Thursday, September 30, 2010
Carmelita Garcia faced some tough criticism when she was upgraded from Pacific Grove councilwoman to mayor on a coin toss last fall – a promotion some in the community would have preferred to go to Councilman Bill Kampe. But now, as Garcia seeks voters’ blessing through a proper election, she has no opposition at all.
Also unchallenged for two-year terms are appointed incumbents Robert Huitt and Daniel Miller. (Since August 2009, former Mayor Dan Cort, Mayor Pro Tem Vicki Stilwell and Councilwoman Deborah Lindsay have all resigned. Ken Cuneo was appointed to fill the third council seat.) Kampe’s seat is secure until 2012; Councilwoman Lisa Bennett is not seeking re-election.
That leaves four candidates for three four-year terms: Incumbents Cuneo and Alan Cohen, and challengers Richard Ahart and Rudy Fischer. The small pool contrasts with November 2008, when eight candidates fought for three seats.
“People are either totally bored and not interested, or they’re content with the direction the city is going,” says Cuneo, a retired military officer. “I think it’s the latter.”
Garcia agrees and expects the incumbents to win easy re-election: “Bennett’s seat is really the wild card.”
But don’t expect much heat from the challengers. At a recent debate, the candidates seemed to agree on virtually all the issues raised.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘boring,’ but I think that’s what made it not as exciting as in former years,” Cohen says.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Ahart and Fischer found themselves volunteering together to renovate The Little House, a historical building in P.G.’s Jewell Park. While Fischer moved concrete, Ahart formed up the foundation, and the fellow Republicans had a chance to talk politics.
Ahart, who owns 10 Taco Bell franchises, made an unsuccessful council bid in 2008 and applied during both rounds of recent council vacancies. Fischer, a Defense Language Institute management analyst, also threw in his hat for an appointed seat in fall 2009 and last May.
Like the incumbents, Ahart and Fischer both cite long-term economic stability and pension cost control as city priorities. The candidates also line up behind Measure Q, which would impose an annual tax of $90 per parcel and $45 per apartment to support the P.G. library.
“This slate is probably more similar than dissimilar,” Fischer says.
Also on the ballot is Measure R, which would cap the city’s contribution to employee pensions at 10 percent of their salaries. If it passes, P.G. might finally see some of the drama that’s as much a part of its character as the Butterfly Parade.
Measure R reflects the city’s imperative to lower its retirement expenses, Garcia says – but she expects some backlash: “The employees aren’t going to be real happy about it.”