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Sometimes news stories speak for themselves. This one from the San Francisco Chronicle almost does that. It’s about a proposed development in our midst called Walden Monterey. A place of peaceful reflection for those with $5 million for a building lot. Here is the San Francisco Chronicle and here is some advertising material in found online. Walden Monterey

Reflect.

From a Walden Monterey ad

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This past weekend, I read an interesting article in The Intercept, “US Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel.” It caught my eye because I’ve had the privilege of meeting and discussing this boycott campaign with one of the founding members of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement, Omar Barghouti. What I know about the movement leads me to conclude that it comes nowhere close to being a threat to the state of Israel, if that country is serious about ending its occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.

The subject is the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, H.R. 1697, that would make it a crime to support or even furnish information about a boycott directed at Israel or Israeli businesses called by the United Nations, the European Union or any other “international governmental organization.” Violations would be punishable by fines of up to $1 million and imprisonment for up to 20 years.

I did a double take when I saw that one of the many co-sponsors of the bill is our 20th Congressional District representative, Jimmy Panetta. What follows are the comments that I would share with him in a letter or face to face:

Dear Congressman Panetta,

I wonder if you can explain to your constituents why you’ve chosen to attach your name to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, HR 1697.

In the first place, its title is misleading and it tries to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. It is NOT anti-Semitic but rather it is against Israeli occupation of Palestine. It was inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and, like that successful movement, is non-violent in nature and simply aimed at giving Palestinians the same rights as the rest of humanity.

Secondly, HR 1697, an AIPAC-sponsored proposal, appears to impose civic and criminal punishment on individuals solely for their political beliefs about Israel and its policies. Doesn’t that violate the 1st Amendment? Strictly speaking from a constitutional perspective, this bill seems to be antithetical to the very ideals Congress seeks to uphold. So, again, Mr. Panetta, why are you co-sponsoring it?

Thirdly, why would a congressman from the 20th District – one based on agriculture and tourism – feel the need to be a part of this bill? You sit on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees, not Foreign Affairs or Financial Services. Additionally and ironically, we live in an area that was affected by a boycott of its own back in the 1960s. What’s the difference between UFW supporters of that historic grape strike in Delano – like Caesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Bill Monning – and BDS supporters? How is your co-sponsorship of HR 1697 going to impact Monterey or Santa Cruz counties? And, on the other side of the world, what kind of message is this bill sending to the Palestinians and Israelis when things are heating up once again in Jerusalem over the Al-Aqsa dispute?

In an effort to urge you to reconsider your co-sponsorship, I would be happy to provide you neutral and accurate information about the BDS movement, if you’re interested in being fully informed. Additionally, you undoubtedly are aware there are many Palestinians and other Arabs who are your constituents here on the Monterey Peninsula and in the rest of your district. Many of them, I am sure, share my concern over your seemingly needless support of HR 1697. If you’re interested, we could meet with you to give you information that might make you rethink your support of this unfortunate bill.

Sincerely,

Celeste B. Akkad

If Partisan readers feel as I do about this issue, I urge you to contact Congressman Panetta.

Celeste Akkad lives in Carmel.

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Think your Cal Am bill is big now? Just wait

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Cal Am sign at job site

The sign declaring “Your water bill at work” is, in the eyes of water activist Michael Baer, a big, fat lie.

It is posted at a worksite in Monterey where crews are installing a 36-inch water transmission line that eventually will be used to transport Cal Am water.

The problem, says Baer, is that the bills paid by Cal Am customers for the most expensive water in the country do not yet include the costs of the pipeline. That cost was originally estimated at $40 million but the pricetag has since risen to $53 million. What that means, Baer says, is that it is future Cal Am water bills that will be paying for the work. In other words, another rate increase.

In recent years, Cal Am has been authorized to charge more and more, sometimes just to maintain its profit margin and at other times for special reasons. For instance, Baer noted, the current bills include the cost of removing San Clemente Dam, which had silted up because Cal Am failed to maintain it. They also include a $40 million-plus award to Cal Am to cover the cost of water that wasn’t used because of conservation efforts by customers.

“Our water bills, the most expensive in the country according to Food & Water Watch, do not reflect a single penny collected towards paying for the Monterey pipeline costs,” Baer said.

Also still to come on water bills are incomplete slant well test as part of Cal Am’s desalination project. That 27-month test was initially pegged to cost $4 million. It’s around $16 million now, Baer said.

And then, of course, added on to the water bills will be the cost of the desalination plant itself. Early on, it was estimated to cost $280 million. Regardless of whether it ever gets built, the state will enable Cal Am to bill customers for its expenses.

Michael Baer is a retired public school science teacher,  a 30-plus year resident of the Monterey Peninsula, and a water activist.

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UPDATED WITH INFO ON HOLLISTER ARREST

Look for the upstart cannabis industry of Salinas, and possibly a wider swath of the community, to be shaken by a law enforcement search Thursday of the Salinas home of medical pot grower and restaurateur Mike Hackett.

As first reported by the Monterey County Weekly, marijuana and a plastic bag of white powder were found in an SUV parked in front of Hackett’s Maple Park home while the residence was being searched by the San Benito County Unified Narcotics Team early Thursday.

The Weekly has now reported that no bag of white powder was found.

The San Benito County Sheriff’s Office later reported that is had seized 150 grams of marijuana, scales, packaging material for sales, suspected marijuana pay-owe documents, firearms, and ammunition and had found a large amount of currency.

The news release said the search was an outgrowth of Hackett’s arrest July 1 during the Hollister Independence Day motorcycle rally. It said he had been arrested for possession of cocaine for sale. A sheriff’s official said he had been spotted openly sharing small quantities of cocaine with others at a bar.

The Weekly reported that Hackett was handcuffed during Thursday’s search but his lawyer, Tom Worthington, said there had been no arrest. Worthington said the search was authorized by a warrant signed July 14 by a San Benito County judge but authorities would not provide him with a copy of the law enforcement affidavit detailing grounds for the action. Such affidavits are generally made public two weeks after a search.

Worthington said he had known Hackett professionally and personally for many years “and we expect a very favorable outcome.”

A Hackett associate said he understood that law enforcement had received a tip about Hackett’s activities after he was arrested during a bar fight in Hollister during the annual Fourth of July motorcycle rally there.

Hackett owns Casa Sorrento restaurant in downtown Salinas and formerly was a partner in Hacienda Mexican Grill in North Salinas. Article updated to make clear that Hackett is no longer involved in Hacienda. As president of River View Farms, Hackett also has become one of the most prominent players in the Salinas Valley’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry. He was well situated when the industry started blossoming because he had purchased two commercial greenhouses that had been used by flower growers before trade agreements killed the local flower industry nearly two decades ago.

When Monterey County supervisors started handing out permits for commercial marijuana production, they limited the permits to operations within existing greenhouses. The stated intent of that rule was to keep the marijuana industry contained in easily monitored spaces. The result was a real estate boom among the rows of seemingly abandoned greenhouses south of Salinas. A Los Angeles Times article from last year explains the situation well.

Hackett has been quietly active in Salinas-area politics as a campaign contributor and occasional host of political fundraisers. Local law enforcement organizations and politicians have routinely used Casa Sorrento for fund-raisers, with Hackett sometimes donating the space. He was among several commercial pot growers to contribute last year to Jimmy Panetta’s successful congressional campaign, chipping in $1,000.

Hackett is a longtime friend and associate of another significant campaign contributor locally, David Drew, founder of the Growers Pub bar and restaurant downtown. Growers Pub has been the site of numerous political gatherings, which has proved controversial at times because of Drew’s decades-old convictions and prison terms on marijuana- and cocaine-related charges.

Hackett was featured prominently in a recent Sacramento Bee profile of the Salinas marijuana scene.

“Hackett grew up in the valley, the son of a lettuce and celery farmer. He graduated from North Salinas High School and has worked in nearly every aspect of agriculture, including planting, picking, property leasing and farm-pallet manufacturing,” The Bee reported.

“Most recently, in an area surrounded by strawberry and broccoli fields near the Salinas River – the ‘crossroads of heaven,’ he calls it – Hackett was growing poinsettias, succulents, carnations and snap dragons in aging greenhouses. Now he is converting family property to produce cannabis in a venture called Riverview Farms.

“Hackett never has grown pot before, but has no shortage of confidence. ‘I have the best agricultural scientists right here in the Salinas Valley,’ he says. ‘I have the best soil scientists. This is a plant just like anything else. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to use our technology here and incorporate that into cannabis.’”

“Hackett says one of his greenhouses did ‘a sizable trial’ with marijuana cultivation last year and he was ‘very pleased with the results.’ He is planning on going into the business in a big way, exploring expansion beyond cultivation to a potential retail dispensary and a concentrates manufacturing facility.”

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Travel tidbits from The Clumsy Tourist

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Just back from two weeks of limping the streets of the mysterious East. No, not that one. The one with Montreal and the Back Bay and Manhattan. It’s only mysterious to me because I’ve haven’t spent much time there.

Don’t worry. I have no slides. Just a few notes that might be helpful if you find yourself alone on a bench on Mont Royal because your travel companions don’t want to hear another word about your sprained/broken ankle.

CHELSEA

Except for a rundown motel in Saratoga Springs, the cheapest lodging of the journey was at the Sheraton Four Points in Chelsea. The reviews say look out for mold. We didn’t see any. The location was good and the price, south of $140 not including tax, was super by NYC standards.

I had never heard of the giant Storm King sculpture park near Albany but I’m glad we stopped. They’ve got Calders and di Suveros and lots of other stuff

Everyone said, “If you’re going to be in Chelsea, you’ve got to go on the Highline.” We did go even though we didn’t know what it is. It’s an elevated walkway, a former rail line or somesuch, and it goes on for a long way and you get to see the city from a different perspective. Pretty cool.

At the north end of the Highline, we found our best meal of the NYC leg of the trip. Chelsea Market. Lobster rolls. There must be a lot of lobster around this year because everyone’s pushing lobster rolls. Even Arby’s. OK, probably not Arby’s.

I limped past the Chelsea Hotel, the one made famous by Janis Joplin and others.

FIREWORKS

Arrived in NY just in time for the July 4 fireworks show over the river. Either the East River or the other one. Biggest fireworks show I ever saw.

Katz’s deli in NYC has been around forever. If you can finish one of their pastrami sandwiches, you shouldn’t

NY has been overrun by people, lots and lots of them. People everywhere you look. Some might not be tourists.

We wanted to see a play but the prices were out of our range. We are not Cal Am shareholders. We kept entering the Hamilton lottery for discount tickets but no dice. So we spent $7 apiece for some cool shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade, a Second City type place where everyone’s trying to make it to Saturday Night Live. Very funny. One of the players was Aaron Jackson, who plays Ivanka on the Funny or Die web series “Jerad and Ivanka.”

HIPSTERS

Two thirds of our party wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to hip Williamsburg. However, one third of our party is still limping pitifully from that ankle injury. You might have heard about that.  So we rented a wheelchair for the trip. This third of our party quickly learned what it feels like to become invisible in a crowd.

UPSTATE

Departing NYC in a rented Prius, we spent that one night in Saratoga Springs. If seemed like California, the Saratoga, Los Gatos, Menlo Park part. Lots of well-off people eating and drinking well.

Lake Champlain on a busy day

The least crowded part of New York state is farther north, way up there along Lake Champlain. It is beautiful and there is like nobody there, not even on a July weekend. In charming Willsboro, the hamburger stand is open only on weekends. It is a great place to relax before driving to Montreal. (More about Lake Champlain in a later installment.)

NO PARLEZ

The last time I was in Quebec was 40 years ago. English was still legal for most purposes. Now, as soon as you drive across the border, you realize that you know no French at all and will have to rely on instinct. Not only were there no English subtitles on the highway signs, I swear I saw some fine print saying “nope, no English here either,” only in French. It was nice, though, because it was a lot like going to Paris without having to deal with airline food.

Now that everything is online, it is hard to find tour books in many cities. If they exist at all, they are in major bookstores, and if you don’t speak French, you will have a hard time finding one of those in Montreal.

Montreal is a wonderful city. In Old Montreal, we ate at a Polish restaurant where Kate McGarrigle used to play the piano before her sister died and Kate stopped singing. I’d like to think their friend Leonard Cohen dropped by at times but the young wait staff wasn’t sure. Another highlight was the food at Moleskine, where we bumped into Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the owner of the Mexican chicken restaurant on “Better Call Saul.”

Montreal

MAPLE SYRUP, 3 GALLONS FOR $100

Burlington, Vermont, is also on Lake Champlain but it is worlds away from the sleepy New York side. Bernie Sanders used to be mayor there and he did a heckuva job. Great waterfront. Good shopping. Good college. Think Santa Cruz with skiing instead of surfing.

The rest of Vermont and New Hampshire also stacked up nicely but they were a means to an end for us. We were headed to Boston.

BEANTOWN

I tried to visit Boston 40 years ago but arrived by car at rush hour in the rain and sort of got washed away by it all. Much better this time.

In Little Italy, we abided by Boston law and had cannoli from crowded Mike’s Pastry Shop. Very good, but we actually preferred the fresher ones from Maria’s Pastry Shop, a relatively gloomy little shop on the other side of the neighborhood.

We did all the right things in Boston. Ate some beans, fed Paul Revere’s horse, etc., but the big deal was ancient Fenway Park. I grew up a Yankees fan, by virtue of geography and an overly competitive nature. After Fenway, I’m now a Red Sox fan, unless, of course, they’re playing the Giants. World Series next year. You’ll see.

Unfortunately, tickets to Fenway games, especially those against the Yankees, are pricier than Hamilton tickets. Our landlord for the weekend told us the secret. Buy them off Stub Hub but wait until about 30 minutes before the game when a $200 seat in distant left field becomes a $70 seat.

In the middle of the eighth inning, they really do play that awful Neal Diamond song, “Sweet Caroline,” but the enthusiasm makes it better than bearable. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. made a magnificent catch to rob Aaron Judge of a home run and the Sox went on to win. I’m going to have to learn how to spell Yastrzemski.

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If you’re interested in Carmel news, there’s really only one place to get it these days and that’s the Carmel Pine Cone. Which is too bad. The last two editions of the weekly illustrate both of those points.

On the positive side, there was quite a bit of news about Carmel in those papers, and though much of it was the stuff of press releases, there was a lot of it. Chicken dinner news, we used to call it when I was a paid journalist. Informative if not very illuminating.

In the not-so-positive column, among the biggest stories two weeks ago and again this past week was that the Carmel City Council was hiring local lawyer Glen Mozingo to replace the retiring Don Freeman as city attorney. Actually, it wasn’t the hiring that was not-so-positive. It was the Pine Cone’s selective fashion of reporting it.

The Pine Cone stories contained plenty of useful information about Mozingo and how happy the council is to have him but they left out some of the most interesting parts, such as how he was heavily involved in the successful mayoral campaign of Steve Dallas. The Partisan found that part interesting enough to suggest as far back as January that Mozingo was the favorite for the job, which pays $156,000 a year plus $275 an hour for such things as going to court. We made that prediction on the basis of the city’s decision to start slipping him some legal work here and there after Dallas’ election and the barn-burner of a speech Mozingo made at a Dallas kickoff event last year. The speech was largely a rant against the previous administration of Mayor Jason Burnett and City Administrator Jason Stilwell. I think we mentioned then, too, that Mozingo’s wife, Heidi Burch, had blasted Burnett and Stilwell when she resigned from a big job at City Hall. That wasn’t in the latest Pine Cone stories either.

The Monterey Herald hasn’t written nearly as much about Mozingo, but it did mention the Dallas connection in its story announcing his hiring.

Carmel plays politics hard. It’s personal and factional. Who’s in and who’s out is a big deal, and the Pine Cone hasn’t been shy about playing along both in print and behind the scenes. For it to trumpet Mozingo’s selection without mentioning his history and connections is like profiling Newt Gingrich without mentioning that he’s a Republican. Pine Cone Publisher Paul Miller did everything in his power to cultivate Burnett and Stilwell and everything in his power to run Stilwell out of town when he didn’t play the right kind of ball.

The Monterey County Weekly may have been a bit slow to pick up on the Mozingo thing but it did do a nice job in a Squid Fry column reporting on two impressive-sounding medals “dangling” on Mozingo’s curriculum vitae.

The Partisan wrote about one of them, the U.S. Congressional Medal of Distinction, in January but not the other. The Congressional Medal of Distinction is awarded to GOP campaign contributors and is given out by the National Republican Congressional Committee. It isn’t a hard medal to come by as long as you don’t mind writing a few checks.

The other big award touted by Mozingo is the Congressional Gold Medal. Mozingo said on his resume that he received both of the congressional awards for work he did negotiating highway funding.

Here’s what the Weekly wrote about that

“As for the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal, it’s been awarded to the likes of Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Mother Theresa. Squid could find no evidence Mozingo ever received one, so Squid checked with the U.S. Office of the Historian in Washington, D.C., just to be sure. Their answer: nope. Mozingo emailed a photo of the medal in question to the Weekly, and it’s another NRCC medal (that’s the one for campaign contributors.) The box states, ‘In recognition of support for President Bush and the Republican Party.’ Squid found one on eBay for $19.99.”

The Partisan emailed the author of the two Pine Cone pieces, Mary Schey, early Tuesday to ask why she hadn’t included anything about the Mozingo-Dallas relationship or the congressional awards. No word from her yet but we’ll add her response if it arrives.

One of the Schey articles, under a headline about how the Carmel Council was “ebullient” over its ability to snag Mozingo. did mention Dallas in passing, quoting him as saying that no one had objected to the hiring of his friend.

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A brief in this week’s Monterey County Weekly about a scrap between county police agencies and media outlets over the encryption of police radio traffic got me thinking.

First, as a former reporter who spent years in newsrooms with police scanners squawking just loud enough to be heard by a stressed-out desk editor or an amped-up cop reporter, I naturally side with the media on this one. I hope the Law Enforcement Officer Association changes direction.

For myself and my erstwhile colleagues, police scanners were a valuable tool that provided a rolling outline of what was happening in the local emergency services world. They’re critical for photographers and camera crews, whose appetites are whetted by locations of big traffic accidents, water rescues or street closures caused by police incidents. Often the first hint of something bigger – an armed robbery or drive-by shooting – came when the newsroom scanner emitted a be-on-the-lookout for suspects or getaway cars. Never once did I hear of any police complaints about the media misusing scanners.

Secondly, my nostalgia circuits switched on full as I thought about about the times newsroom scanners sent me or colleagues out the door headed to a big fire, a shooting or, just a few years ago, after a black bear lumbering through a Seaside neighborhood.

I recalled rookie lessons in decoding scanner language — the state Penal Code numbers for serious crimes, the police 10-code, the frequencies used by different police and fire agencies. I heard dispatchers use the term X-Ray for a female — as in, “See the X-Ray at (such-and-such location)” — but never figured out why. In scanner world, there were males and X-rays.

At my first newspaper job in the Humboldt County hamlet of Garberville, I had two electrical devices on my desk, a pencil sharpener and a police scanner. The sharpener probably provided more practical use. The only channel the scanner picked up clearly was used by the volunteer fire department. Since the volunteers were alerted to any emergency by thunderous horn blasts that rattled every window in town, the scanner wasn’t necessary to sound the alert in my one-man newsroom. Still I liked to see the tiny bank of red lights flash by on the scanner. I felt a link to a bigger world beyond the office walls.

I recall cop reporters who fussed over their scanners — programming new frequencies, fine-tuning the squelch — as avidly as garage mechanics tuning up hot rods.

A guaranteed heart-thumper was riding shotgun with a photographer with a scanner on the dashboard blaring at top volume. The photographer would be pressing the pedal to the metal, passing cars right and left, steering with one hand while fiddling with the scanner knobs and then yell over the din, “Did you catch the address?”

While the radio traffic offered bare tips on whether a consequential story might be breaking, I don’t recall any sensitive information about a crime or emergency being relayed on a newsroom scanner.

Both police and fire agencies seemed to routinely use tactical channels on frequencies we didn’t  know for that kind of talk. You’d invariably hear instructions to switch over to the “silver channel,” or “channel B” just as things got interesting. Often, you’d hear cops at the scene being told to “use a landline” to relay information. 

In recent years, to the frustration of myself and other nosy reporters, police scanner traffic provided sparser information. Transmissions from fire agencies rolling medical crews to emergencies provided a better inkling something was happening.

Scanner traffic never substituted for reporters and cameras on the scene. At a minimum, a reporter would call a police commander if something caught their ear on the scanner and ask, “What the heck is going on?” 

No self-respecting reporter or editor would base a story on unverified radio calls. The line gets a little blurry today with social media, but responsible media tweeting on scanner traffic attribute it to emergency radio reports and underscore that it’s unverified. The old rule that it’s best to be right rather than first is still a good rule.

The move by local police agencies to screen scanner transmissions from the media behind encryption seems a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. The Weekly reported that police agencies are concerned for the safety of officers who may be harmed by criminals monitoring scanners after a major crime. But criminals, along with hardcore cop reporters, overnight convenience store clerks and other insomniacs, have been listening to police scanners since I began work in a newsroom 40 years ago.  

My inner cynic thinks it’s just excuse to plunk down public money on some fancy new police radio equipment. Legitimate security issues should be worked out between media outlets and police agencies. That would build trust between two key players in the community. Just saying no doesn’t instill trust, and it further obscures what the police do from the public they serve.

When I started journalism, a reporter working the cop beat on a medium-sized daily paper would start a shift by swinging by major city and county sheriff stations to check overnight reports, daily incident logs and chat up officers and other staff members in patrol and detective divisions. The rest of the day was doing interviews on non-daily stories, making phone checks with smaller city cop shops and checking out possible stories  picked up on the scanner.

Today the cop beat has largely devolved to rewriting press releases, attending press conferences hours after major events and dealing with police media relations officers who typically respond to questions by saying they’re working on a press release. It’s a one-way system in which virtually the only police news reported are stories fed to every media outlet. 

Partly it’s because of the lack of full-time cop reporters in depleted newsrooms. But timely access to basic police records such as daily activity logs was always a battle with insular departments. Years ago, some agencies started putting such records online. But they lagged a day or two behind. If an entry caught a reporter’s eye, it was certain no one would be around to talk about it for days or longer.

Aside from press briefings, staged events and interactions with public affairs officers, personal contact between reporters and police increasingly occurs only in the field at major incidents. A few reporters may have personal cell numbers for trusted sources among police ranks. But these well-sourced cop reporters are getting rare as newsrooms shrink. 

That leaves police scanners  – always a vital tool in community journalism – as one of the last unfiltered human links between the police and the people trying to keep their communities informed. It’s a bond that shouldn’t be easily tossed aside.

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The adversarial relationship between Democrats and Republicans has evolved since the election of Ronald Reagan. Market-interested Republicans are committed to limiting governance through deregulation and tax cuts. Empowerment-interested Democrats believe that government must guarantee the health, civil liberty, and consumer power of the greatest number of Americans through spending and subsidies. Democrats are pragmatic policy makers; Republicans are deductive policy makers. Democrats are evidence-guided; Republicans are doctrine-guided.

But both have a cognitive problem. They think their interests are opposed; when in fact, they are complementary. Republicans want profits from selling goods and services, whereas Democrats want the greatest number of Americans to buy the goods and services sold on the market. Both fail to see that the convergence of their respective interests is correlative rather than adversarial.

However, in 2017 Republicans added a new strategy to their tool box of lobbying, campaign contribution manipulation, voter suppression, gerrymandering, and old fashioned election contests. They moved from implementing ideological policies through constitutional means to implementing policies that hurt the people Democrats want to empower. They instituted policies of domestic cruelty.

On July 1, 2017, Coral Davenport of The New York Times reported that EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, has been working diligently to “disable” the authority of the agency charged with protecting the nation’s air, water, and public health. Using war metaphors, Pruitt told coal miners, “It’s sad that a regulatory body of the government of the United States would declare a war on any part of our economy… The regulatory assault is over.”

Mr. Pruitt, with the blessing of Donald Trump, has sought to weaken climate change regulations, repeal rules curbing pollution in the nation’s waterways, delay implementation of rules that require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane from oil and gas wells, put off the date by which companies must comply with a rule to prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants, and reverse a ban on the use of a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have said is linked to the damage of children’s nervous systems.

Davenport reports that instead of relying on the expertise of career civil servants in the EPA, Mr. Pruitt has farmed out his policy research to a network of lawyers, lobbyists, and the Republican Attorneys General Association funded by Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Murray Energy, and Southern Company. Under Pruitt, the EPA has been captured by market interests who are using it to hurt people.

Concurrently, the American Health Care Act (AHC) that passed in Paul Ryan’s House hurts people in order to pave the way for a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. On March 13, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office Estimate confirmed that Ryan’s AHC reduces outlays for Medicaid and eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for non-group health insurance. The AHC repeals (1) the increase in the Hospital Insurance payroll tax rate for high-income taxpayers; (2) the surtax on high income taxpayers’ net investment income; (3) the annual fees imposed on health insurers; and (4) the establishment of a new tax credit for health insurance.

By 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the AHC legislation than under the current law. “Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate,” according to the CBO Report. Between 2018 and 2026 the CBO anticipates further reductions in insurance coverage due in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment. In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the Affordable Care Act.

CBO estimates that the AHC will decrease direct Medicaid spending by $880 billion over the 2017-2026 period. “That reduction would stem primarily from lower enrollment throughout the period, culminating in 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026, a reduction of about 17 percent relative to the number under the current law.”

Moreover, “Under the legislation, premiums for older people could be five times larger than those for younger people in many states, but the size of the tax credits for older people would only be twice the size of the credits for younger people.”

The AHC also prevents federal funding of Planned Parenthood and any other program that is: “(1) a nonprofit organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the code; (2) an essential community provider that is primarily engaged in providing family planning and reproductive health services and related medical care; (3) an entity that provides abortions—except in instances in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger; and (4) an entity that had expenditures under the Medicaid program that exceeded $350 million in fiscal year 2014.”

These executive and legislative policies of domestic cruelty are the work of public servants who took an oath to the Constitution that seeks a “more perfect union.” Creating policies of domestic cruelty is a violation of that oath. Those policies are threats to the personal and environmental health of Americans. They also impair the right of all Americans to consume the goods and services offered by a market economy to the extent of their financial ability.

Will Democrats ask themselves: “Can we come up with a counter-strategy before millions of Americans are victimized by policies of domestic cruelty?”

Bill Daniels practices law and mediation in Monterey. He has previously written for Truthout and the WIP.

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Common sense dictates that the Partisan take a couple weeks off around this time of year in order to avoid becoming trapped in a loop of parochial politics, water and who owns it, income disparity along the Highway 68 corridor and the antics of Howard Gustafson, Paul Bruno, Brandon Gesicki and the Salinas City Council. Even a blog must occasionally clear its head.

But that does not let you, the Partisan readers, off the hook. In fact, it creates extra pressure for you to contribute to this enterprise, which is intended to be a collective endeavor. We here at Partisan central tend to measure the success or failure of individual posts by the number of commenters who chose to weigh in, and we readily admit that the community comments are much more interesting and enlightening than anything we have to say.

So what do you say? What’s on your mind? Many of you place little thought nuggets elsewhere, such as on Facebook. Here’s your chance to expound at considerable or even ridiculous length. I’m talking about you, Larry Parrish, Beverly Bean, Roberto Robledo, Karl Pallastrini, Roger Dahl. I’m talking about you, Eric Peterson, Craig Malin, Joy Colangelo, Amy White. Helga Fellay and David Fairhurst, you’re excused from this exercise. You, too, could use a break.

Here’s what the Partisan’s chief cook and bottle washer looks like when he is not poring over the latest grand jury report

To get the party started, a few prompts:

  • Has the initial flurry of anti-Trump activism locally just become quiet or has it died. Can it be revived? Would it do any good?
  • Where is the best pizza in Monterey County?
  • If you live on the Peninsula, what do you think of Salinas? If you are a racist, you’re disqualified from this one.
  • If you live in the Salinas Valley, what do you think of the Peninsula?
  • What can we do to house the homeless?

If you could force local government to fix one thing, what would it be?

OK, by now, you’ve got some ideas of your own. Feel encouraged to share,

Many of you will have ideas of your own. Please feel encouraged to share.

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The lead-up to the Coastal Commission hearing on July 14 to determine the continued affordability of 161 Moro Cojo homes has become heated with CHISPA and a variety of Monterey County politicians and leaders claiming that organizations and individuals who oppose lifting the affordability deed restriction are anti-farmworker and uncaring about affordable housing. Monterey Bay Partisan readers will likely be interested that the organizations and individuals painted with this brush include the Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, LandWatch, and by implication, former North County Supervisor Marc Del Piero and many Partisan readers themselves.

You would rightfully be confused at this accusation. It has happened because last fall those organizations and individuals persuaded the Coastal Commission to not accept the January 2016 decision by the Board of Supervisors to allow the homes to be sold at market rate. Coastal commissioners discussed the letters and scheduled a de novo hearing where the affordability requirement could be discussed in depth. That’s happening on the 14th; details can be found at the end of this article.

The accusations are included in letters sent by CHISPA, and in form letters signed by Salinas Valley leaders such as Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter, Gonzales Mayor Maria Orozco, Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas, former Supervisor Fernando Armenta, Greenfield political figures  John Huerta and Jesus Olvera-Garcia, Soledad Mayor Fred Ledesma,  and the Most Reverend Richard J. Garcia, bishop of the Diocese of Monterey. As noted, they claim anti-farmworker and anti-affordable housing bias.

The irony is that those organizations and individuals charged with bias were acting to preserve affordable housing, while the organizations and individuals allegedly most interested in affordable housing are acting to convert affordable housing to market rate!

And we’re down the rabbit hole.

At issue is the affordability restriction that  keeps the subsidized homes’ selling prices capped at prices affordable to future qualified low- and moderate-income buyers. That figure currently is $290,000, roughly $100,000 more than Moro Cojo homeowners originally paid. If the selling prices weren’t capped, Moro Cojo homeowners could likely profit by twice that when they sell, netting $200,000 instead of $100,000. CHISPA and 161 of the homeowners want the higher profit and they’ve persuaded Salinas Valley leaders to support them.

The issue began back in 2000-2001 when the Moro Cojo subdivision was developed as an affordable housing project. The approval process was challenged in a Coastal Commission appeal in the 1990s, and later in a lawsuit that was settled by making the 175 single-family homes permanently affordable. The subdivision includes a large park, 90 multi-family units and 175 single-family homes  in the coastal zone near Castroville.

The Coastal Commission’s legal duty at the hearing will be to determine whether granting the application to terminate affordability on the 161 homes is consistent with North County Coastal Plan policies. The relevant policy is remarkably clear and simple:

“LUP Policy 4.3.6.D.1. The County shall protect existing affordable housing opportunities in the North County coastal area from loss due to deterioration, conversion, or any other reason. The County will:

a.) Discourage demolitions, but, require replacement on a one by one basis of all demolished or converted units which were affordable to or occupied by low and moderate income persons.”

And here we have another irony: Using tortured logic, the July 14 staff report claims on pages 13-16 that terminating affordability is consistent with LUP Policy 4.3.6.D.1!

Astoundingly, no replacement units are proposed. This is important. The cost to replace 161 homes at $300,000 each would exceed $48 million. The 161 Moro Cojo affordable homes currently exist. Removing the affordability restriction would help current Moro Cojo homeowners, but deprive future eligible purchasers of the chance for homeownership.

Partisan readers who want the Coastal Commission to keep the subsidized 161 Moro Cojo homes affordable should submit comments to the Coastal Commission by July 7, so commissioners will know Monterey County residents really do care about affordable housing.

If you need convincing about what a great community the affordable Moro Cojo subdivision is, drive on Castroville Boulevard just beyond North County High School. You’ll see play equipment for youngsters and a soccer field in a large public park surrounded by well kept homes. Hopefully, those homes will, as clearly intended, remain permanently affordable to future moderate- and low-income purchasers beyond July 14.

The de novo hearing is scheduled for July 14. It is agenda item 7a on the staff report.

Comments can be emailed to diana.chapman@coastal.ca.gov or snail-mailed to Brian O’Neill at California Coastal Commission Central Coast District Office, 725 Front Street, Suite 300 Santa Cruz CA 95060. Comments should mention Project A-3-MCO-16-16-0017 and arrive by July 7.

Jane Haines is a retired lawyer and long-time advocate for affordable housing. 

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Local Libertarian Lawrence Samuels’ latest offering in the Monterey Herald opposing a public takeover of Cal Am raises at least two questions. The first is how far the Carmel Valleyite will go in creating awkward comparisons.

A few months back in the Herald, Samuels equated a negotiated public takeover of a public utility with the type of nationalism that occurred under the European Fascists of the previous century.

In April he wrote, “It is nothing new that the anti-water crusaders want to force the sale of a business concern via eminent domain. This type of government seizure occurred in the 1930s all over Europe. Mussolini nationalized three-fourths of his economy in 1934. The National Socialists of Germany did the same, confiscating over 500 large companies through Reichswerke Hermann Göring in an anti-capitalist bid to establish a command economy and to increase the redistribution of wealth.”

Jeepers.

Now, on Thursday’s opinion page in the Herald, he goes farther yet, farther even than the headline writer envisioned. The headline declared that “Using eminent domain against Cal Am is like stealing.” Samuels didn’t stop there. I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

“… (T)he ballot measure proposed by the pro-eminent domain ideologues to forcibly seize Cal Am is reminiscent of antebellum slavery.”

Slavery.

In a seemingly earnest attempt to back this up, Samuels tells us about the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who was well known for using the word “manstealing” in connection with slavery. Because a man’s life has value, enslaving that man amounts to stealing.

So how does Samuels link this to public ownership of Cal Am, the water company that serves most of the Monterey Peninsula?

Not well.

“Garrison was also a proponent of ‘self-ownership,’ meaning that people owned themselves and therefore cannot be stolen and enslaved. He worried that if government itself attained the authority to legally steal, it could take anything by force.” What that has to do with slavery isn’t clear, and that’s being charitable. And to get from there to a Cal Am takeover requires a leap of a length that would tax most imaginations, but apparently not Samuels’.

Eminent domain is a fancy term but it’s really pretty simple.  When the government, as a representative of the public, decides that it needs to aquire something to advance the public good, even something that is not for sale, the law allows it to apply the principle of eminent domain and require a sale. It is most commonly used to acquire land for roads or railroads, or such things as schools and post offices. Fortunately for landowners, but not for Samuels’ argument, the law does not allow the government to simply take the property in question. Instead, it requires the government to pay fair market value. Sometimes that price is arrived at through simple negotiation. Unwilling sellers tend to negotiate more vigorously than willing sellers.

Not always but often, the parties involved are unable to come to an agreement on the price. So they put on their better clothes and hop on down to the local courthouse to make their cases to a judge. This process is a lot like a trial, often involving accountants and expert witnesses paid to say things like “too low” or “that simply won’t cover it.”

In several recent cases of public takeovers of Cal Am water systems around the county, the court has awarded the company significantly more than the government agency had offered. Based on the stock price, it appears that Cal Am shareholders have not suffered.

While the use of eminent domain has accomplished much good over the decades, it has taken on a bad name, partly because government has done a lousy job of explaining it. Despite its obvious necessity at times, some politicians play to the crowd by vowing never to use it. Former Monterey Mayor Dan Albert Sr.  was wildly popular in part because he shunned eminent domain while carrying out the Windows on the Bay campaign, which opened the Monterey waterfront to the public. It took longer but the city simply waited until each property owner along the beach was ready and willing to sell.

Cal Am insists it is not a willing seller, but could that be a negotiating tactic? For years now, Cal Am officials have maintained that their Peninsula system is not for sale even though, they say, it is only marginally profitable despite its government-backed profit guarantees.  If statement B is true, doesn’t statement A become suspect?

Back to Samuels for a moment. After trying briefly and unsuccessfully to tell us how eminent domain is like slavery, he briefly revisits Germany of the 1920s before asking how the “pro-stealing cohorts” eyeing Cal Am would like it if someone came along and used eminent domain against them.

“If stealing becomes acceptable,” he asks, “should we eminent domain Public Water Now supporters, confiscate their homes and bank accounts for the common good, bulldoze their buildings for public parks? Wouldn’t this be the appropriate karma?”

How to answer that other than to call it what it is, an asinine question. How about this? Perhaps Lawrence and his buddies at the Libertarian Lodge can start a fund to buy the houses and other assets of every school board member who ever voted to use eminent domain in order to build a school, every senator who ever voted to build a highway, every city council member who ever voted to turn an eyesore into a park?

At the top of this essay, I noted that Samuels’ piece raised at least two questions. The second is simply why the Herald would print something like this. Is it as simple as my friend Dan Turner opined after the earlier Samuels piece: that it was free? Or has the newspaper adopted a position that nonsense is OK in defense of Cal Am?

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Some scoffed back in January when the Partisan suggested there was a decent chance the next city attorney in Carmel could be one of Mayor Steve Dallas’ most ardent political backers, Carmel lawyer Glen Mozingo. Read it for yourself. Though it remains only a possibility, there is increasing evidence that the Partisan might have gotten one right, to the surprise even of those responsible for this periodic exercise in local observation and commentary.

Though Mozingo has relatively little government experience, the city initially hired the him to help negotiate a contract with the non-profit that operates the city-owned Sunset Center. Though Don Freeman hadn’t yet announced his pending departure from the city attorney’s post, Mozingo confirmed back then that that, why, yes, as a matter of fact, he might be interested in the job.

Since then, the city has scheduled a discussion of Freeman’s replacement for noon Tuesday and has hired Mozingo to help the city with its legal filings on the short-term rental issue and issues surrounding skin care businesses. City Administrator Chip Rerig said he signed the contracts with Mozingo, for $250 an hour, but it was actually Freeman who assigned the work.

Close observers of Carmel politics may remember Mozingo’s impassioned campaign kickoff speech on behalf of Dallas and his spirited resignation from the city Library Board a couple years earlier. Three years ago, Mozingo’s wife, Heidi Burch, resigned as city clerk and assistant administrator, saying she couldn’t work under then-City Administrator Jason Stilwell. Mozingo followed up a year later with a blast at Stilwell and even an accusation that Stilwell and former Mayor Jason Burnett would stoop to stealing newspapers from the racks in Carmel when they contained critical articles.

Mozingo has practiced primarily in Southern California as a partner in a firm that specializes in estate planning, business law and civil litigation. Though the firm’s website doesn’t mention government work, Mozingo says he has represented several government agencies, mostly as a litigator, and represented former LA Police Daryl Gates for 18 years.

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From Public Water Now:

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: THE BUSINESS COALITION HAS NOW INVITED SOME PUBLIC WATER REPRESENTATIVES TO ATTEND TUESDAY’S PRESENTATION BY WATER LAWYER JOE CONNER, SO THE DETAILS AND TONE OF THE PLANNED PROTEST RALLY HAVE BEEN AMENDED.

NEW INFORMATION HERE FROM GEORGE RILEY, FOLLOWED BY ORIGINAL NOTICE FOR THE SAKE OF CONTEXT

FROM GEORGE:
The Business Coalition called me this morning to invite some of our members to the presentation by American Water Works attorney Joe Conner on eminent domain.  And to participate in the Q&A as  appropriate.

Public Water Now promoted this protest because the BC invitation was ‘members only,’ the lack of transparency, and to the one-sided presentation.

Because of the offer to PWN to allow some of us to attend and participate in this ‘educational’ presentation, PWN requests that no signs be used that afternoon.  Instead, PWN requests that it be converted to a vigil, to appear in general silence, and to offer an ‘educational’ handout which PWN will provide.

This last minute change in PWN plans is to honor the Business Coalition changing its plans.

Thank you for honoring this new request.

George T. Riley
Public Water Now

ORIGINAL POST

Cal Am ratepayers and PWN members will gather at 3:30 on Tuesday, June 27 at the Monterey Plaza Hotel on Cannery Row to protest the “invitation only” presentation “The True Cost of Condemnation”. The Coalition of Peninsula Businesses is hosting Joe Conner, American Water attorney, who will present his view of the costs and problems the Peninsula would face in an eminent domain takeover of California American Water.

George Riley, Public Water Now managing director, countered, “Joe Connor and his American Water legal team recently fought Missoula’s eminent domain action to take their water public and LOST the case. We want to make sure our business community knows both sides of the story.”

Connor did succeed in driving up the cost of the buyout, from $65 million to $88.4 million, but Missoula’s legal team WON. Missoula took their water system public and they will NOT have to raise rates to customers.

Missoula’s Mayor and two of the attorneys who litigated the case told their story at the PWN public forum in Carmel on June 5th. Watch their presentation here.

Melodie Chrislock, Communications Director
PUBLIC WATER NOW
831.624.2282
MWChrislock@redshift.com

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There is a good reason that local TV news seldom has anything to say about Monterey Peninsula water politics. It isn’t very visual and the sound bites tend to be a bit on the dry side.

The potential for something Action News-worthy looms, however, with the Coalition of Peninsula Businesses planning an event featuring a lawyer who specializes in combating public efforts to take over private water system. That session is set for 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesday June 27 at the Monterey Plaza Hotel but is open only to coalition members – generally the hospitality and general commerce bigwigs of the rest of the business community.

The coalition isn’t expected to invite cameras, or the public, into the session. What creates the opportunity for some video is a low-key rally scheduled for outside the hotel at the same time. That event is being organized by Public Water Now, the group that is preparing to mount a Peninsula-wide ballot measure forcing a public takeover of California American Water.

The coalition’s speaker, attorney Joe Conner hails from Chattanooga, Tenn., and specializes in representing private water companies and other corporate interests facing takeover efforts. In scattered cases, he has managed to beat back municipilization efforts but the verbiage on his web site suggests his work mainly focuses on increasing the prices paid to the companies being acquired. He failed to stop a recent takeover effort in Missoula, Mont., but says he managed to have the offering price doubled. He tried and failed to thwart the community effort to acquire the Felton water system from California American Water Co. but he takes credit for increasing the cost to the customers.

The coalition’s invitation describes its event as a “special presentation on the costs and complications of using eminent domain to ‘condemn’ an investor owned utility, such as California American Water Co., for a public takeover.  This presentation by Joe Conner will be informative and educational; Mr. Conner is a real expert on these matters and his information will help counteract much of the recent misinformation floated by non-experts!  Please plan to attend this excellent presentation.   And please circulate this invitation again to your Boards of Directors, your members, your friends and associates – all are cordially invited. ”

Public Water Now’s George Riley asked the coalition if the “all are cordially invited” applied to him but was told it did not.

Riley said, “We believe the public and the attendees will get a one-sided perspective if they only hear from the American Water Works gun-slinger.”

“This private event is typical of corporate interests — not  transparent, and to set in motion forces that are moneyed and muscular,” Riley continued.  “We hope rational people will see this as strategy, not information.”

Corporate water systems now serve about 15 percent of households in the United States. Public Water Now plans a November 2018 ballot measure to reduce that percentage every so slightly.

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There is a good reason that local TV news seldom has anything to say about Monterey Peninsula water politics. It isn’t very visual and the sound bites tend to be a bit on the dry side.

The potential for something Action News-worthy looms, however, with the Coalition of Peninsula Businesses planning an event featuring a lawyer who specializes in combating public efforts to take over private water system. That session is set for Tuesday June 27 at the Monterey Plaza Hotel but is open only to coalition members – generally the hospitality and general commerce bigwigs of the rest of the business community.

The coalition isn’t expected to invite cameras, or the public, into the session. What creates the opportunity for some video is a low-key rally scheduled for outside the hotel at the same time. That event is being organized by Public Water Now, the group that is preparing to mount a Peninsula-wide ballot measure forcing a public takeover of California American Water.

The coalition’s speaker, attorney Joe Conner hails from Chattanooga, Tenn., and specializes in representing private water companies and other corporate interests facing takeover efforts. In scattered cases, he has managed to beat back municipilization efforts but the verbiage on his web site suggests his work mainly focuses on increasing the prices paid to the companies being acquired. He failed to stop a recent takeover effort in Missoula, Mont., but says he managed to have the offering price doubled. He tried and failed to thwart the community effort to acquire the Felton water system from California American Water Co. but he takes credit for increasing the cost to the customers.

Public Water Now’s George Riley asked the coalition if he or others were invited to the session with lawyer Conner. No invitation materialized.

Riley said, “We believe the public and the attendees will get a one-sided perspective if they only hear from the American Water Works gun-slinger.”

Stay tuned for details on the informational rally.

Corporate water systems now serve about 15 percent of households in the United States. Public Water Now plans a November 2018 ballot measure to reduce that percentage every so slightly.

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