Thursday, October 9, 2008
An electoral storm brews in Pacific Grove as eight candidates, none of them incumbents, vie for three City Council seats in the Nov. 4 contest.
Two of the candidates, Susan Goldbeck and Dan Miller, suggest that their long-term involvement in local government can bring needed experience to the comparably fresh council. Two others, Carmelita Garcia and David Dilworth, have been vocal at City Council meetings for years. The remaining four are relative newcomers to P.G. politics.
The council’s Oct. 1 decision to merge P.G.’s fire department with Monterey’s locks its firefighters into the California Public Employee Retirement System, while ballot Measure Y asks residents to replace city employees’ CalPERS benefits with a defined-contribution plan.
Many candidates point out the unfairness of firefighters receiving CalPERS benefits while other city staff may end up with a less generous plan. Garcia, Miller and Richard Ahart say they would have voted against the merger primarily for that reason.
Miller, Dilworth and Goldbeck support Measure Y. The others say they will vote no or won’t vote on the measure.
The Weekly sat down with all of the candidates except Garcia and Ahart, whom we to spoke later by phone. While the tone was civil, stark differences in positions and personalities emerged.
The Veteran: Susan Goldbeck, a former city councilwoman and planning commissioner, claims a range of local leaders she has disagreed with in the past are now supporting her candidacy, including former mayor Morrie Fisher– but she won’t name others. “Politics makes strange bedfellows,” she says. “I see a lot of people in my bed right now that I would never have expected to be there!” The 18-year P.G. resident says the city should stimulate sales by recruiting needed businesses, such as a car wash.
The Poet: Ken Cuneo says a variety of perspectives makes for well-spiced leadership: “I look upon the City Council as a bowl of my mother’s gumbo.” When the discussion turns to political relations, the Vietnam veteran quips: “I think I’m the only one in this room who did throw hand grenades, and I threw them with malice intended. But there’s no place for that in politics.” Cuneo, a 16-year P.G. resident with no political experience, proposes developing the American Tin Cannery into a luxury hotel.
The Remodeler: Bill Kampe says an attempt to remodel his home in 2004 sparked his political ambitions. Frustrated by the bureaucratic permitting process, he decided to get involved in city government and accepted a seat on the Beautification and Natural Resources Committee last February. Kampe’s top priority is making it easier for residents to upgrade their homes and businesses, followed by an effort to “get a bigger share of the visitor wallet.” He’s lived full-time in P.G. for just over a year.
The Peacemaker: Deborah Lindsay, a local sustainability leader and radio show host, says she’s running to heal the divides in P.G. But the four-year P.G. resident gets testy when pressed to name one city decision she disagrees with: “It is not productive to sit here and blame people.” She says local officials need to take responsibility for responding to climate change and consider the impacts on water, food and transportation. She supports banning free plastic bags, encouraging bike riding, developing eco-tourism and creating more activities for kids.
The Hand Grenade: David Dilworth speaks at so many public meetings, makes so many written comments and files so many lawsuits (through his nonprofit, Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment) that even The Los Angeles Times profiled him. Dilworth claims he has influenced “hundreds of decisions” over the years, noting HOPE’s recent legal victory against the state’s moth spray plans. But Dilworth, a five-year Pagrovian, has also earned some notoriety for his approach, which can be antagonistic, nitpicking and rambling. His council campaign focuses on fiscal conservatism, open government and residents’ rights: “We have enough tourists already in P.G.”
The Lightning Rod: P.G. native Dan Miller has run for City Council or mayor a half-dozen times. He describes himself as a bit of a Cassandra, saying his apt early warnings– about the city’s failing sewers in 1990 and the sinking budget in the mid-’90s– were ignored until the problems reached crisis levels. Miller, a planning commissioner, isn’t shy about taking positions, sometimes in contradiction to his brother, Councilman Scott Miller. But he’s also used his position as publisher of the now-defunct P.G. Press to defend his bro, the former police chief. This year, he filed a claim for a refund of his farmers market application costs after losing the bid to another vendor. He hopes to crack down on illegal units, develop the American Tin Cannery and recruit businesses selling high-ticket items.
The Hall Monitor: Carmelita Garcia’s top priority is public safety, including full staffing for the police and fire departments. Environmental issues rank lower: She is reluctant to support long-term eco-investments such as restoring the Cal Am reservoir or putting solar panels on city buildings. Earlier this year Garcia co-founded the political action group Fair Share P.G., which operates as a forum for city budget issues, but since announcing her candidacy she is unaffiliated with the group. The 16-year P.G. resident has served on local boards and commissions for more than a decade.
The Naysayer: Richard Ahart gives failing grades to the current council and mayor and an A+ to the contentious P.G. Hometown Bulletin. As for departing City Manager Jim Colangelo, he says, “I don’t think there’s a grade low enough.” Ahart, a retail developer and five-year P.G. resident with no city government experience, says he joined the race after “watching our city leadership deteriorate.”