≡ Menu

Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.

Update: The Monterey County Weekly has now included a mention of the following article in Monday’s online version of Squid Fry. This is good.


It takes some effort to get me riled up these days. I used to be rather easily irritated but I’m older and calmer now. I get more sleep. But the local press corps has managed to push my buttons, simply by ignoring me.

It isn’t a big deal, except that it kind of is. In a Partisan post a week ago, I wrote about how the oil industry keeps advertising about how Measure Z, the anti-fracking measure on the November ballot, will shut down the oil industry and wipe out $8 million in annual property taxes to various Monterey County government agencies.

However, I dutifully reported, it turns out the low price of oil these days means that the industry’s property tax bill this year is actually less than $5 million, according to Monterey County Assessor Steve Vagnini, whose office is in charge of determining that amount. It will go up when oil prices go back up. Maybe next year. Maybe later.

Now Vagnini’s “south of $5 million” pronouncement is not some assertion, some exaggeration by the environmentalist types who created Measure Z. This is from the office that actually sets the figures. It’s based on real numbers, not anyone’s speculation.

The truth is that Measure Z will not rise or fall on the amount of property taxes potentially at stake. Backers of the measure will tell you that the tax issue is nothing but a scare tactic anyway because passage of the measure won’t put anyone out of business.

Even so, I was kind of proud of my little scoop. I lean in favor Measure Z largely because I don’t trust the oil industry. Its outdated claim about paying $8 million a year in property taxes helps illustrate why.

But, unfortunately for voters and other truth seekers, my little scoop has been ignored by the titans of the local press corps. Even though I emailed it to them the same day I posted it on this blog. Even though several other practitioners of the journalistic arts subscribe to the Partisan and some probably look at it from time to time. Out of pity if nothing else.

I didn’t expect my scooplet to make it onto anyone’s front page but I did kinda hope it would be deemed worthy of a mention in the next Squid Fry column in the Weekly. Some fairly thin material makes it there some weeks. But no.

I also figured the Herald would mention it the next time it wrote about the measure in a big way. But no. Sunday’s paper contained an otherwise well done Page 1 story about the pros and cons of Measure Z but it simply repeated the $8 million figure, attributed to an out of date report from the Auditor’s Office, without mentioning the fresh report from  the assessor. Same thing with the paper’s anti-Z editorial.

I held out less hope for the electronic media. I was pretty sure they would just skip along collecting all that money for the oil industry commercials repeating the fib about the $8 million tax bill and wouldn’t set the record straight unless and until there was money to be made.

Where I come from, things like this matter, but I guess I’m just old and in the way now. And, well, what’s $3 million anyway? Heck, the oil industry executives have spent considerably more than that just on those helpful commercials. And they’ll probably plow the tax savings right back into the community. Right?


Andy Pafko

I vividly recall back in the middle 1940s, when I was a youngster, listening to my first baseball game on the radio. It was the Cubs vs. the Tigers in the World Series, which the Cubs now return to  after 70 years.

Notwithstanding that my wife is from the Chicago area,  I have never been a Cubs fan, except for one magical afternoon when a Chicago attorney with whom I was working on litigation involving a Superfund site in downstate Illinois took me to Wrigley Field to see a game. While the field is not as stunning as AT&T Park, or the new Yankee Stadium or countless others designed and built with amazing views, seating, perks, etc., it is like no other in so many ways.  The only other field that comes close to Wrigley’s history and tradition is Fenway, where I saw Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams.   Then, a couple of months later, I was able to see Bob Cousy and the Celtics play at the old Boston Goden (as it is pronounced).

Along the way, I’ve been to Forbes Field, no longer there; Crosley Field, no longer there; the original Yankee Stadium, no longer there; the King Dome, no longer there; Candlestick Park, no longer there; and Griffith Stadium, no longer there.

It’s a wonder I am not no longer there.

There is much I don’t remember, but I do remember one name from the Cubbie’s Series of 1945 and the name has stuck with me for years–Andy Pafko.

Good luck to the Cubs, but as a current resident of Ohio, I might have to root for the Indians.


sportsman-gun-cleanedIn a case of perfect timing, Open Grounds Studio Gallery of Seaside is featuring the works of acclaimed political cartoonist Bill Sanders, starting Oct. 28 in the heart of campaign season and running through Nov. 18.

Sanders was the editorial cartoonist for the Greensboro Daily News before his six years in the same capacity for the Kansas City Star and 24 years for the Milwaukee Journal. He was nationally syndicated and his work has appeared in hundreds of publications during a career that spanned five decades and 10 presidencies.

He is, by the way, the father of one of the Open Grounds founders, Denese Sanders.

The exhibit opens with a reception from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 28 at the gallery, 1230 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, and at the Democratic Center for Change next door.

During the exhibition Open Ground Studios will offer a sneak peek at Sanders’ soon to be released memoir, Against the Grain. (New South Books Publisher, slated to go to press in November 2016). Pulitzer Prize winner, Jules Feiffer, when asked to write the book’s introduction wrote, “I will consider it not just an act of friendship, but of citizenship.”

Open Ground Studios is a fine art school, cooperative visual art studio and co-working space that provides dedicated, inspiring and sustainable workspace for creative adults, professionals and teens. It is an affordable and accessible shared facility offering 24/7 access to co-op and co-working members. It hosts workshops, open studio time, classes, social events, and exhibition space.

More information is available from Denese Sanders, the artistic director, at 241-6919.



Graph showing falling oil prices in the marketINDUSTRY PAYING LESS THAN $5 MILLION IN LOCAL TAXES

The decline of gas prices at the pump over the past year, from well over $4 a gallon to less than $3, has been a reflection of declining oil prices, including the value of the oil produced in Monterey County.

That means that the oil company advertising in opposition to Measure Z on the November ballot contains figures that are seriously out of date. In commercials opposing the anti-fracking measures, the industry says it pays $9 million in local property taxes annually based on the oil value. One of the most recent mailers from the oil industry says, “If Measure Z is passed it could end up costing Monterey County $9 million in funding per year, which is currently used to support vital public services like schools, police and fire districts.”

The industry’s local tax bill for this year, however, actually will be “somewhere south of $5 million,” according to Monterey County Assessor Steve Vagnini.

An analysis by Vagnini’s office in July reported that “the assessed value of crude oil in Monterey County has gone from $980 million to approximately $511 million in the last three years as a result of the decline in the price per BBL (barrel).” Since then, the value has continued to decline to below $500 million, said Vagnini, who added that he still has serious concerns about the Measure Z’s potential financial impact on local government, especially if litigation results.

Vagnini’s office presented the reduced amount to the Board of Supervisors earlier this year to be taken into account for next year’s budgeting.

“Oil prices dropped on Monday, weighed by oversupply concerns, with U.S. crude dropping below $50 as trade volumes spiked ahead of the Oct. 20 expiry date for American futures contracts.” CNBC

Roughly, the annual property tax paid by the oil producers works out to about 1 percent of the value of its product. If oil prices continue to decline, it is possible that the oil industry will spend as much on anti-Measure Z advertising as it does in local taxes this year. As of last week, Chevron and others had put about $3.7 million into the campaign against the ballot measure. The industry-financed opposition effort argues that passage of Measure Z would create significant layoffs and increase the nation’s reliance on foreign oil, but the leading argument and focus of the TV advertising is that it would cause the loss of $9 million in local taxes.

Jim Eggleston, a spokesman for Protect Monterey County, the sponsor of Measure Z, says the actual reduced tax figure  “exposes how phony their argument is.”

“Measure Z doesn’t shut down anything,” Eggleston said. “It was written specifically to answer the takings question. It’s really about water.”

Measure Z would ban fracking in Monterey County and require the oil industry to adopt technology that would stop the practice of injecting tainted wastewater back into the groundwater supply.

Even at $5 million, the oil fields of San Ardo and elsewhere in southern Monterey County are major contributors to local government operations, including schools. Vagnini mentioned that the  proposed Hartnell College bond on the upcoming ballot will become more expensive for Salinas Valley homeowners if Measure Z causes an oil industry slowdown or shutdown.

The process of assessing oil fields is complicated, involving various formulas that account for factors such as the thickness of the oil – Monterey County’s is particularly thick — but the written analysis by Vagnini’s office does a good job of simplifying things:

“Crude oil prices fluctuate on a daily basis with many variables that affect daily prices. The oil prices may fluctuate from domestic or foreign market reasons. OPEC often can set (price fix) foreign oil prices by either flooding the market or reducing production, which in-turn affects all other crude oil prices, stock markets, futures market for both foreign and domestic oil.

“In the third and fourth quarter of 2015 through the first quarter of 2016, we saw some of the lowest crude prices in three decades. Iran and Iraq attempted to force OPEC into relinquishing control over oil prices by flooding the markets with their crude oil. OPEC in response did not curve their production of crude which created a surplus and brought oil prices down to the $20 to $30 per barrel (BBL) range which affected domestic crude oil prices.

“For lien date 2016 the Brent benchmark price was $41.00 per BBL. All oil in Monterey County is benchmarked at a Midway-Sunset (MWSS) 13 specific gravity which is the basis of most of the oil in the central California region. For lien date 2016, MWSS 13 was adjusted to $35 per BBL as a baseline, then each reporting field was adjusted either higher or lower based on their specific gravity of crude oil. Once a base price for the crude oil is determined we forecast the next 5 years and then hold the last number constant for the remaining economic life of the field up to 30 years.

“It is important to note that the current $35 BBL of oil only represents the current market value and does not represent the value of oil in Monterey County. In 2013 the MWSS benchmark was $95.50 BBL, in 2014 the MWSS benchmark was $101.00 BBL and 2015 MWSS benchmark was $54.00 BBL. The Assessed Value of crude oil in Monterey County has gone from $980 million to approximately $511 million in the last three years as a result of the decline in the price per BBL.”

The analysis predicts a slow and steady increase into 2017 but Vagnini’s figures this week indicate that the uptick has not yet started.

The analysis continues, “The price of oil prices also impacts decisions made by oil companies on future exploration. When the benchmark crude oil prices are low, oil companies tend to conserve resources and postpone the construction of new wells, new facilities and new projects. Conversely, when benchmark prices start going up, oil companies take more risks, invest more capital in projects, discover new reserves which all generate new taxable assets.”


Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.So I was thinking about oil and fracking and other issues of the day, and I had an idea.

You’ve probably seen the TV commercials and the mailers paid for by the oil industry. They say that if Monterey County voters approve Measure Z, the anti-fracking initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot, it will shut down the local oil industry. (The ballot measure language says just the opposite, but we’ll let this issue slide for the moment.)

The commercials and mailers also tell us that the loss of the oil industry would cost various local government agencies $8 million or $9 million in property taxes each year. (They started out with $8 million but the number has grown in the last week or so.)

The commercials are pretty slick. They show a fire engine disappearing as it rolls down a country road and a firehouse vanishing. Nobody would want that to happen.

But that’s when I started thinking about those tax dollars. Let’s call it $9 million. On the one hand, that’s kind of a lot. But then again, is it really?

It amounts to just about 1 percent of the property tax income in Monterey County. And even if Measure Z did put the oil industry out of business, it wouldn’t happen all at once. The property values would decline over time but that would stop long before hitting zero.

The amount of property taxes paid by the oil companies in Monterey County works out to less than the property taxes paid by owners of the houses along the fairways of the Pebble Beach links. And the owners of those houses aren’t doing much to increase the carbon footprint. They aren’t using government-financed roads to send tanker trucks filled with crude to refineries out of the area. They aren’t pumping oily wastewater into the aquifers of Pebble Beach.

So here’s the idea.

If all those fancy commercials, the expensive scare tactics, the big lie technique, manage to beat back Measure Z, the community should stick together and require the industry to start paying for the privilege of getting rich from the resources of Monterey County.

At last count the oil companies had spent $3.7 million to fight Measure Z. They’re able to do that because they might as well be pumping money out of those wells instead of gas and oil. Last year, they pumped 7.8 million barrels of crude from the San Ardo fields, and smaller amounts elsewhere. At the current per barrel price, that oil was worth about $400 million.

That’s a lot.

If for some reason Measure Z fails, we need to find a way to make sure that the oil companies take responsibility for the environmental cleanup that their work surely will require. The bottom line issue addressed by Measure Z is the wastewater that the oil companies now inject into the ground as part of their processes. They say they aren’t hurting anything, but others who have studied the issue closely say it is only a matter of time before the current practices create a contamination crisis in the aquifers that serve the county’s much larger and much more important ag industry.

If Measure Z fails – and, perhaps, even if it passes – we should be requiring the oil companies to set aside a percentage of their take to create whatever technology is needed to ensure that the crisis never comes and to create a fund to clean up the water should it ever occur.

Just a couple of years back California legislators played around with a 9 percent production fee but those big-spending oil companies used campaign contributions to dissolve the legislative resolve. I’m thinking 9 percent sounds about right for Monterey County’s oil production tax, but let’s call it 10 percent just to make the math easier.

By the way. Yes on Z.


The Monterey Bay Partisan tries to tell you how to vote

160_f_120626248_g4tp9zjjlz9bglrzr86wd5wixngadl3kIF YOU WANT SURPRISES, YOU’RE IN THE WRONG PLACE

Back when I was editor of the Monterey Herald, I found it amusing to compare our political endorsements with those of the Monterey County Weekly. The Herald was, of course, the local headquarters of the mainstream media and the Weekly was the alternative.

But for a brief period, I was able to drag the Herald’s endorsements a little to the left, far enough that the choices of the daily and once-a-week publications became a rather close match. I imagined the ink-stained wretches at the Weekly gnashing their teeth, at least a little. Part of the job description at alternative papers everywhere is to huff and puff about those corporate suits over at the daily.

I suspect the fine folks at the Weekly don’t mind at all that the Herald in my absence has done a much better job of being the voice of the establishment. For proof of that, look no farther than its support for the Monterey Downs horse-racing, home-building venture despite flaws such as no water and no financing. Or its upcoming endorsements in the local political races. Last time around, the Herald even endorsed Marina water board member Howard Gustafson, the Donald Trump of Peninsula politics.

Today, I set out the Partisan’s endorsements in the local political races and I am afraid that close observers will notice a strong resemblance to the choices made this week by the Weekly. In my decidedly subjective view, the Weekly made some wise choices and I found the presentation to be excellent as well. Short, to the point, easy to follow and filled with entertaining tidbits.

I’m afraid that this exercise will accomplish little except to reinforce the choices in the latest Weekly. I’ll flag any variations.

CONGRESS: Jimmy Panetta

I don’t care for political dynasties either, but being Leon’s son should give Jimmy a big head start in Washington. While his GOP opponent, Casey Lucius, would be one of many new faces in Congress, Jimmy’s Rolodex will be overflowing with the names of ready-made allies.



Panetta is the smart, engaging former prosecutor who served in Afghanistan and never did anything wrong. Lucius may be right when she says he wouldn’t be on the verge of congressional office if he was, say Jimmy Williams or Jimmy Smith, but, then again, he just might be.

Lucius has gained excellent name recognition and a crowd of admirers. She’d be wise to put that into a race for state office, but because of her military and other federal experience, she seems interested only in Washington. I imagine the 20th Congressional District seat will be Panetta’s for as long as he wants it. If Lucius really has her heart set, she’d be wise to make a run at the Assembly in a few years. Her politics are a bit conservative for the region but she has already shown an ability to win people over.



Lucius constantly makes the point that she deserves the job because she has worked hard for it and really, really wants it, and that Panetta is the favorite in part because of his lineage. That resonates with voters who are tired of what Washington has become. But elections aren’t about being fair to underdogs or rewarding earnestness. Panetta brings everything that Lucius brings to the job and he will be a particularly able representative from day one.

STATE SENATE DISTRICT 17: Bill Monning, no matter who might be running against him.

ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 29: Mark Stone, no matter who might be running against him.

ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 30: Anna Caballero. This one gives me pause. She’s not in the same realm as Monning and Stone. While they are true public servants, she is more of a career politician/bureaucrat. She had no problem accepting tons of money from wherever, especially the charter school movement, which is a thinly veiled attempt to weaken the teachers union.

Despite some drawbacks, Caballero still inspires more confidence than her opponent, Karina Cervantez Alejo, the former Watsonville mayor and wife of soon-to-be Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo, the former assemblyman. There seems to be a tag team approach to the Alejo campaigns and at least some element of mystery to their agendas.

Monterey City Council: Incumbents Libby Downey and Alan Haffa

This is about balance of power on the council, old school vs. new school.

Representing the old school is challenger Dan Albert Jr., son of the former longtime mayor. To a large degree, he is the candidate of the longtime Fishermans Wharf interests, Cannery Row and the closely related hospitality industry.



Downey, a retired school nurse, and Haffa, a Monterey Peninsula College, are running as an unofficial slate. Though they have had their differences, they are united by their effort to reform the city’s leasing practices at the wharf, where businesses that signed leases decades ago are living off sub-leases costing the tenants many times more. Albert’s father was a major player in adopting the old order on the wharf. While the elder Albert deserves credit for major accomplishments, including the Monterey Sports Center and the fantastically successful Windows on the Bay initiative, he also remained a close ally of the corporate interests that have pulled the strings at City Hall for decades.

By electing Albert over either of the incumbents, voters would be tipping the scales to the corporate side and away from the reform side.

Albert was a long time teacher and principal in the Monterey Peninsula school system. He recently retired as assistant superintendent of the district, a position in which he did not distinguish himself. He turned much of the district’s bond financing work over to a Clovis-based consultant who has since been fined by the Securities & Exchange Commission for conflicts of interests and who is currently embroiled in an FBI investigation in Fresno that focuses on a school contractor that also did considerable work here under Albert’s watch. I will be surprised if some of the Monterey district’s bonding troubles aren’t incorporated into the Fresno investigation.

The $100 million bond measure that Albert oversaw for the Monterey schools began with a political campaign financed largely by the same bonding companies that later received contracts to execute the bond. The state Treasurers Office has since banned such arrangements, something that should have happened decades ago.



Despite being past retirement age, Downey is a tireless representative of the city at various other agencies and a voice of reason on transportation and water issues. She is more of a moderate than the aggressively progressive Haffa, who was active in the Occupy Wall Street movement and who was a Sanders delegate. He brings political passion to the council task but he also has shown a pragmatic side when necessary.

Marina mayor: Bruce Delgado

Delgado is a true believer in environmental causes and the inherent goodness of people. He is an idealist who has learned to support intelligent economic development for the good of his constituency. He is an effective mayor and a truly nice guy in a city that doesn’t always play nice. His opponent, Kevin Saunders, is all about medical marijuana and creating a fuss.

Pacific Grove mayor: Bill Kampe

Kampe is so solid as to be downright boring. He’s good with the administrative aspects of the job and he has dived into the technical aspects, including the water issues that dominate local governance. In my view, he’s been too friendly with Cal Am and other corporate interests, but he can back up his positions with a reasonable amount of logic.

His opponent, Councilman Dan Miller, loves his city but he simply doesn’t have the temperament for the job. His friends say he has been getting calmer over time but it could be a while before he’s ready to pick up the gavel.

Salinas mayor: No endorsement

Incumbent Joe Gunter, the former police detective, is a throwback to simpler times in a city that faces every type of big city problems, including heavy duty crime and homelessness. His support for law enforcement hasn’t translated into putting more cops on the street, though, and remarkably the Police Department has even had to close its narcotics bureau simply to keep the numbers up on the streets.

Gunter runs an OK meeting but he has shown little of the leadership that the city needs to build its economy, reverse some of its blight and quiet the gangs. The previous mayor, Dennis Donohue, was too much of a dreamer, a big spender chasing elusive rewards. Gunter is too much the opposite.

Unfortunately, his opponent, auto repair shop owner Amit Pandya, has a somewhat sketchy reputation in business circles and he hasn’t been able to demonstrate where he would find the money to finance his big promise to add lots of officers to the force. The Weekly endorsed Gunter.

Salinas City Council District 1: Brian Contreras

For as long as I can remember, Contreras has been the talking head that media types turn to for comment whenever gang activity spikes in Salinas, which is often. He founded the Second Chance Family and Youth Services organization, and he does know as much as anyone about the gang problem. He stands out in a weak field.

Incumbent Jose Castaneda mouths the type of politics that the Partisan embraces, seriously progressive and inclusive, but it’s all for show. His pouty opposition to everything has become an obstacle and a distraction. He needs to go away. Sheriff’s union leader Scott Davis is a creation of contractor Don Chapin’s pro-development political machine and a shill for Sheriff Steve Bernal.

Salinas City Council District 4: Virginia Mendoza

I don’t know much about her but I’m at a loss to think of a reason to vote for De La Rosa. The Weekly gave her a thumbs up.

Salinas City Council District 6: Incumbent Jyl Lutes

She has a long record of public service, representing progressive views for the most part, and her opponent, Tony Villegas, hasn’t give any good reason to support him.

Seaside mayor: Kay Cline



Cline started as a one-issue candidate, but it’s the biggest issue in town. Monterey Downs. She has been an active opponent of the misbegotten project along with her husband, retired meteorology professor Bill Weigle. Though there is some support for the big racetrack/housing project in Seaside, it’s mostly the short-term variety bought and paid for by the would-be developer. The project is a fiasco and incumbent Ralph Rubio’s support for it is one reason he should go. Rubio has been a solid mayor but it was often difficult to tell if he was wearing his mayoral hat or his Carpenters Union hat.

Cline has been a leader of the Sustainable Seaside environmental group for a decade now and she is on the side of transparency and economic development that enhances the city without simply enriching the developers.

Former Mayor Felix Bachofner is making another run at the office and he also represents a decent choice. The downside is that he mostly a budget wonk and, well, he’s already had his chance. Newcomer Gertrude Smith could make a great councilmember and/or mayor someday.

Seaside City Council: Kayla Jones and Dave Pacheco

I was impressed by Ian Oglesby when I met him a decade ago. Mature, articulate, he was like a reborn Jerry Smith with additional skills. But he has been a major disappointment on the council, showing himself to be a follower instead of any kind of a leader.

Jones is the freshest of fresh faces, just 23 years old, but articulate beyond her years. She comes from a political family and already understands city politics, and its needs, as well as Oglesby.

Incumbent Dave Pacheco is the nice guy that every council needs. He is the former city recreation leader and he oozes concern for youth. For him, this is about service, not politics.

That’s it, folks. I’d like to make recommendations in the Pacific Grove and Del Rey Oaks city council races, but I don’t know enough about the candidates to make intelligence choices. For the PG council, the Weekly went with Cynthia Garfield, Robert Huitt and Jenny McAdams. In Del Rey Oaks, the Weekly went with Mike Ventimiglia and Kristin Clark.


LARRY PARSONS: Dylan’s prize should come as no surprise



News that Bob Dylan will receive this year’s Nobel Prize in literature is welcome relief. If you don’t know why, you haven’t been paying attention to the race for the White House, which to cop from Dylan for the 1,000th time could be accurately called “Idiot Wind.”

I told my housemate, who awoke before me to tend to our cats and dogs and had informed me of the prize, “Wow, that’s really out of left field.” I told her lots of folks had called it for Don DeLillo, Philip Roth or Thomas Pynchon, if an American were to win.

But fitting, I said. I can think of no other lyrical poet who has made more impact over the past 50 years than the raspy-voiced bard from Hibbing, Minn.

I told Jane how I could still smell the fresh mimeographed copies, with lyrics to “Mr. Tambourine Man” in smeary purple letters, passed out by my 10th-grade English teacher. The question for the day was, “Is this poetry.” Hell yes, the class said. Most of the rest of the attuned world agreed.

The man can write some crazy couplets, turn an old folk melody into a haunting urban scream and take the American blues on rides several dimensions past the Delta’s Highway 61.

Dylan is a great one in the American canon, and anyone who says otherwise is as blockheaded as Mr. Jones.

“I wonder what he’ll say in his acceptance speech,” I said. Dylan has been known to mumble speeches with strands of unintelligible odds and ends. I told Jane that Nobel speeches are pretty heady stuff. John Steinbeck delivered a good one in 1962. But William Faulkner‘s 1950 address in Stockholm is rightfully regarded as one of the most vital American speeches of the 20th century.

We studied Faulkner’s speech in that same 10th-grade English class back in my public high school in Fresno. He discussed writing – making something new out of the human spirit – while under the existential threat of the nuclear arms race.

Faulkner said humans would not only endure but would prevail, owing to possession of a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. And the poet’s voice would be one of the crucial props on which we would endure, he said.

Anyone who says Dylan hasn’t been one of the leading poetic voices of compassion and endurance for the last 50 years — well, they’ve just never been tangled up in the kind of blue Billy Faulkner was talking about.

Jane said, “Dylan’s supposed to play in Las Vegas tonight.”

A few minutes later, I tweeted: “Things that make America great #12 & 35: Nobel literature laureate has gig in Las Vegas.”

Viva Las Vegas. Viva America. Viva Bob.


JEANNE TURNER: Why Measure Z is good for Monterey County

Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.Since our governor accepts large contributions from Big Oil, he is not going to support a ban on fracking in California, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo did for New York. So the group known as Protect Monterey County helped write the Measure Z initiative, on Monterey County’s Nov. 8 ballot, which is meant to accomplish that goal.

Despite the unanimous recommendation of the Monterey County Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, by a 3-2 margin, voted not to place a moratorium on fracking in the county. That left us no alternative but to create the initiative. All statements made in the initiative had to be supported by documented research before the attorneys would include them in the initiative’s language. The main reason our coalition put Measure Z on the ballot is because of the horrific water contamination taking place.

The oil production in San Ardo is done by steam injection or flooding. The steam is put down one well to loosen the viscous oil in the tar sands, and then both the oil and water are brought up through what is called a production well. What is produced along with the liquified oil is wastewater — water that went down there to liquify it the oil. It is contaminated by the chemicals in the oil and by arsenic and lead naturally occurring in the soil.

One-third of this 13.8 million gallons of water used daily is cleaned by reverse osmosis, but two-thirds of it is put into wastewater injection wells that go down into “protected” aquifers. For decades, oil companies have operated in the county with little oversight or environmental review despite the industry’s advertised claims of stringent regulation.

For example, local oil operators have been disposing of their wastewater using injection wells for many years, in violation of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. In fall 2015, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board notified six oil companies — Chevron and Aera the two largest — that 35 out of their 44 wells are illegally injecting wastewater into protected aquifers near the Salinas River. Letters were sent giving owners of these wells until February 2017 to cease use of these wells, or get exemptions from the Department of Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) — a regulatory agency that generally caves in and grants exemptions so the practice of water contamination continues. That’s why we have to stop this, and our only remaining alternative is to use the initiative process.

John Steinbeck wrote of the Salinas River being an “upside down river,” not because it flows north but because there is far more water hidden as groundwater than can be seen in the river itself. It is all the same water, fed by the underground aquifers.

It is not a matter of if but when the Salinas River groundwater will become irreversibly contaminated. As the river flows north from San Ardo it impacts agriculture and tourism, Monterey County’s top two industries, ultimately flowing out into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary where there are myriad species of sea life.

Despite all the hype in the No on Z television ads, the oil extraction companies pay only 1 percent or less of the property tax collected in Monterey County. There are fewer than 200 workers in the oil fields, most of whom are brought in from outside the area by contractors. The crude oil is put on trains that go down to L.A., where it goes out on the open market. It does not make Monterey County energy independent.

What you are hearing and seeing are scare tactics from an industry that has enjoyed the freedom to do pretty much as it wished, thanks to the Halliburton Act. Can the rest of us put dirty water into clean aquifers? No, the water we use goes through sewage treatment. Every other industry is required to clean its wastewater.

The industry will have to clean up all its contaminated water (not just the 30 percent that they clean now). Even with water cleanup, profits will remain in the billions.

Does our initiative shut down oil operations in San Ardo? No. They are allowed to continue using the over 1,500 wells in existence. No jobs will be lost because the oil companies are not serious about shutting down if Measure Z passes. The 1 percent of the county’s property tax that they pay will still be there. In fact, cleaning all their contaminated water (not just 30 percent of it, as they do now) would provide new jobs. So passing Measure Z will actually result in a net increase in jobs.

Those interested in the Yes on Z campaign can contact me or go to protectmontereycounty.org/. We now have two headquarters — one at 1340 Munras Ave., Suite 308, Monterey, and the other at 521 S. Main St., Salinas. Both are open 3 to 7:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 7:30 p.m. on weekends; 831-272-2084.

Jeanne Turner lives in Monterey. This piece originally appeared in the Monterey Herald.


1914_babe_ruth_baseball_card-vadapt-664-high-21In this the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s second full season in the majors as a Boston Red Sox pitcher, it may be a good time to put to rest any suggestion that he wasn’t The Greatest Player Who Ever Played the Game. Today, Oct. 9, marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most remarkable World Series pitching feats in history, the second game of the Boston Red Sox vs. Brooklyn Robins series.

After giving up an inside-the-park home run in the top of the first – both outfielders stumbled going back on the ball – Ruth then pitched 13 scoreless innings, earning a 14-inning, 2-1 win and setting the record, which still stands, as the longest complete World Series game ever pitched. (His RBI groundout in the 3rd inning tied the game.)

I’m a San Francisco Giants fan from way back, had charter seats at the new stadium, and honor Willie Mays as a living treasure and the greatest living ballplayer. But he’s not the greatest who ever played the game, as the Giants’ organization would have it. That’s Babe Ruth, no doubt about it, partly because of his hitting but largely because of his pitching.

Most baseball fans with some knowledge of the game know Ruth was a mainly a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox before being sold to the Yankees for the 1920 season – beginning the Curse of the Bambino. True. Some know him as a ‘pretty good pitcher’ in those years with Boston, to quote one of our local sports radio hosts. Not true. He wasn’t a pretty good pitcher. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the best ever.

In a six-year pitching career with the Red Sox from 1914 through 19191, the left-handed Ruth put up numbers that rank with the greatest pitchers of all time. His lifetime record of 94 wins and 46 losses gave him a winning average of .671, one of the highest of any of the leading pitchers in baseball history, edging even Sandy Koufax’s .655 (165 wins vs 87 losses). Ruth’s career ERA of 2.28 would have put him in the top 10 pitchers of all-time if he had the requisite 2,000 innings (he pitched 1,220 innings).

In 1916 and 1917 he was the dominant left hander in the American League, setting season and World Series pitching records that lasted longer than his 60-home run season record set in 1927. In 1916 Ruth posted a 23-12 record with a 1.75 ERA & 1.08 WHIP, threw 23 complete games, and went 4-0 head-to-head against the great Walter Johnson, one of the best pitchers of all time. That same season he set the American League record for most shutouts (9) in a single season by a lefty, a record he still shares with fellow Yankee Ron Guidry who tied it in 1978.   In 1917 he went 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA and another 1.08 WHIP. Had he remained a pitcher his entire career, it’s likely he would have ended up in the Hall of Fame merely as a pitcher and been counted among the best pitchers in history. And, of course, he remains the greatest slugger in the history of the game. Check the stats.

Ruth was a money pitcher, winning big games and coming up huge in the 1916 and 1918 World Series. Over three games in those two series, including the 1916 14-inning epic, Ruth set a World Series pitching record of 29-2/3rd consecutive shutout innings – a record that lasted 43 years – nine years longer than his home run record. Ruth often said it was his proudest record in baseball. When I was a kid growing up in New York, Whitey Ford broke it during the 1962 World Series. Ruth’s streak began with those 13.1 innings against Brooklyn and picked up again when the Red Sox won the pennant in 1918. Ruth started Game 1 and pitched a complete game 1-0 shutout. He started again in Game 4 (with a badly swollen middle finger on his pitching hand) and didn’t give up a run until the eighth inning, ending his streak and breaking Christy Mathewson’s previous record of 28 scoreless World Series innings set in 1904. The Sox won 3-2, Ruth got the win and drove in two of Boston’s three runs with a triple in the fourth. In his three World Series games he put up an ERA of 0.87. Money pitcher.

And during these same seasons while the young Ruth was dominating the majors with his pitching, he began his career as the leading slugger in the history of the game. In those early seasons, hitting last as a pitcher, he routinely launched the longest home runs ever seen in nearly every major league and minor league stadium he appeared in. During some stretches in 1918 and 1919 he pitched every fourth day in the rotation, played first base or the outfield the other three days, and was a league leader in both pitching and hitting. But keeping up this pace on the field while pursuing his legendary social life off the field was wearing him down. He couldn’t continue playing every day, pitching every fourth day, and staying up all night every night carousing with floozies. He had to give up something, so he gave up the pitching. Reading his biographies, one imagines he could have continued pitching and playing every day at the same high level for years if he’d wanted to – maybe taking off a couple of nights a week to get a little rest. But he was Babe Ruth and that wasn’t the plan.

When you combine this stellar – albeit shortened – pitching career with his subsequent reign as the greatest slugger in the history of the game, you simply must conclude Ruth was the greatest who ever played the game. No one in the history of baseball ever did anything like it. It’s as if Roger Clemens stopped pitching after a few great seasons and then became Barry Bonds at the plate. There were weeks and months when Ruth was both of them at the same time. And yes, Mays and Dimaggio were better fielders than Ruth, though he had a very respectable .968 lifetime fielding average versus .981 for Mays. Mays and Cobb were much better base runners than Ruth, but Ruth threw out more base runners than Mays.

How many complete-game shutouts did Mays, Cobb, or Dimaggio pitch? Ruth had 17. How many 20-game seasons? Ruth had two – winning 23 in 1916 and 24 in 1917. Complete games? Ruth had 107. In 1917/1918 combined he started 57 games and completed 53, several in extra innings. And at the plate Ruth still has the greatest slugging average and OPS in major league history.

So with full apologies to Willie Mays and the Giants, there’s no doubt. Not a question. Babe Ruth was and still is the greatest baseball player of all time.

Who’s the second best player in the history of the game? My short list is Mays, Cobb, Dimaggio, Gehrig, Bonds and Aaron but the best easily is Willie, the Complete Ballplayer, the Greatest Living Ballplayer, and still an active and revered member of our San Francisco Giants.


1And 5 games he pitched over the next 14 years while with the New York Yankees, in which he went 5-0.

Richard Kreitman is a gallery owner, Giants fan, and sometime writer in Carmel.  


160_f_116637611_rq5djvon4yr5u5apuarm2li63waczx4hProprietor’s note: George Riley is the founder of Public Water Now in Monterey, a former housing official in San Mateo County and a longtime political activist and student of the initiative process. The foll0wing are his picks for the Nov. 8 ballot, choices closely in line with the Partisan’s view.

SUMMARY: YES on all state propositions except 53, 60, 65 and 66. YES on Measure Z

There are 17 propositions on the November ballot. The state voter guide is 222 pages. The League of Women Voters summary is 34 pages. The secretary of state’s summary is 15 pages. Mine is seven pages, and it’s more interesting.
 My progressive view is shaped by who’s paying, who benefits and whether is there a long-range progressive purpose.

First, three things to notice:

— There are several pet projects financed by these millionaires:

Tom Steyer: Hedge fund manager (Farallon Capital). Favors progressive causes in Prop 56, 59 (overturn Citizens United), 62 (death penalty repeal) and 67 (preserve plastic ban). Steyer is also expected to run for governor in 2018.

Charles Munger Jr.: Son of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charlie Thomas Munger, partner of Warren Buffett. Favors the GOP. Has funded Prop 54 (print bills 72 hours before voting).

Sean Parker: Founded Napster, first president of Facebook. Focuses on life sciences, civic engagement and “challenging issues” in Prop 63 (gun control) and 64 (recreational marijuana).

Dean Cortopassi: Self-made agribusinessman from Stockton. Opposes Gov. Brown and state water decisions he feels impacts his world, which caused his Prop 53 (require vote on state projects costing $2 billion and up)

— Dueling  propositions: Death penalty in Props 62 and 66, plastic grocery bags in 65 and 6

— Prop 65 is the champion of misleading and deceptive intent.

Warning: Try to ignore TV ads. They all want you to put a Yes or No on a proposition number, based on emotional and visual shorthand. It’s sound bite influence. Know how you want to vote, not how you remember a number.

YES on Prop 51. School Construction Bond, $9 Billion. For K-12 and community colleges. Unfortunately special interests (construction, finance, realty) can all too easily finance a campaign for public bonds that provide a public good and benefit a select range of business interests. But schools have suffered, and this provides financing that is easier than individual school district bond measures. Prop 51 will likely favor the more affluent school districts because they have the staff to pursue these funds. On the other hand, lower income school districts may not likely pass a local bond issue. Provides matching money for local districts.

Financial support: $8 million, mainly from special interests, wide support, polls are high to pass. Oppose: $0, some media editorials.

YES on Prop 52. Continues private hospital fees for Medi-Cal health services, uninsured patients, and children. First enacted in 2009 to help match federal funds. This extension prevents future diversions by Legislature, which happened recently. These fees go to the state, are matched with state and federal funds, then redistributed to public and private hospitals for services. The fees have allowed continued and stabilized financing for services to needy populations.

Support: $60 million, mainly from health industry. Huge widespread support from politically active (Dem and GOP and individuals, all sorts of health interests, and business.
Oppose: $12 million. SEIU, but it recently declared itself neutral, no longer in opposition.

NO on Prop 53. Require statewide voter approval for state infrastructure revenue bonds over $2 billion. The problem is that it reads–on first glance–like a good idea. But it intends to prevent large infrastructure projects. This removes legislative accountability, ignores financing 
security, reduces major decisions to geographical manipulation (north vs south, coast vs interior), and interferes with jointly financed projects (federal & state).

Support: $5.5 million. This is a pet project of Dean and Joan Cortopassi, a rich Central Valley farming family who are opposed to the bullet train and the delta tunnels. Having lost in the courts, Cortopassi has turned to the initiative process. There are no other donors. Backed by Howard Jarvis anti-tax groups.

Oppose: $3.8 million. Dems, many agriculture and business interests, unions.

YES on Prop 54. Prevent last minute lawmaking. This requires any proposed law be in print at least 72 hours before a legislative vote.
 Good government advocates say YES. Real Politick Democrat advocates say NO. Good government thinks it is only fair, and allows a representative, or an interest group, to have time to act in their interest. Real Politick recognizes the controlling majority in California is Democrat, and last minute ‘gut and amend’ is useful strategy, mainly to avoid the opposition launching attack ads.

This is ‘good government’ wrapped in partisan politics – it is entirely funded by GOP millionaire Charles Munger Jr, hoping to counter the Democratic majority.
Support: $10.5 million, all from Munger. Support from LWV, Common Cause, GOP, many chambers of commerce, many newspaper editorials.

Oppose: Dems, unions. But there is no money and no campaign.

YES on Prop 55. Extend tax on wealthy for education and children’s health.
 Extend by 12 years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000, with revenues allocated to K-12 schools, California community colleges, and health care. Raises $4 to $8 billion annually. Opposition mainly points to the fragmented state tax code, and the problems created with continuing to use the initiative process to fragment it further. On the other hand, at least it reflects wide public sentiment.

Support: $46 million (hospitals $25M and nurses $19M interests, Dem Party, LWV. Oppose: GOP, chambers, anti-tax groups. No money has been raised.

YES on Prop 56. New tax on cigarettes, including e-cigarettes. Adds $2 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Raises $1 billion-plus annually. Allocated to a variety of health related services, research and education. Revenue should decline as the price impact reduces sales, also an intent of 56.

A battle between large corporate interests. Big Tobacco (mainly Phillip Morris and R.J.Reynolds) with $56 million is outspending “big health” with $22 million.
 Support: Many elected Dems, Dem Party, youth and ethnic groups, wide business support, cancer, heart and lung associations, Tom Steyer ($3.5 million). Oppose: State GOP, few others outside of tobacco interests.

YES on Prop 57. Parole for non-violent criminals, revise juvenile court procedures.
 Allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons; authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education; and requires a juvenile court judge, not a prosecutor, to decide whether a juvenile will be prosecuted as an adult.
 This version of ‘compassionate release’ rewards prisoner performance, relieves overcrowding, reduces state costs. Will apply retroactively to eligible prisoners. Will likely increase county jail costs where recidivism shows up.

Support: $8 million, half from Gov. Brown’s fundraising. Backed by Dem Party, many civic orgs, LWV, unions (teachers, nurses, construction).
 Oppose: $250,000. GOP, many district attorneys and law enforcement orgs.

YES on Prop 58. LEARN initiative preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency as rapidly and effectively as possible. Requires school districts to solicit parent/community input in developing language acquisition programs. Authorizes school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers. Approved by state Assembly and Senate. Repeals 1998 restriction on English language instruction. Allows return to local option.

Support: $1 million. Widespread education, union, Dem Party, LWV, individual elected officials. Oppose: No funding. GOP, little else.

YES on Prop 59. Overturn Citizens United
, advisory to California’s elected officials to use their authority to support an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that declared placing limits on political spending by corporations and unions to be unconstitutional. The court decision reflected ‘free speech’ arguments that money was speech, and that speech cannot be limited. National research show that corporations outspend unions by about 10 to 1.

Massive national reaction led to a movement to overturn the ruling via constitutional amendment. Prop 59 continues that movement. It is criticized for not addressing the complexity of a constitutional amendment, and not focusing on a new Supreme Court majority that could reverse the ruling. Hardly any money has been raised by either side. The issue is not news.

Widely supported by Dem interests. Widely opposed by GOP interests.

NO on Prop 60. Condoms in porn films. Requires adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Requires producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. Requires producers to post condom requirement at film sites.

California in general, and the San Fernando Valley specifically, are recognized as centers of the pornographic film industry. Prop 60 is unique, but this is California. The attack on the porn industry may be justified, this is an overly aggressive approach, with problems in the details. Any person who sees a violation can sue. It does not need to start with a criminal complaint. The proposed law specifies that an advocate of 60 will be appointed a state employee to defend this law if it is passed.

Support: $4 million, from mainly AIDS prevention and health orgs.
 Oppose: $400,000 mainly from porn film companies. Also Dem and GOP parties.

YES on Prop 61: Prescription drug pricing standards. Prohibits state from buying any prescription drug at a price higher than that paid by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Exempts managed care programs funded through Medi-Cal.

Recent skyrocketing drug prices have fanned this reaction. And it is turning Prop 61 into the most costly campaign this year, and maybe the most costly ever. Big Pharma is definitely scared. The VA has the best bulk-priced drug agreement. Proponents believe the public is ready to stand up to any argument from Big Pharma. Opponents argue that drug pricing will be disrupted to such an extent that all agreements and insurances will have to be renegotiated. Veteran groups are opposed so as not to disrupt the VA deal. Nurses and consumer groups argue the opposite. It is time to change Big Pharma’s lock on rising health care costs. Any large change will not be a smooth ride. There will be negotiations and litigation. But there would be no change without a push. This is the time for that push against Big Pharma.

When the U.S. Congress previously tried to extend VA pricing to Medicaid nationally, drug manufacturers responded by raising VA drug prices. Congress subsequently removed the linkage between VA and Medicaid pricing. Here we go again, and still on a very large stage.

Support: $15 million, mainly by AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Includes nurses and AARP.
 Oppose: $87 million, and rising, from Big Pharma (Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers-Squib, Amgen, Novartis, Eli Lily, Merck, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline). Other opponents include American Medical Association, CA Chamber, veterans groups, GOP.
 (A strange piece of P61 is a requirement that if it passes, and if the state does not choose to defend a legal challenge, it must appoint and fund a Prop 61 proponent as a new state employee with the right to fully fight for implementation. It is similar to a Prop 60 provision, which will likely be challenged.)

Prop 62 and Prop 66 on the death penalty are not compatible measures. If both are approved by a majority of voters, then the one with the most “yes” votes would supersede the other. Prop 62 is based on humane treatment. Prop 66 demands quicker executions.

YES on Prop 62. Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Increases the portion of life inmate wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

In 1972, the CA Supreme Court ruled the state’s capital punishment system unconstitutional. However, in 1978, Prop 7 reinstated the death penalty. In 2012 voters rejected an initiative to ban capital punishment.

Many editorials refer to the ineffective death penalty and the dysfunctional system. It is time to abandon the death penalty. It is historically racially unjust. Time on death row is arguably cruel and unusual punishment. It has become the most expensive sentence in CA because of various appeal options. Life without parole accomplishes the same societal benefit or debt, however one sees it.

Support: $6 million. Dems, many civic and religious groups, academics, unions, teachers, nurses, actors, many newspaper editorials.

Oppose: $4 million. GOP, many district attorneys, police officers and sheriffs.

YES on Prop 63. Restricts gun and ammunition sales. Requires background check and Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. Prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines. Establishes procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by specified persons. Requires Department of Justice’s participation in federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Prop 63 requires permits for sale, and reporting of transactions. Sets procedures for prohibited ownership by felons and designated individuals. Does not affect current ownership.

Support: $5 million. Dem Party, LWV, many elected officials, unions, civic orgs. Oppose: $1 million. GOP, NRA, sporting clubs.

YES on Prop 64. Legalizes recreational use of marijuana. Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older. Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation.

Smoking would be permitted in a private home or at a business licensed for on-site marijuana consumption. Smoking would remain illegal while driving a vehicle, anywhere smoking tobacco is banned and in all public places. Up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana would be legal to possess. However, possession on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present would remain illegal. An individual would be permitted to grow up to six plants within a private home, as long as the area is locked and not visible from a public place. It is also designed to prevent licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses for five years in order to prevent “unlawful monopoly power.”

It would bring discipline and oversight to an industry already operating in the shadows. Net additional state and local tax revenues could range from high $100s of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually. The money is are required to be spent for medical research, law enforcement, services for substance abuse, youth programs, drug education and prevention and treatment. Reduced costs are in the tens of millions annually related to a decline in the number of marijuana offenders held in state prisons and county jails.

Support: $17 million (Sean Parker $7.3 million). Dem Party, ACLU, NAACP, California Medical Association, California Nurses Association.

Oppose: $2 million. GOP, California Hospital Association, some public and law enforcement officials.

There are two plastic bag Props – 65 and 67. Check the differences carefully. How you carry your groceries may seem like a trivial subject, but it’s the focus of rival propositions that pit environmentalists against the plastic industry. Flimsy plastic shopping bags are blamed for choking wildlife, vast littering, and damaging municipal waste systems. About 40% of California residents living in 151 communities already live with bans. But the variety led to problems with large retailers. State law in 2014 established standards, and many retailers agreed. The bag industry challenged the law. Now Prop 67, which is the legislative fix from 2014, is on the ballot for confirmation. It bans the flimsy plastic bags, and charges a dime for paper or heavy-duty plastic bags. The goal is to promote reusable bags. The plastics industry is countering with Prop 65 to eliminate the ban and protect profits.

In a clever ploy, both 65 and 67 were placed on the ballot by the American Progressive Bag Alliance. APBA was formed in 2005 to oppose bans and fees on plastic bags. The four main funders are in Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina. It spent $3 million in 2014 in a petition against the California ban, which halted the ban until these propositions are voted on. APBA hopes voters will favor their dime going for a public purpose (65), rather than to the stores (67). But the ‘poison pill’ is that 65 repeals the plastic bag ban, thus eliminating any need for the ‘dime,’ and therefore the funding for the environmental fund. APBA has put $6-plus million into promoting 65 and opposing 67. It is a well-devised plan to confuse voters and protect profits.

NO on Prop 65. Directs charges for plastic bags to new environmental fund.

The most deceptive measure this year. Directs money collected by grocery and certain retail stores through mandated sale of carryout bags. Requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund for specified environmental projects.

But in the small print, it repeals the state ban on plastic bags. They want you to believe their motives are altruistic. The sinister pitch for a new environmental fund distracts from the underlying repeal! To the benefit of the plastic bag industry. It displays the worst aspects of the state’s initiative process.

Support: $6 million, all from plastic bag industry. Also GOP. (Also used to oppose Prop 67.) Oppose: No $$. LWV, CA Nurses Assoc, environmental groups.

NO on Prop 66. Speeds up death penalty executions. Expedites procedures and sets time limits for appeals, exempts prison officials from existing protocols for execution methods.

It is what it is. The differences are stark. It’s between Prop 62 (eliminate executions, humane approach) and Prop 66 (rapid executions, finish the debt to society). Nineteen other states have already abolished the death penalty. No other Western nation has capital punishment. But North Korea, Pakistan, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China do.

Support: $5 million. GOP, many district attorneys, police officers and sheriffs. Oppose: $7 million. Dems, many civic and religious groups, academics, unions, teachers, nurses, actors, many newspaper editorials.

YES on Prop 67. Retain Plastic Bag Ban Statewide. A “Yes” vote approves 2014 state legislation that prohibits grocery and other stores from providing single-use plastic or paper carryout bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags.

State law in 2014 banned flimsy plastic bags, and authorized stores to charge 10 cents for an alternative. The plastic bag industry (dominantly in Texas and East Coast) is trying to repeal that law, urging a no vote here, and is heavily promoting Prop 65 as an alternative. The intent of the plastic industry is to confuse voters, and to promote a public good, and embarrass stores into abandoning the 10 cent charge that covers costs. Hopefully, voters will see the ploy, and vote YES.

Support: $3.5 million. Dems, LWV, Many elected officials, California Nurses Association, very many environmental groups, many print editorials.

Oppose: $6 million, all from plastic bag industry. (Also used to support Prop 65.)

For Monterey County:
 YES on Measure Z Ban fracking and other enhanced toxic extraction techniques, and protect ground water. This is the only ballot measure in the entire United States on this subject. It is attracting attention nationally, It is also attracting huge donations from Big Oil to defeat it. Big Oil is lying about the measure killing the industry, since Measure Z very specifically retains all current operations. Big Oil is lying about the details, but it has the money to pitch its misleading messages.

A community initiative against an established corporate interest must be based on detailed research and fact. Otherwise it would not pass its first test of credibility. Big Oil has not challenged the facts. But any large corporate interest has the money to promote any message it feels will work. Just look at the small print on any TV ad – paid for by oil interests. So it comes down to: Who do you trust? Then it becomes a no-brainer. Trust that your community initiative has pinned down its facts. I believe it has. YES on Z.


Donald Trump speaks for no one but himself

It has been gratifying to watch as even Donald Trump’s apologists turn their backs on him over his latest outrage, his taped boasting about his history of groping women. But it has been troubling to see the number of men on social media who are excusing his behavior by saying it is just something that men do. I believe it is hugely important for the women of the world to know that this is simply not true.

Yes, there are men who talk and act like that but they are a fairly small minority and are not representative of the men I know, the men I voluntarily associate with.

The vast majority of the men you work with, go to school with, see at the store, do not talk coarsely about women or make light of sexual assault. There are some who do, of course, but their behavior is becoming less acceptable over time, not more acceptable.

Most of the men I know would have told Donald Trump to knock it off. They wouldn’t have played the role of Billy Bush and egged him on. Even he admits to his wrongheadedness. Women of the world, it is true that society has dealt your cards from the bottom of the deck but please do not think that Donald Trump is representative of anyone other than Donald Trump.


BILL HOOD: Making a buck at any cost

Huge hurricane near Florida in America. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

America- the Land of the Brave and the Free. . .but, evidently, not the Land of the Kind and Compassionate.

The storm named Matthew, as it bears down on a major portion of the Eastern seaboard, is requiring literally hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes and their possessions and travel to safer ground. Certain corporations, even with the knowledge that many of those affected are without significant means of any kind, have, beyond all reason, increased the costs of food, shelter and gasoline to levels that are eye-popping.  Ten dollars a gallon for regular gase. More than $250 a night for a modest motel room that the day before was $59?  Yes.

What is going on?  The answer is simple.  For some, making a bigger buck is an opportunity not to be missed, no matter how hollow, how without soul or concern for one’s fellow man.  Simple greed brings out the worst in human nature, even during a natural disaster when civility and concern for others should call all of us to come to the aid of many in need.

What has happened to those affected by a major storm is more than sad.  So is the greed of pharmacy companies drastically raising prices on certain medicines that are necessary to sustain life, with little concern for those who will not be able to pay anymore.  And think about this:  is Cal Am’s gaming of the system to raise water rates in response to the Soberanes fire any more fair?

I sometimes wonder if we deserve to be called the best country in the world?

Hood is a retired lawyer and engineer who lives in Carmel and Columbus, Ohio.


Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.You might have seen those TV ads featuring four Monterey County mayors opposed to Measure Z, the anti-fracking initiative on the November ballot. They are Joe Gunter of Salinas, Jerry Edelen of Del Rey Oaks, Fred Ledesma of Soledad and John Huerta of Greenfield. They talk about how the oil industry is good for the economy. Left unsaid is how the industry has been good for Huerta, the Greenfield mayor, whose most recent job was in the oil fields of San Ardo, the focus of Measure Z.

Until December, Huerta did grading and cement work in San Ardo for Brinderson L.P., an oil exploration and production company working under contract to Chevron. Chevron, of course, is one of the main contributors to the No on Z campaign, which contends that the measure would shut down the oil industry of Monterey County.

Huerta lost his job when Brinderson lost its Chevron deal and laid off nearly 250 employees who had been working in the oil fields of Lost Hills, Coalinga and San Ardo. But Huerta said Monday that he has applications in to other companies involved in the oil fields and is hoping something comes through.

He said his opposition to Z is not personal, that he’s proud to be one the mayors featured in the commercials, part of a $3.2 million, industry-financed campaign against the ballot measure.

“It’s a good industry,” he said. “Good jobs.”

Huerta’s occupational status has been an on-again, off-again issue in Greenfield, where he narrowly escaped a recall effort in 2012 and now faces a second attempt. Meanwhile, he has been in the news there after city officials ordered an investigation into whether he acted improperly by ordering the city manager to order the police chief not to investigate a medical marijuana operation that has been operating in the city without permits.


WILLARD McCRONE: Some wharf lives matter more than others

161ccd73a48f7d274937e3f79228a2a6Last month’s paid protest march on Monterey’s City Hall on behalf of restaurateur Chris Shake and his Old Fisherman’s Grotto represents a naked attempt to intimidate this City Council into rolling over on the public and giving up on the three-year struggle to put Fisherman’s Wharf leases on a solid business basis.

Particularly  tasteless were the signs carried by Shake employees declaring that “Wharf Lives Matter.”

I wonder how many in the march and at the meeting were aware of just how much more Shake lives matter than the typically underpaid restaurant workers who were required to earn their pay that day by marching while their restaurants were closed? Amid the repeated false claims that the City Council was driving out locally owned businesses with high rents and short terms, Chris Shake neglected to mention the outrageous profits his family was raking in from the public subsidy of his restaurants.

Chris’s late father, Sabu Shake, entered into a 30-year ground lease in 1991 that was, in my view, a fraud on the public. The public owned the buildings by virtue of a reversion clause in the previous lease that had expired in 1989. But in 1991, the city ignored its own charter by not getting fair market appraisals, and simply rolled the ground lease over for another 30 years.  The public was entitled to start getting full market rent in 1989.

The 1991 lease said that the Shakes only pay rent on 3,536 square feet of its 7,535-square-foot premises, thus getting over one-half its space rent free. Combined a base rate of 3.5 % of gross sales, instead of the 7 % to 12% gross rent that is market rent for restaurants on the wharf, the Shakes pay less than half of fair market rent today and through 2021, when their lease expires.

The Shakes could have extended their lease to 2041 by simple request in the 1990s, but failed to do so for reasons known only to them.

So now Chris Shake wants the public’s sympathy to help him avoid paying a fair rent starting in 2021. To that end he published a full-page add in the Herald filled with misinformation and orchestrated a captive march on City Hall. One can only speculate about backroom discussions that persuaded Councilman Timothy Barrett to change his vote on the new policies and get this back before the council for another bite of the apple after three years of hearings that ended in Apri 2016.

So what is Shake not telling the public? First and foremost, he fails to disclose the enormous profit he makes from the public subsidy. According to an assignment document on file with the city property manager, Chris Shake personally and with a trust began receiving $20,000 per month rent on a sublease with the Grotto in 2007. The rent escalated to $27,563 per month in 2011. The Grotto also is paying approximately $120,000 per year to the city as rent. So Mr. Shake’s annual take in sublease rent was $330,756, over and above the rent paid to the city. The total rent paid by the Grotto was approximately $450,756 in 2011. It should have all belonged to the public, but the Shakes got 73.4% of it.

Is it any wonder that Chris Shake is pulling out all the stops to preserve this profiteering windfall? This outrageous profiteering must stop!

The other poster child of the march was Liberty Fish, the poorest-operating restaurant on the wharf. It pays some $412/month minimum rent under a silly lease that expired in 2013. It has never paid any rent based on gross sales, because a sale-based calculation would not exceed minimum rent. And now it claims it can’t pay any more in a modern building lease.

Liberty Fish should have had its lease terminated years, if not decades, ago due to non-performance. Landlords do not lease to tenants who cannot generate enough business to pay gross rent. Now Liberty wants not only a public subsidy, but public charity as well. It is far past time to fill that space with an energetic, competent operator.



Back in July 2013, a settlement agreement was reached between California American Water, local water agencies, certain ag interests in the Salinas Valley and several non-profit agencies including the group now known as Public Water Now. The agreement related to Cal Am’s proposed water supply project that involves building and operating a desalination plant in the vicinity of Marina.

Public Water Now is headed by George Riley, a well-known leader in the ongoing effort to seek fair water rates for Peninsula residents. Public Water Now signed the agreement not because it was in full support of the project but because, as a party to the agreement, it would be entitled to participate in reviewing draft reports and other activities. It would be in the loop rather than on the outside.

The settlement agreement contains important language that gives the parties, including Public Water Now, the right to challenge the project’s source of water if it is shown to harm the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin or the Sand Dunes Aquifer in the Seaside-Marina area. It is unlawful to extract water from one groundwater basin and transfer it to another. Water taken from either or both of those sources and used by a desal plant would be unlawful. On top of that, Cal Am has no underlying legal right to either source.

Therefore, Cal Am turned to the idea of drilling slant wells under Monterey Bay in order to reach sea water for desalination. Drilling data, however, have clearly shown that significant amounts of fresh water, not totally saline water, is in the water pumped so far, meaning Cal Am is pumping water to which it has no legal rights. Further, in spite of Cal-Am’s continuing arguments that slant wells are a tried and true method of obtaining water for a desal plant, the company has provided no proof of that, and Public Water Now has determined that no ocean desal plant in the world is served by slant wells.

Given these facts, Riley sent two emails in 2015 and 2016 to all parties before the California Public Utilities Commission in connection with the continuing hearings on Cal Am’s project. He wrote that he and Public Water Now were exercising the right under the agreement to withdraw support for slant wells and to actively work for legal and reliable alternatives. He provided the necessary facts on the record to support his claim.

Neither email was incorporated into the record.

In response, Cal Am and its supporters had their lawyers submit a “Motion to Strike” Riley’s emails.

The motion asserts that the emails were sent “ex parte,” meaning sent without notice to other involved parties, including a decision-maker. Even though the other involved parties did indeed receive notice, the CPUC prohibits such communications if a decision-maker such as an administrative law judge is a recipient. The administrative law judge was, in fact, a recipient.

The underlying purpose of limiting ex parte communications in a judicial or quasi-judicial setting, such as the CPUC’s administrative action involving Cal Am, is to ensure that no party can gain an unfair advantage by communicating off-the-record with any decision-maker.

IMG_1198 copy

George Riley

It is important to note that administrative law judges do not have decision-making authority on substantive matters. They make procedural decisions but their opinions on matters of substance are only recommendations to the commissioners. None of the five commissioners received the emails, so the integrity of the process was not compromised.

If Cal Am succeeds in having the emails stricken from the record, important facts will be kept out of the record upon which a final decision will be made on the desal project.

What are they afraid of?

If the information and facts offered by Riley and Public Water Now were faulty, why would Cal Am be so concerned about them and go to such effort to have them stricken from the record?  They are concerned about those facts because they are the basis for showing the world the mistakes, misleading statements and other errors that have increased the project costs that will probably be transferred to ratepayers.

The motion asserts that the time for “commenting on the agreement” had long passed when, in fact, the emails were not comments on the settlement agreement. The emails address issues that arose after the settlement agreement. Since the settlement, concerns about the slant wells have evolved, including conflicts of interest involving the man who designed the wells and the validity of the data collected from test wells.

So it comes down to this. The emails were, by a strict definition, ex parte communications prohibited by the PUC. But at the same time, the substance of the emails had nothing to do with comments on the settlement agreement. Rather, they were direct communications necessary to notify all parties involved that Riley and Public Water Now had gathered sufficient evidence from the record to support the exercise of the right to challenge the source of water for the proposed desalination plant.

If the motion is adopted by the administrative law judge, facts that are not supportive of Cal Am would never see the light of day. The motion also threatens serious sanctions against Riley and Public Water Now.

The motion to strike is inappropriate and PWN’s emails should be incorporated into the record. Fairness and equity also demand that the final decisions in this case be determined on the basis of all the facts that should be contained in the entire record. As such, facts adverse to Cal-Am should be included as long as they are facts and can be supported as such. Riley has made that case. Justice demands that the motion fail. If it is adopted, the administrative law judge should direct Riley and Public Water Now to resubmit their materials in another format.

Hood is a retired lawyer and engineer who divides his time between Carmel and Columbus, Ohio. He is a former executive director of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.