Opinion: Why Should Moraga Defeat Mendonca?

Letter to the editor: Sign maker gives his reasons.

By Douglas Home

As the person who created the DEFEAT MENDONCA signs posted around Moraga, many have asked what my gripe is with Town Council Member Karen Mendonca.  

The real issue is about the responsibilities of an elected town official. Call me old fashioned, but I was under the impression that they were supposed to act in the best interest of the majority of their citizenry. Before spending tax dollars,  this would mean evaluating a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed action.    For instance, if you knew that 90 percent of your citizens wanted green grass in the park, would you waste a dime of their money getting quotes to paint the grass red?

This is what happened with the Rancho Laguna Park (RLP) issue wasting $100K plus of our money and years of our time, during which hundreds spoke at the Town Council meetings saying clearly, “Leave RLP alone!” But Mendonca, Harpham and Chew refused to listen. Mendonca claimed that, “there is a silent majority of people afraid to use RLP due to off-leash dogs”,  but only a hand full ever spoke out at the Town Council meetings. For every 50 citizens who spoke out to leave RLP alone,  only two to five ever spoke out to ban off-leash dogs there. Ms. Mendonca, where was your “silent majority”?   Being silent, I presume?

Then they played the “Life/Safety card” telling us that dogs are dangerous.  And yet, no statistical evidence exists that anyone has ever been killed by a dog in an off-leash park. Then it became a “town liability issue”, and yet their own insurance carrier admitted the risk was negligible. It then became clear that their real agenda was toward an alliance made with pay-to-play soccer organizations to turn RLP into an organized soccer field, for which they would pay rental fees to the Town. Feel free to look at the Moraga Master Plan. Yes,  that’s a soccer field drawn in at RLP. And yet Mendonca claims that this is not their plan. Really?

Mendonca then stated that she would be willing to entertain a compromise plan for RLP if a “ group of citizens from all viewpoints could get together and work in the true spirit of compromise.” In just two weeks, our amazing citizens put together such a group of 15 who formulated a compromise plan known as Plan C, which was approved by a 13-2 vote and presented to Town Council. How did Mendonca, Harpham and Chew vote on this? NO,  NO &  NO. How long did they discuss it before voting? Hardly a moment. And then, they voted (3 – 2) to stop all off-leash dog activity in RLP immediately … the proverbial slap in the face. Incredibly, Ms. Mendonca said (or rather screamed) at the audience, “I don’t care about you people. This issue is over!”    

The truth became undeniable. The fix was in and Mendonca had been wasting our time and money from the beginning. We were Charlie Brown and Mendonca was Lucy with the football.

But then came the “Referendum of 1800” (pursuant to State Law) where at least 10 percent of Moraga registered voters could sign up to block the Town Council’s action. We needed 1100 signatures within 10 days. Instead, we got 1,800 signatures in just 7 days. The community response was overwhelming.  Over 80 percent of those asked to signed the Referendum …. actually signed it! Democracy scored a goal.

The meaning was clear.  The other four Council Members understood it and so did the consultants they hired to get Measure K approved. They realized that a majority of Moragans want RLP to be left alone, which is exactly why you don’t see the RLP issue on the ballot this year. It would hurt Measure K. They all understood this, except for Mendonca. She still believes in her “silent majority.” 

And so, it’s time we ask ourselves, if Karen Mendonca doesn’t care about our opinions on a “dog park”, what other more important issues does she not care about us on? Open space, ridge line development, giant speed bumps on Camino Pablo, perhaps? There are many Moragans who believe this is be self evident.  Hmmmm?

Douglas Home

Mendonca: 'Looking Out For Residents' Interests'

KFrances November 02, 2012 at 06:51 AM
p.s. BL inadvertantly raises the 'shill' issue again - People can say anything on these blogs & be from any where and can be very sneaky about it...P-R-O-P-O-G-A-N-D-A. Anyways - Urban & Suburban Parks are currently being very propped up as 'Shared Space' in 'Visioning' meetings for towns as Agenda 21 and One Bay Area want to tax single family homes out of ownership (and get people out of cars with high VMT's) Maybe there is more going on here than meets the eye...or maybe not...impossible to say...as The Bay Area is Ground Zero (not using this term lightly) for the UN/ICLEI & World Bank's plan of Global Redistribution with the Carbon Tax to Central Bankers - These 9 Bay Area Counties are the test center for their Centralized Plan. Run free Dogs while you can !
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 02, 2012 at 02:45 PM
MM, As I am not an evening devotee, I must use my experience from my morning visits. I am not pleased with the nonchalance with which some OL users approach RLP. My mantra of Training, Socialization and Supervision is ignored by some folks which is a disservice to the community and the animals, as well. Dogs have no sense of time or social appropriateness. They live utterly in the present and rely completely on the training they receive and the supervision to notice when to apply it. Without it, they are driven by instinct and the promise of food, which in that environment begs trouble. I am guessing that the evenings are more crowded which logically would proportionately increase the potential for mischief and missed cleanup. The focus too seems to be on human socializing which is easy to understand. There is a strong sense of community among OL dog owners and social discourse is a natural result, but antithetical to responsible dog ownership. The dog(s) should be the owner's first priority, chatting secondary. 2 is likely smoldering by now. But I am completely convinced that if these simple parameters were followed, the Great RLP Wars would have never occurred. Your point is well taken re evening hours. Maybe there is room for movement there. The somewhat casual adherence to the start/stop times could use some tightening up too. I only hope we can resolve this peacefully and without altering the physical nature of RLP.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 02, 2012 at 02:47 PM
There are 6,000 or less Moragans that actually vote ( 10,172 registered voters, 5,577 actual votes cast or an embarrassing 54.83% Source: COUNTY CLERK-RECORDER, CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, 2012). !800 is about 32% of actual voters, about a third, gathered in 12 days by a handfull of people. The rancor and vitriol of the above poster is inappropriate at best and entirely mean spirited and anti-productive. Time to step back.
2nd Generation Moraga November 02, 2012 at 03:41 PM
@Bailey, your desperation is palpable.
2nd Generation Moraga November 02, 2012 at 04:10 PM
@Chris (et al): it is amusing to watch you amuse yourselves, and it provides a clear picture on how your "echo-chamber" actually works. Sorry to burst your conspiracy bubble, however I'm just a humble MORAGA resident, not involved or affiliated with any candidate or government, who likes to kill some time expressing my opinions. I'm under no illusion that this will satisfy your suspicion, but then there are people who believe the US Government was responsible for bringing down the WTC, and that we never actually went to the moon.
Jon Chambers November 02, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Welcome to the discussion Mr. Freeman. Perhaps you could address a couple of questions for Patch readers: 1) You say "This is also one of the reasons why it took the incumbents two and a half years to replace the playground equipment." The playground equipment was removed May 25-27 2011, and replaced in June 2012, just a few days behind schedule. http://www.moraga.ca.us/commissions/park-rec/meetings/2011/062111/Meeting%20notes%206-21.pdf You know it took a year, because you spoke about the year replacement time at the May 9, 2012 TC meeting. Why do you now claim it took two and a half years? 2) You are running on a platform of fiscal accountability, but the supporters listed on your website include one of the attorneys (David Shapiro) that sued Moraga over RLP, as well as the plaintiff, Steve Smith (supporters also include Doug Home and Gordy Erspamer). Publicly shared emails show that through the summer, you corresponded regularly with Shapiro, attorney Bill Cosden (also involved in the suit), and Lamorinda Dogs president Bill Carman regarding strategies to block the Town's efforts to seek resolution on the RLP debate. Can you ensure the voters that if elected, you will put the Town's interest in fairly shared access to the park and avoidance of unnecessary costs to respond to disingenuous litigation ahead of the interests of your supporters who have triggered these costs in the past?
Jon Chambers November 02, 2012 at 04:36 PM
2GM, I understand your position about staying anonymous. People whom I presume are dog partisans have sent me hateful and threatening emails, and a particularly hateful email was sent to as many addresses at my firm as the sender could find, as well as to a cross-section of Town officials, and as a post to Patch. JD took it down immediately. Given the level of hate some have exhibited, I worry for my kids. While I support free speech rights (including Mr. Home's), I'm solidly against threats, libel and slander. Let's all please keep the discussion centered around facts and opinions about how bet to use RLP for all Moragans, and avoid personal attacks. Chris G's comments above seems like the wrong approach. Gordy Erspamer seems to post, and then delete his personal attacks. BTW, Mr. Erspamer is using his own name. Like Shapiro, Carman, Doug Home and plaintiff Steve Smith, he's listed as a supporter of Mr. Freeman on Mr. Freeman's website. It appears much of Mr. Freeman's support comes from the most ardent off leash advocates.
2nd Generation Moraga November 02, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Fritz, to the contrary - I fully agree with your sentiment, it just isn't reality. If you could enforce your Training, Socialization and Supervision mantra, I agree the issue would be far less significant. HOWEVER, we have to deal with reality, which is much different.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 02, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Some of the dog folks are in a sort of denial that is rooted in the fact that FIDO is a perfect angel around the house. They extrapolate that into the OL environment, and, while FIDO is suddenly in a very different environment (full of all sorts of new, unexpected and unpredictable stimuli) they go on behaving as if they are in their own backyard. This is a natural occurrence and most of the time things go well, until they don't. That's when muddy paws land on your work clothes, hotdogs get swiped from the grill, or FIDO's aggressive posturing gets mis-interpreted by somebody's Terrier and suddenly we have what sounds like a dogfight. It is usually just some amped-up posturing, but it sure looks and sounds like a real fight. Sometimes it is the real thing. The point is, FIDO, without the reference of Training, Socialization and Supervision can morph into quite a different animal in an off-lead setting. And as that is true of all of them in the park, FIDO might be totally innocent yet find himself involved, just defending himself. Why people choose to refuse to comment on this (except for you, dear 2 ) amazes me. But, then again, there are some strong willed, successful folks out here that do not take kindly to criticism, however mild and well intentioned.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 03, 2012 at 12:28 AM
And as for 2's crack about my loose grip on what he glibly refers to as 'reality', there are many responsible dog owners in the fold here in Moragaland and its neighbors. Like many things in life, a 'few' can seem like a lot.
2nd Generation Moraga November 03, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Fritz, again you have wonderfully explained the friction between the untrained dog owners and the rest of the world. I agree with you 100% that there are no "bad-dogs", just bad owners. Having said that, the rest of the world has to deal with both, which is why reasonable rules are needed to protect "the rest of us".
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 03, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Now, Jon, that is a stretch and beneath your dignified 'image'. You rattle off four names and then go on to say they represent "much of" of Mr. Freeman's support. A FEW, A GREAT DEAL, A LITTLE, A LOT, A LOT OF, A MAJORITY OF, ENOUGH, MANY, MUCH OF, PLENTY, SEVERAL OF, SOME The are known as "quantifiers" and are used in this case to infer much less than the actual amount involved. "Much of" is meant to imply a 'majority' in this case. If it was actually the case, Mr. Freeman would then have 7 or less total supporters, which is far from the true number. This subtle attempt to undermine Mr. Freeman is a two-headed monster. First it says that he has very few supporters (and therefore should be ignore) and, secondly, that Mr. Freeman's supporters are also the ones Jon has identified as the most vile of the RLP supporters. The facts are that Messrs Shapiro, Carman, Home and plaintiff (sic) Smith are all fine, upstanding residents of Lamorinda that happen to feel strongly about their pets. This smacks of character assassination and is, frankly, beneath you Jon. You purport to be the voice of reason and in all matter, above board. But there is your soccer-based skullduggery lurking in the shadows. The whole "sports complex" drive has its roots in your group, does it not? You like to downplay it now that RLP has been deemed 'inappropriate' for that use, but we all know it was your initial motivation. So let's all play it straight, and may the best man win.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 03, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Dog attacks on humans at RLP is right behind hen's teeth on the list of fictitious events. Wiener theft at RLP is right there with them. You anti-dog folks have taken great liberties in hyperbole relative to the canine-related crime thereabouts. The trembling huddled masses that cower in their homes for fear of a happy dog laying paw to them actually have little to fear. Both sides are guilty of exaggeration, but you folks take the cake. 'rules are needed to protect "the rest of us".' I rest my case.
2nd Generation Moraga November 03, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Fritz, you mis-label me as anti-dog when I am anti-dog partisan. I haven't heard any descriptions of "roving packs of wild dogs", mostly dogs being ignored by their socializing owners. Your efforts should focused on dog owner education and implementing your "mantra..."
Karen Lewis November 03, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Andrew L.,l I really enjoyed hearing about how your family uses RLP. It is consistent with what I've seen when I go with my dog, and it makes me smile (then and now). I agree it is not bullying to campaign against someone... especially when you've tried everything else and honestly believe a candidate should not be re-elected.
Bailey Lee November 03, 2012 at 03:09 AM
@Fritz: "I am guessing that the evenings are more crowded which logically would proportionately increase the potential for mischief and missed cleanup. The focus too seems to be on human socializing which is easy to understand. There is a strong sense of community among OL dog owners and social discourse is a natural result, but antithetical to responsible dog ownership. The dog(s) should be the owner's first priority, chatting secondary." Instead of assuming and conjecturing, come by sometimes in the evening and see for yourself how things are. It's not the wild wild west, by any means. See you there.
Lack of Civility November 03, 2012 at 03:24 AM
The lack of civility displayed by the participants in this thread is appalling. To imagine that any of you are charged with the responsibility of rearing children or are in leadership positions of any kind is alarming. It's no wonder that children of today behave so poorly and that bullying is such a problem. They are apparently emulating their parents.
Jon Chambers November 03, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Fritz, I don't believe I'm exaggerating with this claim. Check out Mr. Freeman's "Supporters" page. http://www.electsethfreeman.com/#!supporters/c1ghi He lists 20 endorsements (counting pairs of spouses as a single endorsement). While I don't claim to know all his endorsers personally, I count 8 of the 20 endorsements as coming from people who have been publicly vocal about maintaining the off-leash status quo at RLP. That's 40% of the total, which in my book qualifies as "much" of his support. I didn't identify these people as "vile"--that term is yours alone. My purpose in pointing this out is simply to illustrate the source of a significant portion of Mr. Freeman's support. The fine citizens of Moraga can evaluate what this means. Once again you are maligning me personally, alleging "soccer-based skullduggery" as the motivation for my position. As I've said many times, I want the park available to all types of users. I agree with "Lack of Civility". The purpose of this thread should be to politely discuss an issue that is important to the Town, and not to serve as a forum for bullying or attacking individuals with different opinions. Collectively, we should be better than this.
Jon Chambers November 03, 2012 at 04:59 AM
And to further clarify, you allege that I suggest that "Mr. Freeman's supporters are also the ones [I have] identified as the most vile of the RLP supporters". I never used the term "vile" to describe this group, I used the term "ardent", defined as "having, expressive of, or characterized by intense feeling; passionate; fervent".
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 03, 2012 at 05:36 AM
I say you exaggerate the problem. You say I am uncivil. Good Grief! I have gone to this park on average more than once per day since I have lived here. I have never witnessed anything close to what I have read about here related to untoward dog behavior. Some owners are inattentive. That creates potential. But by my own experience, the place is the most well-behaved dog park I have ever visited. If pointing out the fact that you and your wife are heavily involved in youth soccer is uncivil, I am sorry you feel that way. It is your position, however formed, and it does not make you a bad fellow. It makes you an ardent supporter of youth soccer. Period. My vetting of Mr. Freeman exposed the fact that he is an unusually intelligent man. i was put off a long time ago by his antics at a TC meeting. I came to realize that his 'theater of frustration' was born out of his and people like him being rudely dismissed by some current Council Members. Mr. Freeman has a wealth of knowledge relative to finance and economics, far beyond any other current member or candidate. I could not care less how he feels about dogs. He would be a huge asset as we come to grips with MOFD, a possible defeat of K, the mitigating of the potential fiscal crisis surrounding the abuse claims, etc. All issues over the head of some on the current Council. RLP will be resolved once its true status as a red herrings is accepted. I am sorry you feel so persecuted.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 03, 2012 at 05:39 AM
What's your dog(s) look like. Bailey? How will I know you?
Chris Gerding November 03, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Jon, contrary to whatever characterization you have of me or Seth Freeman's supporters....I regretfully have not had time to get involved with his campaign or help him. I say regretfully, because if you read his website, you would see that he has put more thought into a vision for the town than all the incumbents combined. He indicates a business-inspired vision of how to deal with the unfounded liabilities, he reaches out to seniors and to merchants, he sketches out a partnership with education,....etc. I do not see this level of imagination or frank outreach from any of them. Dog issue or no dog issue, he has put is far and away the most thinking into the potential of the town. Moraga will get what it deserves on Nov 6, and if Moragans read the websites of all the candidates, they will be sufficiently informed in my judgment. More so than all this RLP jabber on the Patch.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 06, 2012 at 03:57 AM
“There is a powerful tension in our relationship to technology. We are excited by egalitarianism and anonymity, but we constantly fight for our identity.” David Owens-
Douglas Home November 07, 2012 at 07:28 AM
Thank you, Moraga!
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 07, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Hopefully, these results can free us of the rancor and vitriol that characterized this election in our bucolic little Township. Based on a misguided attack on a cherished tradition, the fervor with which a group of our citizens rose to the occasion to put a wayward Town Council back on track to focus on our most pressing issues, did impress. Congratulations to Roger Wykle, Phil Arth and Mike Metcalf. Condolences to Mendonca and Freeman. Perhaps now we can proceed in the spirit of cooperation as the new Council assembles to reset priorities and gets about the business of intelligent governance. It is interesting to me that the two losers represent polar opposites in the local political scheme, a clear message to the Council that our citizens are interested in results rather than unnecessary warfare.
moraga mom November 07, 2012 at 07:42 PM
It's over she is outta there. She ran on the open space platform and we saw her completely turn on her original promise of preserving the ridge-lines.
Bailey Lee November 07, 2012 at 09:22 PM
It appears that Moragans pay more attention to its Town Council than Orindans to its City Council---for the better.
scott March 09, 2013 at 09:47 AM
im a small custom home builder from Idaho and orginally from montana moragas a nice quant little town can you folks tell me whats going on with the land north of augusta drive bordering the golf course ?????i heard it was residential is this true and whats yr folks opinion of building nice homes there ?????on nice sized lots ???would everyone be ok with it thnaks have a good day
scott March 09, 2013 at 09:49 AM
sorry about being off topic
scott March 09, 2013 at 09:52 AM
politics is tough at evry level i hope you guys all work it out i didnt really read much of the toipc but thereis nothing worse then dogs off their leash in a park especially if their mean or trained to bite sounds like you guys need a good animal control officer just my opinion and make some funds for the city too while yr at it


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