comments and do not believe what she has stated, for the hopes to call into question my core values by asking unsuspecting people to do her political dirty work. My Core values go well beyond her comprehension and are more deeply rooted in helping other and putting others before myself.”
Draw your own conclusions as the Independent makes a 180-degree pivot.