Thursday, November 1, 2012
The one-year anniversary of Occupy Monterey came and went last week without much fanfare. A group of participants still gather for weekly General Assembly meetings, where they agreed last Saturday not to endorse any candidates for office, even though one of their own is running.
Monterey Peninsula College English Professor Alan Haffa has been careful in his campaign for Monterey City Council to make it clear he doesn’t speak for the leaderless movement he’s active in, but divided reactions to his candidacy show cracks in the consensus-based group.
“The thing that drew me to the Occupy movement is that it’s a rejection of the electoral system,” former occupier Michael Frederiksen says. “I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to put our energy into running for office.”
Some current and former occupiers view Haffa’s run as selling out, while many see a respectable rise to a place where he could implement real policy change.
“I know people who say it’s a betrayal of Occupy values, but then they’re just defining Occupy values as their own,” says former occupier Denica De Foy of Prunedale. “I think voting can be a way to be heard.”
Haffa’s endorsements include several Occupy activists who applaud his run, but also groups like the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, Monterey County Democrats and Unite Here Local 483.
It’s Haffa’s first race for elected office. He previously won an uncontested Monterey Peninsula Unified School District seat in 2005.
He supports granting preference to local businesses over national chains as the city’s ticket out of the recession.
Describing the abandoned Fresh & Easy lot on Del Monte Avenue, Haffa says, “[Local] businesses are more invested. They don’t come in and knock a building down.”
As director of MPC’s Gentrain program, Haffa also envisions creating a senior/youth co-op, where students in need of housing could stay with senior citizens in need of attention. “Instead of pitting the interests of seniors against the interests of college students,” he says, “I’d like to figure out how we can match the needs of seniors with the abilities of our youth.”
Haffa says these are issues he’d been passionate about even before tents went up at Zuccotti Park last fall. “I would’ve run whether or not Occupy had come along,” he says.