Claremont Insider: Speak Your Mind

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Speak Your Mind

Events of the past few weeks have spotlighted a few organizations that deal with First Amendment and cyber speech issues.

One expert who's been frequently quoted in papers is Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at UCLA. Volokh has a weblog called The Volokh Conspiracy that covers free speech and constitutional law stories.

And during the recent threat by the Pomona City Attorney against the Foothill Cities (FC) blog, the folks over at FC retained Los Angeles attorney Jean-Paul Jassy at the firm of Bostwick & Jassy, LLC. As their website shows, one of the firm's specialties is media defense, including defense against SLAPP suits.

Where's the local chapter American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) been in the all of this? Unsurprisingly missing in action since Preserve Claremonter Rose Ash (a former Claremont Human Relations Commission Chair and current city employee) has been longtime bigwig in the Pomona Valley Chapter of the ACLU.

In 2005, Ash and her husband Glenn Goodwin helped kickoff the Preserve Claremont smear campaign against then-Councilmember Jackie McHenry and then-candidate Corey Calaycay by sending out an angry email that among other things attacked the Claremont Courier for publishing letters and articles favorable to McHenry and Calaycay. The Ash-Goodwin email stated:

Unfortunately, these individuals have found a friendly forum in the columns of the Claremont Courier, which goes out of its way to provide platforms for them to spread their invective.

So, the ACLU, at least locally, is for free speech, as long as they agree with it. In that way, Ash and the local ACLU chapter lose all credibility, in the same way the local chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) loses credibility by it's conspicuous silence on things like the Preserve Claremont campaign of 2005. Both organizations suffer because they are unwilling to criticize their friends, even when their friends are clearly in the wrong.

It's funny how so many of those Preserve Claremonters now say they had no idea their campaign would get so ugly and claim that they pulled their support when they found out. Of course, they say all this privately rather than publicly speak out against their Claremont 400 friends. It is impossible today to find anyone who will take credit for that Preserve Claremont campaign which involved:
  1. Attacking Councilmember McHenry in public meetings and in full-page Courier ads;
  2. An attempt by then-City Manager Glenn Southard and city staff to accuse McHenry of creating a hostile work environment;
  3. Instituting a failed attempt at formally censuring McHenry - something that cost McHenry thousands of dollars to hire an attorney to succesfully get the matter dropped;
  4. A coordinated campaign by the Preserve Claremonters to run ads against Calaycay - ads that included claims that were shown to be false.

The punishment for the Preserve Claremonters? Well, Rose Ash now works for the city's Human Services Department in a part-time position.

Two lessons emerge. First, victory has a thousand fathers, failure none. No one who supported the Preserve Claremont campaign has ever come forward publicly to denounce it. These included a number of prominent Claremonters who worked on campaigns for current Councilmembers Ellen Taylor, Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza.

The other lesson is that spinal material is in short supply in the city of Claremont, especially among our town leaders. It's at least good to know that there are counterweights out there like Volokh or Bostwick & Jassy. It's just a shame a nominally Progressive town like Claremont is so conspicuously lacking in such figures.