Oakdale’s rising civil war over the decision to ban city park drinking has risen to other battlegrounds as two former city council candidates with opposing views exchanged shots, both contending their statements, criticized by the other, were made as private citizens and not part of the official city-related roles they now hold.
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, unsuccessful 2012 council candidate and current Oakdale Travel and Visitors Bureau (OTVB) Administrator Ramona Howard, sent a lengthy email to city council members, The Leader, and a Modesto Bee reporter regarding banning park alcohol drinking and the city’s proposal of putting portable toilets in certain parks. Also copied in the email were three citizens that were quoted in an Aug. 21 Leader article who spoke in support of the ban at the Aug. 19 council meeting.
In her email, Howard mentions that “several years ago” she spoke in support of a ban not just for Dorada Park, but at all parks and that she foresaw problems ahead without the ban.
Howard then writes, “Well, between a council who couldn't see the same problem and an ex-mayor - Farrell Jackson - insisting that we keep drinking so he could have a beer with his grandkids in the park, they failed to attack the problem back then when it was a bit more manageable.”
She continues to name Jackson by stating, “Our parks had become a haven for the homeless and drunks and it seemed as if a majority of the council and ex-mayor Farrell Jackson didn't want to save our city from this.”
Later in the day, the Oakdale Tourism Business Improvement District (BID) Advisory Board held its bi-annual meeting at the Best Western Hotel.
Jackson, now a councilman who ran in the same November 2012 election as Howard, attended the meeting but made it clear during introductions that he was present as an Oakdale citizen and not in any official capacity.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jackson informed the board of Howard’s email, reading selected portions. Howard was seated on the dais taking notes and appeared to be chairing the meeting.
“I view that statement as a personal attack,” Jackson said. “I’m going to ask the board, ‘Is this how you want to be represented?’”
Jackson continued that he has supported the board and tourism in Oakdale.
“That statement (‘so he could have a beer with his grandkids in the park’) makes me out to be a bad person,” Jackson said. “I’m disturbed that a person representing the city and board would dish out personal attacks.
“Ramona, I’m sorry you didn’t get elected, but let the sour grapes go,” Jackson told Howard, reminding her that when he made the statements she referred to, he was then an un-elected private citizen commenting on an agenda item at a council meeting. (Refer to April. 2, 2012 Leader article: Solutions Sought - Council Talks Banning Alcohol From Parks)
Howard countered that her email contained nothing that wasn’t public record. She added that her email was also in the capacity as a private citizen, sent from her personal email account.
BID board members pointed out that Howard was not part of their board even though she was the administrator for the OTVB.
For the full story, read Aug. 28 edition of The Leader.