Thursday, June 3, 2004
Jane Parker, who’s running for the District 4 seat on the County Board of Supervisors, kicks off her Salinas-based campaign this weekend in a race where the primary election broke down along geographical lines: Salinas versus the Peninsula.
In the March primary, four candidates duked it out to represent the 4th District, which includes Marina, Seaside, Sand City, Del Rey Oaks and the south end of Salinas. Three of the primary candidates live on the Peninsula: former Seaside mayor Lance McClair, current Seaside mayor Jerry Smith, and Parker, who lives in Marina and is vice president of the local Planned Parenthood.
The fourth primary candidate, Darlene Dunham, lives in Salinas and won every precinct in the city on March 2, but lost the larger supervisorial seat.
Now the race has narrowed to two candidates—Parker and Smith. And it may be that whomever wins the votes that went to Dunham last spring will take a seat on the board next January.
“Salinas needs to play a critical role in this race,” says Salinas Councilmember Jyl Lutes, who endorsed Dunham in the primary and now supports Parker. “Really, what the Supervisors did when they redistricted, they took away all of Salinas’ power and influence.”
In 2001, supervisors redrew the county’s district lines and split Salinas into four districts. At the time, Salinas city officials argued that because Salinas is home to nearly 40 percent of the county’s population, and is, in fact, the largest city in a tri-county region, it’s entitled to at least two reps on the board. Right now, the city has one—Supervisor Fernando Armenta. To this day, Salinas residents still say their interests—and political might—have been splintered on the board.
“It’s really unfair and unjustified,” Lutes says. “Dividing us up into four supervisorial districts gives us really no power. In District 4, you’ve got a situation where you’ve got two candidates who live almost within a mile of each other. They’re going to have to look to Salinas to say, ‘how are we going to meet the needs of Salinas?’”
This is why Parker says she’s kicking off a Salinas-based campaign, and will soon open a Salinas headquarters, in a yet-to-be-determined location.
“We’re making a really concerted effort to be in the community and let those voters know who I am, where I stand on the issues,” Parker says. “And this weekend we’re launching the grassroots effort in that area.”
Parker says her campaign will host a series of Salinas events, including coffees and neighborhood canvassing to introduce her to south Salinas voters.
“Many of the people have lived there for many years,” Parker says. “They have a real historical sense of how issues play out. I think people in south Salinas are going to be the most knowledgeable and the most appreciative of how land-use decisions impact everything else.”
Parker points to two hot-topic land-use issues that separate her from Smith: She’s strongly opposed to Rancho San Juan, a huge development of 4,000 homes planned for 2,581 acres between Salinas and Prunedale that the city of Salinas doesn’t want Monterey County to build.
“The city of Salinas has been very concerned because of the impact on traffic, library services, and other issues,” Parker says. “The city of Salinas has felt the impacts of development by the county in unincorporated areas probably more than any other community in the county.”
Smith hasn’t taken a position on Rancho San Juan.
Parker says land-use decisions also affect public safety concerns—a key issue for voters countywide.
“Particularly, right now, we’re hearing the sheriff tell the Board of Supervisors that he can’t make any more cuts and still provide the level of service people expect,” Parker says. “That’s already impacting the city of Salinas in many ways. There aren’t as many deputy sheriffs who are wiling to cooperate with the city on the violence in East Salinas.
“On Tuesday, the Supervisors voted to increase booking fees. That impacts the city of Salinas. If there are more people from the city of Salinas that get booked, the city has to pay a bigger tab. And this is coming at a time when they are pushed to their limits, trying to deal with public safety issues in their own city.
If Rancho San Juan is developed, the odds are there will be even fewer sheriff’s deputies in Salinas, Parker says. “The people in south Salinas are in the front row seats of what happens when the county develops the unincorporated areas.”
Last week, Parker asked the Board of Supervisors not to kill the General Plan Update process, which has already cost taxpayers almost five years and $5 million.
Smith, on the other hand, told the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council that he would have voted with Supervisors Fernando Armenta, Edith Johnsen and Butch Lindley to stop the process. “I’m not in favor of moving the General Plan forward,” he said.
At press time, Smith could not be reached for comment. However, Smith’s campaign manager Brian Pratt says the mayor recognizes the role Salinas will play in the November election.
“Salinas is important,” Pratt says. “It’s a little more than one-third of the electorate. Jerry will continue to campaign as he has in the past in Salinas. His primary method of campaigning is to go door-to-door and talk to people. That’s how Jerry does it.
“In Salinas right now, crime is a huge issue. Other concerns are similar—affordable housing, economic development.”
Political consultant Bob McKenzie, who supports Smith in the race for county supervisor, says Dunham’s votes will be Smith’s for the taking.
“Darlene won all the precincts in Salinas—this is probably good news for Jerry,” McKenzie says. “Darlene had a very, very solid connection to organized labor. That was part of the key to her success. Jerry’s connection with labor isn’t bad, and he’s got the endorsement of the Central Labor Council and some individual unions.”
And, McKenzie continues. “He’s got a public record he can point to with pride.”
Lutes sees things differently.
“The Board of Supervisors tends to think of the people of Salinas as not residents of the county,” she says.
Lutes says the Board of Supervisors hurt the city last month when it increased the amount that the sheriff’s department charges local cities to book residents charged with crimes. Because Salinas has a larger population, the brunt of that increase will fall on the city.
“They forgot, it’s unfair to the city of Salinas,” Lutes says. “It’s not fair to take even more money from the city with the largest jurisdiction, the greatest amount of needs, and keep taking and taking and taking money.
“I think Jane understands we just can’t do this anymore. She’s a consensus builder, but more than that, I think she is willing to make a difficult decision and I’m not seeing the Supervisors doing that.”