Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On Vietnam Veterans Day - March 29, 2016 - I proudly announce my candidacy for California Assembly District 35 in an open letter to the Director of Caltrans "a perfect example of what is wrong with government today - why nothing ever gets done".

March 25, 2016

Mr. Malcolm Dougherty
Director of Caltrans
1120 N Street
Sacramento, CA 94273-0001

Dear Mr. Dougherty:

I am pleased to inform you that I am a candidate for the California Assembly District 35. My goals are to win the election, be sworn into office in Sacramento, and introduce two Caltrans related Bills immediately.  I have lost all trust in my government because of the actions and inactions of the California Department of Transportation. Should the good people of District 35 call me to duty, I will serve with fervor.

Today I fight for freedom, just as I did when I joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 18 volunteering to go to Vietnam, not expecting to return.  I fight a subdued war, a war that erodes freedom, a government that beats it citizens into submission, by actions such as Caltrans.

All I wanted to do was to put up the American flag and to build a memorial for those that have served our Country gallantly.  Caltrans should have held my hand – not pushed me to the ground at every chance. 

Here is a snapshot of the hell that Caltrans has put me through over the last five years. It is a perfect example of what is wrong with government today – why nothing ever gets done.

1. On March 7, 2011, Caltrans denied my proposed Veterans’ Memorial project because you had determined that the American flag was a form of political speech. Sadly, anyone in California applying for a “Caltrans Gateway Monument” encroachment permit, would likely be approved – but, add the American flag to the project and it will be denied every time.

2. On May 23, 2011, I submitted a second encroachment permit to install a flagpole and the United States flag in the State Right-of-way and qualified my request by my research findings. The Caltrans Encroachment Permit Manual and California State law allows the California State flag and the flag of the United States of America in the State Right-of-way.

3. Our permit was approved on July 1, 2011, and the United States flag was displayed for the first time on July 4, 2011.  I asked to install additional sidewalk(s) to place the flagpole in the center of the future Veterans’ Memorial, but my request was denied.

4. On March 24, 2011, Senator Tony Strickland introduced Senate Bill No. 443 to allow the Veterans Memorial under state law.  After passing the V.A. Committee, the Transportation and Housing Committee, and the Appropriations Committee, on June 2, 2011 Senate Bill No. 443 unanimously passed the California Senate 39 to 0 and was ordered to the Assembly. In mid-June 2011, Senator Strickland’s office informed me that Caltrans is in agreement with Senate Bill No. 443 and therefore, there is really no need for the Bill.

5. On June 22, 2011, Senator Strickland’s office instructed me to contact Patrick Pittarelli from Caltrans “he is aware of the situation and is ready to assist you in completing the necessary paperwork.” I contacted Mr. Pittarelli and he told me that the property would be sold to the County of Santa Barbara for a nominal fee. He did not know if it would be $1.00, $5.00, or $500.00 but he surmised that the property did not have much value because of its small size and location. I agreed.

6. On July 18, 2011, I called Mr. Pittarelli to see if he had heard from Sacramento. He told me that he had sent a letter to me and that he would email me over a copy of the letter. In our conversation, he said that there was going to be a $10,000.00 fee that was going to have to be paid upfront before the process of selling the property to the County of Santa Barbara was started. This took me by surprise and I told him that I would have to see the letter so that I could determine how we were going to proceed from here.
Later that day Mr. Pittarelli sent me an email stating ““Mr. LeBard, I left a voice message for you at 714-1165. That is the only number I was provided and I trust you will get it. In that message, I explained that I was just informed that I am to be directing all communications regarding this project through the Office of Mr. McGolpin (805/568-3000) at County Public Works. Accordingly, as a follow up to our telephone conversation of this morning, I will have to direct you to Mr. McGolpin to discuss the details and special arrangement of this project. Again, I apologize for any confusion and miscommunication. Please feel free to call me with questions regarding this e-mail.”
I called Mr. McGolpin and asked him to email me a copy of the letter that Mr. Pittarelli had sent to me. In talking to Mr. McGolpin he said that he was under the same impression that I was, the property would be sold to the County of Santa Barbara for a nominal fee. No one had mentioned a $10,000.00 fee to him either.

7. On July 25, 2011, I sent a letter to you with several options including moving Senator Strickland’s Bill No. 443 back to the required California Assembly committees and on to the Governor for his signature or I suggested re-submitting the Veterans Memorial as a Caltrans Transportation Art project.  I explained that the $10,000.00 fee was a deal breaker and that our non-profit revitalization group did not have that kind of money. You encouraged the Transportation Art idea.

8. On September 16, 2011, I re-introduced the Veterans Memorial as Caltrans Transportation Art citing that Caltrans allowed a mural of Fidel Castro on Caltrans property in San Diego’s Chicano Park. I intentionally did not include the American flag in the Veterans’ Memorial knowing that you would deny it. My suspicions would later be affirmed in writing by your staff – no political speech (the American flag) in a Veterans Memorial.

9. You required me to get permission from each branch of the military to use their prospective seals, but you waited until the last minute – after 17 months of permit processing, you dropped the bomb - requiring me to remove United States Army, e pluribus unum, from the Army seal and likewise from the Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. I informed you that I could not and would not alter our Country’s military seals.

10. On March 4, 2013, I received a call from our local County Supervisor, saying that Caltrans wanted me off their back and they would sell the property to the County of Santa Barbara for $1,500.00. I told the County Supervisor that I would pay the $1500.00 myself to move the project forward. He told me that the other County Supervisors all said that they would chip in. I was elated – Orcutt was finally going to get our Veterans Memorial.

11. On March 15, 2013 I met with Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (the position I hope to fill) and proposed a change to the law: California Streets and Highways Code 670.5 to allow the United States flag and the California state flag in Caltrans Gateway Monument and Transportation Art projects (see attached letter). I included a letter that I had to sent to Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Assemblyman Achadjian assured me that he would get the law changed, but that it would take some time.  To the best of my knowledge, he did nothing.

12. On May 23, 2013, after waiting several months, I received a voicemail from the County Supervisors office “there’s been a little bit of behind the scenes wrangling, originally we thought we had talked them down from the $10,000.00 transfer fee down to $1500.00, but then we found out, which they hadn’t really relayed to us very well, and on top of that, that was really just to get the appraisal, and then we had to purchase it, and there’s some varying estimates between five and twenty thousand”…”also they thought that could take several months, into August - September”. The message went on to say that he called the Caltrans District 5 office -  he was going to check into a more exact date, seems like maybe a month…six weeks, “as far as the County’s concerned we’re done until they come back and say you owe us more money.”

13. On September 29, 2015, I received a voicemail from the Supervisors office “I recently talked to Caltrans, apparently they sent a letter to the County about a month ago, basically saying here’s the appraised value, are you guys still interested? I remember it being about 60k. I’m trying to track down the letter…how are we going to pay for this given how much it costs versus what we thought…I still don’t have all the details. Caltrans sort of gave me that ballpark number. I’m tracking that down. I’ll talk to you soon.

14. On February 3, 2016 I finally received a copy of the Caltrans Appraisal. The price $47,900.00 and your message was loud and clear, Caltrans will not give us one volt of electricity or one drop of water.
15. After what Caltrans has put me through on the simple but honorable act of raising our great American flag in a Veterans’ Memorial, I am more determined than ever. I will take the American flag fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

God willing, I will see you in Sacramento on December 5, 2016.

Semper Fi,

Steve LeBard

5 comments:

  1. I offer my support from afar Steve, but it's here.

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  2. It's so abominable what you've gone through to place a memorial to our honored veterans. Why is the American flag such an affront? The amount of money for that tiny property is overpriced. I wish you well in your run for Assembly.

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  3. Steve,I want to commend you in your great pursuit of justice,what these people have done is UNAMERICAN and I will assist you in anyway that I can..You have my vote and will share this with all my friends and neighbors.God Bless We will prevail..

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  4. Hey Steve, don't stop whatever you do, I believe and trust in you to get the job done.

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