Depending on your perspective, this year''s council/mayoral race either represents a lovefest of unparalleled proportions in Seaside or is an amazing example of coattail riding. Not only is incumbent Mayor Jerry Smith running virtually unopposed (there is a write-in campaign being waged by Hanan Shawar), but all four candidates for the two available city council seats avow their support for Smith and his policies. Furthermore, when asked about the other candidates running against them, each candidate praises his opponents.
Peculiar behavior in a city that for years has been racked by contentiousness and deep partisan divisions.
Many of the issues facing the city today are the same ones it faced 10 years ago: the development of the city''s inner core, upgrading the city''s image and finding a stable management team for city staff. And many of the projects that have been proposed over the years for targeted parts of town have languished or are dead in the water. Certainly for the four candidates vying for a council seat, there''s plenty of room for dreaming about ways to redevelop the city.
Tom Collins, an Internet entrepreneur who currently sits on the planning commission, has perhaps the most innovative ideas.
Included in Collins'' plan are a business incubator, "a place where entrepreneurs can share office space, equipment and telephones. Typically, an incubator will have access to business, legal and other advice. We have a lot of entrepreneurs around here--artists, musicians and computer geeks--who are running their businesses out of their home offices."
In terms of the lower Broadway area, Collins advocates establishing diagonal parking down the street and cutting traffic down to one lane in either direction to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. About the corner of Broadway and Fremont, viewed as a key location for future development, Collins says he disagrees with some of the plans that have previously been bandied about.
"I''ve heard people talk about a grocery store," says Collins, "and I wonder about how economically viable that would be. But what about if you were to get a specialty grocery store, like a Trader Joe''s or a Whole Foods?"
Collins would like to see a "one-stop planning center" where people who are looking to locate their businesses to the city can go to get all their answers. He also supports bike lanes and speculates that an amphitheater at Laguna Grande Park might complement the city''s successful music offerings like the Blues in the Park series.
Former mayor Lance McClair, who served in that office from 1982 until 1994, says he''s running for office to help "protect Jerry''s back" by re-establishing a "Walk and Talk" program to help "reconnect" citizens with city hall. He says he would also like to see the "reinstatement of two juvenile [police] officers."
"We need the knowledge of these officers to reconnect with social services like they did before," says McClair. "You cannot help the kids, keep them out of jail, unless you have a process to deter them from certain activities."
McClair believes the city needs a movie theater, both to help "strengthen the camaraderie of Seaside" and to give youth something to do in the evenings. He also thinks the city needs to be more creative in reimagining its business plan and suggests that the council go to the people to find out what they want. McClair also advocates annual receptions/open houses for potential developers in the city, a sort of marketplace where the city and developers could swap ideas about what is best for the city''s growth.
Incumbent candidate Steve Bloomer says, "I''d like to see the projects we have in the oven out of the oven."
Of those projects, Bloomer says particular emphasis should be placed on the Courtyard Marriott at the former Fort Ord and on the lot at the corner of Broadway and Fremont.
Like Collins, Bloomer doubts the site is suitable for a grocery store or drug store. Instead, he suggests a project that has provoked a fair amount of contention in Seaside''s southerly neighbor. "If Monterey doesn''t want an Imax theater, bring it to Seaside," he says. "Then we could bring in some small shops, a coffee shop and some restaurants."
Bloomer is also high on another project that''s been proposed at Fort Ord.
"There is a discussion going on about a "First Tee" program," he says, "a golf course built for kids, and they are the major customers. The promoters first came to me and asked if I thought Seaside would be open to it, and I said ''yes.''"
Ralph Rubio, a representative for the Carpenter''s Union and a newcomer to Seaside politics, speaks of his roots within the community as one of the driving factors in his decision to run for office.
"I have a deep-rooted love for this city," he says. "From the time I was a one-year-old, I used to play marbles on the dirt streets. With all the development coming up, and the image of Seaside sort of tarnished, I felt it was my time to get involved."
Rubio feels that although redevelopment of the city should be a high priority, it''s important to first establish a tax base that will provide the necessary funds for that redevelopment.
"We have to start with a good, solid tax base and then proceed from there--but it''s going to take time and it''s going to be a process," he says.
First and foremost, Rubio says that commercial development at Fort Ord has to be put on the front burner. "That will be the engine that drives this bus down the road. Then we can start increasing the living standards of the people in the city."
After a more solid tax base is established, Rubio says attention should be turned to implementing a comprehensive plan for the rest of the city, starting with commercial developments in the north Fremont area and including a downtown along Broadway where he envisions more multi-use, two story buildings that would make the area look more inviting.
Ultimately, though, finances are Rubio''s primary concern. "People look at the downtown area and ask why nothing is happening," he says. "It''s because there''s no money for it, and unless we get some money flowing it''s going to be very difficult."