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Azusa City Council Accused of Political Blackmail, Censorship

May 26, 1988

In the more than 45 years since I bought a home in Azusa, I cannot recall any instance in which there was more idiotic behavior exhibited than in the recent meetings of the newly elected City Council. I believe Councilman Harry Stemrich is behaving in the manner of Adolf Hitler when he refuses to allow any disagreement with his views and threatens removal of anyone with whom he disagrees.

The Azusa City Council was best known for its failure to reach agreement. Unanimous votes were so rare that citizens were asked to elect council members who could work together. But unanimity in nonsensical behavior can hardly be seen as an improvement.

I am of the opinion that when this council threatens to withhold its advertising and financial support from the Azusa Herald because it doesn't like the news it prints, it is engaging in political blackmail and attempting censorship. To transfer advertising to another newspaper at twice the cost to the city is sheer nonsense. (I also respect that paper but suspect that 80% of its circulation is outside Azusa.) Why not send the legal advertisements to Chicago?

Support should not be given any newspaper that withholds negative or revealing information about any candidate that might have a bearing on the voters' choice. Newspapers should be supported by citizens for providing that information.

Instead, the public was treated to a spectacle when a supporter of Stemrich's stand made asinine remarks concerning the Azusa Herald, and ended with the presentation of a petition to prevent free distribution of the paper. Stemrich's request to be the first to sign solidified my belief as to the source of that petition and decreased my respect for him to a new low.

I regret having supported any individual council member(s) who now seem(s) to be seeking dictatorial power over a free press.

One bright note: The vote for dismissal of Conrad Bituin from the Planning Commission was not unanimous, indicating that we have not yet arrived at total dictatorship.

BERT GUENTERT

Azusa

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