Think Tank: Reroute Great Highway
Epic Precipitation in California 2016-2017


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Over the past 15 years or so, City Council has forced the public to actively research its activities around real estate development, to simply learn what is going on -- and force it into the public conversation, where it belongs.

One example: City Council refused to address the widening of Highway 1 during the EIR process, when it would have mattered. Individual council members said they would, but they did not even put it on the docket for consideration.

It's easy to look around town and see the results of these inept City Council activities. Lest the Planning Commission be blamed, City Council may act as Planning Commission, if it chooses to do so. At least twice in the past several years, City Council permitted spending of public money on ballot issues that were not approved and did not go through public process.

Probably the worst thing City Council is permitting is a continued weak financial position for Pacifica, preferring to grow debt through unanswered issues around future pension and benefits payouts, unfettered spending (e.g., the Wahlstrom Report), and continued borrowing on old loans for the Community Center and the Police Station (to name two). In fact, Pacifica's economic position is so weak that the county recently declined to consider serving the town with service for police, fire, etc., as there simply was not enough collateral.

These decisions and lack thereof jeopardize our community by any metric, most important for those of us who enjoy living here, by livability.

Money is the greatest corrupter of politics and elections. Five among many ways of making campaign contributions at all levels -- local, state, and national -- less likely to involve corruption would be to:

1. Allow contributions only from individual human beings.

2. Allow contributions only from registered voters in the jurisdiction involved.

3. Cap contributions by individuals to candidates or issues per election to a strict dollar or dollar-equivalent limit that even a poor voter could afford.

4. Subject candidates to the same contribution limits that apply to everyone else for their own and other campaigns.

5. And do not permit unspent campaign contributions to carry over from one election to the next or be spent for non-campaign purposes.

Of course, we would need a less political and sold-out Supreme Court for any such democratic, common-sense measures to fly as laws, but democratic reforms have been, and could be, instituted on a voluntary basis by candidates and interest groups.

Kathleen, it's more about the out-of-town real estate PACs that try to influence local elections. The amount of money being thrown at our little town from the outside is disturbing. Trying to paint it as a personal vendetta against realtors is a distraction.

The facts are that if Measure W had passed, the City Council could have voted to permanently rezone the quarry residential. I think every week there was another postcard in the mail from one of the "outside of Pacifica" political organizations, endorsing two of the candidates. As a person who works with advertisers, I know that name recognition is important. This election was the national election. If I am preoccupied with the national, or just don't pay attention, the name recognition in the local election will be a big deal. The sheer amount of money spent on those two candidates makes it impossible for anyone to compete with local donations.

Follow the outside money. I love my realtor best friend. I love the realtor who sold us our acre. And I love the realtor who handled the sale of my mom's home in Pacifica. This is about local elections and shadow money. Keeping the politics real.

Realtors are also our neighbors. City Council members are all our neighbors. I mean LITERALLY our neighbors. They have a vision for Pacifica and decided to dive into the deep end, knowing they will NEVER make everyone happy. Ever. If you are truly frustrated with what you perceive is corruption, etc., etc., please RUN FOR CITY COUNCIL. Before you do, be informed on the salary you'll receive for the many hours of service that is required of you. Amortizing is not your friend here. But if you still decide to take this job, there will be times your neighbors will hit you with vitriol and anger. However, some will come to you with constructive ideas, plans, petitions that may help move us forward. You ARE a human being with flaws and in the instances when I believe you are on the wrong path, I will be present, aware, involved, working toward my vision for Pacifica. And thank you, neighbor, in advance for your service to our community!

Dan, FYI. Semyon Dukach: angel investor, entrepreneur, and member of the MIT blackjack team:

Sharp-eyed readers have tipped us that top 2016 Pacifica City Council race donor Semyon Dukach ($9,000) is the new owner of 1 Higgins Way, at APN 023350040. 1 Higgins Way does not appear to be part of the City of Pacifica and may need to be annexed to hook up to municipal utilities.

The initial confusion was related to the misspelling of "Dukash" on the October 2016 financial disclosures.

Ms. Vaterlaus, what does the Code of Federal Regulations have to do with Pacifica? Easy answer. It doesn't.

Hereabouts, when you see SAMCEDA (formerly SAMCDA, the "E" was added some years ago as lipstick on the pig), SAMCAR, and chambers of commerce taking part in an election, you know an attempt to buy votes for overdevelopment and overpopulation is going on.

This is what I have been saying for the past two years. Mike O'Neill, Karen Ervin, and now Sue Vaterlaus are all in SAMCAR's and
out-of-town Realtors' pockets. They are desperately trying to keep rent control and rent stabilization out of Pacifica. If they cared for the community, they would never have ALLOWED PACIFIC SKIES ESTATES TO DO A MASS EVICTION! No community this size would allow that to happen. Remember that in a political contribution there is always PAYBACK required. The community suffers because that is who REALLY PAYS BACK! At least Lorie Tinfow is gone. She got stopped in her PAYBACK to PSE, thanks to the CCC realizing the illegal permit was being given for a BOGUS remodel when it was NEW CONSTRUCTION that was secretly being done!!!
LOOK CLOSELY AT WHAT IS GOING ON at Planning Commission and City Council meetings. Pay attention
to TINA WEHRMEISTER, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, and her so-called staff reporting. She denied due process and an environmental impact report that are city ordinances.

It should be pointed out that Pacifica is likely headed for a rent control ballot measure either this November or next. Expect the National Association of Realtors to pour even more money into that contest.

Was Nihart paid to develop (failed) Fassler?

Why would the National Association of Realtors spend $76,408 on the Pacifica City Council race? They must be expecting a return on their investment.

Mike O'Neill received a large amount of money -- indirectly -- in terms of support in his last run for office. Mass mailings were paid for by the Realtors@ group/lobbying organization. I thought at the time that this was the first time this had happened in a local election, but I was wrong -- Ms. Nihart had received money from this special-interest group well before that. Thanks to for unearthing that.

Real estate interests need to be tamped down -- way down -- in local decision-making. The financial interest of these folks is evident. Renters need protection. I used to be one.

The Code of Federal Regulations defined independent expenditure as an expenditure for a communication "expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents." 11 CFR 100.16(a).[3] The term was first introduced in the Code of Federal Regulations in 2003[4].
Sierra Club can do it too.

Note not made in cooperation with the candidate.

Peter, my question was: Did the YES on W people contribute to the San Mateo County Realtors, California Realtors, etc., the people who funded so many postcards for two of the candidates. I could wallpaper an entire wall with them -- not the specific two candidates, because that would be disclosed (at least we hope). But if he contributed to the PACs, to help fund those candidates indirectly, wouldn't that be interesting, no?

Julie, to answer your question, yes, there is a way to see if the quarry developer contributed to council candidates. You just have to look at the campaign filings for the quarry and the council candidates. I don't think any quarry money found its way to council candidates, though. But I don't think it matters much. The quarry developer spent three-quarters of a million bucks –120 times as much money as the No On W campaign – and lost by a 2-1 landslide.

At the same time, Sue Vaterlaus received contributions of $65,262, most of it from out-of-town real estate interests, compared to $16,683 received by Deirdre Martin. Vaterlaus was the top vote-getter by a margin of 657 votes, but received 4 times as much in contributions as Martin. Did all that money buy those votes?

If Pacifica elections are going to be determined by huge amounts of outside real estate money, that's a different election game for Pacifica and not one that I think most Pacificans support.

Todd's question is relevant, too. What about Mike O'Neill's campaign? Was it largely funded by outside real estate interests? Somebody could ask to see those campaign filings.

I wonder if any of the Quarry owner's money found its way to the real estate PACs. When people were attacking Martin and the NOBYs over the Nihart withdrawal, I asked on NextDoor and in a letter to the Tribune if any of those PAC-supported candidates would be willing to give up the PAC money. Sue Vaterlaus said No on NextDoor. My point was that nobody would need an endorsement from the Democrats, which made it a partisan election, if the candidates like Martin and Duffy had a level playing field.
I am glad to see the article. Getting back to my original question: Is there a way to see if the Quarry development team contributed to the real estate funds?

What about O'Neill?

Wow, I knew the realtors spent a lot, but I didn't know that they were mostly out of town and I never imagined they spent twice as much as everyone else combined! This is a huge story and needs to be seen by as many voters as possible.

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