WILL WE SEEK A HIGHER STANDARD OR A DOUBLE STANDARD?

By Emilio, on May 11, 2011

In wake of all the media on the alleged "code of ethics violation" that I committed, I wanted to post an article that was published in the Watsonville Pajaronian back on Jul 28th, 2009 that I wrote. 

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My letter to City Councilmember Manuel Bersamin asking that he resign from the City Council is in need of some clarification. What Bersamin wrote to Malo’s manager is not just about inappropriate, racially charged comments, but more so about Watsonville’s economy, which was stagnant long before the recession.


For years I have complained that racial divisive politics have taken an economic toll on our community for several decades. Let’s not forget that we have district elections because Latinos were not fairly represented in our community. But, the deep-rooted racism in Watsonville has continued to fuel animosity. Animosity creates rancor, hostility, and ill will that results in something Watsonville can no longer financially afford. Poor judgment and decisions by our City Council have limited opportunities to have a diverse and viable economy.

There are around 40 known fruit, nut and vegetable festivals held in communities throughout the state. Oxnard boasts three festivals per year — the California Strawberry Festival, the Salsa Festival and the Multicultural Festival. Their strawberry festival regularly draws around 80,000 people and although difficult to calculate, it is believed that around $7 million is generated each year for the local economy. It was reported a few years ago that at one time our strawberry festival also drew around 80,000. But, where are we now with our strawberry festival and why? The answer lies within poor judgment and decisions clouded with racially divisive politics that now have limited our city’s festival catering to mostly locals, possibly costing the city money we cannot afford to spend. While other cities and communities are capitalizing on a good source of income and have been doing it for more than a decade, we have failed to move forward.

Bersamin’s letter to Malo’s manager misrepresented the facts (“low-income Latinos who make up make up 90 percent of the city’s population”) in his attempt to undermine something he vehemently opposed. He felt confident that he had the support of our mayor and mayor pro tem. He maybe felt he had the support of our city manager, who reportedly told the promoter “we will bury you in legal fees.” It is clearly evident, to me, that a mind-set exists in our city government that is economically counterproductive.

Ironically, Councilmember Bersamin initiated “censure” and received “yes” votes from Councilmember Kimberly Petersen, who stated that the code of ethics “needs more teeth,” from Mayor Pro Tem Luis Alejo, who stated that “council members are held to a higher standard,” and from Mayor Antonio Rivas, who said something about “a recall.”

City Councilmember Bersamin seriously violated the code of ethics, and maybe even the law, in his attempt to persuade Malo to abandon their contractual obligation with information that was not factual, and he did it under the auspice of the City Council. Yet, the response from Mayor Pro Tem Luis Alejo is that Bersamin is “entitled to have his own individual opinions.” Even if we disregard the fact that Bersamin identified himself in his letter as “City Council, District 1,” what about ethical conduct?

I voted against the censure policy and because of that, I will not ask that a censure of Bersamin be placed on the agenda. But, I wonder what the other council members will do. Will they uphold the city’s code of ethics and censure Bersamin? Will they resort to a higher standard or a double standard? Will the code of ethics have teeth, or will it be rendered toothless and useless? We know what double standards and racially divisive politics have done to this city.

Some people have approached me and said, in essence, that I enjoy creating controversy. I beg to differ. When I ran for City Council and walked my district, I promised my constituents that I would give them my best effort to change how Watsonville conducts business so that we could improve our local economy. I cannot comply with my promise by standing idle and silent to the obvious. And, I will continue to promote transparency in our city government because it is long overdue.

Yes, we all make mistakes and that is what apologies are for, but apologies don’t change a mind-set. City councilmembers have to ask themselves the reason(s) they want to be on the City Council. If they find that they have a personal agenda or racial animosity that they cannot control, then they should seriously consider resigning because they are incapable of using good judgment and rendering fair decisions that best benefit our community economically and as a whole.

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