Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Foursome in the Forum (Part One)

Hey Pittsburger! Did you know there are elections happening this year? Your friend Zorro is late to the party, but apparently this is the year when the super-rich finally get to have their voices heard in government. That is a relief, I am so sick of hearing about the whiny needs of the average person. But enough about the federal election process… Today I’d like to talk for a moment about a much more local Federal election process; specifically, the process involving Mr. Federal Glover, the incumbent District 5 County Supervisor, and some of the people running against him.

Be advised, Pittsburger, this is going to involve some deep cuts, because we are going through the looking glass here and into the wonderland of local politics. There is more here than your friend Zorro can tackle in just one post, so welcome to the Pittsburg Voice’s first (but not the last) two-parter! That’s right, you get two posts for the price of one!

Let us begin with Part One: Foursome in the Forum….


Recently, the local Democratic Club held a forum featuring the District 5 candidates and it was enlightening on a few points, some of which affect us here at home, Pittsburgers.


In the Forum

For your consideration, we have the following candidates:

  • Conrad “the county guy” Dandridge. From the county, by the county for the county, not a big city guy. Supports community, as opposed to every other political candidate who is opposed to community. Makes addressing homelessness a priority, which is deeply important, so I would not rule him out.
  • Michael “420” Menesini. Likeable enough, the kind of outsider candidate you probably supported in your 20s, and hell, if you are in your 20s, this may be your guy. De-criminalize marijuana and close the privatized prisons. Hellz yeah!
  • Anamarie “Anamarie” Avila Farias. The candidate most able to make Federal Glover edgy and bothered, so she is ok in my book. Don’t let her campaign signs confuse you with their odd focus on her first rather than her last name. (It’s so you don’t confuse her with all the other Farias-es in the race…) She is big on issues of social infrastructure and reasonable management of housing and traffic. If you have read my other pieces (Kiss and Ride; Roadhouse), you can probably tell that these issues matter a lot to your ole pal Zorro, too.
  • And, finally, there is Federal “Hell on Wheels” Glover himself, self-styled Pittsburg royalty who acts a tiny, wee bit like he’s a tinpot dictator in some post-soviet Eastern European country. He is a big fan of Federal Glover, and pushing an agenda that benefits Federal Glover and Federal Glover-adjacent interests. He (allegedly) offers more benefits to friends and family than a Macy’s sale. What can I say about Federal Glover that hasn’t already been said? Sadly there is a fair amount, because the local press is so much in his pocket, he has to move them out of the way to get out his wallet.


In the Press

For instance, let’s have a look at a recent editorial about Mr. Glover from our own hard-hitting journalistic source at the East Bay Times. It opens thusly:


“He’s soft-spoken. Not flashy. No big ego. He just gets the job done.”


Hahahahahahaha!!!!!! That is awesome, EBT, holy shit, that is hilarious. Super Meta.

What? You weren’t kidding? Crap….

Well, that leaves two possibilities, (1) the article was written by the campaign for Federal Glover, or (2) we are talking about a different Federal Glover. The buzz on the street is that this “no big ego” guy is such a dedicated public servant that he actually called some of his prospective rivals in the election. Did you just want to shake hands in a gentlemanly way and wish them well? Nope. In his soft-spoken way, he humbly asked them not to enter the race or to drop out because he prefers to run unopposed. As he has done so often in the past. And, hey, if someone might be tempted to read something into this request – an implicit quid pro quo kind of offer or, gosh-a-rooty, even a threat – well that is just their problem. Because that would be way too “flashy” for Mr. Glover.

Back to the EBT article and the hilarity continues:


“[v]ote after vote, Glover balances social service and public safety needs with fiscal realities facing the county.”


Heh. I really wish you were kidding here, EBT, rather than just speaking in extremely vague and essentially meaningless platitudes. Let’s unpack this a bit, shall we?

On the stage in the candidate’s forum, Glover dodged a surprising number of questions by tooting his own horn and dismissing problems as the delusional beliefs of other people. Or as impossible to address with currently available public funding.


In the Streets

The first question was on traffic and public safety issues, and (almost) every candidate on the stage recognized the need for serious change. Farias said Highway 4 is a mess, which is objectively true. Dandridge said Highway 4 is a mess. Menesini said Highway 4 is a mess, but it is a bigger problem than district 5 (unlike medical marijuana?). Glover alone said: hey, Highway 4 is cool now, we just need to focus on making it better for the future. This is because Glover likes to take credit for the billions of dollars channeled into upgrading and expanding Highway 4 while he has been a County Supervisor. It’s his personal achievement – see every Federal Glover sign everywhere. Any suggestion that more needs to be done seems almost critical of Glover, and Glover does not like criticism any more than he likes contested elections.


In the Dispensaries

The candidates were asked about cannabis. You’re up, Menesini! Make it legal for medicinal purposes and use the tax revenue to help the county. Hellz yeah, brah! Farias and Dandridge are both on board with this party. Only Glover dodged by, confusingly, taking Farias to task for her views on transportation and  claiming cities should take the lead and to do it right. And just how is that supposed to work? Medical marijuana legalization has to happen at the state and county level, and then the cities decide on allowing dispensaries within their limits. It is not an issue on which cities can or should develop inconsistent and piecemeal policies. That is not “doing it right,” no matter where you land on the issue.


In the Cities

On issues of homelessness, Glover, himself a Section 8 landlord, once again punted, claiming it was an issue to be addressed by the cities and not the counties. Farias pointed out that cities in Contra Costa county do not have an equal share of low-income housing with most of the high-density, low-income housing landing in Pittsburg, Martinez, Bay Point, and Antioch. Other cities such as Walnut “NIMBY” Creek or Clayton “the actual home of Pittsburg’s City Manager, Joe Sbranti” have managed to outright reject accepting their per-capita share of such housing. Despite this obvious disparity and the problems associated with planting all the low-income housing in the furthest reaches of the county – stranding them far from the resources, jobs, transportation, and support they may need to survive, Glover thinks it ought to be worked out on a city level.


In the Fire Pit

And then, there is the money thing. In response to questions on protecting public resources (particularly, fire protection), almost every candidate supported re-allocating existing funds to create a moratorium on closing fire stations and to re-open those that had been closed. This is a big deal in our land of very dry summers, high winds, and an endless drought. Do you have fire insurance, Pittsburger? Hell no because it is crazy expensive and the bank still owns more than half of the value of your home? Well, you are not alone. But a functioning Fire Department is one of the firmest symbols of a capable and responsive government since Julius Caesar established the first one in the Republic of Rome. You should be able to count on that, right? According to three out of four candidates for county supervisor, yes, even to the point of re-prioritizing how public funds are currently allocated.

According to one candidate, though, this is more of a state problem than a county problem. Are you seeing the trend in Glover’s responses yet? And what we need is more revenue, by overturning prop. 13. Yup, he actually said it, more taxes. Glover also suggested consolidating the fire district, though he was a bit vague on how this would help the problem, how it would be done, and – most importantly – why he has not already done it in his four terms as county supervisor.

And then, toward the end of the forum, there was an almost throw-away question. Spoken in a hushed, almost breathless whisper.

Should the Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund be spread around the district?

Almost every candidate said ‘yes.’ Do you want to guess who said ‘no’? Do you want to guess why? Well, you do not have to guess because Zorro will explain all, right in this very spot, one week from now. Sit tight, Pittsburger, because the weirdness is just beginning…