Thursday, July 29, 2004
It’s time to hit the campaign trail, thinks the girl reporter. After all, the Democratic National Convention recently kicked off, fall is little more than the a month away, and all of this means campaign parties are about to kick into high gear. It also means it’s time to update her chic-yet-tough political reporter wardrobe. Fall’s Marc Jacobs’ sexy secretary look will work perfectly, she thinks.
First stop, a Meet and Greet on Thursday, July 29, at Chapala Restaurant in Salinas, between 5:30pm and 7pm, for Jerry Smith, the Seaside mayor and candidate for Monterey County Supervisor District 4.
Chapala owner Lucy Pizarro is widely known on the Central Coast for her fantastic Mexican food, and for playing host to several Democratic notables—former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of Housing Henry Cisneros, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, former White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta and Congressman Sam Farr, to name a few.
Last month, she played host to another notable Dem—Candidate Jane Parker, who’s running against Smith in November. Parker held her Salinas campaign kickoff at Chapala, with speeches—from Salinas community leaders including Kayla Bumba, Natividad doctor Pedro Moreno and City Councilwoman Jyl Lutes—served up with breakfast burritos, beans and potatoes, fruit bowls and Mexican pastries.
Smith, who’s endorsed by Salinas City Councilwoman Janet Barnes, says he’ll talk about “specific Salinas concerns” that residents brought to his attention while he was walking precincts before the March primary: Housing costs and crime.
So, specifically, what will he do about housing costs and crime?
“Those are specific concerns that have been brought to my attention, and I think I have the experience from my role in Seaside to do something about housing, and crime,” Smith says.
“I’ve been a peace officer for 22 years, and I think my record in Seaside speaks for itself,” he says, referencing a press release about the Meet and Greet that says, “Mayor Smith’s leadership reduced all crime by 60 percent and homicide by 90 percent.”
And again, specifically, if elected County Supervisor, how will he use his Seaside Mayoral and peace officer experience to reduce crime and housing costs in Salinas?
“I’m not really in a position to go into specifics at this time,” he says. “One, I think, specifically, crime reduction is a specific issue. I think housing is a real issue. I think my being the chair of FORA [Fort Ord Reuse Authority] has allowed me more insight into how we would develop housing.”
While Smith was busy gearing up for his Meet and Greet, The Open Monterey Project (TOMP), represented by attorney Michael Stamp, was busy filing suit against the County in Superior Court.
The girl reporter wouldn’t know for sure—she wasn’t there—but she imagines Stamp wearing a tweed sports coat, the kind with corduroy elbow patches on it. And maybe brown loafers.
Anyway, the court papers charge the Planning and Building Inspection Department with violating the Public Records Act and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The lawsuit accuses the County of “closing large number of pending code enforcement files, ceasing enforcement operations relating to those matters, and administratively ceasing to enforce project conditions, zoning codes, conditions imposed under CEQA, and other County Code violations.”
“We’ve known for some time that there are serious code enforcement problems in the county,” says Gillian Taylor of TOMP. “What we did not know was that ordinances weren’t being enforced.
“You can’t just close cases that are open that need to be resolved. There are good employees in planning and code inspection, but apparently it’s management who have developed this unwritten policy that they can just throw out these violations.
“It does create a system that can be susceptible for corruption. Unless this is resolved, these actions are going to send a message: There’s no rule. And we think considerable environmental harm will continue.”
Planning and Building Inspection Director Scott Hennessy—who dashed away from a Board of Supervisors workshop on Ranch San Juan for a quick phoner with the girl reporter—says the cases aren’t really closed.
It’s the first he’s heard of the lawsuit. And he’s none too happy to find out about it from the girl reporter.
“The majority of the cases that have been marked closed,” Hennessy says, “they are actually pending cases. They weren’t closed. They were set aside for a period of time because we don’t have the staff to prosecute all these cases.”
Hmmm, she can’t see Hennessy over the phone, so she’s going to go out on a limb and say he’s wearing J. Crew chinos and a blue polo.
“We have a huge number of cases,” Hennessy continues. “And we have to go through and act on the cases that present a property, life or safety threat. The remainder are marked closed, but they are actually pending cases held in suspense. We are now calling them pending cases.”
Hennessy points out that the County’s painful budget cuts eliminated 27 Planning and Building Inspection positions. He’s down to three code enforcement officers—he’d like to have six. “That would probably allow us to catch up, and be current,” he says.
“If the County says we are not going to fund enforcement of the law because of our budget—that’s unacceptable,” Taylor says.
“It would have been really nice to have those people present during our budget hearings and request those position for code enforcement,” Hennessy replies. “When there’s issues like the sheriff’s department and Natividad, when you look at priority issues, code enforcement isn’t at the top. Unfortunately, we took a fairly
Speaking of County codes and designer suits, local community leaders eager to see the County move forward with an open, public General Plan Update process have set a date for their first community forum: Aug. 21, at the Prunedale Grange, between 9:30am and 12:30pm. Additional forums will be held throughout the county.
“The county has put a lot of work already into a document that is the result of years of community participation,” says Fred Keeley, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League (PCL). “It’s not perfect and it’s not finished, but the perfection and the completion of it should be the result of continuing open transparent participation. And it doesn’t seem to me that it works as well to have a very small number of folks not in a public process producing a document that is then subject to public comment. That doesn’t work as well.”
Last month, following the Supes decision to kill the Plan and turn the rewriting over to County Counsel and the Planning Department, more than a dozen General Plan support groups—including LandWatch, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, the Carmel Valley Association, the Prunedale Neighbors Group and Lideres Communitarios de Salinas—said they would convene a series of public meetings and move the growth document forward.
The PCL, a state-wide group that claims significant membership in Monterey County, is one of the community groups co-sponsoring the forums, which will be moderated by Peter Bluhon, a facilitator from Berkeley with experience in land-use issues.
Keeley says he and the rest of the organizations involved hope to present a growth document that builds on GPU3 to the Supervisors in October.
Keeley says he’s confident that the various groups and individuals involved “will find a way to end up with a document that they can all live with and recommend to the Board, and the base of support will be wide enough and deep enough that the Board responds favorable to it.”
The girl reporter asks Keeley how much the forums will cost PCL’s Foundation, which will foot the bill.
“More than I’d like them to,”
“I’m not avoiding the question,” he says. “I’ll be able to give you a figure the day after the first forum.” There are a lot of initial costs leading up to producing the first one, he explains.
In fact, there’s only one, important question Keeley won’t answer. The girl reporter saves this one for last: Will she have Keeley’s guarantee that everyone will be fashionably attired at these forums?
He just laughs. Spoken like a true (ex) politician, she thinks.