We’re in the home stretch for the June 8 election and a number of things are starting to become clear — while others are as clear as mud.
Let’s start with …
DEEP MUD: So let’s see: A full-time staffer (Michael Allen) for state Sen. Pat Wiggins (government agency No. 1) is paid a total of $109,000 by the Sonoma County Water Agency (government agency No. 2) to, among other things, lobby the city of Santa Rosa (government agency No. 3) for which he later serves as Planning Commission member and votes to approve, among other things, part of the project he lobbied for (potential conflict of interest No. 1). This leads to investigations by the Fair Political Practices Commission and the auditor’s office for Sonoma County (government agency No. 4) on allegations of plagiarism (questionable conduct No. 1). Meanwhile, the audit — saying there were problems with sourcing some material but that the county was “satisfied” with Allen’s work — was produced by auditor Rod Dole who had already publicly supported Allen (potential conflict of interest No. 2) for a seat in the state Assembly (back to government level No. 1.)
Allen is not a bad guy. But doesn’t it feel as if you’re watching one of those street performances where just one or two people perform all of the parts? Is there no room for anyone else?
The sad thing about this is that this kind of internal political interplay — and awarding of contracts — is not all that unusual. And it’s still not clear what the public got for its $109,000.
THROWING MUD: Is District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua sensing that he’s losing ground? Going negative is one of the first signs. And he’s done that in a mailer sent out Friday that criticizes his opponent, Jill Ravitch, for leaving the department not long after Passalacqua took office in 2002. The mailer shows a picture of the former Sonoma County prosecutor holding a box of desk items with the headline “When the going gets tough, she gets going.”
“What he conveniently leaves out are three important facts” about a case cited in the mailer, Ravitch told me late Friday. She said she spent six weeks trying the case and achieved three verdicts of first-degree murder. The other case, she contends, did not involve her. I was not able to reach Passalacqua to get his take, but it’s apparent that he and his supporters plan to keep focusing on Ravitch’s mobility in jobs and alleged quick temper.
We plan to ask both of them about the campaign feuding when we host live, online forums with each of them this week on our political site WatchSonomaCounty.com. Ravitch will be our guest for an hourlong discussion at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Passalaqua is slated to join us at the same time on Thursday. Go to watchsonomacounty.com to register. Have questions and comments ready.
FUDGE ON PENSIONS: Speaking of online discussions, supervisorial candidate Debora Fudge last week left no question about how she would deal with the Sonoma County’s problem with unfunded liabilities – now estimated to be $400 million. During our discussion with her Thursday, she made it clear she supported a two-tier retirement system. “New employees will not have the same benefits as those that are about to retire,” she wrote. “It’s happening in corporations, too. It’s the ‘new normal’ “.
McGuire, whom Fudge has called the “junior Paul Kelley,” was less definitive about this the day before. Fudge sure sounds more Kelley-like on this one.
SOME CLARITY?: About the only thing that appears clear is that many of these races will be decided by undecided voters in these final two weeks.
An Editorial Board online poll conducted last week showed that of 118 voters in the 4th Supervisorial District, 42 percent said they were still undecided. The rest were evenly divided between Fudge and McGuire. The undecided factor was 40 percent among 2nd District voters, where Pam Torliatt led with 32 percent followed by Mike Healy with 13 percent. (The big question there is which candidate will end up in a runoff with Torliatt.)
The poll also shows Ravitch leading Passalacqua 55 percent to 24 percent with 21 percent of voters undecided.
This is just a reminder that just as some of us are getting tired of an election, most voters are just beginning to tune in. And they’re most likely to decide the outcome.
— Paul Gullixson