If the Concord Police Association's goal was to embarrass itself, insult residents' intelligence and drop a steaming pile of stink on the City Council race, it deserves high marks for a job well done.

The mailer attacking candidate Ed Birsan that it recently distributed is a sterling example of how grimy local politics can get.

"Ed Birsan wants voters to believe he's a Concord business owner," the flier says, before asserting that his company, EDI Inc., operates in San Francisco. "Beware of politicians who distort the truth."

And then: "Ed Birsan's real name is Edi Ersalesi Birsan -- not Ed Birsan. He changed that on the ballot, too -- to persuade voters to vote for him."

So let's review: The CPA attacks his integrity, denigrates his name and suggests, not so subtly, that his ethnicity raises suspicion. That's just what you want from your police -- a manipulative trashing of a potential city leader, mixed with a hint of discrimination.

To be fair, the mailer likely doesn't speak for all Concord police officers. I would be stunned if this bad idea was put to a vote. But that's difficult to verify, because union officials did not return any of my phone calls.

What's easier to verify is the emptiness of the claims.

Birsan's business -- he inspects equipment, hazardous tanks and containers -- is licensed by the city of Concord, where it has been based for 26 years. He also belongs to the Concord Chamber of Commerce. The San Francisco address is that of his accountant, who keeps the books.


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His given name, Edi -- he also answers to Ed -- owes to a misspelling that can be traced back two generations to his nearly illiterate Italian grandfather.

"I was named for my father," Birsan said. "When my grandfather named him, he couldn't spell very well."

Grandpa Giuseppe Ersalesi is also responsible for the middle name the police association finds so alarming. Orphaned at a young age, Giuseppe was raised in Italy by the Salesian brotherhood, a religious order, and assumed the last name of Ersalesiano. When he came to America, it was shortened to Ersalesi.

Birsan, who shakes his head at the nonsense in the mailer, said the wonder is his enemies didn't attack him for his Greek heritage on his mother's side.

"She came from the island of Lesbos," he said. "I'm surprised they didn't throw in that my grandfather was a Lesbian."

The genealogy lesson doesn't end here. His last name comes from his stepfather, Saul Birsan, who entered the picture after Edi's parents divorced and later became his sole guardian. The would-be councilman legally changed his name to Edi Ersalesi Birsan after he turned 18.

I don't think that makes him a threat to national security.

The real reason the police association has put a target on Birsan's back appears to be his support for pension reform and reinstatement of a full complement of nonsworn police dispatchers, whose positions now are sometimes filled by police on overtime. Both moves would hit cops in the paycheck.

Oh, there's another reason that only Birsan, one of 11 candidates vying for two seats, has come under attack. He's well-regarded and has a good chance at being elected.

The police have every right to support candidates they like. But negative campaigning? Really? Isn't that beneath them?

The surest way for a cop to stain his uniform is to start slinging mud.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.