In this edition of Pacifica Voice, the Pacifica Social Justice Team discusses immigration. PSJ invites neighbors to a 12/19/18 event for Caravan Support and plans a forum in February on immigrant rights to include a review of Pacifica’s Sanctuary City status. Keep your eye on our calendar.
December 1, 2018, Author: Valerie Lapin
Last July, Pacifica Social Justice hosted a screening of The Long Ride, a documentary film I produced about the Immigrant Rights Movement. About 100 people attended the screening event at the Pacifica Community Center, which was co-sponsored by Pacifica Peace People, Faith in Action, California Nurses Association, Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers, AFT 3267 and the San Mateo County Central Labor Council.
In the 1980s, many of us who are active in the Labor Movement became concerned about the erosion of our workplace rights as many employers engaged in increasingly more aggressive tactics to bust unions and prevent unionization. When workers stood up for their rights, they were often retaliated against with harassment, pay cuts, and firings.
The situation became even more dire with the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Although, amnesty was granted to several million undocumented immigrants, employer sanctions also went into effect making it illegal to hire workers without documents. The law that was meant to penalize employers was instead used against workers fighting for better working conditions. Suddenly, there were threats to call the police, immigration raids, deportations and separation of families.
In 2003, immigrant workers, labor unions, immigrant rights advocates, civil rights organizations and faith leaders came together to do something about it. More than 900 immigrants and allies traveled by bus across America to focus public attention on the plight of immigrant workers. Along the way they met with local activists, held press conferences and participated in demonstrations in support of immigrant rights. In Washington, D.C., they called on lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation including a pathway to citizenship, family reunification, stronger workplace rights and civil rights for all. I was one of 106 Riders from Northern California. We were inspired by the 1961 Civil Rights Movement Freedom Riders who risked their lives fighting to end segregation, and we called this massive mobilization the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. It was the birth of the new Civil Rights Movement for immigrant workers in the United States.
My role on the Ride was to document our 12-day journey. The Long Ride chronicles the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and the on-going fight for immigrant rights to this day. The film puts a human face on this controversial issue and examines the human costs as lawmakers overhaul the U.S. immigration system. The film was released in 2017.
Eleven Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders attended the Pacifica event and participated in a lively Q&A following the screening. It was part of an ongoing effort by Pacifica Social Justice to provide information about how the immigration system is negatively impacting our community and ways to take action to change it.
The immigration issue is often framed as being simply about people living in the U.S. “illegally.” What is so often missed is that faulty immigration laws adversely impact not only people lacking documents, but legal residents and U.S. citizens as well. When there is fear about standing up for your rights at work, it casts a chill on organizing efforts affecting everyone at that workplace as well as every other workplace. Without a voice on the job and union representation, wages are lower; there are less benefits; wage theft is more likely; and health and safety conditions are more dangerous. When an immigrant loses their job or is deported and separated from their family, the impact is felt by family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, regardless of their immigration status.
Since the Pacifica event, The Long Ride screened at the Immigration Film Fest in Washington, D.C. where it won the Best Documentary Award! Additional Fall highlights included: the European premiere at Festival de Cine Político Dirigido Por Mujeres in Madrid; the Utopia Film Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland; Congregation Beth Israel Judea in San Francisco; and the Los Gatos Irish Arts & Writers Festival event Who Belongs: Immigrants, Refugees, Asylum Seekers in the 21st Century. The next screening will be at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, CA January 8 at 1:00pm
As The Long Ride reaches a larger worldwide audience, I am constantly reminded of the importance of the message of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and how it is needed all the more today. We must act with compassion towards new arrivals and fight for reform of the broken immigration system. I continue to be inspired by my fellow Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders every day. As dismal as the current situation is, I am encouraged by the organizing and successes happening around the country.
For more information visit: www.thelongride.film and Facebook @The Long Ride/El Largo Viaje
Valerie Lapin is a filmmaker, and has worked in the Labor Movement, government and on political campaigns. She lives in Pacifica and is an active member of Pacifica Social Justice.
(Courtesy of Share Productions)
- In, 2003, more than 100,000 people rally for immigrant rights in New York. (Courtesy of Share Productions)
- Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders march down Market Street in San Francisco. (Courtesy of Share Productions)
- Immigrant Workers Freedom Rider and filmmaker Valerie Lapin. (Courtesy of Share Productions)
- Original Freedom Rider Congressman John Lewis joins the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. (Courtesy of Share Productions)
- The Long Ride screens at the Pacifica Community Center. (Photo: by Susanne Moore)
December 1, 2018, Author: Blue Murov
In the summer of 2017 16 people formed the 1st Trans-Gay Migrant Caravan fleeing from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico to the US border to ask for political asylum. Four gay men and 12 transgender women arrived in Nogales, AZ on August 10, 2017. Kimberly, a transgender woman from Honduras made this statement at the border rally, “We have fled from our countries of origin because most people do not accept us as trans girls. The mistreatment against us begins in our families, when they run us from our homes. They take us out of our homes because we are trans girls. Many of us have been abused by gang members, even by the security forces. Even the police themselves have mistreated us, raped us, beaten us.
“In our journey for dignity we have suffered tremendously. We do not want to relive this violence by being referred to detention centers for men where we are at high risk of being sexually assaulted.”
Some members of the Trans-Gay Migrant Caravan had sought political asylum in Mexico believing that the Mexican government would offer them shelter and improved living conditions as LGBT people. “We were wrong. Most of us were denied the right to refugee status. Even though a few of us were granted asylum, we found ourselves reliving the experiences of violence and discrimination that we had suffered in Central America. The Mexican authorities have physically and sexually abused us on several occasions. Employees of the National Institute of Migration of Mexico, for example, tortured many of us to have sex with them. “
ICE detention centers are not ever safe places for transgender, lesbian and gay people. According to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of Homeland Security and from complaints of LGBT human rights advocates, it is documented that LGBTQI people in detention centers are 1.5 times more likely to be sexually violated. In retaliation, several facilities deal with sexual assaults on transgender and queer people by placing them in solitary confinement instead of protecting them from the assaults. Several gay men have been put in isolation by prison officials solely for being effeminate.
Organizations supporting the Caravan had worked really hard with local communities to arrange homes where the young immigrants could stay when they crossed the border. Instead they were immediately taken into custody by ICE, put into detention and held for several months. Information is sketchy but as of October, 2017 nine had been released, five were still being held and three had been deported to Honduras and El Salvador.
By May of this year the situation for transgender migrants and most other people had worsened. The lines of those seeking asylum at the border continue to grow longer and longer. People are waiting weeks before they are even seen. There are little to no facilities to house them while they wait. The shelter CARITAS, in Tijuana that at one time during the caravan received 35+ LGBTQI members of the community, was set on fire according to Diversidad Sin Fronteras.
On May 29th Diversidad Sin Fronteras reported the death of Roxana Hernandez while in US detention. Roxy died due to medical negligence by us immigration authorities in the country where she had hoped to start a new life. She died for being a transgender woman, a migrant who was treated neither with respect nor with dignity.
In October Joselin Beyonce, a black trans indigenous woman, a miskita warrior from Nicaragua and a member of the Trans-Gay Migrant Caravan 2017 was granted asylum. Joselin currently resides in New Mexico where she is working on developing a housing project for women released from Cibola detention. She has also directly supported the fight against trans detention by organizing Zumba classes to fundraise money for commissary.
Diversidad sin Fronteras reported on November 3 that 50+ LGBT migrants walked from Matías Romero to Acayucan, Veracruz on a journey characterized by rejection and discrimination not only by locals but by caravaneers too. They hitchhiked for over 90 miles, mostly being rejected by drivers that insulted and laughed at them. Caravan members threw water, water bottles, and peels at them. While many whistled and mocked them, others waved at them shouting good luck.
“The soñadoras of Centro America”, are in need of the following things:
- Clothes (Ropa)
- Shoes (Zapatos)
- Deodorant (Desodorante)
- Razors (Rastrillos)
- Soap and shampoo
- Socks & underware (calcetines)
If you wish to donate please use venmo to @dsf2018 “Esas, esas que caminan son las transvesties y transexuales de America Latina.
(This article was first published in UltraViolet, June 2018. You can find UV on line at: www.lagai.org)
December 1, 2018, Author: Susanne Jonas
Most of the asylum-seekers arriving at the US southern border are Central American women and children, the most vulnerable migrants, fleeing violence in their home countries (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador). Asylum-seekers are not unauthorized border-crossers; they voluntarily turn themselves in to US border officials to begin the asylum process. Even more important, they have long-established legal rights to seek asylum, based in both international law (e.g., 1951 UN Refugee Convention, 1984 UN Convention against Torture) and US national law (1980 Refugee Act).
In examining the surge of these asylum-seekers, we trace migrations over time and types of violence. This article describes wartime and postwar migrations, with a final focus on femicide and gender violence causing women to flee, often with their children.
Salvadorans and Guatemalans first became visible as asylum-seekers in the US during the 1970s-80s civil wars in their countries. Several hundred thousand political opponents and dissidents, targets of persecution by US-supported governments, fled to the US because they had a “well-founded fear” of being killed at home. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration denied 97-98% of asylum petitions by Salvadorans and Guatemalans. Only in the 1990s did a class action lawsuit (ABC v.Thornburgh) find those denials invalid, forcing the US government to give those asylum-seekers a second chance to petition for asylum. When their cases were heard in the early 2000s, a majority of the several hundred thousand who applied were successful.
The civil wars ended in 1992 (El Salvador) and 1996 (Guatemala). Why did the accumulation of asylum-seekers, additionally from Honduras, continue in the postwar period? For many different reasons:
1) Conditions for the middle and working classes and the poor in El Salvador and Guatemala were not alleviated by Peace Accords ending the wars. The accords failed to strengthen and modernize state institutions, leaving these countries with weak states — incompetent, indifferent, and unaccountable. Most serious, there were no provisions for the elites to pay sufficient taxes to fund state institutions providing for citizen safety/security, much less decent jobs or economic stability.
2) Corrupt, repressive, unaccountable governance and political repression continued. The most dramatic example was the 2009 right-wing coup in Honduras, supported by the United States. El Salvador suffered almost 20 years of rightist rule under ARENA (1989-2009) and most of Guatemala’s governments were right-wing and militaristic. In short, the postwar included a significant amount of state violence, persecution and assassinations – against activists for human rights and indigenous rights, environmental organizers, and journalists — and impunity vis-à-vis postwar violence. Since 2006, there has been a UN Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), but the current government is trying to shut it down.
3) Other U.S. actions compounded these situations, especially the greatly increased deportations under “Enforcement-Only” policies since the mid-1990s. In response to the formation of (mainly Salvadoran) gangs in Los Angeles during the 1990s among unemployed youth, the US carried out large-scale deportations of gang members since that time. These deportees have re-formed gangs throughout El Salvador which spread to Honduras, Guatemala, and southern Mexico, and thereby created threats to citizen security in the entire region.
4) Drug cartels, organized crime rings, and gangs operated throughout the region, making northern Central America the most violent region in the world not in a war, according to various UN agencies. The homicide rates are among the highest worldwide in these three countries, and entire communities have been terrorized and threatened with forced recruitment.
POSTWAR FEMICIDE AND GENDER VIOLENCE
Throughout this entire postwar time, gender-based violence has skyrocketed. This form of violence has received insufficient attention as a factor causing many women to seek asylum. I focus here on postwar Guatemala, where it has been most rampant over time. Gender violence was part of the 36-year civil war (1960-1996), but it was primarily directed against indigenous populations in rural highlands war zones. In the postwar, gender violence has been largely urban, and has taken two forms:
1) Femicide: targeted killings of women (killing them because they are women). It is a staggering accumulation: over 6,500 reported/unsolved femicide murders between 2000 and 2011; around 700 reported cases in 2016 and again in 2017 (not counting unreported) – two cases a day. For many years, Guatemala was first in femicides worldwide; since 2013, it has been third highest world-wide. Equally important, the killings have been met with governmental indifference and refusal to investigate or bring the perpetrators to justice – only 2-3% of cases were solved. None of this was changed by passage of a 2008 “Law against Femicide and Other Forms of Domestic Violence;” the number of femicides continued to increase and Guatemala was still highest in Central America in 2010.
2) Domestic violence against women: as UN sources characterize it, increasing “severe and prolonged” domestic abuse/ violence against women has fueled the surge of asylum-seekers. Since there is no relief anywhere in Guatemala, some abused women began fleeing these situations (often with their children, in families) seeking protection in the U.S. Some 140,000 reported domestic abuse cases were filed from 2001 to 2007 in Guatemala alone. Details of the abuse are quite horrifying. In 2008, domestic violence accounted for 70% of femicides. As with femicides, the spike in domestic violence has been ignored, not investigated, unsolved by Guatemalan police or other state authorities.
In many cases, gender-based violence has become linked to social violence from gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime rings. Norma Cruz, director of Fundación Sobrevivientes, which works with femicide victims’ surviving families –told me that this linkage had not existed in early postwar years, but has become more common — e.g., forced recruitment of girls by gangs, sometimes even by a gang-related family member.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees, UNHCR, did a survey of 160 interviews in 2015, using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s own figures taken from “credible fear” asylum screening interviews for FY 2015. UNHCR reported the DHS finding that 82 percent of Central American women and girls interviewed in that process were likely to be eligible for asylum under the Convention against Torture.
Two high-profile cases involving Guatemalan domestic violence victims have been argued by the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, at UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. CGRS won these legal battles against the US government, establishing that members of a persecuted particular social group (women abused by family members, who fear great harm because of their gender) should be entitled to asylum protection in the U.S. These affirmative asylum rulings were made in 2009 and 2014 respectively, the latter being a binding precedent. These victories resulted in a larger number of Central American women asylum-seekers citing gender violence as the basis for their cases
Even though seeking asylum is a universal legal and human right, the Trump Administration. is trying to dismantle the asylum system altogether. This past June, Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, struck down the validity of domestic abuse and gang violence as bases for seeking asylum, and argued that a “fear of abuse” will not be sufficient to gain asylum. Also in June, Sessions overturned the 2014 binding precedent concerning domestic violence. These and other arbitrary measures taken by the Trump administration are being challenged legally, as they violate existing laws, judgments, and precedents. Unless those measures are struck down, they threaten the integrity of the asylum system established by the Refugee Act of 1980.
As we reflect on the history of Central American asylum-seekers, we must acknowledge US responsibility for its involvement in past wars and present destabilization in the region. The US is legally responsible to grant asylum to qualifying petitioners under the 1980 Refugee Act and international law, mandated to allow asylum based on gender/domestic violence as determined by US courts, and ethically obligated to offer asylum by universal human rights considerations.
Susanne Jonas, a Pacifica resident taught Latin American & Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz for 24 years. Her most recent book (co-authored with Nestor Rodríguez) is Guatemala-U.S. Migration: Transforming Regions (2015).
I am a lifelong resident of Pacifica. I have gone to school, worked, worshipped, volunteered and raised my daughter in our beautiful city. I love Pacifica and I care very much about the entire community.
I was drawn to community work after an alcohol related accident took the life of a family member in 2005. As the director of the Pacifica Prevention Partnership, I work to implement substance abuse prevention strategies throughout Pacifica and San Mateo County. I have secured over 1.5 million dollars in grant funding to help keep our community healthy and safe.
I serve as chair of Pacifica’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission and the coordinator of the Pacifica Collaborative. In these positions, I have created effective working relationships that connect people, share resources and enrich the community.
I believe in supporting community services that help people stay in their homes and responsible development to increase the number of affordable housing units. I believe that decisions made by city leaders should be thoughtful, logical and strategic. If elected I will serve to ensure a sustainable, healthy and inclusive community for us all.
You may find out more information about my campaign at www.marybier.com
I am first of all, an environmentalist.
Climate change is the most important issue of our time. We must begin to change our ways as a society in order to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is not overheated. Peninsula Clean Energy, which provides 85% greenhouse gas-free electricity to San Mateo County at 5% less cost than PG&E is a step in the right direction. I’m a founding board member.
Sea level rise is a consequence of climate change. I’m for protecting homes and businesses from bluff erosion, which is a problem now, and sea level rise, a problem in the future. And I’m committed to finding state or federal funds to replace the Beach Blvd. seawall.
I’m also for protecting our parks and open spaces, beaches, steelhead and other wildlife, and creeks.
Second, I’m a fiscal moderate, because I have to be. In Pacifica, our city government is not rich. We’re a bedroom community, relying primarily on property tax, and get little sales tax revenue, one cent on the dollar (the rest goes to the state and county). We struggle to pave our streets and to pay our employees. Anticipated increased revenue coming from short-term rentals, new hotels, and the marijuana excise tax will probably just cover City employee salary increases and a $3.2 million increase in PERS retirement costs over the next four years.
I support a new library at the Sharp Park Library site so long as the Sanchez Library is saved also. The latest plan for Sanchez is a high-tech one with lockers for ordered books and other features that will allow reduced staffing.
In the Wastewater Department, ongoing sewer main replacement and lateral repairs are slowly reducing leakage of sewage into our creeks and ultimately the ocean.
I favor repaving arterial streets as grant funds become available.
I have to say something about the hit pieces against me that have appeared in the mail. Folks that have been around longer than I have said they’ve never seen negative campaign mailers aimed at a particular candidate for council in Pacifica.
The first hit piece was about managed retreat, using right wing opinion pieces from the publisher of the Pacific Tribune, Sherman Frederick. I’ve said since last March at least, that I will protect homes and businesses from bluff erosion and sea level rise. The people saying “No Managed Retreat”, do they want to armor Linda Mar beach and Mori Point? I don’t think so, but that’s what’s implied with a vague statement like “No Managed Retreat”. That’s why I’m more specific, wanting to protect homes and businesses.
The second hit piece is paid for by the California Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. Aside from a really bad photoshop job on me, it accuses me of sending back $56 million that “could’ve been invested in our community”. That’s if you call widening Highway 1 to six lanes, within sight of the ocean, and disrupting the commutes of Linda Mar residents for years during construction, “investing in our community”. That’s what the $56 million was for.
All 3 of the realtor candidates, O’Neill, Beckmeyer, and Flores, have received over $11,000 in support from the National Association of Realtors that’s going for online ads. They’ve all received $2,500 from San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR). Mike O’Neill has another $1,000 from the California Apartment Association and $2,500 from the California Association of Realtors. Tom Thompson, an apartment owner from San Mateo, has contributed $1,500 to all 3, and $5,000 to the No Managed Retreat mailer. These figures are straight from the candidates’ financial statements posted on the City’s website.
The choice couldn’t be more clear. Out of town realtors, or me, the guy who’s campaigning on $11,000 total, all from individuals. I need everybody to talk to or email their neighbors and friends, or post on Facebook or Nextdoor. And vote. Together we’ll win this thing.
I’m a wife and a working mother of 3. My oldest goes to Cabrillo and my son Preston goes to Vallemer. I’ve lived in Pacifica for just a few years, but my husband and his family have been in this area for more than 40. I’m in the Pacifica Moms club – I was the halloween closet mom last year.
I’m the daughter of a Vietnam Vet, and I was raised by a single mom.
I work for the state as the Associate Marketing/ Communications Director at CIRM, and I’m a county commissioner with the healthcare for the homeless and farmworkers board.
More than anything I stand for representation and inclusion. I’m someone who wants to strengthen our community by giving a voice to working families, immigrants, and the L-G-B-T-Q-I-A community.
I believe in climate change, sea level rise, social justice and bail reform.
I also support clean campaign finance practices. My campaign is powered by you.
My priorities for office are Affordable Housing, Responsible Development, Open Space Preservation, Education and the Environment.
Suzanne Moore, Treasurer of Pacifica Housing 4 All, received the final word from the Fair Political Practices Commission in a letter dated 6/26/18 from the commission. The letter referred to an FPPC ruling against Fair Rents 4 Pacifica. “I hesitated to make a statement until we received their decision. Filings to the FPPC are complaint-driven in nature, and this complaint originated from a Pacifican in opposition to rent control. We were fined for not changing the name of our committee to reflect support for Measure C – we simply did not know this was necessary. The FPPC said there was no evidence of intent to mislead the public, and I can certainly affirm that. I believe that we were new to the campaign rules and we did our best to comply – we freely admit the clerical errors and have paid a $3500 fine.”
A complaint filed by Fair Rents 4 Pacifica with the San Mateo County District Attorney in June 2017 was of a different caliber. It resulted in District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe issuing felony charges against Brad and Jentry Jasperson for falsifying signatures in a Pacifica petition drive. Criminal proceedings against the Jaspersons are active with the San Mateo County Superior Court.
The signature drive was initiated and paid for by those in opposition to Pacifica Ordinance 814, a temporary moratorium adopted 5/8/17 by Pacifica’s City Council. The ordinance would have halted high rent increases and no fault evictions until the November 2017 vote on Measure C. Former Pacifica Mayor, Peter Loeb says, “ We are attempting to ascertain who ran the campaign against the ordinance. Since the evidence of fraud by the Jaspersons, we have a discrepancy among those claiming responsibility for the drive. We have been unable to find FPPC campaign financial statements and have asked the FPPC to investigate.”
The petition drive narrowly collected enough signatures to overturn the city council ordinance. The drive was halted by early submission of signatures: 1100 were rejected by the San Mateo County Election Board including what were later identified as the Jasperson’s fraudulent signatures. “We were easily collecting more requests to have signatures removed from the petition,” says Gloria Stofan, former Fair Rents 4 Pacifica Steering Committee member. “We had 50 letters asking for names to be removed from the petition because people were misled by the petition signature gatherers.” If those 50 letters had been accepted by the San Mateo County Election Board, a mere 13 signatures decided the fate of the ordinance.
Many tenants in Pacifica received hundreds of dollars in rent increases as a result of the ordinance defeat. Again, Peter Loeb: “The community deserves to know who paid for this campaign, who contributed to it, and how much money was spent. The tenants hurt by this drive should have this information.”
The FPPC will investigate the complaint against the California Apartment Association, San Mateo County Association of Realtors, and the Coalition For Housing Equality. All were implicated in a California Apartment Association’s newsletter 5/18/17 as resources in opposition to the Interim Ordinance 814. Loeb reports, “We know from District Attorney Wagstaffe that several thousands of dollars alone were paid to the petition signature gatherers. We know that a public relations firm, Griffiths Olson, was hired to run the campaign. A lot of outside money came into Pacifica to defeat this ordinance. It was hurtful, and we are seeking to find out who was responsible.”
In a recent letter I drafted, I summarized the common tactics of realty lobbyists experienced by many California communities seeking tenant protection. Communities including Redwood City, San Mateo, Burlingame, Mountain View, Richmond, Alameda, Oakland, and Santa Rosa can submit evidence of these observations in common:
– hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to oppose tenant right legislation in multiple individual communities,
– denigration of tenants comparing them to criminals and drug users,
– physical threats,
– misleading statements by opponents,
– misleading mailers including an unauthorized use of a Legislative Analyst Office logo.
What can we learn from our experience and that of neighboring communities?
– Recognize the realty lobbyists as biased representatives to protect the profits of their membership. They are not experts.
– Ask local city councils and legislators to decline funds from these lobbyists.
– Seek accountability from our legislators.
The Fair Political Practices Commission and the San Mateo County Superior Court will take months to come to conclusions on their charges and investigations. In the meantime, we can notify our legislators of our concerns, monitor corporate campaign financing, and vote in November.
Monica Olsen is a Pacifica homeowner and resident for 55 years. Monica is a member of Pacifica Housing 4 All and Faith In Action, Bay Area. She is a retired teacher from Terra Nova and Mercy High Schools.
For 12 years as the announcer of the Fog Fest parade, I’ve been asked to announce many groups representing all political persuasions. But I was shocked to look through this year’s script and see a group of marchers were expecting me to attack our Mayor, John Keener. Since the parade is meant as an opportunity for Pacifica to show our best side to the world, I left out the derisive comments and chose to simply introduce the group by name, Pacificans for Responsible Government. As they marched by, yelling nasty things about our mayor and waving “No Keener” signs I felt sick to my stomach.
I ran into the treasurer of the group, Steve Sinai, and asked him who is funding this negative campaign, and he replied, “SAMCAR .” This was news, since SAMCAR, (San Mateo County Association of Realtors) spending money to denigrate our mayor at FogFest is not normal. I posted as much on Nextdoor, and was quickly corrected, SAMCAR actually had not funded the group. When I pointed out that their treasurer had told me otherwise, Steve Sinai himself admitted on Nextdoor that he had in fact made it up. His exact quote was “I said it because I knew that’s the answer you wanted Ian. It’s like a child asking if there’s a Santa Clause and you say ‘Yes’.”
Why would he lie? My best guess is so I would spread misinformation, and could then be discredited for spreading misinformation. That’s not my idea of “Responsible Government,” but par for the course for a guy whose blog FixPacifica published a slew of hateful comments about Mayor Jim Vreeland the week of his tragic death, while censoring polite requests for civility. (Reminiscent of Trump’s treatment of McCain after his death.) He now is slinging mud regarding another candidate’s driving record. These tactics are more in line with Breitbart than Pacifica, where the candidates are our friends and neighbors.
I belatedly did my due diligence and looked into the finances of their group, learning that, while they may not be funded by SAMCAR, 5/6 of their money comes from a $5,000 donation by Tom Thompson, a realtor who lives and works in San Mateo. So, not SAMCAR, but nevertheless, an out of town realtor has bankrolled the first purely negative campaign in Pacifica’s modern history. (Perhaps that fact is what Steve was attempting to obfuscate.)
I then learned that the same realtor has given $1,500 each to Sue Beckmeyer, Mike O’Neill, and Vickie Flores, the 3 candidates bankrolled by outside realtors (including, $2,500 each from, wait for it…SAMCAR). I had a chance to meet with them, and asked each if they condemn the negativity and whether they would return the money from Mr. Thompson. None of them said they would return the money, but to their credit O’Neill and Flores both strongly condemned the negative campaign. As Mike put it, “That’s out of bounds and fuels more negative Washington style politics in Pacifica.” And Vickie agreed, saying, “I don’t think you need to be a bully.”
Only Sue Beckmeyer refused to condemn the group’s tactics, defending Mr. Thompson’s right to meddle in our elections because “he owns a rental property here.” She did suggest he should “focus on issues, not individuals.”
For another perspective, I asked Mary Bier, a candidate who is not supported by outside realtors, for her thoughts and she put it succinctly, “It breaks my heart that we have come to a place where it’s okay to march down the street disrespecting a civil servant.”
Speaking of that civil servant, some wondered why John Keener wasn’t at the FogFest like the other candidates. Was he afraid of a showdown? Didn’t he care enough to show his face? I asked him and he replied, “I attended the board retreat of Peninsula Green Energy, the supplier of clean energy to San Mateo County, greater than 80% greenhouse gas free, and 5% cheaper than PG&E. We discussed (among other things) plans to subsidize electric vehicles for low-income folks, build charging stations, and promote shifting from gas-powered to all electric buildings.” So while the other candidates were basking in the limelight, and out of town special interests were loudly insulting him, Mr. Keener was at work quietly advocating for our interests. Imagine that.
Most American & Pacifica voters oppose the influence of special interest money in politics as undemocratic. Buying influence negates the power of our individual votes for any political office, including City Council. Equally troubling, big money=dirty politics=dishonest smear campaigns. Any candidate who accepts $$ tied to this money is culpable for the dishonest smear campaign
Thanks to required State campaign contribution disclosures (Fair Political Practices Commission/FPPC) found on our City’s website, you can follow the money as of Oct 15: City Council conservative candidates Sue Beckmeyer, Mike O’Neill and Vickie Flores ALL received the majority of their campaign funding from out of town real estate interests. Counting direct/independent expenditure funding, Sue Beckmeyer received 58% of her total funding from out of town real estate interests. Realtor Mike O’Neil has received 64%, and Vickie Flores has received 73%.
Top funders were the National Association of Realtors, based in Chicago which spent $11,000 dollars for advertising for each of the three candidates (over $33,000 total), and the California Association of Realtors which gave $8,500 across these three Realtor-linked candidates. Realtor Thomas Thompson and his wife, who live in San Mateo, contributed $8,500 to three Realtor-linked candidates in total. There were NO labor donations to these candidates despite claims otherwise. The other 4 Council candidates received zero outside real estate $$.
The outside Realtor Groups and interconnected local Political Action Committees are behind the disturbing and disgusting smear campaign against Mayor John Keener-a new low for Pacifica. A key connection is San Mateo Realtor Thomas Thompson (see above) who contributed over 80% of the funding to the PAC Pacificans for Responsible Govt AND separately gave $$ to each of the 3 Realtor-linked Candidates. Pacificans for Responsible Govt funded the 1st smear mailer, California Assoc. of Realtor funded the 2nd smear mailer and National Association of Realtors funded the 3rd smear mailer. The Realtor-funded Candidates deny a link to the smear campaign, but these numbers don’t lie. They also refused to return their campaign contributions linked to the smear campaign.
If these outside Realtor Groups can pay to smear our Mayor, then they can buy our City Council. I know honest hard-working Mayor Keener and his track record personally, and have worked with him on reducing climate change impacts & solving the pollution problem at Linda Mar Beach. He is independent, fiscally conservative and genuinely cares about our community. These fake news mailers are full of GOP/Trump-style lies & viscous attacks. Pacificans need to pay extra attention, separate facts from lies and insist on integrity. Civil debate is healthy, but dishonest smear campaigns and special interest $$ campaigns must be called out as undemocratic and harmful to our community.
If money corrupts power/politicians, then don’t vote for City Council candidates who have compromised their integrity by accepting tainted outside money. Stop this trend. Go to the City election webpage if you want more information. Protect Pacifica for ALL Pacificans