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BILL HOOD: Close encounters of the presidential sort


240_f_50443256_vrgj8yxj98kqwi5ydamjb8cvqopx804tNowadays, you can’t get very close to a president without the big guys in suits, mostly bald with scary, grim looks on the face, and with buds in their ears keeping you at bay. It wasn’t always like that.

At one point in our lifetimes (and I am 79), there were a lot of chances to get really near the POTUS. Of course, assassinations and assassination attempts (Kennedy and Reagan), plus 9/11, have changed everything.  If you happen to watch Keifer Sutherland in the Wednesday series called “Designated Survivor”, you can really worry what some terrorists might have in mind for us in the future.

Anyway, it might be interesting to hear from Partisan readers about times when they might have met, or gotten very close to presidents either during or after their terms.

To get it started, here are a few instances where I or members of my family had close encounters.

The first for me was in 1958.  I was a civil engineering student at Purdue and accepted a summer job working for the FAA (then the CAA) at its training site for air traffic controllers at the airport for Atlantic City, located out in the pine barrens about 15 miles west of the city. I worked with construction workers, surveyors and engineers who were building improvements to the airport, including a new control tower and extended runways. I had a jeep at my disposal and drove all over the construction areas every day. (By the way, Boeing that summer used the airport to test fly the new four- engine 707s that were not yet in commercial airlines use. It was quite a sight to watch these huge jet planes come in for landings and takeoffs.

I heard one afternoon that President Eisenhower was flying into Atlantic City to give a speech that evening. We even heard what time Air Force 1 was to land.   So I drove my jeep out onto the tarmac and parked at a spot that ended up being about 10 yards from where the plane came to rest. The ramp was lowered and out he came, into a limo.

No one approached me, no one seemed to be concerned that I was there.

Then, in 1962, I was a Naval officer stationed at Newport, Rhode Island. President Kennedy’s wife had a large home there and he came up to see the yacht races there. I went out on a small Navy ship with others to see the races as well, and his private yacht went by very closely.  But, better than that, that weekend I attended mass at the small Catholic church in Newport. I didn’t know it beforehand, but Kennedy and his family attended the same mass. There were some Secret Service guys but they were very hard to spot. The pew directly behind me was roped off for his family and he sat directly behind me.

I dared not look around and, at the time, we didn’t offer the “handshake of peace” to those around us, as is commonly done now in the middle of the mass.  (My wife actually met Kennedy when she was a college student in 1960 when he was running for president and visited her university in Indiana).

I met Ronald Reagan when he was governor, as I worked in Sacramento and even wrote a speech for him on water issues in the Delta, which I am sure he never gave.  The home that he and Nancy rented was in East Sacramento where we also lived.  One day, I drove by his house on my way home with my 3-year-old daughter in the back seat.  Reagan was out in front throwing a football to Skipper and my daughter yelled out through the open window, “It’s the government!”  He smiled and waved at us.

Finally, when our daughter was a student in Carmel, she met President Ford when he came to the Peninsula and established a summer “home” of sorts. And later, my wife and our 9-year-old son were visiting Disney World and met Richard Nixon, who took a liking to them and spent over a half hour talking privately to them.   Believe it or not, both my wife and son came away liking him and feeling sorry for him.   He actually cried when my son asked him how his wife was (she was in the hospital at the time).  He was not the person we all came to know through TV and Watergate.

All of these just happened, and we can’t take credit for any of it.  But they did happen.  So what about you? If not presidents, any encounters with the current candidates?

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


6360139435793044861461393096_donald-trump-prune-faceAmong the million words offered as analysis of Monday’s presidential debate, a phrase from Fox News’ Brit Hume summed up what is the stupidest double-standard in weighing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Hume criticized Clinton for looking “not necessarily attractive” during the 90-minute confrontation with Trump at Hofstra University. That’s the oldest slight in the book, judging women by physical appearance.

It’s been widely used against Clinton, the first female major party nominee in the nation’s history. She smiles too much. She doesn’t smile enough. Her voice is shrill. She’s yelling. All those pastel pant suits!

And Trump was back working the same vein the next day. He didn’t attack Clinton’s looks directly but those of a new Clinton campaign symbol, a former Miss Universe who Trumped had fat-shamed relentlessly back when he made money off beauty pageants. On “Fox and Friends,” Trump defended his behavior by again criticizing the woman for being a winner “who gained a massive amount of weight.”

I leave it to the voters to decide how Trump’s super-model system of valuing female beauty will play with the American electorate. But I would like to see pundits — not late-late comics who’ve lampooned Trump’s appearance without mercy — take a fair and balanced look at Trump’s looks.

His perpetual scowl, comb-over nimbus, tiny mouth, belt-line bulge and thick shoulders are far from the ideal male form carved from marble by ancient masters. Nothing about his physique, which is perpetually covered by the male “pants suit” equivalent of a dark suit and red or blue power tie, evokes a cry to see any more Trumpian flesh. He, too, is not necessarily attractive.

To be fair, both Clinton and Trump’s bodies appear to be fine examples of how rich Americans who enjoy good health care will physically age as they reach 70. But older men get a lot more slack as their once-toned flesh goes slack than do older women.

Trump wouldn’t even place in a beauty pageant of recent American presidents. We’ve all seen pictures of John F. Kennedy in swim shorts. While we fortunately have not been afforded similar views of Trump at play, it is safe to say he’s no Jack Kennedy.

Gerald Ford kept the athletic frame of a former college football player and avid skier well up into his years. Ronald Reagan was a former Hollywood leading man, who still looked good as president riding horses or trimming brush on his ranch. Bill Clinton, with his twinkling eyes and devilish grin, was probably too attractive for his own good. George W. Bush, who possessed the gap-toothed cuteness of a former prep school cheerleader, caused male and female pundits alike to swoon when he strode across that deck in a flight suit beneath the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

But the hottest president in the past 50 years has to be Barack Obama, whose ripped, body-surfing pictures from a Hawaiian vacation when he was president-elect proved so popular that the First Lady ordered him to keep his shirt on in public. Presumably for the good of the country or their marriage. Neither Clinton nor Trump could hope to match that feat, and God forbid they should try.

Evidently it’s difficult for older boys on the bus trying to cover the Clinton campaign to avoid falling back on the old sexist tropes of physical appearance. They should pay heed to the fact we are electing a president not a cover page model or Mr. Universe.


Sen. Bill Monning and Assemblyman Mark Stone flank Janet Brennan as she receives the Visionary Leadership Award from the Democratic Women of Monterey County. Brennan is a leader of the League of Women Voters of the Monterey Peninsula and a land use consultant to the state LWV and a tireless researcher on behalf of various environmental efforts.


Political Party Animals

If you feel like venting, sharing, observing, postulating or excoriating before or after the big Clinton/Trump debate, you have found the place.

Who won? How did Lester do? Did anything you heard tonight send you to a third party candidate or steer you away from one? Are you kinda scared about this election?


Anti Measure Z poll is as slippery as freshly fracked oil


Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.Opponents of Measure Z, the anti-fracking ballot initiative, are sponsoring a “push poll” that is almost refreshing in how little it tries to hide its purpose, to persuade rather than measure.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, the Google definition of “push poll” is clear and straightforward: “An ostensible opinion poll in which the true objective is to sway voters using loaded or manipulative questions.”

Sometimes when you receive a phone call from a push poll survey taker, it takes a while to detect the spin. Not this time.

My call came just at the end of the Chicago-Dallas football contest Sunday night. The young man on the other end of the line got right to the point. Are you a registered voter? Do you plan to vote in November? Yes and yes.

That was followed by a series of questions about Measure Z, which would prohibit fracking in the oil fields of Monterey County and prevent the drilling of new wells that rely on suspect production methods.

Have you heard or seen Measure Z ads on the radio, TV, Facebook, campaign websites, etc.? Yes, yes, yes, yes, etc.

If you knew the measure would end all oil production in Monterey County and cost the county millions of dollars in taxes and force the layoff of more than a thousand workers, would you oppose it?


I couldn’t exactly answer no because if that was so, I might actually oppose the measure. Couldn’t answer yes because it isn’t so.

There were more questions like that, several of them. One was about exporting foreign oil and one about how Measure Z is deceptive. There might have been one about coal. I didn’t take good enough notes to be able to reconstruct them here, but they were all in the same format. If you knew that Measure Z supporters are a bunch of crazy hippies, how vigorously would you oppose Measure Z? OK, that one’s not real, but you get the idea.

Then the form of the question changed. The “if” was eliminated.

The caller declared that the hospitality industry on the Monterey Peninsula opposes Measure Z because it would end oil production and cause the layoff of a thousand people. Then he asked, “Do you support or oppose that statement?”

Do I support that statement? Do I believe that the Monterey Peninsula hospitality industry opposes Measure Z. Probably so. The Monterey Peninsula hospitality industry and I often find ourselves on different sides of issues. Monterey PR man David Armanasco represents the hospitality industry and he’s working against Measure Z. When he’s against something, I’m usually for it.

Do I believe that the hospitality industry opposes Measure Z for the stated reasons? Well, not really. The people who speak for the hospitality industry of the Monterey Peninsula tend to go where the money is and the underlying rationale is likely an afterthought. For all I know, the industry might oppose it because Exxon promised to hold a convention here. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association opposes Measure Z because it got a big contribution from Chevron and because the sheriff’s biggest campaign contributor owns a big hunk of the oil fields.

Do I oppose that statement, the one about the hospitality industry’s position on Measure Z? I guess that depends on what you mean by oppose. Do I disagree with the position? See above. Do I oppose? The hospitality industry is free to believe anything it wants to believe. No opposition here.

At that point, I stopped answering the questions because I was starting to ask my own questions of the survey taker and he wasn’t in any position to answer them and I think he was getting upset.

The one thing I do know after participating in this poll is that if the oil industry tries to tell us that it conducted a poll and that some percentage of voters oppose Measure Z, I’m not entirely sure I will accept the findings as gospel.


Several Partisan readers have commented that while they enjoy the discussion that many of the posts generate, the debate often veers off topic. Some have suggested that the moderator eliminate posts that stray, and even eliminate particularly long posts or some posts from frequent commentators.

share red glossy circle modern web icon on white backgroundWe have considered the suggestions and found them to be well intended but flawed in various ways. So, today, an experiment. A post that invites Partisan readers to weigh in about almost anything and everything.

Got something to say about the Marina Planning Commission? Here’s your chance.

Want to give a piece of your mind to the wharf tenants or the City Council? Go for it.

Have an idea that would promote tolerance and harmony? What better place to try it out.

The presidential campaign? Why not? Measure Z or the other local contests? Certainly.

In a couple of days, or sooner, the idea will have run its course so look for the post to be recirculated with a renewed invitation at some point.

A few rules. No personal attacks. Attack the idea all you want but not the person. (Leave that to the professionals). We’re not promising to post absolutely anything you write. Some things simply don’t need to be shared. We don’t insist on political correctness but racist nonsense is out, and so is sexist nonsense. Other than that, the field is fairly wide open. So what’s on your mind? There’s space for your comment below.



Congressional candidate Jimmy Panetta’s name recognition shouldn’t be used against him

I beg the indulgence of the Partisan’s legion of readers as I temporarily depart the realm of local happenings and drift into the national arena. It will be brief and it occurs mostly only so I can ask a question.

Robert Lucius of Pacific Grove, the spouse of congressional candidate Casey Lucius, was the author of a letter to the editor published in today’s Monterey Herald. He had two main points. The first was that he cannot support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The second was that the media have failed the public, mainly by not covering Clinton more critically.

He writes, “Clinton has also benefitted from media coverage, much of it fawning. Indeed, some have called out on her lifetime of self-serving political machinations and poor judgment, from ‘travel-gate’ to ‘email-gate,’ but she has also gotten countless free passes because of her family name and the aura of inevitability it provides.”

So here’s the question for Mr. Lucius. Please provide us a few examples of the “countless free passes.” I don’t expect a countless list. Just three or four examples will be fine. You can email them to me at calkinsroyal@gmail.com or you can just hit the comment button below and have at it.

OK, I promised to be brief, but before I go, one more point. It occurs to me that while Mr. Lucius was writing about Clinton, he may have had another political family in mind. That would be the Panettas, as in father Leon and son Jimmy, Casey Lucius’ opponent in the November election. A running theme in the Lucius campaign is the unfairness that results when one must campaign against a familiar name, a powerful presence, a potential dynasty. She told me recently that the local media is “afraid of the Panettas” and she offered at a recent campaign forum that Jimmy Panetta wouldn’t be the Democratic Party’s candidate if he was a Williams instead of a Panetta.

I get it. I truly do. Jimmy Panetta had an automatic advantage going into the race. Positive name recognition. His father is a remarkably popular fellow, having been the Central Coast’s congressman for years, a White House chief of staff, director of the CIA, defense secretary.

I completely understand why Ms. Lucius resents this, why she feels that no matter how qualified she is, no matter how hard she works, no matter what happens in the campaign, Jimmy is almost certain to win. No, it isn’t fair.

In her TV ads, she argues that voters shouldn’t support political dynasties and she implies, unfairly, that Jimmy Panetta wants to go to Washington to bask in his name recognition rather than accomplish anything. I say it’s time for her to give it a rest, and here’s why. A congressional race isn’t about fairness. Voters aren’t being asked to pick the candidate who works the hardest or comes off the most earnest. It’s about finding the right person to represent the people and the interests of the Central Coast in Washington. It’s about deciding who can be more effective in the political and bureaucratic jungle of the federal government.

I was at the Weekly’s most excellent debate this week between the congressional candidates, and I came away impressed by both. Lucius is well-spoken and is up on most issues, and she clearly is not intimidated by the Panetta presence. She stumbled by not knowing much of anything about methyl bromide and when she essentially endorsed Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who would eliminate most gun laws and environmental protections. But she is an accomplished young woman and an impressive young politician.

But Panetta more than stood his ground. He was fully conversant on every issue put to him, from Obamacare to immigration to national defense. He understood the broad issues and the details, the nitty gritty. He displayed his knowledge with every bit as much poise and confidence as Lucius and he seemed never to be fishing for the politically popular answer.

If this was a job application instead of an election, voters would be obliged to pick the applicant best qualified for the job and most likely to be able to execute it successfully. Washington is deluged every couple years by a flock of fledgling legislators, all eager to make a name for themselves on the national stage. An objective observer picking the applicant most likely to be effective would have to conclude that Panetta offers everything Lucius offers plus the name recognition and all that goes with it, factors that will open doors in Washington and make the Central Coast’s representative a key player from day one.

It isn’t about fairness. It has been conventional political wisdom on the Peninsula for several years now that Jimmy would replace Sam Farr in Congress. Lucius knew that when she asked for the chance to run. Perhaps people shouldn’t vote for Jimmy because he’s a Panetta, but it would be a bigger mistake to vote against him for the same reason.


Funny kittenWith early voting already under way in parts of the country and the nerve-wracking election barely a month away, I humbly offer the first installment of what I hope will be soothing diversion.

For the next few weeks I will offer thoughts on cats as my low-tech simulation of the thousands of adorable kitten video loops that provide feline relief from the rank world of people, which becomes rankest in presidential election years.

Why, you might say, is this daffy geezer going to prattle on about cats with the continued existence of American democracy, a livable global climate and a world free of nuclear incineration at stake? Simple answer: We have a new kitten — a shelter rescue tabby — and his daily capers make me laugh.

Longtime Partisan readers may wonder: Aren’t you the idiot who writes silly stuff about your two dachshunds, Max and Minnie, while ignoring serious subjects such as the crying need for single-payer health insurance? What’s up with doxies, you dolt?

I assure you our weiner dogs are as cantankerous, stubborn, insufferable and overindulged as always. We haven’t traded them in because we fell for a lithe, young trophy kitten. They remain on the scene and, from time to time, snarl at a cat that tries to break the first law of pet physics, which firmly states: A cat and a dog can not occupy the same space simultaneously at a food bowl without ripping apart the space-time continuum and fur flying.

Many people declare themselves either dog or cat persons, allowing no leeway to cross this deep ‘pet-isan’ divide. Just the other day, a friend who gleefully withstands his young dog regularly chewing up shoes, TV remotes, rugs and small pieces of furniture told me, “I’ve never had a cat that didn’t hate me.” He’s squarely in the dog camp.

Myself, I’ve always been ‘bi-petsual’ on the “cats are weird and dogs are in the garbage can again” spectrum of our four-pawed friends. So I decided to write about cats in a reflective way. During my days as a daily newspaper reporter, cats never arose as subjects except in the occasional stories about tree rescues, semi-tragic fires or pet hoarders.

I recall one morning I accompanied animal control officers to a sad shamble of a home in North County, where a disturbed hoarder was keeping dozens of cats, dogs and other small animals in horrible conditions. I believe they found 47 adult cats and kittens. The stench was comparable only to an election year.

For some reason, that precise number of cats came to mind when I saw reports of a big, new study that found only 3 percent of Americans own 50 percent of the guns in private hands, with an average of 17 guns per owner. But I’m here to celebrate cats, not to dwell on hoarders of creatures or things.

Writing about cats, which have been the object of human fancy for thousands of years, puts you up against renowned scribblers. T.S. Eliot wrote a book of whimsical poems about cats that provided the basis for the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Surprisingly, “Cats the Musical” has a production history just a bit longer than the current presidential contest.

Eliot, who wrote about cats using the name Old Possum for reasons known only to literature wonks, never wrote verse about dogs, or, for that matter, possums. That is fortunate. Imagine trying to choreograph dance numbers for “Dogs the Musical,” knowing that all the dancers’ powerful and graceful motions would, at regular intervals, be interrupted by breaks to sniff other dancers’ butts or to lick one’s nether regions.  On second thought, don’t imagine it all.

No one who takes pen to paper or fingers to keypad to compose words about cats will top what mad English poet Christopher Smart (1722-1771) says in the “My cat Jeoffry” section of his extraordinary religious poem “Jubilate Agno.” It’s the most anthologized piece of cat writing ever, and Jeoffry is the most famous (Sorry, Garfield and Bill) feline in English literature.

If you’ve never read Smart’s catalog of praise for Jeoffry, his asylum companion, you should. If you have, read it again. It is tonic and welcome relief from polls, spin and political hiss and spit.


Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.A study commissioned by the Measure Z forces concludes that the oil industry exaggerates the economic benefits of oil and gas production in Monterey County and underestimates or ignores its downsides.

The new study, by Jannette M. Barth of the Pepacton Institute, is in response to an industry report from June that itself was a response to Measure Z, the anti-fracking initiative on Monterey County’s November ballot.

Measure Z was created by a group calling itself Protect Monterey County. In a news release, PMC said the earlier study ignores the cost of potential contamination of crops and soil from various oil drilling activities including the injection of wastewater into aquifers.

PMC said the industry study also:

— It misrepresents Measure Z as a ban on oil production in Monterey County, when the initiative, in fact, bans only new oil operations.

— Exaggerates the importance of the petroleum industry to the Monterey County economy. The U.S. Census County Business Patterns database shows less than 300 petroleum production jobs in Monterey County. In contrast, agriculture supports more than 76,000 jobs in the county.

— Fails to  address the likely negative impact of oil production on property values.

Barth is an economist and managing director of the Pepacton Institute. She holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland and formerly was chief economist for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A PMC spokesman, Robert Frischmuth, said the oil industry report was “a PR hit piece against Measure Z, not abalanced look at the economic pros and cons.”

Measure Z was placed on the Nov. 8 ballot following a successful  volunteer petition campaign by the nonprofit Protect Monterey County. The measure would ban fracking and prohibit the current practice of injecting toxic wastewater into the Salinas Valley aquifer, which is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. It would prevent drilling new oil wells, while allowing reworking of existing wells. The industry argues that the measure is intended to destroy the oil and gas industry locally.

The new report is available here.


Casey Lucius gearing up for debate

Editor’s note: See modified section on Panetta’s opinion of Measure Z.

Republican congressional candidate Casey Lucius’ new campaign ad takes a big swing at opponent Jimmy Panetta, but she manages in the course of just a few seconds to drop the bat rather than launch a home run.

The TV spot has a dramatic opening with a narrator sounding an ominous tone. There’s a black-and-white photo of Panetta, without his characteristic smile. Tough words scroll across the screen.

“Washington is broken, because of people who want to be someone, not do something, because of a corrupt system based on who you know, not what you can do.”

The commercial uses two photos of Panetta. In the second, he looks kind of menacing, his image large against the Capitol in the background. At one point, the word “corrupt” goes from black to red.

It’s a provocative start. Then the bat slips out of Lucius’ hands. Black and white gives way to a nice color shot of the smiling candidate and her family and the thread of the commercial is lost.


Jimmy Panetta, shown here leaning slightly to the left

Here’s how it goes from there:

“I’m Casey Lucius. I joined the Navy, earned a PhD and became a professor. This election cannot be about political connections and dynasties. This election is about opportunity. It is about believing in our country and our community. I haven’t been handed anything. I have worked hard. I want to work hard for you.”

It’s not a long piece, but by the time it’s over, the viewer is likely to have forgotten the ominous opening and is left with the Hallmark portion of the piece, “This election is about opportunity. It is about believing in our country and our community.”

If Lucius had followed up on the opening with some meat about how Panetta’s famous father (Leon, for those of you who moved here 20 minutes ago) had done the Central Coast wrong, which he didn’t, or how the Panetta family foundation was being used as a shakedown tool for the Democrats, which it isn’t, she might have had something. Instead, we’re mainly left with the impression that Lucius really, really wants to go to Congress and it would make her family really proud of her if that happened. What was that about corruption?

Not enough to swing my vote.

If I had been given the chance at Monday night’s debate between Panetta and Lucius, I might have asked Jimmy to compare his belief in our country and/or community to Lucius’ belief in same.

I hadn’t seen the commercial until after the debate and I’m guessing that neither had the other 250 or so souls who filled the Weekly’s juice bar and meeting space to get a closer look at the candidates. Regardless, the commercial created the biggest drama of the evening, particularly when Panetta gave it back to Lucius.

Said Lucius: “If this was Jimmy Williams sitting here, he wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Said Panetta: “That’s absolutely offensive to the 70 percent of the electorate who voted for me in the primary.” He went on about how his family name hadn’t helped him while serving in Afghanistan, or prosecuting criminals in Oakland.

In the primary, he said, “They didn’t vote for Panetta. They voted for Jimmy.”

She got a good hand for her opener and he got an equally good one for his closer.

It is absolutely true that Panetta began the race with a huge advantage. His father was a congressman forever and then he was the head of the CIA and Secretary of Defense. Somewhere in there, he became the best known and best liked political figure on the Central Coast, likely the most powerful person in the region.

To her credit, Lucius recognized the uphill nature of her task and she has worked hard. From a fairly modest station, the Pacific Grove City Council, she has attracted a substantial following of people impressed by her presence, her military background and her willingness to break with the Republican Party from time to time. Making that easier, of course, is that the GOP recognized early on that she has no chance against Panetta, who has worked at least as hard as she has in community affairs and civic door knocking over the past several years. Since the party hasn’t funneled any money into her treasury, she isn’t obliged to follow its script. She constantly makes the point that Panetta is getting help from the fat cats of Washington, D.C. She hasn’t had the opportunity to demonstrate how she would respond to similar circumstances.

Often, the candidates agreed on key points Monday. They both said they are opposed to Measure Z, the anti-fracking initiative on the November ballot. Panetta says he doesn’t believe fracking will ever occur here, so he doesn’t think the measure is needed to  prevent fracking in Monterey County. He said he fears it could have a negative impact on the oil industry. Lucius said pretty much the same thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Listening again to Panetta’s response via You Tube, the above needs to be amended. He said he would support Measure Z enthusiastically if he believed it was aimed solely at preventing fracking but he feels the need to delve more deeply into the measure’s fine points.

They agreed the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform and that Obamacare needs work.

They had different takes on the future of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, which is in charge of redeveloping the former Army base.

Lucius, who currently sits on the FORA board, said she sometimes finds it dysfunctional. She said the agency should be allowed to fold as scheduled in 2020. At that point, she said, the cities with pieces of the base should be allowed to develop the property as they wish, particularly if that wish is to create affordable housing.

Panetta said he didn’t believe the various cities were ready to accept the responsibility for the base cleanup and other complications that go along with redeveloping the land.

Panetta said he will vote for Hillary Clinton. Lucius said she was thinking about voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Panetta jumped in, saying that his opponent had said at a high school speech last week that she would vote for Johnson — despite his campaign promises to repeal all gun laws and environmental regulations.

Both candidates displayed a strong grasp of most of the issues of the evening. Lucius would spin it one way, saying a solution would be at hand if the Democrats would “reach across the aisle,” and Panetta would spin it the other, complaining that the GOP might as well be opposed to everything.

Lucius repeatedly criticized Clinton’s handling of Middle Eastern affairs and, in response to a question from the audience, said the president should be required to have served in the military. Panetta countered by noting that that would disqualify about 99 percent of the population.

Lucius said she opposes the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana in California. Panetta, though he is a prosecutor, said he supports it. She said she supports the death penalty. He said he does not but he didn’t get the chance to elaborate.


Salinas seeks to end its homeless problem by decree


Sofia, Bulgaria - November 4, 2014: Homeless man is sleeping on a bench in the center of Sofia. Years after joining the EU Bulgaria is still the poorest country in the union.The city of Salinas plans to try to do Tuesday what no other cities have been able to accomplish — to solve its homeless problem by ordinance.

The council meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Rotunda, just yards from where a few dozen homeless people and their advocates have been holding nightly sleep-ins for the last several months.

According to a city staff memo to the council, that has resulted in numerous complaints from city employees and others who say they have been intimidated or harassed by the campers and offended by the defecation and urination that occurs in the bushes and elsewhere when toilet facilities aren’t available. The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to camp, loiter, defecate or urinate on most public property in the city and a fair amount of private property.

While a handful of cities have addressed the same issues issue by creating additional shelter space, most have responded by criminalizing homelessness, using citations and various police powers to break up encampments when they become too large to ignore.

Santa Cruz has been a magnet for transients for decades because of its youth culture, good weather and seemingly open attitudes and it has found itself erecting a series of legalistic and administrative barriers to keep the complaints down. Santa Cruz police told the City Council that the department issued 1,913 camping citations last year, with about 3 percent of those involving sleeping in a vehicle. Police Chief Kevin Vogel said 96 percent of the citations went unpaid. A news account on his report to the council didn’t say whether the issuance of those citations had any impact on the underlying issues.

A memo to the Salinas City Council from Michael Mutalipassi, senior deputy city attorney, says violations of the ordinance would be criminal misdemeanors.

“A purpose of the proposed ordinance,” he wrote, “is to maintain public and private lands, streets, sidewalks, alleys, ways, creeks, waterways, parks, playgrounds, recreation areas, plazas, open spaces, lots, parcels and other public and private areas within the city, in a clean, sanitary and accessible condition. A further purpose of this proposed ordinance is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community. To that end, the proposed ordinance makes it unlawful to camp, establish, maintain, operate or occupy camping facilities, or use camp paraphernalia on public or private property subject to some exception.”

He continued, “It has been reported by city employees, as well as members of the public at large, that overnight camping has specifically interfered with their use of public buildings, public sidewalks, public streets, parking lots, parking garages, and other open spaces, most notably the public space surrounding the John Steinbeck Library and the public space in front of City Hall. City employees leaving City Hall have been confronted by overnight campers screaming, yelling, and displaying other aggressive and erratic behavior that has made those employees fear for their safety upon ingress or egress to or from the building. City employees have also been confronted by overnight campers subjecting them to unwanted sexual comments.”

Mutalipassi wrote in some detail that there have been numerous complaints about the smell.

“The ordinance creates a prohibition on public urination and defecation except when using a urinal, toilet, or commode located in a bathroom, restroom, or other structure specifically designated for the purpose of urination and defecation.

“In addition to establishing a prohibition on camping,” he went on, “the ordinance will prohibit certain conduct in public areas or areas associated with business establishments or public buildings. The ordinance shall make it unlawful to loiter in a manner as to prevent the free passage of the public on any public street or sidewalk. It shall also make it unlawful to loiter at the entrance or exit of any business establishment or public building if that action obstructs or hinders the free passage of the public. The ordinance makes it unlawful to walk, stand, sit, or lie on any monument, vase, decorative fountain, drinking fountain, bike rack, trash receptacle, median, fire hydrant, street-tree planter, berm, utility cabinet, railing, fence, planter, or upon any other public property not designed or customarily used for such purposes. The ordinance further makes it unlawful to take any action, in public, to abuse or mutilate any tree, plant, or lawn.”

To read the ordinance, go here and click on the link for the agenda. From there, you can link to the ordinance.


I half expected Wes White to show up for our interview pushing a grocery cart piled high with his belongings. He is, after all, an advocate for the homeless and he is homeless himself, at least part of the time. But he pulled up to the breakfast spot in a minivan stuffed to the ceiling with sleeping bags and other necessities for life on the street.



White keeps the sleeping bags in the van during the day. At the stroke of 6 p.m., he deposits them at Salinas City Hall where, for some weeks or months now, the homeless of Salinas have been conducting a nightly sleep-in right outside the Rotunda where the City Council meets.

One night this week, the protest was a tidy affair, more like a group camp at Yosemite than a protest. Young kids had turned one row of tents into a maze and were cheerfully worming their way from the blue one to the maroon one and the red one held together with duct tape.

An older fellow was still pitching his tent on the cement. I asked why he didn’t put it on the softer grass. He looked at me like I was a fool.

“Sprinklers” was all he said.

Conspicuously absent were any campfires. The city said no to that. Less conspicuous but equally absent, restroom facilities. City officials complain that the nightly campout creates sanitation issues but bringing in porta-potties could make it a permanent situation. The city leadership is already embarrassed enough.

“Imagine if we were touring a major employer around, which hasn’t happened in a while, but if we did and they saw that, there’s no telling what they would make of it,” said a high-ranking city official who asked not to be named for fear that his front lawn would become a protest site as well.

“They’ll probably figure out who I am anyway.”


After seeing this woman’s photo in a Partisan post about homelessness in Salinas, her family reached out in an attempt to find her. If you’ve seen her recently, kindly call or text 595-8899 so we can update her folks.

The sleep-in began over the summer after the city mowed down the much larger homeless encampment in Chinatown where maybe 300 people had been squatting, literally and figuratively, for lack of anywhere else to go. The protesters have varying agendas, but for the most part they are seeking city funding for better shelter than tents on the City Hall lawn.

On Wednesday, White tried to arrange a rally in the space that would later be used for the nightly protest. It was set for 3 p.m., placing it right up against the 4 p.m. City Council meeting. It didn’t turn out to be much. A dozen or so homeless folks, some flags, a few signs. A shopping cart. The council members did their best to pretend they didn’t see the tangle of people as they walked toward their meeting.

White, not so incidentally, is running for a seat on the City Council. He had announced his candidacy over the summer, in opposition to District 4 Councilwoman Gloria De La Rosa, but the city attorney ruled that he couldn’t be on the ballot because he can’t prove that he lives in the district.

White says he is staying with a friend at the moment, a friend who lives in the district, and that he uses as his mailing address Dorothy’s Kitchen, the soup kitchen and shelter at the center of Chinatown. Many of the homeless have used the Dorothy’s Kitchen address to register to vote and the courts have signaled no problem with that arrangement, said White.

“The city said I had to be able to show I was living in the district 28 days prior to the filing period,” he said. “No homeless person can do that, so does that mean that you have to have a home if you want to run for office?”


White protesting gun violence

“The voter registration form also lets you describe where you live, like near the corner of such and such and such and such. If that’s good enough for voting, it should be good enough for running for office.”

White is a young-looking 41. He is on the short side and he brings nervous energy to his mission. For the breakfast meeting, he wore a dark shirt and a tie. If he has an old Army jacket, he left it at home. His friend’s home.

He was vague about what had occurred to make him homeless. He describes himself as a Navy brat who grew up around the country. He says he worked with computers and other tech before coming to Salinas several years ago. He admits to a couple of arrests in his younger days but says he has stayed on the right side of most laws since then. He said he works as a substitute teacher in the Salinas schools and spends most of his free time advocating. He is the vice president of the Monterey County Homeless Union, which also uses the Dorothy’s Place address. There is no president at the moment.

After the city attorney said no to his candidacy, White announced he would run as a write-in but hopes to go to court within the next few days seeking a court order to put his name on the ballot.

Berkeley lawyer Anthony Prince, who has attempted to prevent the city from bulldozing the Chinatown encampments, is representing White. He said Thursday he hopes to file a petition for a writ any day now.

“They may have started printing ballots already and they go out in the mail in a few weeks, so we don’t have much time,” Prince acknowledged. “We’re working on it. We’ll hold a news conference when it happens.”

With the Nov. 7 election so close and with ballots already drafted if not actually printed, there is little likelihood that a court would order the addition of White’s name at this point But council elections in Salinas aren’t big productions and the number of voters participating isn’t particularly high. Even if his court challenge amounts to be publicity stunt, it could be a big boost to his write-in campaign.

Though he is strongly associated with the homelessness issue, White says he is not a one-topic fellow. He has been active in city charter reform efforts and was involved in an effort to recall a school board member. He sits on the city’s Airport Commission.

He has been a frequent critic of the Police Department, arguing among other things that it is sanctioning theft when the city confiscates the belongings of the homeless during the periodic sweeps of Chinatown.

Larry Thome has lived on the streets of Salinas off and on for five years. He says it’s time for the city to listen to “the likes of Wes and them others” and stop trying to run the homeless out of town.

“We’re always going to be here and unless they find a way to buy him off, he’s going to be out here every day, too,” Thome said while walking toward his camp on the outskirts of Chinatown. “It’s an endless fight and I doubt he can win it, but someone has to try to do something because the way things are, well just look at the way things are. Hell’s bells.”


blah blah blahIn the space of about one week, both the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch in a mini-editorial and Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, either criticized or satirized (maybe both) the campaign emails and communications that have bombarded voters on both sides of the aisles with threats of a virtual doomsday if they do not respond as requested. I am glad to see this sad and most annoying face of current U.S. political election cycles brought to light.

I am sure I’m not alone, as a registered Democrat, from receiving emails from my dear friends “Barack,” “Joe,” “Nancy” and others at the top of my party’s food chain. I doubt Barack ever saw one of those, wrote one of those or knows me well enough to call me Bill.

It is true that during his initial run in 2008, Obama’s grassroots campaign made very effective use of the internet and social media, sending out very personalized and constant pleas to people of all ages, most of whom had not been even noticed, much less contacted, in prior national and state elections.  For a lot of reasons, mostly younger Democrats and those who were looking for a change were energized to vote for Barack.

Evidently based on the success of the campaigns that gave Barack Obama two terms, the same tactic has been adopted once again, but this time it’s way over the top.  Every day for the last several months, when I sit down to check email, I see words such as “Crisis”, “Trump Wins…,” “All is lost,” “Serious,” etc. as the titles of emails from not only Barack et al but also from the DCCC, the State Democratic Caucus, and even people down the street.

Although I wasn’t taken in in 2008 and 2012, I did at least feel that, for once, the powers that be were actually reaching out to the forgotten masses.  But this time, it’s different.  I am sick and tired of receiving phony emails threatening the end of the world if I don’t contribute my 5 bucks by midnight. Every email ends with a deadline that if met by me, the Democratic hopes dangling over a cliff or holding onto a very thin rope will be able to climb back up and beat those no-good Republicans.

That isn’t the only problem, of course. For example, here in Ohio, sitting Republican Sen. Rob Portman has not rejected TV ads that claim his opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, PERSONALLY caused the loss of 350,000 jobs in Ohio during his tenure.  Of course, that is a foolish statement. Economic upturns and downturns are seldom caused by the actions of a single individual, even the president.

And even the candidates run ads identifying policies they would implement, there’s often little substance. And none of the candidates, none, admit that they alone cannot implement great changes to make America great, or whatever, without working collaboratively with the opposition, e.g., “reaching across the aisle.”

So, for the rest of the campaign, I’d like to see candidates and their lackeys treat me like I have some little intelligence left. Don’t tell me you are Michelle Obama (a classy lady), or someone else that you are not, that the End is Near notmatter what the deadline may be, or that a certain opponent has brought the city, state or nation to its knees. Tell me about issues, not deadlines; policies, not personal failings of your opponents; clear description of how such policies will be implemented, not just hollow promises made up of political-speak. Invite serious questions to which you give serious answers. I might even be inspired to send some money your way.

Hood is a retired water lawyer and engineer who divides his time between Columbus and Carmel.


IMG_0686It is encouraging to see the number of interested parties responding to the accurate piece by Alan Haffa and Libby Down about the Monterey City Council’s action to finally re-exert control over Fisherman’s Wharf for the benefit of the public after 60-plus years of heavy subsidy for the good ole boys on the wharf. Some of the responses, however,  show the persistence of a great deal of misinformation foisted on the public by the Wharf Lords who are now seeing the end of the free lunch they have enjoyed at the public’s expense for 60 years.

Keep in mind that many of the existing terrible ground leases on the wharf will continue for another 25 years (until 2041) due to the incompetence of city staff and council in 1991 when they agreed to extend the leases for 50 years without any rent increase since 1977.

I will not repeat the long essays that I have posted in the past two years, which set forth the facts, rents, and accurate history of the wharf, but refer you to the Partisan’s archives (see Archive box on right side of page) where a search under my name will reveal the articles. Several items discussed above require further edification here:
(1) SAFEWAY LEASE. My recollection is that Safeway was paying about $12,000 per year in ground lease rent when its ground lease expired. The city had leased bare ground to Safeway in the 60s and Safeway developed the land, building and lot at its sole expense. That is the way a ground lease is supposed to work – the developer/tenant pays all cost of improvement and operation, in return for which the tenant pays the landowner a reduced rent to reflect that all the capital comes from the tenant. Into the bargain is the reversion of the property, with all improvements, to the landowner at the end of the lease term, when each party gets the full benefit of her bargain. The Safeway deal was a “Righteous Ground Lease,” good for the public and good for Safeway.

The city initiated negotiations to continue a “building lease” with Safeway at fair market rent (including gross percent) for another 25 years. Negotiations were successful except for one point. Safeway insisted that it have the unfettered right to assign the lease to anyone it chose in the event Safeway elected to leave the premises. This, of course, was unacceptable to the city, which had every right to vet any proposed assignee tenant, and in particular a need to ensure that whoever occupied the premises be a retail food store. Safeway was unwilling to budge from its most unreasonable condition, and the negotiations ended.

Trader Joe’s (Foothill Partners) then stepped up to negotiate a 66-year ground lease reflecting a much higher rent, but still recognizing that the capital of Foothill would be razing the Safeway building and constructing a new retail center that would include retail food. Both the original Safeway lease and the Foothill lease were well within reasonable commercial parameters for landowners. Those leases literally have nothing to do with the wharf leases, and nothing in common. They are apples and oranges to each other, and as fruit and widgets to compare with the aquarium tidelands lease.

(2) ACTUAL RENTS. This discussion would be much more illuminating if the city would release the actual rent figures (master and sub-lease) for the wharf. The city attorney has an opinion that such figures are confidential, but that is just her opinion. When a merchant leases public tidelands trust property from the public, it has no right or expectation that its sales figures will be kept confidential to hide the facts from the public. Yet that would apparently be the purpose of this city policy. It is unfortunate that it will take a lawsuit to obtain the transparency that is required for the public to evaluate the horrendous job the city’s property management has done since 1977 on these sweetheart leases on the wharf. No doubt the thinking is that a lot of problems would be unnecessarily created by telling the public the truth.

There are ways to get rent figures without the city’s cooperation. Based upon a city-commissioned appraisal in 2008, and disclosure of the tax and rent rolls by the Monterey County Assessor’s Office in 2012, we can closely estimate that the Balesteri lease (for three discrete retail spaces), which has just been terminated, earned between $905,386 and $1,000,000 in annual gross sales last year. Balesteri paid the City 3% of gross sales per year – $22,635 in 2008; and $18,511.49 in 2010. Fair market value for those premises is 8 – 10% of gross sales. Thus Mr. Balesteri received a subsidy from the pubic (mostly in the form of sub-lease rent retained) at the high end of $77,000 per year. It is understandable that he wanted to continue that windfall, for which he never paid anything whatsoever.

Balesteri is a small operator compared to the Shakes and Mary Alice Cerrito. According to a written sublease available at the city, Chris Shake received sublease rent from Fisherman’s Grotto in the amount of $27,563 PER MONTH in 2010, over and above the rent he paid to the city. Cerrito proposed to sublease the old Gilbert’s restaurant for in excess of $20,000 per month in 2015. I do not have figures from her current sublease to the Shakes, but it is fair to estimate that they pay her in excess of $20,000 per month from their new restaurant. Most tenants on the wharf pay fair market rent, but they pay it to sub-landlords, not the public. That is an outrageous ripoff. The new City Council policy will require a provision in new building leases that all sublease rent be paid to the city and the public.

(3) OWNERSHIP/REMOVAL OF BUILDINGS. The ownership of the buildings on the wharf is misunderstood concept number 1, and it seems to be intractable. The public owns the tidelands by constitutional grant in perpetuity. Under the law, the landowner owns the land and everything on it, including buildings, nails, and roof tile. The Wharf Lords repeatedly claim they own the buildings, a claim utterly devoid of the truth. If you own a real estate interest, you have a deed to prove your interest and you pay real property tax to the county. If you own personal property, you have a bill of sale and a title document to prove your interest, and you pay personal property tax to the county. The wharf merchants have neither. It would seem that the old propaganda axiom pertains – if you tell a lie often enough, the people will believe the lie over the truth.

It would appear that the claim that the merchants can remove the buildings when they leave is another intractable lie that won’t go away. The ridiculous lease provision saying that the tenant can remove the buildings they built within 90 days of termination of the lease is, and for over a decade has been, void. A California Court of Appeals decision (County of Santa Barbara vs. Channel Islands Marina) has established conclusively that such provisions in a tidelands lease are void because Coastal Commission approval of a demolition could never be obtained within 90 days, as a matter of law. Moreover, the Coastal Commission would never approve a demolition without receiving a conjoined permit request to replace the building with a new structure. Finally, no merchant is going to spend the million dollars required to demolish, which would be an utter waste of money.

As Alan Haffa says, the buildings revert to the public upon expiration of the lease, which is the modest benefit of a poor bargain struck by the council many years ago. Nothing whatsoever is due the tenant, who has received the generous benefit of its one-sided bargain in the form of many years subsidy in rent.

The hard won gains for the public that were voted for by Alan and Libby are at risk in the the November election. The Wharf Lords will spend heavily to get another tool like Councilman Ed Smith elected to change the balance on the council and roll back the public gains so that the ripoff on the wharf can continue indefinitely. Vote to return Alan and Libby to their seats on the council and preserve our waterfront to be operated for the benefit of the public, not the private business profiteers on the wharf.

McCrone is a retired lawyer and former member of the Monterey Planning Commission and other bodies. He has written extensively on the wharf leases, which are the subject of a sophisticated and misleading public relations campaign on behalf of wharf tenants who are attempting to prevent reform measures from going into effect.


As if the banks couldn’t steal enough legally


A burglar with robbery mask running awayIt was a pleasant surprise, the check I received in the mail a couple of weeks ago. It was for $135.10 and it was from Wells Fargo, the bank. There was a short note attached that explained that I may have been charged for a bank service that I had not requested and this was the bank’s way of making things up to me.

I have more than one account at Wells Fargo, so a couple days later I received another check. This one was for a buck and change. I’m not sure because I tossed it or lost it.

I had no clue about what was going on but I figured that Wells Fargo hadn’t had a burst of honesty. Something was up. Something big.

I didn’t know what it was until Thursday when the news surfaced. No, it wasn’t some miscalculation or rounding error or accounting adjustment. It was that more than 5,000 Wells Fargo employees had been fired over the past three years for taking part in a scheme to create fake bank and credit card accounts, using customer money, so the employees could get bonuses for creating new accounts.

Big? This wasn’t big. It was unimaginable, even though I should have seen it coming years ago. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Now there are fines and lawsuits and talk about additional reimbursement and that’s great–but it’s not enough. I want the people who were involved in stealing my $135.10 and that buck and change and whatever else they got from me to come to my house, look me in the eye and apologize. Then I want them to spend several hours pulling weeds in my yard, raking leaves and cleaning gutters. I want their bosses to come with them of course. I think my septic tank needs to be moved. And after they have apologized, on bended knee, I want them to dig and to be quiet about it. If they talked, I’d probably turn a hose on them or something.

If dishonesty this blatant could happen in one of the nation’s biggest banks without someone blowing the whistle when there were only dozens involved and not thousands, we’re in worse trouble than even Donald Trump can imagine.

Yes, I’ll be joining many of you and switching banks, or going back to the old system of hiding my coins in the backyard but not where you could find them. And I’ll also be kicking myself for not fleeing Wells Fargo earlier. I knew this bank was really messed up about 10 years ago when it did something that I’ll never understand. Unapologetically.

I heard about it when I got a call from my mother, who was then living in San Diego County. She said she had tried to balance her Wells Fargo checking account but it wouldn’t come out right. There was about $300 missing, so she went down to the local Wells Fargo branch to try to figure it out. With that nice Wells Fargo smile, a nice junior banker fellow in a suit tapped on his computer for a bit and informed my mother that her son, me, had taken $300 from her account.

She found that odd, for several reasons. First, her account was in her name and hers only. I had no connection to it, real or imagined. I had no authority to take money from her account and no mechanism. I didn’t have any of her checks or her password or anything like that. Second, she knows me pretty well and she knows that I usually did really stupid stuff only when I was drinking and that I had stopped drinking about 10 years before.

I had no explanation. In search of one, I hopped in the truck and motored on over to the Wells Fargo branch at the Stone Creek Shopping Center where Highway 68 and Canyon Del Rey Boulevard come together.

There I found my own nice junior banker fellow who looked like he was fresh out of USC. He tapped on his computer. What he found should have made me a Salinas Valley Bank customer that very day.

He said I had deposited a $300 check from someone who bought a stereo from me. Unfortunately, he smiled, the check had bounced. And rather than moving money from my savings account, or running the check back through, or tapping the overdraft protection that I had been paying for, someone in the bowels of the Wells Fargo system somehow put Calkins and Calkins together and came up with the clever idea of simply raiding my mother’s checking account to cover the deficiency in mine.

The junior banker smiled throughout this tale. He didn’t seem to find any of it unusual.

How could this happen, I asked. Do you see any connection between my mother’s account and mine? No, he said, with that same sweet smile. Has there ever been a connection? Nope.

We went on like this for a while. He kept smiling. I did not. What if my relationship with my mother was strained and she figured I really had somehow dipped into her account? I don’t actually remember what he said to that one but I imagine it was something like “that would have been unfortunate.”

And that was that. I got the smiley dismissive,  “Was there anything else we can do for you today, Mr. Calkins?” At first, I said no, but then I thought of something.

“I could use an apology and my mother could too,” is what I said.

He smiled his very best smile, took in a fairly deep breath, and smiled a little larger but, no, he didn’t apologize. I’m guessing that when he was tapping on the computer, he was reading some policy manual and the instruction to  “Admit nothing.”

We stood there looking at each other for an awkward amount of time, and I said something like, “Really? You’re not going to apologize?”

You know what happened next.

Awkward. Silence. With a smile.

I imagine that as I turned to leave, I said something like “unbelievable” but with a familiar two-syllable vulgarism tucked between the “un” and the “believable.”

The smile looked like it was starting to get heavy, but he never let it go, even when he ended the conversation with something like, “Well, if there’s nothing else we can do for you today, Mr. Calkins, thank you for banking at Wells Fargo.”

Why didn’t I switch banks? To this day, I’m not sure, but I think I was afraid that the next one would be just as bad. And if that was so, that was something I really didn’t want to think about.