Nasty Politics, Dirty Tricks, and Facebook in the Novato City Council Race

The political use of digital media in the Novato City Council has sunk to an all-time low. Lies, half-truths, and outright deceptions are presented on Facebook political pages as a twisted new norm. It is problematic for Facebook on the local and national level (Russia). By allowing anonymous clearly political “advertisement” pages, Facebook’s credibility index continues to decline.

The more astute observers saw this coming – it was just a matter of time. Now Facebook has a major problem on its hands. Anonymous so-called “advertising” pages relieve authors of any factual accountability. Hidden authors can post accusations as if they are unchallenged “facts” by quickly removing any countervailing postings. Deception breeds easily on Facebook. Fake news rules.

Other so-called informational Facebook pages obstruct posts of opposing opinion thus sanitizing their “information” while protecting their agenda from open public questioning. Most of the general public is completely unaware of these behind-the-scenes Facebook page “cleansing” activities and machinations.

Political dirty trick techniques are unfortunately being employed in the current Novato City Council race. It is very disappointing that these repugnant tactics are being used by political insiders and strategist whose current public image is (at the moment) squeaky clean. They have thrown their ethics under the bus because they can. The new ethically-devoid criterion is “if you can get away with it, do it”.

One example is a recent public disclosure by the 2015 Board President of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, Tim Howard.  Howard is the General Manager of the local Marriott Courtyard Hotel, a member of the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee and a member of the Novato Economic Development Commission. Mr. Howard resides in Petaluma – not Novato.

In a Marin IJ column published on October 5th, reporter Stephanie Weldy questioned Howard regarding his participation in an anonymous Facebook “advertisement” page “Take the NO out of Novato” that first appeared on August 30th and since then has served simply as a platform to relentlessly attack incumbent re-election candidate Pat Eklund. Its sole negative purpose has been to campaign against the popular (for a reason) and very experienced Eklund.

Howard acknowledged to the Marin Independent Journal that he was one of several people involved in establishing the page and declined to say who else was involved. He employed a San Francisco attorney to legally defend his questionable behavior. Howard is a political operative with strong ties to the Novato Chamber of Commerce and does not hide that fact.

The other incumbent Councilmember, who is also the present Mayor of Novato and up for re-election, Denise Athas, has declined to publicly condemn Howard’s and his co-conspirators unethical tactics. This is disappointing as most residents would consider such underhanded schemes appalling. Apparently, the Mayor of Novato thinks it is acceptable behavior.

Adding to the sordid political tactics is a lone newcomer to the race who himself has created several Facebook pages focused only on attacking Eklund, but never Athas. He has never been a President of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, but is a member. Unfortunately for him, his campaign is quickly unraveling as voters get to know him better.

The Chamber’s political strategy cabal has backed away from him since a photograph he posted online of himself posing nude has surfaced. He is a glib and slippery communicator proffering a continual smile while offering simplistic and naïve commentary as to how he would change the world (and Novato belatedly with it). He is about five decades too late. The world has moved on. End of relevance.

Putting the pieces together presents the political scenario that the Novato Chamber of Commerce political strategy team greatly fears Eklund’s cross-examination of proposed City actions that appear suspiciously close to Chamber-first self-serving proposals rather than serving the residents of Novato first, which is Eklund’s strong point. For several years now, the Chamber has enjoyed a controlling block of votes on the Council that slavishly supports its political objectives and policy initiatives.

But, fortunately for all Novato citizens, Councilmembers Eklund and Drew draw public attention to and question those Chamber-backed initiatives that are biased towards its members’ interests, e.g. the expensive downtown train station with no trains stopping there. Eklund and Drew are determined to have an opportunity for fact-based public discussion despite the rubber-stamping Chamber majority voting bloc currently in place on the City Council.

Eklund and Drew press on with limited inside support from a Novato City Staff that claims additional personnel would be required to answer the two Councilmembers’ requests for timely clarification and missing relevant information regarding upcoming Council meeting agenda items. If this is hard to believe, just ask Drew and Eklund. The Staff’s lack of full, timely responses to these Councilmembers’ requests limits the Councilmembers’ ability to function efficiently and effectively for Novato residents.

Frequently, a Staff response is incomplete and/or past due, i.e. unresponsive. Effectively, Councilmembers Drew and Eklund are forced to contend with an adversarial City Staff attitude as well as the Chamber of Commerce’s pre-determined voting bloc – Athas, Lucan, Fryday. Novato residents lose when critical pertinent information is restricted in this way.

It is time for Novato’s voters to rise above the current sewer of political dirty tricks and vote only for Eklund and send a message to Athas that anonymous political hit pieces should be condemned. Eklund is the only candidate with clean hands and who looks after the interests of all Novato residents.



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