Thursday, May 27, 2010
Scott Miller says he decided to run for sheriff after reading the Weekly’s January cover story on Mike Kanalakis, which predicted a win for the incumbent despite the controversies surrounding him, simply because the sole challenger at the time, Fred Garcia, did not appear to be a viable candidate.
He makes a good point. Though Kanalakis is a dedicated public servant who pushed for new jail funding and helped prevent deputy layoffs, his two terms have been marred by a pattern of bullying instead of consensus-building. He blew his chance to make peace with LULAC and managed to offend the NAACP, too. His judgment, after allegedly trying to purchase a helicopter from a campaign contributor, is questionable. When the Garcia internal investigation was underway, Kanalakis improperly inserted himself into the proceedings and pushed the D.A. to pursue criminal charges.
Retired Cmdr. Garcia has admitted he was wrong to use the sheriff’s employee roster for political purposes. The mistake ultimately cost him his job; he retired rather than take a demotion. We admire his honesty, and his courage in calling out his boss on the helicopter issue. He comes across as a real beat cop: down-to-earth and morally driven. But playing defense on his disciplinary problems has come to define his campaign.
Miller, by contrast, would bring a broader perspective to the sheriff’s post. His career includes 17 years at the Salinas Police Department and almost six years as Pacific Grove police chief. Although he was forced out of that office due to what he contends was inappropriate political pressure, he quickly resurfaced, gaining four years of political experience on the P.G. City Council.
He’s the most articulate of the sheriff candidates, a strength we hope does not reflect an inflated ego or closed mind. As the only fluent Spanish speaker among the three, he’s in a better position to repair relations with the Latino community. He’s also the only candidate to make regionalizing police services – a no-brainer in this economy – a top campaign issue.
While Kanalakis and Garcia are hampered by their dirty laundry, we feel Miller would usher in a fresh new era as sheriff.
COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLSDonna Alonzo Vaughan
This is a tough job, with a lot of responsibility and not much authority. Current Superintendent Nancy Kotowski has come under fire for not taking on the challenges – including the chaos in the Alisal School District – more directly, and for being reactive to the multiple crises on her watch.
While it’s not fair to put the onus for the state budget crisis and the long-term education failures of the system exclusively on Kotowski’s shoulders, we believe Vaughan has the leadership skills to start bringing the county under control, as her record with the Salinas City Elementary School district demonstrates. Kotowski’s selling herself to voters on the basis of experience, but having done the job is not an argument for keeping her there.
We’re not as sold as Vaughan on the idea of local control, but we think she can bring the warring factions together more effectively. She has a folksy manner, but there’s steel there, too. The current state of education in the county is unacceptable. It’s time for a change.
SUPERVISOR, DISTRICT 2Lou Calcagno
Ed Mitchell has made Lou Calcagno a better supervisor. A newcomer to electoral politics, Mitchell is a former aerospace engineer who brings intelligence and passion for the community to his role as challenger. North Monterey County owes him a debt of gratitude for his activism and his championing the causes of open government.
Four years ago this paper endorsed a different opponent, saying Calcagno had failed to provide leadership on the most pressing land use issue facing the county – the General Plan. Since then, Calcagno has responded to constituents and worked with conservation and smart-growth advocates to help craft the compromise that is GPU5. He deserves credit for that change of policy.
The Weekly believes Calcagno should be re-elected, but still has work to do in the areas of policy and leadership. He needs to continue to vote his smart-growth rhetoric on subdivisions – and not just in election years. His recent vote to delay the denials on the Spanish Congregation subdivision, for example, seems like a play to get past the election with conservation cred intact, but allow room for a change of heart when the campaign lights have dimmed.
Calcagno should also recognize that the public’s business needs to be conducted in the sunshine. His pulling together of four local mayors, two city managers, another supervisor, as well as the heads of Cal Am and two other public agencies for a recent clandestine breakfast meeting to announce the regional water plan speaks to his strongest political skill and greatest weakness. Calcagno gets things done, and prefers the backroom to the public arena. We hope the fact that a Weekly reporter was at that meeting, to Calcagno’s obvious consternation, will remind the supervisor that we will be monitoring his ability to keep the “public” present in his future public service.
COUNTY TREASURERMary Zeeb
Competent and respected, Zeeb brings the experience that’s needed for this job. The fact that all five supervisors endorsed opponent Ron Holly when Zeeb had served as assistant treasurer was thoughtless. It’s a decision that they and others may have come to regret amid the revelations that Holly faked his resume and falsely claimed he was a lawyer. He should drop out of the race.
We don’t need a treasurer who wants to mislead us so we feel good about his credentials. We want honesty, integrity and accuracy. Salinas management consultant John McPherson presents an intriguing alternative, but his lack of government experience would put him on a steep learning curve at a time when we can ill afford it. Zeeb’s 23 years of experience – and moderate temperament – represent a plus as the county tries to navigate troubled financial waters.
Greenfield Union School District needs to mend leaky roofs, technology gaps, 70-year-old classrooms and sagging school grounds. The property tax burden – $30 per $100,000 of assessed value – isn’t too onerous, given that improved schools help housing values.
27th ASSEMBLY DISTRICTBill Monning
Here’s an easy one. A class act amid a sea of incompetence, the former MIIS professor has taken a strong role in leading the fight on environmental issues and dealing with the economic meltdown in Sacramento. We need more leaders like him if we’re ever going to clean up the current mess.
28th ASSEMBLY DISTRICTLuis Alejo
The Watsonville mayor has worked his way up from his family’s migrant worker roots. A former CRLA lawyer, he currently works as staff attorney for the Monterey County Superior Court in addition to his mayoral duties. His previous experience as a Sacramento aide should stand him in good stead. His opponent, school teacher Janet Barnes, has been a competent Salinas city councilwoman for the past 12 years. We’d usually favor the county-based candidate, but Alejo, who has promised to make Salinas his home office, seems better suited to the job.
12th State Senate DistrictAnna Caballero
The former Salinas mayor and current 28th District assemblywoman has been a reliable voice for gang prevention and solving Central Valley water problems. She gets our vote as she sets her sights on a different part of Sacramento chambers.
GOVERNORDEMOCRAT Jerry Brown
This isn’t a close call. Jerry Brown is one of the smartest and most forward-thinking politicians around. He tal prog championed pioneering environmen rams, including the country’s first state Superfund cleanup effort and ahead-of-their time initiatives for alternative energy sources.
After some ill-fated presidential runs foundered, Brown went back to basics, providing jobs and fighting crime as mayor of Oakland and as state attorney general. His intelligence, curiosity and contrarian streak – he opposed the freeways and unchecked growth championed in his father’s administration – make him a perfect choice to become both the youngest and the oldest governor elected in California. Brown has a notoriously short attention span; hopefully he’ll focus on how best to fix the many problems of the Golden State, which needs all the help it can get.REPUBLICAN Meg Whitman
Under different circumstances, Whitman and Steve Poizner would be running as relative moderates, but in the Tea Party age, each is trying to out-demagogue the other. Poizner has upped the rhetorical ante by using the controversial new Arizona law as a wedge campaign issue, charging that Whitman is soft on immigration.
Judging by the polls, it’s been working – he’s narrowed Whitman’s lead – but it’s a loathsome ploy, reminiscent of the 1994 gubernatorial campaign of Pete Wilson. He ardently supported Prop. 187, barring immigrants from using social services. It passed, but was later declared unconstitutional, as one hopes will be the fate of the Arizona law. (Ironically, Wilson is now a Whitman supporter.) Whitman’s views are not much better, and her eBay résumé hardly qualifies her for high office. But Poizner’s gutter tactics disqualify him, in our view.
LIEUTENANT GOVERNORGavin Newsom
The San Francisco mayor could have been a gubernatorial contender – if he hadn’t been demonized for his support of gay marriage. This is a largely ceremonial office that he and Republican opponent Abel Maldonado clearly see as a launching pad. We endorsed Maldonado in his last State Senate bid, and as Sacramento Republicans go, he’s relatively moderate. But Newsom’s policy stances – including championing S.F.’s universal health care plan – earn him the nod.
SENATORDEMOCRAT Barbara Boxer
The progressive legislator is being targeted by the right, but we strongly support her re-election. She was one of the few who voted against the Iraq War and later pushed for a timetable for withdrawal. She’s been an advocate for clean energy and pushed for the National Oceans Protection Act. She’s also advocated that businesses get tax credits for creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
REPUBLICAN Tom Campbell
The former Silicon Valley Congressman is relatively moderate and sensible. His opponent, former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina, seems like she’s just job hunting.
ATTORNEY GENERALKamala Harris
San Francisco District Attorney General Kamala Harris has done a solid job, with a successful record prosecuting violent crimes and felonies, despite recent revelations about sloppy practices in the city’s crime lab. Her principal opponent, Facebook privacy officer Chris Kelly, has interesting credentials (although the words “Facebook” and “privacy” don’t match up). But it would be good to bring diversity, and law enforcement experience, to the team. Harris has both.
This initiative provides that seismic retrofitting would not trigger property tax reassessments, and would put limits on property tax assessments: a reasonable idea with no credible opponents.
Part of the backroom deal Abel Maldonado struck during the budget crisis, proponents say this measure would make voting more democratic by listing all candidates on the ballot in primaries, and list only the top two in the general election.
While masquerading as an “open primary” measure, it would heavily tilt election results toward the business interests that support it. It’s opposed by every political party, the NAACP and many election reform groups.
This prop repeals a ban on public financing of political campaigns. It’s overdue, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent dreadful campaign finance decision.
Power grabs don’t get more transparent than this. Prop. 16, with the misleading title “Taxpayers Right to Vote,” would actually cement Pacific Gas & Electric’s near-monopoly and limit our ability to choose between public and private utilities. Under this prop, if Monterey County agencies wanted to offer residents retail power that’s cheaper and cleaner than PG&E’s, they’d need at least 66.7 percent super-majority voter approval to proceed.
PG&E, the prop’s main sponsor, poured almost $35 million into the campaign by early May, compared to $50,000 for the opposition. That could give an obviously anti-democratic measure a chance at passing – if voters allow themselves to be duped. We hope Californians are too smart for that.
Bankrolled by Los Angeles-based Mercury Insurance, this is a sweetheart deal for the auto insurance company masquerading as a reform. Nah.