Sloppy or Sleazy?

by Carolyn Chase


Mismanagement or sleaze? Either one, it doesn't really incline a person to support a candidate for elected office. Last week, a couple of emails arrived to inform me that a political mailer from Jim Madaffer's campaign for San Diego City Council District 7 (replacing Judy McCarty who is termed-out), contained a photograph of Madaffer, McCarty and - here's the surprise - Carolyn Chase. Captioned, "Judy McCarty and Jim with Earth Day Founder Carolyn Chase," I was never contacted about the usage of my name or likeness.

I have not made an endorsement in this race at this time. In fact, I have withheld any endorsements or activities from all the City races except the 1st district where I have endorsed Scott Peters and my company has been hired to produce his website.

For the other races, I am participating in the volunteer political interview processes for both the San Diego Sierra Club and the San Diego League of Conservation Voters. I have turned down several other earnest candidates seeking my individual support in lieu of these community interview processes. I hope Jim Madaffer will participate. When candidates answer questionnaires and take the opportunity to participate in live questions and answers in a free-form format, it is an excellent way for all involved to get informed prior to making a decision in any particular race.

The 8-page, full-color campaign tabloid was apparently mailed to as many as 10,000 District 7 voting households. An email to Madaffer - asking why the photo was used without so much as an inquiry - elicited a return phone call where the first line of defense was the ignorance of the staff. Madaffer claims he thought all the photos were cleared and that no one in the office knew anything about it. As a proper captain, he did agree that, overall, this was his responsibility and apologized. But I still feel used. The damage is done. And he struck me as someone who was going through the motions of a required response to a calculated risk - and that he had been in that kind of situation before - where you make a choice you know is off, but you do it anyway and clean up the mess later. I think I would feel better if he'd told me - hey, Carolyn, we just decided to use the photo without your permission because we had it and felt justified in doing so. That at least would have been standing up for his actions - a kind of sleaze with honor. Otherwise, it looks like plain poor management and that doesn't give me warm fuzzies for a council person, either.

Unfortunately, he also tried to diffuse my concern about the implied endorsement by claiming that the brochure technically had not mentioned me as an endorser. A weasel point if ever there was one, he backed down when I pointed out that any reasonable person would think that the people in a candidate's brochure surely had endorsed the candidate. Why else would it appear in a campaign brochure? Are we simply to disbelieve everything in campaign-financed political mailers?

The key selling point for the piece on the outside cover is: "Meet the Only Candidate for City Council with The Experience We Need to Maintain Our Quality of Life: JIM MADAFFER" Inside a major quote in large type: "Jim was an environmentalist before it was fashionable. He helped build Mission Trails Park and started our award-winning Recycling Program." Please!

I happen to know enough about Madaffer's key competitor in this race, Deanna Spehn, to be able to state unequivocally that he is absolutely not the "Only Candidate" with "The Experience" needed to either maintain our quality of life - or just as important - deal with the range of issues confronting a city council that will be going through a tremendous change-over. Deanna is not only an expert on waste and recycling issues, but also on land use and especially the City's Multiple Species Conservation Plan. She also was also as involved as Madaffer in community efforts for Mission Trails Park and supporting recycling.

For the record, I have not run into Madaffer at any of the diversity of environmental-related events or groups I've been involved in for the last ten years. He has not contributed even a dime or some time to join the "motherhood and apple pie" volunteer-based local non-profit, San Diego EarthWorks, that needs help organizing Earth Day. While I don't believe that Spehn is a member of EarthWorks either, I have seen her at community meetings and hearings on environmental issues. While I haven't always agreed with the positions she has had to represent, there is no question that she absolutely has the experience to serve effectively on the city council. She is smart in ways that matter in complex and expensive policy decisions. That cannot be said about many other candidates, sorry to say. This is not to say that other qualities aren't important. But the bottom line about smart growth - or smart anything - is that you have to have a certain percentage of smart people in particular ways in enough positions in order for smarter things to happen.

Furthermore, one of the fundamental principles undergirding a democratic civic society is respect for other people and that you ask permission before using something of value of someone else's. A City Council member is there to reconcile property rights issues all the time. Of utmost importance is fairness to all parties, which, in my opinion, includes choosing to ask people in advance when you seek to exploit them.

While pleased to see Madaffer's evident desire to have environmental issues touted along with an environmentalist featured in his brochure, using someone's name and image in a political campaign without even a 'how-do-you-do' is more than sloppy, it's sleazy. Is this a candidate who believes - act first, apologize later? Or is that the moral standard of his campaign staff and consultants? Usually, these things are linked. It makes me wonder - does this type of problem happen often? What other items are suspect? Political pundits believe that it's probably inversely proportional to the ethical qualities of the candidate.

We will never know if I could have endorsed Madaffer, because while I await the interviews with all candidates for City Council District 7 in the March 7th primary, I can't see how I can overlook this kind of incident. By the way Jim, consider this notice that you should please cease using my name and photograph in your campaign.