Claremont Insider: Debatable Tactics

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Debatable Tactics

Claremont 400 Marionette

Elections bring out the worst in the Claremont 400, who would do just about anything to keep control of this silly little town. Some of the campaign theatrics seem to have been lifted directly from infomercials or patent medicine salesmen. For instance, at the 2009 election kick-off party for former Claremont Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy, one of her supporters, Ken Corhan of Measure CL fame, got up and asked a question, acting as if he were just some random member of the public rather than one of the people who signed Healy's nomination papers.

Witness the traditional candidate forums, of which there are many. The most important of these, or at least the ones with the largest attendance, are the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, Active Claremont and the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area.

The first two of those organizations have already held their events. The LWV candidate forum is Thursday, February 17, in the Padua Room of the City's Alexander Hughes Community Center.

In the past, the LWV forum has seemed to favor the Claremont 400 candidates, often by picking questions that highlighted their candidates' issues and by avoiding those that might bring their friends harsher scrutiny. In contrast, the Active Claremont forum has been something like the People's Choice Awards, with the audience presenting questions to the candidates.

The AC website has video of their January 19 forum posted online. You can download the video file and, if you're into self-flagellation, you can watch the entire one hour and fifty-four minutes. One interesting change the AC board made this year was to allow the audience members to ask the questions themselves, rather than writing them down on index cards as has been the past practice.

This change worked out well for one audience member, Mel Boynton (photo, right). Boynton took the mic and asked the following:

I'd like each of the candidates to address what you know about the Youth and Family Committee and its 11 goals for working with the school district, the City and non-profits and what you'd bring to the table to make that, uh, increase the quality of life for our youth and family [sic].

How many candidates would be able to enumerate even one of the those eleven Youth and Family Master plan goals, which appeared in the amended YFMP in 2007? Of all the many issues facing Claremont how could a candidate have known to prepare for a question like the one posed by Boynton?

It turned out that only one of them could give the sort of answer Boynton was fishing for. That person was Robin Haulman, who ticked off nine of the 11 Youth and Family Committee goals, virtually word for word, from page 15 of the YFMP's action plan. Haulman didn't even bother to memorize the 11 goals. She just turned to a page in the notebook she referred to throughout the debate and, with the aid of her reading glasses, simply read straight from the YFMP action plan.

Even with the aid of crib notes, Haulman got only nine of the 11 goals and didn't even bother to answer the second part of Boynton's question. So, while we can count on Haulman to know some of the goals, if elected she won't do anything to improve the quality of life for our youth and families. The takeaway was that Haulman does fine when she can recite text, but she can't put an answer into context, which qualifies her as the perfect Claremont 400 marionette.

Here's a video clip of Boynton's question, followed by Haulman's response (watch Haulman looking for the right page to read from as Boynton asks his question):

And, just for your reference, here's the section of the YFMP that Haulman lifted her answer from. If you print it out and read along as you watch the video, you can see just how closely her answer matches the list:

Click Image to Enlarge

How do we know Boynton is hooked up with the 400? Well, for one thing, Boynton was listed as a Bridget Healy supporter in 2009. And he's supporting Sam Pedroza, Robin Haulman and Joseph Lyons this time around.

Coincidentally (or not) Boynton is on the board of the Pomona Valley chapter of the United Nations Association of the US, which had as its last speaker Joseph Lyon's campaign treasurer, J. Michael Fay. Fay, you'll recall, was also the treasurer for the Yes on CL school bond campaign last November. Another board member (and current president) is Katie Gerecke, who has served as a Claremont League of Women Voter's president and whose husband Bob is a past president of the Claremont Democratic Club.

Also, as he said in his introduction to his question, Boynton is a member of the City's Youth and Family Committee, which includes Butch Henderson as a member. Henderson, along his wife Rosemary, is an honorary co-chair of Robin Haulman's election committee.

Boynton's question itself wouldn't be an issue if it weren't coupled by that quite specific response by Haulman. How could Haulman have known to include that one specific page out of the thousands of pages of city staff reports, memos and correspondences without some advanced notice?

We couldn't help but notice, too, that Boynton's LinkedIn page used to list "political strategies" as one of his specialties (he deleted that particular specialty after we posted this):

Boynton's CV also lists some of the organizations he belongs to. These include the Claremont United Church of Christ, where Butch Henderson was the senior pastor, and the Claremont Democratic Club, which has become the Claremonsters' tool for election outreach in what is supposed to be a non-partisan election.

So, to recap, here's what we learned from the Active Claremont forum:
  • Mel Boynton? Smooth operator.
  • Robin Haulman? Not so much.