Thursday, August 13, 1998
You know it''s a hot election year in the cities when Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass, a 20-year veteran, finally has a challenger. And he''s not alone. As the filing period for municipal elections closed late last week, it became obvious that nearly every major city was promising at least one hot race come Nov. 3. Many of those races--including those in Salinas, Marina, Monterey and Seaside--will involve the office at the top of the municipal ticket.
Pendergrass, who held the city''s top spot back when it was a position rotated among councilmembers and who has hung on to it since 1989 when the seat first came up for election, says he thinks his administration has done a decent job, between bringing Sand City''s mega retail centers on line and improving the city''s streets and roads.
Suzanne St. John, an eight-year Sand City resident who says she has spent the last seven years trying to build eight moderate income homes on Sand City''s East Dunes area, is one of two people challenging Pendergrass for his post. She says city residents haven''t benefited from Sand City''s explosion of big box retailers, that the city is "top heavy" in terms of municipal salaries, and that in general, Sand City needs to become more family-oriented. Rebecca Perry, a second candidate for mayor, has no listed phone number and could not be reached for comment.
"I don''t see what''s wrong," says Pendergrass, who adds that he''s not "taking anything for granted" with the city''s 109 voters.
That theme of outsiders agitating for change and incumbents not seeing the beef also holds true in the city of Monterey, where incumbent Mayor Dan Albert is competing for his seventh term against two challengers, Barbara Bass Evans, a preservationist and outspoken member of the Monterey Action Coalition (MAC) and Vincent Nordstrom, a 32-year-old attorney who moved to Monterey four years ago and plans to stay "the rest of my life."
Both challengers say Albert has been in office too long and that the city needs a change at the top. Evans, who has been an especially vocal opponent of the city''s land use policies, says the cornerstone of her campaign will be to get on the ballot a coastal protection initiative "that puts in place consistent protection from border to border."
Nordstrom says he too wants to focus on "maintaining the historical integrity of the city," adding that he also wants to provide environmentally appropriate jobs for young people trying to make it on the Peninsula. Ironically, Molly Erickson, the former Monterey Planning Commission chair who had been hinting at a run for mayor or council decided not to run, saying she did not wish to take time away from work or votes away from Bass Evans.
"We''ll be organized and prepared, and we''ll work real hard to be re-elected," says Albert, who likened campaign readiness to the preparation he used to do as a high school football coach--never underestimate your opponent. "I think we''ve done a good job," he adds.
In Seaside, three contenders are hoping to take the top spot away from Don Jordan, who is seeking his third term in office. Among those challengers are Jerry Smith, a community resource manager for the state prison system who is a newcomer to Seaside politics; Gert Foreman, a former Seaside City Councilmember ousted from her post two years ago by challenger Nancy Amos, and Felix Bachofner, a marketing consultant who chairs the Seaside Planning Commission and who made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1996.
Both Foreman and Bachofner say they''re unhappy with Jordan''s performance. Foreman says the mayor has shown no leadership, Bachofner said he was particularly unhappy with this year''s Grand Jury report, which took Seaside to task for failing to provide the Jury with public documents. Both Foreman and Bachofner said they felt Seaside was granting too many prospects to out-of-town developers.
Based on his own experience, Bachofner estimates that dissatisfaction with Jordan is running at around 65 percent among Seaside voters. He realizes the anti-Jordan vote could end up being split between the three candidates challenging the mayor. "If there''s a three-way split, and that happens evenly, we have a real mess and Don Jordan is back in office," he says.
Over in Marina, where two-term Mayor Jim Vocelka is stepping down, two contenders are fighting for the open seat. Eight-year councilmember Jim Perrine says he wants to lead Marina in "defining the community''s priorities and goals for the future"--including what he says is a needed re-evaluation of the city''s general plan. Realtor Joseph Martinez, who twice challenged former Marina Mayor George Takahashi, says he wants the city to focus on developing clean industry and resident-serving businesses.
In Salinas, outgoing Mayor Alan Styles is leaving his post to challenge Republican Assemblymember Peter Frusetta for his seat. Two candidates are vying for the mayoral seat, Councilmember Anna Caballero and conservative radio talk-show host Rob Roberts, who has also been serving as volunteer coordinator for the campaign of Phil Chavez, the Republican challenger in the 27th Assembly District.
In Pacific Grove, Mayor Sandy Koffman will run unopposed for her seat, but that won''t stop the fireworks that traditionally make up PG elections. Six candidates--including two incumbents--are competing for three council seats. Hot button issues include: senior housing, water allocation and the proposed re-design of the civic center. This last item, particularly, may provide the real pyrotechnics in the race.
At least one candidate, Dan Miller (who ran for mayor of the city two years ago) is outraged that the council is even considering the $2 million+ civic center project, when the PG has been stalled in acquiring any new property for senior housing.
"Why do we need a civic center with a balcony overlooking the town?" asks Miller. "Does Sandy Koffman think she''s Evita?"
Stay tuned. cw
Additional reporting by Richard Pitnick, Chuck Thurman and Sue Fishkoff.