Claremont Insider: Department of Corrections

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Department of Corrections

Our post about Saturday's League of Women Voter's panel discussion on journalism and the Internet contained a couple errors and/or omissions.

We were critical of the lack of local bloggers on the panel, but we should first note that panelist and Pomona College Assistant Professor of English Meg Worley does have a good deal of practice commenting on the local level (here's an example of why we especially like it when she too-infrequently blogs on M-M-M-My Pomona, which she started almost two years ago), though the League apparently was unaware of Professor Worley's experience when they invited her. It is a happy coincidence, though.

The League should host a Chaucer or a graphic novel panel someday, Professor Worley has considerable knowledge in those areas as well, and the talk would probably be even more interesting than Saturday's discussion.

We also want to point out that another of the LWV's panelists, Pomona College political science professor John Seery, does blog on the Huffington Post. This was an obvious oversight on our part. Our apologies to Professor Seery for that error.

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On the other hand, what the Insider giveth, the Insider taketh away:

We're still not entirely sure, however, that the LWV's inclusion of Worley and Seery changes our main criticism of the event. In our view, the Claremont LWV's problem has been its irritating tendency to take a macro approach to issues while ignoring what's happening on the local or hyperlocal level. So, they failed to act as a public voice authority in when the Preserve Claremont mess was going on a few years ago, or when invested in the Orange County Investment Pool in the early 1990's, or any of the other official and semi-official missteps by our local leaders in the past 20 years. From our vantage, the LWV's silence has contributed as much to these problems as the actual mistakes City Hall has committed.

As we indicated, Worley's inclusion by the LWV doesn't seem to have been because of her actual experience, though it is quite welcome. It appears to be something more of a happy coincidence.

What strikes us as strange about Seery is that while he is a very active blogger, to our knowledge he has not trained his blogging eye on his own town. It can't be for lack of interest. Seery was a founding president of the Friends of the Claremont Pooch Park and was a Claremont Community Services commissioner.

In 2001, Seery was also very involved in trying to fight Measure A, an anti-conflict of interest law that ended up passing, despite the best efforts of the Claremont 400 to stir up a sort of hysteria against the referendum. (We always suspected the real force behind the anti-Measure A folks was former City Manager Glenn Southard, who couldn't tolerate anything that might bring closer scrutiny to his operations.)

After the measure passed and became municipal law, Claremont and several other California cities that passed similar measures went to court in a failed attempt to have the law overturned. The state courts upheld the law. Seery, however, resigned his commission seat in an angry fit, as the LA Times reported in April, 2002:
After two Claremont city commissioners resigned to avoid questions of conflict of interest, the council passed a resolution indemnifying any elected or appointed official sued under this law.

John Seery, Pomona College's politics department chairman, sat through many long meetings about sewer services as a volunteer community services commissioner. But Seery decided he had to step down because the college often contracted with the city.

As a result of the law, "my right to participate in civic life in Claremont had been sabotaged," he said. "Serving as commissioner implicated me in many affairs of the college that would not normally come under conflict of interest."

"Our commissioners should not have to be concerned by the restrictions of the ordinance," Claremont Mayor Paul Held said. "Good and qualified people will be discouraged" from entering civic life.

Seery's and Held's hysterics notwithstanding, Measure A hasn't stopped any college employees or their spouses from serving on the city council or on any city commissions, and everyone's "right to participate in civic life" has continued on as before, only with the requirement of a little more disclosure and/or people having to abstain from votes where there could be the perception of an economic interest on the part of the person casting the vote.

Really, the only difference was that Claremont civic life went on without John Seery, who took his ball and went home.

Seery was also involved with Residents United for Claremont, a Claremont 400 PAC that tried to influence the 2003 city election with a last-minute, city-wide mailer. That effort was a pre-cursor to the Preserve Claremonsters, and was led by Human Services Commissioner Valerie Martinez, who was later a PC spokesperson.

Below, we've posted an image of the Residents United mailing from 2003. The mailing address was State Farm Insurance agent Randy Prout's office. The red arrows indicate former or then-current councilmembers or commissioners. One current councilmember's name is circled. Incidentally, two of the three endorsees, Karen Rosenthal and Al Leiga, lost.

(Click to Enlarge)