This post is about two weeks in the making. A week before Thanksgiving, my daughter was craving the fantastic Tomato/Basil soup and sandwich meal served up by our neighborhood Champange’s Bakery and Bistro. My wife and I were both wiped out from a hard day, so take out sounded like a great idea. I called ahead for four orders and left to go pick it up.
The restaurant was about 40 minutes from closing and there were a handful of customers lingering. I paid and wait for my order. I noticed copies of the Irvine Community News & Views on the counter and picked one up. I looked over at the manager and said “Thanks for carrying this newspaper. You know, one of our city council members hates this paper (I didn’t name Christina Shea, but spoiler alert if you couldn’t guess who; she had routinely contacted businesses urging them not to carry the paper calling it a slate mailer even though there’s no slate to promote).
The manager said, “Our customers like it.”
Another young man from behind the counter then chimed in and said he had taken a call from a man claiming to represent the Mayor’s office asking them to stop carrying the paper. I asked him if he could remember who called him exactly. He said he didn’t but the caller was a man who said he was from the mayor’s office. The man asked the clerk if they would stop carrying the paper. The clerk said the call came during business hours.
At no point during this interaction did I introduce myself or tell the staff I’m associated with TheLiberalOC. I did hold the paper up to the manager and said this is a real newspaper. It has stories. It has a community calendar. It has pictures. It carriers advertisements. Thanks for carrying the paper; if you were to stop, I’d take my business elsewhere.
I contacted Irvine City Hall and described my interaction with the Bakery staff.
The city got back to me a few days later with this collection of notes from Mayor Steven Choi’s staff:
From aide Janet Colclaser: It wasn’t me-& I have never been there, period.
From aide Sara Yi: Mayor Choi,
I do not have any knowledge of the matter, and I certainly never made a phone call to Champagne’s Bakery and Bistro before.
The only male council executive assistant is Sung, and I can confidently say that the Sung that I know would have never made such calls. I see no problem of Champagne Bakery carrying Irvine Community News & Views in the first place anyways.
Thinking up to this point, I would like to carefully suggest the possibility of someone else (that we do not know of) claiming to be your assistant (when they are not), and making such a phone call to the bakery.
From aide Sungwoo Hong:
I didn’t do it, and I have no idea about this at all. Period.
The denials are not surprising. I wouldn’t think that any member of the mayor’s staff would admit to making a call on the taxpayer’s dime, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Since Christina Shea has been very proactive, perhaps it was someone from her team.
When I ordered my Thanksgiving rolls, I called and spoke with the clerk I had the conversation with the previous week. After placing my order, I told him who I was. I asked if he was sure the call came from someone who said they represent the Mayor’s office. I told him I was writing a post (he asked not to be identified). He reiterated the caller was a man who said he was from the Mayor’s office but couldn’t remember the name.
So at this point, dear reader, we need to decide who’s being truthful here? I know who I believe, but I’ll consider the notion that someone from city hall is calling on businesses to stop a newspaper from being distributed and read in the city, it just might not be the mayor’s office. Or perhaps it is and someone isn’t telling the truth. We make no accusations here other than relay that the Republicans who sit on the council majority are in fact blocking the distribution of the Irvine Community News & Views from the publication racks at city hall in apparent violation of the city’s Free Speech Ordinance.
- Its not a slate mailer if there is no slate to promote.
- In America, anyone with a printing press can publish a newspaper.
- The Irvine Community News & Views has perhaps the city’s best community calendar; it runs articles with bylines, photos, high school sports news and carries advertising.
- The censorship by the Council Majority to keep this publication out of city hall and efforts by Council member Christina Shea to encourage businesses to stop carrying the paper amount to First Amendment violations by government inhibiting freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
Champagne’s has no political allegiance to either party and their excellent breakfasts and lunches are about as non-partisan as you can get.
The question remains, who do you believe here?