Pinole Recall wins landslide victory,
Welcome to a new day in the history of our city.
In a landslide referendum on the politics and policies of two members of Pinole’s city government, 15-year Councilwoman Maria Alegria and first-term Councilman Stephen Tilton were swept out of office Tuesday in a landslide recall vote, and three new council members were elected.
The final vote to recall Maria Alegria stood at 3,498 YES (58.38%), and 2,494 NO (41.62%). Roy Swearingen, a former councilman in 1986-90, won the election to replace Alegria with 2,055 votes (44.26%), followed by Steve Denlis with 1,391 votes (29.95%), John Bender with 1,035 votes (22.29%), and 162 write-in votes (3.49%).
Alegria had served on the council since 1992, and was in the last year of her fourth term.
Stephen Tilton, elected to the council in November 2006, was also voted out of office by a wide margin. The number of YES votes to recall Tilton was 3,357 (57.38%), with 2,493 NO votes (42.62%) cast. Virginia Fujita, a retired City of Pinole personnel specialist, won Tilton’s seat with 3,897 votes (92.85%). She ran unopposed. There were 300 write-in votes (7.15%).
In the race for the council seat vacated when David Cole resigned last August, long-time planning commissioner Debbie Long trounced former Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ivette Ricco. Long had 3,656 votes (67.24%), while Ricco garnered 1,700 votes (31.27%). There were 81 write-in votes (1.49%).
Click here for the complete election results
Pear Street Bistro worker caught
By Tom Lochner
Police arrested a Pear Street Bistro employee early Wednesday on suspicion of petty theft after he admitted removing signs advocating a recall of two Pinole City Council members from the Park View Plaza shopping center across the street, police said.
In addition to taking down signs that urge voters to recall Councilwoman Maria Alegria and Councilman Stephen Tilton, the 24-year-old bistro worker also removed a sign from the campaign of Debbie Long, police said. Long is running for an open council seat and has publicly advocated a recall. Campaign signs of her rival, Ivette Ricco, as well as several other signs of replacement candidates for the recall targets, appeared undisturbed Wednesday.
Shortly after midnight, a resident reported seeing someone take down some political signs and enter the bistro building, Pinole police Cmdr. Paul Clancy said. Police contacted the man at the bistro, Clancy said.
“He admitted to our officers that he took the signs and threw them in the Dumpster behind the building,” Clancy said.
Police photographed the signs, a total of four, which Clancy described as a “Yes Recall” sign; a Debbie Long sign; another recall-related sign; and a sign for Roy Swearingen, who is running as a replacement candidate for Alegria on Feb. 5 in case she loses on the recall question. Read the complete article
Read the latest in Contra Costa political news
Pinole City Manager Charlie Long blasts Alegria mailer,
Alegria denies sending mailer, says she
‘has no authority over what other people say’
By Tom Lochner
Pinole interim City Manager Charlie Long has denounced a mailer that uses his name while it trashes former City Manager Belinda Espinosa, calling it “mean-spirited” and “one of the most offensive pieces of political literature I have ever seen in my life.”
The mailer, which urges a “no” vote on a recall of City Council members Maria Alegria and Stephen Tilton, was sponsored by the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County, which in a news release Monday accused recall sponsors of falsely attributing the piece to Alegria’s campaign.
“That’s not my campaign flier,” Alegria said Monday. “I have my own message. I have no authority over what other people say.”
Kevin Reikes, her campaign manager, did not return calls.
Recall sponsors initially took aim at Alegria and Tilton for their part in a 3-2 council majority that voted in May to let Espinosa go at the end of her contract, and for what they say is the duo’s cozy relationship with Pear Street Bistro owner Gary Wong, who for two years failed to make payments on more than $400,000 in city loans.
The mailer, which Pinole voters received late last week, blames Espinosa for the Pear Street Bistro loan fiasco; for a supposed “unlawful payment scheme” related to an Old Town mixed-use project; and for the city’s failure to collect more than $300,000 on a ground lease at Gateway West. The mailer cites Long’s city manager reports as the source for statements on Gateway West and the Old Town project, and city records were combined with a chronology by Espinosa as the source for a statement on the bistro.
“It angered me, and the reason it did is it used me,” Long said. “It misrepresented information that I have been giving to the community, and it used that misrepresentation to go after someone in a really mean, nasty way.
“The fact that it used my name -- I found that very offensive.”
Concerned Citizens of Pinole call for resignation
The Concerned Citizens of Pinole have called for the resignation of Nagaraja Rao, Chairman of the Contra Costa County Democratic Central Committee, for remarks he made during a November 20, 2007, Pinole City Council meeting, at which he accused supporters of a recall of council members Maria Alegria and Stephen Tilton of hate crimes and making death threats on his cell phone.
At the time, Alegria was the mayor.
Since Rao appeared in Pinole and said he had received nine death threat phone calls, police have all but dismissed and discredited these charges. They have investigated and have determined that these calls — and they’ve been able to substantiate only one of the nine allegedly made — had nothing to do with anything political, let alone the recall.
“There is no relationship between the threats and political activity,” says the Berkeley Police Department, which investigated the calls Rao claims he received while he was attending an oil-spill clean-up training class at the Berkeley marina in November.
Because of this deceitful act to influence the outcome of the February 5 recall election that was anything BUT democratic:
Copies of a letter with these requests have been sent to Rao; Cecelia Valdez, Vice Chairman of the Contra Costa County Democratic Central Committee; Royce Kelley, Region 6 Director, California Democratic Party; and Art Torres, Chairman, California Democratic Party.
Rao said the calls he received were related to a vote the Democratic Central Committee had taken a few days earlier to endorse a “NO” vote on the Pinole recall. Rao said the calls were recall-related despite the fact that none of the callers, according to him, mentioned the word “recall.”
Rao said there was no language in the calls specifically linking them to his and his party’s stand against a recall of Alegria and Tilton on February 5. But the timing of the calls — on the day the Contra Costa Times published the article in its print editions and earlier on the day of Rao’s appearance at the Pinole City Council — makes it obvious they are connected, he said.
Rao said that he was positive the death threats are related to his stance against the recall. “Nothing else happened that could trigger these calls,” he said.
Dear Pinole citizens,
One of the reasons for the recall is Mayor Maria Alegria’s apparent abuse of her authority when she interfered with a policeman during a traffic stop on January 17, 2007. Though the police memorandum says “she appeared to be drunk,” the members of the Concerned Citizens of Pinole are far more concerned with Alegria’s attempt to influence a policeman giving a citation to an employee of the Pear Street Bistro for driving without a license, driving without proof of liability insurance, and making an unsafe turn.
The mayor, according to the police memorandum, berated the police officer for stopping the Hispanic male driver only based on his race, accusing the officer of “selective enforcement.” Alegria further stated this “could affect the (police) department’s appropriation of funding for new officers and equipment,” and that Pinole’s police offers need “sensitivity training.”
We don’t feel this is the kind of leadership the City if Pinole can afford to have. Also, Alegria’s support of and friendship with Pear Street Bistro owner Gary Wong, who borrowed nearly half a million dollars in redevelopment funds — your tax dollars! — and has not paid his note in two years indicates her personal relationships get in the way of her ability to conduct business in the best interests of the city.
There are several other issues in the recall, which are found in articles that have appeared in the West County Times. You can read them on this website on the Articles page.
We want to remind Pinole voters that more than 2,700 of you signed petitions this summer to recall Maria Alegria — that’s nearly 30 percent of the registered voters in the city — and nearly that many signed petitions to recall Councilman Stephen Tilton.
We ask you to remember this as the campaign heats up over the next few months and the mud starts flying from Alegria’s “political consultant,” as it almost certainly will (see the article below).
Read the police memorandum about Maria Alegria’s interference with an officer
Recall target to skip debate
By Lisa Vorderbeueggen
DEMOCRACY TOOK A step backward in Pinole last week when one of two city councilmembers targeted for recall refused to participate in an upcoming debate.
Councilman Stephen Tilton says he won’t sit in the same room with “those people” during a Jan. 10 moderated forum sponsored by the Contra Costa Times and Common Cause. (To her credit, the second recall target, Maria Alegria, agreed to attend.)
“Those people” are Jeff Rubin and Cindy Trego with Concerned Citizens of Pinole, the group that gathered the requisite signatures to place the recall on the Feb. 5 ballot.
Tilton and Alegria say the recall is political payback for their votes last year not to renew the contract of a former city manager and a ploy to take control of the council, while Trego and Rubin argue that the two elected officials have mismanaged the city and abused their power.
In a faxed statement late Friday, Tilton wrote that he “will not be a party to a spectacle where two leaders of the recall continue to peddle hate-filled propaganda.”
At best, Tilton is misguided if he thinks his mere presence at a debate bestows legitimacy onto the recall campaign.
And at worst, it is a cynical strategy to deprive recall proponents of an opportunity to present their arguments and rob the voters of a chance to hear from both sides in a format outside the control of political consultants.
Either way, Tilton’s position is unacceptable.
Whatever the motives and tactics of the recall proponents, they successfully made use of a legal process by which citizens may ask voters to remove a public official from office.
Out of respect for democracy and representative government, Tilton must stand up and defend his record to all of his constituents -- not just his fans -- regardless of his personal feelings about Trego and Rubin or the actions of the recall committee.
PINOLE Postscript: A letter also went out late last week about a moderated candidates’ forum that will immediately follow the Jan. 10 debate at the Pinole Senior Center.
Sponsored by the Times and the League of Women Voters, organizers invited the incumbents, the candidates seeking to replace them and the two people vying for the seat left vacant when David Cole resigned.
A full house is in everyone’s best interest, especially the voters’.
January 10 Recall debate will be held
Despite Council Stephen Tilton’s announcement that he is pulling out of participating in the January 10 recall debate and candidates’ night at the Pinole Senior Center, the event will he held as scheduled.
As recently as Thursday, Alegria had said she was not participating, sending an e-mail to open-government watchdog group Common Cause that said, “I have many reservations about your organization providing a forum for a political action committee that has conducted a vile, slanderous, and disingenuous campaign over the last seven months.”
However, moderator Lisa Vorderbrueggen, political editor of the Contra Costa Times, which is co-sponroring the event Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, responded by saying the event would go on, with or without Alegria or Tilton.
“As a moderator, I will attempt to bring up all the relevant issues, but we will not be held hostage by elected officials who decline to participate in a public forum for the voters.”
Councilwoman Maria Alegria, however, at the 11th hour on Friday, accepted the challenge of a debate against Concerned Citizens of Pinole advocate Cindy Trego. That will begin at 6 p.m. If Tilton changes his mind again and participates, Jeff Rubin, spokesman for the CCOP, will join the mix as a recall proponent.
“You never know what Tilton will do, because he changes his mind every few minutes,” Rubin said. “I am prepared right now, so even if he shows up at one minute to six, I’ll be ready.”
The candidates’ debate, featuring Alegria, Tilton, and recall replacement candidates Virginia Fujita, Roy Swearingen, and Steve Denlis, will follow at 7 p.m. Debbie Long and Ivette Ricco, who are running in a special election for the vacant seat created when David Cole resigned from the council last August, will also participate in the candidates’ debate.
In backing out, Tilton sent Common Cause an e-mail that said he “cannot be a part of the ‘spectacle’ they (Trego and Rubin) are attempting to have you help them create.”
Tilton said in late November that he would not attend the January 10 forum, explaining that to do so would set a bad precedent, a point Alegria also alluded to in her e-mail last week. In his November e-mail, Tilton said Trego and Rubin “have shown they can do nothing more than intimidate, harass and lie to Pinole citizens. I would not be serving the citizens of Pinole by giving them a sanctioned forum to spread more lies, half-truths and innuendoes,” he wrote.
But in an apparent turnaround, in an e-mail last month to Rubin that was forwarded to Vorderbrueggen, Tilton wrote: “(I) look forward to answering any and all questions Lisa brings forward and I would never miss the event.”
Pinole councilman Stephen Tilton
Councilman Stephen Tilton, the subject of a recall in Pinole brought about by the citizens group Concerned Citizens of Pinole (CCOP), has threatened the CCOP with legal action as the recall heads into its final weeks before the February 5, 2008, election.
Tilton and the former mayor, Maria Alegria, who still sits on the council, are the subjects of the recall. A third Pinole councilman, David Cole, was also a target, but he resigned his seat before he could be recalled. CCOP volunteers collected more than enough valid signatures on petitions to recall all three.
In an e-mail letter to CCOP spokesman Jeff Rubin, Tilton said, “I need a physical address where my attorney can serve papers. As the spokes person, I am asking you who should receive legal papers that are being drawn up? Kindly respond in a timely manner. As you know, it can not be a P.O. box.
“I have been threatened and intimidated and it does not feel good. I have simply asked several people, besides you, to address lies on the web site or at least delete them and it has never been addressed. So my attorney is now addressing it in the proper forum.”
“The CCOP web site features numerous articles that were published in the Contra Costa Times over the last year,” says Jeff Rubin, spokesperson for the CCOP. “The lies he says that appear on our web site appeared in the Times and other newspapers that are part of the Bay Area News Group, which include the Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury-News. If Tilton has a problem with the information in those articles, he should be suing the newspaper, not us.
“Since the recall began during the summer, Alegria and Tilton have said that it is based on lies, innuendo, political agendas, and personal vendettas. All of their anti-recall flyers carry the same message. So, I’m not surprised that Tilton has threatened us with legal action. I expect that Alegria will do the same in January.
“If Alegria is recalled her political life, at least as an elected official, will be over. I expect Alegria, with the help of her consultant Kevin Reikes, who boasts about producing political hit pieces, will use everything in her bag of tricks to try to mislead the voters and demean recall proponents at the same time. It seems to be the only way she knows how to campaign.”
The Concerned Citizens of Pinole (CCOP) is a grass-roots group that is spearheading the recall of former Mayor Maria Alegria and Tilton. Their efforts began in June, when volunteer recall supporters began circulating petitions for citizens’ signatures. In only two months, CCOP volunteers had collected several hundred more valid signatures from registered voters in Pinole than needed to have the recall placed on the February 5 ballot, the same day as the California Presidential Primary.
Threatening calls have no political link, police say
On November 20, Nagaraja Rao, the Chairman of the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee, spoke at the Pinole City Council meeting and accused recall supporters of making nine death-threat telephone calls to his cell phone. He said the timing of the calls left no doubt that they were related to his and the party’s stand against the recall, though he said callers did not specifically mention the recall.
On Thursday, December 13, the Berkeley Police Department, which investigated because some of the calls originated in Berkeley, said “There is nothing so far that would show that the calls were connected to any political activity whatsoever.”
Read the complete story
that appeared in the Contra Costa Times
Council candidate calls for Alegria’s resignation
This letter to the editor appeared in the December 14 on-line issue of the Contra Costa Times
I ask Maria Alegria to please consider resignation.
This bitter, public fight is about to explode into ugly and harmful damage to our city. Alegria’s detractors will not stop, even if by a miracle she managed to succeed against the recall. There is no victory in going down swinging. Alegria should save her war chest for another day.
The bitter, divisive climate in our city revolves around her, and her alone. Alegria’s inevitable defeat will harm others, including Stephen Tilton, Pinole business leaders, and the labor unions of the people who serve our community.
She can neither lead nor serve in this environment, but she can be respectful and considerate for the city of Pinole by stepping aside now and saving us from this ugliness.
It doesn’t matter whether the people of our city vote for Roy Swearingen or me to replace her. Our job will be that much tougher to help put Pinole back on course after her departure if Alegria chooses to continue this fight.
If Alegria cares at all for our city, as I do, she will resign today.
Denlis is a Pinole City Council replacement candidate in the event Alegria is recalled.
Gary Wong finally pays up — or does he?
Dear Pinole citizens,
In the November 9 on-line issue of the Contra Costa Times, there was an article with the headline, “Pinole eatery appears to avoid foreclosure.” The article later ran in the paper’s print version. It said Pinole’s Pear Street Bistro likely has staved off foreclosure by the city after the building’s previous owner stepped in to bring most of its outstanding redevelopment loans up to date.
Here are a few facts about the Pear Street Bistro scandal:
• Gary Wong stopped making payments on his nearly half-a-million-dollar Redevelopment Agency loan in October 2005, and still has not made any payments. A friend made this payment for him, and he still owes $595,000 on a second mortgage to a private lender. The man is knee-deep in debt and apparently has no intention of re-paying the city.
• Gary Wong still owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City of Pinole on his Redevelopment Agency loans. The money paid by his friend — $88,422.69 — merely brings him up to date on two years’ worth of missed payments. The building that houses the Pear Street Bistro is still in negotiations to be sold so Wong can pay back his loan to the city. What happens if that deal falls through?
• The entire Pear Street Bistro scandal could have been avoided if the City Council, led by Mayor Maria Alegria since December 2006, had been decisive in dealing with Gary Wong. But Alegria, Councilman Stephen Tilton, and former Councilman David Cole, who resigned in August, let their close friendship with Gary Wong overshadow their business judgment. Their actions have cost the city more than $100,000 in legal fees — these are your tax dollars! — trying to collect Wong’s past-due loan payments.
• Until the Concerned Citizens of Pinole filed recall papers, the city was actually considering purchasing the Pear Street Bistro building for $3 million — twice its appraised value! Unbelievable! It was only the actions of a great number of Pinole citizens that forced the city to foreclose. It’s not a coincidence that recall papers for Alegria, Tilton, and Cole were filed on June 22 and only four days later, on June 26, the council voted to foreclose. Why didn’t they do this earlier? Three reasons — Maria Alegria, Stephen Tilton, and David Cole.
On February 5, 2008, Pinole citizens will have a unique opportunity to reshape their city government by recalling Alegria and Tilton. Several good candidates are running in two recall elections (Alegria and Tilton) and one special election (Cole). We urge Pinole voters to vote YES to recall both Alegria and Tilton and elect more responsible council members.
Mayor hires political consultant known for creative hit pieces
You may have heard that Mayor Maria Alegria has hired Kevin Reikes, a “political consultant” known for creative hit pieces, as an advisor for her anti-recall campaign.
We expect you will be receiving a barrage of sleazy, deceptive, and otherwise truth-stretching mailers from the mayor in the next few months as she fights to retain her council seat.
Here’s what you should know about Kevin Reikes and the methods and tactics he uses in his political campaigns:
• In 2006, Reikes worked for Laura Canciamilla in her unsuccessful Democratic primary race for State Assembly, helping produce negative cable and print campaign materials that portrayed her rival, then-Contra Costa Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier, as untrustworthy and in the pockets of developers. Canciamilla’s campaign paid Reikes’s firm, Media & Associates, $193,267 in the 2006 election cycle. DeSaulnier beat Canciamilla in the primary and won the general election over Republican Antioch Councilman Arne Simonsen.
• In 2004, Reikes was on the losing side working for developer GreenPark in an unsuccessful campaign to derail Hercules Measure M, which passed by a wide margin. That ballot initiative, by residents and environmentalists, was designed to prevent suburban sprawl in Hercules’s eastern hinterlands by restricting land use there primarily to agriculture and recreation. GreenPark wanted to build more than 500 homes, a hotel, offices and stores at Franklin Canyon.
• In 2002, Reikes was interviewed by the East Bay Express about a mailer he created, supposedly FOR a Republican candidate for the El Cerrito City Council, when it actually was a hit piece AGAINST that candidate. When asked by the Express about managing to go negative without sounding negative, Reikes said, “We let voters draw their own conclusions. It’s always better when doing a hit to lead the horse to water, but you shouldn’t force water down the horse’s throat.”
We hope you will draw your own conclusions about the mayor
—On February 5, 2008—
Recall election set for February 5, 2008
PINOLE, OCTOBER 9 — The Pinole City Council Tuesday selected February 5, 2008, the date of the California presidential primary, as the date for an election to recall two of its members — Mayor Maria Alegria and Councilman Stephen Tilton.
The vote was 3-0, with Alegria, Peter Murray, and Mary Ann Horton voting in the affirmative. Tilton did not attend the meeting.
Alegria and Tilton are two of three council members originally sought to be recalled by the Concerned Citizens of Pinole, a citizens' group that collected several hundred more valid signatures on recall petitions than were required by Contra Costa County elections officials to certify the election.
Alegria has one year remaining on her four-year term. Tilton, who was elected to his first term only last November, has three years remaining on his.
The third target of the recall, former Councilman David Cole, resigned his council seat in August and joined the U.S. Army. A special election to fill the remaining three years of his term will also be held February 5, 2008.
The filing period for candidates for the two recall elections — they will be held separately on the same date — and the special election begins October 15 and ends November 9.
Recall certified by Contra Costa County Registrar’s office
Council to set election date to recall Alegria and Tilton
PINOLE, SEPTEMBER 25 — The Concerned Citizens of Pinole were informed by Pinole City Clerk Patricia Athenour late Tuesday afternoon that The Contra Costa County Registrar's Office has certified the recall of Mayor Maria Alegria and Councilman Stephen Tilton.
Both petitions were found to have sufficient signatures to qualify for an election. The certificates will be forwarded to the Pinole City Council at the next meeting, October 2, with a recommendation to call the election.
The CCOP, a grass-roots, citizen-led campaign that spent two months gathering signatures of Pinole residents on recall petitions, submitted the petitions for verification on August 30. The county had 30 days to certify or deny the recall.
The requirements for a recall are stringent. Petition-gatherers had to collect valid signatures from no fewer than 25 percent of the 8,900 registered voters in Pinole, or 2,225 signatures.
For Alegria, of the 2,695 signatures that were verified, 2,441 were found sufficient, 216 more than required.
For Tilton, of the 2,688 signatures that were verified, 2,398 were found sufficient, 173 more than required.
Local Democrats draw fire from recall supporter
Pinole Interim City Manager calls recall a “witch hunt”
Contra Costa Times Says Cole Should Resign
Pinole Councilman David Cole Resigns
Council to Decide How to Fill Vacancy
Complete text of Jeff Rubin’s August 21 Recall Rally speech
Complete text of Cindy Trego’s August 21 Recall Rally speech
Concerned Citizens of Pinole is grateful
to SCAN ART High-Performance Digital Printing
for donating all of the printing for the recall campaign.
Please patronize them for high-quality printing of any kind.
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Read the latest in Contra Costa political news
Concerned Citizens of Pinole for the Recall of
Maria Alegria and Stephen Tilton
Post Office Box 758, Pinole, CA 94564
FPPC ID# 1298568