I write in strong support of Judge Monique Langhorne for retaining her Napa Superior Court Judgeship in the March 3 election and in opposition to her challenger, attorney Clifford Blackman. This is not a close call – indeed it is a no call. Mr. Blackman deserves not a single vote from a Napa County voter.
First the positive: Judge Langhorne, universally endorsed by her judicial colleagues, as well as community members throughout the county, is a most caring, diligent, and thoughtful person. She should not be required to defend her judgeship in a contested election.
As for Mr. Blackman, I have had only one official interaction with him. During my terms as mayor of St. Helena (2014-2018) he operated an unlawful short-term vacation rental within the city. According to our City Attorney’s calculation (not disputed by Mr. Blackman) he collected $171,800 in illegal rents. He did so between April 2014 and January 2018 on 216 days. His average rental rate over was just under $800 per night. Now, when caught, he quickly settled for $105,000 in taxes, penalties, interest, and attorney fees owed under city ordinances.
Since 2012, when the city updated its short-term rental ordinance, the city has repeatedly publicized the City Council’s insistence on strong enforcement of the city’s prohibition against unpermitted short-term vacation rentals. The city press release announcing the settlement with Mr. Blackman stated: “Since updating St. Helena’s short-term rental ordinance and intensifying enforcement efforts, the city has stopped seven illegal short-term rentals, with settlements exceeding $455,000.”
There is a further issue. Mr. Blackman in his campaign website claims that he has been “a longtime homeowner and active member of the community of St. Helena.” In my opinion there is no factual foundation for this assertion because active members of our community – and especially attorneys active in our community -- know that unpermitted short-term vacation rentals are not allowed.
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I should add that Mr. Blackman was not a registered voter in St. Helena in 2018. I asked that he provide me with his place of registration in 2018 but he declined to respond to my inquiry. The fact that he was not a registered voter in St. Helena in 2018 further underscores that he has not been an active member of our community, contrary to his campaign claim.
Mr. Blackman did register to vote at his St. Helena address in the March 3 election on Sept. 16, 2019 when he took out papers for election as a county judge. Six weeks later, on Nov. 1, Mr. Blackman listed his single-family dwelling for rent. There is a “For Rent” sign on the property today.
I call upon everyone in the county in the March 3 election to vote to retain Judge Langhorne. It is the right and decent thing to do – and also makes clear that we county voters believe in a stable and experienced judiciary.
St. Helena mayor, 2014-18
Editor’s Note: According to St. Helena voter rolls obtained by Galbraith, Blackman was a registered voter at 1095 Pratt Ave. in St. Helena in 2014 and 2016, but not 2018. In that year, Joshua Andrew Blackman was a registered voter at 1095 Pratt Ave.