Reporter Tony Krickl has an article in yesterday's Claremont Courier that tells of a post-debate incident at last Thursday's League of Women Voters forum. Krickl's article said that Alexander Sweida, the husband of City Council candidate Robin Haulman, took about 50 fliers belonging to candidate Jay Pocock and threw them in the trash.
Not surprisingly, former Claremont mayor Ellen Taylor, a/k/a The Cookie Monster, a/k/a Queen Ellen, was centrally involved. Taylor (photo, right) is the Claremont LWV chapter president.
Krickl reported that after the LWV forum ended, Betty Crocker, who works for candidate Opanyi Nasiali's campaign, was talking to Sweida when she saw him accidentally drop "about 50 [Pocock] fliers" onto the floor. Sweida scooped up the fliers and by his own admission threw them away. Krickl quoted Crocker as saying "He looked like he got caught caught with his hand in the cookie jar," which turned out to be a apt metaphor, considering Taylor's involvement in Thursday's incident.
Krickl spoke with Sweida, who claimed he took offense to the fliers because "he felt they contained lies about his wife." The article said the part Sweida took exception to was a line that said "Haulman and [Joseph] Lyons support tax increases (DO YOU?)."
For your reference, here's a Pocock flyer insert from yesterday's Courier. It contains the exact quote cited by Krickl:
In the Courier article, Sweida defended himself by saying he checked with Taylor first and asked "if he could dispose of the material because he felt it contained negative claims about his wife." Notice that he did not used the word "lie." Taylor gave the okay, and Sweida said, "I was just complying with the League's policy on negative campaign material...."
Incredibly, Taylor, who was quoted in the Krickl article, said she didn't review Pocock's fliers before giving Sweida permission to throw them away, she just took his work and allowed him to do it.
Well, we just don't know where to start. Setting aside the First Amendment, which Taylor and the LWV apparently support only on a situational basis, from our perspective this incident simply underscores what we've said all along: The LWV is very closely aligned with certain candidates in every election, picking and choosing who wins and who loses, their hypocrisy is embodied in their actions, and anyone considered an outsider in Claremont local politics faces an unlevel playing field.
Taylor tried to claim that the local LWV is an unbiased organization, and she cited the fact that they had San Dimas resident Ruth Currie moderate the candidate forum. Taylor didn't say that this is a new development for the LWV and that during the last City election in 2009, former LWV president Barbara Musselman moderated the LWV's forum. Musselman, along with people like Katie Gerecke, another former LWV president, supports Haulman and Lyons in this election.
If nothing else, this latest incident should put to rest any idea of impartiality or credibility on the LWV's part, at least when it comes to Claremont's local issues. In this campaign, as in every Claremont city election, the LWV is very much in the corner of their chosen ones. For instance, at the beginning of the debate Thursday, Haulman was introduced as the only woman running this time. Odd how the LWV used gender as a factor to single out one of their favored candidates and overlooked race with respect to the only African-American running, Opanyi Nasiali, or Rex Jaime, the only Filipino-American in the contest. Consistency, as is usual with the LWV, is not in evidence.
Now what about Alexander Sweida's claim that the Pocock flyer contained a lie about his wife's position on taxes? We checked the video for the mid-January Active Claremont candidate forum and discovered that the very first question posed by moderator and former council member Jackie McHenry was:
Do you believe that a tax increase is necessary to address revenue shortfalls [in Claremont]? If so, what taxes do you believe should be raised?
The first two candidates to answer were Joseph Lyons and Robin Haulman. Both cited the Mayor's Committee on Economic Sustainability, and both Lyons and Haulman supported a hike in the City's utility tax. So you tell us, where's the lie in Pocock's line about Haulman and Lyons?
Here's video of Lyons and Haulman answering the tax question last month (notice how Haulman refers to her cheat sheet for her response):
Those of you out there in the real world, those outside the Claremont city limits, can see here just how crazy our local politics are. A truth refracted through the narrow lens of the Claremont 400 and the Claremont League of Women Voters becomes a lie, the perpetrator lays blame on his victim. Just as in the case of Haulman's false claims about her involvement in saving Johnson's Pasture, the truth matters not one bit.
Let's not let the Claremonsters confuse the issue. The central point in this instance is not whether a given candidate does or does not support tax increases; the heart of this matter lies in the sorry ethical behavior of those who control the reins of power and in the corresponding actions of those who would be kings and queens of this ridiculously small and silly fiefdom.