Evil vs. evil-lite

Barbara Becnel espouses the sort of rhetoric that should have progressives dancing in the aisles. In her message to voters on her Web site (www.VoteBarbaraBecnel-Gov.com), the 55-year-old Democrat challenging Phil Angelides and Steve Westly in the June 6 primary claims she has “no further tolerance for Democrats who are Republican ‘wanna-be’s.'”

Alluding to the general election, Becnel further claims that Californians should not have to choose between candidates of different parties that “behave as though there is really one political party with two factions,” choosing between “evil and evil-lite.”

The executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhood House of North Richmond, Becnel gained national and international notoriety for her 13-year working relationship with Stanley “Tookie” Williams. In addition to advocating and organizing an international campaign for clemency until his execution December 13, 2005, Becnel also co-produced the award-winning TV film Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story, which was honored at both the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival.

But can this death-penalty foe reach mainstream Democrats in a state where a recent Field Poll showed voters supporting capital punishment by 63 percent to 32 percent? For that matter, will Becnel be able to escape rivals eager to paint her with the moniker of a single-issue candidate?

“First, the polls do not indicate that people support innocent people being executed,” Becnel said, adding that investigation of the Williams case has continued and that an “exoneration report” will be released prior to the primary, “so [other candidates] should be careful about how they choose to paint me.”

“I will not run away from that issue, but it is only one issue that I care about,” she said. “When we’re spending more money on prisons than on education, our schools become feeders for those prisons. Mothers of every income level and career [track] tell me that they cannot afford to have a third child because child care will exceed their mortgage payment. These issues affect every Californian, and they need to be reframed, not demonized.”

—Amy Yannello

Tit for tat in tax fight

The political feud over at the Yolo County assessor’s office got uglier this week, as county tax appraiser Bob Milbrodt—who accused his bosses of corruption—now finds himself under investigation.

Milbrodt accused his higher-ups of low-balling tax bills for a local developer and for themselves. (See “Appraising the assessor,” SN&R News, February 9.)

Milbrodt called for the resignations of the elected assessor, Dick Fisher, and of his deputy, Joel Butler. He also filed a formal complaint with the county board of supervisors, which punted to the county district attorney, who referred the matter to the Yolo grand jury.

The grand jury has made no public comment, but on Friday, the State Board of Equalization issued its own report, saying that the assessor’s office is doing its job properly. Instead, the board faulted Milbrodt for releasing detailed tax records to the media.

Milbrodt has been placed on paid administrative leave, and county Assessor Dick Fisher told SN&R that Milbrodt’s handling of the tax records also had been forwarded to the district attorney.

Milbrodt, who is running for county assessor against Joel Butler, called the report by the State Board of Equalization “a whitewash,” saying that the board never addressed his claims of conflict of interest. He and his supporters have formed a group called Citizens Lobbying Over Unlawful Taxation (CLOUT)—to expose what Milbrodt says is a pattern of arbitrary property-tax assessments in the county.

As for the board’s finding that Milbrodt had inappropriately disclosed tax records, Milbrodt said, “I’m a whistleblower. You have to violate confidentiality to be a whistleblower.”

He said he had not heard of the district attorney’s involvement until questioned about it by SN&R.

“Now I’m going to go call the DA and ask them to look into their retaliation against me as a whistleblower,” Milbrodt said.

—Cosmo Garvin