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IMG_8010 (2)My reaction to Jane Parker’s latest campaign mailer was, in order:

  • Yikes!
  • I hope it’s true because I would hate to have to write a post calling Parker an underhanded campaigner.
  • OK, it’s true, but I don’t feel all that good about it.

The piece in question is a Monterey County Supervisor Parker mailer in which she says that the homicide rate quadrupled in Salinas while her opponent, Dennis Donohue, was mayor.

It may seem like an odd thing to say about the District 4 challenger but Donohue has pushed his public safety credentials hard in this race and has talked endlessly about how he took on the gangs in Salinas, etc., etc. He’s pretty much inviting a hard look at the numbers.

So is it so what Parker says? Well, yes, pretty much. In 2006, the year Donohue was elected, Salinas recorded seven homicides. In 2009, the start of his second term, the number jumped to 29. So, quadrupled is correct.

What I don’t like about it is that the mayor of a city manager-run city can’t do a heck of a lot to affect the murder rate one way or the other. He has no direct control over the budget or police procedures or staffing levels. It can reasonably be argued that Donohue was the force between too much money being spent on less important things, money that should have been spent beefing up the police force. (See the Partisan’s piece of May 6 for an account of how he led the city to spend big money on marginal property to help finance a downtown card room.) But it isn’t as though Donohue ignored his city’s very real crime problem. He is all about economic development and he knows that Salinas’ reputation as a gang hub is never going to attract clean industry.

Also, the mailer doesn’t mention that the murder rate fell to 19 in each of the next two years before rising slightly again in Donohue’s final year in office.

I also found another part of the mailer to be a slight stretch. That’s where Parker says Donohue is bankrolled by a political action committee “funded by oil refineries and corporate special interests.” If she is talking about the Salinas Valley Leadership Group, the biggest contributor to the Donohue campaign, she is correct that is dominated by development and corporate interests but, from my reading of its large membership roster, oil industry influence doesn’t seem significant beyond one local distributor, Brian Hill of Toro Petroleum.

Compared to the shameful Donohue mailers falsely accusing Parker of trying to stop the Fort Ord veterans cemetery, Parker’s latest isn’t all that bad. But as a Parker fan (the Partisan endorses her with great enthusiasm), I expect better than that. That’s why I’m calling it a little cheesy and giving Parker a C-minus on this one.



BILL HOOD: Ode to a Squid


In commemoration of Mary Duan’s resignation as editor of the Monterey County Weekly


Mary Duan, who does not always wear the hat

It seemed to be me to be quite odd
To call one’s self a cephalopod
You wonder about a person’s id
To see her call herself a Squid

You’d think the simple facts would teach her
Not to ape a deep-sea creature
A creature not known for its great knowledge,
And probably never went to college

So it’s hard to see how such a beast
Could so keenly on our pols feast
To tear them up and toss away
Their foibles for yet another day

But Squid Fry calls for us to credit
Her great insight, once we’ve read it
She’s taken on all pols in sight
Especially those who’re never right

And, in that regard, as it’s well known
Those types of pols aren’t overblown
It seems as if they’re all hell-bent
To not help those they represent

So, Squid, adieu, good luck to you
And with words that are strong and true
Remember -each political sinner
Who gave you food to eat for dinner

Bill Hood is a retired lawyer and engineer who divides his time between Carmel and Ohio


Hand holding out a stack of money tied to the end of a stick for briberyLocal campaign contribution reports over the past week created no new intrigues but Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter had three interesting items to report.

Potter, campaigning to retain his seat in the 5th Supervisorial District, reported returning a $2,000 contribution from David Demshur of Houston, whose Core Laboratories is a big player in the oil fracking industry. Potter’s latest campaign filing says the money was returned May 13, the day after the Partisan wrote about the contribution.

With an anti-fracking initiative heading to the November ballot, the candidates are sensitive to any perception of support from the oil industry, but both Potter and his opponent, Mary Adams, have received contributions from South County landowners who could benefit from a fracking boom.

Parker also accepted a $1,000 contribution in April from prominent oil and gas lawyer Lawrence Wolfe of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Potter maintains a big fund-raising lead over Adams thanks to considerable input from both inside and outside the area. Two recent outside contributions that advance the campaign story line: $500 from Chris Bardis and $1,000 from Susan McCabe.

Bardis is a Sacramento attorney who is a big promoter of harness racing and horse racing in general. The Adams campaign has gone after Potter for bringing the Monterey Downs horse racing proposal to Fort Ord and for his behind-the-scenes work to promote the tremendously controversial project.

McCabe is noteworthy because she is the most active and successful lobbyist of the California Coastal Commission, of which Potter was once a member. She almost always represents people or businesses wanting to develop along the shore and she has come under recent scrutiny for her role in removing strong environmentalist Charles Lester from the commission’s leadership position. In his campaign filing, Potter identifies her only as a “self-employed manager.”

In campaign mailings, Adams has made much of Potter’s low rating by environmental groups while he was on the commission, which led to his earlier removal from the commission. He was replaced by Santa Cruz Assemblyman Mark Stone, who has a much better environmental report card.

The Carmel Pine Cone in its last edition attacked Adams with exceptional vigor, claiming she was lying about Potter having been removed from the commission. To support that, the weekly paper interviewed then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, who said she had appointed Stone in Potter’s place only because it was time for a change and that she had not even considered Potter’s voting record. The Pine Cone accepted that as gospel, apparently not even considering that Bass was merely reciting the type of lines scripted for such occasions. It is inconceivable that an Assembly speaker would make such an important change without carefully examining the records of the former commissioner and his replacement. Inconceivable to most, that is.


This photo of Dave Potter comes from Mary Adams’ website, potterfacts.com

I’ve always greatly enjoyed Mary Duan’s columns in the Monterey County Weekly, and I enjoyed most of her farewell column this week. With her husband’s lottery winnings tucked into a mattress, she has stepped down as editor after a productive and sometimes grueling six years.

Thursday’s column was about politics and Mary’s decision to enjoy life for a while. The part I didn’t love was the little section where she sort of lost her way  while writing about Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter and his effort to fight off a challenge by a strong candidate, Mary Adams.

She wrote about how the Weekly had endorsed Potter, setting off some serious groaning from the left side of the political divide, which constitutes a good share of the paper’s readership. I have it on good authority that Duan argued mightily for an Adams endorsement but was outmuscled by her bosses, who got on the Potter train long ago and stayed onboard while others departed. (I’ve always suspected it has something to do with Potter being a good source, especially when he needs to divert the attention of journalists looking too closely at his affairs.) The result of the internal debate at the Weekly was an endorsement editorial that made note of Potter’s “integrity” issues. You won’t find that part quoted in Potter’s campaign mailers.

Here’s the portion of Duan column that I found, well, exasperating.

“There’s a heated level of vitriol being thrown our way because of the Potter endorsement – progressives, it turns out, can be a hostile bunch,” Duan wrote. “I don’t think we’ve been called stupid, but we have been called inept and corrupt.

“Potter gets called corrupt a lot, by the way. He’s done some dumb stuff, but in terms of outright corruption, I haven’t been able to prove it (and boy have I tried) and neither has anyone else. My message to the angry progressives is this: Prove it. Prove what you think you know.”

I would be surprised if I didn’t enter Duan’s thoughts at least fleetingly while she wrote that last paragraph. And here’s why. While I don’t have a file of documents that a prosecutor could take to a grand jury and get Potter thrown in jail, I have been involved in covering Potter for 16 years now and I believe it has been proved several times now that if not outright, damnably corrupt, he is ethically challenged to the point that he should not be in office. Corrupt is a pretty big word. One of the Merriam-Webster definitions is a good one, “Doing things that are dishonest or illegal in order to make money or to gain or keep power.” Ms. Duan, I think it has been proved that the definition applies to the fellow your former employer endorsed. (It should be noted that my former employer, the Herald, has endorsed him as well.)

The publisher of another weekly paper in the area, the Carmel Pine Cone, has accused me over the years of being out to get Potter, though he has never explained why. The truth is that, like most people who know Potter, I like the guy. He can be a real charmer and he knows more than anyone else about two of my favorite topics, local politics and governance. Even when he has been beyond irritated at something I had written about him, he and I have managed to have pleasant and even constructive conversations. For instance, he was the one who explained to me why former Supervisor Lou Calcagno is endorsing Supervisor Jane Parker instead of her challenger, Dennis Donohue. It’s because Donohue has signed onto a plan to let the city of Salinas spill over onto some of the wonderful farmland south and west of town.

So, back to the point. What has been proven about Potter, his method of operations and his integrity? I can only tell you what I know, which is a fair amount.

Two examples make my point about Potter’s integrity, and I’ll go into some detail about those. For now, let’s not worry about the house he bought from the land-use lawyer’s family, the building and coastal permits his construction company forgot to obtain before starting projects, the time he was using campaign money to pay his construction company rent, the time he bought a car from a dealer who was seeking a coastal permit while Potter was on the Coastal Commission or the time he tried to arrange free property at Fort Ord so his company could build a hockey rink there. The list of troubling but not indictable acts goes on.

Let’s focus instead on the Nader Agha campaign contribution and the forgery allegation.

Agha, of course, is the local developer and antique dealer who has been pursuing a desalination plant in competition with Cal Am’s. He is well known for his generosity, both to charities and to politicians.

You can read a Monterey Herald article about the issue here and get the details but I’ll summarize the key points.

In January 2004, Potter asked Agha for a $10,000 campaign contribution. But rather than have him make the check out to his campaign fund as legally required, he asked Agha to make the check out to a business associate, Russ Carter, one of a group of San Jose investors who have repeatedly lent money to Potter over the years.

Much later, then-county Supervisor Lou Calcagno told Agha that the money had gone toward a vacation rather than campaign expenses. To make a long story short, Agha then sued Potter for return of the money and – and this is key here – included a copy of the canceled check to Carter along with the legal filing.

Potter denied everything and insisted that he had been exonerated through an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission. It’s true that the FPPC didn’t take any action. It seldom does. But Potter was never able to explain why Agha had written a $10,000 check out to a close Potter associate with whom he had no connection of his own.

Agha at one point said he would pursue the lawsuit vigorously to prove that Potter was lying. Unfortunately for those of us who care about facts, Potter did everything he could to keep the matter out of public scrutiny. Monterey public relations man David Armanasco went to Agha on Potter’s behalf and arranged a settlement. Rather than pursue the litigation, Agha agreed to settle out of court for an unreported amount and agreed with Potter’s request to have the settlement details sealed.

“I’m kicking myself,” Agha said later.

It is true that Agha’s assertions were never proved in court and that the FPPC didn’t charge Potter. But in the court of public opinion, the one in which Potter and Mary Duan and the Partisan reside, the canceled check to Carter is both persuasive and damning.

The forgery matter also made it into the courthouse but, like the Agha matter, was not resolved there. Still, in the court of common sense, Potter loses.

Again, there is a long Monterey Herald story that spells it all out, so we’ll only summarize here.

In 2012, Potter’s ex-wife, Patricia, said in court papers that Potter had forged her name on home loan documents after their estrangement so he could take out another mortgage on their Monterey home.

(The home, by the way, was one Potter had bought from the mother of land-use lawyer Tony Lombardo, with partial financing from the mother, but that’s another tale.)

Anyway, in court papers, Patricia Potter alleged that her former husband surreptitiously signed her name to the paperwork so he could obtain a second mortgage of $193,000. She said that $168,000 of that went to pay off loans that Potter had received from three San Jose investors, including Russ Carter (the fellow who had earlier cashed the $10,000 check from Agha.)

The paperwork was processed in San Jose, at a meeting Patricia Potter did not attend, and the signatures were notarized by a Silicon Valley real estate agent who is a business partner of the investors who received the $168,000.  Patricia Potter alleged that her ex-husband then recorded the documents without her knowledge, something that her ex-husband’s lawyer actually verified in court papers.

The allegations went away without landing Potter in any real trouble. That’s because Herald reporter Jim Johnson, who wrote the story on the allegations, called Dave and Patricia Potter for comment and they got their heads together before returning his calls.  By then, before the story came out, they had come to terms about disputed spousal support and agreed to say that the forgery allegation was the result of a simple misunderstanding.

The headline on the resulting Herald article said Patricia Potter had retracted the allegation. The last time I checked the court record, she had not done so in court papers.

To my way of thinking, Potter could have been prosecuted but the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office concluded that there was no case since Patricia Potter had changed her story. Some tough questioning of the real estate agent who notarized the signature might have produced a different result, but who knows.

Does this prove Potter is corrupt? His supporters won’t think so but many of those supporting Mary Adams will argue that the case has been made. That’s how it goes in politics. Those folks over at the other local weekly, the Pine Cone, are so blind to Potter’s failings that they may try to hold Adams accountable for the words on these pages. The ferocity of the Pine Cone’s repeated attacks on Adams, combined with its historic unwillingness to examine Potter’s record, suggests another form of misfeasance.

As I wrote above, Potter is an exceedingly knowledgeable politician. His understanding of the ins and outs of local governance is without parallel. He has done some good things and I do not believe that, deep down, he is an evil fellow. I believe that he has struggled financially at times, for reasons I do not understand, and that he has routinely cut corners and done worse to get by. Corrupt? You be the judge.

The Potter strategy in the current campaign is to portray Adams as inexperienced, incapable of stepping in to deal with the difficult realities of county government. My counter is that she is highly experienced in the equally complicated world of non-profit social services, that she is smart and quick, and that she carries absolutely none of the type of ethical baggage that causes even neutral observers of Dave Potter to question his sincerity in almost everything he does.

The election is June 7.


Potter, right, enjoys the support of fellow Supervisor and former Judge John Phillips

Dave Potter’s transformation is nearly complete. About all that’s left for him to do is change his registration.

Throughout his political career, Potter, the 5th District Monterey County supervisor, has been a Democrat and has enjoyed considerable support from the party and its spinoffs. This year, however, the best he could do endorsement-wise was a co-endorsement from the local party, which also endorsed his opponent in the June election, Mary Adams.

Adams, meanwhile, also received the endorsements of party-related groups that used to endorse Potter, such as the Democratic Women of Monterey County. Adams also picked up endorsements from the Monterey County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America and the Salinas Valley Democratic Club.

Demonstrating how far Potter has drifted away from the progressive crowd that once supported him, one of his latest mailers (SEE BELOW) includes lengthy endorsement messages from one of the GOP’s most outspoken local activists, Paul Bruno, and longtime Republican bigwig Jeff Davi.

Davi was California’s real estate commissioner under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger (though the mailer makes him out to be the current commissioner.) He is perhaps best known for his agency’s nearly complete failure to prosecute any real estate interests during the height of the mortgage crisis. Some will also remember that Davi was Potter’s opponent in his first campaign for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Bruno would have been a Ted Cruz delegate if his favored candidate had stayed in the presidential race. He says in the mailer that he is a fan of Potter’s as well because “for me, it is all about good government.” He goes on to say that Potter has “an impressive record on issues of importance to us – jobs, the economy and fiscal responsibility.” Look for specifics in the next mailer, perhaps.

Bruno, some will recall, is the fellow who dragged a chain out to a political demonstration on Highway 1. He was going to haul the protesters away until the CHP made him stop. He’s also the fellow whose company, Monterey Peninsula Engineering, seems to have a lock on Cal Am pipeline work.

Also pictured in the same flyer is Potter endorser Steve Bernal, the young sheriff of Monterey County, also a proud Republican.

In his campaigns of old, Potter touted endorsements from the Sierra Club, Democratic legislators Bill Monning and Mark Stone. Not this time. His flyers of old included kind words from LandWatch activists. Not this time.

Clearly the mailer featuring Bruno, Davi and Bernal was tailored to Republican households in the district – Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Carmel Valley, Big Sur and the Highway 68 corridor – so it makes sense that he emphasizes the economy and public safety rather than the environment and social issues. The big headline on the mailer, featuring a photo of Bixby Bridge, is “Bridging the divide,” but the mailer never goes on to explain what divide he means.

There is another mailer, of course, for Democratic households. In it, Potter is still in favor of attracting jobs and economic growth, but in this version he wants to do that “without threatening the quality of life that makes us unique.” (By omitting that caution from the GOP version, is he telling his Republican constituents that he’s OK with threatening the quality of life?)

In the GOP version, he’s all about growth and jobs. In the Democratic version, “He’s said no to bad development projects that poorly impact our water supply and traffic.” In the GOP version, he doesn’t mention the environment. Not at all.

In both versions, he lists a number of organizations endorsing him this time around. They include:

That last one is particularly interesting. Not unexpected, but interesting. The Salinas Valley Leadership Group was formed primarily by contractor Don Chapin. Its board of directors includes Brian Finegan, the Salinas lawyer who specializes in representing real estate developers; architect Peter Kasavan, who helped design the proposed Salinas general plan element that calls for Salinas to expand onto prime farmland; and accountant Warren Wayland, who handles campaign reporting duties for most Republican candidates in the area.

Dues-paying members of the SVLG include Monterey Downs racetrack principals Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer, Salinas promoter and bar owner David Drew, Monterey PR man David Armanasco, the head of the deeply troubled Alco Water System, and the builder and developer of the Ferrini Ranch development that Potter voted against after it became clear that it would win county approval regardless of his vote.

Potter’s mailer to both Democrat and GOP households mentions his endorsements from law enforcement unions. Oddly enough, the mailers to Democratic homes includes blurbs from his endorsements by the Monterey County Weekly and the Herald, but those aren’t mentioned in the mailers sent to Republicans.

In the mailers to the Dems, Potter touts his endorsement by a group called Evolve California, which also endorsed Adams. He doesn’t mention Evolve in the GOP version, however. Perhaps that’s because in order to get the Evolve nod, he said he favored increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing property taxes for businesses. Potter’s making a big deal in this campaign about being the experienced candidate. What he’s demonstrating with his mailers is that he has plenty of experience tailoring his message to his audience, no matter what he really thinks.

DSCN0391 (2)


Some campaign tactics smell as bad as old tuna

Cute sleeping gray domestic cat closeup portraitMy mail ballot and county voter guide for the June 7 presidential primary came in the mail a few days ago. I have work to do. I eagerly look forward to wading through the reading material, once I locate the state voter guide, which arrived a while back and may already have been shredded by Gracie, the wildest of our two tuxedo cats.

Among their finest traits, domestic cats such as Gracie care not a fig for voter guides, or anything the smacks of politics or lacks the arresting flavor of either tuna or catnip. Cats, by nature, are aloof, and their aloofness extends to the hue and cry surrounding next month’s presidential primary in California.

Gracie, for example, didn’t care at all when I watched primary debates among Donald Trump and the 16 Losers, and with Bernie, Hillary and Martin. I imagine she would have some fun, if given the opportunity, to try to unravel Trump’s coral-colored hair cocoon. But I don’t anticipate the presumptive GOP nominee stopping by our humble south Salinas home to give her the opportunity.

Besides, Gracie likely would skedaddle under a bed to hide from all the fireworks if Donald Trump knocked on the front door and began shouting about all the ways America sucks and will continue to suck without him in the White House. Cats have remarkable survival instincts, from which we all could learn. They don’t suffer fools gladly. Unless the fools are carrying open cans of tuna.

But I digress. I found my state voter guide with bite marks only on one unimportant page. It is a little thin, like daily newspapers and Trump’s promises to release his tax returns, because there’s only one proposition — Proposition 50 — on the state ballot.

Proposition 50 would give state lawmakers authority to dock the pay of suspended legislators, who currently, as happened two years ago for the first time, can continue to draw their $100,000 salaries while under felony indictment. Seems logical, but I will have to study the pros and cons.

I didn’t expect to see 20-plus candidates for the U.S. Senate, but here they are in my voter guide in all their glory. Among the top candidates are Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez and Republican Duf Sundheim. I’ve thought for months that Sundheim should change his first name to Duff for better name recognition. But it’s too late for the “Simpsons” Duff Beer pivot.

The lower-profile Senate candidates have as much a chance of winning as Gracie, but they earnestly swear to fight climate change, respect the flag, kill the income tax, fight the power, save the future, repeal welfare, follow Jesus, challenge giant chaos and be all-American. These comments went to print, obviously, before the great Bathroom Panic of 2016.

The county voter guide is slicker and thicker, owing to the presence of sample ballots for each political party and two ballot measures for Salinas voters. It’s amazing how many presidential candidates there are besides Trump (aka John Miller and John Baron), Clinton and Sanders.

But I can’t vote for any of them. Not because there’s no one swearing to eliminate the scourge of feline hairball-hacking, but because I’m registered with no party preference. This goes back to my days as a newspaper reporter. I didn’t want any crackpot to accuse of me of being in the tank for this charlatan or that fool based on party affiliation.

I’m perfectly willing to skip the presidential primary, which despite the increasingly fractious Democratic dust up, is virtually sewn up for a Clinton-Trump fall showdown. I will vote in November against Trump, at a minimum, because he promises to tilt the Supreme Court back to Federalist Society radicals for another generation of Citizens United-style jurisprudence. Case closed.

I see races for the 20th Congressional and 30th Assembly districts on my sample ballot. The fields likely will be pared down to November runoffs between Democrats Anna Caballero and Karin Cervantez Alejo for Assembly, and Democrat Jimmy Panetta and Republican Casey Lucius for Congress.

The most interesting contest on my ballot is for District 4 county supervisor with incumbent Jane Parker and former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue in a classic development-vs.-environment battle. This will go to November, if neither one can win a simple majority in the primary. Third candidate Alex Miller could win a few hundred votes with his non-classic Miller-vs-the District Attorney campaign.

I’ll vote for Parker for two simple reasons. She brings what little balance exists now on a pro-development Board of Supervisors, and the loss of her voice would be harmful to local government. Donohue is a personable fellow, but his hit pieces accusing Parker of single-handedly blocking the Fort Ord Vets cemetery, which is under construction, stank up my mail box.

I’m leaning against both Salinas ballot measures  — Measures B and C. The first one would makes changes to the 1903 city charter, of which repealing rules for competitive bidding on projects valued above $50,000 appears the most prominent. Several City Hall critics penned a ballot argument against Measure B, saying it would benefit “politicians and political insiders.” There’s no rebuttal argument. Seems proponents for the City Council-placed measure could have written an argument for it, if it were really important.

With Measure C, I return to Gracie and our other cats and dogs. This one, placed on the ballot by a referendum bankrolled by the fireworks industry, would overturn a city ban on fireworks backed by the police and fire chiefs. It would enable the sale of “safe and sane” fireworks for the Fourth of July. Several youth sports programs, which make money off fireworks stands, penned a ballot argument for Measure C. There’s no opposition argument.

Gracie, if she’d write instead of caper around the house at 5 a.m. like Rocky the Flying Squirrel, would pen a taut argument against Measure C:

Enough with fireworks already, legal, illegal or weapons-grade. All the booms, shrieks, flashes, smoke, flares and falling sparks scare the bejesus out every cat, dog and non-pyromaniac in the neighborhood. To celebrate national liberty, try quiet study of the Declaration of Independence or say a silent prayer for a nation in which Donald Trump is a great party’s nominee for president.

Listen to John Philip Sousa if you need loud noise. Watch umpteen great fireworks shows on TV. Play “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on your fife. And crack open a can of tuna for your cat, who will certainly appreciate freedom from the cacophonous night from hell.


Supervisor started touting the project six years ago

Business people horse racingNow that Monterey Downs has emerged as a key issue in the 5th District supervisorial race, expect incumbent Dave Potter to try to duck challenger Mary Adams’ assertion that he is to blame for giving the troubled and troubling project a foothold in Monterey County.

Potter’s story, and he seems to be sticking to it, is that he merely made some introductions.  Potter was serving on the state Coastal Commission when he met Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau, who was seeking a coastal permit for a Southern California development. Potter was the swing vote in his favor and they hit it off. And that’s as far as it goes, according to Potter.

The record does not back him up, however, so let’s take a look at the early days as told through government records and news accounts:

June 15, 2010: Potter meets privately with Seaside Mayor Felix Bachofner and Seaside City Manager Ray Corpuz to talk about Monterey Downs. Source: Corpuz email.

Aug. 17, 2010:  Potter and his chief aide, Kathleen Lee, attend private meeting with Monterey Downs developers Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer, discussing “critical paths” for the project. It appears that regular “Monterey Downs team meetings” commence, with Potter’s office in the loop/attending. No other county supervisor attends. Source: Journal entry by Lisa Brinton, Seaside’s Monterey Downs project manager.

Sept. 7, 2010: Potter aide Lee is kept in the loop on Monterey Downs project development actions. No other county supervisor is included. Source: email regarding TAMC-Ped Bike program.

Proprietor’s note: For those of you just tuning in, Monterey Downs is the proposed horse race track complex planned for Fort Ord. It would include housing, a hotel, other businesses and, according to the developer, various spaces for recreation, including an equestrian center, a swim center and more. Among the downsides is that it would require removal of tens of thousands of trees, it would need a considerable water supply that does not seem to exist and, well, it’s a horse race track with all that that entails. Fortunately for the opponents, developer Brian Boudreau appears to be struggling to finance the venture, as evidenced by repeated delays in the approval processes.

April 26, 2011:  Lee continues to be kept informed on project developments. Source: Monterey Downs team meeting email.

June 2011:  Potter and Boudreau travel to Ireland to attend wedding of William de Burgh, director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, whose brother is a leading horse breeder in Ireland. De Burgh is a backer of the Monterey Downs project. Source: Monterey Herald.

Aug. 3, 2011: Monterey Downs meeting at Potter’s office. No other supervisor attends. Source: Brinton journal entry.

Aug. 9, 2011:  Monterey Downs developers Boudreau and Palmer present the Monterey Downs project to the Board of Supervisors’ Fort Ord Committee. William de Burgh attends. Boudreau says half of all Monterey Downs employees will be brought in from outside the county. Boudreau says Potter had introduced him to Fort Ord. Potter says this is the first time he has seen the project in significant detail. Potter does not disclose his previous secret meetings with the developers, the meetings at his office, his advocacy for the project or his personal relationships with Boudreau and de Burgh. He also fails to disclose that had set up a private talk with the developers immediately following the public meeting. (Sources: meeting video, attendance records.)

Aug. 9, 2011: Private meeting with Boudreau and Palmer at Tarpy’s Roadhouse, set up by Potter using his county email and scheduling on his county calendar. FORA Executive Director Michael Houlemard invited. No confirmation of whether de Burgh attended. Source: Potter email.

Aug. 12, 2011: County Redevelopment Director Jim Cook invites Potter aide Lee to a Monterey Downs “team meeting.” No other supervisors’ staff invited. Source: Cook email.

Oct. 25, 2011: On county letterhead, Potter “as the Fifth District Supervisor and Chair of FORA” sends letter to Seaside Mayor Felix Bachofner expressing his support of Monterey Downs. Potter emphasizes that “the Monterey Downs project is unique” and says, “Please allow this letter to serve as my personal commitment to work diligently with you, City staff and County departments” on the Monterey Downs project. Potter points out his role is important because the project “will ultimately require policy direction from the Board of Supervisors.”

Potter writes, “It is important that the Monterey Downs team moves forward as expeditiously as possible” and “I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on this exciting project and should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.”

The letter is not distributed to the other four county supervisors.

Oct. 25, 2011: Potter again meets secretly with Seaside Mayor Bachofner and Seaside City Manager Corpuz to talk about Monterey Downs. Potter brings the county’s chief administrative officer, Lew Bauman, to the meeting. Potter emphasizes that he wants the Monterey Downs project to move forward and not be placed at “risk.” Corpuz promptly informs Seaside’s Monterey Downs project manager Brinton that “Potter made it very clear he would not accept a revised MOU with the project being wholly in the City because he [Potter] did not want to risk another vote by the Supervisors. [Potter] did say he would be willing to work on an MOU II, my phrase, after the City approves the current MOU. MOU II could include more specific items such as where the project is located.” Corpuz schedules a closed meeting of the City Council to discuss MontereyDowns on Nov. 3. Source: Corpus email.

Nov. 21, 2011: Monterey Downs project team, including Boudreau and Corpuz, meets to discuss the “Potter concern” about Monterey Downs “moving forward.” Source: Project manager Brinton journal entry.

Nov. 30, 2011:  County Redevelopment Director Jim Cook email regarding Monterey Downs consultant is sent to Lee at Potter’s office. Source: Cook email.

May 26, 2012: When questioned by the Herald about his involvement in the project, Potter responds that “all he had done was ask his friend [Boudreau] to lend a hand to the horse park organizers.” Potter also claims “he’s seen no formal proposal and is withholding judgment until he does.” Source: Monterey Herald.


From Monterey Downs website


Carmel River photo courtesy of Leor Pantilat. For more on his work, see end of post

If Jason Burnett was injured during his political struggles in Carmel or his controversial efforts to promote the Cal Am desalination project, he hides his wounds well. On a recent Friday he seemed more relaxed than he had in years as he prepared to immerse himself in a project with no political or policy overtones. He carried a giant chainsaw in the back of his pickup and was heading off to slice a dead black walnut tree into slabs to be turned into furniture.

During a break from the morning’s discussion, he showed off cell phone photos of some of the pieces he had previously crafted from redwood and the Big Sur cabin that he had brought back to life. He was more relaxed than ever and smiling like he does when he his son is the topic. He talked about the trip his little family will make soon into the north woods in search of relaxation and trout.

Burnett, 39, spoke proudly of his extremely active role in the desalination project and says he doesn’t worry about the criticism he has received for working so closely with rapacious Cal Am, which in some quarters is seen as a corrupter of public policy on the Central Coast. The way Burnett sees it, if people understood what he and associates have accomplished, they’d be “celebrating instead of criticizing.”

Public-ownership advocate George Riley, the most knowledgeable water activist on the Peninsula, agrees that Burnett has made several important and positive contributions to the desal venture, jeopardizing his political standing in the process. But at the same time, Burnett as a leader of the mayors’ water authority, spent “gobs of public money” and “ignored all the other water costs piling up on the ratepayers,” Riley said.

Burnett is no longer mayor of Carmel. He chose not to run for re-election this year following a period of great contentiousness that saw several city employees cut loose, followed by sizable public protest and, finally, the very public departure of the city manager that Burnett and his City Council allies had installed. It was made worse by terribly lopsided coverage in the weekly newspaper, whose publisher had felt disrespected by the manager. Whatever the cause, it placed another large speed bump in the path of Burnett’s political career.

He remains involved in the desalination project, though not in an official role. While he was on the Carmel City Council, he helped form the Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Authority in order to give Peninsula mayors and residents some say in Cal Am’s tremendously controversial and equally expensive desalination venture. Now, at least when he’s not out fishing, he will serve as an unofficial adviser to the new president of the authority, Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Kampe.


Burnett at the beach

“A few months from now I hope he won’t be needing any input from me,” Burnett said in an interview that jumped from desal to Carmel politics to his love of fly-fishing, something he learned from his father and grandfather, David Packard of computer fame.

Foolishly or courageously depending on how it turns out, Burnett did something no other Peninsula politician dared. He stuck his neck out and provided some local leadership for the desalination project. Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter for years had been in the best position to assume that role by virtue of his membership on the Peninsula water management board, his past membership on the Coastal Commission and his numerous other associations. But when he did become involved, behind the scenes at the county level, the result was a nest of conflicting interests that unraveled the initial attempt at a desal plant for the Peninsula.

Though it has cost Burnett political capital locally, he jumped into the whirlpool with both feet and had some serious successes. Most importantly, considering the venture’s hefty pricetag, he helped create a bond-financing structure that reduces the project’s cost to Cal Am customers by 20 percent or more. He also helped create an oversight body that provides the public with a limited measure of scrutiny over the project, which is now penciled for completion in five years though the construction schedule has been and remains highly elastic.

But by becoming so closely involved in the project, and by working so closely with Cal Am, Burnett’s stock slid sharply in progressive circles over the past several years. He believes, without belaboring it, that his reputation has suffered unfairly simply because of the company’s reputation. Part of an international utility conglomerate, it has come under constant attack over the high and rising cost of its water locally, its general arrogance in dealing with its customers and its reliance on deceptive advertising to beat back a couple of efforts to start a public takeover of its local operations.

The company does have its allies, mostly in the hospitality industry, which fears great business losses if the desalination venture continues to sputter and the state makes good on its threat to severely cut the Peninsula’s use of Carmel River water. But Burnett seems unlikely to regain his political momentum unless and until a desal plant is up and running and running well.

As recently as five years ago, Burnett was seen as a likely replacement for U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, the Central Coast’s longtime representative in Congress. Though he never said he was going for that seat, the troubles in Carmel and his association with desal put an end to that talk. Simultaneously, the Peninsula watched Jimmy Panetta’s star rise, making favorite son Leon Panetta’s actual son the odds on favorite to take over for Farr.

According to Burnett, the desalination project is being embraced elsewhere as “the most environmentally advanced desalination plant” despite the picture its local detractors have painted.

He ticked off the environmental pluses.

  • The slant-well technology, which has led to considerable controversy and delay, but Burnett says ongoing testing of the technology is proving to be a great success. The result will be a water intake process that causes relatively little harm to ocean life.
  • The appropriate size, big enough to help prevent water rationing but not big enough to promote additional development.
  • The locatio, one of the best possible along the bay, next to the Cemex plant north of Marina, which is no longer pristine and creates no habitat or erosion issues. It is also close enough to the Marina landfill to create the possibility of being powered by electricity produced by the burning of methane created at the waste site.
  • The $10 million plan to use underwater diffusers if necessary to disburse the brine if it accumulates at the bottom of the bay below the waste-water outflow.

“I’m really proud of what we have done,” Burnett said. “We will be able to demonstrate that we can do desal in an environmentally sensitive way.”

But what about the cost? Peninsula water customers will be paying well over $400 million for the plant, not counting various related costs, and that’s on top of Cal Am bills that already are some of the highest in the nation.

Certainly that’s a large concern, Burnett acknowledged, but the community has no choice but to move ahead because the alternative is to continue killing the Carmel River and the habitat it supports.

Burnett said he grew up fishing on the river and is motivated more than anything by a desire to preserve and restore it. In his view, continuing to drain the river in violation of state water policy would have been both illegal and unconscionable.

“If we had continued on the same trajectory, the steelhead would be dead. I think in the long run that it will be recognized that this was absolutely the right thing to do both for the ocean and the river.”

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George Riley

Riley, the leader of Public Water Now, gives Burnett high marks in several areas, especially his work to create a public governance committee that has some oversight powers over the process and, eventually, the actual operation of the plant.

Riley said Burnett “became enormously knowledgeable, more so than any non-water professional,” but may have taken too much credit for some of the progress. He said Dave Stoldt of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District deserves serious credit for helping put together the bond package that will shave costs from the project and for the related ground water recovery program, along with Paul Sciuto of the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency.

So what’s next for Burnett, whose family money creates a long list of options? Before jumping into local politics, he was the managing partner of Clean Fund, an investment firm specializing in renewable energy projects, and before that he was associate deputy director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he specialized in climate change and greenhouse gas issues.

If he has a plan, he wasn’t sharing it that day, though rumor has it that he’s likely to play some role in the Clinton presidential campaign. He mentioned only the upcoming fishing trip, and the retro trailer he plans to tow behind the truck, and said simply, “I’m going to take some time off.”

Proprietor’s note: Silicon Valley lawyer Leor Pantilat’s excellent blog, “Leor Pantilat’s Adventures,” includes this section on the Carmel River Gorge.


I was talking to a friend the other day, a former journalist who has covered lots of political campaigns. We were talking about the current races for Monterey County supervisor, particularly the contest between incumbent Jane Parker and former Salinas mayor Dennis Donohue.

Over the past week or so, the news coverage has been filled with criticism of Donohue’s over-the-top accusations against Parker. Below-the-belt might be a better description. He alleged that she has something against military veterans and had voted against establishing the veterans cemetery at Fort Ord. He falsely asserted that she had somehow delayed the cemetery project, costing Monterey County lots of money and lots of job.

Donohue had “gone negative,” which most candidates do these days. Parker has come out with some ads critical of his source of campaign money. That’s going negative. But Donohue had gone farther, all the way to dirty. Going negative is when you criticize your opponent’s record. Going dirty is when you make stuff up.

Fortunately for the voters, state Sen. Bill Monning jumped into the fray and made it clear that Parker had actually supported the cemetery each step of the way and that, despite the impression Donohue tried to make, the cemetery is actually nearing completion at the former Army base. From the tone of the resulting discussion, it appears that Donohue’s strategy backfired badly. The conversation now begins, “I always liked Dennis, but … .”

During my talk with my friend the other day, I mentioned how how much big money had been injected into the Donohue campaign. Big for a local election. Lots of checks for $20,000, $40,000, even $50,000, mostly from growers and other business interests. And my friend had something interesting to say about that. He said that the big contributions had backed Donohue into a corner of sorts, essentially forcing him go dirty.

I scratched my head. He explained that the big contributions had put Donohue in the position of needing to win, no matter how.

His thinking went like this. When people contribute $100 or $500 to a City Council or supervisorial campaign, they’re doing so because they know the candidate and/or appreciate the candidate’s position on the issues. But when a business contributes $20,000 or more to a campaign, it’s an investment. The money isn’t being spent in support of friendship or good government. It’s an investment and the investor expects a return. The recipient is expected to win and to make sure the investor receives something in return, something worth at least the amount invested.

In one sense, my friend was cutting Donohue a little slack. His internal polling likely told him he was trailing Parker in the District 4 race, and he knew that campaign brochures showing him posting with farmers and cops and such wasn’t going to do it. To win, he’d have to go after Parker, and what was there to say?

Donohue could have said, as he has, that Parker has some strong environmentalist leanings and is receiving lots of support from environmentalists. But he likely realized that such an approach was just as likely to help her as hurt her.

He could have kept stressing in his campaign literature that he has received the endorsements from most of the mayors in the district. But most people in the district don’t know who the mayors are and those who do know might not be really impressed by their views.

So, my friend suggested, Donohue was left with little else but to play the veteran card. It had worked before. Developers of the hugely controversial Monterey Downs horse racing/commercial/residential development at Fort Ord had done everything possible to link the fate of their project to the veterans cemetery project and, in the process, they had tricked some representatives of veterans group into loudly supporting the horse racing venture. A couple of ballot measures related to the horse racing project were decided by the nonsensical argument that a vote against horse racing was a vote against veterans. It was dirty pool but it worked, though the  developers still haven’t come up with enough money or water to make their venture go.

Still, the veterans gambit confused voters once, so the Donohue people apparently figured it was worth another try. What else were they going to do? Win by running a campaign of ideas? Win by pointing to Donohue’s successes as mayor? Win by knocking on doors and answering questions? Clearly that wasn’t working so they made the choice to go negative, to go dirty, to go nasty or go home. As my friend said, with all those investors behind them, excuse me, contributors, what choice did they have?

I’ve always been a cynical sort. I long ago realized that our political system is as much about business as it is about government. But I hadn’t ever looked at things quite the way my friend does. I almost wish we hadn’t had the conversation.

By the way, here’s Parker’s latest mailer, Jane Parker May 14 2016 mailer, which goes after Donohue for his campaign contributions. And expect District 5 supervisorial candidate Mary Adams to go after incumbent Dave Potter‘s voting record in the next week or so. It’s fair game, in both cases, but if anyone spots any truth bending, shout it out. In the same vein, a group of local Adams supporters has just put out a flyer going after Potter’s support for the Monterey Downs project, focusing on a laudatory letter he sent to the mayor of Seaside. And here it is:



Stephen_Curry-1There are, deservedly, more video mixtapes, mashups, loops and screen grabs of Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry performing hoops magic than there are recordings of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Possibly.

I like to compare Curry to The Bird, not because Parker played basketball, but because both elevated an established art form into dizzying new dimensions. Curry has transformed the old-fashioned swing of basketball jazz with a bebop virtuosity akin to Parker.

I would be reluctant to share such thoughts about Curry, perhaps the most adulated sports figure in the world today, with Partisan readers. They don’t come to the blog to yap about the entitled world of big-time sports stars, or to argue about whether the Warriors are up to the challenge awaiting them Monday when the Oakland team starts a must-win series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But a post I saw today from one of the people I follow on Twitter got me thinking otherwise. It came from Ron Rosenbaum, one of the best long-form journalists in the country since the 1970s.

Rosenbaum is a serious “literary journalist,” who has written incredibly researched books on subjects ranging from fierce scholarly battles in the world of Shakespeare studies to the haunting possibility of nuclear war.

He spent 10 years researching his 1998 book “Explaining Hitler,” detailing the different scholarly schools — from the political and pathological to the metaphysical — to try to explain Hitler’s supreme evil. It is so good, so learned and so revealing that I’ve read it twice, which I’ve done with a book only rarely.

Anyway, Rosenbaum’s tweet contained a link to an eight-minute mixtape of Curry shots, drives, passes and 32nd-note dribbling solos that is the best introduction, or greatest hits collection, I’ve seen.

And this is how Rosenbaum encourages his Twitter followers to watch the sucker: “This Steph Curry ‘mixtape’ … will lift your spirit. Forget about the 3’s, the behind the backs. Jeez.”

So I did. And Rosenbaum is right.

Take a few minutes, even if you’re not a sports fan, and watch improvisatory art at the highest level. It will lift your spirit and make you smile.


Oil pump jacks at sunset sky background. Toned.Expect to hear lots about fracking over the next several months as Monterey County residents consider a likely November ballot measure on the subject, but meanwhile maybe someone can explain why the CEO of a company heavily involved in fracking chose to make a $2,000 contribution to the re-election campaign of Supervisor Dave Potter last week.

Houston resident David Demshur made $6 million last year as the head honcho of Core Laboratories, a Netherlands-based company that mostly advises oil companies on how to best extract every last drop from their wells. Core’s corporate literature says the “reservoir optimization company” isn’t actually involved in hydraulic fracturing itself but provides “services that are used by others to develop and perform hydraulic fracturing and field flood projects and to evaluate the success of those projects. Our services and technologies play a key role in the success of both methods.”

A quick check of Demshur’s campaign contribution history shows he was a generous backer of John McCain and Sarah Palin and he once wrote a smallish check for a city council candidate in the Orange County community of Dana Point but not much turns up beyond that.

We sent an email to Core asking Demshur why he is so interested in Monterey County politics. We’ll keep you posted about any reply.


Budweiser slips into a more patriotic outfit for the summer

Donald Trump thinks Budweiser beer being labeled “America” beer this summer and through Election Day is just dandy. Or, perhaps, Donald-dy. It fits right in with the theme of his campaign to make America great again.

In fact, Trump phoned into Fox News this week to claim some credit for the recently announced marketing move by Anheuser-Busch. “They’re so impressed with what our country will become that they decided to do this before the fact,” Trump said.

Oh, yippee. Time to pop open another can of America, or just pick up a six-pack of America. Makes that whole what-can-you do-for-your-country question posed by President Kennedy a lot easier to answer. Belch.

This strikes me as a particular egregious overstepping of the norms of good taste, but that has never stopped hawkers of beer. Or political candidates like Trump.

It saddens me to see the country’s good name cavalierly borrowed by one of the most mediocre beers on the market. Budweiser has never been anything but the go-to brew for drinkers on tight budgets who simply want to get tight. Its effect on the taste buds often has been compared, with good reason, to the imagined satisfaction of consuming a tankard of liquid waste from a caravan of camels.

But it’s easy to see why, if a beer must be called America (a big if), Budweiser was on tap. It has the red-white-and-blue packaging. The beer has made fabulous contributions to recent America history in the form of Super Bowl ads featuring dewy-eyed Clydesdales and golden retriever puppies, and beer bottles clashing in epic Bud Bowls.

For years, Budweiser was synonymous with the national pastime of baseball since the St. Louis beer company owned the Cardinals baseball team from 1953 until private investors bought the team in 1996.

But since 2008, the U.S. brewing company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian beer conglomerate that sells 25 percent of the world’s beer. With more than 200 brands, AB InBev could relabel its beers for every nation in the world and probably still have a few brews left over. Along with Budweiser some of its other top brands include Corona, Stella Artois and Beck’s.

It seems odd that a super-nationalist like Trump would applaud a foreign-owned company casually using the name of America to sell its less-than-great beer. But much about Trump is odd. He probably hasn’t been briefed by his crackerjack advisers on the intricacies of international beer trade.

In the past six months, for example, the makers of Bud have been trying to gain regulatory approvals from China to Europe to gain approval for a $100 billion merger with SAB Miller of London, which also makes a lot of beer including Miller, Foster and Pilsner.

At a congressional hearing in November, one congressman worried the massive merger could result in such market domination that Americans would find the only choices on tap at their favorite bar would be “a Miller or a Bud.” Belch.

The only sober conclusion one can make is that these international beer barons hardly deserve to slap the name of America on their Bud cans this summer to dupe suds-minded patriots without some compensation. As Trump would say, terrible deal.

You know he could drive a better bargain. Maybe a joint marketing campaign with America beer and Trump steaks. Or a Twitter picture of himself ready to eat another tasty taco bowl with a tall can of America at hand to wash it done. Belch.

I hope Bernie jumps all over these brewery billionaires and their America beer. It will take a revolution. Or, at least, a nice pale ale brewed at your local microbrewery.

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Tony Barrera

The Partisan used a simple methodology to decide which candidate gets the endorsement for supervisor in Monterey County’s District 1: Studying their campaign contributions.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, one of two candidates hoping to knock off incumbent Fernando Armenta, is receiving support from all over the state. His list of contributions makes it look as though he’s running for another Assembly term, which he can’t do because of term limits. His contributors are mostly from political action committees for industries with considerable business in Sacramento – hospitals, pharmaceuticals, liquor – as well as several Native American tribes with casino operations around the state and construction trade unions.

If it wasn’t already clear, Alejo’s financial disclosures show that he’s running because he needs some place, any place, to land between terms in the Legislature. He changed his address from Watsonville to Salinas just for the sake of trying to land a temporary job. In the meantime, his Watsonville-based wife is running for his Assembly seat. The people of District 1, the people of Salinas, hardly count in this equation.


Luis Alejo

Armenta mostly has support from various unions and development interests, many with no real connections to Salinas. He’s the fellow who likes to tell folks that in his 16 years as supervisor he has voted for every development project that has come before him. Not most. Every. Not just the “smart growth” projects. The dumb growth ones, too. Doesn’t matter to Fernando.

Armenta is the fellow who seems almost proud to have ignored many of the staff reports on issues that go before the supervisors. He’s been in office so long that he’s just going through the motions. He needs to retire.

What’s different about Tony Barrera’s campaign contributors is that they are almost entirely from within the district. Regular people, for the most part, and small businesses. He’s a Salinas city councilman and he knows his city. He’s learned a few political tricks along the way but he is about as grassroots as they come. He understands the issues in his city, the challenges faced by a large share of the electorate. For Barrera, many of the issues of the district are personal, and that’s a good thing.


Fernando Armenta

Most descriptions of Barrera include the phrase “rough around the edges.” He is that.  Alejo is by far the slickest of the candidates but county government already has plenty of slick. Barrera has served his district well on the council and he understands, much more than either of his opponents, that the job is representing the people of that district, not the political action committees, not the developers with their eyes on farmland outside the city.

Tony’s the guy.

Set of wooden pinocchio puppet dolls

Fourth District Supervisorial candidate Dennis Donohue, center, and his campaign advisers discussing what to say next about Jane Parker

For those of you who haven’t read enough yet about Dennis Donohue’s attempt to portray Jane Parker as an unpatriotic, veteran-hating lefty, here’s a little more.

The very short version is that in a news release on Tuesday, former Salinas mayor Donohue struggled mightily to back up his previous assertions that Supervisor Parker, his opponent in the June 7 election, has done her darnedest to mess up the redevelopment of Fort Ord, even going so far as to oppose the veterans cemetery. He even argued in one of his mailings that Parker had managed to block construction of the cemetery despite these two facts. A. Parker never voted against the cemetery in any fashion and B. Construction of the cemetery is well under away and the first phase is expected to be completed in late summer. He said her votes against the cemetery and rebuilding the fort had cost the county millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

In his news release, Donohue stuck by his allegations, though they have been thoroughly discredited by, among others, state Sen. Bill Monning, who sponsored the successful legislation creating and funding the cemetery.

You can read his news release here. His evidence, his only evidence, in it was his assertion that in two meetings of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, Sept. 14, 2012, and Oct. 12, 2012, Parker had voted to change the location of the cemetery, a location that hasn’t been changed.

Here is what Donohue said: “The facts are extremely clear as in consecutive Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) meetings (September 14 and October 12, 2012) that were attended by Senator Monning, Ms. Parker and myself, Ms. Parker voted to request the FORA staff to recommend a new location for the Veteran’s Cemetery, needlessly delaying the project.”

“Furthermore,” continued Donohue, “October 12, 2012 meeting, she voted again to direct staff to look for additional locations and that motion was defeated 12-1.”

Unfortunately for Donohue, there is a record of what occurred at those meetings. It isn’t what he says. Not even close.

According to the staff report and the minutes of those two meetings, there was NO board discussion of relocating the cemetery.

Here’s what it was about, but first a warning. FORA meetings are all about process, not actually doing things: The issue was the fact that the 1996 Base Reuse Plan did not include the Veterans Cemetery as a project. At the request of Seaside City Councilman Ian Oglesby, the staff asked the FORA board how it wished to add the cemetery to the plan and to consider whether the so-called endowment parcel next to the cemetery should be labeled residential rather than open space/recreation. The endowment parcel was created as a potential way to finance the cemetery.

The board was presented with three procedural options. Option 1 involved waiting until Seaside brought forth an entire project proposal for the area. Option 2 was to include these changes in the list of changes being compiled as part of the Base Plan Reassessment Process, since there were other additions and edits needed to the document. Option 3 allowed the board to vote right then and there on changes. There were questions about whether Option 3 would be legally effective.

There also was discussion about why the board would want to make changes to the endowment parcel when other buyers may be available to move more quickly than Monterey Downs, so it could be wise to leave the uses open rather than tailored to one buyer.

On a motion by then-Carmel Mayor Burnett, seconded by Parker, the board voted 7-4 at the Sept. 14 meeting to direct staff to return to the board with an option that allowed the board to move ahead with the cemetery as quickly as could be done legally, and leave the endowment parcel to be addressed through Option 1 if and when Seaside had a project for the site. Since the action was not unanimous, it required a second vote.

That second vote took place at the October meeting. Supervisor Parker voted yes again, but the rest of the board voted no, apparently because Burnett alluded to having talked to the city of Seaside and finding there apparently was some agreement to proceed with all the changes under the Option 2 method in another six to 12 months, which never occurred. Supervisor Parker’s vote for the original motion would have resulted in the cemetery being added to the base plan earlier. A videotape of the meetings shows that neither Parker nor any of the board members discussed the location of the cemetery.

Don’t take my word for it. You can read the staff report and the minutes simply by clicking the links below.

VC Staff Report 10.12.12

FORA 10.12.12BrdMin

FORA 09.14.12 Brd Min


idea concept with light bulbs on a blue backgroundWhile not the brightest bulb in the box, or whatever, I do know that politics can be, and generally is, a dirty game. It probably always was like that, but the recent postings regarding Dennis Donohue and the mayor of Watsonville, plus knowing a bit about the shenanigans of other local pols such as Dave Potter and Jose Castenada, I have to say that, in the day, local politics were a lot more civil.

Nationally, I think most people would agree with me that the cream of the crop in both parties has not risen to be the presidential candidates. While I am a Democrat and personally don’t dislike Hillary, she has so much baggage that even Southwest Airlines would think twice about taking on her suitcases and she is so establishment as to suggest she won’t be as creative and out of the box as she indicates, if elected. And while Bernie has some ideas worth considering, how do you think he would do trying to get a Congress behind him to actually pass some legislation that would be good for America?

I don’t know what others think of Trump, on the GOP side, but there are some stellar Republicans as well who could have served the country as president by actually listening to and working with those elements who would not be died-in-the-wool, extreme conservatives, in order to get something actually done.

But the above observations don’t relate to the dirty aspect of today’s politics – now clearly at all levels.

The dirtiest aspect involves the money spent and where it comes from. There should be limits on what individuals and corporations can contribute that would apply to PACs as well. The average Joe should be able to be somewhat on par with the Kochs and the other deep pockets who find ways to spend zillions. Unfortunately, attack ads funded by the big rollers and PACs seem to be the major source of information upon which way too many voters base their decisions.

The second dirtiest aspect involves time. It makes no sense to have a presidential and congressional election cycle that can last for two years, which in turn, requires more and more money, the major source of “dirtiness.” The states insist on having their own caucuses and primaries, with their own inconsistent rules. As a result of events from January to June, many delegates who will vote at the conventions for a candidate are selected by less than democratic values. Then, from June to November, another six months, more millions are spent, more attack ads are aired, and in the end, the voters have to make a decision, based mostly on allegations of wrongdoing, mishandlings and other mistakes of the other candidate, as opposed to clear and substantive debates and discussions about global and collaborative plans for the future.

Why can’t there be a consistent plan imposed on all states to have a period of 90 days max when candidates seeking the office can argue, debate, discuss, etc. their qualifications and plans if elected, followed by a national primary date – all on the same day? And, by the way, the delegates selected would be all determined on a single, consistent basis? Yes, I know, it won’t happen — but the process has worked pretty well in other democratic states, with less money spent and with generally OK results. I add that nothing is perfect. But, the present system in the U.S. is so far less than perfect, almost any positive change would be welcomed.

Back in the day, I remember the conventions as the place where decisions were made on presidential candidates. Yes, there were backroom deals, and money was a factor, but not like right now. There was a real sense of importance that captured the strong interest of the entire country. Recall Dewey vs Truman, and Ike running for the first time. Those were heady days, when most of the adults I was around were glued to their TVs and actually cared about the results, not having been reduced to glazed-eye robots from months of TV interviews, attack ads, etc.

There was a fair amount of character assassination back in the day, but not nearly as much as today. At the local level, and I was involved with local politicians on the Peninsula back in the 1970s, people running for office did so in a civil way, proclaiming their qualifications and what should and could be done without calling an opponent a jerk, loser, or incompetent. I remember one of the Monterey County supervisors who didn’t like me and my work at AMBAG. But we met over a drink at Tom Hudson’s law office and worked out our differences and drank to it. Try that today.

Back in the day, politics was entertaining as a relatively civil and high-level enterprise. Local politicians were accessible for the most part and actually took their responsibility to represent the best interests of their constituents. Today, some do, but too many don’t. The 40-year water crisis, particularly over the past five years, is a good example of the “don’t” variety.

Back in the day, even state politicians were different. I recall Jesse Unruh, who was an icon for many years as speaker of the Assembly. He could play politics with the best of them, and did so – but he did it, for the most part, in a public way. Even Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan were mostly open and accessible back then. I lived only about two blocks from Reagan in Sacramento, and he could be approached without a lot of difficulty. Of course 9/11 changed all that, but how easy is it for the average California voter to write his/her rep in Sacramento or the governor’s office and receive prompt and helpful responses? Good luck with that.

So, I leave it with this: Donohue is a bad guy; Parker is a good woman; Monning stood up against Donohue so he must be a good guy; Stone has been quiet, but he is a nice and therefor a good guy; Jimmy Panetta has to win because his dad is a respected good guy, and by the way, he has received a lot of money for his campaign; and Mary Adams must beat Dave Potter because he’s been there way too long.

Without any reference to what I might actually know, I could conclude all the above, right or wrong, by just reading what others are saying about our local pols. In the day, opinions seemed to be based more upon actual exposure to the actors themselves, one way or another.

Back in the day is past. Today needs help.

Hood is a retired water lawyer and engineer and former head of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments. He lives in Carmel and Ohio.