Thursday, October 29, 1998
For the last four years, as the city of Seaside has been plagued with a host of complaints and dissatisfaction concerning the city''s management, the Seaside City Council seems to have been divided into two factions. On one side are current Mayor Don Jordan (who is running for re-election) and councilmembers Helen Rucker and Nancy Amos (whose seats are not up for re-election) who support embattled City Manager Tim Brown. On the other side are councilmembers Tom Mancini and Darryl Choates--whose seats are up for re-election--both of whom have been critical of the current administration. The outcome of the election may indicate the level of voter satisfaction with the way the city is being run.
Mancini''s concerns with the city management have principally centered on financial issues. According to Mancini, the city has been overspending its income and has dipped into redevelopment and investment money to balance the budget. He specifically points to a Paine Webber investment portfolio of $2.2 million that was liquidated in ''96 and $1 million in funds transferred from the city''s redevelopment agency.
"The audits from ''95, ''96 and ''97 show $3.6 million dollars of deficit spending," says Mancini, a former city manager in San Juan Bautista. He is also critical of management-employee relationships in the city. In recent months, the city''s four employee unions delivered a no-confidence vote concerning Brown. A report by Mandalay and Associates, contracted by the City Council, was also critical of the city''s management.
"I don''t believe much healing has taken place between the management and employees," says Mancini. "The Mandalay report stands as a report card, and little has been done to resolve the differences.
"It will take the entire City Council to understand what the Mandalay report said: There are significant communication problems. As long as the majority of the City Council continues to feel nothing is wrong, nothing will get corrected."
In his concerns over the city''s fiscal management, Mancini is joined by challenger Lance McClair, mayor of the city from ''82 to ''94. The last four years of McClair''s tenure as mayor were turbulent and dominated by legal problems involving the Fair Political Practices Commission, sexual harassment allegations concerning interim city manager Sam Head, and alleged Brown Act violations.
Although McClair is careful to say that he can work with anyone who''s elected mayor, he has been stung in the last two weeks by Jordan''s political ads that take credit for city projects initiated under McClair''s mayorship (including the construction of the Embassy Suites hotel) and by insinuations that he left the city in desperate financial condition.
"There''s a whole litany of things he claims," says McClair, "and things that point directly at my credibility. He''s saying I left the city in a bankrupt condition. It was in the black. There was a surplus when I left and now there''s no surplus and no audited budget."
McClair says he''s running for council because "there is no more viable leadership at city hall." He says that part of the problem with the city''s administration now is that it does not welcome citizen input.
"[During my mayorship] we had definite visions where we wanted the city to go that were substantive," says McClair. "With our ''Walk and Talk'' program we could tell citizens what we wanted to do and be a conduit for dreams and aspirations as far as the community was concerned."
McClair says one solution to break the factionalism in the city may be to hold summit meetings between all concerned parties.
The council election results might also determine the fate of a proposed Jordan/Brown-backed $30-million redevelopment bond that will require a four-fifths vote by councilmembers for approval. The bond, if approved, will provide funds for the redevelopment of the Del Monte Avenue corridor between Broadway Avenue and Canyon Del Rey Boulevard.
In order for Jordan''s administration to secure needed votes for the bond, it''s likely that Mancini or Choates will need to be unseated by either Alvin Edwards or Lisa Mitchell--both of whom are sympathetic to the current mayoral administration.
"There''s a $30-million bond needed for development," says Choates, "and it''s going to get ugly. Tim [Brown] is playing major Los Angeles politics in Seaside and he wants control. I don''t care if it''s Lisa [Mitchell] or Alvin [Edwards], he''s got a darn good shot if he gets Lisa or Alvin. He will control the city."
In the ''96 election, when Choates ran for mayor from a safe council seat, Mitchell was his campaign manager. She declines to say why she decided to oppose Choates in this election or whom she supports in the mayor''s race, but she does say, "The city needs to keep moving, we need more economic development in the city. We need to beautify lower Broadway and to get the word out on activities for youth."
The types of businesses Mitchell cites as needed by the city align with those supported by Jordan: a theater, grocery store and arcades.
Alvin Edwards is a Seaside firefighter who was just elected to the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District in June, and who is open in his support of Mayor Jordan, saying, "I believe the mayor deserves two more years."
If Edwards is elected he will have to give up his seat on the MPWMD, and he may have to give up his firefighting position although his avowed friendship with Brown may be currently standing him in good stead. City personnel rules state that city employees need to take a leave of absence from their jobs if they run for elective office--if the city manager thinks the campaign will interfere with their daily duties.
Edwards downplays his connection with Brown, saying, "Tim Brown is my friend but he''s not for me running. I filed [for office] when he was on vacation. People assume he put me up to running but he did not. I''m running on my own."
Edwards says that much of the turmoil in city hall is caused by a lack of clear leadership on the part of the council.
"The first thing we should do as a council is set goals, objectives and priorities and then evaluate progress. The goals and objectives of the city were never put out there. If you elect a council that sets goals and evaluates, and you keep the public informed, you wouldn''t have these problems."
Choates, too, says he believes better communication with the public will help alleviate some of the problems at city hall.
"The public needs honesty," says Choates, "someone who watches out for their interest and keeps them informed on issues."