Claremont Insider: Where are They Now?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Where are They Now?

We thought we'd take the time to track down a few of the alumni of the Glenn Southard era in Claremont (1988-2005). Southardism was more than an attitude, it was a political philosophy, a way of being.

Southardism was marked by several characteristics:

  • The use of highly compensated consultants to justify a position already decided. Remember back in 2002 when the Padua Park Environmental Impact Report came out? The city used a botanist named Thomas Leslie who misled the public by signing his biology report for the project "Thomas Leslie, Ph.D/Biologist." As was reported in the Claremont Courier, Leslie in fact got his Ph.D (in theology not biology) from the Universal Life Church, an online degree mill that charged $100 for the degree.
  • The use of mass marketing and media to get messages out on an issue in order to shape public perception.
  • Disregard for public input and public participation.
  • Hardball tactics when dealing with council members and private individuals who disagree with the party line.
  • Refusal to admit any wrong.

A number of Southard's upper-level managers--Bridget Healy, Mark Hodnick, Mike Busch--followed him to Indio when he left Claremont. Others like Jim Lewis went to Atascadero. In leaving, they took Southard's philosophy with them and have instituted it in varying forms in the cities they now work for.

Tamara Gates, who was once Southard's Assistant City Manager, left quite a while ago to go to Sierra Madre as a city manager and is now the city manager for Yorba Linda. She now goes by the name Tammy Letourneau. It seems "our Tammy", as former councilmember Sandy Baldonado called her, has taken Southardism to new heights, at least according to an October 2006 opinion piece in the Yorba Linda Star.

As the article by Jim Drummond indicates, in late 2005 and early 2006 a Yorba Linda citizens group circulated petitions seeking a public vote on zoning ordinances for Old Town Yorba Linda. The residents were low-density housing advocates who opposed certain housing and commercial buildings in the city's Old Town area.

A group called Old Town Yorba Linda Partners (OTYLP) had an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city for the projects. The Drummond piece claimed that a man named Greg Brown who was a principal in OTYLP, came forward and said that Yorba Linda officials made it clear to him that any extension of OTYLP's negotiating agreement would depend on their funding an information and petition suppression campaign against the citizen's group.

The Drummond article also claimed that Brown stated that City Manager Letourneau asked Brown directly if OTYLP "had sufficient monies to wage the campaign and what our projected budget was to be." (According to Brown, OTYLP was told by a consultant that they should be prepared to spend up to $150,000.)

The anti-referendum campaign also included the use of hired "blockers"--people paid to interfere with signature gatherings.

Letourneau, according to Drummond, denied Brown's claims. Brown, incidentally, apologized to the citizens of Yorba Linda after the fact.

Strictly speaking, the picture painted by Drummond seems straight out of the Southard playbook.