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Fight Over Rent Control Measure Gets Personal

The war over the Alameda Renters Coalition rent control measure is heating up. (File Photo)

The war over the Alameda Renters Coalition rent control measure is heating up. (File Photo)

Yesterday, Action Alameda News received an un-signed envelope containing two cover pages each for old bankruptcy court filings by two leaders of the Alameda Renters Coalition.

The documents, which contain no financial details, arrived one month ahead of the traditional Labor Day kick-off to the fall election campaign season.

Catherine Pauling filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in 2008 and Eric Strimling filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2010. Both have confirmed the filings to Action Alameda News.

Receipt of the documents posed a conundrum – six- and eight-year old bankruptcy filings are not “news” in and of themselves, and whether or not these past financial troubles have anything to do with the merit of the renters coalition ballot measure is debatable; the answer to that question may depend on whether one supports or opposes the initiative.

Yet, anonymous personal attacks, whether in online forums or through non-traceable campaign mailers are as much a storied tradition in Alameda politics as lawn signs. That someone would surface the documents is newsworthy as a political campaign turn-of-events – despite the much-beloved “small town feel” and constant talk about “civility,” this is how Alameda rolls. And, Strimling and Pauling, as visible leaders and spokespersons for the Alameda Renters Coalition, are public figures.

Strimling told Action Alameda News that at the time of his filing, he, like many others, fell behind on credit card and mortgage debt, but has come out of the process somewhat wiser. He said the goal of the anonymous source is to intimidate.

Pauling said that at the time of her filing, she had taken guardianship of two young children and incurred significant medical debt. She said the intent of the disclosure is to discredit her.

There remain 95 days before the November 8th election.

11 comments to Fight Over Rent Control Measure Gets Personal

  • Karen Zimmerman

    Outrageous! Alameda really is a nest of vipers.

    What could this anonymous missive possibly have to do with the rent control measure?

    I’m assuming this came from some greedy landlord.

    To the jerk who did this – how about using your efforts in a positive direction. Dig up the details of what the school district spends money on; expose government corruption. Something that isn’t just in your own interest.

  • Erik Mathy

    It didn’t put you in enought of a conundrum to not publicly get into the details of a personal attack that has NO bearing on the issue of rent control in Alameda. Is this what you call journalism? Seriously?

    You’re as morally compromised as the scumbags who “anonymously” dropped the information off in the first place. Shame on you!

  • Stephanie Chenard

    None of this is news worthy. Even worse, this is akin to punishing people for accepting bread for their family during the Great Depression. I would guess that several millions of people were adversely financially impacted during this recent big recession. People handled these outside forces differently, often taking responsible measures (such as the filings mentioned here) to address these forces. It is dreadfully shameful and petty that the “anonymous” source is digging this up, and a thousand fold more shameful that you are further posting this.

  • As noted, this is a story about the election, not rent control. Readers can decide for themselves if the finances of the principals are relevant.

  • Erik Mathy

    That justification, David, is a compleye cop out from taking responsibility for lack of journalistic integrity. You’re a journalist and a publisher. You should be able to make professional decisions and not hide behind excuses when you don’t.

  • Erik – As I discussed with Eric Strimling – something he noted himself – publication of this story cuts both ways. It can just as easily work against the anti-rent-control crowd, as can be seen by some of the comments here, as for them. It could just as easily create sympathy for ARC as antipathy towards the measure. I’ve observed routinely in Alameda that people entrenched deeply in one side of an issue or the other have trouble seeing how a story can work both for and against their position.

    If these old bankruptcies are immaterial to the rent control measure, then the story, too is immaterial to the measure.

    I found it more interesting as an example of how politics works in Alameda, and in America in general. If you are offended by the publication of this story, wait until the campaign attack mailers start coming.

    And for the record, even though nobody has asked yet, bankruptcy court proceedings are a matter of public record.

  • Eric Strimling

    The story would be about dirty Alameda politics had it been even handed. But by naming only one side there is no balance. Only one side can be shamed, or intimidated, because only one side is named.

    You could have refused to publish from an anonymous source, or you could have played it neutral and not put in any names. But, you chose to do their work for them. The coward who sent it do so exclusively so that you would publish it. And you did. The sender cannot be harmed because we don’t know who it was.

    Unfortunately, this was linked to on Facebook, lasted about two hours before it was taken down. In that time all of the rage that would have been directed at the sender, but couldn’t be, was directed at you Mr. Howard. Many posts, many people, all along the lines written above. And then the personal attacks started, articles from 2012 were linked to, and it was removed. Like I said, very unfortunate.

    Frankly, I warned you about this. It is a slippery slope. As the old timers say, “Get in mud with pigs, and you will get dirty.”

    I look forward to working with you in the future about *actual* Alameda issues.

  • Eric,

    People who are making personal attacks against me over this story deserve the same criticisms your supporters, indeed, yourself, are leveling against the source. You appear to want to “harm” the sender! Shall I track him or her down so you can “harm” them?

    Reporters act on information from anonymous sources all the time. In this case, the source provided public records, and they were immediately recognizable as such – I’ve seen countless such documents. Anyone with a PACER account and a credit card can search for and find bankruptcy documents.

    I confirmed the authenticity of the documents with both yourself and Catherine before writing anything. I gave you both a full hearing on the filings and included only the bare minimum summary of your financial story, which, frankly, paints you both in a sympathetic light. I included words from both of you that call out the intent of the sender to discredit or intimidate you, to give voice to that line of thought.

    Catherine asked to review the article before I published it (not going to happen), and you, naturally, tried to steer the direction of it. Various ARC members have made their own personal attacks over the past year in response to anyone simply questioning or voicing opposition to your policy demands – your organization’s own attempts to intimidate, shame or otherwise silence those who don’t agree with you. ARC is in a weak position to claim any higher ground.

    You, yourself, wrote to me, “Your call on whether you want to use this or not. Can’t see why it matters, other than revealing the character of those who oppose rent control.”

    Either it matters, or it doesn’t. Either it’s an “*actual*” issue or it isn’t. You, and fellow critics, seem to want to simultaneously express outrage about surfacing this old information AND assert that it doesn’t matter.

    If these old financial matters are material to the election, then it was fair to surface them and give you voice to address them.

    If they are immaterial to the election, then the story, too, is immaterial.

    Readers can decide for themselves if this matters or not.

  • Jennifer

    This information about dirty politics could have been conveyed without publishing the actual names of those being targeted. I’m pretty appalled by this. This reader thinks the bankruptcy information is immaterial aside from illustrating what kind of reprehensible people there are on the landlord side.

  • Eric Strimling

    My point was that it does not cut both ways, since only one party was named. If your intent was to be even handed, you should have recognized that.

    As it is, I fear you have harmed your own reputation more than that of either the sender or the intended victims.

  • Eric – my point is that members of ARC have demonstrated a willingness to launch personal attacks against and harass anyone who voices an opinion that doesn’t perfectly align with their own.

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