Ruehlig: Council appointment a charade of political payback


I avoided throwing my line off the pier for Antioch City Council appointment precisely so that I could not be blamed in post-derby comment for personal-driven sniping.

Hence, I could now easily just button the lip and get along by going along. Silent acquiescence is not my stripe, though. If the Emperor has no clothes, let’s call it.

As feared by many, this appointment was a charade. Applications, interviews and ‘whittling down’ were window dressing, my friends. The die was long cast for patronage.

In truth, I had my doubts about the wisdom of the appointment process. It’s not because the ideal is flawed; it is, in concept, a noble idea, like communism, that on paper works. Practice, though, is another kettle of fish. You see, if you don’t use an objective measure like next highest vote getter you leave yourself open to subjectivity. Likely to enter left stage, politics as usual, i.e., the buddy system, payback, and the temptation to stack the deck.

Again, in the abstract, picking someone who is the most experienced in governance, most involved in the community and most complimentary to the existing skill set of the Council is noble and conceptually doable. It’s just a darned hard assignment for most folks, human nature given what it is.

Case in point; by a 3-1 vote this Council took the subjective, lower and less enlightened road, choosing someone notable principally as a past union leader and political operative who worked aside them on many campaigns. Bless her family style, but Mr. Tiscareno also happened, from all accounts, to have grown up as a virtual third son to Mary Rocha.

Those are not “bad” things, but in doing so, though, the Council bypassed people overflowing with civic and governance accomplishment. The rejected resumes sported the likes of a Citizen of the Year, Stanford graduate with a Masters degree, past Mayors, Chief of Staff and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.

Lost was more than experienced talent but a golden opportunity to show Council leadership, to rise above petty politics, and to do best for the City and 105,000 residents. After all, in a marriage or in a business partnership is it wise to favor a spitting image of yourself or, in fact, better to choose one complimentary, enriching and suitably challenging?

Don’t get me wrong, Tony Tiscareno seems a sincere, smart and determined chap who deserves commendation. I wish him nothing but the best. I simply bemoan favors trumping fairness and the process of like choosing like with dispassion forfeited. Yes, count me foolishly old-fashioned but isn’t public service allegedly a public, sacred trust, not tit for tat?

I already miss veteran Brian Kalinowski whom I always admired as an experienced, unvarnished, straight-shooting, unpredictably blue dog style democrat. We now have a Board with only Member Rocha having substantial Council experience. Agopian and Harper have two years each; Wilson and Tiscareno none.

Expect a highly partisan, public employee and union-dominated Council that will echo each other 4-1. Save lone wolf Agopian, where, pray tell, is a business community counter weight?

Is this Council a Solomon-like rudder for balanced, non-partisan decisions in turbulent waters? I fear not and, like legions of others, am rooting for courage. I hope my fears are baseless and am always eager to eat my hat if proven wrong.

Walter Ruehlig


14 Comments to “Ruehlig: Council appointment a charade of political payback”

  1. Skip says:

    I haven’t always agreed with Mr. Ruehlig, but I do think that he hits the nail on the head with this editorial and admire him for not taking part in this circus. Seeing the results of the council vote actually made me feel sad because the council used their mastery of politics to further stack the board against the citizens who live here, instead of asking what we thought. How can the people change the corruption that takes place in our local politics, if we can’t even elect our own leaders. Having the majority on the council be allowed to further entrench their view without any way for the citizens to hold them accountable, is an incredibly flawed system. It’s no wonder that they are trying to annex land without permission from the residents who live there when they hold these types of ideals. I may not always like the way my neighbors vote, but at least I trust them to look out for the collective interest. I certainly can’t say the same about the leaders on our city council or the new appointee. Seeing our local government behave more like a fascist banana republic then the democracy that we were raised to believe in is very disheartening.

    • Walter Ruehlig says:

      I appreciate that input, Skip. I realize some don’t see the pragmatic and democratic (we both feel) merits of the next highest vote getter idea (a substantial number seem to, though). If you don’t subscribe to that logic, though, then the IMPERATIVE default position is to be studiously dispassionate and disregard as much as is humanly possible personal history, political chits, revenge, stacking the deck and other pettiness.

      If anybody argues this decision was impartial and blindly merit based then I have to say that we are living on different planets. How can you push Don Freitas or anybody) to the final two and then not discuss him if it wasn’t meant to be a slam dunk? I would never say anything was planned but they know each other well enough that the collective consciousness said in the end all the jockeying would boil down to payback.

      The applications, interviews and hour show was for appearance sake.

      • Martin Fernandez says:

        Walter is correct. This is the same fraud perpetrated on the citizens of Antioch as was the selection of Martha Parsons. In fact it played out exactly the same way only Mary Rocha played the part of Reggie Moore.

        The City of No Hope is what Antioch has become.

        • Walter, I fear that your hat will remain safely on your head.

          • Walter Ruehlig says:

            I do, too, Richard though I’d gladly munch one to death to see the Council listen to the people and act with transparency.

            The City recently voted by well over 70% that it wanted elected, not appointed Mayors and Clerks. Isn’t that a mandate? if you are going to ignore that directive then AT LEAST have a rigorous process, not one hour for nine interviews and no discussion on the ‘finalists’.

          • Walter Ruehlig says:

            typo- I meant elected, not appointed, Mayors and TREASURERS…. The pole definitely had their say about their ‘trust’ in ‘objective’ appointment.

    • Walter Ruehlig says:


      I encourage you to send your piece to the Times so more people see it. What amazes me is that in June we had a referendum and well over 70% of the people wanted ELECTED, not appointed, officials.
      What, then, was that all about?



  2. Carole Harrison says:

    Walter, I didn’t attend the City Council meeting last Tuesday; but Wayne did. When he told me what went on, I was incredulous. I have friends who were born and raised here and when I bemoan the lack of action on certain things, they tell me that they have been waiting for over 30 years for things to change. It doesn’t look like anything is going to change soon. I wanted you to win a council seat…..but once Jim Davis got the next largest number of votes, after Monica, it only seemed right that he fill the vacant seat. Then, when Don Freitas got 3 votes in the Tues. night selection process, it seems the seat should have gone to him. We are going backwards, instead of forward. When I heard how the meeting was conducted, I was so dissappointed. Jim Davis and Don Freitas were always so professional on the dais. It appears that Mayor Harper has a lot to learn about representing Antioch to the public.

    • Walter Ruehlig says:

      Had Monica Wilson or the man in the moon been third I would be saying the same thing. Fair is fair. Once you give up an objective standard you leave yourselves open to shenanigans.

      That said, had this process been rigorous and open-minded, I could live with it but it was not a SEARCH but a SLAM DUNK. A vote without discussion says it all.

  3. karl says:

    i was there and saw everything live. it was disgusting, i am still sick to my tummy.

  4. Dave Roberts says:

    It would be good if the press could provide information on whether Harper, Rocha and Wilson received campaign contributions from United Steelworkers Local 1440, the Contra Costa Labor Council, Tiscareno or other labor unions.

    In advance of the vote on sweetening the police contract, it would also be good to provide info on the APOA contributions to the council members.

    Perhaps there’s nothing there. Or perhaps it’s the same old quid pro quo, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours coziness that has corrupted politics and is bankrupting the state and country and nearly bankrupted Antioch.

  5. Fred Hoskins says:

    I too was very suprised that Tony “DEMO” T was selected….I too think it was and is POLITICAL PAYBACK….but what is done IS DONE !
    I try to make a “dent” in Counsil meetings and have been told ” you are on that says things bluntly” “usually to the point and honest” “they are things others want to say but they seem to just sit back and say nothing” I am not “tooting my horn” but WHEN are MORE people going to attend these meetins and SPEAK-UP? This upcoming Thursday evening at 6PM there should be 100 yellow slips passed to Mayor Harper to speak about additional mismanagement ….
    a 5%+ in retirement from our Police force ! ! BALDERDASH ! ! Why ? Because the Chief can’t “lure” experienced officers to our city due to pay ! HOGWASH ! ! Hire Rookies have them initialy ride shotgun (till fully trained) and stop sending 2 cars on every call ! ! Better yet let’s charge everyone 10% of value on all firearms and huge fine ($1000) plus 100% confiscation if no permit can be produced by the owner. Perhaps a 20% sales tax on all guns. hope anyone that reads this will be at the City Hall Thursday at 6PM and fill out a request for your 3 minutes….Let’s not ask them let’s start telling them ! ! Fred

  6. Tom Harais says:

    As always Walter, my hat is off to you. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

    We should elect folks like you to positions of leadership. But, I guess we missed that chance.

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