I wonder how a man without business, government or policy experience thinks he can lead a city that faces complex legal and financial issues. A city that desperately needs to attract new businesses and generate revenue.
Geoff Ellsworth was elected to the city council, and within months, he instigated a stealth campaign to recall Mayor Galbraith because he didn’t like his policies — not because of character issues or because he’d broken laws. Under the auspices of his defunct LLC, Ellsworth spent $2,500 of his own money to lead the recall effort of his council colleague.
In another effort that shows a shocking lack of integrity for an elected official, Ellsworth snuck around to sabotage the relationships that Las Alcobas had built with Beringer and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with the intention of running the hotel out of business. This matter came to light when the hotel’s attorney wrote a letter to the city attorney, asking him to intervene and stop Ellsworth’s interfering.
As mayor, Ellsworth would need to be representing the entire town, not just his supporters or special interests. He would need to solve complex problems, to compromise, to work with people he doesn’t like. We need a pragmatist, someone who understands that removing obstacles via devious back channels is not an option. The incidents detailed above show a lack of integrity that should disqualify Ellsworth from being elected to public office.
Editor's Note: The Star asked Geoff Ellsworth to respond to this letter. It is as follows:
While city administration is a challenging job, the continued mantra that it is somehow "too complex" for most people to understand is simply not true. As to my qualifications for the job of mayor: my years of experience as a lifelong resident and in my family's winery supply business, career as a self-employed artist, involvement in city and county government issues since 2012 and my two years on the City Council provide more than adequate background to understand the systems, protocols and dynamics in place in St Helena.
The mayor's campaign wants to make this election a battle of resumes. That is likely because they do not want the voters to look at what we, as members of the City Council, have initiated and accomplished over the past two years. As to solving complex problems, compromising and working with others, I am proud of the council work program I helped advance and that I supported. Together with fellow council members we revised water rates, developed a meaningful downtown strategy, voted to hire Mark Prestwich, set a Housing Strategy in place, conceived of the SHAPE Committee in the wake of the Adams RFP disaster, created forums for real citizen engagement, revised council protocols, and adopted the first legal services policy. It was only after the arrival of the current city manager that stable decision making capability has returned to our community, not the least of which is objective, fact-based analysis of our finances and more.
The efforts to address downtown needs with the SHAPE committee, Downtown Economic Strategy and Housing Strategy were brought forth by other council members -- not the mayor. As for downtown business, the mayor fought against our efforts to re-open review of the water rates and reduce the 2,000 percent wastewater rate increases on over a dozen small downtown businesses. The mayor supported moving forward with the PBID, which would put a tax assessment structure in place that would have increased the cost of doing business for years, with the highest assessment rates in downtown.
This is a small town and as mayor I would continue to be one of five members of a deliberative body, each with an equal vote, who along with a very competent city manager will continue to guide the city back to the prosperous, vibrant, well-balanced city we have every reason to expect it to be.
Regarding the LLC mentioned here, the recent Fair Political Practices Commision (FPPC) complaint against me was rejected. It did help me quickly correct an honest error. While we can all be disorganized at times, the FPPC recognized this was not a breach of ethics. I did not initiate the recall. My financial support for a legal review came about after members of our community, engaged in the democratic process of a recall, were openly harassed, and at least one business owner had his business threatened for speaking up. Whatever the reasons for the recall, our community should be able to practice democracy without intimidation or fear of reprisal. I also took the letter circulated regarding Los Alcobas seriously, and again I addressed it appropriately in a response to a submission by Bill Ryan also published this week in the Star, though some of the statements in the letter are exaggerated or untrue. A letter from one side of an issue making allegations should not be considered evidence of anything.
I respect people's right to campaign for their candidates. In fact, I expect it. I am very critical of our current mayor and some who, as I stated, I believe do not demonstrate adequate concern for the impacts of poor planning or inadequate oversight. I'm running for mayor because I don’t believe it is appropriate to allow our mayor to run unopposed and unchallenged on matters important to our town that I believe have not been addressed in his decade of civic involvement.
I don’t expect my sharp criticisms to not be debated but I also try to abide by certain norms of political behavior in campaigning, such as not to allege someone of wrongdoing without evidence and not to label people with such obviously untrue terms as “anti-business.”
So I ask you not to dampen your energies in this campaign but to simply be fair. These attacks on me are out of bounds and needlessly caustic. I would be happy to speak with or meet with anyone in person if it will help us reduce this tension.
As is said so often, “There is more that unites us than divides us.”