Claremont Insider: Church and State

Monday, July 30, 2007

Church and State

Tonight at 5:30pm at the Alexander Hughes Center, the Claremont City Council will hold a special meeting on the adoption of it's Youth Master Plan Update. The Steering Committee for the update was chaired by Homer "Butch" Henderson (pictured at left), the retired senior pastor from the Claremont United Church of Christ. For those of you who are out-of-towners, the UCC is the church in Claremont.


Back on July 20th, we wrote about Henderson's role as a spokesperson for the Preserve Claremont campaign during Claremont's 2005 City Council election.

We decided to take a trip in the Wayback Machine and looked up the 2/19/05 edition of the Claremont Courier. In that issue, reporter Melissa S. Mansfield had a long story about the Preserve Claremont effort and the uproar it was causing. The issue isn't available online, but you can try the Courier, as well as the Claremont or Pomona Public Libraries.

The Preserve Claremont campaign had two goals: 1) To publicly censor City Councilmember Jackie McHenry, who had been elected as reform candidate, and who had been critical of then-City Manager Glenn Southard; 2) prevent candidate Corey Calaycay from being elected.

The PC organizers raised thousands of dollars and ran a series of full-page ads in the Claremont Courier. A number of them, headed by Claremont Human Services Commissioner Valerie Martinez, also formed a second PAC called "Claremont Business PAC" and sent out two last-minute city-wide mailers to try to boost the support for Councilmember Llewellyn Miller, who was running for re-election.

The 2/19/05 Courier article quoted Butch Henderson in a telling couple paragraphs:

Mr. Henderson responded to a complaint he had heard that the [Preserve Claremont] ads were "manipulative."

"Of course they are," he said. "That's what politics is all about. Claremonters like things to be nice. They say, 'Let's do powerbrokering behind the scenes and be real nice.' But politics is about leaders. Mr. Calaycay is running for office, and we're trying to get out factual information about him."

The "factual information" Henderson spoke of included an ad containing false statements that alleged that Calaycay had left the employment of a California state legislator's office under a cloud. That legislator sent not only endorsed Calaycay but sent a letter refuting Henderson's "factual information." The legislator's letter ran as a full-page ad in the Courier.

Perhaps what is most disturbing is that here we have Butch Henderson, senior pastor at the main church in town, the Claremont United Church of Christ, basically acknowledging that his group was manipulating public opinion. It confirmed what we and others have complained about for years regarding the Claremont 400.


The Courier article also reported that "The PAC was formed under the name and address of Francine Baker, the art director in the Human Services Department, who is listed as the group's treasurer. So, in addition to the UCC's senior pastor, Preserve Claremont also had city employees working to influence the election of the people who would be their bosses.

What is striking about the article is how no one would take responsibility for the group's organization:

Ms. Baker declined to comment on how she became treasurer, saying, "I don't remember, it was a ways back." [The group got their first donations less than one month before the article came out.]

She referred all questions about the committee to Ms. Martinez, [former Councilmember Bill] McCready and Mr. Henderson. When asked who founded the group, none of the 3 indicated a specific ringleader or group of leaders.

And then there was this representative of one of the 2005 council candidates:

Ed Leavell, a 26-year resident of the city, said [former Claremont Mayor Paul] Held invited him to come as a representative for one of the council candidates. "He was vocal at the meeting but wasn't running it. It seemed like [former Claremont Councilmember Bill] McCready was running it."

As we've noted in the past, several of the candidates from the 2005 campaign benefited from the false claims made by the Preserve Claremont group. For instance, current City Councilmember Ellen Taylor won election and refused to speak out against the false campaign claims the Preserve Claremonters were making. Further, several of Taylor's supporters, including her treasurer Cindy Sullivan's family, were also Preserve Claremont financial supporters.

The Preserve Claremonters needed a lot of public image rehabilitation, especially their spokespersons. They and their Claremont 400 friends know that the public's memory is short, so given enough time and good works like the Youth Master Plan Update, people will forget how truly awful they were in the no-so-distant past.

It's up to you to remember. Thank them for their contributions to the community, but also hold them accountable for their other misdeeds as well.