Currently, two local newspapers report on Torrance politics: The Daily Breeze and Easy Reader.
The second paper was purchased by the owners of the Orange County Register, and the format has changed from a magazine style to a newspaper setting. THere is more news coverage, as well, and some would argue that the reporting is more balanced.
The latest controversy out of Torrance City Hall, the cancelation of the Gerber Emergency Medical Services Contract, has brought in concerns that one of the local papers is manifesting a distinct animosity toward the mayor.
In previous posts, I have been clearly critical of Mayor Pat Furey, a Democrat who is taking unoin money, who is sympathetic to their interests,which often collide with teh public interest. I would also share that his retort of "pension envy" from local residents did not ingratiate him toward me, either.
Yet in regards to whether pay-for-play influenced Mayor Furey's support for McCormick instead of Gerber, I do not believe it.
|Torrance Mayor Pat Furey|
Now, two reports on this matter, one from the Daily Breeze, the other rom Easy Reader, depict the bent of the papers toward the mayor.
Let's consider the editorial from the Daily Breeze:
But, as Furey pointed out after Linda Gottshall-Sayed, a former member of the city’s blue-ribbon ethics committee, called on him to recuse himself, those committees known as independent expenditures are perfectly legal thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this year that’s widely seen as a disaster by good governance advocates. And elected officials are free to vote on projects backed by those committees.
The case in question, Citizens United, determined the regulation of campaign donations into politics is a restriction on Free Speech. Regardless of one's feelings about the influence of money in campaigns, its effects are hit-and-miss at best. Unions spent ten-to-one against Kevin Faulconer earlier this year, and yet he won the San Diego mayor's race. Assemblyman David Hadley faced a union-bought, special-interest onslaught, outspending his private donors, yet he prevailed over the incumbent Democrat. Two years before, Independent Bill Bloomfield outspent incumbent Democrat Congressman Henry Waxman four-to-one, yet still Bloomfield lost. Money in itself cannot determine an election, nor should one conclude that independent expenditures are buying the mind and will of individual representatives.
Regarding Furey's ascendancy to the mayoralty, he can thank the infighting among Republican voters over he two other candidates, former Councilmembers Bill Sutherland and Tom Brewer. Very likely, if only one of those candidates had run for office, Furey would not be mayor today. Furthermore, good governance advocates comes in many shapes and sizes, and they still differ to what extent private donations and independent expenditures should influence local, state, or national election.
The Breeze editorial continues:
Furey did just that, casting the swing vote to award McCormick the contract, and he said he was unworried about any conflict of interest. After all, he explained to the council, these independent committees work separately and apart from a candidate’s campaign.
If it is true that he had not contact or influence with the Independent Expenditure, then his decision to cast a deciding vote is not suspect. Investigations are ongoing at this time whether Furey was connected. Nevertheless, to call Furey the deciding vote is not exactly accurate. Councilman Geoff Rizzo and I discussed this matter, and I could just as well have targeted him as the deciding vote, or Tim Goodrich, or even Kurt Weideman.
“This was no impropriety,” Furey said from the movable dais. “Although there can be a perception and there’s a local newspaper that wants to believe there’s a perception, there is no perception.” (Yes, he is referring to the Daily Breeze’s reporting.)
The really question arises: does the Daily Breeze want to suggest that perception? If so, such accusations require evidence, testimony, research, investigation. Dutiful readers of the Breeze are well-aware that the paper endorsed Tom Brewer for mayor. They remained critical of Furey even after winning the election.
Here are selections from the column in Easy Reader:
McCormick was chosen from a pool of three potential contractors by a committee of city employees that included the Torrance Fire Department. The contract, which begins December 2, was an item of heated discussion within the community, fueled in part by an item published in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Breeze, which linked donations made by both the ambulance company and the Torrance Firefighters Association to a political action committee that supported Furey’s re-election.
Here, the facts are stated, and the source of the controversy presented.
Furey confronted accusations of impropriety head-on, dismissing calls to recuse himself from voting, noting that the PAC in question had no contact with him or his campaign and announcing that, after earlier consulting with his legal team, he had decided that he would vote with a clear conscience.
“It would not change my vote one iota one way or another,” Furey said of the support offered by the PAC supporting his campaign.
The mayor did not hide his views on the matter, and he had consulted with his lawyers about the continued propriety of voting on the contract.
Discussion began with a presentation by the city’s selection committee, outlining the selection process and detailing the criteria set for the three potential contractors that were considered: McCormick, Americare Ambulance Service and Care Ambulance Service. Gerber, despite holding the current contract with the city, was left out of the process for lacking independently audited finance records by the proposal submission deadline, as company vice-president Rebecca Gerber explained in her public comment.
All of this information I received from my discussion with Councilman Rizzo. Where was this information from the Daily Breeze? This article, published before The November City Council meeting, talked a little about the process which lead to the McCormick recommendation, but the suggestion of pay-for-play lingers.
Here are other sections from Easy Reader:
|Councilman Kurt Weideman|
But after comments from the public tapered off, Councilmembers Goodrich and Weideman came to the crux of the matter: that Gerber had defaulted on its contract with the city twice within the past two years, first in June 2013 and again in February 2014. Violations of the contract included a failure to have the required number of ambulances; failure to meet required response times; ambulances that failed vehicle maintenance inspections; and a failure to integrate with Torrance’s computer aided dispatch system.
No matter whether the prior reviews of Gerber were biased or genuine, the fact remains that Gerber had not had a financial audit prepared. Rizzo had informed me that they were given notice that their contract would not be renewed in August. They had the three months to get their financials in order.
One post praised the Easy Reader account:
Donna Dulin Rasnick · Works at RETIRED AND LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT!
It's nice to read an unbiased account of the council meeting. Perhaps the daily breeze should take a look at this kind of reporting.
So, the question emerges: is the Daily Breeze an integrated medium dedicated to providing the whole story, or more interested in attacking the current mayor, and sending out signals of purported impropriety?