Thursday, October 11, 2012
For the past month-and-a-half (and in some cases, longer than that) the Weekly has met with a variety of candidates running in a variety of races. If your name appeared on a ballot, we reached out. In some cases, we got no response, but we tried. For those candidates who did come before our editorial board, we aimed to get at the heart of who they are and why they’re running. Many candidates lacked vision, and some frankly lacked a basic understanding of how their jurisdiction functions.
But many who came said they were running because they saw problems that needed solving, and they thought they could make a difference. While politics can be overwhelmed by cynicism, it’s heartening to note that at a grassroots level, local people are still willing to step forward and lead.
Below you’ll find the Weekly’s recommendations on federal, state and the most local of all local races, brought to you by the editorial board: Weekly founder and CEO Bradley Zeve, Publisher Erik Cushman, Editor Mary Duan, Managing Editor Mark C. Anderson and Assistant Editor Kera Abraham.
See Opinion article
U.S. House of Representatives
Earning a 97 percent positive voting record from the League of Conservation Voters in his last term, Sam Farr continues to prove his value to the land-and-sea advocates in our community. Delivering federal funds on behalf of DLI and NPS, Farr has also earned the support of the typically more conservative military community. Likewise, Farr’s support of specialty crops, organics and tourism has won him the backing of the business folks in his district. This last congress was especially productive for Farr, as he secured a veterans clinic to be built in Marina, introduced legislation that led to Pinnacles becoming a national park and got the president to declare Fort Ord a national monument. He deserves to be returned to D.C. for an 11th term. Farr’s opponent is Jeff Taylor, a nice enough human being but completely unqualified professionally and politically to represent the district. The only cliffhanger heading into this November’s election is just how many more terms the 71-year-old native has in him before the real contest to determine his successor gets under way.
STATE RACES AND PROPOSITIONS
Senate District 17
In advance of being termed out in the California Assembly, Bill Monning is running for a newly drawn senate district that includes the southern part of Santa Cruz County, the western part of Monterey County and northern San Luis Obispo County. As a result of the addition of Santa Cruz to the district, it has become much more heavily Democratic in voter registration for this election. Although Larry Beaman is on the ballot as a Republican candidate, he has failed to show up to almost all campaign events and it appears that Monning is essentially running unopposed. As chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, Monning has become a leader in Sacramento on health care policy and legislation, and that work will prove valuable as the Affordable Care Act gets fully implemented in 2014. Monning has long been a staunch advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable populations within the state and, at the same time, has been well received in the both business and ag communities. A lawyer and mediator by profession, Monning impresses us as a bridge-builder who can actually advance legislative causes in a bipartisan fashion in the Capitol.
Assembly District 30
One term in, and Alejo’s championed local interests on a range of issues. His bills this session include a requirement to notify school employees 60 days before layoffs; improved access to legal counsel for tenants facing eviction; and enhanced transparency in reporting meetings between stakeholders and Regional Water Quality Control Board members.
He’s led the charge on improving transparency at public district hospitals after forcing a state audit of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. His bill requiring written contracts with CEOs should keep SVMH (and others) out of trouble in the future.
But Alejo shouldn’t cut back on accountability. He dodged a controversial vote on a statewide styrofoam ban; he torpedoed plans for a garbage gasification plant in Gonzales that was certainly worth scrutinizing, but deserved a shot at environmental analysis.
While Alejo’s been a solid rep for the former District 28, we hope he doesn’t get too swept away in Sacramento to at least remember to show up to vote.
Assembly District 29
Mark Stone is a veteran of local and state politics, having served as a Santa Cruz County Supervisor since 2003 and as a representative of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties for the California Coastal Commission since 2009. A former assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, Stone has definite ideas about what he wants to accomplish in the Assembly. He believes the work he’s helped facilitate in Santa Cruz to streamline and improve the child welfare, social service and juvenile justice systems can be translated to a more widespread efforts at reform throughout the state. He also wants to reform the prison system, saying while the state has no more crime than other states, it does have higher rates of incarceration. And he believes that Santa Cruz and Monterey counties can and should work more collaboratively for the greater good of the region. Stone has been a reliable eco-vote on the Board of Supervisors, most notably when it comes to leading the charge on banning polystyrene and single-use plastic bags.
Prop. 30 – Temporary Taxes to Fund Education
Prop. 30 would increase personal income taxes by as much as 3 percent for seven years on those who earn over $250,000 a year, and increase the sales-and-use tax by a quarter-cent for four years to 7.5 percent statewide. If Prop. 30 doesn’t pass, the budget that was approved by the state legislature – the one that ties directly back to Prop. 30’s approval – is toast. A series of so-called trigger cuts will go into effect that will hit education like a speeding freight train. The CSU system, for example, will have to slash $250 million from its budget. The UC system, once the crown jewel of the nation’s higher ed, is looking at a similar-sized cut. The California State University Board of Trustees already has approved a 5 percent tuition hike that will be implemented if voters reject Prop. 30. And as K-12 schools and community colleges face a loss of $5.3 billion, with $32 million slamming into the county’s K-12 schools alone – the state can’t afford to live with the consequences of having to ration educational services for the next generation.
Prop. 31 – State Budget Reform Initiative
Prop. 31 seeks to change the state’s budgeting process from a one – to a two-year cycle and allow the governor to cut the budget “unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act,” according to the ballot summary. Prop. 31 has a bizarro list of supporters: Aquarium founder Julie Packard threw in $50,000, as did her sister, Nancy Burnett. Nancy’s son, Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett, himself contributed $5,000, although he now says he won’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t pass because it carries with it so many unintended consequences. And while the state Democratic party opposes it, the Republicans support it, in all likelihood because they’re banking on having a Republican in office the next time around who can act without the legislature if a fiscal emergency is declared.
Prop. 32 – Prohibit Payroll Deductions for Political Contributions and Prohibits Contributions to Candidates
Prop. 32 is being pitched as a reform measure that will take special interests out of elections. In reality it is a ploy to weaken the political power of unions in California. Prop. 32 will ban payroll deductions to campaigns, but while public and private employee unions rely heavily on payroll deduction to fund political advocacy, corporations almost never do. In the time of Citizens United, where corporations are free to make unlimited contributions to campaign that further their interests, Prop. 32 would have the effect not of eliminating special interests from political campaigns, but rather to eliminate opposition to corporations’ special interests.
Prop. 33 – Changes Law to Allow Auto Insurance Companies to Set Prices Based on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage
This measure would allow insurance companies in California to provide discounts to new customers who have had continuous coverage with a competitor. It would also allow insurers to jack up rates without any scrutiny for customers who have had a lapse in coverage. At present if a motorist switches insurance carriers they often lose loyalty discounts that they have earned from having been a long term customer. Prop. 33 will allow those loyalty discounts to transfer to new customers. It will also allow insurance companies to increase rates to customers who have not had continuous coverage without getting those rates approved by California’s Insurance Commissioner. The measure is the brainchild of Mercury General insurance company chairman George Joseph, who spent $16 million on a similar measure two years ago. To date Joseph has contributed some $8.4 million to the Prop. 33 campaign. The main opponents include the political arm of Consumers Reports as well as Consumer Watchdog.
Prop. 34 – Death Penalty Repeal
Simply put, California can no longer afford the financial cost of the death penalty. A 2011 study by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyola Law School Professor Paula Mitchell found it has cost $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978, for a total of $4 billion on 13 inmates. It costs $184 million a year alone to try death penalty cases at the county level, house the inmates and pay their appeals as they slowly wend their ways through the state and federal appellate process. And right now, 725 more condemned prisoners await execution.
Prop. 34 is an initiative statute spearheaded by former San Quentin State Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford, who personally supervised four of those 13 executions and now runs the nonprofit Death Penalty Focus. If passed, Prop. 34 would, over four years, put a one-time, $100 million fund using money currently spent on death row in the hands of law enforcement to solve more rapes and homicides.
Prop. 35 – Increased Penalties for Human Trafficking
This measure would toughen penalties – both prison sentences and monetary fines – for human traffickers and expand the definition of the offense to include the production or distribution of child pornography. Those convicted of sex trafficking of a minor would see their sentences increased to a minimum of 12 years, up from the current 5 to 8 years, under Prop. 35, with 10-year increases for physical injury to the victim. Meanwhile, a person accused of an act like prostitution would not be prosecuted if it was proven the act was committed under human trafficking.
Prop. 36 – Three Strikes Law Sentencing for Repeat Offenders
At present, if a felon has two previous convictions for serious or violent offenses and is then convicted of any felony, that third strike will result in a life sentence. Prop 36 will bring a qualitative review to the third strike: in those cases where the third felony is not serious or violent, such as car theft or drug possession, the sentence would be double the normal sentence, but mean not life in prison. About a third of California’s 9,000 Third Strike inmates would be eligible to apply for this new sentencing guideline. The Legislative Analyst Office concludes that this change will save the state $70 to $90 million a year.
Prop. 37 – Genetically Engineered Foods Labeling
Put aside your opinions about genetically engineered organisms, just for a moment. Maybe you think they’re perfectly safe for people and the environment, and that they represent biotech’s ripe promise to feed a hungry world. Or maybe you’re skeptical about their health impacts, their potential to contaminate non-GMO crops and their tendency to drive up pesticide use. This ballot initiative isn’t about all that.
Prop. 37, if passed, won’t put any limits at all on the use of GMOs. Farmers will still be free to buy and plant them; people will still be free to eat them. Here’s what Prop. 37 does: It gives people a choice not to eat them by labeling products with GMO ingredients.
Of course, that’s not what you’ll hear from the anti-37 campaign – backed by Monsanto, DuPont and some of the world’s biggest food manufacturers – which as we go to press has outfunded the scrappy pro-37 camp by almost 14-to-1. Don’t fall for the slick PR.
Prop. 38 – Local Schools and Early Education Investment and Bond Reduction Act
This temporary measure would increase personal income taxes on anyone earning more than $7,316 a year, using a sliding-scale based on the amount of income. In other words, everyone pays. If both Prop. 30 – the school tax being backed by Gov. Jerry Brown that increases taxes for those earning more than $250,000 – and Prop. 38 pass, the state constitution says the one with the most votes wins. Prop. 38 hits everyone, including low-income earners – making it the less desirable choice.
Prop. 39 – Multi-State Business Tax and Clean Energy Initiative
Prop. 39 would require that businesses with presences in more than one state to calculate their California income tax based on their percentage of sales in California – right now, the state leaves about $1 billion a year on the table because of the current law, which allows multi-state businesses to calculate their California tax liability on a combination of sales, property and number of employees, and then go with whatever number is cheaper. The resulting revenue increase would help dedicate $550 million a year to fund energy efficiency projects and create jobs in clean energy.
Prop. 40 – Senate Redistricting Referendum
The most confusing proposition on this year's ballot by far. A yes on Prop. 40 will affirm the senate district maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. And yes, that's what voters should absolutely want.
Monterey County Board of Supervisors District 5
While it seems entirely predictable that a veteran politician would have made himself a few enemies, Dave Potter’s list of detractors is a long one. Once viewed as the greenest supervisor, enviros that include powerful members of LandWatch are now backing his challenger, federal bankruptcy trustee and former supervisor Marc Del Piero.
Potter, a 16-year incumbent, has proven able to mediate differences on the General Plan, Carmel Valley traffic and other contentious issues. Style is important, because when it comes to substance neither candidate is a clear choice – Potter’s cozy relationship with Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau, flip-flopping on the MST/Whispering Oaks project and pro-Pebble Beach buildout positions are less than admirable.
Del Piero has run on a promise to “get the third vote” on District 5 issues, basically lobbying the other supervisors on matters of disagreement. But he hasn’t offered up a clear explanation as to how he’ll do it – other than by being the loudest person in the room and banging his fist on the table with the most verve. While that’s certainly one way to get things done, Potter appears more willing to listen. He has promised to advocate for more transparency in county processes, including leading the charge on a rule that would prohibit giving multiple no-bid contracts to a single vendor. And as one business leader who says he’s endorsing Del Piero strictly out of Republican loyalty put it, “Dave has always managed to bridge the gap between business and enviros, and he should be admired for it.”
Monterey County Board of Supervisors District 1
We initially backed Sergio Sanchez in the race, and he came in third. When we invited Supervisor Fernando Armenta and candidate Tony Barrera in for a second round of interviews on the premise that it’s a new race, Armenta told us, in essence, to stick it. Barrera is affable, collegial, has spent enough time on the Salinas City Council to know how government works, and is willing to negotiate for consensus rather than bully his way to it.
Pacific Grove: MEASURE A
Measure A would replace and extend a parcel tax the P.G. voters approved in 2008. At present the rate is $35 per parcel and it expires on June 30, 2014. This new measure will raise the amount per parcel to $65 a year and extend the sunset until 2018. It requires a 2/3 majority of votes to be enacted. All of the funds will be directed to classroom expenses, specifically noting that facilities and administration will not get any Measure A money. PGUSD is a basic aid school district, which means that the budget is determined based on property taxes and not average daily attendance. The attendance in the district has risen over 40 percent in the elementary schools in just the last three years and this new money will help to maintain music, art, computer and gifted and talented curriculum. The $65 a year for each parcel seems like a small and worthy investment.
Pacific Grove: MEASURE F
This measure for a zoning change is not technically a referendum on a proposed hotel in Pacific Grove, but a no vote will very likely doom the project entirely. The benefits of a 230-room, full-service hotel in the heart of downtown are substantial: The hotel will bring vibrancy, jobs and over $1 million a year in transient occupancy tax to Pacific Grove – all necessary if P.G. is to sustain both charm and city services.
Arguments against Measure F are that the developer should proceed through the EIR and then come to voters and ask for the zoning change, and that Measure F is really a blank check for property owner Nader Agha. The EIR will be paid for by developer Drake Leddy and he contends he needs the zoning obstacle removed before he can invest that money. Perhaps most persuasive is that the community’s legitimate concerns about water, sewer, traffic and the look and feel of the project will still be under intense scrutiny after this vote – not just in the EIR – but also because the hotel will still need to gain approval from the city’s Architecture Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council before the first spade of dirt is turned.
Carmel: MEASURE D
It’s rare to find a tax increase with such widespread support, but this 1-percent sales tax hike is one that’s got City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the hospitality industry and local businesses behind it. While Carmel’s leadership has been aggressive about correcting the budget deficit through pension reform and trimming the number of city staff positions, they seem to understand the simple math that the presidential candidates don’t: There also needs to be a revenue-side solution. In this scenario, Carmelites fairly share that burden with tourists.
Measure D would boost Carmel’s current 7.25 percent sales tax (the lowest on the Peninsula) to 8.25 percent for 10 years. With a projected $500,000 shortfall next year, which would double in 2014 and keep widening thereafter, Carmel can’t afford not to approve this tax.
DEL REY OAKS
City Council (pick two)
Kristin Clark, Mike Ventimiglia
Del Rey Oaks is a Monterey County outlier. It has the highest owner-occupancy rate in the county, the lowest crime rate, even (bizarrely enough) its own SWAT team. So it makes sense that its race for city council is unique to the county, and maybe all of politics: There’s no bitterness. They’re not even putting up signs. Mayor Jerry Edelen is running unopposed and council challengers Scott Larsen, an entrepreneur, and Mike Ventimiglia, a longtime fire division chief (he now inspects), have no issues with incumbent Kristin Clark, going out of their way to say the third generation local, bookkeeper and tireless DRO booster – she won’t shop out of the tiny city unless the item isn’t available – has done a great job, so she’s back. Ventimiglia and Larsen have similar visions, with Ventimiglia enjoying more experience as a former councilman and Larsen fresher ideas. The two big issues are what to do with the driving range and Fort Ord land. Their rec-centric take on the range is compatible, but Ventimiglia’s leaning housing and open space for the Fort Ord parcel while Larsen envisions a wine village with tasting rooms and an amphitheater event space. The tiebreaker for us: Ventimiglia signed up to run much earlier. The best news here: Both challengers are currently on the planning commission, have proven to be engaged and engaging leaders in DRO, and will remain involved in government, another reason it’s good to live there. As Clark says: “You’ve got a tough choice: three, nice qualified people for two spots.” Every city should be so lucky.
The incumbent mayor of Marina is one of the more colorful politicians we’ve seen. Between his Green Party affiliation, his passion for Fort Ord flora and his kid-sized spectacles, Bruce Delgado is the sort of mayor we’d enjoy drinking brew around a campfire with.
But Delgado also has a tough side. He led the charge to cut city staff pay, particularly that of former city manager Anthony Altfeld, whom the council eventually fired. And we like his forward-thinking push to better integrate the CSU Monterey Bay community, which really is the city’s best hope for a vibrant future. While he supports protecting the wild lands of Fort Ord from rampant development, he also cheerleads smart growth in a town with lots of urban blight, and he goes to bat for the sort of infill development that draws people to Marina. Who else would organize a “flash mob” to court In-N-Out to a shopping center?
Challenger Steve Emerson also has a strong résumé as president of the Marina Foundation, past president of the Chamber of Commerce and co-creator of Festival of the Winds. He argues that Marina needs more city staff to push forward development on city-owned blight, which makes sense. But his call for a more diverse city economy, and his intrigue with the Monterey Downs proposal, seems to come at the expense of caution. Marina needs a more thoughtful leader than that if it’s to grow in a sustainable way.
Gail Morton and Frank O’Connell
Marina politics play in teams. Mayor Delgado’s got the current 3-2 majority, which helps push his more progressive agenda forward, but this council was preceded by a majority on the conservative side – and this election could easily swing it again.
Incumbent Frank O’Connell has been a steady asset to the Delgado council. He’s got a level head for finances, insisting on a balanced budget (including salary reductions as needed) in a city with a history of overspending. He’s been persistently promoting the Marina Airport as a site for the new Monterey-Salinas Transit facility, and advocating on the Fort Ord Reuse Authority board for both developing true blight and capitalizing on the wild lands’ potential as an eco-tourism destination.
As a lead organizer in the successful grassroots campaign to defeat the Whispering Oaks proposal, challenger Gale Morton, an attorney, is particularly active on Fort Ord conservation. She also brings a healthy skepticism to development ambitions on a Peninsula that is looking at a surplus in affordable homes, not a demand for more subdivisions. We hope she can help transform the goals of a growing college community and ecotourism into a viable plan to bring real dollars to the city.
The council candidates behind mayoral hopeful Steve Emerson – incumbent Jim Ford and challengers Darlene Ridler and Larry Starkey – are focused on new revenues rather than budget cuts. That’s great in theory, but we’re not hearing concrete proposals for how that can be done. Marina needs thoughtful planning for sustainable growth, not a developer free-for-all.
Marina Coast Water District
Peter Le and Tom Moore
When it comes to dysfunctional government, Marina Coast is in a league all its own. Though incumbent Dan Burns seems to be the most reasonable of the Insane Clown Posse currently running this show, he serves on a board that has spent far too much time and money on a witch hunt against fellow board member Jan Shriner, claims it did nothing wrong by funneling payments from consultant RMC to Steve Collins, and believes the Water Purchase Agreements that form the basis of the desal project are still valid even though everyone else has abandoned that sunken ship.
Tom Moore (who’s served on the board in the past) and Peter Le are willing to revisit some of the tough issues this board faces, like pushing developers to pay fees for as-yet unbuilt projects.
Transparency is huge here, and Le and Moore both favor videotaping public meetings, which Burns doesn’t see value in.
Aromas Water District
Wayne Norton and Wayne Holman
This little water district has come a long way in the past 10 years since declaring bankruptcy in a tangle of lawsuits. They’re solvent today, moving into a new office and getting up to speed on environmental dangers to the aquifer.
Wayne Norton and Wayne Holman both currently serve on the ad hoc committee for aquifer risk—the first time in the district’s history board members have expanded their horizons to matters like potential oil and gas exploration, including fracking, in their area.
Norton, the newest board member (he was appointed to a vacant seat after he’d already filed papers to appear on the ballot), is especially ambitious when it comes to making the district relevant. He’s eager to learn and rightly suspicious of oil ventures, and views this water district as a real civic leader in a community that’s too often dismissed as a backwater.
Current board president Ernie Huggins is seeking re-election and seems well-meaning, but doesn’t seem very committed to the job.
As a contractor and developer, Holman’s interests have at times been at extreme odds with what’s for the best of the district, so he gets our support—only with the hope that he sincerely tries to engage the community and considers alternatives for revenue besides expanding the district’s service area.
Bill McCrone and Ed Smith
In a city will lots of plans and lots of vacant storefronts, Bill McCrone offers a refreshing let’s-get-it-done attitude. And it’s not just talk; when the Waterfront Master Plan Subcommittee tried to stall on recommending a tenant for the old train depot on Del Monte Avenue near Wharf 2, McCrone turned the vote around and pushed two restaurant proposals forward to City Council. He’s interested in progress over perfection, which is exactly what Monterey needs as they move forward with implementing the waterfront and downtown plans.
He’s got a good handle on how the city works, and McCrone’s questioning is the only reason the city ever learned about the below-market-rate leases on Fisherman’s Wharf – one major issue City Council will face as those long-term leases come up for renewal in the next couple of years.
Retired police commander and leadership consultant Ed Smith offers a reasoned approach to revitalizing dowtown and keeping the “life” in nightlife without gutting clubs’ bottom lines or turning downtown into a police-state. He believes the convention center has to be redeveloped to maximize the footprint, but without taxing the residents. He’s also in favor of a plan for Peninsula water that puts cities in the drivers’ seat to better manage rates for ratepayers. Like McCrone, he has a good handle on how the city works, and with eight-years as a leadership consultant, he’ll be an asset when it comes to replacing the city manager when veteran Fred Meurer retires next year.
In a charming city known for vitriolic politics, we trust four-year Councilman Bill Kampe to set the more civil tone needed to tackle Pacific Grove’s core issues.
Kampe, a senior manager at Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies for 35 years, brings the financial acumen P.G. needs to lighten its pension burden and resolve the CalPERS conundrum. He has a rare balance of level head and creative spirit to both support the city’s business community and look for fresh ideas.
We do think Kampe is wrong to oppose the zoning amendment for the proposed Holman Hotel parcel, which he helped bring to the ballot. That amendment is the city’s current best chance for getting anything done with the stagnant Holman block, as we explain in our Measure F endorsement.
And we do think Carmelita Garcia has been a perfectly adequate mayor these past three years. She clearly cares deeply about her community, engages thoughtfully in regional water politics and puts more time into her public service than most officials. But even though Garcia professes to be open to all viewpoints, she too often falls in line with the naysayers who stall P.G.’s progress.
P.G. needs a mayor with thick skin and a forward-looking attitude. We’re confident in Kampe.
Casey Lucius and Robert Huitt
Casey Lucius may not be a familiar face yet in P.G. (she’s only been in the city four years, but we like that). Her relative youth in an aging political scene brings new energy that stale P.G. needs; she notes that there is no current council representation for the one-third of residents between 35 and 55. She isn’t easy to pin politically – Lucius is a professor of national security at the Naval Postgraduate School, a vegetarian activist and a city traffic commissioner – which we hope is an indicator of an independent streak. We’re impressed by her assertive, intelligent and respectful commentary on the city’s issues. She’s clearly a quick study, and we expect her to take a leadership role on the council.
Incumbent Robert Huitt missed the Weekly’s endorsement meeting, but the other council candidates were so lacking in their understanding of the issues we gave Huitt a chance to answer our questions by email. His well-reasoned responses, along with his record over the past three years, indicate he’s well prepared for another term. (He also served on the council from 1994-2002.) He’s got fresh ideas about improving the Rec Trail, a clear handle on CalPERS issues and a healthy skepticism when it comes to the city’s partnership with Agha. We are not endorsing a third candidate.
This race saw a packed field comprising mostly candidates who can at best be described as marginally qualified, lacking either the temperament, the intellect or the creative talent needed to march the county’s largest city through an ongoing budget crisis that threatens to grow even larger if Measure E isn’t passed. Of the five running, we wrestled mightily over the two most qualified. Former Salinas Police Det. Joe Gunter, now a private investigator, is active in the community, a leader of several nonprofit organizations and well-respected by law enforcement. Sergio Sanchez ran unsuccessfully for county supervisor, then botched filing his papers to retain his District 1 council seat, and filed to run for mayor at the last second. Sanchez is smart, connected and manages to tick off the right people, but he also knows how city government works. If Measure E succeeds, the city will need a veteran who knows the budget intimately and knows how to steward that cash to where voters have been promised it will go – the libraries, rec programs for kids and law enforcement. If it fails, the city will still need a veteran who can grapple with crafting a measure that will pass, or deal with the fallout of slashing the budget even further.
City Council District 1
As current Councilman Sergio Sanchez sets his sights on the mayor’s office, three candidates have stepped forward to claim his seat. Alisal Unified School Board president Jose Castañeda, who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of falsifying official documents during a half-assed recall attempt on Supervisor Fernando Armenta and fought mightily to end a state-takeover of the school district, has no trouble battling entrenched politicians. Castañeda tends toward the bombastic, but has a deep knowledge of District 1 and is the only Spanish-speaking candidate in the majority Latino district. Margie Wiebusch, a union representative who works at Hartnell Community College, filed to run at the last minute. While Wiebush has been a good advocate for children and families in her role as a foster-care facilitator at the college, she had trouble answering some pretty basic questions about the city budget. Josh Kuzmicz, a corrections officer who has the backing of the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, says his priorities are community safety, improving services and rebuilding the economy – but he doesn’t back Measure E and has no path for how to improve community services in the absence of that money.
City Council District 1
Current Councilwoman Gloria de la Rosa is a 12-year council veteran who previously served a two-year appointment to fill a vacancy on the council from 1993-95. She is not a particularly strong presence, doesn’t do her homework and tends toward the “me too” way of voting. Also, she didn’t respond to written questions from the Weekly despite being given multiple opportunities. Candidate Michael Scharen is a smart guy, but also didn’t show up to the endorsement board meeting and didn’t say why. Steve Malvini is a longtime Salinas resident, a businessman who owned restaurants and now makes his living in the mortgage industry. He’s served on the Salinas City Elementary School District and the library commission. He’s a definite fiscal conservative who says while he currently opposes Measure E, he believes the city has time before the current Measure V sunsets in 2016 to draft a better solution. We disagree, but he knows the city and has worked collaboratively on government boards in the past.
City Council District 6
Veteran councilwoman Jyl Lutes had faced transit driver Robert Wallace in this race, but Wallace halted his campaign due to medical issues. His name still appears on the ballot because he didn’t withdraw on time. Lutes has held her council seat for more than for a dozen years and can usually be counted on to be the voice of reason on that animated board. She came up with a good compromise on Measure E, advocating for only a half-cent raise that would be made permanent, rather than a full cent. She’s never one to give a “me too” vote and she should keep her job.
Salinas Measure E
Measure E extends Measure V, the half-cent sales tax measure passed by voters in 2006 that was due to sunset in 2016. It seeks to make that half-cent tax permanent, with funds going towards keeping libraries open, funding police and recreational programs. Without it, the city is screwed and while the mayor and council did a poor job of bringing E down the pike, there’s no sense in throwing out the message because you don’t like the delivery. If Measure E doesn’t pass, look for austerity measures that include closing the libraries and kissing rec programs goodbye.
Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Zone 3
Anyone’s who’s willing to step up to try and lead Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System is either incredibly noble or incredibly crazy. But it will take a little bit of each to steer that sinking ship right. The elections themselves are contentious – nothing isn’t at SVMH these days – after a redistricting process that established five zones. Until now, elections were at-large, meaning board members were predictably concentrated from the whitest, wealthiest areas. Now, two open seats (just Zone 3, in northeast, is contested) mark the beginning of more representative demographics.
Rafael Garcia’s experience as a mortgage consultant should give him good business insight into how to solve SVMH’s massive revenue problem. The hospital needs a $500 million remodel by 2030, which facing failing insurance reimbursement rates. He’s determined to keep the hospital standalone for now, though he says he’s open to potential mergers in the future.
This is a rematch for Bachofner and Ralph Rubio, who also faced off in 2010. Bachofner, then the challenger, edged out then-incumbent Rubio by only 21 votes. But it’s not quite déjà vu. Two years ago, the Weekly endorsed Rubio. Times have changed in Seaside, and so has our endorsement.
Bachofner has evolved into a more polished politician in his first term. He shows an attention to detail we expected, and a willingness to listen we didn’t. He takes credit for the idea to annex the proposed Monterey Downs project into Seaside – and we agree that Seaside, as the jurisdiction most impacted by that Fort Ord development, should make the calls – but he’s also the only sitting councilman who asks critical questions of it.
Rubio, meanwhile, seems stuck in an outdated gear. He talks about getting his “old team” on the council back together, but have a hard time seeing what that old team accomplished. Rubio left a strong legacy with the West Broadway Urban Village plan, a downtown vision we still hope can bear fruit. But he loses big points for endorsing former District 4 supervisorial candidate Byrl Smith, quite possibly the least prepared candidate to ever sit at our conference table. Rubio’s explanation: She’s a lifelong friend. That endorsement confirms our impression of Rubio as more interested in making deals with friends than serving his constituents.
Seaside City Council
Jason Campbell brings a fresh voice to the too-often-lockstep council, particularly as Seaside positions itself as the deciders on the controversial Monterey Downs proposal. We like his energy and intelligence, even if he does seem to be a single-issue candidate (Fort Ord conservation). The council needs someone to represent the city’s growing environmental interests, but we hope Campbell keeps an ear open to the needs of other groups.
Ian Oglesby brings a conservative pragmatism that nicely balances Campbell’s idealism. Where the challenger says he’d like to see classier businesses in Seaside, the incumbent points out that the city has to work with the bids it attracts – and the demographics just don’t draw a lot of high-end projects. Oglesby, an investigations officer at the state prison in Soledad, can also help bridge communications between the police department and the council as Seaside grapples with a spate of gang-related shootings.
Bloomer has dedicated 13 of service to the council and numerous other worthy causes, but he seems to be out of fresh ideas. Pacheco, meanwhile, has served the city for 36 years, recently retiring as recreation supe. But while he clearly has a passion for this city, he seems a bit unfocused for this job.
Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Ward 2
The Ward 1 race this year is uncontested, leaving Chris Moss and Rogers Hawley to battle over Ward 2, mostly covering Seaside.
This is a demographic that doesn’t have nearly enough municipal open space of its own, and both Hawley (who speaks Spanish) and Moss (who doesn’t, but strongly supports bilingual park programs) feel the district should do more to attract it to regional parks such as Palo Corona and Garland Ranch.
Moss, on the other hand, has a more appropriate focus on parks as one of the best rewards of democracy. She’s energetic, level-headed and has the interest of Ward 2’s diverse, lower-income demographics at heart. She gets our vote.