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Regarding the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Aug. 25 editorial, “Last-minute water tax can’t be justified however worthy the cause”: Unsafe drinking water is a Third World problem that cannot be tolerated in California. It is long past time that the Legislature produced a sustainable solution that will ensure a basic right to water that is clean and safe.

Such a solution is at hand. It is a bipartisan plan supported by environmental groups such as Clean Water Action, health groups such as the American Heart Association, and farm groups including the California Rice Commission and the Western Growers Association.

Senate Bill 623 creates a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund designed to provide emergency relief and a sustainable long-term solution by funding water treatment facilities that these small water systems cannot possible afford on their own. Funding would come from two sources.

Because in many cases the source of contamination is a high concentration of nitrates, an unavoidable byproduct of farming operations, the agricultural community is stepping up to support a fee to cover nitrate-related costs. It is a statewide problem, so the funding structure also includes a statewide solution — a modest fee not to exceed $1 a month on the water bills for residents and businesses.

A recent poll showed that two-thirds of Californians — alarmed by the plight of those without access to a safe water supply — support this approach.

The fact that a million Californians cannot use water from their taps to mix baby formula, make iced tea, brush their teeth or simply to straight-up quench their thirsts ought to be unacceptable.

It is a problem we are morally compelled to solve, and a sensible solution is at hand.

Sen. Bill Monning is a Democratic state senator representing Carmel. Contributing to this piece was Tim Johnson. president and CEO of the California Rice Commission.


Friends, in light of the violence and death wrought in Charlottesville, Va., the failure of the president to denounce the KKK, Nazis, and white supremacist groups is more than outrageous.

His suggestion that there are “fine people, very fine people” within these groups betrays a basic understanding of what these groups stand for and his continued efforts to try to maintain his base of support among these groups. The fact that millions of Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis and that thousands of Americans died fighting to liberate Europe, North Africa, and Russia from the horror of the Nazis seems not to register with the current occupant of the White House.

As the fascist organizations bask in the media attention and the equivocations of the president, they are planning to demonstrate in other cities to provoke violence and to seek attention for their warped, immoral, racist, and violent ideology. It is important NOT to allow police powers or other governmental authorities to suggest that their conduct is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. Their conduct explicitly advocates violence against Jews and people of color including immigrants. Permits should be denied and organizers of these hate groups should be brought to justice as terrorists—that is what they are.

Too many have died to rid the planet of the scourge of those who worship Hitler and now Trump. Let us draw courage and purpose from the courage and sacrifice of HEATHER HEYER who was killed by a terrorist (and the 20 others injured and the two police officers who died) and as part of a conspiracy of groups of terrorists who are pushing their sick and morally bankrupt ideology, looking for media coverage, audiences, and new recruits. Not in San Francisco, not anywhere… Time to build the resistance, time to join arms with all communities to denounce the hate and to promote the protection of ALL people’s inalienable right to life, safety, and equality…. The current occupant of the White House has betrayed his oath of office and should be impeached.

P.S. Last night in San Luis Obispo, 1000 demonstrated in solidarity with the victims of Charlottesville and in opposition to the Unify the Right Movement.

Bill Monning, D-Carmel, represents the Central Coast in the California Senate.


Last week’s decision by the California Senate to approve a single-payer health care bill (SB 562) was ridiculed by our local daily newspaper, which editorialized on June 6 that “Single-payer health vote just a political stunt.” The editorial concluded SB 562 “is a glorified political stunt which, if it proceeds with the same thoughtlessness shown to date, could do real harm to the state of California.”

That’s a bit insulting to Mark Stone, our local Assembly member who is co-sponsoring SB 562, and to Bill Monning, our local Senator who voted in favor. Furthermore, it’s contrary to the only comprehensive economic analysis of SB 562 available so far, the 82-page economic analysis by Robert Pollin, cistinguished professor of economics at University of Massachusetts/Amherst, who was economic spokesperson in Jerry Brown’s 1992 campaign for U.S. President. Pollin’s analysis concludes “establishment of the Healthy California single-payer system [SB 562] will generate financial benefits for both families and businesses at all levels of the California economy.”

The editorial argues the approval vote “was a proposal lacking crucial details without which a responsible vote in favor is impossible.” That’s correct on the minor point that SB 562 does not lay out the specific tax structure it would establish nor does it offer supporting calculations about how that structure would fund its implementation. However, the major point is that SB 562 commits California to a single-payer system that will provide coverage to all Californians at a lower total cost than what we pay now. Pollin’s study explains specifically how SB 562 would reduce California’s total health care costs while expanding coverage (9% increase in costs to cover uninsured and underinsured, 19% reduction in health care costs due to a variety of savings measures such as lower cost prescription drugs by negotiating directly with Rx companies) equals 10% net savings.

Thus, SB 562 meets the financial test (we would get more for less) and the moral test (we would cover all of California’s citizens regardless of income). Moreover, the exact funding structure must be established before the system becomes operational (SB 562 states it will not become operative until the secretary of California Health and Human Services certifies there is revenue to fund costs of implementation).

The major point is that health care costs would go down by 10% even after moving to universal coverage; the minor point is that the exact details of the funding mechanism have not been determined at this stage.

The editorial also argues SB 562 should be voted down because it will raise taxes. However, the issue is total health care costs, not labels for how these costs are paid. California businesses and citizens currently pay roughly $200 billion per year for health care. They pay this through something called “premiums” and “out of pocket costs,” and in return for these payments they cover 90% of the state’s population. Under SB 562, California businesses and citizens will pay less than what they pay now through something called a “tax” and for this they will get 100% of the state’s population covered. In other words, Californians will get more for less because we can either pay something called a “premium”’ and “out of pocket,” or we can pay something called a “tax.”’ The important point is not what you call it; what’s important is how much you pay and what you get for that.

The editorial overlooks some of SB 562’s honest-to-goodness problems. For example, before SB 562 becomes operational, it must still must be approved by the California Assembly and, eventually, by Governor Brown and ultimately by the voters, because it would need to be exempted from spending limits and budget formulas in the state Constitution. Additionally, the Trump administration would need to allow federal funding currently directed to Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare (among others) to be re directed in California. Significant transitional issues will occur as California moves to this new system, and details about deductibles, copays and similar cost sharing measures must be worked out, as must the final payment/contribution structure for businesses and individuals, plus near-term health costs are likely to surge as the uninsured and under insured immediately receive care they have delayed.

However, those real problems are minor points compared to the major point that by passing SB 562, California will commit itself to a path where it receives more for less. The editorial’s concerns are akin to objecting to JFK’s first call for the U.S. to put a man on the moon by saying “that is just a political stunt, he has not even figured out how phase three, sub procedure six of the re entry procedure will work.” It is true that phase three, sub point six had not been worked out at that time, but that was a minor point that paled in comparison to the major point of whether the U.S. should commit to send a man to the moon.

I am not proposing we send a man to the moon; I am proposing Partisan readers not be fooled by one-liners and take seriously that SB 562 is California’s chance to provide health coverage to all Californians at a lower total cost than what we pay now.

Jane Haines is a retired lawyer who lives in Pacific Grove. She has previously written for the Partisan on housing issues and development issues.


All was not lost on election day, at least not locally


edit_14232393_1166055086801312_6162782396031943489_nOn the way home from therapy on Wednesday, I stopped along the highway to pick up an election souvenir, a green-and-white YES ON Z sign. It now rests next to my computer as a reminder that all is not lost, that sometimes the good guys win.

I’m sure I will look at the sign often while reading about the latest groaner from the Trump administration. I am hoping that it will ease my despair and keep me focused on the positive and the local.

While the national election was an unmitigated disaster, it was a mixed bag locally. You had to look closely for the positives, but they were there.

Measure Z, of course, wins first prize for greatest success in the face of overwhelming money. It was the anti-fracking measure and you know all about it so I’ll spare you the normal details except for how the oil industry spent at least $5.5 million to fight it. (I’m hoping our friends at KSBW and elsewhere in electronic media spend their campaign advertising fortune wisely.)

Co-conspirator Larry Parsons and I made the rounds of election parties Tuesday night. We tried to stop by the Measure Z party in Salinas but a goodly share of the Measure Z camp is, well, it’s older now and the lights were off before 10 p.m.

We did stop by the Yes on Y affair. Medical marijuana, another ballot winner. I thought for a minute we had made a wrong turn and had ended up at a Pebble Beach Food & Wine after-party. There were lots of very pretty people, young and well dressed. I didn’t recognize anyone.

Monterey City Councilwoman Libby Downey’s party nearby was a quieter affair filled with older folks in comfortable clothes. Libby was just as gracious in defeat as she always is, saying that if Dan Albert Jr. had to knock one of the progressives off the council, which he did, it was better that it wasn’t Alan Haffa. For Downey, being on the council has meant also being on the mayors water authority and the boards of TAMC and the transit authority and the sewer board, etc., etc. It has meant almost daily meetings and lots of work. She deserves a standing ovation as she steps aside.

The Seaside results can be interpreted in different ways. I see it as a victory for common sense because even though Ralph Rubio will stick around as mayor, the fact that he didn’t receive an outright majority tells me that the people of Seaside aren’t so keen on the Monterey Downs project. Kay Cline came in a close second on a platform led by her opposition to the racetrack/housing venture. Give her the votes of the other two candidates and she would have won.

Cline’s party at the Press Club was upbeat even though no one in the room was enjoying the national election coverage on the bank of TVs.

Supporting my Seaside thoughts was the defeat of Councilman Ian Oglesby, who once was a promising newcomer but who fell into the trap of doing what Ralph wanted him to do. He will be replaced by Kayla Jones, a rising star with a progressive view of Seaside’s needs. Dave Pacheco was re-elected, a good thing because every council needs someone who is only looking out for the people.

Seaside was the setting for Sen. Bill Monning’s intimate victory party, populated mostly by campaign workers and elected officials such as Jane Parker and Mary Adams. Mel Mason was there, looking well. The Monning affair was at DeMarco’s Pizza, my go-to place for pizza. Monning and Haffa are also regulars there and you should be, too.  (This is what they call a plug. DeMarco’s is on Broadway (Obama Way) across the street from Goodwill.)

In Salinas, the big news was that odd-man-out Councilman Jose Castaneda is all the way out, finishing fourth in a four-way race for his seat. All went as expected in Pacific Grove. Nothing new there. Same with Marina, though it was gratifying to see Kevin Saunders fall flat, especially after he lobbed some anti-Semitic nonsense at Weekly editor Sara Rubin. Go off somewhere and torch one, Kevin, and leave the rest of us alone.

The Hartnell bond was approved and the transportation tax may have been approved. It needs two-thirds approval and had almost exactly that as of last count but there are thousands more ballots to count before we rest.

Could have been worse. Not nearly good enough to salve the sting of the Trump victory but good enough to keep some good people in the game for a few more cycles.

Congratulations to the Measure Z camp, especially Jeanne Turner, who did a remarkable job of organizing the petition drive and keeping her colleagues focused.


The Monterey Bay Partisan tries to tell you how to vote


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

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

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

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

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

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

CONGRESS: Jimmy Panetta

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Monterey City Council: Incumbents Libby Downey and Alan Haffa

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

Marina mayor: Bruce Delgado

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

Pacific Grove mayor: Bill Kampe

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

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

Salinas mayor: No endorsement

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

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

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

Salinas City Council District 1: Brian Contreras

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

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

Salinas City Council District 4: Virginia Mendoza

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

Salinas City Council District 6: Incumbent Jyl Lutes

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

Seaside mayor: Kay Cline



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

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

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

Seaside City Council: Kayla Jones and Dave Pacheco

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

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

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

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


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.

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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:


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



Supervisorial candidate Dennis Donohue has sent a batch of mailers to Peninsula voters that are variations of the mailers that drew serious heat from state Sen. Bill Monning last week. The new ones are toned down to a degree but still twist Parker’s record on the veterans cemetery at Fort Ord.

The Salinas mailers essentially accused Parker of blocking the cemetery, even though it is already under construction, said Parker opposed the cemetery, which she didn’t, and made the false claim that it would take Donohue’s election to the Board of Supervisors to get the cemetery project started. back


The latest missive says Parker “was the ONLY member of the FORA (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) board to vote against (the cemetery’s) location, siding with her special interest friends. She needlessly delayed the project, denying Monterey County veterans the honorable resting place they deserve.”

Despite what Donohue says, nothing Parker did delayed the cemetery project or denied anyone a resting place, according to Monning, who sponsored the legislation creating and financing the cemetery. The new Donohue mailer attributes those claims to two articles in the Monterey County Weekly from July 14 and July 21, 2011.

The first article doesn’t get into the cemetery but does address the somewhat related Whispering Oaks business park at Fort Ord. That’s where Monterey-Salinas Transit wanted to build a bus yard, near where the cemetery is being built and near the proposed Monterey Downs horse park project. Parker did indeed vote against the Whispering Oak project, largely because it would have required removal of tens of thousands of oaks. The Board of Supervisors approved the project, which led to 18,000 signatures of voters demanding a ballot measure on the project. At that point, Supervisor Dave Potter publicly acknowledged that the original vote was a big mistake and that the supervisors had learned their lesson. The board then voted 4-1 to kill the project, an action that had no impact on the cemetery.

In order to gain veterans’ support for the Monterey Downs venture, the developers attempted to link the fate of the Whispering Oaks and cemetery projects to Monterey Downs but officials on the various elective bodies involved managed to untangle the issues. Parker’s vote had nothing to do with the cemetery and did nothing to delay it.

The July 21, 2001, article cited by the Donohue campaign focuses on the issue of the artificial mingling of the cemetery and horse park ventures. Parker is quoted as saying she thought it was a bad idea to make the cemetery’s fate dependent on the horse park. The first phase of the cemetery is expected to be completed this summer. The Monterey Downs venture remains months or longer away from initial approvals and its backers still have not secured all the land or the water rights they need. The article does nothing to support Donohue’s claim.

Elsewhere in the same flyer, Donohue says, “On the Board of Supervisors, Parker voted against the redevelopment of Fort Ord thanks to pressure from her special interest campaign contributors. It cost the county millions of dollars, hundreds of jobs and new life to blighted properties.”

Let’s take the second sentence first. Parker has voted against redevelopment of Fort Ord, and Donohue is the only one who knows this? And her lone vote on a five-member board, which never actually happened, cost Monterey County millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs?

On articles of this type, the Partisan attempts to maintain some detachment and let the facts speak from themselves but this one causes us to conclude that Donohue must truly think the voters of District 4 are idiots.

Now let’s turn to the first sentence. The flyer attributes that one, about voting against “the redevelopment of Fort Ord,” to the minutes of a Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 22, 2009. There were, in fact, two Fort Ord-related matters on the agenda that day, both involving Whispering Oaks, proposed bus yard.

Here is everything the minutes have to say about those matters:

Acting as the Board of Directors of the Redevelopment Agency of the County of Monterey: Agreement No. A-11544

  1. Approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the RedevelopmentAgency of the County of Monterey and Monterey Salinas Transit for the MST Operations and Maintenance Facility within the proposed Fort Ord Whispering Oaks Business Park; and
  2. Directed the Auditor-Controller to amend the Fiscal Year 2009-10 Budget to increase revenues and appropriations by $575,000 in Fund 173, Unit 8213 – Fort Ord Capital. (4/5th vote required)

It was not about “the redevelopment of Fort Ord.” It was about one project and it was initially approved by the supervisors. Zero millions of dollars were lost. Zero jobs were lost.

Donohue has not responded to press inquiries about the flyers. If and when he does, he likely will blame it all on his campaign staff. He needs, instead, to apologize.

Here is the Partisan’s report on the earlier mailers and Sen. Monning’s reaction.


Falsely states that cemetery has been blocked by Supervisor Jane Parker

DSCN0380 (1)Politicians rarely weigh in on campaigns other than their own but a new mailing by Monterey County supervisorial candidate Dennis Donohue strayed so far from the facts that it provoked a strong denunciation from state Sen. Bill Monning.

“I just saw the Donohue hit piece against Supervisor Parker,” said Monning. “This is so erroneous and inaccurate that I hardly know where to start. ”

The mailer claims that Parker, the 4th District incumbent, somehow is blocking the veterans cemetery at Fort Ord even though it is already under construction.

“The California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery is already under construction and scheduled for opening in August or September this year – well before this candidate could even take office,” Monning said Saturday.

A headline in the mailer says, “Jane Parker says ‘No’ to Veterans and Monterey County,” and the text says, “Only one vote on the Board of Supervisors stands between Monterey County veterans and a long-awaiting military cemetery at Fort Ord. Dennis Donohue strongly supports the plan and will stand with veterans to get it done.”

Monning, D-Carmel, has been heavily involved in  the cemetery project, working closely with the Board of Supervisors, area legislators, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and veterans organizations. He sponsored legislation establishing the cemetery and securing more than $2 million for the project. He said Saturday that Parker had supported the cemetery “every step of the way.”


Former Salinas mayor Dennis Donohue

“For Donohue to suggest that establishment of the veterans cemetery only awaits his affirmative vote to come to fruition is not only false, it is disrespectful and dismissive of all of us who have worked to establish the cemetery,” the senator said.

“For Dennis Donohue to vilify Jane as somehow not supporting the veterans cemetery is false and misleading and intentionally designed to deceive the voters. I am disappointed to see a candidate initiate a campaign based on lies and deception instead of advancing an honest portrayal of what he might aspire to do as a supervisor,” said Monning.”If this is how Donohue runs his campaign, would he also throw truth and ethics to the winds if elected?”

The mailer also attacks Parker for her opposition to a related venture, the failed plan by Monterey-Salinas Transit to build a transit center near the cemetery site at Fort Ord. The initial Board of Supervisors’ approval of that project led to a referendum measure motivated mostly by plans to cut down thousands of trees. The referendum led to another vote by the supervisors during which Supervisor Dave Potter acknowledged that the original vote was a mistake and Supervisor Lou Calcagno praised the protesters as being “right on.”

Unfortunately for voters attempting to follow the status of the cemetery project, the developers behind the proposed Monterey Downs horse racing and housing venture initially linked their venture’s approval to the cemetery and the transit yard, an attempt to artificially create political pressure on officials opposed to the Monterey Downs effort. That enabled the developers to enlist some local veterans to criticize politicians who expressed concerns about the environmental impacts of the large Monterey Downs venture, which has not acquired the necessary property, approvals or water rights it needs to advance.


Monning to announce plans Tuesday



State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, plans to announce his intentions regarding the congressional race at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Colton Hall in Monterey. No way to be certain, of course, but the expectation is that he will say that he will run for the seat now held by Sam Farr, also D-Carmel.

This is good news for voters who believe campaigns should be about issues. Already on the Democratic side of the primary ballot is prosecutor Jimmy Panetta, son of former Congressman Leon Panetta. Others are expected. On the Republican side there is Casey Lucius, a member of the Pacific Grove City Council, someone who had been expected to give Farr his first significant challenge in years.

Stay tuned.


assistenza anzianiOpponents of the assisted suicide bill now traveling through the California Legislature are quick to accuse the legislation’s supporters of deception. They charge the proponents with employing an unfair tactic by reintroducing the bill during a special legislative session, as though all sorts of business doesn’t get done in special session. And they contend that a key organization supporting Assembly Bill X-2 15, Compassion & Choices, is “deceptively named.”

So what tack is the opposition taking? Certainly not the straightforward approach.

In fact, in emails sent out to last week to representatives of several Catholic organizations and others opposed to physician-assisted suicide, a group calling itself Choice is an Illusion offered a set of scripts for opponents to use when calling or corresponding with their legislators.

Here are some of the suggestions. Choice is an Illusion doesn’t suggest using them only if they happen to apply. It says, hey, just go ahead and use them because they’re effective.

First on the list: “I am 62 years old and don’t want some doctor telling me or my wife that we should go kill ourselves.”

Then: “My friend has adult children who don’t treat her very well. I am afraid that if this bill goes through, they will push her to do the assisted suicide.”

Next: “I am a widow on a fixed income and have trouble making ends meet. I am afraid that once the bill is passed, the there will be a push to legalize euthanasia for people like me. I say this because I read an article from Washington state, where assisted suicide is legal, which suggests that very thing … .”

And: “My wife was medically killed in a California hospital, and there are more and more stories like mine. We should be holding doctors accountable, not giving them even more power by passing this bill and allowing them to legally help kill patients.”

The bill, co-authored by the Central Coast’s state senator, Bill Monning, D-Carmel, stalled in committee during the regular session, at least partly because of heavy opposition from the church. It has been revived in special session, however, and it survived a key committee vote on Tuesday, picking up support from two Republicans, marking the first sign of GOP support. The bill now goes to the Senate’s fiscal committee and could get to the Assembly floor this week, according to Monning.

It is a difficult subject and opponents and proponents alike have strong feelings on the matter. I have no argument with anyone who opposes the legislation, but I do object to those who would seek to impose their views on everyone else through scripted messages that have no apparent basis in reality.

To those who oppose the legislation, I say go for it. Oppose away. But you should not accuse anyone of deception or unfair practices until and unless you get your own house in order.


SB128, the End of Life Option Act that would allow terminally ill, mentally competent patients under strict regulations to request medication to end their lives peacefully, has been abruptly halted in its march through the California Legislature.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, represented by Jose Gomez, successfully lobbied Latino lawmakers to vote against it in its first appearance in the Assembly Health Committee.  Apparently alarmed by the seemingly easy passage through three committees of the Senate on a party line vote, the church mobilized itself, even taking to Twitter to warn, among others, Democratic Assembly members Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles, Freddie Rodriguez of West Covina and Ed Hernandez of Chin  to withhold support.

Zen stones into the water with sunrise on the background

Realizing they did not have the votes, sponsors Bill Monning and Lois Wolk pulled the bill from the agenda shortly before the hearing.  Claiming it is not “dead,” however, they plan to try again within the two-year legislative session, but if their efforts to garner support fail again, supporters believe the bill will ultimately end up on the 2016 ballot — where it will likely succeed.

A recent bipartisan poll indicates that 70 percent of voters want the right to die to become law in California. Ironically, this level of support comes even from the most conservative areas of the state, such as San Diego and Fresno. Sixty percent of Latinos say they want it in place. Its long-time opponents, the California Medical Association and the California Hospital Association, have dropped their opposition, finally recognizing that it is the physician’s role to alleviate suffering, not to prolong a painful death.

Also opposed to  SB128 are some disabled groups, which claim that disabled or low-income people can be “pressured” into ending their lives, a claim that has no merit in fact. A similar law, the result of ballot measures, has been on the books in Oregon since 1997 and in Washington State since 2008, and similar provisions are in effect in Montana and New Mexico by court ruling. The only Legislature to enact such a law is Vermont’s.  In none of these states has even a single complaint been filed by any individual or any group.

In Oregon, only 770 people have ended their lives under the law since 1997, and the evidence is that they were well educated and insured.  Most were in hospice or palliative care, countering a claim from some physicians that good palliative care would obviate the need for the law. The “slippery slope” to which disabled groups refer has simply not come to pass and there is no support for their continual unsubstantiated allusions to “reports that have not been filed.” Perhaps most telling of all is that are no lobbies, including the Catholic Church, seeking repeal of these laws in other states.

It is worth pointing out that the opponents of aid in dying repeatedly use the phrase “assisted suicide,” a politically charged term that like “partial birth abortion” arouses irrational fear. Those who commit suicide are willingly closing off the possibility of a future.  The people who would benefit from the End of Life Option act have no possibility of a future. They are dying. This distinction is crucial to grasp.  Those who choose Death with Dignity, as the law is called in other states, simply want control over just how much suffering they are willing to inflict on themselves and their families as their inevitable end is close.

Despite the pleas of Dolores Huerta, long-time Latino activist, and editorial support from “La Opinion” and from first-tier newspapers all over the state, the long arm of the church was apparently all the Assembly members needed to disregard the wishes of their constituents. The only option for those who want it is to lobby just as hard, withholding their support at the ballot box from legislators who ignore the will of their constituents. They should recognize that the Catholic Church doesn’t vote – Catholics do, and if these voters want this bill passed in the numbers the polls indicate, it is up to them to convince their representatives that it is not acceptable to impose personal beliefs on legislation that affects a large population that does not share their views.

Compassion & Choices, the leading organization concerned with end of life issues and a chief supporter of this bill, has indicated that the heat around it will only increase.  They believe that, either through legislation, by judicial decision, or by ballot initiative, the End of Life Option Act will become law in California.  All indications are that its time has come.


People’s desal project still chugging along


This is an update on the People’s Desal Project, Nader Agha’s proposed desal plant at Moss Landing, as provided by the project’s lawyer, David Balch:

The Moss Landing Harbor District (MLHD) – the CEQA Lead Agency for the People’s Desal Project – voted last night, April 22, to accept the proposal from Aspen Environmental Group to serve as the MLHD’s CEQA consultant. Aspen’s hiring, which was conditioned on the final checking of references and a scoping workshop, begins the formal CEQA review process. Aspen’s proposed schedule shows a June 2016 completion date.

This was a busy week for the People’s Project. Prior to the MLHD vote, we were introducing the project to key regulatory agencies and legislators in Sacramento. We met with Senator Bill Monning’s office, with Secretary Anna Caballero, and with the Chief Consultant to the Environmental Safety Committee (which is chaired by Assemblyman Luis Alejo), as well as with the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Water Commission, and the Lieutenant Governor’s office (who sits on the State Lands Commission). While these meetings were introductory in nature, it marks an exciting new phase for the People’s Moss Landing project.

Project Overview

The People’s Moss Landing project is a proposed reverse osmosis desalination plant at the Moss Landing Green Commercial Park that will produce 13,404 acre-feet per year (AFY) of potable water. The Project proposes to provide 3,652 AFY of “new water” to North County and 9,752 AFY to the Monterey Peninsula, to offset Cal-Am’s mandated water supply diversion curtailments on the Carmel River and Seaside Basin. The Project is located at the site of the former Kaiser Refractories Plant in Moss Landing, and it will occupy approximately 16 acres of the entire 186 acre site. Once the plant is built, water production (including delivery) is estimated to cost between $1,950 and $2,000 per acre foot – the least expensive of the three major local desalination proposals. The Draft Process Design Report provides a detailed overview of the Project and is located on the Project’s website.

Project Benefits

The “People’s Project” is located at the former National Refractories site in Moss Landing, California, which was identified by the CPUC in 2002 as the “preferred site” for a Monterey desalination plant, at the direction of the State Legislature. The MLCP site is zoned industrial and has been used extensively for industrial purposes. The site is considered ideal for a desalination plant since it is adjacent to the Moss Landing Power Plant, has access to a major roadway, and has significant infrastructure in place.

The People’s Project site has historical intake from, and discharge into, Monterey Bay, pre-existing the creation of the California Coastal Commission and the Monterey Bay Marine National Sanctuary. The site also has existing, grandfathered intake and outfall pipelines that run from the property, under Highway One and the Moss Landing harbor, and out into Monterey Bay. (The project team, of course, is aware of the proposed SWRCB regulations that require subsurface intake unless proven infeasible, and we look forward to working with the regulators during the coming months on this issue.) The site also has senior appropriative rights of approximately 2,000 acre feet of zone 2C groundwater, considered to be part of Salinas Valley groundwater basin. The People’s Project is the only project that has these critical benefits.


Zen waterOn April 7, the End of Life Option Act (SB128), the bill co-authored by California state Senators Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Lois Wolk (D-Davis), cleared its second committee hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, by a comfortable 5-2 margin.

At the hearing, news was made: Assemblyman Luis Alejo, whose district includes Salinas and who chairs the Latino Caucus, has signed on as a principal sponsor of the bill. This is notable because he represents a constituency that has traditionally opposed such legislation on religious and/or cultural grounds. His support is indicative of the attitudinal shift in confronting the challenges of end of life care on the part of both voters and physicians.

A recent poll indicates that over 70 percent of Californians favor an aid-in-dying law, mirroring the national percentage. For the first time, a majority of physicians – 54 percent, up from 46 percent in 2010—also favor it.

For those of you unfamiliar with this bill, it would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults, who meet a number of strict requirements, to end their lives with medication that they must be able to ingest themselves, at the time of their choosing. Two physicians must certify that the patient has a terminal condition. Other safeguards in the bill address concerns about coercive family or financial pressures. Patients must initiate the request and they can decide at the last minute not to use the medication, making the process entirely patient driven.

The End of Life Option Act is modeled on Oregon’s very successful Death with Dignity Act, which has been in place since 1997 without a single complaint of abuse to any authority. A very small percentage of the Oregon population has requested medication under the law; an even smaller percentage has taken it. It seems that merely having the medication available is such a comfort that many terminally ill patients feel no need to use it. Oregon and Washington passed the Death with Dignity Act via ballot initiative; New Mexico and Montana allow it by judicial order. Vermont’s legislature is the only one that has approved it, which is the best way in the view of experts to embed the required safeguards into the law. California now appears poised to do the same, though if the bill does not pass the many hurdles ahead of it, especially in the Assembly where many more votes are needed, it is sure to appear on the 2016 as a ballot initiative.

The traditional opponents of such bills include the Catholic Church – which has already signed on an expensive lobbying organization to oppose SB128. Some organizations representing the disabled, who are very aware that being disabled or old does not meet the strict rules under which one would qualify for aid in dying, are able to raise a lot of money by opposing the legislation on a “slippery slope” rationale made moot by the many years of data from Oregon. It is also opposed by some medical organizations, including oncologists. In the past, the California Medical Association (CMA) has opposed it, though it is hoped that this time around the CMA will take a neutral stance and allow its members to decide whether or not to participate in carrying out provisions of the bill, which would be strictly voluntary. (For reasons difficult to comprehend, the CMA opposed the End of Life Notification Bill recently signed into law by Governor Brown, requiring physicians to inform terminally ill patients of their options end of life options at the time of diagnosis.)

Infinite warehouse

SB128 is appropriately named the “End of Life Option” Act because the authors and supporters have made clear that aid in dying is part of a continuum of care for the terminally ill that includes both palliative care and hospice — vital options even though they are not always available or effective in relieving the pain and suffering of the terminally ill. The recommendation to consult palliative care and hospice experts is included in the bill, though it is not a requirement because access might be a problem, especially in rural parts of the state.

Many supporting this bill believe it is a basic human right to determine how to exit an untenable situation when one is terminally ill. Opponents like to call it “assisted suicide,” a politically charged phrase that summons distaste. The very definition of “terminal” connotes the inevitable ending of life, whereas “suicide” connotes the possibility of a future that is willingly foreclosed. When all viable treatment options have been exhausted, the only issue remaining to those patients is how peaceful their end will be, not whether or not there is an end. If the End of Life Option Act allows those facing the emotional and physical pain of a prolonged and painful death a peaceful departure, it is difficult to imagine why it would be opposed. Neither religious doctrine nor a misconceived notion that everyone can be healed should stand in the way of a crucial personal freedom.

If you agree, your voice needs to be heard. The next hearing – as yet unscheduled – will be before the Senate Appropriations Committee where the sponsors are not certain that they have the votes to send SB128 onto its next legislative gantlet. This link will take you to a list of members, and you can send emails to them by clicking on their names. You may not be in their district, but theoretically they represent all Californians, and so far, the majority of Californians say they want the right to decide how they die when their circumstances are grievous and irremediable. It would be far more expedient for our state legislators to agree than force an expensive ballot initiative, but for that to happen, we need to make ourselves heard.

Meister is a journalist who lives in Pebble Beach. She is a frequent contributor to the Partisan.