For those Kensington residents unable to attend last night’s meeting of the Kensington Talmadge Planning Group, you missed a more-than-usual four hour blood bath, highlighted by a visit from the Mayor’s spokesman, Ron Lacey.
Why was Mr. Lacey sent down from above, when the Mayor only lives two blocks from the Kensington Community Church where our monthly meeting is held? What could it be that the Mayor had to say that necessitated the insertion of a non-agenda item to give the podium over to Ron Lacey? And why couldn’t he mosey over himself? God knows he could use the walk.
Well, besides the eventual speech about “density is coming, shove it and like it…”, apparently the result of the annual KTPG elections last month did not sit well with the Old Guard, nor the developers in the audience. We had heard a rumor that Someone had gone to the City Attorney’s office with a complaint of election irregularities, but since the election was run by the Old Guard, we at the Heart of Kensington were not concerned. It would appear that tactic in overturning the results, in which the HoK swept all seven open seats, was fruitless, so Someone then went to the Mayor with their complaint.
Ron began by saying that the reported irregularities consisted of people voting before voting had officially started, and electioneering outside the church hall at the sidewalk and inside the building. We must point out, again, that the Old Guard ran the election and placed the ballot box on a table by the front door and directed people coming into the hall to place their ballots in the box. Many people voted and left, much as one does in any election, yet the complaint from those who lost their seats was that the voting took place before people heard the nominees make their campaign speeches from the podium. Which then brings up an interesting Catch-22 to the second complaint. There is a charge of electioneering within the church hall. But as new KTPG board member, and HoK member John Garrison pointed out to Ron Lacey, it is ludicrous to say that electioneering inside the building is not permitted when the candidates were asked to each stand at the podium and give a speech that included why people should vote for them. John said it defied logic to say electioneering was not allowed while the board sanctioned campaign speeches by the candidates. And, for the record, HoK did no ‘electioneering’ of any kind inside the building. We did have a table set up at the sidewalk outside the church with flyers that had our slate of candidates listed. We also provided nice, red HoK stickers to be worn on the shirt, much like the “I Voted” sticker, for anyone who requested one.
Ron went on to chastise us some more, and said even though we had violated some vague rules, laws, ordinances, scribbles on a piece of paper or thoughts in someone’s head, that the Mayor had magnanimously decided not to challenge the election and would let the results stand. He just wanted us to know that this sort of behavior would not be tolerated in the future.
John Garrison then asked Ron to cite which Council policy or ordinance forbid HoK from doing what we did (handing out flyers and stickers at the sidewalk). Ron said, as expected, he would get back to us on that.
Suzanne Grant then raised her hand and when Ron called on her, she lit up like a pinball machine, and this was before we adjourned to the Heart of Kensington Alternate World Headquarters at the Bleu Boheme for Basil Martinis. She told Ron in no uncertain terms that she did not appreciate his tone, that she thought his manner was condescending and that she did not appreciate having him come and talk to us as though he were scolding us. She went on to say that even though the Mayor is a member of our community and a neighbor, it had been a very long time since anyone had seen the whites of his eyes, and for Ron to show up and deliver that message – well, it was offensive, and we did not need to hear it and he should be ashamed of himself. Or something to that effect.
Yours truly then chimed in, and harboring a month-long grudge against City Planner Marlon Pangilinan, let loose. I pointed out the infamous Grand Jury report on the Development Services and Planning Department, which noted numerous failings and provided several recommendations. I went on to say that we had Marlon sitting right there with us, and during the March election, when one of the Old Guard asked about the legality of the HoK promoting a slate of candidates, rather than provide a simple and correct answer that it was perfect legal for us, as opposed to the existing KTPG board to run a slate, he instead answered that a slate was an indication of a lack of diversity and single-issue candidates and therefore not a good thing. My point was that it was apparent that the Mayor had not taken a whit of the Grand Jury’s recommendations to heart if that was the kind of biased information we are getting from the planning department.
New (HoK) board member Bob Coffin raised his hand to ask Ron a question, but Old Guard Chair Tom Hebrank cut off the forum and said there would be no more questions and no more discussion. To that we say, Tom goes to the top of the list for removal in the elections next March. Hebrank – dead man.
About that time, we descended into chaos.
Oh, and yes, Ron did throw in a canned speech about how we are all going to have to tighten our belts and suck up some more density and taller buildings and get used to it.
After he left the podium, he stopped to talk, first to John Garrison (the meeting was still going on), then came over to the Giggle Couch where I was sitting with Suzanne and Kim. He began by apologizing and saying he was only the messenger. Suzanne was still hopping mad and continued to give him an earful. Ron said it was just the message that he had to deliver. I said, well then, we have a message for you to take back to the Mayor. I said that I had thoroughly enjoyed the exchanges between him and Jim Varnadore, and that as far as we in Kensington were concerned, Jim was spot on in characterizing the Mayor as being less in touch with his constituents and neighbors than the Pope. I told him that so far, being good neighbors, we had let him off the hook on the Kensington Terrace issue and had not asked him to take a public stance. However, after the stunt this evening, the message we wanted delivered to His Highness is that he had better trot his ass down here to the community church and join in a meeting or there would be one thousand Steve Francis for Mayor signs going up in Kensington a month from now.
Oh, and I’m just the messenger.
"Behind San Diego is a romance of love, chivalry and struggling pioneers." — Davis Baker Company advertisement, San Diego Union, 21 February 1926