Thursday, November 13, 2003
Jerry Smith''s camp says the Seaside-Mayor-turned-county-supervisor candidate has $75,000 in his campaign war chest. But Smith refuses to say how much money he plans to raise in his attempt to win the District 4 seat on the board. When asked why not, the three-term mayor says: "Why would you ask me that?"
On the night of Thursday, Nov. 13, Smith''s hoping to add on to his $75,000 at a fundraiser at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, hosted by sitting Supervisor Lou Calcagno, outgoing District 4 Supe Edith Johnsen, public relations guru David Armanasco, big-time Realtor Jeff Davi, and power attorney Jeff Gilles, among others.
Smith, who outed himself as a Republican switching parties shortly after being re-elected in 2002, has won the endorsements of many Monterey County GOPers. His list of supporters includes 10 of the county''s 12 mayors, among them Monterey''s Dan Albert, Marina''s Ila Mettee-McCutchon and Carmel''s Sue McCloud, as well as South County Supervisor Butch Lindley.
Johnsen, a registered Democrat with a pro-big-development voting record that would make any Republican envious, did not return several calls from the Weekly seeking comment about why she supports Smith to fill her soon-to-be vacant seat.
Calcagno, who has endorsed Smith, nevertheless diplomatically says, "That race has a lot of good candidates. They are all qualified. It would be easy for me to support any of the three."
He''s referring also to Darlene Dunham, who works for the Center for Community Advocacy, and is a Hartnell College trustee, and Jane Parker, a Planned Parenthood vice president and member of the Monterey Peninsula College Board of Trustees--both of whom are Democrats.
"What I really was looking for was somebody that I had worked with and knew how they reacted to certain issues," Calcagno says. "I have had the honor to serve with Jerry both on FORA [Fort Ord Reuse Authority] and LAFCO [Local Agency Formation Commission]. I''ve watched him on key issues. I felt comfortable going that way."
Smith lists affordable housing, transportation, water and medical services as key issues facing the 4th District, which includes Seaside, Sand City, Marina, Del Rey Oaks, and the south end of Salinas. He says he''s committed to finding a "regional approach" to solving these problems.
His opponents accuse Smith of looking out for the interests of rich developers, not Seaside residents.
The Seaside Highlands project--in which the city sold the land at the former Fort Ord to developers KB Home and Danny Bakewell for a fraction of it''s true value--was supposed to provide affordable housing for the Peninsula. It didn''t. There is no low-cost housing at Seaside Highlands, a project that was in place before Smith was elected, but which he has enthusiastically supported. The cheapest home, originally promised at below $200,000, now costs well over half a million dollars.
In May, a resident filed a lawsuit against the city to stop the development.
In addition, Smith, who is also the FORA board chairman, has vociferously fought Rep. Sam Farr''s proposal to price half of the housing built on the former Army base below $275,000.
Smith, who in the past has said, "Seaside is 100-percent affordable," says the city has done its share to build low-cost homes. He says other Peninsula cities need to pick up the slack.
"I am very much in favor of affordable housing," he says. "Under my leadership, the City of Seaside has raised its affordable housing policy from 15 to 20 percent."
In an open letter to County residents, which was published as an advertisement in the Monterey County Herald, Smith went further. The full-page letter, paid for by the City of Seaside, said that the city''s plan provides for affordable and workforce housing that "would exceed Congressman Farr''s recommendations of 50 percent for each housing project."
The open-letter ad lists eight concrete steps the city has taken to encourage affordable housing, but does not contain any reference to any affordable housing being built.
Smith says Farr''s plan won''t work.
"That doesn''t mean that I''m any less in favor of affordable housing," Smith says. "I just have a different philosophy.
"When people are looking at Jerry Smith and the Seaside Highlands, they need to remember that the project was approved prior to me becoming Mayor in 1998. And I feel as though the city has done it''s very best to develop an affordable housing plan that is consistent with the city of Seaside''s development plan."
But Smith''s battles continued. In October, a group of activists, including two NAACP members, filed a lawsuit against Seaside over city-approved plans to build a golf course on Fort Ord.
The proposed First Tee project would lease land for an 18-hole golf course for $1 a year. It''s billed as a youth-friendly project, aimed at teaching poor kids the game of golf. But according to the EIR, kids only get to use the course one-quarter of the available time.
Much of the community, including the local branch of the NAACP, say the city doesn''t need another golf course. They also worry it will use too much water and cause traffic congestion.
Smith also says that Seaside residents support the controversial golf course project. " The city council listened to the community."
When asked about the First Tee project, Calcagno says, "It''s a Seaside issue. They have had good reasons to make that decision. I probably would think of it in a different light, but then I''m not on the city council of Seaside, so I have to respect their decision."
Former Seaside city councilwoman Helen Rucker is one of the citizens fighting the golf course in court.
Rucker refused to comment on Smith''s candidacy, and wouldn''t say which District 4 hopeful she would support.
"When I do decide definitely whom I am going to support, I will make a statement then," she said.
Chris Fitz, a Marina planning commissioner who''s supporting Jane Parker for the District 4 seat, describes Smith as a "candidate who embraces the status quo."
"He''s a candidate who is not in favor of affordable housing. He''s not doing enough for affordable housing. I think that his decisions on LAFCO have been a rubber stamp. His decisions have involved huge public giveaways and that is not the kind of leadership we want at the county level."