Democrats Behaving Badly

As the one party in “one party rule”, sometimes center-right Democrats need to bite their tongue and do some hard work they feel they need to do.  You can tell this is happening when there is a request for a secret ballot or debate behind closed doors.

Those payinHumboldt County Democratsg close attention won’t soon forget when the Coastal Commission with many Commissioners appointed by Democratic elected officials went behind closed doors to fire their Executive Director, Charles Lester.  By all accounts outside of most land owners and developers Mr. Lester was someone who excelled at his job – protecting California’s coasts.

Last night, in a monthly meeting with typically low attendance and after a poorly planned and executed vote, Supervisor Estelle Fennell finally won a long-sought endorsement from the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee.

The vote by secret ballot was at least 8-6 (it was not announced if there were more than 8 votes for Supervisor Fennell).  Members present where Chair Bob Service, Vice Chair Milt Boyd, Secretary Barbara Kennedy, Vice Treasurer Phillis Seawright, Pam Service, Arcata Councilmember Michael Winkler, Julie Timmons, Roger Smith, Kathy Sobilio, Kathryn Donahue, Chris House, Richard Leamon, Pam Cahill’s proxy Matthew Owen. (I’m missing someone and for the life of me I can’t think of whom – apologies to that individual!)

Both Barbara Kennedy and Michael Winkler spoke out eloquently against the eventual endorsee.  Thank you btw to both of you for your passion and focus on issues and Democratic values.

In 2014 when the 4th District had an extremely competitive race there was a more formal and transparent process.  These were the results of this vote.  These were the members present last night that supported Virginia Bass who like Estelle Fennell votes consistently to favor private interests in their attempts to direct the process of public land-use planning,

Those members from 2014 who did not support candidate Chris Kerrigan and voted last night were Phillis Seawright, Pam Cahill, Richard Leamon, Milt Boyd, Pam Cahill and Chris House.  If I was in charge of rounding up votes to insure Supervisor Fennell did not get the endorsement, these are people I would like to have not been present last night.

Lookit, I don’t begrudge any of those who voted to endorse Supervisor Fennell as she faces her second election – all Democrats are not going to agree.  The problem is that the endorsement process is the one method the HCDCC does get to put it’s finger on the balance of issue advocacy.

Last night the HCDCC failed in connecting the dots in local issues and greater Democratic goals which necessarily include the public’s (our) ability to plan, and make difficult decisions for future land use.  We* endorsed a candidate who subverted democracy and true public participation in the name of public participation.

And it is obvious that we knew what we were doing because we requested and executed this vote in secret.  I understand the necessity for secret votes, and I can anticipate the argument that posts like this are exactly the reason we need secret votes.  Sincere question, is this true?

This isn’t about divisiveness.  This isn’t about unfriendliness or dislike.  I hope this isn’t perceived as bullying or intimidation because it certainly isn’t intended to be.  This is about policy and on matters critical to the future of our County.  Supervisor Fennell and those Members last night who voted to have Humboldt County Democrats endorse her have put the stamp of HCDCC approval on her confounding first term.  Her legacy already promises to be with us for decades given the divergent path she chose from previous work on the General Plan Update, with support from Supervisors Bohn, Sundberg and Bass.

Yes she has chosen the “D”, but that alone cannot define who we are as Democrats.  To an unaccountable majority in the HCDCC last night that “D” trumped (sorry) democratic issue advocacy by the official voice of Humboldt Democrats.  And I think this is the reason for the secret vote.  This is Democrats voting like property-rights advocates, people know it isn’t the Democratic thing to do and they’d rather not have their name attached to the vote to endorse Supervisor Fennell.

It’s Democrats behaving like Republicans in a county that has a 25 point Democratic edge in State-wide elections.  In other words, it’s Democrats behaving badly and they’d rather not be accountable for their votes.  imho.


*Now “they” as after the meeting I resigned as an Associate Member as it was the only way I could have written this piece without being subject to removal.

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7 thoughts on “Democrats Behaving Badly

  1. C.A.C. says:

    Are you still treasurer, Jon? Or are you off the committee completely?

    One has to count the votes and lobby for the votes before the vote. It looks like that is what happened.

  2. Hi Carol, Thank you. No, River City Business Services is now our (oops) their Treasurer as no Member would do the job. I’ve been trying over the past 6 months to extract myself as Treasurer to pursue other endeavors. And yes, now I’m off the committee completely though I do plan to attend meetings still. I’m not sure the difference, except I no longer have to pay $15 in dues.

    Sadly Carol, the HCDCC is now more than ever devoted to one thing – fundraising – and it has demonstrable effects in their actions (or lack of them) and their politics.

    Bud Rodgers is a Democrat and he was there as well last night. He seems like a great guy with a great heart, but I couldn’t vote for him either – even as a protest vote. That doesn’t mean we (they) should have endorsed Supervisor Fennell.

    1. C.A.C. says:

      I wish I had known this before I sent my donation. You are listed as treasurer on the recent fundraising letter for the Chicken by the Sea.

  3. Anonymous says:

    i think the problem is that the green party democrats and the old school democrats have slightly different values. fennell is by no means a republican.

    1. Someone – remember, there are no Republicans locally. If Supervisor Fennell is a Democrat, the issues on which she is are national issues, not necessarily county-level. Social issues, environmental issues generally – she was nodding her head as Supervisor Lovelace spoke about the agreement to removed the dams from the Klamath as one example, I’m sure she understands climate change is real and it is caused by humans as another.

      But Estelle is a very unique Humboldt Libertarian Democrat and it isn’t a coincidence that she won her first election during the hey-days of the Tea Party movement.

      I heard about the Guiding Principles first from the local Tea Party who had mobilized those on their email list to support the changes being proposed by Rex and Estelle. She is a former property rights advocate for goodness sake. She later addressed the local Tea Party group.

      In a county where there is no loyal opposition (ie no real competition from an alternate party), the differences between a pro-Weed, pro-property rights, pro-safety enforcement yet anti-property enforcement, pro regressive sales tax yet anti progressive property/development tax libertarian Democrat should be enough that the left-leaning Democratic Party should at the very least NOT endorse her.

      But we did. Why? The reason is when the HCDCC’s main practical goal is to make money (which it is) the members who voted last Wednesday prioritize this monetary goal over issue advocacy.

      And I don’t blame those who did vote to endorse Supervisor Fennell. There priorities are theirs and issue advocate Democrats have not stepped up. It’s on us for dropping the ball as much if not more than it is on those who do the hard work of fundraising so the HCDCC can pay rent, office bills and now a professional treasurer to boot.

      We are human and what we like to do sometimes comes before what we need to do. Democrats are no different than the rest of the human race on that count.

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