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Thursday, May 29, 2008

8th AD Race Really Heats Up

Yamada Campaign and EdVoice Go to War Over Pay Increase

Yesterday afternoon I received dueling press releases one from Brian Micek of the Yamada Campaign and the other from Paul Mitchell of EdVoice. The issue was whether or not Mariko Yamada accepted a pay raise during her time as a County Supervisor or whether she lied about it.

At issue was a series of TV ads and fliers from EdVoice attacking Yamada for taking payraises at the same time the county was cutting positions in the face of a county budget crisis.

Here's the press release from EdVoice:
Yamada Caught In Lie About Repeated Pay Increases

Davis, CA – Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada has been caught in a lie about her repeated support for pay increases as a member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

A commercial running district wide, viewable at [you tube] highlights the raises that Yamada received while on the County Board of Supervisors and the additional raise she voted for which would have increased her pay by 41%.

These pay increases happened while Yolo was cutting county jobs and unemployment in the region was increasing by as much as 20%. Even faced with a county budget crisis, Yamada was persistent in her support for raises, stating “I need to make no apologies.” (12/13/06 Davis Enterprise)

In today’s media release, and a posting on her website, Yamada repeatedly claims that she did not accept a pay increase in 2004. While she did make a publicity stunt about “declining the pay raise” in an election year, public records show that she accepted the pay increase shortly thereafter.

Yamada’s claim to not accept a future pay raise also rings hollow considering that she received a double pay raise in 2007, there is no expected pay raise coming in June and that she is termed out of the Board of Supervisors. A classic politician, Yamada is declining a pay raise that may or may not come, for a job she will not have.

The attached documents and press coverage of the pay increases provides more than ample evidence of the claims in our television commercial. In fact, given the opportunity we would highlight even more absurdities, like the fact that she has received four pay raises, two in one year, that they were paid retroactively. Furthermore, she has told voters that she declined pay increases, only to go back and accept the raises after the public spotlight had faded.
Here's the Yamada Campaign's response:
Yamada Campaign Issues Notice Over Slanderous Attack Ads
Cabaldon Supporter’s Ads Knowingly Misstate Fact and Distort Yamada’s Record

Vacaville – Friends of Yamada 2008 retained attorney Chad Carlock today to issue a notice of slanderous political advertising to Comcast Spotlight over the airing of intentionally malicious political attack ads produced and purchased by the independent expenditure committee “Democrats Against Government Waste Independent Expenditure Committee major funding provided by EdVoice Independent Expenditure Committee” (attached).

Christopher Cabaldon, Yamada opponent in the 8th Assembly District’s Democratic Primary, stepped down as President and CEO of EdVoice just a few months ago in order to orchestrate his run for Assembly. EdVoice has since created multiple independent expenditure committees attacking Yamada and supporting Cabaldon.

Carlock requested that Comcast Spotlight, the advertising arm of Comcast service in both Solano and Yolo counties, pull the ads immediately due to the slanderous content.

The Yamada Campaign is releasing public documents that prove EdVoice’s assertion that Mariko Yamada voted herself two pay raises while on the Board of Supervisors to be false. The pay of Yolo Supervisors is set at a rate of one-third of a Superior Court Judge’s salary by county ordinance. It is the State of California that sets judicial pay each fiscal year. In tough economic times, including 2004 and again this year, Yamada has refused automatic pay raises that come about when the state raises judicial pay as indicated by letters to the Yolo County Administrative Officer and Yolo County Auditor- Controller (attached).

While the Yolo Board of Supervisors did discuss raising the Supervisorial pay formula to 41 percent of a judge’s salary, that discussion was tabled on December 12, 2006 as reflected in the minutes from that day’s Board meeting (attached). The formula has never since been revisited by the Board of Supervisors.

The advertising is part of a $91,000 expenditure by EdVoice in the last week of the campaign, and has been accompanied by a series of similarly misleading “push polls” received by voters on Thursday March 22nd, and Friday March 23rd. Two attack pieces of direct mail have also contained the same false statements about the pay raise.
In Mr. Micek's press release, he sends scanned documents showing Yamada turning down pay increases in both 2004 and 2008.

A few comments. First, I am not sure I could care less any less about this issue than I do. I suppose there is an amusement factor.

Second, Brian Micek is crying foul on this one? After the misleading fliers from his supporters against Cabaldon including the distorted WRONG and the meaningless booted car? Cabaldon and even EdVoice had run a positive campaign until now, but they were not going to stay on the sidelines and take punches forever.

Third, I do not understand the lawyer bit except as a publicity stunt. I mean, if suing for libel was a successful tactic against campaign claims, we would have lawsuits all over the place come election time. This is not the most egregious claim that's even been perpetrated. I do not see the legal avenue the appropriate venue even if Mariko Yamada's record is distorted.

Fourth, on the facts, Yolo County Supervisors have their pay scale tied to that of Yolo County Judges. If the Judges get a pay increase, so do the supervisors. So the idea that Mariko Yamada has control over her pay increases under this system is inaccurate.

However, as long time blog readers will remember in December of 2006, there was a move by the Board of Supervisors to increase their salary beyond that.

In fact, as many will remember, I was a strong proponent of it:
"The current pay for Yolo County supervisors is $49,730. Given that this is a full-time job that pay does not represent a very large salary. The average salary in California for a County Supervisor is $64,515. That's not exactly a rich person's salary either. But that certainly is more livable than the current pay for County Supervisors.

Sacramento County supervisors earn $82,000 while Solano County supervisors make just under $80,000. To live in Yolo County, you'd have to have a second salary to augment the below median salary you are getting for being a County Supervisor.

Given that this is a beyond full-time job it seems rather obvious that unless you are independently wealthy or have a spouse pulling down a strong second income, a lot of people are not going to be able to afford to be a county supervisor. It is the same problem that we mentioned with the compensation for being a Davis City Council member--$500 per month. While it seems like a good idea to have small pay for public servants, the reality is that that severely restricts who can afford to serve."
I remain a strong proponent of the idea that elected Yolo County Supervisors should have comparable pay to adjacent counties and to comparably qualified private sector jobs. Otherwise we are severely restricting who can and who cannot afford to become a County Supervisor.

Mariko Yamada supported that change, but under fire in early January of 2007, the Board voted to table the motion and did not revisit it.

Personally, I think Ed Voice could have picked a better target if they wanted to go after Supervisor Yamada. A targeted piece to Davis on the County General Plan would do just fine.

I have frankly seen very little that these Independent Expenditure Committees have added to this campaign.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting