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CaminataThe National Steinbeck Center in Salinas will host a website launch and panel discussion at 2 p.m. Sunday, moderated by Teatro Campesino founder Luis Valdez, to formally unveil Democracy in the Fields, a multi-media project that tells the stories of farmworkers who joined Cesar Chavez’s movement 40 years ago in the Salinas Valley.

The website features a recently re-discovered trove of captivating images by award-winning photographer Mimi Plumb. Plumb documented events during the summer and fall of 1975, when a landmark law gave California farmworkers the right to petition for union elections. The website pairs photos with oral histories – some contemporaneous from taped interviews done in 1975 — to tell an important slice of Salinas Valley history. Together the words and pictures offer a window into a much larger, important, story about the impact of that empowering time on a generation of farmworkers – and their children.

“Mimi was swept up in the excitement as she watched history unfold. She took hundreds of photos over many months. Then she put the negatives in a box and went on with her life,” notes Chavez biographer Miriam Pawel, project coordinator. “Forty years later, she rediscovered the trove of photos, and her curiosity and passion were rekindled. She had taken almost no notes, written down only a handful of names.” The first stage of the website project, adds Pawel, was “to put names to the faces. But as soon as we began sharing the photos, it became clear they were a window into a much larger, important story. Partly because of the memories they evoked, partly because of the transformational nature of that era, and partly because we were showing people photos of loved ones they had not seen in decades.”

Democracy in the Fields tells the story of Cesar Chavez’s march through the Salinas Valley to spread the word about the historic elections that began in the fields in September 1975, and the impact on farmworkers who discovered their own power.

The program is free.

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The new Monterey cross comes down

Cross and sunsetThe metal cross overlooking Monterey’s Del Monte Beach was taken down by city crews Tuesday morning and within minutes angry messages started appearing on social media.

On Facebook and Twitter, the chief complaint was that the minority was trampling the rights of the majority. As one woman put it on Facebook, “Why can’t people tolerate views different than others?” Which leads naturally to the question “Why can’t people tolerate views different than others?”

The metal cross was erected sometime over the weekend in the same spot that a redwood cross had stood before it was mysteriously toppled in 2009. That cross purportedly was meant to memorialize the planting of a wooden cross by Don Gaspar de Portola in 1979 as a shipping marker. Historians quibbled over the accuracy of that account and critics of the cross, including the ACLU, argued that it was a poor excuse to accommodate a religious icon on public property.

In a news release, city officials said the new cross was removed out of concern that it could signal that the city was sanctioning Christianity over other religions.

My suggestion for those upset about the cross coming down is simply this: Put as many crosses as you would like on your own property or join with others and buy some property and make it a garden of crosses. If you need help, give me a shout. I’d be glad to lend a hand.

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A golden first place trophy with the word Best and colorful stars shooting out of it, symbolizing winning a competition or being declared to be top of your field, sport or classReturning to the Central Coast after an Easter-week jaunt to the desert, I was excited to pick up a copy of Monterey County Weekly outside my neighborhood dispensary. At last there would be some recognition for this blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan, which the paper undoubtedly had honored as the region’s best.

My holiday spirit of renewal and revival was crushed in an instant, however, when I discovered that those sneaky folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium apparently had stuffed the ballot box better than I had. Before the Weekly’s “Best of Everything in the Universe” contest, I had no idea the aquarium put out a blog but of course it does and of course it is everything that an aquarium blog should be.

In the interest of efficiency, I let Charlie the Truth and Justice Dog lick my wounds while I pondered my next move. Then, amid the weeds and wildflowers of spring, it hit me. Who are they at the Weekly to think only they can decide what’s the best? (They would maintain, of course, that they do not pick the winners, that their readers do. To that, I have no ready response but I am hoping something will occur to me before I attach the final period to this post.)

So here it goes, the Partisan’s first and likely only “Best of Most Everything the Partisan Cares About Awards,” better known as the BMEPCAAies. (There will be some semblance of democracy because readers will be invited to post comments letting me know their own favorites and reminding me of my lack of discernment.)

BEST THAI FOOD DISH: The Kao Tung at Baan Thai in Seaside. It’s this chicken curry thing that you spoon over rice crackers.

BEST ELECTED OFFICIAL: Libby Downey of the Monterey City Council. I don’t agree with every vote she makes but she’s usually on the right track and she puts so much attention and energy into every issue that she makes most elected officials look like Fernando Armenta, whose back seat must be a repository of unread agenda packets.

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Libby Downey

BEST HOSPITAL: CHOMP and I’m not just saying that because my wife works there.

BEST TORTILLAS: Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria in Seaside. Fresh and soft and best wrapped around just about anything.

BEST DOCTOR: My doctor but I’m not going to name him because I don’t want him to get too busy to see me.

BEST CITY COUNCIL IN EITHER SEASIDE OR MARINA: Marina.

BEST THRIFT STORE: Tie. Last Chance Mercantile at the dump offers up all sorts of unexpected treasures, especially outside, and the prices are right. St. Vincent De Paul on Fremont in Seaside keeps the stock fresh, likely by taking the unsold stuff to Last Chance.

BEST MOVIE THEATER: Maya in Salinas, especially for artsy movies because you might have the whole theater to yourself. Now I hear they have updated the sound system so it probably compares favorably to the new screens in Marina.

BEST GOLF COURSE: Beats the hell out of me.

BEST BUDGET GOLF COURSE: Nine holes after 2 p.m. at Salinas Fairways is a budget-balancing $11 without a cart, and they keep the fairways hard enough to give my drives some semblance of distance. It works especially well for me because my usual playing partner is Larry Parsons, whose running commentary on golf and life keeps me humble.

BEST REPORTER: The Herald’s Claudia Melendez Salinas. She has been criticized by some as overly supportive of Latino causes, which is nonsense. She brings a Latina perspective to her work and that’s a good thing. She also brings tremendous passion to the job, something that is exceedingly difficult to maintain in these dark days of daily journalism.

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Claudia Melendez Salinas

BEST NEWSPAPER: The Weekly. They are not as good as they think they are, but they are  becoming indispensable.

BEST CARMEL NEWSPAPER: The Carmel Residents Association newsletter.

THE BEST LAWYER: If I ever get busted, my family has instructions to hire Paul Meltzer of Santa Cruz. No matter what they did, his clients never go to trial much less jail. On the civil side, especially in the non-profit realm, Virginia Howard is a very good choice. If you or someone you love has been in an accident, I can tell you which firm to avoid.

BEST BURRITO: Darn it, I can’t remember the name of the place but it’s on Market Street in Salinas, west of the Amtrak station, and it’s like this little grocery store with a deli counter. You can’t miss it.

BEST TEACHER, MIDDLE SCHOOL: Derek Yonekura, San Benancio Middle School. He brings science to life. He also brings eighth-graders to life.

BEST TEACHER, HIGH SCHOOL: OK, the field is limited to the teachers my daughter had, but I’d put this guy up among the best anywhere. Phil Moore, history, Salinas High School. First off, he avoids most things digital. Second, he teaches in a way that makes it stick and, third, he does a remarkable job of teaching writing skills even while teaching history. He gets extra points in my grade book as well for his years of work with the teachers union.

BEST ACTIVIST: Crowded field this one but George Riley comes out on top. George has toiled tirelessly on water issues for years and years now and he knows as much as anyone, including the brain trust at Cal Am. It is something of a mystery why all the local news outlets don’t call him for comment when news breaks in the local water world.

BEST COACH: Gary Figueroa, CSUMB women’s water polo. In his current post, Figueroa is unlikely to win a championship. The Central Coast is a water polo backwater compared to Southern California and the Bay Area. But this former Olympian improves everyone he coaches, both as an athlete and as a person. I played a little masters polo under Gary just so I could tell my old water polo friends that I had played with him. They figured I was probably lying.

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Gary Figueroa

BEST WATER POLO OFFICIAL: Gary Figueroa.

NICEST FELLOW ON LOCAL TV NEWS: Felix Cortez.

BEST REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON: Steve Hunt, Sotheby’s. No one will work harder to make the sale or the purchase.

BEST PLACE FOR FISH: Massaro & Santos on at the Coast Guard Pier (first right after going through the tunnel southbound.) Upstairs. Order anything and enjoy the view.

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT: There are a bunch of really good Italian restaurants, especially in Carmel and Pacific Grove, but if you want really good at prices you can afford, try Frutti del Mar on Reservation in Marina. It’s run by a Salvadoran family that worked in all the pricier places hereabouts and learned all the secrets.

BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER AT THE MONTEREY SPORTS CENTER, TUESDAYS AND THURSDAYS: Jon Ordonio.

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Jon Ordonio

BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER OVER 70 AT THE MONTEREY SPORTS CENTER: Billy Thompson.

BEST POLITICAL CANDIDATE: Tie, Jane Parker and Mary Adams. Parker is the District 4 supervisor and is being challenged by Dennis Donohue of Salinas, who is essentially the carpetbagger in this race. Adams is challenging Supervisor Dave Potter in District 5 and she’s a class act in every respect.

BEST ENDORSEMENT: To the surprise of most everyone, former Supervisor Lou Calcagno has endorsed Parker but there has been almost no publicity about it. I called Lou twice to ask him to talk about it  but he hasn’t called back. I’d love to hear from you, Lou. It’s 484-5068

OK, that’s all for now. I tried to come up with others. I wanted to find a category Cal Am could win but I was stumped. Maybe I could have named it the Best Reason to Have Your Own Well. I thought about picking on GOP activist and troublemaker Paul Bruno again, maybe by naming him as the Best Reason to Be a Democrat, but I decided to give him a break. People have been picking on him all his life. The local Democrats just issued a dual endorsement for District 4 supervisor, picking both Potter and his challenger, Adams. Maybe I will make that the Best Reason to Keep Local Politics Non-partisan.

I could go on and on. I do that sometimes. But let’s turn it over to you, the Best Readers of Any Blog in Monterey County. What say you about my picks? And what categories and honorees would you add? Just click on the comment button below and have at it.

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In the March 18 issue of The Pine Cone, attorney Neil Shapiro challenges Ken Talmage’s qualifications for election as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  He repeats current conventional wisdom characterizing several events during Jason Stilwell’s tenure as city administrator.  But Shapiro’s characterization of these events and the conventional wisdom are not correct.  There is also more to the story.

Shapiro correctly states that several employees were terminated during Stilwell’s tenure but he avers that they were rehired “when there proved to be no evidence of their alleged wrongdoing.”  Shapiro does not have access to the documentation regarding these terminations, but the Monterey County grand jury did and it found that there had been employee conduct that violated commonly accepted employment standards and/or specific provisions of the Carmel Municipal Code and that the terminations and suspensions that followed took place with the assistance of counsel and followed an appropriate process.

As a former member of the Carmel City Council, I cannot disclose personnel data, but I can and do agree with the grand jury.  (That said, I understand that two of the individuals who were rehired are making a substantial and positive contribution to the city, and I do not advocate a change.)

Shapiro states that the IT investigation produced “squat,” and alleges that it was focused on Steve McInchak.  It wasn’t.  The city hired the IT consultant to investigate irregularities in the use of the IT system that McInchak oversaw.  In the course of that effort, law enforcement authorities presented information to a judge who issued a search warrant for McInchak’s residence.  Judges don’t issue search warrants based on “squat.”

LOU PANETTA: Grand jury tackled Carmel inquiry with diligence and integrity

I did not read the investigative report  — the investigation was ongoing when I left the council.  But, we discussed it, and I know that it uncovered a series of serious security breaches and vulnerabilities.  As a part of that “six-digit” contract, the consultant eliminated the vulnerabilities while keeping the wobbly system operating and bringing it up to date.  He also uncovered instances of inappropriate use of information stored in the system.  During that period, the city relieved McInchak and his assistant of the duty to operate the system, but they were paid their full salary and benefits and cooperated with the consultant and the city administration.  That arrangement seemed reasonable at the time, as it does now.

Shapiro complains about “violations” of the Public Record Act.  Here we had some growing pains.  While the act requires the city to provide its records to the public, it also contains exemptions for, among other things, information that would compromise an individual’s privacy.  Other laws specifically prohibit the release of information such as the contents of an employee’s personnel record.  When I took office, the city had no process for assuring that PRA requests were responded to in a timely manner and that only appropriate information was being released.

Stilwell established a PRA response process that addressed both shortcomings.  In the beginning, the administration may have been over-exacting in identifying potential invasions of privacy and drew criticism for its redactions.  So, with the city attorney’s knowledge, we outsourced those decisions to experts to ensure that the new process was preforming correctly. That also seemed reasonable at the time

During my tenure on the council, I purposely observed and visited with members of the staff at city hall to assess the general level of employee morale.  I also worked with members of the planning, public works, accounting, and city clerk’s offices.  During these cursory observations, everyone appeared upbeat, except for the poor woman who was publicly attacked for a years-earlier conviction.

After the terminations cited above, I asked Stilwell about employee morale.  He admitted that it was not good, but he had indications that it was improving, and that was my sense, as well.  He committed to me that he and Susan Paul would treat all employees fairly and that marginal performers and workplace disruptors would be dealt with appropriately and not allowed to drag morale down further.

GRAND JURY REPORT: Pine Cone’s slanted coverage created Carmel City Hall crisis

I accept the grand jury’s finding that I should have been more thorough in assessing employee satisfaction, and I would do things differently now.  But, based on my observations, I believe that while some employees were anxious, the work environment was not close to being “toxic” at least for the vast majority of employees.

If Jason Burnett and Ken Talmage are to be criticized, it is for failing to be candid with the public.  They allowed the damaging conventional wisdom that Shapiro parrots to take hold and responded to that narrative as if it were true.  Then, when the grand jury sought to review those responses — particularly in respect to the expenditure of the $1 million that Shapiro quotes, they— as leaders of the City Council — did everything they could to thwart that scrutiny.  They tried to prevent the grand jury from reviewing personnel records.  They refused to allow the jury to interview attorneys who were acting on our behalf and they refused to discuss with the jury what went on behind closed doors — where important decisions were made on our behalf.  Moreover, they failed to obtain from the IT consultant a copy of the “lost” investigation report so that the city could respond affirmatively to the grand jury’s request for that information.  More incredibly, I am told and believe that while Stilwell was still employed, Burnett and Talmage failed to place on the council’s agenda the ratification of the controversial contracts under which the IT consultant and others were employed.  Because of community concern regarding those contracts, Stilwell had requested that discussion and was fully prepared to explain those contracts in a City Council meeting.

It’s tragic to see the city in such turmoil. We can do better, and we should start by ignoring, not repeating, and certainly not making judgments based on Shapiro’s assertions. But, we also need to decide how transparent our government should be.  Although our politicians and others seek to discredit the grand jury report, I fully recommend it as accurate.

Steve Hillyard served on the Carmel City Council from 2012 to 2014. He was appointed to the seat vacated by Jason Burnett’s election as mayor and he chose not to run for the seat in 2014. He presented this piece to The Pine Cone in response to Shapiro’s piece but the newspaper declined to publish it.

 

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imageThere is a lot of talk about the accuracy of polls being consumed by political journalists for breaking news on the odd days when Donald Trump’s latest Twitter eructation isn’t the top story.

The debate breaks down thusly: Hey, polls are getting less accurate. That’s nuts, polls are as accurate as ever.

There are finer points to argue both sides, which are cited by the folks (59 percent of whom generally approve of owning several Dilbert comic collections) who study polling methodology.

I won’t go into all this arcana about sample sizes, landline vs. cell phones, response rates, margins of error and likely voters who like hairball-heaving cats vs. registered voters who own flatulent golden retrievers.

That kind of stuff is too boring to dwell upon. And I lost all faith about this tedious number-crunching in 2012, when the polls predicted a real squeaker between Mitt Romney and President Obama. We know how that went.

But reporting on polls, no matter how outlandish their results, does drive interest among potential voters and can make or break campaigns when it comes to raising money. And they provide the prime topic for Trump to endlessly riff upon — his terrific poll numbers — when his insult generator overheats and goes offline temporarily.

There are more polls this year than ever, more polling organizations and more outfits that crunch all the latest polls to produce super-duper charts of polls. It’s gotten as complex as baseball since the statistical nerds took over the game.

Obviously, there’s a lot of money in polls in election years. I decided a wise move would be to get on the gravy train while 34 percent of the gravy remains warm. So here are some findings from the inaugural poll conducted March 24-April 1 by the Parsons Institute of Advanced Public Policy and Sipping Whiskey Studies.

— Percentage of people who attend Trump campaign rallies to engage in quiet, thoughtful discussions about trade policies while listening to warmup music by the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Band. Yes, 3 percent; No, 67 percent. Those who would like “to punch Smoot in the Snoot,” 12 percent.

— Californians who support completion of high-speed railroad system so they could lie on tracks before a bullet train if Trump is elected. Yes, 48 percent; No, 48 percent; Undecided, 17 percent, who feel Trump would make those bullet trains run on time.

— Percentage of Americans by party who are concerned that plastic in the world’s oceans will outweigh all ocean fish by 2050***: Democrats, 110 percent; Republicans, -5 percent, Libertarians, 3 percent, because Freedom!

— Percentage of Bernie Sanders supporters who have cool calligraphy tattoos of these phrases: “Eat the Rich” (13 percent), “Soak the Rich (11 percent), “Feel Intellectually Superior to the Rich,” (19 percent) or “Sock the Rich in the Face with Cream Pies,” (4 percent).

— How sad are voters that Marco Rubio dropped out of the race? Very, Very Sad, 0 percent; Super Sad, 0 percent, Really Sad, 0 percent,  Kinda Sad, 0 percent, Teeny-Weenie Sad, 0 percent.

— Favorability rankings of new acronyms for Republicans who say they would vote for Hillary if Trump wins GOP nomination. DINOS (Damned Ingrates Needling Overlords) 21 percent; WINOOS (Wusses Impeding New Orange Order) 19 percent; TINOS (Traitors in Nice Outfits) 3 percent; GYNOS (Gals Yakking, Not Obeying) 2 percent; TRINOS (Trump-fearing Rats In Need Of Spankings) 36 percent.

 

(The Parsons Institute Survey was conducted without major funding. Its findings are based on in-depth interviews conducted with the authors’ two miniature dachshunds, two tuxedo cats and several gas pumps at the Rotten Robbie service station on South Main Street, Salinas. The sampling errors are either insignificant or too vast to comprehend without bourbon.)

*** Sadly, this grim prediction by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation stands as much of a chance of being mentioned during the presidential campaigns as does Donald Trump not claiming he’s the greatest at anything and everything.

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He sat on the curb outside a lean-to where a middle-aged woman still bundled against the morning chill hunched on a little padding against the hard Soledad Street sidewalk.

“Have you ever tried to survive on disability in the third most expensive county in the state?” he demanded to know from the man scribbling notes.

Down the block at Market Way and Soledad Street — the main crossroads in the cluster of tent-and-tarp shelters where hundreds of Salinas’ homeless have makeshift homes — a bullhorn amplified the voices of protestors Wednesday morning against city plans to raze the Chinatown encampment.

“Right now, they need to let us alone,” said the man, an 11-year resident of the Chinatown streets.

That’s what city officials decided to do, at least temporarily, on the first day of a long-planned cleanup of the warren of shelters erected by an estimated 200 to 300 homeless residents. Here’s an earlier Partisan look at the community.

Facing a knot of protestors and a few tense moments when a bottle flew and a man screamed at someone shooting video, city officials backed off plans to immediately begin clearing the homeless village hung along Chinatown’s fences and walls. Officials said they have 30 days to do the job under city ordinance.

For years, Salinas has made periodic sweeps in Chinatown to remove debris and rubbish for what officials have called public health hazards. The latest sweep — for which a federal judge cleared the way earlier this month — is different. This time, city contract crews will truck away property that homeless persons can’t carry and store it for up to 90 days at a city yard. Overnight camping would still be allowed, but everything must be packed up each morning.

“Whatever happened to the land of free?” a man in a black leather coat asked at the entrance to his tent shelter. A few feet away, a young woman cooed as she changed the diaper of her 5-month-old daughter.

Back at the corner, the bullhorn kept getting passed among Chinatown residents, homeless advocates and an official or two,

There was a promise that housing for 200 would be available within 90 days. City Councilman Tony Barrera said the cleanup needed to happen and so does suitable housing. “We don’t have the solution, but we need your help,” he said.

The councilman gave up the bullhorn as a few critics — what one homeless advocate called “part of the general staff of the poor people’s army” — shouted down his comments as hollow promises.

There was no great flurry of activity outside the shelters erected on the curving fence line visible from traffic on East Market Street. There were dozens of mostly black bicycles under the morning sun, along with a few stacked mattresses, a bunch of shirts hung for drying and loaded shopping carts. A few pigeons busily pecked at fresh crumbs.

“This is the civil rights movement of today,” said homeless advocate Wes White, ticking off earlier decades and their movements for blacks, women, gays. “(This decade) it’s the poor.”

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LARRY PARSONS: The Trump headlines you’ll never see

imagesNo doubt this year’s presidential race is the strangest in modern U.S. political history, with one of the two major parties being overrun by political neophyte and reality TV boss Donald Trump.

Many Republican candidates who’ve been sent packing by Trump have complained the media ignored them while giving Trump inordinate amounts of fawning coverage. A study this week says Trump has received $2 billion in free media, more than all his competitors combined.

Yet Trump has not thanked the media for its lavish coverage. He regularly blasts journalists as despicable liars, mocks leading newspapers as failing businesses and carries on a bizarre feud with Megyn Kelly of FOX News.

There will be tons more Trump coverage as he marches toward the GOP nomination. But here are some stories you won’t see about the cocksure billionaire who would be president.

TRUMP LETS HAIR DOWN

A sudden downpour and a defective umbrella conspired to part Donald Trump’s signature hair cloud, leaving dripping orange strands hanging like moss below the glistening crown of his balding …

TRUMP ADMITS MISTAKE

In a first for his insurgent presidential campaign, Donald Trump acknowledged he misspoke about the time the Trump University basketball team went to the Final Four …

TRUMP SILENT IN FACE OF CRITICAL BARRAGE

Donald Trump continues to surprise. Two days after a scathing editorial in the Wall Street Journal implored him to exit the presidential race, Trump still has not responded to the …

TRUMP VOWS TO BEAT TWITTER ADDICTION

Donald Trump took to Twitter today to announce he is trying to stay off the popular social media. In a followup tweet, Trump denied reports he is entering a Twitter Tweatment Center …

TRUMP KEEPS PROMISE, RELEASES TAX FILINGS

A combination of aggressive deductions for hair products and huge losses in his Trump Cologne division enabled Donald Trump to pay only $37.02 in federal income tax in …

TRUMP ADMITS AWESOMENESS IS HEAVY BURDEN

After a rally marked by thunderous ovations and 43 separate vows to “make winning so common you’ll need to scrape if off your shoes,” Donald Trump confessed his greatness at times leaves him exhausted.

TRUMP CALLS FOR ‘A LITTLE KINDNESS’

Donald Trump shook up his message, calling upon thousands of supporters to treat protesters with “some simple human kindness.” The GOP front runner said instead of punching them in the face, rally-goers could help protestors wave anti-Trump signs when their arms get tired.

TRUMP SEES HIS ADMINISTRATION LOADED WITH SMART WOMEN

Despite a history of judging women solely by physical appearance, Donald Trump says his administration would seek the smartest, most talented women even if they don’t have super-model looks. Potential female appointees won’t be judged only by bra cup size. “Major, major concession,” Trump said.

TRUMP DISCLOSES SPANISH LESSONS

Donald Trump is no dummy or, in Spanish, “tonto,” He disclosed he is taking Spanish-language lessons to better communicate with millions of Americans for whom Spanish is their primary language. “I’ve already learned this handy phrase, he said. “Fuera! Fuera!”

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She calls herself simply Mrs. Coronado and she doesn’t think she or the rest of the Chinatown tent dwellers are standing in the way of anyone’s progress

His name is George. He didn’t mind sharing that. What he didn’t want to talk about was how long he has been living on the streets of Chinatown.

“What’s that matter?” he told his inquisitor. “How long, that makes no difference because time makes no difference, you know. What’s time ever done for you except make you old and it’s going to do that to me, too. Time is crap, man. It’s just crap.”

George is a heavily muscled man in his thirties. Wednesday he was wearing a tight tank top and lime green pants and he was trying to put some pedals on a bike, one of about a dozen bikes circling his tent. The Chinatown neighborhood in Salinas is home to maybe 100 encampments like George’s and even more bicycles, most of them missing a tire or a handlebar or some other important piece.

George had heard something about the city’s plan to clear out the encampments next Wednesday but had no plans to look for somewhere else to stake out some space.

“I never planned nothing in my life, man, and that might explain why I’m here, I guess.”

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon the neighborhood gave off a fairly mellow vibe. Most of the residents were off somewhere. Music played from several tents and people chatted with their neighbors.

Nights are different.

Mary, who wouldn’t give her last name, says she’s fine in the daytime but “scared out of my mind” after dark.

“I hide in my tent and I try to make no sounds at all, not move so no one notices me. I cover my head even when it’s hot.”

Mary said she is 44 and grew up in Arizona. She’s been homeless off and on since she dropped out of college.

“I’d have a home if I could put up with men but I never met a man who was good to me or good for me,” she said.

Mary said she is careful not to attract attention. A friend gave her a necklace when she was living in an encampment in Southern California and people staying nearby were talking about it.

“So that night I just put it outside my tent so they could just take it and not come into my tent after it.”

The city plans to scoop up the Chinatown tents and tarps and pallet houses next week because things have reached critical mass. There’s no plan on what to do with the people, no alternate accommodations in the works, but officialdom is frustrated by the situation and feels it has to do something, even if it’s wrong. The place is a lot like a refugee camp but without the Red Cross serving meals, without running water, without enough toilets, without enough security.

A man of about 60, a Pacific Islander, said he knows why the city is pushing the people out.

“It’s the new Taylor Farms building,” he said, referring to the 6-story office building recently completed nearby on Main Street. “They have people coming from all over. From Japan and Asia and England and when they’re up there on the top floor doing their barbecues they look down and the first thing they ask the Taylor brothers is ‘Is that your workers down there?’”

He didn’t want to give his name and he didn’t say how he knows what he knows. He said that Chinatown will start filling back up with homeless folks three or four days after the upcoming sweep.

“That’s what happened last time and the time before,” he said. He added that he isn’t that worried for himself because he owns a house that happens to be full of relatives at the moment and he has a daughter he can stay with if things get too rough on the street.

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There may be more bikes in Chinatown than homeless people

Across Soledad Street, from inside a pile of rugs and tarps, a woman called out to a man standing nearby, “Hey, mijo. Get my lunch.”

“Be quiet,” he replied.

“I won’t be quiet. My mouth won’t let me.”

“You be quiet.”

“You be quiet. Shut up and get my lunch.”

“OK.”

Another woman, Deborah, said she has been homeless for nine weeks and felt fortunate to be staying in a bunk provided by Dorothy’s Place, the neighborhood soup kitchen.

“I came here from Carmel,” she said. “I’d never been homeless before but I had to get out of a bad situation.”

Abuse?

“Verbal abuse,” she replied. She was carrying her belongings in a backpack because she has to leave Dorothy’s Place at 6 a.m. every day and find somewhere to hang out.

Another fellow without a name said the upcoming “raid” is “ridiculous.”

“There are like 2,600 homeless people in Salinas and like 300 beds and they’re not all for the homeless. They’re for the mentally ill and stuff. What do they think, everybody’s just going to leave town? Where the hell are they going to go.”

The man, 45ish, in an Army jacket and doo-rag, asked if the visitor could spare a couple of bucks for food.

“The Health Department just closed down Dorothy’s Place so we got no place to get food.”

The gullible visitor coughed up a couple of bucks and learned minutes later that, no, Dorothy’s Place had not been closed.

A sad-eyed young man sitting on a curb said he’d be glad to chat.

“Call me Ysidro,” he said. “That’s not my name but that’s what you can call me.”

“Things are pretty nice here right now,” he said,  “but you should have been here last week when it was raining. It was like living in a swamp but without fish or boats. It was like you could never get dry and even under a tarp or something the rain noise would never stop making you crazy.”

While Ysidro talked, a big, shiny, white Chevy Suburban drove by slowly, windows down, rap music pounding from inside. The driver was a fat guy with a beard.

“That’s the ice cream truck,” said Ysidro, “but he’s not selling ice cream.”

What is he selling?

“Not ice cream.”

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Raul has been a Chinatown regular since he was 12. At the moment, he makes enough from collecting cans to be able to afford a motel room

A friendly older man, Raul, sat on a bench below a No Trespassing sign and rested. He was worn out from a morning spent hunting down bottles and cans from trash cans, trying to fill the shopping cart next to him.

“Hard times,” he said. “Hard times.”

“I’ve been coming here since I was 12,” he said. “I’m 63 now. All of it has been hard. What do I know? Never be lazy.”

Raul said he makes just enough collecting bottles and cans to afford a room at the Royal Motel over by the In-N’-Out but isn’t sure how long that will last.

One of the striking things about the neighborhood is the amount of stuff, random stuff, that has essentially washed up on the side of the streets. There are the bikes, of course, and grocery carts, refrigerators, plastic toys, cardboard boxes, old signs, tree limbs, lumber of all types, plastic crates, garbage bags, bottles and cans, broken exercise equipment, a basketball hoop, broken toys, even generators, some that actually work. One of those was humming Wednesday under a tarp that also covered a camper shell. Inside, young men in backward baseball caps were smoking a joint.

“I don’t know those guys,” said the owner of the camper shell, a man in a San Jose Sharks shirt, “and I don’t know how they got in there. Scoot, you guys, OK.” They didn’t seem to notice.

Sitting alone inside her small tent was a young woman who said she liked to be called Mrs. Coronado. She wore several necklaces and her toenails were polished blue.

“It’s hard living here when you don’t have anywhere else to go,” she said. How long has she been staying here? She thought for five seconds or so and came up with “a while.” She said she’s from San Luis Obispo. She knows about the purge coming next week and is worried.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go or where anyone is going to go,” she said. “It’s not like we’re stopping progress or anything. We’re just living our lives.”

As she was telling her visitor goodbye, she had a request.

“Could you buy me an apple pie?”

The visitor handed over a couple of dollars.

“A la mode?”

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No one pays attention to signs like this in Chinatown

On the corner, three big guys wearing nylon sweatsuits were dividing a pile of cash within view of an older man who was repeatedly hitting a cinder block with a hammer for reasons unknown. There were no children in sight and only one dog, a terrier mix that flipped over onto his back and waved his little legs in the air whenever anyone came close. A social worker with a clipboard was interviewing two women who were holding hands.

An old biker-looking guy, probably in his 70s, sat on a folding chair and looked to be napping but then he barked “You’d better not take my picture.” He wore a red headband and a giant grey mustache.

OK, said the visitor. No problem. But can we talk?

“Sure I’ll talk. Whaddya want to know?

Tell me about this place.

“This place is heaven and this place is hell,” he said. “It’s where people land when they’re circling the drain.”

Why are you here?

“I’m here because everything I’ve ever touched I fucked up. I fucked up my work, I fucked up my family, I fucked up my friends. I haven’t had more than 10 bucks in my pocket in 10 years and if I did, I’d spend it on the worst booze in the world.”

What are you going to do when they clear this place out?

“Maybe I’ll get me a job and a car and a house and leave this place forever. Maybe I’ll get some new clothes and cut my hair and become respectable. Maybe I’ll run for mayor. Who’s the mayor now? Joe Gopher? Something like that. Maybe I’ll run for Congress or president.”

What are you really going to do?

“Hell if I know.”

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My son has an idea. It’s a little crazy, maybe even more than a little crazy, but I am hoping it will go viral and you can help.

Below there is a link to a 9-minute video that describes the idea as well as a website with a lot of additional information. If you’d be willing to review the video and if you like the idea then forward this post to your friends and ask them to review it and then forward to their friends, and so on, that would be great. Hopefully it will go viral.

Link to video. Link to website.

The idea is to create an independent political party to challenge Democrats and Republicans in November (I told you it was crazy!)  I think our elected leaders have perverse incentives to prioritize special interests over the national interest and submit to the irrational left and right extremes in our electorate. This has created enormous fiscal and other problems and these same perverse incentives mean the current system can not be changed from within. The only hope is an independent party that is structured in a way that can attract significant support. I think there would be a lot of interest in such a party.

As you will see from the video, the idea is to create an agenda that addresses pressing problems using common sense, non ideological solutions. Then we create a lot of support for that agenda and go viral. When it goes viral that then allows us to recruit the types of candidates we would need. That’s the idea.

So, to make this work, the idea needs to go viral. If you would be willing to review the video and, if supportive, forward the links to your friends and family and ask them to do the same, that’d be great.

I know it is kind of crazy. But I think the idea of President Donald Trump is pretty crazy. I also think four more years of gridlock as we run up an enormous debt and leave important issues, e.g. climate change, unaddressed is pretty crazy, as I strongly suspect would happen under a President Hillary Clinton. I’ll take my crazy over that crazy any day.

Thanks.

Haines is an activist and retired Peninsula lawyer.

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AdobeStock_79264183_WMI’m one of those pesky voters that politics nerds get all excited about — the undecided. It’s still a long way to November. I want to see how the presidential candidates weather the rigors of campaigning, because the job itself is 50 times more difficult. I want to weigh and study what the candidates say they want to do as president.

I confess I am leaning against voting for front-runner Donald Trump, should he win the Republican nomination or run as a third-party candidate if the GOP convention rejects him in Cleveland. I’ve yet to see any aspect of what I’ve seen and read about Trump that is remotely presidential.

But in keeping with the “fair shake” mojo at the Monterey Bay Partisan, I would like to extend an invitation to Trump supporters out there to tell us why they want him sworn into the presidency next January.

Please refrain from rehashing all the vitriol and ridicule that has circulated for the past eight years about President Obama being a dictator, weakling, imposter, terrorist pal, divider, apologist, liberty-hating traitor, etc. He won his two elections. He is not running this year. That tired game is over. Don’t get lost in Hillary-bashing, either, even though it still delivers a good-time feeling like re-reading the good parts of the Starr Report.

I’d like to hear answers to the simple question: Why Trump?

To dig a little deeper, I’ve crafted a few short essay questions. Getting answers to them would help me more in making my decision than, say, multiple-choice questions along these lines:

We should all like Trump because he:

  1. Will make America great again.
  2. Will build a huge wall at the Mexican border.
  3. Is very rich and the smartest guy ever.
  4. Says stuff we’d like to say but can’t without losing our jobs.

I’m being serious here. Please take a few minutes to make your case for Trump on these few questions.

  1. Trump promises to build a big wall between the U.S. and Mexico and deport 11 million unauthorized residents. Are you concerned about the costs and the effects on millions of people? Would you apply for one of the thousands of new jobs as deportation agents?
  2. Trump says he will tear up free trade agreements, impose tariffs up to 45 percent and bring back manufacturing to America, presumably including the many Trump-brand goods now made overseas. What would Trump’s protectionism do to prices at Walmart? Should the president be able to order Apple where to make iPhones?
  3. Trump gets big cheers when he vows to make torture part of the American arsenal again, despite its barbarism, doubtful value and illegality. Do you find Trump’s enthusiasm for torture reasonable and would you be comfortable with him deciding who is to be tortured?
  4. Trump seems incapable of letting any criticism go without responding with insults, attorney demand letters or blanket denials. He dismisses many national and international leaders as being weak and stupid. He long has contended the rest of the world is laughing at the United States. Would he be a good commander in chief of the world’s largest military with its mightiest nuclear arsenal?
  5. Trump says he would be a uniter, yet he has called for a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the country and asserts many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims hate the United States. Doesn’t this fly in the face of the right of religious freedom under the Constitution? How is this different from condemning as evil great numbers of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus or members of any other faiths?

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful answers. I want to make a good decision when I vote in November.

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Political Party AnimalsHave you ever sat through one of the many presidential debates, Republican or Democrat, and thought, “I could ask better questions than those moderators!”??

With a few exceptions, mostly on the Democratic side but also during the vaudeville act featuring the GOP candidates, the debates have been entertaining but not educational with respect to positions, policies, strategies, etc.  And even if the debates had been dreadfully dull but did focus solely on policies and positions, they still would have fallen short of real substance. I contend that’s because the moderators never ask the real questions that they should be asking.

Here’s the context.  Politics in the U.S. has degenerated into stubbornly held positions on the fringes of both conservatism and liberalism, with no middle ground. Democrats are against Republicans and vice versa just because the parties expect total loyalty, nothing less. There is collaboration on certain issues that can’t be ignored, such as negotiating an 11th-hour interim budget, or responding to a terrorist attack. But when dealing with other major issues such as affordable health care, immigration, or protecting and growing jobs, the parties and their candidates take the public position that they will oppose what their opponents propose — period.

Unfortunately, a major portion of the faithful on both sides of the aisle want their elected officials to follow the script — fight against big government if you’re a conservative, increase governmental benefits if you’re a liberal, and promise to recall any official who shows a weakness by even thinking of compromise.

Most of us complain nothin’ gets done in Washington, but, by God, none of us are going to waive our righteous rights on the big issues, the Second Amendment, for instance. So, where’s the incentive to change the system, as bad and sad as it really is?

Polarized politics is a reality at every level, starting with the counties. Look around. Who is supporting whom for supervisor?  Who is supporting whom for the state Legislature?  Who is supporting whom for Congress?   Is it any surprise that the Democratic candidate for president will win the popular vote in Monterey County no matter who it turns out to be?

With partisanship so pervasive, debate moderators need to follow up with the necessary questions that take that fact of life into account. Here’s what needs to be asked:

You have said you are for X and you will bring the experience and commitment to get X done.  However, unless you have a Congress that is controlled by your party, what makes you think you can actually do what you promise? Tell us how you specifically would reach across the aisle to obtain the necessary amount of support. What is your experience in fashioning successful political compromises on major and controversial issues? Do you think that, as a conservative or as a liberal you must adhere to that political philosophy in everything you would do if elected, or would you be willing to listen to and incorporate useful and appropriate ideas generated by the opposition?

If you can’t tell us how you will successfully navigate the process, why are you so certain that your promises to the electorate would ever be realized? Finally, to what extent are you willing to accept a compromise that falls fairly short of the promises you made time after time at rally after rally?

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

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Time.There is a growing effort to get California off the Daylight Saving Time regimen that will make this weekend the shortest of the year. Clocks spring forward an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, thereby shaving 60 minutes, in a flash, off the standard 48 hours for kicking back on the weekend. Burn. That’s been the law in California since 1949 and remains the practice in most of the world today.

But the rationale for this annual changing of the clock is coming under increasing criticism. There are serious questions about possible impacts on physical health and psychological well-being, and dubious energy-saving claims.

As a kid, I loved Daylight Saving Time. It meant long summer afternoons were longer. There was still a twilight glow at 9 p.m., meaning the epic whiffle-ball game could continue a few more innings.

The phrase itself appealed to my childish imagination. It conjured a mental picture of reaching toward the sky and grabbing a few sunbeams to stuff into my pocket along with the sunflower seed hulls, cherry pits, rubber bands and humorless Bazooka gum comics. I felt like Apollo, 8-year-old sun god, of 4400 Rialto Road.

As I entered my fifth decade of attentiveness to the clock’s demands, my youthful ardor for Daylight Saving Time had dimmed considerably. There are about a zillion digital devices with time displays in your home, car and workplace that must be reset. And that’s a waste of time.

But most seriously is how I reported for work year after year on the Monday after we lost that hour of rest and sleep. I felt like someone who had been zapped with a stun gun set to induce physical clumsiness and mental dullness.

Just resetting all the infernal clocks drained nearly all my energy. My abilities to ask questions, write a news story and argue with editors (the essential skills of being a news reporter) were gravely impaired. Only copious amounts of strong coffee got me through these hellish days.

The last few years, I made it a point to take a day off on those Mondays from the Twilight Zone. It gave me another 24 hours to try to coordinate my internal clocks with the way time now slipped away in the real world. I explained to my bosses that It would be to their advantage to keep me and my loud coffee-slurping groans out of the office.

But it was no solution. I’d invariably stay up too late and arrive at the office Tuesday morning with the same vacant stare and dead battery.

I proposed a solution. Spread out the time change in 15-minute segments over a week or four consecutive weekends. Do as the old blues lyricists counseled — “ease on in” to the time change. It would be unworkable, of course. The result would be chaotic as millions of appointments, dates and TV start times would be missed by 15 or 30 minutes, instead of an hour.

Now that I’m retired, the switch is far less jarring. I don’t have a time clock to punch, an 8 a.m. news conference to cover or an early afternoon deadline to hit. At the same time (or one hour earlier) it’s been too long since I felt like anything like a figurative Apollo, stuffing sunbeams into my pocket for later use. All those years of “saving time” didn’t change a thing.

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Clean Drinking WaterI was breezing through the local daily the other day when I came across an editorial that put forth a peculiar proposition. It was a response to the Monterey City Council’s resolution in opposition to Cal Am’s request for a $50 million rate increase to compensate itself for water it didn’t sell because its customers were being good citizens and conserving water.

The editorial noted that the City Council had asked the Monterey Peninsula Water Authority to join in the opposition. The water authority, which is made up of the Peninsula mayors, was formed primarily to provide some level of oversight to Cal Am’s ongoing desalination venture.

The editorial’s thrust was that the water authority should stay out of the rate increase controversy because it would distract it from its main focus, helping to get the desal plant built. That’s the part I found peculiar.

The desal project, and its companion projects like groundwater replenishment, are in the design and planning stages. Ground has not been broken. There is no welding going on, no trenches being dug, no machinery bulldozing the sand. In other words, there is not an awful lot for the water authority to do day-to-day, not a lot to monitor or even watch between meetings. The mayors for the most part are an able lot and I for one think they could ably do more than one thing at a time.

The mayors’ group represents each of the cities and, by extension, the residents of those cities. Its job is not to be a cheerleader for Cal Am or the desalination project but to protect the public interest, to help control costs and make sure the construction contracts are proper and not awarded to the project manager’s cousin. Heck, even the hotel industry, usually one of Cal Am’s coziest bed partners, is opposing this rate increase. If the authority helps control costs on the desal plant but just looks the other way while Cal Am wins obscene rate increases for other elements of its enterprise, the mayor won’t really have accomplished all that much.

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Conceptual representation of the mind control on people by media.I wandered my rain-soaked backyard with a stuffy head cold, trying to process the latest humiliating defeat suffered by Little Marco to Big Donald, when a huge truth knocked me over.

Suddenly I was privy to the most diabolical plot ever to wrest control of the United States. The evidence has been perilously overlooked by the usual guardians who scare the crap out of the gullible by constantly sounding alarms over any and all un-American fiendishness.

Fortunately, I was wearing my tinfoil-lined rain cap and the signal was loud and clear. I could not fathom how it’s been missed by my fellow basement dwellers, who’ve alerted us over the past seven years to all the contemptible things done by the illegal occupant of the White House.

Only their rants in the darkness enabled us to avert the horrors of FEMA relocation camps, military takeovers of Texas, mass gun seizures, death panels, sharia law, universal kale salads and the complete burka cover-up of the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit edition.

I understand why their laser-like focus has been diverted. The complete Clown College — not to be confused with dodgy Trump University — that is the Republican race to regain American control of the presidency has them confused. I’ll explain why.

Three of the four top candidates, while claiming to be true-blue conservatives, are practicing senators and a governor. This clearly puts them on the enemy side — the government. Why elect a turncoat who collects his pieces of silver while working for the machinery of state that grinds away at our precious freedoms? Doing something that stupid would be very weak. At least Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t show up for work often, but he’s still a part-time tool of the oppressor state.

We need unpolluted people in politics who have never been in politics.

But brand-name mogul Donald Trump is not the know-nothing on which to pin our nation’s ignorant hopes. He has written checks to Hillary Clinton! That must never be forgotten. He says he’s the master of business deals. But deals are essentially compromises, and compromises are what icky politicians do. Electing The Brand would put us further down the road to serfdom, swilling, no doubt, from bottles of Trump Vodka, while he cuts wretched new deals with cronies in the wall business.

True conservatives, Republican elitists and even hangers-on like sad Mitt Romney are so worked up. They are preparing for GOP convention chaos this summer in Cleveland like Yippies and Weathermen before Chicago in 1968. They are dullards, fools, stupids. So sad.

I’m here to tell you: CLEVELAND DOESN’T MATTER, SHEEPLE.

Do you think for one second that Obama, who has been shown time and time again to be a ruthless dictator, king and urban sophisticate, is going to allow anyone else to come after him? Think again. The feckless (favorite adjective of right-wing scolds since 1949) tyrant has already revealed his nefarious plans for 2017 and beyond. He’s not leaving.

Sure, the White House says Obama and the First Lady will stay in Washington, D.C., a few more years until their younger daughter, Sasha, graduates from high school. But if you think the Executive Orderer-in-Chief will content himself with attending spring science fairs, car-pooling the girls’ volleyball team and attending parent-teacher conferences, I have 50 pounds of tough Trump Steaks for you.

How can any Constitution-loving patriot, who has dieted on seven steady years of shocking truths about the Kenyan dictator, believe he will go quietly? WAKE UP! To believe that kind of garbage, you may as well believe Trump’s terrific team of investigators never dug up the goods about the birth certificate in 2012 because Trump has never disclosed his team’s shocking findings.

Clearly the fix is in. The Dealmaker has already cut a deal with Hussein Obama. The president will stay in power, Trump will get his name in gold on the Executive Office Building, and the White House will take a two-year subscription to Trump, The Magazine.

Put on your tinfoil rain caps and get the real story. It’s time to fill your pyramids with grain for the grim days ahead!!!

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: After filing the above column, Mr. Parsons sent a note blaming its rhetorical excess on a combination of side effects from a cocktail of over-the-counter cold medicines and having witnessed the first presidential debate “in which a candidate bragged about the stature of his Andrew Johnson.”

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News bulletin: Parker receives endorsement of former Supervisor Lou Calcagno. Details to come

 

DON’T LET MONEY DECIDE THE JUNE ELECTION

As in most places, the politics of Monterey County is mostly about money. If the Board of Supervisors is talking about water, zoning, roads or agriculture, the discussion is steered and often decided by interests of commerce, development and growth. And because the cities within the county are largely built out, most of the potential space for new business, new homes, new anything, is in the county. That makes those driving factors even more important in the county than in Monterey or Marina or Seaside.

Most of the great land-use debates of recent decades have played out at the county level, casting the supervisors as arbiters in the debate over expansion vs. preservation. They are the referees in the contest between those who see beauty in construction, job creation and increased trade and those who see plenty of beauty around them already. Group A almost always wins, no surprise considering who’s officiating.

Because the outcome is so important, the current campaigns for three seats on the Board of Supervisors should not be looked at as three independent events. The balance of power is at stake, and it is a safe bet that the forces of growth and commerce will put every ounce of energy into this approaching election. They will deny this, of course, but it is also a safe bet that they will play rough.

For those reasons, this is both an endorsement of two of the candidates, Jane Parker and Mary Adams, and a call to action. Parker and Adams need your vote and their campaigns need your money.

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Jane Parker

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Mary Adams

Incumbent Parker and newcomer Adams are uncommonly qualified candidates, two women who appreciate the needs of the business community but who also understand that commerce cannot be allowed to simply plow up and pave over the natural landscape in the name of progress. The decisions made by the supervisors should be the result of a balancing act. Unless both Parker and Adams win in June, unless they receive strong support from conservation-minded people throughout the county, the decision-making apparatus will be tipped so far in the direction of commerce that future generations might not understand what was special about the place.

On development issues, Parker has been the lone wolf on the board for the past two terms, regularly outvoted first by Dave Potter, Fernando Armenta, Simon Salinas and Lou Calcagno and then, after Calcagno’s retirement, by Potter/Armenta/Salinas/John Phillips.

Routinely, Parker has been the only vote against defective projects without sustainable water supplies. In the process she has been vilified by the business community as an obstructionist, a no-growther, a tree hugger. That’s unfair because development interests have not presented her with a fair test by presenting projects without fatal flaws. Rather than a no-growther, Parker is a smart-growther ready and able to support well-planned and well-placed ventures.

Her district, District 4, takes in Seaside and Marina before veering across unincorporated territory to cover a slice of Salinas. That enables her current challenge from Dennis Donohue, agribusinessman and former mayor of Salinas. As mayor, Donohue distinguished himself as a hard worker and big thinker, cheerleading for the community and pushing initiatives that he hoped would increase the tax base and create jobs. The sagging economy foiled most of his plans but there is general agreement that he was capable.

DONOHUE’S ASCENSION WOULD LEAVE MARINA, SEASIDE UNREPRESENTED

Ag interests feel that the departure of dairyman Calcagno created a vacuum that Donohue should fill. Ag’s importance to the local economy is profound. But Big Ag already has the ear of supervisors Salinas and Phillips, Calcagno’s replacement. Donohue’s election would tilt the board even more sharply toward the Salinas Valley, diluting the ability of Peninsula voters to weigh in on regional issues and, in fact, allowing many Peninsula issues to be decided entirely by Salinas Valley politicians.

Expect Donohue to wage an aggressive and skillful campaign. Where Parker is quiet and reserved, Donohue is aggressive and dynamic. He has hired campaign consultants known for their hardball tactics. Already, his campaign scored points by showing that Parker had incorrectly claimed a degree from the Monterey Institute for International Studies. (She says she mistakenly believed she had satisfied all the degree requirements and there is no reason to suspect otherwise.)

Donohue began the campaign with a full treasury, pumped up by large contributions from a handful of ag concerns while Parker is mainly relying on a larger roster of small contributors. As the race proceeds, Donohue will pick up more and more donations from business types in general. He’ll have plenty of money for a campaign dominated by TV ads and direct mail advertising and you can expect at least some of it to consist of low blows. Unless thoughtful people on the Peninsula step up with their checkbooks, there’s a good chance Donohue could simply buy the election the way Cal Am buys elections.

Much the same can be said for the race in District 5. Here, Potter holds the advantage by virtue of his incumbency and name recognition. He has held the office since 1996,

But Adams is the right candidate at the right time. She retired recently as chief executive for the United Way of Monterey County after an illustrious career in the non-profit world. While at the United Way, she built a strong board of directors representing all sectors of the community and developed close relationships throughout the business and non-profit segments of Monterey County.

Politically, she is quietly progressive, a very good match for the majority of the district, which takes in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Carmel Valley and Big Sur. She was persuaded to run by a group that included Parker and former District 5 Supervisor Karin Strasser Kauffman.

BOARD NEEDS ADAMS’ LEADERSHIP SKILLS

Adams is receiving support from many of the same people who backed former Supervisor Marc Del Piero’s unsuccessful run against Potter four years ago. Del Piero went after Potter’s shaky record on land use and water issues but his campaign suffered because some voters who would naturally oppose Potter couldn’t forget Del Piero’s past life as a GOP bigwig locally and his development-friendly leanings while he was on the board decades earlier.

In her first run for elected office, the baggage-free Adams brings an open mind to the big issues. She has spent the past several months studying the issues, cramming on water policy matters, the general plan and other planning issues. She has picked up considerable support from ag interests.

Even so, Adams faces a real challenge in upcoming debates and campaign forums with Potter, who is an exceedingly shrewd politician with unrivaled knowledge of county politics and public affairs. He has served on the state Coastal Commission and on the boards of a long list of local elective and appointive bodies, including the water management district, LAFCO, FORA, TAMC and others. An active Democrat, he has enjoyed strong support from the party structure even though the seat is non-partisan. He is clearly among the most powerful local officials but he has seldom demonstrated the kind of leadership that Adams showed at the United Way.

In his early years on the board, Potter was the darling of the environmentalist community while somehow managing to avoid alienating the business community.  Over time, however, he has found the balancing act difficult to maintain and he has become a dependable vote for development, the hospitality industry and ag. In recent controversial votes, such as last year’s approval of the Ferrini Ranch development along Highway 68, Potter joined Parker in dissent but it was obvious that his vote was just for show. Though the venture is in his district, he made no apparent effort to lobby his colleagues on the traffic and water problems it creates. He failed to flex any of his political muscle and simply allowed the project to win 3-2 approval.

POTTER’S SHAKY RECORD

Potter’s political career has been marred by a series of financial issues of the type that would have derailed many politicians. While on the board, he lost a house to foreclosure. His county wages were garnished for a time and he faced several lawsuits and liens stemming from his small construction business. At one point his ex wife accused him of forging her name to loan documents. He was taken to court by a campaign contributor, Nader Agha, who alleged that Potter solicited a $10,000 contribution from him, directed him to make the check out to a Potter business associate and then used the money for personal expenses. Potter denied the assertions but Agha prevailed in the court of public opinion by displaying the canceled check.

Potter is largely responsible for bringing the widely unpopular Monterey Downs horse track project to the Peninsula, and he played a key role in the bungled regional desalination project that preceded the current desal effort.

Potter has weathered the various controversies by being such an accomplished politician and delivering the goods for his contributors. His support base has shifted dramatically, however, with those who once backed him without question now drifting into the Adams camp.  It is past time for Potter to move on. He has become so entangled in politics of all sorts that little he says or does can be taken at face value.

ALEJO AND BARRERA BOTH BETTER THAN ARMENTA

So what of the District 1 race between incumbent Fernando Armenta, termed-out Assemblyman Luis Alejo and Salinas City Councilman Tony Barrera? I’m not ready to give the nod in that one because I am undecided between Alejo and Barrera.

There’s no question it’s also time for Armenta to go. At one point he may have been effective at representing his district, entirely within the city of Salinas, but he spends most of his time carrying water for his campaign contributors, especially those in the development community.

I’ve supported Barrera in the past and am likely to do so again but Alejo’s candidacy raises interesting possibilities because of his track record as a professional politician, which is not always a bad thing. He has put been putting  considerable energy into Salinas Valley issues in recent months. The question that remains is whether he is sincere about representing the people of his district or is merely looking for a job.

For now, the focus should be on Parker and Adams. They need votes, campaign volunteers and, at the moment, money. Both have had success raising campaign dollars but business interests are poised to outspend them and we all know that money wins elections.

The easiest way to contribute is through their websites. Here is Parker’s and here is Adams’.

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