Friday Feb 29 2008
From the Left: Rocklin mayor crossed the line in campaign
By: Rob Haswell
It is often said that politics is not for the faint of heart. Or to quote American philosopher Will Rogers, If you ever injected the truth into politics, you would have no politics. Political campaigns are often bare knuckle affairs, with high stakes and power and money hanging in the balance. So when I signed on to help some Rocklin citizens in their referendum fight over the fate of Clover Valley, I knew it would get ugly. But occasionally, even when the bar is set incredibly low with regard to permissible campaign activity, someone debases himself so thoroughly, manages to subjugate his duty to the people so completely, that he must be called on it. Such were the actions of Rocklin Mayor Brett Storey. Storey's role in the Measure H campaign, which dealt with the 10-year battle over the development of Clover Valley, was large. Yes on H campaign literature quoted him, he recorded robo calls, and spoke publicly. Let me be clear: Storey has a right to campaign on the referendum and defend his action. But in his zeal to see Measure H pass, which it narrowly did, Storey forgot what he is, first and foremost: A public servant, elected by the people of Rocklin to serve them and to protect their interests. As I said, I knew the campaign would get ugly. It came as no surprise to me when the developers dropped nearly three-quarters of a million dollars into the Yes campaign (which ought to give you some idea about how much money they will make on this project) and ran one of the most deceptive campaigns in Placer County history. In one of its nastier turns, the Yes campaign ginned up a faux news story about graffiti on some of its signs ” many of which had been badly damaged in a powerful storm the weekend before ” and attempted to pin the disgraceful act on the Save Clover Valley Coalition No on H Campaign, which categorically denied involvement. From then on, mail piece after mail piece showed a defaced Yes sign. Sure, it was dirty politics, but not beyond what one might expect. (For the record: It was just as plausible that some overzealous Yes supporter supplied the graffiti in an effort to create news and to allow a multi-million dollar developer to portray himself as a victim.) But then came the Fear Card and the point at which Brett Storey crossed the line. Desperate to scare citizens into voting for the measure, the developers dug up an old news story about Half Moon Bay, which had been sued and lost a nearly $40 million judgement to a developer. The mailers went out, and the robo calls followed. Rocklin could be sued for $100 million if Measure H is defeated, voters were warned. Homeowners will be hit with $1,000 yearly tax increases for the next 30 years! Never mind that Half Moon Bay was sued because the city tried to rescind development rights on the grounds that the property now had wetlands when it turned out that the wetlands were artificially created by the city's own faulty drainage system! The judge ruled that the city had no right to penalize the developer for a failure of its own systems. Which was a perfectly legitimate ruling ... and in no way pertinent to Clover Valley. There was no referendum in Half Moon Bay. No vote of the people. No similarity whatsoever. Yet through all this despicable deception and fear mongering, the Mayor of Rocklin stood side by side with a developer who was threatening to sue his city into financial ruin. It was Storey's name that appeared in a mail piece with an envelope marked urgent, he being the recipient of a memo warning him of Rocklin's impending doom. Let me make this perfectly clear: Brett Storey stood with a developer who was threatening to bankrupt the city that Storey was elected to run, if the developer didn't get his way. There are some lines elected officials should not cross in the service of a political campaign. Of course, Storey should have stepped away from the campaign when it took this turn. He easily could have said, look I want Measure H to pass, but I'm not going to threaten my own city to make it happen. But he didn't. He put winning Measure H above honest public service. Brett Storey's decision to enable this threat was a dereliction of duty, plain and simple. He should resign. Auburn resident Rob Haswell worked as the campaign manager for the Save Clover Valley No on H campaign. He can be reached at rhaswell”firstname.lastname@example.org.