Recently, questions have been raised surrounding the activities of the Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee (MISEDC). Over the past 2 or so years the MISEDC a “non-sanctioned” city council committee headed by Vallejo councilmember and chair Jess Malgapo and including councilmembers Pippin Dew-Costa and Rozanna Verder-Aliga have engaged in activities to explore dredging of the Mare Island Straits and development of the Vallejo Marine Terminal project, including possible location of the Orcem Cement Plant at the site of the former General Mills plant near Lemon Street on the Vallejo waterfront. They have also looked at economic development for Vallejo tied to the straits and maritime commerce.
We know that the activities of the MISEDC were kept secret from the public as well as councilmembers Katy Miessner, Robert McConnell and Bob Sampayan until recently. Only when Orcem US President Steve Bryan referenced councilmembers Dew-Costa, Malgapo and Verder Aliga as being on board with the cement plant project at a recent public meeting did the public or other councilmembers gain any insight as to the existence of this clandestine committee or the extent of activities being conducted.
The possibility of transgressions of the Brown Act, which pertains to open government laws in California also have been gaining a lot of public attention. Glenn Myer an investigator with the Solano County District Attorney’s office has recently begun contacting various parties in possession of or with knowledge of documents connected with the (MISEDC). Whether the DA will find anything actionable, or is merely carrying out due diligence is to be seen. The matter of potential Brown Act violations and their remedies are to be discussed by the city attorney at a meeting scheduled for January 5 in city council chambers. One of the points sure to be raised at this meeting is that the MISEDC was not an officially sanctioned city committee. This in turn raises the question as to why city staff time and resources were used for the activities of the MISEDC, primarily at the direction and discretion of committee chair Jess Malgapo. Email communications from past city Economic Development Director Mark Sawicki expressed concerns over Malgapo’s actions directing staff in connection with MISEDC, a clear violation of the authority of an elected official in our form of city government. Nonetheless, City Manager Dan Keen appears to have done nothing to curtail Malgapo even after concerns were raised. Malgapo even organized a guided tour for the Army Corps of Engineers which appears to not have been officially sanctioned, yet certainly required the use of resources.
Documents also make clear that Mayor Osby Davis was aware of the activities of the MISEDC and clearly failed to make any mention to the public or other councilmembers. His contact with the committee, which he has acknowledged, could be a violation of the Brown Act if it comprises a serial meeting. This seems somewhat unlikely as the mayor usually covers his tracks. What has become clear over the years is that Davis uses committee appointments (his purview) as a carrot and stick technique to control or punish councilmembers as he sees fit and to propel his agenda and consolidate power on the dais. In this case, it seems that Malgapo formed his own ad-hoc committee and while the mayor was fully aware of it, he conveniently failed to see the need to make mention of anything to Miessner, Sampayan or McConnell. As to whether this was a collaboration between Malgapo, Verder-Aliga and Dew-Costa and Davis to consolidate power and create an exclusive political bloc to favor their agenda is not known. What is clear is that all of the candidates who ran under the Jumpstart banner in the past election (Malgapo, Dew-Costa and Verder-Aliga) and are generally compliant with the Mayor’s agenda were placed on the committee, while independent voices in the form of Miessner, McConnell and Sampayan were kept in the dark and out of the loop by obvious design.
In spite of a recent quasi-tearful semi-apology from councilmember Pippin Dew-Costa, it seems obvious that the secrecy surrounding MISEDC was an intentional effort to grease the wheels and exclude input from the public or any members of council who might have a differing opinion surrounding industrial development of the Vallejo waterfront. It also unfortunately underscores the ideological divide between Miessner, Sampayan and McConnell and Jumpstart backed candidates Dew-Costa, Malgapo and Verder-Aliga. If you recall from the last election, Jumpstart was the political love child of Napa Solano Labor Coalition Executive Director Jon Riley and gave extensive financial backing to the three candidates on the MISEDC as well as pastor Anthony Summers, who did not gain a seat on council. As to what if any influence Riley had with the clandestine disposition of what was supposed to be a public committee is not known. He is, however known as the puppeteer who holds the union purse strings for Vallejo’s bought and paid for candidates and a man who likes to see return on his investment. The Orcem facility is to be built with union labor and is a project Riley favors.
One would hope that our elected officials would be welcoming to business and revenue in Vallejo, while at the same time refraining from taking advocacy positions for outside corporate interests without transparency or public input. Unfortunately Malgapo, Dew-Costa and Verder Aliga have chosen to pander to outside interests and keep the public and their fellow councilmembers in the dark. Ironic that Vallejo’s union backed candidates are the best friends of outside corporate interests, who could hardly hope for more compliant lobbyists.
Regrettably, a growing atmosphere of trust and cooperation on Vallejo City Council has been pretty much destroyed by Dew-Costa, Malgapo and Verder-Aliga. Post election there was a sharp political dissonance between Riley’s Jumpstart candidates and the independent voices elected to council. Jumpstart ran on a platform of economic development and bridge building. They have irrevocably burned bridges on council along partisan(?) lines and pushed old divisions to the forefront with their cavalier attitudes and deceptive actions. So much for promises. Trust is now dead and buried in city hall. Perhaps the “Jumpstarters” just wanted to be the heroes of new economic development and standard bearers of progress, as they see it. Or perhaps it was a more sinister effort at exclusion and manipulation. Either way The Shadow Government is real in Vallejo and you are not invited.
A great thanks has to go out to Vallejo lawyer Stephen Hallett who has been a dogged public advocate in his pursuit of documents in connection with MISEDC and bringing their activities to light. Hallett recently came into possession of a cache of related documents the City of Vallejo refused to furnish or claimed not to have in connection with his public records act request. Hallett was able to secure these documents at the county level.
Below are the documents regarding the activities of the MISEDC for your review. They include correspondence, emails, reports, power point presentations etc. It also includes numerous examples of Malgapo’s outspoken bias in favor the Orcem Project, an item that has yet to be brought before the council for a vote. It seems at least his mind was made up a long time ago…but you weren’t supposed to know that.
The link takes you to a Google Drive folder. Read all about it and form your own opinion.