Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 29, 2003

Just plain peculiar

Things feel peculiar this summer, and it’s not just that we’ve had our second rainstorm of the dry summer season – the first time I remember that happening since I moved here in 1996. Things are weird all over, most especially in politics.

I’ll save the political circus surrounding the gubernatorial recall election for another column. There are plenty of strange happenings on the local scene.

There’s a political veteran – Guadalupe Arellano, candidate for Gilroy mayor – making rookie mistakes with her campaign filing forms, and then making poor excuses on top of it. If Arellano wants to rack up hundreds of dollars in fines for herself, that’s one thing, but flouting the law and causing problems for other people – such as the City Clerk, who is required to keep full and complete election files – is another matter entirely. I mean, when the City Clerk has to resort to a house call to try to get the necessary forms completed and they’re still not filed, you’ve got an embarrassing problem on your hands.

Then there’s a rookie candidate – Mary Hohenbrink, also running for mayor – making just plain dumb mistakes. Hohenbrink, a Gilroy resident since 1997, now admits she hasn’t bothered to register to vote since 1999, despite earlier claims to a Dispatch reporter that she had voted absentee ballots for Los Angeles County, after inquiries proved those claims were false.

Now, I don’t know about the legality of voting in a county where you no longer reside – I’m not an elections official or a lawyer – but I do know that the concept bothers me.

It bothers me that Hohenbrink apparently thought it was more important to vote on Los Angeles County issues than on Gilroy and Santa Clara County issues. You know, questions such as who should serve on the school board and City Council; whether or not we should extend sales taxes to bring BART to San Jose; and whether or not the school district should be allowed to issue bonds to build a second high school and fix existing schools.

And it bothers me that she apparently thinks it is OK to mislead elections officials about her residence to obtain an absentee ballot for Los Angeles County, even if it turns out she wasn’t actually bothering to do it.

And it really bothers me that she couldn’t find the time to register to vote, but she thinks she has the time to be Gilroy’s mayor.

Here’s what Hohenbrink said about her failure to cast a ballot since 1998: “There are life circumstances that sometimes prevent you from doing things you want to do. There’s work, there’s putting kids in kindergarten. I still had my opinions and my dinner table discussions, but I didn’t get to vote on them all the time.”

I’m a Morgan Hill resident, so I won’t get to cast a ballot for Gilroy’s new mayor. But I can have my opinions and dinner table discussions on the matter.

Mark Dover, who serves as one of those locally elected officials Hohenbrink couldn’t find the time to vote for or against – he’s a Gavilan College trustee – decided he’d like to add a second, concurrent elective office to his resume. But his decision to run for City Council added another strange twist to the race because as a city employee, Dover was barred from seeking a seat on City Council. So he quit his job as a supervisor in the city’s recreation department. That’s not an every-election occurence.

But the employment/elected office effect doesn’t end there. Councilman Craig Gartman confirmed that he’s looking for a job out-of-state. If he finds one, he’ll have to resign his council seat. If you’re keeping track, a Gartman resignation would mean five City Council seats open or up for re-election. If embattled Councilman Charlie Morales resigns in the wake of his drunk driving arrest, that would make six – on a seven-member panel.

Remember, Mayor Tom Springer’s July decision not to run for a second term and the supposed ethical lapses of others he cited as his reason set the tone for this strange summer of politics.

Who knows where all the political peculiarity will end? Just to be on the safe side, I’m keeping an eye out for hail, tornadoes or maybe a hurricane to join the thunder, lightning and rain we’ve already had. Because things are just plain peculiar this summer.

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