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horses neonI am a Seaside resident who is very concerned about the possibility of Seaside having a horse racing track development within our city boundaries. There is an important item regarding this on the agenda of the next City Council meeting.

 I urge all Seaside residents to attend the meeting that starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at Seaside City Hall.

The last item (9A) is the renewal of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Monterey Downs. This agreement was first signed for 12 months on Sept. 16, 2010. After several extensions by the city manager, the council voted to extend the ENA until Dec.12, 2014. A further extension shifted that date to March 12, 2015. Now the full council must decide if the Monterey Downs ENA will be extended for another 12 months.

 Check out the agenda and packet online.

Do we Seaside residents feel that Monterey Downs with its 1,300 homes,three hotels, a commercial district, a 6,500-seat arena and more than 20 acres of paved parking lots will truly benefit our city? Is this horse racing track going to be a viable business even though race tracks across the country are closing? Are we thinking about the ongoing noise and light pollution that will come with this massive development? Horses need 75 gallons of water a day while local residents are now conserving to use only 48 gallons! From where is the water for the many horses coming?

The Urban Design Team working with the Fort Ord Reuse Authority has pointed out that more tax dollars come from high density building in the center of a city than from projects built on the outskirts. We may be squandering our forest on a mirage!

Willie Harrell, publisher of the Seaside Post, has pointed out that Monterey Downs is just too large of a project and should never have been taken on by our City Council.

Outdoor recreation is a growing industry and more people are discovering the health benefits of getting outside into nature. Let’s utilize Seaside’s connection to Fort Ord National Monument as a way to expand our economy rather than block and compromise that connection with a horse racing development.

CSU Monterey Bay is continuing to grow and as it does we will benefit by having a large, world-class university within our boundaries. Faculty and students say that one of the reasons they choose CSUMB is for the access to trails and wilderness environment.

Danny Bakewell is developing Fort Ord lands within Seaside and his projects (built on formerly developed lands) will also bring jobs to Seaside. We don’t need to destroy our coastal oak woodland environment to create jobs.

We must be wise developers of the public lands that have been given to our city. We need projects that are sized right and work with all of Seaside, not massive projects like Monterey Downs which will drain our resources.

Let the council know that it’s time to say “NO” to a development that has the potential to harm rather than enhance the economic health and quality of life of our city. Let the council know that we residents will support them in ending the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Monterey Downs.


Which websites are on your must-read list?


Internet Concept on LaptopLike gophers in a garden, new websites are popping up all the time. Who can keep track? But here’s a thought. If readers of the Monterey Bay Partisan would tell us what websites they find most useful and interesting, via the comment button below, we all might just learn something. Once enough people have weighed in, the Partisan will expand its list of links. We’re not interested in very narrow-interest sites about your hobbies, but please share info about any sites that would help your friends and neighbors better understand our life and times. Simply hit the comment button and make your suggestions. If you can, please provide a link.

P.S. I’m particularly interested in seeing the lists of my Partisan co-conspirators, Larry Parsons and Paul Skolnick, because they are two of the best informed people I know.


Creative inspirationEight months ago the Monterey Bay Partisan was launched, a rickety but earnest craft intent on sailing toward truth and justice.

It was a challenge for reasons that included the captain’s woeful technical skills, inadequate capitalization and more-than-occasional lack of focus. Some of the problems were solved by others, however, so the journey continues.

But one important part of the mission has been a failure, an almost complete flop, even though it was initially thought to be only a minor issue. And that, of course, is community input or, more specifically, the amount of commentary supplied by people other than the tiny and ragged crew.

This was never intended to be “my” blog. It is supposed to be a community resource, a bulletin board, a place to share and debate opinions. It is supposed to contain news but that doesn’t mean it has to be the creation of newspeople. I dare say there are many, many people this community far better qualified to write about any subject that I have ever pretended to understand.

We have done as well as expected in terms of comments posted in response to Partisan articles. Lively debates have ensued and significant information has been imparted, especially in the realm of water, which is appropriate because of the tortured nautical references atop this piece. Keep it up with the comments and after you’ve read a piece, try to remember to check back later to catch the responses.

But with such a literate and intelligent populace in and around the Monterey Peninsula, I thought we would see a steady stream of news items, essays, columns, screeds and other fulminations. Alas, that has not been the case, giving rise to my first use of “alas” in a journalism career of more than four decades.

I do not know where we went wrong. I have invited contributions on several occasions and I have responded beseechingly to almost every offer or hint of an offer. Almost every time I reel in, however, the hook is bare.

Worst of all, of the more than 170 pieces that have been published in the Partisan so far, all but two have been written by old white guys. Two. Half of four. Almost none.

The lack of community contributions, and particularly the lack of contributions from the not-old, non-white, non-male of the community is unacceptable, and perhaps even actionable.

So here’s the plan, such as it is. If you are reading this, consider writing something. It could be your thoughts about horse racing, littering of the beaches, loud music downtown, the wonderfulness of your neighbor, or your plan to solve California’s pension crisis. You can write about Jason Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Leon Panetta, or, heck, even Sylvia Panetta. We prefer local topics but we can be talked into expanding our reach from time to time. You can write about your water bill, your thoughts on homelessness, beach erosion or other problems such as seagull poop or Brandon Gesicki. You can write about the woeful lack of diversity on the pages of the Partisan.

Wanna try some journalism, cover and event, dig into something but don’t know where to start? I’ve got plenty of ideas; if only there were people to help.

If you can’t or won’t do any of that, you can at least share this plea on your Facebook page or retweet it to your tweetees.

I felt the same way when I was opinion page editor of the Monterey Herald. There on the opinion page was this wonderful daily opportunity to impart wisdom to the community and so few people would take advantage of it.

Yes, the forum here is relatively small, but it’s bigger than it looks. Each post goes out automatically to some 500 Partisan subscribers and, initially, to more than 2,000 people on Facebook and a couple hundred people via Twitter. Then, others share it on Facebook and on Twitter and, before you know it, five or six people have read it. Just kidding. On a good day, a Partisan post is read by at least 1,000 people.

If I were selling radio ads, this is where I would mention the demographic. Partisan readers are among the best-informed people in the region and the most influential. The politicians read it. Though they’d never admit it, Cal Am officials read it and so do the leading lights of the GOP establishment. Your friends and some of your neighbors read it, but not the ones with the cars up on blocks.

Some of you are asking “Do you pay?” The answer is not usually but yes, it does happen. If you want to write something and you could really use some money, let me know. I’ll try to make it happen.

Monetary contributions from Partisan readers (See the Paypal button at the top) are used to cover web hosting and graphics expenses but mostly to pay contributors. So if you don’t have commentary to add, you still can help steer the little ship toward the truth by making financial contributions.

So what’s stopping you?

You can send columns, etc., to calkinsroyal@gmail.com. If you’re not sure we’d be interested, you can send your idea to that address and we can talk it over. If you’re not handy with a computer, you can call me at 595-8899. If you’re rich and want to help out, you can email or call and I’ll give you an address where you can send a check.

Your writing is subject to editing but we will try our darnedest not to betray your intent. When I was with the Herald, some contributors accused me of imperfection in that arena, but quite a few more seemed to feel I had improved their work.

If you have something to say, just give it a try. It won’t hurt and it might even help.


Saving the world one “Official” notebook at a time


imageWhen I took my leave from the Monterey Herald newsroom last summer, I took it with me.

I’m not referring to the almost-full box I carried out with old reference books, Photoshopped gag pictures and sentimental curios from my final years in daily journalism.

I also took a half-filled, 4-by-8-inch reporter’s notebook, just as I had thousands of days and nights before. I’m pretty sure it was tucked into a back pocket. That was the notebook’s most important feature, being sized to fit into any of the few pockets in a typical reporter’s work uniform.

In earlier days, the uniform of males mandated a coat and tie. But those days are gone, along with typewriters, desk ashtrays and U-shaped copy desks where stern copy editors drew marksman’s beads on wounded sentences.

This slender, spiral-bound sheaf of 70 lined sheets is not a particularly interesting item, though it’s of a variety bilingual in English and French, which the Herald had been supplying in carefully measured quantities in recent years. On the stiff cover, it proclaims itself both a “Reporter’s Notebook” and a “Carnet De Journaliste.”

I thought the French added a dollop of class, always in short supply among a class of people who typically wear food stains on their clothing as often as they do outrage on their sleeves over the latest follies of some public official or a new form to fill out to claim reimbursement for expenses.

At times, notebooks used in newsrooms where I worked for 35 years simply declared themselves in monolingual fashion as  “Reporter’s Notebook” or “Official Reporter’s Notebook.” The latter ones always made me chuckle, suggesting there was an important status possessed by these no-frills binders of slim sheets of wide-lined notepaper.

Every job has its benefits, and free notebooks are at the top of a reporter’s list. Despite harrowing financial times besetting news operations largely controlled by investors more interested in loan-shark-rate returns, notebooks have remained free to users.

If bean counters tried to charge for them, even the most reticent newshound would emit howls of protest so loud they would set off burglar alarms in the publisher’s new luxury SUV.

One day, a memo came down commanding reporters to use both sides of every sheet in their notebooks. Barricades arose in the newsroom, demands were drafted and cheeky partisans actually started taking notes with marker pens on every other page. The two-sides rule was never enforced, and only remembered today by grizzled old-timers deep in their cups. Another victory for the First Amendment.

Sadly, I am nearing the end of my last reporter’s notebook. ‘Quelle tristesse.’

Halfway through it are the notes I made in August as the Monterey City Council debated whether to hold a future debate over local campaign financing. It ended with a 3-2 vote. Oh, good times gone. ‘Le temps passe vite.’

The next 20 pages contain notes that I jotted, out of habit, concerning appointments (James the plumber, Thurs. at 10 am, cost, one arm, one leg) phone numbers (pro shop, Salinas Fairways, 1:16) and research for Monterey Bay Partisan pieces (Bugs Bunny, his hare-brained thoughts on flat tax, Rand Paul, etc).

Now I’m down to one empty page. Its bottom corners are slightly curled, and the bare surface is laced with indentations from heavy scribblings on earlier pages.

I’ll put the notebook aside and leave the last page empty. It’s a silly gesture, but no reporter likes to face the day when you can’t swing open supply cabinet doors and see them — tightly bound in wrapped plastic bundles of 20, stacks of fresh notebooks. Free for the taking and just waiting for someone to mark the outlines of another new day.

After the recent memorial for the great New York Times media writer David Carr, his widow Jill passed out reporter’s notebooks from Carr’s home stash. Here are two. Happiest picture of the year, I think.


Illustration by Alan Estrada.

The man was scared to death, until the genie spoke to him.

“You have liberated me from this lamp and now I will grant you any one wish that you may have.”

Gathering himself together, the man gave much though to this incredible opportunity before him. Finally, he took out a map of the world folded up in his pocket and laid it out on the sand. He pointed to a specific area on the map and said to the genie: “This is the Middle East – home to three of the world’s great religions – and yet, there has been hatred, wars and calamities for centuries. Peace never seems to come and stay for the poor people who live there.  So if I have one wish, it is for peace in the Middle East.”

The genie pondered the map and stared at the countries on it. Finally, he replied, “What you have asked of me is beyond even my powers.  Please make another wish.”
Once again, the man thoughtfully considered other options and finally said: “OK, forget about the map. I live on the Monterey Peninsula. For decades we have been unable to obtain a reasonable and reliable water supply. Countless hours and resources have been wasted, our leaders have been unable to do anything but generate hot air, and all the while our private water purveyor has made millions at our expense.

“I would wish for an end to all of this and an immediate water supply that could be affordable for everyone.”

The genie looked at the man, paused, and then said: “Let me take a look at that map again.”


I have learned an important lesson from the dustup over onetime CBS reporter Bill O’Reilly’s oft-repeated accounts of blood-chilling danger 1,200 miles behind the front lines in the 1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina over a few desolate outcroppings in the South Atlantic where even the sheep must possess Churchillian resolve to keep a stiff upper lip. Don’t write the starring role for the daunting hero in your own private movie. It’s bound to be full of sheep droppings.

And they’ll catch you. Yes, they will.

Years later, when you are the biggest draw on cable television in the highly desirable 72-to-dead demographic, your long-ago embellishments will be used to pound your proud skull and cast doubt upon the veracity of every word you shout, scream, whine and bellow in your portrayals of the truth.

To prevent finding myself in such a bind, I must correct the following dispatch I filed from the backwoods of Northern California in 1977.

“My companion and I were slowly working our way up a steep canyon that rose above the south fork of the Eel River. We tried to be very quiet. Each snapping twig or scraping footfall could alert the enemy. But it was tough going. A near-full moon illuminated very little under the dense forest canopy, and it seemed as far away as Buenos Aires.

All we could make out were black branches just before we almost banged into them. Further off, there were only patches of darkness and bigger pools of gloom streaked with threads of watery moonlight. Then we heard something close by, something very big moving through the brush to our left. Whatever it was, the beast glided through the tangled undergrowth with ease and would be on us in seconds.

My companion, call him Jocko, froze. Cold fear coursed through every fiber of his body. He suddenly clapped his hands to his head so forcefully that both of his ears began bleeding. He dropped the cameras with which we had hoped to capture evidence of our quarry — the legendary man-ape of the Pacific Northwest known as Bigfoot.

Jocko, an experienced Bigfoot tracker transplanted from San Francisco’s hirsute Haight-Ashbury, recently had seen evidence that one of the elusive beasts was roaming this canyon. We set off to find it after it tucked itself in for the night.

But the sounds of branches being dashed to toothpicks and the overwhelming foulness of a man-ape musk that filled our nostrils meant the Bigfoot had found us first. And it aimed to protect its privacy with the ferocity of a Latin American riot squad on combat footing.

Jocko screamed, ‘It’s got me,’ and I dimly saw my companion being dragged up the mountain by one arm roughly clutched a towering figure scurrying on two legs as thick as tree stumps. I threw my notebook and pen aside and grabbed Jocko’s trailing hand.

I don’t know how Jocko wasn’t pulled apart as I used all my strength to prevent the beast from dragging him to a secret Bigfoot lair. Thankfully Jocko’s other arm broke free, and I put him on my shoulders and scrambled down the hill. Now both of his nostrils were bleeding along with his ears. The beast also had ripped two fingers off Jocko’s hand, dashing his dreams of playing pedal steel guitar. But as we shook off the shock from our momentous clash, we knew the new day would greet us, not only battered and bruised, but as war-zone heroes.”

For the record: There was no Bigfoot tracker named Jocko.

My source was a guy named Phil, who was running a general store near Piercy. He had been cut off by suppliers of his main wares — primarily cartons of Slim Jims and cases of Lucky beer.

He called me on a slow news day, telling me he had seen a Bigfoot and had evidence. I had nothing better to do, so I met him that afternoon on an old logging road a few hundred yards up the hill from his store and its empty parking lot.

Phil said the previous evening, while out for a hike, he caught sight of a huge figure walking upright and covered with hair on the logging road. The creature ducked into the brush with amazing agility after it spotted Phil, his dog and his near-empty pint of Old Crow whiskey.

The evidence: a few broken and bent branches where the creature had fled, and a large indentation in the soft clay at the side of the road where Phil said the beast had planted a huge foot. I took several pictures, and we ran a story headlined, “Store owner survives close call with Bigfoot-like creature.” But the picture of the large paw print, honestly, looked more like an overexposed image of Jimmy Carter’s face appearing miraculously on a flour tortilla.

Phil renamed his store the Bigfoot Crossroads, managed to attract a few more customers and stayed in business a couple more months. Then he spent several years playing a mean pedal steel with Chillin’ Chuck and the Sinsemilla Playboys.

I, of course, rode the glory of my near-fatal encounter with the Pacific Northwest’s legendary denizen to a storied journalism career that eventually landed me this esteemed position with the Monterey Bay Partisan.

All of it based, I’m ashamed to admit, on fevered embellishments of facts gathered in the heat of the moment.

So now I’m coming clean. I beg any liberal media attack dogs who may think of doing a Mother Jones or Squid number on me to set their sights on more deserving and less contrite dissemblers. I am weary of the long lie and feel like such a pinhead.


UnknownThe following is a news release, followed by an open letter to Clint Eastwood.

A coalition of Monterey Bay Area organizations and individuals is calling on Monterey County resident, filmmaker Clint Eastwood, to condemn the violent extremism prompted by his latest film, American Sniper.

American Sniper is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history. In his book, Kyle boasted of having killed 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq, following the U.S.-led invasion and occupation in 2003.

The film has broken box office records. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and won one.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting Arab-Americans and Muslims following the release of the film. The signatories to the open letter ask Monterey County’s most famous resident to denounce the violent expressions of bigotry inspired, however unintentionally, by his film.

For further information, please contact Phillip Crawford or Michael Frederiksen at the Monterey Peace and Justice Center, 1364 Fremont Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955. 831-899-7322.

The text of the letter follows.

February 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Eastwood:

Since 9/11, hate speech and hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs have been increasing. Following the release of your film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has reported “a significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.” Critics of the film’s depiction of Chris Kyle have been subjected to hate-filled comments and violent threats on social media. (Source: Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2015.)

You are a world-renowned film director and the most famous living resident of Monterey County. As concerned citizens of this community, we call on you to join us in publicly and unequivocally denouncing the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry which has erupted in response to this film.


Zahra Billoo, Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Office*
Mishka Chudilowsky, Palestine Action Committee
Phillip Crawford, President, Monterey Peace and Justice Center
Carole January Erickson, community activist
Patti Fashing, community activist
Helga Fellay, community activist
Steven Goings, National Coalition Building Institute, Monterey County
Nashwan Hamza, President, Arab American Club of Monterey*
Peggy Olsen, Chair Pro Tem, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Monterey County
Sue Parris, Regional Director, National Coalition Building Institute, Monterey County
Larry Parrish, community activist
Wanda Sue Parrot, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula
Helen Rose, Monterey Peace and Justice Center
Sidney Ramsden Scott, community activist
Susan Sailow, community activist
Joyce Vandevere, Monterey Peace and Justice Center and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Joe Watson, President, Monterey County Branch, NAACP
* Organization listed for identification purposes only.


Saving the world, one red fence at a time


IMG_0390 copy 3

Some readers of the Monterey Herald will glance at this column and mutter, “Oh no, not that damn fence again,” and who can blame them. The dilapidated red fence along otherwise scenic Highway 68 and the otherwise lovely Laguna Seca golf course became a rather tiresome subject in the venerable daily some three years ago, and the attention did nothing to correct its sorry state.

But that fence—let’s come right out and call it that ugly fence—deserves attention. Depending on one’s perspective, it is either an eyesore or a neglected artifact worthy of repair and preservation. I write about it here because a letter to the editor of the Herald a couple weeks back resurrected the issue, and because I have an idea, one that may satisfy both camps.

As it is, it’s a mess. In all, it amounts to a little more than a half mile of fencing, some upright but much of it toppled and tangled with the brush. There are gaps, many of them quite large. If there were a beauty contest for fences, it would be disqualified early for lack of integrity.

During the last round of attention, no one stepped up to take responsibility for the fence. As it is along Highway 68, a state highway, a case could be made that it is the state’s responsibility. Calls to state highway officials three years ago, however, resulted in nothing more than perplexity and empty promises to “look into it.” A case also could be made that it is the responsibility of the landowners along the route. A section of the Monterey County ordinances suggests strongly that county officials can and should require said landowners to remove or repair eyesores. Significant sections of the fence may reside on the golf course property, but the manager there made it clear three years ago that he had no sense of responsibility. For the fence, that is. Could the county force the issue? It could but it won’t.

After the Herald opined about the sorry state of the fence, readers responded with observations, memories and theories about its origin and purpose. The most definitive account came from Julie Work Beck, a Corral de Tierra resident, whose grandfather owned ranch land on one side. Here is a piece she wrote at the time, slightly abridged.

The red fence definitely dates from the 1930s, if not earlier. It extended from York Road past the current Laguna Seca area. It was built by Esteban (Steve) Field on property owned by him and his sister, Maria Antonia Field. The two inherited the property from their father, Tom Field, who married Maria Munras. Maria Antonia Field kept her residence across the highway in the hacienda, now a horse ranch with a watering hole close to the highway.

The entrance to Lady Field’s home was gated, as it still is, and to the left, was a box with a phone one would open to call the house to ask for admssion. I remember doing this as a child on the occasion of visits to Lady Field.

Lady Field as she was called for short, was given the title of Her Excellimentissima Maria Antonia Field in the 1930s or the 1940s by the then-pope (Pius XII?) for her work and support of the restoration of Carmel Mission and her help to Father Ramon Mestres. Lady Field and Steve Field were the children of Tom Field and Maria Munras of Spanish Rancho land grant times.

Tom Field was a clever Scot, as was my grandfather, T.A. Work, who owned the ranch lands on the other side of the road. These two Toms were known countywide for their skill and perceptiveness and had great influence in the county on land matters. My grandfather assembled the ranch on the south side of the road from different sources, but mainly from purchase from David Jacks, also a Scot. My grandfather’s ranch lands were enclosed by barbed wire ranch fencing to keep his cattle on his property. But Steve Field erected a beautiful decorative fence — the red and white fence still remaining in differing states of repair or disrepair.

My grandfather told him the fence was a huge waste of money and a frivolous piece of vanity. T.A. Work was not wrong about much in the realm of property and money, but I have to say he was wrong about this. For this fence to be still standing, even in its state of disrepair after close to 100 years, is a tribute in its own right.


Until Beck and others weighed in about the history, I was all for tearing the fence out. But she and they have convinced me otherwise.

So here’s the idea. Unfortunately, it will require a committee, but that is not always a guarantee of failure. It also will require a work crew. Beyond that, it gets simple: We tear out the worst sections of the fence, the parts flattened against the ground, the really ugly parts. We leave the rest of it alone to be enjoyed by history buffs for at least another few decades. Unless we decide to paint it, which isn’t really all that hard.

Why not restore the fence, either all the portions that remain or the whole thing? Because that would require capital in addition to labor, and as much as I dislike the fence in its current condition, if I’m going to be involved in fundraising, I have more important fish to fry and so do you.

If the fence really is the responsibility of the state, we might be informed of that early on, and if the golf course operator accuses us of trespass, we’ll have another useful answer. Fine, we’ll say as we walk away, you fix it.

Consider it a test. There are many larger issues that need attention, of course, challenges that seem exceptionally daunting. Our water issue, for instance. Already I know that we’ll be told that it is foolish to worry about a fence when there are children starving anywhere, but the same could be said about just about any idea, couldn’t it? If we could find a measure of success with the fence, maybe it would restore our confidence in our collective ability to solve bigger problems.

So what do you think? And who wants to chair this committee? I’m tempted to nominate Julie Beck and Mike Weaver of the Highway 68 Coalition. Surely there are other potential candidates for both the talking and doing parts of the mission. I’ve got some work gloves somewhere and am prepared to stand by for assignment.


Dear Libsrclowns: Start your own blog



Unfortunately, Libsrclowns has discovered the Partisan. I say unfortunately because this fellow, and I am only guessing he’s a fellow, is like the uninvited guest who double dips in the guacamole and sticks his fingers in the punch bowl.

He has started adding his thoughts, ripped straight from the Internet, to the comments section under Partisan articles, an exercise that becomes largely devoid of meaning when it is attached to a pen name.

On the flip side, though, at least Mr. Libsrclowns has reminded me to do something that should have been done before, which is to keep anonymous posts off this blog.

I knew better when we started. I should have made it clear from the beginning that anonymous comments were not welcome. But I am a sucker for free expression and I naively thought the content in the Partisan would be lofty enough to discourage anonymous heckling without the need for rules and regulations.

There have been some anonymous posters who have added value. Someone named Anne comes to mind, and I have determined that she is not my friend Ann Hill. Anne adds value whenever she pens a response to a Partisan article, and I’m hoping that she is in a position to continue posting under her full name. She’s a sharp one with plenty to say.

Libsrclowns, on the other hand, is more of a provocateur. I’ve read many of his comments attached to the online version of letters to the editor in the Monterey Herald. He’s no dummy but his mission, as suggested by his name, is primarily to insult and provoke, not to argue a position. It has been interesting to watch him continue to attack the Herald as an “Obama lover” without noticing a distinct rightward shift on the editorial page over the past year.

I hate to limit discussion on these pages, I really do. But the mission of the Partisan is to expand the dialog on the issues of the day, mostly local, with an eye toward finding solutions and advancing good ideas. I cannot recall any time a problem was solved or a good idea was advanced through an exchange of insults.

So, no more anonymous posts. Unfortunately, that’s not all that easy to accomplish for logistical reasons. Apparently the only way to automatically bar anonymous posts is to set up a fairly cumbersome registration system, and nobody wants to mess with that. The usefulness of the Partisan rises in direct proportion to the number of people reading it and engaging with it, and a registration system creates too much of a barrier.

Instead, we will simply excise anonymous posts. By we, I mean me and the Partisan’s technical guru, Paul Skolnick. Both of us have lives beyond the Partisan, so we aren’t able to monitor posts constantly, which means some anonymous comments will make their way onto the site, where they will be able to roll around in the mud for some time before being escorted off the premises.

I’ve already removed a couple of comments from Libsrclowns and he has accused me of doing so because I oppose his views. The truth, of course, is that views of just about every type are welcome here. Even his. It’s his mean-spiritedness I oppose, and his cowardly approach.

A couple of people have been blocked from posting here. One quickly accused me of violating his First Amendment rights, which demonstrates his misunderstanding of the First Amendment. What it says is that Congress can’t make a law preventing him from making a fool of himself in public. It does not require me or anyone else to give him a stage.

So there you have it, Libsrclowns and Ronthewise, another frequent Herald poster, who would be welcome to post here if he would use his real name, which is Ron Lomanto.

Comments are welcome and encouraged. I dare say they are the most entertaining and useful part of the Partisan. Views of almost all type are welcome, even ridiculous ones. If you have information to impart and simply can’t accomplish that with your name attached, email it to calkinsroyal@gmail.com. We’ll try to check it out.

What isn’t welcome is anonymous postings or signed postings that attack other people. Racist stuff is out and so is Muslim-bashing. But if you want to challenge someone’s opinion, have at it, go ahead on, give it your best shot, attack away. Just restrain yourself if you feel it necessary to attack someone else’s heritage, parentage or intelligence.

Hate the policy? Have an opinion? Fine. Own it.


man with american flag on shirt showing heart of his handsFormer New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told a bunch of conservative moneybags and pundits at a get-to-know GOP presidential aspirant Scott Walker event that President Obama just doesn’t love America.

Giuliani told the crowd, whose repast apparently didn’t include enough raw meat, that Obama wasn’t brought up like them “through love of this country.”

Though he was a Democrat until 1975, Giuliani knows well the conservative brand of country love, though his abysmal showing in the 2008 presidential race hinted his love for GOP primary voters is a decidedly unrequited ardor. His top showing was seducing a whopping 15 percent of Florida GOP voters to kiss him with their votes.

A day after decrying the president’s frigidity on America, Giuliani went on television to “clarify” he wasn’t calling the president unpatriotic while questioning his upbringing and love of country. I suppose his message for Americans is their president is just not that into them.

So how can one tell if he or she really loves America enough to score in the red, white and blue range on Rudy’s passion meter?

Here’s a little quiz to test your own love affair with America. Give yourself a bald eagle feather for each correct answer.

1. How exceptional is America?

A. Really, really exceptional.

B. Severely exceptional.

C.  So exceptional there should be a picture of America in dictionaries where the word exceptional is defined.

D. Breathtakingly exceptional —  in and out of bed.

2. What do you love most about America?

A. Its beautiful money.

B. Its rich people because they have been blessed.

C. Its flirtatious free markets accessorized by farm subsidies, oil depletion allowances, Pentagon contracts and write-offs on yachts.

D. How its richest people are so smart and noble, and the best kissers.

3. When America comes home tired, do you have drinks and dinner ready?

A. Always.

B. Sometimes.

C. If I haven’t forgotten the hour while listening to “Atlas Shrugged” on tape, which America gave me for our last anniversary.

D. Of course, America works so hard. I have currency-scented candles on the dining table and this cute little apron America bought for my last birthday.

4. What part of America drives you wild?

A. Its purple mountain majesty.

B.  The way its fruited plains tickle.

C. Definitely the piercing looks from its spacious skies.

D. Sitting atop its city on the hill.

5. How much do you and America engage in Congress?

A. The state of our union is strong.

B. Often, if the floor whips are working.

C. To the point of blissful exhaustion with 535 members.

D. Things pick up when the Senate cloakroom is unoccupied.

6. Have you ever had an affair with someone besides America?

A. I’ll take the Fifth.

B. Heavens no!

C. There’s only one America for me, despite radical talk about “other Americas.”

D. Though shirtless Putin made me weak in the knees, I’m a true Yankee Doodle Randy Dandy.

7. Do you and America have any secret turn-ons?

A. We read sections of the Starr Report to each other.

B. Rose petals and crisp currency strewn about the boudoir.

C. Old issues of the Forbes 500.

D. We do pretend takeoffs and landings in our private jet.

8. How do you and America make up after a silly argument?

A. Cut taxes for the wealthy.

B. Drill, baby, drill.

C. Take off all our red tape.

D. Cherish our private … property!

9. What part of America’s history makes you tingle.

A. When America won World Wars I and II.

B. When America won the Punic Wars, the 100-Year War and the War of the Roses.

C. When President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers and was canonized.

D. The day I first saw America from my nanny’s arms.

10. What part of the Bill of Rights strengthens your love for America?

A. Champagne.

B. Bare arms … bare everything.

C. Freedom to worship each other.

D. Do you mean Bill O’Reilly?

Answers: 1, F; 2, Rudy; 3, Mugwumps; 4, Kama Sutra; 5. listicle; 6, Parson Weems; 7, Interior Department; 8, hookup; 9, Beatles or Stones?; 10, again?


BULL AND BEARWhen things are going well, the Buich brothers are a couple of affable guys. Their family has been in the restaurant business for decades and they generally understand how the hospitality business works. But when things aren’t going so well, it becomes a different story, one that won’t necessarily have a happy ending.

Brothers Anthony and Alex Buich own and operate the Bull and Bear Whiskey Bar and Tap House on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, formerly known as the Mucky Duck. It is the liveliest nightspot downtown, with music and sometimes boisterous crowds. For the most part, that’s all fine and good. But sometimes things get a little too lively, according to the Monterey Police Department, which says the places accounts for far more than its share of police calls in the area.

So this week, in an effort to calm things down, the Monterey City Council ordered the bar to close an hour early—1 a.m. instead of 2 a.m.—for the next three months. Councilman Ed Smith suggested the proprietors were lucky that closing time wasn’t set much early. Relations between the business and the city have been rocky for years, starting well before the Buich brothers acquired it, and city officials are justifiably tired of hearing that the place is being picked on.

So did the brothers go away contrite after the unanimous vote and full of promises to do better? Not according to what Anthony, the older brother, had to say on Facebook. He lit out at the council and Phil Molnar, the Monterey Herald reporter who had covered the proceedings.

First, he criticized Molnar for not mentioning “all the fundraising for military and the hosted events for local charities over the last 3-plus years under new management… .” (Reminds me of the defense fraternity presidents put up when their houses have come under any kind of scrutiny.) He also criticized Molnar for not having visited the establishment while working on the story, even though he had.

After Molnar politely responded, Anthony poured it on.

“Phil, you disgust me,” he wrote. Really. But he wasn’t finished. “You and the city council are about as clueless as it can be. You helped crush the income of over 20 people with your garbage. Nice work. You write like a child.”

I don’t want to make too much of this. When we’re angry many of us say things we shouldn’t. I also wouldn’t want the City Council to hold this against the business going forward. But it leaves me unconvinced that the proprietors have been as diligent as they claim about addressing the issues, which primarily relate to a simple matter of allowing some customers to drink more than they should.

I like to see people downtown. It’s nice knowing that there’s a place where people can go to dance and drink, a place where young people can act like young people. I’d like to see more places with live music and large crowds, places that don’t close down at sunset.

But making nightclubs work well is a  tough job and a big responsibility. It takes cooperation between the staff and law enforcement. The Buich brothers say that their place has a disproportionate number of police responses because the staff is quick to call the police when appropriate. That’s a good thing and if it’s true, the police know it. But it takes even more than that to make a lively nightspot a welcome neighbor. Among other things, it takes a good attitude, and that’s something that at least one of the Buich brothers simply doesn’t have.


6a00d8341c630a53ef01676277a278970bI attended a reading a few years ago at Monterey Peninsula College by poet Philip Levine, the bard of Fresno who wrote unforgettably about auto factory workers and, to borrow from the title of his first book, people who lived on the edge in his native Detroit, Spain, Algeria and the Central Valley.

He looked small and frail that night, naturally enough for a man who had slipped into his eighth decade of living and was moving toward death this week at 87 at home.  But the pieces he read through thick glasses at the lectern were worthy exemplars of the work that carried Levine to the loftiest heights of glory modern America can bestow on its poets.

I was lucky enough to have heard Levine read many times before. From coffee shops and lecture halls at what was then called Fresno State College, where he started teaching in 1958, to stages at anti-war rallies in the late 1960s that he shared with ephemeral lefty politicos whose words never had a chance to live as long as those by Levine.*

It’s true many of Levine’s poems are grounded in the close-knit lives of his Jewish Russian immigrant family and the back-breaking, soul-draining Detroit factories where he worked as a young man before he escaped this blue-collar purgatory for college and literature. But others are indelibly tied to the fruit trees, oven-like valley heat, small-town bends in the road, and the Sierra mountains of Central California.

Levine didn’t drop names of celebrities into his writing, other than a few jazz players. And the only athletes he referenced were boxers. No Marianne Moore rococo rambles about the Brooklyn Dodgers for Levine. 

Nevertheless, I recall Levine most closely — though I own nearly all his sports-eschewing books — three ways, all through athletics.One of Levine’s three sons, Mark, was the first baseman on my Little League team when I jumped to the majors at age 9. He had the slickest first-baseman glove I had ever seen, and the most confident swagger a 12-year-old could ever have. It was like Mark had a big wad of real chaw in his cheek rather than three or four hunks of Bazooka. Levine’s poems contain the same sinewy confidence.

Second, Levine was the best coach of students a state college in California ever produced. He was the Dean Smith to dozens of writing students at Fresno State, who went on to become fine poets in their own right.

In the early 1960s, Levine became the pole star for a constellation of poetics that shone in Fresno. Fellow poet-teachers Peter Everwine and Robert Mezey may have been the base coaches, but Levine was the steely-eyed skipper in the dugout whose standards raised the writer’s bar toward the stars.

Then there was the only time I met Levine, and for two hours we spoke maybe a dozen words to each other. It must have been a hot May afternoon, and I was 19 and slamming tennis balls into a practice wall at the deserted tennis courts along Cedar Avenue on the old Fresno State campus. It was too hot for anyone sane to be on the courts, but another player in tennis whites appeared and gruffly suggested a match. It was Levine, in his mid-40s by then, his black hair with its high widow’s peak showing only a few sprinkles of salt.

I knew him by reputation, but didn’t say anything other than what was necessary to rally for serve, and then announce the game score when serving. One set would have been enough that hot day, but both of us played hard and sweated like pigs. We split two sets and started a third for the match.

Back then, I had a very good game for a non-tournament player. I ran the famous poet from sideline to sideline with well-placed ground strokes. I rushed to the net and struck some of the best volleys I ever angled over a tennis net. I was cruising and taking pleasure in how hard I was working my opponent. But Levine was game, most likely aware of my youthful confidence, and getting ticked off .

To this day, I tell myself I threw the third set, deliberately hitting serves just wide and blasting forehands into the tape at the top of the net rather than just over. I don’t really know. It could be I figured winning was more important to him. Somehow I would secretly bestow a small gift to the middle-aged fighter, allowing him to vanquish the arrogance of youth one more day.

Or it might be the man who spent so many exhausting nights on assembly lines and factory floors when he was my age just reached into a special reserve and decided to kick my ass and teach a lesson to another young punk. We shook hands and, panting, said thanks for the game, and then walked our ways.

Every time I read Levine’s poems, I recall that day and his sweat-drenched face. And like any reader, I can tell he used the same kinds of strength, endurance and grace to write his poetry that he tapped to take the third set. That’s what, to borrow from another of his book titles, the finest work always is.

*Levine’s incantatory poem “They Feed They Lion” exemplifies the rage and raw hopes for the future of the late 1960s more than anything done by legions of better-known artists in those heady days.

An earlier poem, “For Fran,” using a tight rhyme and meter scheme that Levine’s later more prose-like style surpassed, is a love poem for his wife, who he wrote in 1962 “wept real tears for these 20 inept lines that celebrate the curse of being a wife.”

Here is the Associated Press obit that outlines Levine’s literary career.


????Jason Burnett’s presentation last week on accomplishments of the mayors’ joint powers agency regarding desalination is summarized in a memorandum contained in the agenda packet furnished by the JPA staff. This memorandum provides specific examples of claimed JPA positive accomplishments, from its inception up until the present, with respect to the Peninsula’s pursuit of a reliable water supply.

Here is a summary of those accomplishments listed in that memo::

(1)  Obtaining securitization on behalf of Cal Am (meaning convincing the state to qualify Cal Am for funding at lower interest  than the utility could obtain from private lenders);

(2) Supporting Cal Am regarding “source water” issues (meaning the utility’s start-and-stop efforts to obtain sub-surface water as a source for its proposed desal plant in the Marina area);

(3)  Helping move forward the Ground Water Recharge (GWR) project, a project, already successful in Orange County, to highly treat wastewater so that it is drinkable, and to inject it into the Seaside aquifer for storage and co-mingling with other sources of water for the Peninsula;

(4)  Working with the State Water Board to extend the date of the cease and desist order (CDO)  to get Cal Am off the Carmel Rive; (meaning, among other things, no fines for Cal Am for missing the CDO deadline if it brings a desal plant online by 2020); and

(5) Improving public outreach (meaning a better effort in selling Cal Am’s project, and the JPA’s role in it, to the public).

My response to the above is to comment on each of the mayor’s points and, more importantly, to list areas in which the JPA decidedly has NOT exercised leadership, where circumstances would have dictated that such leadership was strongly called for. Bear in mind that costs incurred by Cal Am in pursuing the desal project are subject to recovery from its ratepayers, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), an agency historically motivated to do so at every turn.

(1) Securitization: A good result, but not a herculean effort that generates a “Wow – they did that!”  There is precedent for this so it is not unique, and it was the water district that took the lead, not the JPA. Also, keep in mind that any savings this effort provides to ratepayers has already been offset, and more, by the failure of the mayors, prior to forming the JPA, to oppose the PUC decision to grant Cal Am almost $100 million more in cost recovery from its ratepayers than the facts on the record indicated it should have been granted.

(2) Continual support for Cal Am on source water – not stated is that the slant wells technology (the option Cal AM is pursuing) for obtaining the source has not been proven to be feasible, it faces legal hurdles if fresh water constitutes any part of water so pumped, and even though its total costs are not yet known, those costs are mostly likely to be borne by ratepayers even if the project fails. The JPA’s unconditional support for this potential result is a striking example of failure in leadership.

(3) Support for groundwater recovery. This is a project undertaken by the Peninsula water pollution control agency (PCA), not the JPA, and the primary successes here are a result of that agency’s efforts.  Support is good, but doesn’t add to JPA accomplishments because the PCA and the water district took the lead..

(4)  Extending the cease-and-desist order deadline will primarily benefit Cal Am.  The ratepayers would only benefit if that extra time would be spent on an independent evaluation of slant well technology, feasibility and cost, but no such evaluation has even been mentioned by the JPA.  And, importantly, it would give Cal Am another five years to complete a desal plant, on top of the past five years the utility has spent moving backward, sometimes horizontally but rarely forward.

(5) Public outreach. The JPA has spent money on a consultant to develop a new and better power point presentation. Wow!  What a benefit. No mention of how many times it has been used and to what effect.

My Points

(1)  From the beginning, the “oversight” exercised over Cal Am by the JPA has been more of a cozy friendship than an arms-length relationship.  When negotiating the initial Cal Am/JPA agreement, the mayors caved in to almost all of Cal Am’s demands.

(2) The JPA has supported Cal Am through delays, mistakes, cavalier treatment of the water spikes issue. If nothing else, this shows myopic vision, where Cal Am is the only object that can been seen through their watery eyes.

(3) Before the PUC rate cases involving  Cal Am, the JPA has consistently and strongly supported Cal Am’s requests, ignoring the elements of fairness, reasonableness required by law and especially in circumstances where some of those requests have resulted from Cal Am’s failure to diligently pursue its obligations under its water franchises.

(4)  Knowing that their primary political support base, the hospitality industry, has already negotiated a favorable flat water rate, the JPA has been strangely silent in its concern for residential and even some commercial ratepayers, who are continually affected by PUC approvals, overlapped with surcharges upon surcharges.

(5) In other words, in line with the hospitality industry, the JPA seems to want the water, at any cost. Damn the costs, full speed ahead!  Except there has been no “speed,” no forward progress, but plenty of costs.

(6) The JPA, in spite of Cal Am’s lack of progress, refuses to reconsider or even reevaluate the status of competing projects; and

(7) The JPA hasn’t fought for county participation; it has only shrugged its shoulders when the county has rejected it.

All in all, if I were to give a letter grade to the JPA’s  “accomplishments since its inception to the present,”  the letter “A” would not come to mind. In fact, when considering that the accomplishments claimed by the JPA to the tune of over $1 million in taxpayer monies, but which are meager, or non-existent, or trumped by prior failures of leadership,  the letter “D” comes to mind more readily (I am willing to give them minor credit for “trying.”) You would think the mayors, who are all intelligent men, would seriously consider closing up shop.

Hood is a former executive director of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments. He lives part-time in Carmel.




Tark the Shark brought out the worst in us, and we ate it up


Jerry-TarkanianWhen I watch a basketball game on TV, I often try to get a good look at the people sitting in the sideline seats right behind the players. I like trying to figure out whether they’re rich or well-connected or both. At the NBA level, those seats go for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and at the college level they go to the biggest boosters, or their clients.

When Jerry Tarkanian was coaching at Fresno State, the seats behind the Bulldog bench were occupied by some particularly interesting and shadowy figures. Connected guys. Though Tark’s heydays at UNLV had ended after pictures emerged of his players hot-tubbing with a point-shaving figure, Tark didn’t seem concerned at all that the good seats at Fresno’s Selland Arena were occupied by fellows of equally shaky standing.

As part of his compensation package, tickets for those seats were Tark’s to give away or sell as he wished. For most of one season, they were used by two fellows who were active bookies and a friend who was a big bettor. Their girlfriends were there too. The bookies came under federal investigation that year for allegedly conspiring with Fresno State players to fix the outcome of games. To shave points and help their gambler friends win some big bets.

Though two grand juries were convened, no one was ever indicted. One of the players told the grand jury that he had accepted money and other items in exchange for helping fix games but no indictment was returned largely because he was too shady to be believable. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t telling the truth.

This isn’t really about Jerry Tarkanian, who died this week in Las Vegas at 84, so I may be accused of poking the dead. What this is really about is our ability to ignore piles of damning evidence if to do otherwise would hurt our team’s chances of making it to the postseason. If reality collides with a winning record.

Tark didn’t care what people thought of him or wrote about him. He cared about winning and getting paid. He had a great memory for detail. He couldn’t tell you the score of past games but he could tell you exactly how his team had done against the point spread. He hit the big time by coaching the infamous Running Rebels of UNLV and he became a star by being a rebel in his own right, recruiting talented kids without regard to their backgrounds or their character, and fighting college basketball’s regulators, the NCAA, so vigorously that some people actually started believing that he was being picked on.

To Tark, winning was everything and, to his credit, he spared us any platitudes about building character. The fellows in the expensive seats? Tark introduced them to his players and called them his friends, essentially encouraging his players to become chummy with them. The bookies took it from there. They were uniquely equipped  to establish warm relationships with Tark’s players. When they weren’t taking bets, the brothers ran a limousine service and a traveling striptease revue. They were also in the car business and were reputed to be in the drug business as well. They had so many things that a young man might want. Their friend was a pawn broker. When one of Tark’s stars showed up at the pawn shop looking for a present for his girlfriend, the discount was deep.

There was no evidence that Tark was in on the point-shaving. No one could prove he was betting on games. He had plenty of Las Vegas friends who could have done that for him if he had wanted. They didn’t call him Tark the Shark just because it rhymed.

I was working at the Fresno Bee at the time. We wrote about the bookies in the good seats and about the allegations that Tark’s boys were shaving points. You would have thought we had called Mother Teresa a terrorist. True or false, almost nobody cared. Tark was from Fresno, by God, and he might be bringing his magic touch to Fresno State basketball, so what happened off the court was nobody’s business, dammit. So his players were riding around in limos and going clubbing with these guys and their gals? So what? Boys will be boys. As long as they’re winning, who cares? Leave ‘em alone.

For reasons that make almost no real sense, we want “our” teams to win even though we know that the members are mercenaries eager to play for whoever’s paying the most at the professional level. At the college level, we root hard for the boys in blue or red even though we know some of the stars would have trouble spelling academics.

The player who confessed his point-shaving sins to the grand jury was questioned once in connection with a libel suit against the Bee. He was asked if he had ever played basketball outside the United States. No, he said. What about Canada? Well, yes, he said, but that’s part of the United States.

During my days at the Fresno Bee, I’d work on the point-shaving stories and on other problems in the Fresno State athletic program. (The same night that “60 Minutes” aired a very puffy piece about Tark and the program, two of his players were arrested for beating and robbing another student.) Then, after work, I’d go home and watch the Bulldogs on TV, cheering when they scored and pumping my fist in the air when they beat San Jose State or Colorado or whoever. My wife would shake her head and tell me she didn’t get it. How could I know all about the dirty basketball program and then root for the ‘Dogs to win? Simple, I’d replied. They’re my team. I’m as guilty as the next guy. Guiltier, I guess.

It’s true, that business about sports being the opiate of the masses. I’m a pretty big sports fan myself even though I know better, even though I’ve seen the dark side, and it bothers me how we are able to ignore the truth as long as the score is on our side.

I liked it when the nation turned against the New England Patriots this year because of Deflategate. We showed some sense for once. But that apparently was an aberration. Recruiting violations are rampant in college sports, even at the best schools, yet we pay big bucks for good seats and don’t speak up when we learn that the college coach is making five times as much as the college president. We watched Tark thumb his nose at the rules, but we still rooted for his teams. This week, people are eulogizing Tark not as a great guy but as a cool guy, an antihero, and some are even suggesting we need more like him in sports.

Adrian Wojnarowski, who covers basketball for Yahoo, was a sports columnist at the Bee while I was there. He got to know Tark well and was the first journalist to get onto the point shaving. He wrote a heckuva column this week summing up Tark’s career.

“Give Tark this: He never pretended the way so many of his peers did, never tried too hard to sell you on the sanctity of his mission. College coaching had turned into an unapologetic grab for glory and money and power, and Tark chased it all, chased it with two fists and no apologies.”

Tark’s gone now, may he rest in peace, but you still have to wonder how many young coaches today would play it exactly as he did if they thought they would get a shot at a national championship. And how many fans would look the other way, no matter what, if it meant some glory for the good ol’ alma mater.


Clean Drinking WaterThe mayors’ water committee has reversed course and released details of the latest proposal to relax the state’s Carmel River cutback order.

Here’s a link to the Monterey County Weekly account and here’s a link to the Partisan editorial on the same topic.