Saturday, August 11, 2012

Encinitas Taxpayers Association Retrofit

I'm publishing this post because I owe it to several community members who have put a lot of effort into helping Encinitas. They are now very concerned that likely future events will get pinned to their reputation, unfairly. There are very unique circumstances (not discussed) around this particular issue.

As some of you know, I am for fair and open deliberative processes above all else in governance. I think the ETA should lead by example.

These questions arrise from attending the second half of the Thursday evening ETA meeting. This was an open public meeting, attended by members of the press.

10 Questions for the New (and Past) ETA President, Bob Bonde.

When you scheduled the ETA meeting:
Q1. Why didn't you send out an agenda to the ETA email list or even the board
of directors prior to the meeting?

A: I was never given a mailing list. I asked [Wagner (Outgoing President)]  and  Cheeseman (Sec/Treasurer) to notified the members since I was new to the group and had no records.

Comments:  It appears that most of the agenda was a surprise to most people, and certainly to Wagner (ETA Past President and the only past or current board member present other than Bonde). The agenda could have been sent out, at least to Wagner and the Board. A meeting notice was sent to the ETA email list, so the agenda could have been sent out in the exact same manner.

The ETA uses a modern method of handling their emails, in an email contact system. Bonde could have: 1) used this system or asked for the email list to be exported, 2) forwarded the agenda to the Board like he did with the notification for the special meeting to have sent out. 

I'm glad the Encinitas City Council posts (most) of their agenda items before their meetings. This way interested parties can do their research and formulate questions prior to the meeting.

It turns out that Bonde was sending out emails to select members of the community letting them know that he would be agendizing certain items, about a week prior to the meeting. There was plenty of time and energy available to include a notification to the ETA, or at least the rest of the Board of Directors (but see Bonde's defense below).

Q2. I don't think there were any board of directors at the meeting, did you
attempt to select a time to hold the special meeting which could include
their participation?

A2: I knew Cheeseman was out of town and that Eldon may late but since Ed notified the board, I thought the rest would have attended.

We put off the meeting for a week but felt that since time before the election was so short that it was important to proceed.  As you know, it is always hard to get everyone together during the summer.

Comment: Fair enough. However, they were notified after a date and time had been scheduled for the special meeting rather than ensuring that a time was selected that might fit in to more people's summer schedules. It is also fair to say that an effort to coordinate an optimum meeting time was not made.

Q3. You clearly have done a lot of very good research on some of the issues.
Why did you not share this research or at least the language of the
proposals, or even the official summary,  of the initiatives, before (or at)
the meeting?

A3: As I said at the meeting the deadline for submitting the issues to the county is today (August 10).  Consequently, I did not have the language of the proposals.

I met with MiraCosta and San Dieguito and read what materials that were available and orally related my interpretations to ETA.   The items were put on the agenda as discussion items and then moved by vote to business items for action.

Comment: Not only were the ETA endorsed statements not available for discussion, the language of the ballot question, or even a summary, was not distributed at the meeting. The vote on these items was carried out by mostly unprepared meeting participants. Bob did present his perspective and gave his summary, orally. There was no evidence that people with other perspectives were invited to present their side prior to the meeting. 

Bonde had invested a lot time in researching these issues. Few people do this and it is unfortunate as our city would be in better shape if more people looked closely at the details (and the documents). Bonde's efforts in this regards are invaluable.  I also know how much Bob cares about the future of Encinitas.

I have very little doubt that he had the intention of putting all his issues on the ETA agenda with the objective of getting a vote to approve the opposition of the bonds. Why wouldn't he, after doing all the research and holding a strong belief that ETA endorsement/opposition makes a big impact on the voters? 

I think Bonde is saying he was submitting ballot statements a day after the meeting, but I don't recall him telling people this at the meeting. If so, why not at least let people read the ballot statements that they would be approving in the name of the ETA? He had been working on those for weeks but he did not include the Board of Directors in the drafting of those statements or seek input from the ETA membership. 

Bonde was certainly aware the he had not sought or received any feedback on ballot statements he was drafting. I have zero doubt that Bonde knew he wanted these issues on the agenda weeks prior when he sought and was appointed to the ETA Board to fill the Wagner's spot. 

Sending notice to the ETA members and Board that the bond issue would be on the agenda (and action ultimately taken) seems critical to maintaining an open governance structure of the ETA. If this had been desired it could have happened.

Q4. Why weren't  any other informed perspectives  solicited for presentation
at the meeting (or were they)? It comes across strongly that your positions
are selected and presented for validation, not for formulation of a
position. Nobody else knew to research and think about the issues to voted on because the agenda was given in advance.

A4: A rough agenda was shared with Cheeseman, who I believe shared it with others as he is good about that.  The only 2 business items on the printed agenda were the membership fee and 501c[4] corp. status and both were discussed at the previous meeting.

Cheeseman was out of town and I had to complete the agenda without his help.  It wasn’t completed until the morning of the meeting. 

Comment: There were a couple people present who had done extensive research on some of the items discussed. According to Wagner these people were not on the ETA membership list, but appeared to have been noticed through Bonde's solicitations for participation in the ETA votes at the meeting. That's okay.  Selected individuals were given notice of items to be on the agenda, while the ETA general membership was not notified of the gravity of what was to be discussed and acted upon. It would have been even better if the agenda had been publicly noticed. 

Cheeseman was brand new and has no experience and, according to Wagner, the Board was not informed even of the "business" items. Bob was aware that Cheeseman was new because they both were appointed as officers, to fill vacancies, at the same time, a few weeks ago.  

The real meat of the meeting and those things Bob clearly considered most urgent were not on the "business" part of the agenda. It was on the "discussion" part of the agenda. It might seem that its okay to not give advance notice of discussion items, but on each of these discussion items Bonde would call for a vote to move the item to a "business" item. All the items were actionable. There were important deadlines for submission to the county registrar of voters, the next day according to Bonde. 

It is gross when the city waits to the last minute to vote on something and forces a vote to go a certain way because of some last minute requirements. I saw parallels.  

Below is a copy of the agenda, which was a huge surprise to Past President Wagner when he arrived at the meeting.   

It is a weak farce to say that the "discussion" items were somehow not as important to give advance notice for. They were actionable items and, according to Bonde, issues that needed to be resolved before the following day.

We would not let our Mayor do this.

Q5. How did the process for developing the ETAs endorsements provide a better
means of representing the public than the process used by the current city

A5: ETA voted to retain the key ingredient of the last election; the  rating sheet and added endorsement on the bottom of the sheet after the evaluation was complete.  

 Comment: The votes to endorse and oppose ballot measures were made on the basis of the oral information presented by a small number of members. Bonde had researched and clearly solidified some positions. Nothing, including the language of the proposals, was available for review. There was no indication that alternative perspectives were solicited for presentation. 

As for how the ETA will work in the council campaign, I'm glad that enough people realized how over-the-top it would be to have endorsed Kranz and Schaffer before criteria developed, before they were interviewed and  before all the candidates became public (see agenda item C).

I'm for letting voters make educated decisions. I've always been for the ETA creating information sheets on candidates and have never supported grading those responses (I've been involved with that, because my view on this has not been in the majority). On top of that, an ETA endorsement does not appear to be that valuable. In some cases it can be harmful.

6. There must be about 200 people on the ETA membership email list by now.
Many of these people have been very active and supportive of the ETA in the
last few years.  Will they be included and invited to renew their membership
prior to the new election? I am pretty sure the ETA still has a big box of
board of directors approve official ETA renewal envelops. Those can be sent
out and provide an easy way for members to renew.

A6. I found out about the mailing list from Ed at the Thursday meeting.  One of ETA’s objectives is to achieve a membership of at least 300 by election time.  Thank you for your suggestion. 

 Comment: Does anyone believe that Bonde didn't know that the ETA had an email list? It is also inconsistent with other responses. Will former ETA members be disenfranchised? 

Q7. Why would you push for endorsing kranz and schaffer (Agenda Item C) even
before they filed for candidacy? Why wouldn't you wait until at least all
the candidates filed? Why would you propose endorsing any candidate without
first issuing a questionnaire or holding interviews.

A7. They filed at 5 P.M. on the 9th.  Their endorsement was only
 on the agenda as a discussion item.  ETA did not move it to
 a business item, so no endorsement was made.

Comment: See the agenda. Items on the "Discussion" agenda were actionable, and most resulted in action taken. 

Q8. Related to 7. Agenda item H1 was a discussion interviewing candidates.
Why would any candidates agree to be interviewed if the ETA already issued
their endorsements of Kranz and Schaffer (BEFORE they were even interviewed
and before criteria for endorsement was even developed?).
A8. I saw the last evaluation sheet for the first time at this meeting.  I see it as a tool but not an end all.
Comment: The answer does not address why the specific endorsement of Kranz and Schaffer were placed on the agenda prior to the discussion of candidate interviews. It was an order that makes no sense if the ETA's endorsements weren't to look predetermined.  I can not ignore that Bonde selectively solicited active campaign supporters of Kranz and Schaffer to get them to attend the meeting. In an email that has since been forwarded to me, Bonde wrote: 

...We are blessed to have two fine city council candidates and their functioning election committees that are working hard in our behalf but they can’t accomplish the goal alone I need your help.  On Thursday the 9th of August, at 7 P.M. at the U.S. Bank, community room in the Trader Joe’s, CVS Pharmacy shopping center off of El Camino Real in Encinitas, I will hold my first meeting as the new president of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association after many years of being away.  I want ETA to take strong stands, endorse candidates and oppose bond and the elected Encinitas mayor issues, but unfortunately some current members aren’t sure that’s the best approach.  My feeling is that the electorate wants and needs the direction that only positive leadership can bring...  

9. It is my understanding that you went to the Schaffer support network to
get them to turn out to the ETA meeting last night.  Is this true? How does
the ETA represent "the people" if the votes were actively stacked with
Schaffer supporters? Is it true that they were told that the issue about
endorsing Kranz and Schaffer would be on the agenda for them to vote on (and
that the board of directors were not told this, nor was the ETA membership
A9. The only people at the ETA meeting that I recall seeing [Schaffer Rallies] were Ed and Kathleen Linderman. Can’t call that stacking the meeting can you?

I put out the word about last nights meeting to anyone I thought had an e-mail list, as I am committed to make ETA as significant as possible and we need memberships to do that.  

Comment: He didn't answer the question about going to a network of people who are openly campaigning for Kranz and Schaffer with more information than was given to the general ETA membership. 

The ETA has an email list. The ETA email list was NOT provided the information that was given the selected groups, who all appear to actively support Kranz and Schaffer. 

Further, there were way more than 2 people who have participated in Schaffer and Kranz rallies at the ETA meeting, however it should be a significant message to Bonde that many of those folks he solicited made a decision to not show up. 

I had always hoped that the ETA would develop into strong organization with a solid mission to be inclusive of all perspectives. It makes it hard to recruit people who don't think that Kranz and Schaffer are the bomb if there is a sense that membership is crafted to be dominated by active Kranz and Schaffer campaigners. Encinitas residents are super tolerant of other peoples' views and would support organizations that engage diversity.   

A strength of the ETA in recent years has been that its membership and board are highly diverse in their views. In some cases, that has explained why the ETA did not step into certain issues. Consensus among a diverse group could not be reached. Bonde has expressed his view that this was a sign of weakness. It wasn't. It was a sign of the strength which could be brought to the table on those occasions when a consensus of unlike minded people could strongly agree with a position. That would be an important reflection of the populace.

The ETA is at great risk of becoming a reflection of an even more lopsided subset of Encinitas residents. 

Many people are happy that they are now able to make a clean break from the ETA without feeling guilty that they are letting down the community. This post is an unfortunate response to some people feeling cornered and necessary action for cutting away from a drama.


  1. I understood that there would be a "report card," that candidates would be graded, and that the top three who are in alignment with ETA's fiscal positions, that received the highest grades would effectively "be endorsed." However, I feel the membership of ETA should be involved in the grading; it shouldn't be up to only one person, although I don't know that's supposed to happen?

    I do think, as Ed Wagner suggested, it would complicate "bookkeeping," all the extra disclosures required, if the ETA were somehow considered to be a PAC!

    Ideally, ETA could have had the agenda e-mailed to active members.

    In fact, that should be part of the functioning of the e-mail list. The new president, Bob Bonde, should have had the e-mail list well in advance of the first meeting; then this wouldn't have happened?

    I don't agree with some of Kranz' positions, either. I like that he's been active, attending a lot of Council Meetings, speaking, and that he's strongly for open government.

    I do support Lisa Shaffer. If someone has reservations about her, I'd like to know what they are. Sometimes she has removed comments, or had them removed from an editorial she's written, on Encinitas Patch, or from a UT link she's shared on her facebook page, for example. But that's her prerogative, I know.

    However, my feeling is that Shaffer and Kranz surely have the best chance of defeating Stocks? That could be one of the main goals of the ETA, at this time, in my opinion.

    But I get concerned about defeating him if the vote gets split into too many pieces of the "pie." We know that Mrs. Aceti, was it Betsy? had a big negative impact in that way. Over a thousand people voted for her? It seemed as though it was election "engineering," to me, akin to fraud.

    I support Yost, too. She has been clear on her platform, and I appreciate that! She was at the meeting, and I'm sure she paid her $10 membership fee. I paid mine, too, in order to renew, but it did feel kind of like "pay to vote," at the time. I understand ETA has financial obligations, including if it does a "snail mailing."

    It seems important that we can reach an INFORMED consensus before anything gets finalized for mailing or publishing online, such as Hoodlink?

    I feel badly that some were upset about our vote to oppose the school general obligation bonds that will be on the ballot. I was putting my own opinions ahead of some others, who felt strongly there should have been more analyzation and more notice.

    In reading the post, here, and thinking about it some more, I could have waited. I still feel the bonds are too expensive for people on a fixed income, especially for those who didn't purchase their homes in the 70's or 80's when prices were significantly less. Property taxes are already high for those who of us who purchased property here more recently.

    It seems that a lot of people have the attitude, if you can't afford to live here, then move away. And many have. However, with the "aging of America" (and my own aging), it would be great if more people could afford to stay in our homes we've grown to love, modest though they may be, in our lovely town of Leucadia . . .

    I have a lot of empathy for your concerns about notice and transparency. ETA isn't a government entity, but notice and transparency are or should be hallmarks, ethical standards in any organization from my perspective, especially any non-profit . . .

  2. Kevin, in reading over your post, again, I hope you might reconsider your "stepping away," if you were referring to yourself. I hope that Ed Wagner will stay on board too.

    We didn't really understand what was "going down." I feel Bob Bonde meant well. He wanted to get a "jumpstart" on taking strong positions, as we are so far into the campaign process, as I see it . . .

    I'm not trying to defend him, exactly just to share with you that I do respect your more deliberative process. I also respect that you, Charles, Ed and some others have a lot more financial "expertise" than I do . . .

    I hope that you might come to the August 21 meeting, is that the next one? I was late, too, for the meeting, so I felt at a disadvantage that way, too.

    I would ask for a reconsideration of some of the agenda items, based on more complete information, and more notice to investigate . . .

    Please don't give up on the community. Part of the reason we were there was because we've so appreciated the editorials and clear thinking of some of the members, like Ed Wagner! I'm really sorry, now, if he or you felt "overruled."

    I wish one of you would run someday, for Council. I know it would be an exhausting job, because of your attention to detail. Maybe you will someday in the future?

    Lets not burn bridges of friendship and connection, if we can help it! And I think we can! That was the first ETA meeting I've attended, but I didn't see the agenda until I arrived.

  3. Sorry for three comments in a row, but my understanding from what Bob said, and from reading his answer, here, to Question 3, I thought he meant that the ballot language of the General Obligation Bond proposals was not yet available?

    I could be wrong, but I don't think Bob Bonde meant that arguments against the proposals were due the next day (August 10?)

  4. I'm stuck reading the boring details of ETA's meetings? Must be really sleepy dog days of Summer in Encinitas.

    I thought there was an election 3 months from now. Isn't there any more interesting news to post?


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