Sunday, February 08, 2009

The "Chinese Fire Drill" city council emails

You may have read this story in the Union Tribune about how the city council male majority may have violated the Brown Act by sending out hilarious emails regarding the now bizarre events in Orpheus Park. These emails have been forwarded to me by several different parties so there is a good chance you have already seen them. They are a good glimpse into the strange cult of personalities that rule our town.

The first email is from Deputy Mayor Dan Dalager who brings sass and prickish condescendsion in local government to a whole new level:

From:Dan Dalager
Sent: Sat 1/31/2009 11:23 AM
To:Teresa Barth; Chris Hazeltine; council
Cc:Phil Cotton; Donald Fowler; Michael Stauffer; Terry Smith; John
Frenken; Larry Watt; Mark Hosford; Jacy Bolden; '';
'Mark Muir'; ''; 'Randy Goodson'; 'Andy Herold'; Bob
Subject: RE: Orpheus Park Tree Removal

All, I was so impressed with the 'spontaneous' demonstration over a tree cutting by a bunch of 10 year olds from Paul Ecke Central at Orpheus Park during school hours on Friday. I wonder if discussion was held in class of the tree issue (the fact that there's always 2 sides to any story is a great object lesson), or if we just had a bunch of kids being used for the expediency and ideology of an instructor. We must be doing one heck of a job teaching-I noticed that the penmanship on the signs left on the site was exemplary (and consistent to the point of almost seeming to be from the same hand), and though the message was singular, the structure and verbiage were excellent. I always thought this level of performance was beyond even advanced
elementary (and most middle school) students.

I would hope any further object lessons such as these could at a minimum be done in a safe and sane manner. Kids crossing yellow tape and approaching working chipper machines is unacceptable, and a comment from an elected official to staff that 'if someone got hurt, maybe we'd learn our lesson', though I'm sure it was an attempt at humor, was beyond despicable.

Finally, in respect to ill-will in the community- As council members, there's a lot we can do to shape and direct our community. Even though we often have differing points of view, working together makes things better for everyone and even enables a minority position to achieve its goals. Waving a red flag and publicly attacking or demeaning staff at every opportunity, creates community-wide ill-will and only isolates and renders the attacker impotent. (What do we want to achieve, an actual goal, or martyrdom? Some seem to prefer martyrdom).
Just for an example of this sort of isolation, as married as I am to the idea of the simple 'one seat to the right' rotation for Mayor, I will NEVER vote to appoint into that position anyone who does not have the competency to work through the system to obtain their goals, and instead spends their time fueling Chinese fire drills and planting discord, solely to keep the spotlight on themselves. Thanks for your

PS- Mo and Lean, could you please pass these comments on to your boards? Thanks

Dan Dalager
Deputy Mayor, City of Encinitas

The next email is from councilman Jerome Stocks who has a reputation and long history of searing sarcasm. Note that he using his new tactic of faux kindness towards his longtime rival Maggie Houlihan:

From: Jerome Stocks
Sent: Sat 1/31/2009 4:06 PM
To:Dan Dalager; Teresa Barth; Chris Hazeltine; council
Cc:Phil Cotton; Donald Fowler; Michael Stauffer; Terry Smith; John
Frenken; Larry Watt; Mark Hosford; Jacy Bolden; '';
'Mark Muir'; ''; 'Randy Goodson'; 'Andy Herold'; Bob
Subject: RE: Orpheus Park Tree Removal

I simply want to thank our Mayor, Maggie Houlihan, for taking a meeting with staff and reaching the logical conclusion that our City government should honor its verbal contracts with its resident's and this project should go forward. It would have been easy to pander to the crowd as a populist, or micromanage the project by delaying it and referring it to the City Council for politicalization as some clearly would have; but instead Maggie took the high road and supported doing the right thing over the expediently popular thing. I for one applaud her and support her for showing fortitude in this instance.

The tree / trees in question are non-native, high maintenance, not endangered, and not of historical significance. In short they are landscaping, and landscaping is subject to improvement and alteration.

Maggie, thank you for exhibiting common sense on this. I have every confidence the vast majority of Encinitas understands and agrees with you.

Jerome Stocks
City of Encinitas

Orpheus Park tree saga news roundup:

E-mails about tree put City Council under fire

ENCINITAS: Tipu tree at center of park controversy has a famous relative

Petition submitted to save tree in Encinitas park

ENCINITAS: Tree-sitter experiences first wet night

Encinitas protester remains up a tree

ENCINITAS: Tree-sitter blocks removal of park tipu tree


  1. Why is Dan including Randy Goodson in his email recipients? Randy is like the county's second biggest developer douchebag. Is Dan buddies with Randy?

  2. An abject lesson I learned when I was quite young: Never write down anything you wouldn't want read in public.

  3. Neither man comes across negatively. I agree with Danny - the school has no right to involve children in any protest, off campus or on. An instructor's personal political opinions should be kept to themselves - always.

  4. cut the tree down already. who gives a hoot about this transient from oceanside..... the guy should cut his hair and get a job.

  5. As usual, Dan comes across as totally ignorant of any sensitivity to others. Just as he still calls all woman, girls, he also pokes fun, this time, at the Chinese. I would hope that he would have learned by now that cultural sensitivity is something a councilperson might want to take into account. Of course, in his "lily white" community of friends there are probably no people of Chinese heritage, so I guess he might not know that his phrase "Chinese fire drill" is derogatory. If he is so concerned with "political correctness" and education with regard to children, then I would suggest he stop showing his own ignorance.

  6. Danny once gave me a Chinese wax job.

  7. There can be many perspectives on a story. There is only one true story.

  8. I agree with Mr. Dalager, school kids need to be in class, not out protesting for some liberal teacher.

    My kid goes to school there and the scores are terrible - now I know why!

  9. So the council isn't allowed to privately express their opinions on the matter with each other? How absurd!

    If Dan wants to send an email to Maggie, or Stocks to Maggie or Barth or whoever....and it's not about policy (which these emails were not), they should be allowed to do so.

    If they want to send personal emails, we as citizens should not be able to read every single one of their emails!

    And I'm a Leucadian, grew up here and I think JP's comment that Stocks is using "sarcasm" towards Maggie is laughable. It is this sort of nonsense from the Leucadia side that makes me a maggie/centrist in Encinitas politics.

  10. Anonymous 6:09 is totally off base. There is nothing "lily white" about Danny's circle of friends. We all grew up here with the Yees, Shitaras, Yamasakis, Gonzales', Rodriquezes, Hernadezes, Hamasakis - no one even gave it a second thought. You are uninformed about the present, ignorant of the past, and possibly projecting your own bias and prejudice onto someone else. You know not of what you speak.

  11. 7:08 - You also grew up in a time when Asian Americans were called "Chinaman" and Japanese American were interned in camps. Yes, you may have grown up with people of various races, but things were not as nice as you think.

    Perhaps it is you who were ignorant of what was happening to your "colored" friends while you were "growing up".

  12. 12:22 AM - Read the Brown Act!!!

  13. anonymous 11:54p.m. - Dan Dalager is the one who sent what should have been an in house email out to the press, Bob Naniniga , Randy Goodson, and others. If he had wanted it private why did he send it out to the public???

  14. Dan is proud of his anachronistic approach to life. Most people have a brain brake that would have caused us to rephrase the "[UnP.C.] fire drill" to something like "cluster fuck". Oh wait. Maybe that wouldn't have been such a great way to put it either.

  15. I'm surprised that Dalager's e-mail didn't include stories of jackrabbits and hunting in the El Camino valley. That he is able to put together coherent sentences also is remarkable.

    The entire council is a joke and a bad one at that, played against the citizens of this city. Stop the madness!!

  16. Dan stopped being an entirely private citizen when he became a representative of our City and when he sent the memo with his name signed as deputy mayor of our City. Therefore, as with any politician,using his title, he should be held to a higher standard. He did not send an internal e-mail, but an internal and external e-mail that went to the press. Using the term "Chinese Fire Drill" is like calling an African American a "nigger" or a Mexican American a "spic". The Italians were once called "wops" and the Irish "micks". None of these are acceptable in the 21st century.I would have hoped our community would have moved passed the "name-calling" and deal with the real issue. Did Dan and Jerome violate the Brown Act and Prop. 59 or not? That is the larger question. The other, or so it seems to me, is "why did they cut down the 10 trees?" Who lives in those 8 condos? There are no view ordinances within the City of Encinitas, therefore how could they make any such promise to begin with. If they did, why? No one else gets such preferential treatment.

  17. cut down all trees everywhere let the sun scorch the earthFebruary 09, 2009 9:32 AM

    If you think Jerome Stocks is sincere in his praise for Maggie then you are very gullible. Jerome knows that Maggie is untouchable, especially a Maggie with cancer. Some of us see past his buttery praise.

  18. You can thank your liberal icon FDR for the Japanese interment camps.

  19. Hey Dan, is it OK to use school kids to promote your own agenda if they have their soccer uniforms on?

  20. So Dan said Chinese Fire Drill..BFD. There is nothing wrong with what Dan wrote. There is something wrong with having school kids miss class time to promote the teachers agenda.

  21. "Danny" just doesn't seem very forward thinking.

  22. If I have all of this right, here is the scenario from a completely objective point of view-if there is such a thing.
    1. The City of Encinitas gave an verbal, non-written agreement, some years ago to property owners above Orpheus Park that the City would not infringe upon their ocean view.
    2. The City paid for trees that would grow very high in the future and let citizens plant them "nilly willy" in the Park.
    3. Now, many years later the property owners ask the City to honor their unwritten agreement, and keep the trees below the view line.
    4. The City did not comply with their request and continue pruning the trees down.
    5. The City then proceeds, without any discussion from citizens or Council, to cut the trees down.
    6. One person sat in one tree and protested.
    7. Teresa Barth asked Phil Cotton to have an open discussion about the decision to cut the trees down.
    8. Phil said NO to a sitting Council member.
    9. Dan Dalager sent an e-mail to both internal and external sources, including the press, and some of his friends.
    10. Marco Gonzales, of Coast Law Group, sends a letter to the City questioning the legality of the e-mail, essentially saying it is in violation of the Brown Act.
    11. No CEQA report is done.
    12. The mayor says she only talked to the condo owners and never promised anything.
    13. The tree sitter leaves the tree one week later.
    14. The City cuts down the last tree.
    What is wrong with this picture?
    Any comments or questions?

  23. Shouldn't the real question be who paid for the mature trees removal and the scrawny replacements? Taxpayers? Does Encinitas have lots of money to spare in this economic down turn? You want to preserve your view - then you pay for it. And why put in any replacements if we are just going to have to pay to cut them down too in some years when another connected person in those UGLY condos feels his real estate value is impacted.

    I am up at that park to pickup a youngster I babysit every Friday from the school below. It used to be a pretty park. Now it looks like some sad barren place that was slapped together half ass by some developer because he was required to. Perfunctory but aesthetically unpleasing.

    The swagger of certain council members as they perform back door deals is shameful!

  24. Dr. Lorri is right on as usual. Flamers, blamers, and Limbaughers stink. Dan Dalager is a poster child of too little brain and too much ego. Who says he can dictate who will be the next mayor! I want the Council to honor its verbal agreement, made by one of the previous councilmembers, but never written down or voted on or recorded, but just as good as, that I and all my heirs, assigns, opportunes, regurgitateds, etc., will forever and ever be entitled to my view of Dan Dalager's ass. Gentlement, start your chainsaws!

  25. Apparently, there is a Planning Commission resolution from 1990 regarding development of Orpheus Park, "Resolution No. PC 90-46" including this phrase, "All landscaping shall be maintained in a manner that will not depreciate adjacent property values and otherwise adversely affect adjacent properties."

    That resolution is dated 12/13/90. The trees were planted in 1993, with the help of former Mayor Sheila Cameron, Foremer Parks and Recreation Director, David Wigginton, and Former Council Member Chuck DuViver, "and several volunteers on the Plant-It-2000 project," according to Sheila Cameron's excellent community commentary in the 2/6/09 Coast News, "Encinitas government has 'run amuck.'"

    Dan Dalager is condescending and arrogant. Councilmembers are allowed to speak to one another, and e-mail "off the record." But when they are using their City e-mail address, even "internal" e-mails are considered public documents, according to the the California Public Records Act.

    Dan Dalager sent his e-mail and Teresa Barth's to the media and private "buddies." Whether he did so, or not, it was still a public document. The Brown Act comes in with regard to this type of "serial writing,' between Council and the City Manager, and the Parks and Rec Director's being considered a kind of public meeting. It is. No "closed sessions" are allowed (as in "internal document only," except for cases of pending litigation, labor negotiations, property negotiations, which involve the only "attorney client" privilege which justifies such closed sessions.

    I would like to read James Bond's letter where he told Teresa, "take a deep breath." That also sounds patronizing to me. Teresa Barth was the only one who tried to get the City Manager to wait until Council and the Public could have input on this at a public hearing.

    The instructor's "agenda," Dan and Jerome and friends, is to teach the children. This is a lesson in our local government's ineptitude and lack of accountability and sensitivity to community concerns. I heard Dan Dalager went so far as to go over to Paul Ecke School and "mouth off," about his opinion that the children shouldn't have "been involved." The kids wanted to save the tree!

    Many were there the first weekend, without the instructor, climbing in the branches. Those citizens inteviewed on the local news, except for Dan Dalager, all had wanted to save the remaining tree, and were upset with our city's ill advised actions and lack of concern for those who were objecting, as well as the loss of the shade, oxygen, beauty and community character that had been provided by the trees. People were fond of them!

    The focus by these people is attacking the treesitter or the teacher, not on the issues of revising our tree policy to promote MAINTENANCE NOT REMOVAL," especially when the trees in question were planted by public servants, on public property. Also, Council could have had discussion on this, because apparently THERE WAS NO AGREEMENT, WRITTEN OR UNWRITTEN TO CUT DOWN THE TREES, except between staff and West Coast Arborists.

    The head of the Condo HOA also said her understanding was that the trees would be trimmed, only, and that there had been no maintenance on them for at least a year!

  26. May I respectfully submit that no teachers had any agenda about taking our kids to the park. It was suggested to them that a tree sitter was a "teachable moment". They brought the kids up there to show them what was happening. It was the kids themselves who decided what to do and how to do it and At no point was anyone in physical danger. Personally, I am proud to go to a school where they value such moments. I am incredibly pleased that the kids were able to witness (and those who wanted to-participate in) a peaceful protest. All of the parents from our great school that I've discussed it with have felt the same way.

  27. Trees are always a hot topic since they enhance all of our lives. I have been reading many posts with much interest since the decisions of the city council will change our town for either better or worse.

    I'm sure all members of the council make both good and bad calls, so I am not taking sides, get no kick backs, have no vested business interest. or support any group, party or developer. That disclaimer aside, I see many people wanting to save trees, but based more on emotions than fact. I offer only my professional opinion to help guide those that seek to keep Encinitas, and especially Leucadia very green and filled with trees.

    Moving the trees in Orpheus Park would have been possible but cost serious $$$$$$$! Then there is the fact the moved trees may not "take" and die since the location is a bit adverse (salt air) Council has to look at cost of moving vs new and more numerous planting and do the most cost effective thing for the community. I do ask why these trees were not on a very frequent pruning schedule to keep the crowns of the trees below view line. I'll bet it was not enough money for the ongoing maintenance cost of the park. If there is only so much money allotted in the budget, you deal with trees that are a safety problem, and THEN if there is anything left over, then you prune for views. (ie: almost all trees need some trimming every two years. How much of your own personal budget do you allocate for this care in your yard? Governments are no different)

    Education is crucial for a community to care for it's trees. You just can't plant them and leave them on their own. Urban trees need care YEARLY. Correct budgeting is needed for root care, crown trimming, replacement, feeding and watering for any tree in the care of the town. The city arborist should have final say on planned development anywhere near the trees or their growth zones. This helps avoid PR problems like we have now, and also avoids costly removal and replacement cost when root zones are compromised or paved over. I won't even go into the lawsuits a government can get into if their development causes a tree failure that hurts or kills persons due to tree failure. (Like next to the school!)

    Knowing the life span of urban trees is also important (I stress urban because their life is shorter due to environmental stress). Holding rallies and protests to save trees at the end of their life span is wasted effort. There are many good intentions, but once the roots of a tree are compromised, it is a slow death of 1-5 years that can't be reversed, no matter HOW much you love that tree. A good example would be the Torry pines by the Cardiff Library that died. PLEASE plant and budget for the care of new replacement trees long before the older trees have to be removed. Our treescape should consist of trees of many different ages and enough money in the city budget to keep them healthy for as long as possible.

    In summery, ask council for more drought resistant trees to be planted (many different varieties) Make sure there is a budget for the care of EACH tree planted that is increased annually. For every tree cut down plant two that are suited for this climate and watering requirements. Insist on a city ordinance for views when applying to trees and a contingency plan for disputes. Don't just protest! Start a tree fund for the planting and care of the greening of Encinitas. (Check with People for Trees or WWF for ideas)

    L. Lee Horticulturist
    Quality Plantscapes


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