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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Friends controlling Livermore politics

Uploaded: Nov 13, 2014
In stark contrast to the heated 2011 election, the City Council and mayoral races were quite uneventful in Livermore.
Mayor John Marchand, who pulled out just a 2-point win over Barbara Hickman in 2011, won re-election unopposed, while the Friends of Livermore favored candidates, incumbent Bob Woerner and Planning Commissioner Steve Spedowfski, cruised to easy wins in the council.
The election demonstrated that the political action group has regained its control where the last time around, given the plans for the 2,000-seat performing arts center downtown and BART running into downtown, it nearly lost the balance of power. The election showed just how out-of-touch the Friends were with the regular Livermore citizens.
The road was much easier this year. BART will go along I-580 and the issues with the big theater have been resolved. The city and the performing arts organization backing the theater and operating the Bankhead Theater originally planned to use redevelopment funds for the key financing. When the state Legislature, at the request of Gov. Brown, eliminated redevelopment agencies, that source dried up. After several debates with the state and an unsuccessful legal action, the matter was resolved with the big theater plans formally dying and the Bankhead being refinanced and ownership going to the city.
That didn't leave much in the way of contentious issues, but Friends of Livermore still collected more than $44,000 as of the Oct. 18 reporting period and spent $58,000 to support Woerner and Spedowfski. Livermore, in contrast to other Tri-Valley cities, has had stringent limits on individual gifts to candidates. For decades it was $100 and then was increased to $250.
There are no such limits for political action groups such as the Friends of Livermore, as is the case with the national groups that poured money in key partisan campaigns. The Livermore group, as long as it stays of one-mind about candidates, launders money very efficiently. Lynn Seppala, husband of Independent publisher Joan Kinney Seppala, gave $5,000, while Jean King and Denise Watkins gave $6,000. Jeff Kaskey pitched in $5,000.
By contrast, the individual campaigns were all in the $5,000-7,000 range in the same reporting period.
The irony of the political action group spending tens of thousands of dollars to back its candidates is that the spending limits for individuals came right out of the concern of their members 30 years ago that developer money would buy elections. The roles have been reversed.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Tim Hunt, a blogger,
on Nov 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

Tim Hunt is a registered user.

Chung Bothwell, who finished third in this race, distributed this in an email to her supporters this week.
"According to the latest Registrar of Voters in Alameda, I received 6,408 votes from the Livermore residents. I only raised $6,095 and spent on this campaign for that 6,408 votes. On the other hand, the winners with the support of the Livermore Machine PAC, spent a total close to $70,000 to defeat me! This is because the opposition conducted a poll research on me during the campaign, and found out that I am leading in a poll going into election day. That's why they decided to spend such a large sum of money against me to make sure their chosen candidates elected! There is no way I can match that money!

By entering the race, I have energized the Livermore community at large. Our residents understand the issues of funding shortfall of $20,000,000 for infrastructure fix and the unfunded pension liability for the future. We cannot have a quality of life if we have a shortfall of money!"

Posted by Donald, a resident of Livermore,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Donald is a registered user.

Hi Tim, question for you. Did you follow the livermore election, or merely read the financial reporting and draw your conclusion? I ask this because I attended one of the candidate forums and it was very clear who the top two candidates were.

The issue Chung ran into was contradicting one of her three qualities listed in her campaign materials, integrity.

As you reprinted in her email above, Chung states that the City has an unfunded $20 million for infrastructure replacement and an unfunded pension liability. This is not the case. It takes less than one minute to download the current city budget that explains the adopted plan to address the pensions and infrastructure costs. One would think a candidate for council would read the current city budget before running. It appears that Chung chose a message, whether true or not, and stuck by it throughout the campaign even when presented the facts. She also reprinted her own quote from the Independent in her mailers to make it look like the Independent endorsed her. Hows that for integrity?

If you want to compare votes to dollars spent, she spent $5,000 more than Chris Pareja and only gained 2,123 more votes. A 35 year resident with last name recognition and deep roots in the community should have gained far more votes than someone who moved here in March and was on the wrong side of every issue.

Livermore made the right decision, the voters did not let fear mongering get in the way.

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