≡ Menu

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 Monterey City Council quickly righted a wrong on Tuesday.

The council unanimously passed an urgency ordinance to locate a safe-parking place for six homeless people on a city-owned parking lot on Pacific Street. In so doing, it’s possible that the city’s solution could work out even better than a proposal the city turned down two weeks ago.

“It’s been a little bit of a rocky road,” acknowledged Mayor Clyde Roberson.

“The way it stands now, it’s really a best-case scenario,” said Councilman Timothy Barrett.

Two weeks ago, the council rejected a proposal by the Monterey Methodist Church on Soledad Street to allow six homeless women to sleep in their cars overnight in the church parking lot. The safe-parking program would be operated by One Starfish, a Methodist group.

The council expressed support for One Starfish, but ultimately bowed to Methodist Church neighbors who said their area is already overrun by homeless people, many of whom live in the gullies and hillsides around nearby Del Monte Shopping Center. Among other concerns, the neighbors said they worried that the women parked at the Methodist Church site might not be safe in a neighborhood populated by a rougher element of homeless men.

While rejecting the Methodist Church as a site by a 3-2 vote, the council asked city officials to find an appropriate city parking lot to handle the safe-parking program.

That action generated criticism from activists who said that the council seemed to be more concerned about inconveniencing neighbors than meeting the needs of desperate homeless people.

City staffers scrambled to survey its parking lots for accessibility and safety, and ultimately found a lot at 735 Pacific St., across the street from Monterey High School. During the day, the lot handles parking for the city’s finance and human-resources offices.

The urgency ordinance allows One Starfish to operate the safe-parking program on the lot immediately.

Response to the city’s action on Tuesday drew praise from all circles, including representatives from One Starfish. In particular, they pointed out that Assistant City Manager Hans Usler and Community Services Director Kim Bui Burton moved swiftly to find a parking lot that meets the concerns of both the homeless and the community.

{ 19 comments }

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.City Council votes 3-2 not to offend the neighbors

Minnie Coyle, the late mayor of Monterey, was known for many things, but a single sentence published in the Monterey Peninsula Herald possibly best describes her legacy.

“Almost like Horatio at the Bridge,” the Herald declared, “Monterey Mayor Minnie D. Coyle symbolically stood at the city gates last night ready to protect the citizenry from the ‘flower children.’”

The issue, of course, was the city’s crossed-armed resistance to organizers of the Monterey Pop Festival.

Now enter our new Horatio and his small army — Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson and the council majority — to protect the citizens from six homeless women who are trying to make their way in this desperate world.

By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Monterey City Council denied a use permit that would have allowed six homeless women to sleep safely in their cars at the Methodist Church on Soledad Street.

Later in the evening, the council also rejected an ordinance that would give homeless people overnight shelter within the warm and sacred confines of local churches. This last ordinance was considered an “urgency” action, formally and morally, since the weather has been cold and inclement lately and there is significant fretting among those who possess a modicum of compassion that more homeless people might die without shelter.

The bodies of two homeless men were found across the street from Trader Joe’s last month, killed by their apparent inattentiveness and preparedness to prevailing weather conditions. By police accounts, they had earlier declined officers’ offer of help.

Before ruling in the Methodist Church case Tuesday night, the council heard from a long line of neighbors with legitimate complaints about the headaches caused by encampments of homeless people in and around their neighborhood. In particularly, vagrants, beggars and homeless haunt the gullies and backwoods near Del Monte Shopping Center and many of them make the nearby Union Bank property their toilet.

The neighbors described a long list of the bad behavior they must endure, and for that they deserve our pity.

But then they argued that allowing the Methodist Church to use six spaces in its parking lot so that homeless women in cars can sleep comfortably and safely will further degrade the neighborhood.

Each neighbor agreed that the Methodist Church program, called One Starfish, is righteous and beneficial and deserves our support. Many of the neighbors felt compelled to preface their public testimony with statements asserting that they are compassionate and giving people who would give the shirts off their backs to homeless people, as long as said homeless people are situated somewhere other than their general vicinity.

They pointed out that many other parking lots are better suited for such activity. Indeed, there exists a quiet and functional parking lot, away from the madding crowd, behind City Hall and Colton Hall that might be used. And they do have a valid point. A Capitol Idea, one might say.

And, ultimately, it’s one of many other sites the council might consider now that it rejected the Methodist Church parking lot.

Still, even after the council voted against the Methodist site as a safe parking place for harmless homeless women, the neighbors’ problems haven’t been solved. The council action Tuesday did not a thing to remedy the vagrancy problem in that neighborhood.

For the record, councilmen Alan Haffa and Timothy Barrett cast votes in support of One Starfish.

While the One Starfish issue was a localized rejection, the council’s action on church shelters was more of a citywide rebuff of compassionate treatment of folks who are down on their luck.

This was an outright rejection of the I-Help model of grace and humanity, egged on by homeowners who declared that offering those who are less fortunate than the rest of us a dry, warm place for the night only encourages them.

Almost 50 years ago, the Herald scribe who covered Mayor Minnie Coyle was not the only bemused observer of her brigade of finger-waggers. Also on the scene was Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of an upstart magazine called Rolling Stone.

Wenner’s account of the unfolding drama, published in 1968, feels appropriate today: “And so it began to happen in Monterey: a bizarre enactment of the entire American tragedy.”

{ 24 comments }

Psst. Want to hear a secret? Well OK then, just don’t tell the papers or anyone at Monterey City Hall. Knowledge is power and loose lips, and all that.

Here goes: At least 12 people have applied for appointment to the Monterey Planning Commission and there’s a good chance a couple of them will be appointed next Tuesday.  And there is quite a behind-the-scenes effort underway at the moment to make sure one of the favorites doesn’t make it.

The applicants are:

  • Paul W. Davis
  • Mike Dawson
  • Sharon Dwight
  • Daniel Fletcher
  • Thomas Hamrick
  • Terry Latasa
  • Bill McCrone
  • Stephen Millich
  • Luis Osorio
  • David Stocker
  • Susan Theodore
  • Kathleen Wall

Davis, Osorio, Stocker and McCrone are on the commission now and have been for a while. There hasn’t been much public discussion of the applicants, largely because Mayor Clyde Roberson thinks the applications are confidential. Fortunately for the forces of light and common sense, they actually are public record.

Normally, Planning Commission appointments in Monterey receive scant attention. That’s partly because the commissioners tend to stay put and openings don’t occur that often. Mayor Roberson is changing that up, however. He and the other member of the City Council’s nominating committee, Alan Haffa, sent emails to a couple of the incumbents a few weeks back, politely but clearly suggesting they look for some other way to be of service. Davis and Stocker got the notes but not the message for they both submitted applications for reappointment.

The mayor’s note said he thinks there should be limits on how long commissioners serve. Most of the rest of the council seems to agree on that though one council member, Libby Downey, thinks there should be some policy set on that question or, at the very least, an open discussion and maybe even some talk about qualifications and that sort of thing. When it came time for a second to that motion last week, council chambers got really quiet. The other four council members surely had reasons for their silence but they weren’t sharing.

Anyway, the bookie who services City Hall says the odds are good that Stocker and Fletcher are history, and by that, he doesn’t mean the Historic Preservation Commission, though there are applicants for that as well. (Carole Dawson, Charles Denley, Laurie Hambaro, Jennifer Lambert-Hamrick and Jerilynn Smith-Crivello.)

The odds-on favorites to fill in for Stocker and Fletcher as of Wednesday were Mike Dawson and Sharon Dwight, both of whom have been exceedingly active in their neighborhood organizations. Dawson has run for office several times and come close. He’s a nice guy, exceptionally knowledgable on city affairs.

Dwight has been a tireless advocate for neighborhood funding and is well known in and around City Hall. Too well known, according to some.

Back before Roberson was mayor, Mayor Chuck Della Sala sent a strongly worded letter to Dwight, calling her down for creating “an unwelcome and inappropriate confrontation” with planning commissioners in June 2014. Read it for yourself.

CJ_gcfgUwAA-Wq6

The letter started making the rounds Wednesday. I got it from a Twitter posting by Herald reporter Phil Molnar. There’s more to the story than that but I’ll let him tell it.

The good news is that McCrone is likely to stick around even though he is one of the City Hall’s all-time top feather rufflers, agitating as he has against sweetheart lease deals at Fisherman’s Wharf. Coming up soon is a political fight over the amount of parking near the wharf and losing someone with McCrone’s knowledge and stamina now might have signaled that the public was going to come out on the short end. Roberson would rather appoint just about anyone other than McCrone but in politics timing is everything.

{ 4 comments }

Boxing. Businessman in boxing gloves on backgroundAs if the fight over Fisherman’s Wharf leases wasn’t creating enough drama for the Monterey City Council, a new City Hall skirmish has broken out that promises to be at least as spirited.

The first punch was thrown during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Monterey Planning Commission when two commission members, David Stocker and Paul Davis, received emails from Mayor Clyde Roberson and Vice Mayor Alan Haffa asking them to withdraw their applications for reappointment to the commission.

Roberson and Haffa constitute the council’s nominating committee for commission appointments and they indicated in the emails that they have essentially decided to impose term limits for commission members though neither the council nor voters have enacted term limits. Traditionally, a two-person committee nominates residents for commission appointments that are then voted on by the five-member council.

The terms of four commissioners, including Stocker and Davis, are set to expire and the city has received applications from two others active in city politics, Rick Heuer and Sharon Dwight. Heuer is a lobbyist for the hospitality association and has been an adviser to the mayor, especially during the current effort by other council members to toss out a set of sweetheart leases between the city and wharf-related businesses. Dwight is a key figure in the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Program.

(UPDATE: Heuer says he has not applied for a position on the Planning Commission. Roberson says he cannot comment because commission applications are confidential under California law, specifically the Maddy Act, which requires government bodies to advertise commission openings. The text of the Maddy Act makes no reference to confidentiality, however, and a spot check of other jurisdictions found that  commission applications in many California cities make it clear that the applications are subject to public disclosure under the state Public Records Act. Monterey’s application, however, says the form remains confidential until the appointment process is complete. The spot check turned up one other city, Ripon, that labels the applications confidential.)

The terms of Planning Commissioners Willard McCrone and Luis Osorio are also set to expire but they apparently have not received emails asking them to resign. McCrone has been a leading force behind the effort to require wharf business to begin paying market rates for their space. The business and the hospitality industry has mounted a campaign to beat back the increases by portraying city officials as incompetent and uncaring. Perhaps not incidentally, Roberson and Haffa have been on opposite sides of that debate, with the mayor siding with established wharf interests and opposing the reform efforts.

McCrone commented Wednesday, “I expect my (email) any moment, and Luis Osorio, too. That is four of seven  commissioners from the best PC on the Central Coast, by far.  Dismissing over 50 years of experience.  It will have the effect of gutting the Waterfront Master Plan, in which we have pushed to recapture some of the waterfront from the wharf merchants for the public.  The Plan has been languishing in the back room for over 6 months while Clyde waits to get rid of us. ”

In a response email to the City Council and the rest of the Planning Commission, Stocker wrote that if the City Council wants to establish term limits, fine, but only after the matter is subject to an “open, public council discussion and decision.” As it is, the attempt by Roberson and Haffa to reshape the commission is simply “unacceptable,” Stocker said in a phone interview Wednesday. Stocker, a builder, has been on the commission for at least 15 years.

Davis, an architect, couldn’t be reached for immediate comment, but Stocker said he had spoken to his commission colleague.

“He said this is bullshit and he’ll fight,” Stocker said.

City Councilwoman Libby Downey said she also considered the attempted elimination of the commissioners as unacceptable.

“I’m very disturbed,” she said. “Two people cannot do this.” And if Roberson has received support from Councilman Ed Smith, which would provide him with a council majority, it would be a violation of the state’s open meetings law, Downey said.

Downey and others have said that Roberson ultimately would like to do away with the Planning Commission, partly because he believes it has too much authority on some matters and adds unnecessary bureaucracy on others.

The letter from Roberson and Haffa to Stocker reads:

Thank you for your years of dedicated service on the Planning Commission to keep Monterey a special place to live, work, and visit.  We value your contributions and caring for our precious City.

At this time, our subcommittee feels that it is time to allow other dedicated citizens to serve. We feel that 8 consecutive years on the Planning Commission in a good number.  Going forward, it is important to bring a variety of people from the community onto our commissions. 

Unlike other commissions, the Planning Commission often acts as a quasi-judicial body, and many instances, is the final approval body.

If you decide to take a break, we hope you will apply again in the future.  If you desire a break, you might consider withdrawing your application for the Planning Commission so it is clear that you are not being “fired,” which is absolutely not the case.

The subcommittee does not want to lose your expertise and experience.  To that end, we hope you will consider serving either on the Architectural Review Commission or Historic Preservation Commission.  There are openings on both, and both would benefit from your membership.

We hope to hear your positive response on the ARC and HPC opportunities.  Please let us know as soon as possible.

In appreciation,

Mayor and Vice-Mayor

Here is Stocker’s response:

Last October, during the election cycle, when we met at Libby’s, you had said that you would be putting in term limits for all committees, including the NIP (Neighborhood Improvement Program), and therefore, you would not support me for another planning commission appointment. When you said that, I had indicated that if that was the decision of the council, I would consider a different committee. The council has not voted on term limits, and I believe that discussion should happen, instead of it being put in place on select committees and individuals. I understand that my long service to the city has been at the pleasure of the Council, that is the essence of an appointed position, and it has been my pleasure to serve the city. But if the decisions not to reappoint are due to time limits, it should be a open, public, council discussion and decision.

I wish you all the best.

{ 4 comments }

How could I forget to follow the money?

161ccd73a48f7d274937e3f79228a2a6Gramps also told me to always check campaign contributions when writing about political issues but, doggone it, I forgot to do that before writing the piece about the smackdown attached to the leases at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Sure enough, there were some contributions that may help explain why Councilman Ed Smith thinks the existing policies are just fine and why he hasn’t joined with  Alan Haffa, Libby Downey and Timothy Barrett in trying to put some business sense into the process.

I haven’t been able to find Ed’s campaign reports from his first attempt at a council seat, but when he ran last year he got the following contributions from folks who’d like to preserve the sweetheart arrangements at the wharf:

Chris’ Fishing Trips, $250.
Mercurio Brothers, $250.
Monterey Bay Boat Charters, $100.
Cafe Fina, $250.
Ben DiGirolamo, $100
Sam Balesteri, $1,000
Monterey Bay Silver, $250.
Coniglio Family Trust, $250.
Benji Shake, $200
Mary Alice Cerrito Fettis, $100.

The names of some people with wharf interests were conspicuously absent from Smith’s reports. I’m guessing, and it is only a guess, that some of them might have been behind a $2,000 contribution from something called the Monterey Bay Action Committee, with a Carmel address. The thing is, I don’t know what the Monterey Bay Action Committee is but something tells me it’s the Peninsula’s answer to contractor Don Chapin’s Salinas Valley Leadership Group. If you know, please chime in. If I’ve got it wrong, please chime in very loudly.

The fifth member of the City Council, Mayor Clyde Roberson, is also opposed to changing the wharf leasing policies. He ran unopposed for his seat and didn’t receive campaign contributions. So that’s not it. It would be great if he would give us his take on the topic.

{ 32 comments }

161ccd73a48f7d274937e3f79228a2a6CORRECTION PENDING: Based on information from the city, I reported in this post that the average lease rate at the wharf properties is about $1.65 per square foot. I have since been informed that the rate actually is about 65 cents. In his comment below, Willard McCrone states that the “minimum” lease figure is 61 cents. I have not yet been able to fully to determine which of those figures is better for comparison purposes.  In the meantime, anyone with actual numbers is invited to share them in the comment section below. Please attribute.

Gramps didn’t say a lot but what he did say was worth hearing. For instance, he offered fairly often that whenever someone tells you how honest they are, you should make sure they haven’t already lifted your wallet.

When we’d ask why he was so quiet most of the time, he’d answer, “When you don’t know what you’re talking about, stop talking.” Good advice, and I am reminded of it because of how much is being said these days by those who don’t understand the issues in the heated debate over the city of Monterey’s leasing practices at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The topic is much more complicated than you might expect, but to hear the wharf tenants and their pals tell it, it’s simply that the city wants to gouge local businesses without regard to reality or ramifications. The thrust of their argument is that the city is making it up when it says the wharf tenants are paying less than market value rent, but the reality is that the city has ample facts and figures to support its position. In other words, the tenants are attempting the age-old technique of repeating the same fiction over and over until the repetition causes people to start believing it. The key is to keep contending it’s the other side that’s lying. It works in politics, after all, and this debate is all about power politics.

Unfortunately, the facts here are open to fairly easy distortion because the individual leases and sub-leases have been negotiated at various times over the decades and because the wharf isn’t your typical bricks and mortar building on dry land. And because the city owns the property below the wharf and not the structures themselves, the tenants want us to believe the city is trying to extract gold from plain, old mud when, in fact, the city’s watery real estate is about as prime as it gets.

Also complicating matters, the tenants in some cases built the structures that house their businesses. In some cases, the leaseholders long ago sub-leased the property to other tenants, creating a situation in which the leaseholder is making a pretty profit while the city is receiving a relative pittance. Apples to apples comparisons become difficult but that does not mean that the city can’t support its position. The city has obtained expert opinion from some of the region’s most knowledgeable specialists in commercial real estate and applicable law.

Notice that the tenants aren’t broadcasting any numbers, actual figures about how much they’re paying, or not paying. Instead, they keep accusing the city of ignoring facts and numbers. Say it often enough and people will believe it.

TENANTS HAVE PLENTY OF OTHERS TO DO THEIR BIDDING

Many of the current leases that the city wants to rewrite as they expire were negotiated and renewed at less than arms’ length by past councils populated by friends and associates of the tenants. As a result, the rent being paid by many of the businesses is well below market rate, no matter what you are being told by those who don’t really know.

Among those pretending to know is KSBW-TV, which maintained in a recent editorial that the City Council “has started down a short-sighted, ‘never-mind the facts’ path, aimed at changing leases for long-time wharf businesses.”

You’ll notice that the editorial has little to say about the facts that the city supposedly is ignoring. It doesn’t mention that the average monthly lease rate of around $1.65 per square foot is 50 cents to $1 below prevailing rates on the Peninsula.

The tenants argue that the city must allow long-term leases, longer than 10 years, so they can finance improvements to the properties. KSBW simply accepts their assertion that the city won’t allow longer leases even though newly adopted city policies say options beyond 10 years are available. When? When contemplated improvements could not be financed if the business was limited to a 10-year ease.

(At least two City Council members contacted KSBW to quarrel with its version of the “facts” and to ask for an opportunity to rebut the editorial. They were told that they could post a response on the station’s website but couldn’t meet with the KSBW editorial board or have their objections aired. Though the station’s editorials end with “KSBW welcomes responsible replies to this editorial,” that doesn’t amount to an offer of air time and doesn’t imply those responses will be shared with anyone, according to News Director Lawton Dodd.)

The editorial makes the argument, which others are repeating with limp evidence, that the new lease procedures could drive local businesses off the wharf, potentially leading to an invasion by better-financed national chains. Never mind that the city is well aware of the great value of local tenants. The specter of chain restaurants was also raised in a recent Monterey Herald commentary by the Monterey Hospitality Association and the Chamber of Commerce, which were enlisted by the leaseholders to lobby for the lucrative status quo.

Operators of Sapporo and the London Bridge Pub in this building don’t rent their space from the city but from another leaseholder who rents from the city. If the city was receiving the market rate, the restaurant owners would be paying above market rate. How likely is that?

It deserves mention that among those fighting to keep the current lease structure intact is chamber and Hospitality Association stalwart Ted Balestreri of the Cannery Row Company, one of the city’s biggest landlords and holder of the master lease on the property that houses Sapporo Steak & Sushi and the London Bridge Pub at the foot of the commercial wharf. Though that property isn’t on Fisherman’s Wharf, it is subject to the revised leasing practices. While Balestreri’s supporters use the prospect of national chains as a scare tactic, it should be noted that tenants of some of the Cannery Row Company’s best real estate are the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and El Torito, both part of large national chains. (By the way, Balestrieri has said that the Bubba Gump operation on Cannery Row was pulling in more sales per square foot than any other restaurant in the country.)

COUNCIL MEMBERS GETTING HAMMERED FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING

After considerable discussion and consultation with their real estate experts, the City Council, by a 3-2 vote, has approved some 20 new leasing policies and soon will take up two more that would directly impact the wharf. We can expect the leaseholders to fight mightily over the coming months to roll back some the 20 measures and to fight hard against the two current proposals.

The first would require the wharf businesses to cover the expenses assigned to common areas and facilities such as a commercial trash compactor. Unfair, say the businesses. But ask why the city should be required to continue subsidizing these enterprises and the answer is likely to veer into politics rather than business practices.

The second proposal would set a limit on the square footage that could be leased by any one entity. The concern, of course, is that some of the wharf’s most successful entrepreneurs, such as the Shake family, could dominate the wharf property. The Shakes are accomplished restaurateurs but the city rightly fears that having one tenant with the majority of the leased space could put the city at a great disadvantage: Reduce the rent or we’ll pull out.

In another Herald commentary, Chris Shake took issue with the views of Planning Commissioner Willard McCrone, whose research of the leases played a large part in the current reform effort.

Shake wrote, “Commissioner McCrone has no facts or evidence to prove his assumptions that the wharf tenants are paying below-market rent; his assumptions are completely false and have no basis.”

Did Shake then provide facts and figures to disprove McCrone’s assertions? Nope. Nothing at all. He publicly labeled McCrone a liar without a hint of evidence

The fact is, and this is an actual fact, that debate over the wharf leases has turned into a hardball case of politics that has supplanted what should be a professional negotiation. Another fact is that the tenants amount to a politically powerful lot, flexing muscles they have built through decades of political and charitable contributions, family ties and associations with other political and commercial powers.

MESS WITH THE LEASEHOLDERS AND EXPECT TO GET ZAPPED

Often in a debate such as this, taxpayers’ groups would step up to support the government’s position because below-market rental rates essentially require taxpayers to subsidize the enterprises. But the most active taxpayer group on the Peninsula is the Monterey Peninsula Taxpayers Association, which is closely allied with the Hospitality Association, which has taken up the tenants’ cause.

The council members pushing this effort should be congratulated. Instead, they have found themselves under heavy attack. For many years, well into this century, the city’s real estate matters were overseen by a fellow who had virtually no previous experience with real estate. At one point lasting more than a year, the city forgot it owned a condo intended to provide affordable housing, so it sat vacant. This is not a fact, only a theory, but some suspect that city officials made a conscious decision to let themselves be outmatched in negotiations with the wharf tenants. It was simply easier thatr way.

Going forward, support for professionalizing the leases comes from council members Libby Downey, Alan Haffa and Timothy Barrett. Mayor Clyde Roberson has gone the other way. Whether that has anything to do with his previous service on the council, between 1981 and 2006, isn’t clear one way or the other. Also going the other way, Ed Smith, who has championed the tenants’ case at every opportunity.

When I came to the Peninsula as city editor of the Herald in 2000, I asked assistant city editor Calvin Demmon, a wise adviser, about the Cannery Row Company.

“Cannery Row?” he said. “That’s the third rail of Peninsula politics.” For those you too young to get the reference, it comes from electric trains. The third rail is the one that carries the juice. It’s the rail that one doesn’t mess with.

Those are some of the facts. There are others that we’re not prepared to discuss because we haven’t studied them well enough. To some degree, then, we’re following grandpa’s advice, and we’re hoping that others who haven’t studied the issues will follow along for now.

{ 12 comments }

If you know anything at all about architecture, anything, you know more than I do. In journalism school, my professors told us not to become expert, even adequate, at anything because it would only confuse us later. I took the advice to heart particularly when it came to architecture. You could say I’m the Sgt. Schultz of architecture.

What I do know is that most buildings probably should have some architecture and it is probably better if it is not the result of committee action or popular vote. I understand there are examples of excellent architecture in the world, mostly in other countries these days, and that Mr. and Mrs. Average Person in Barcelona or Tokyo or Sydney might have vetoed the designs if they could.

20141216_MCC_Joint_Session

Having said all that, let me just go out on a skinny limb to say I’m not so sure about the design for the makeover of the Monterey Conference Center. That’s that big space next to the Portola Plaza Hotel. Several floors tall. Panetta Lectures. First Night shows. You know the place.

I know enough about architecture to know that the firm that drew up the initial drawings, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is a big name in architecture, as in the new World Trade Center building. I recognize the Skidmore name and I think the only other name in architecture that would ring a bell is I.M. Pei. I’m not sure if that is a person or a company. Oh, yeah, there’s Skadden Arps. Oops, wait a minute. That’s a law firm.

My initial reaction to seeing the drawing above in the Monterey Herald was that it was a throwback, something from the Herald’s archives, perhaps the unveiling of drawings for a post office in Marina, circa 1972.

I mean, it looks fine. It looks like a place where medical device salesman from throughout the tri-state region could hold a fine conference and/or convention. There is nothing about the look that would prevent any of the attendees from pinning on their nametags and walking right on in. I have been to quite a few conferences in important places like Indianapolis and Dallas, even Phoenix, and I must admit I remember much more about the hotel bars than I do about how the convention center looked.

Phil Molnar, the Herald reporter who wrote about the design’s debut, shared on his blog that he has been getting some heat from people who thought he shouldn’t have given so much space to those who were less than delighted with the look.

“It’s going to have to look way different or I’m going to hear about it,” said Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson, who never struck me as a troublemaker. Sounds like fair comment. It’s not as though he had compared it to a slaughterhouse or said the architects should be arrested.

You know a design debut isn’t going well when the response to the response is that it’s a work in progress, it’s a first draft, nothing’s set in stone. Oh, this? It’s just some concepts we were tossing around.

That’s probably a good approach whenever the audience gets its first look and grimaces. But there is a body of thought that in architecture, unlike in writing, first drafts should be discarded, not reworked or merely edited. “All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft, for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come, in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail and ornament, alas!” Who said that? T.E. Lawrence, alias Lawrence of Arabia, who was not an architect. At least he wasn’t in the movie.

In fairness, it should be noted that this is a makeover, a remodeling, not a start from scratch, reach for the stars design. This is like plastic surgery on an older person. If people don’t point at the result and whisper, “Look like it’s had some work,” the designers can claim some measure of success.

Also, it’s not like the city and Monterey’s hospitality-hydrology complex are rolling in dough, even though they just may be. This is quasi-government stuff. There is a budget, dammit, and someone is going to get some pretty stern looks from someone if it is broken.

The Partisan is hoping, of course, to hear from Partisan supporters about what you think of the one and only picture we were able to get showing how this thing might look. Heck, we’d even like to hear from non-supporters, those of you who only read the Partisan in order to find out what “those people” are up to.

Chime in. The comment section starts just a couple of inches below here.

Cheers.

{ 23 comments }

American Flag Painted by Roller Brush, Wining Concept of Flag

UPDATE: Here is Marina Coast Water District candidate Sarab Sarabi’s response to the news reported below on Oct. 8  that he is on probation following a marijuana-related arrest last year.

“I have been the state political director or the student wing of the California Democratic Party, I have served as the policy director of the western United States for the student wing of the Democratic National Committee, I have sat on the Senate Bill 1440 Implementation and oversight Committee, I was instrumental in getting several state lawmakers to support the California dream act, I have fought all my life for democratic values and supported leaders who seek to implement those values, locally I ran the canvassing operation with the mayor and designed the literature for Marina’s measure Ito fund police, fire and senior services all this work in the name of democratic values.But people are encouraging you to research a criminal record instead. Alright well since you asked, yes, I was arrested for possession of marijuana but there is no such thing as felony probation and I was released. Just a couple months after the arrest the DA tried to throw the sun and the moon at me but at the end of the day all of the original chargeswere dropped. I pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor just so I could get it over with. I should have had my medical marijuana license on me but the paper is so large and awkward to carry around I often just don’t. (The Partisan also asked Sarabi about a rumor that he had a previous arrest for arson) As to the fire damage I was playing with fire in my own room and it got out of hand I was just old enough for this to go on my adult record by the way that was almost two decades ago, Since then I have done many great things. I tutored at risk children in math and science while I was a student at Monterey Peninsula College, I have devoted my life’s efforts to the enfranchisement of young people whether it was access to college or the ballot box or something as simple as helping them with homework my efforts in Sacramento led to the legislature passing several bills that made college more accessible tohundreds of thousands of young people across California.

“I can go on and on about the past my local efforts on measure I ensured continued funding for fire, police, and seniors my work has not gone unrecognized as I have beenawarded various awards including one from our very own congressman Sam Farr as well as the state chancellor’s office.In the end I bring balance a fresh face, a policy background, passion and energy. I’m looking forward to being able to work with Jan (Shriner) and Margaret (Davis) to really unite Marina and do the people’s work. We can’t do that with Howard (Gustafson), Ken (Nishi) or Bill (Lee). Thank you. I hope this answered your question I look forward to building a long-term relationship with you if you would like to ask more questions in the future.”

Proprietor’s note: Marina police records say Sarabi was arrested after a small amount of marijuana was found during a traffic stop in 2013. A Monterey County Superior Court docket sheet says he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of possession of concentrated cannabis and that three other felony charges were dismissed as the result of a plea bargain. The record says he was placed on three years probation with the understanding that the felony would be reduced to a misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation. “The People indicate to the Court that the plea agreement included no reduction of count 4 to a misdemeanor unless the defendant successfully completes the term of probation, defense concurs.”

 

 

Continuing where we left off in Part 1, with the easiest pick of the season.

SHERIFF: When the Monterey County Weekly endorsed incumbent Scott Miller, it said the choice was so obvious that “even the Herald got it right.” Here here. Or is it hear hear. I have never been sure

Steve Bernal, a sheriff’s deputy with absolutely no management experience, should be ashamed of the campaign that Brandon Gesicki and other GOP henchmen are running on his behalf.

Gesicki has been telling people that the Bernal campaign has some bombshells to drop on the sheriff. They’ve made as much noise as possible for as long as possible about Miller’s son being a druggie. That, at least, is true. I’m betting that Gesicki and company will soon be making stuff up.

Bernal’s campaign advertising portrays Miller as some sort of crime boss and Bernal as the decent, honorable alternative. If hanging around with Gesicki and his ilk hasn’t drained all the honor out of him already, he should publicly fire his advisers, apologize to his boss and sign up for some training

Miller is highly experienced. He spent years in the Salinas Police Department, rising through the ranks, and was police chief in Pacific Grove before being elected sheriff. He inherited a mixed bag staff-wise with a fair number of deputies who had coasted through their jobs. He has worked to make them accountable and to weed out the worst. A goodly number of deputies are supporting Bernal and it’s no wonder. Who would you rather work for, a hard-nosed boss or your buddy?

Though the position is non-partisan, Bernal’s candidacy is all about partisanship. The local Republican Party is hellbent in getting as many GOPers as possible elected to local office. Before the campaign, one of the party bosses offered Miller a deal. Register as a Republican or we’ll run someone against you. You can see what happened.

For another glimpse at how things really work, check out Bernal’s list of endorsers and you’ll see some familiar names out of Carmel. Though cute little Carmel has little stake in law enforcement outside its borders, Bernal has been endorsed by former Mayor Sue McCloud and former City Council members Paula Hazdovac and Gerard Rose. Yes, they’re Republicans but that’s not the whole story. Some may recall that Miller’s wife, Jane, was once personnel director in Carmel and she successfully sued the city after she was repeatedly sexually harassed by the city manager at the time, during the incumbency of McCloud and there others. She received a settlement of $600,000.

You be the judge. McCloud, Hazdovac and Rose, sharp cookies all, decided for some odd reason to endorse a cluelessly inexperienced candidate for sheriff, or could it be retaliation? Politics at its worst.

In other words, re-elect Miller.

DEL REY OAKS: Incumbent city councilmen Jeff Cecilio and Dennis Allion are trying to stay on board while challenger Patricia Lintell, a retired computer scientist, is trying to knock one of them off. I’d go for Lintell because the incumbents in Del Rey Oaks seem hell-bent in turning their Police Department into a little Army for no particular reason. Forced to pick one of the incumbents to stick around, I’d go with Cecilio simply because I talked to him once and he seemed OK. I wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of voting for Allion, however.

GREENFIELD: I generally don’t dig too deeply into Salinas Valley races but Greenfield Mayor John Huerta has been in office long enough. He and I have quite a few mutual acquaintances. They always seem to pause when they talk about him. In other words, they have reservations but they’re reluctant to put them into words.

Challenger Michael Richard de Leon-Mungia is young, smart and eager. Let’s give him a shot.

MARINA: Mayor Bruce Delgado is one of the nicest guys around. In almost every way he is the opposite of past mayors Gary “You Talkin’ to Me” Wilmot and Ila “I’m An Army Colonel and Don’t You Forget It” Mettee McCutchon. Delgago has enough of the ‘60s peace-love-and-understanding stuff left in him to drive the Board of Realtors wild but he has proved to be hard-working, conscientious and respectful of his constituents.

Delgado’s opponent, Ken Turgen, is an architect and planning commissioner whose list of supporters reads like the guest list for one of Ila’s birthday parties. Delgado is receiving support from the slow-growthers. Turgen is the pick of the  fast-growthers. If Cal Am has any money left over from its last campaign, look for someof it to end up in Turgen’s treasury.

I’d suggest voting for Delgado unless you like strip malls and taxpayer-subsidized construction projects.

Meanwhile, two incumbents and a newcomer are competing for two seats on the Marina council.

Incumbent David Brown, one of three lawyers on the council, often votes with Delgado, Frank O’Connell and Gail Morton. Let’s call them the liberals. Incumbent Nancy Amadeo often votes the other way. Let’s call her not a liberal.

Re-electing Brown and Amadeo is a fine idea. It won’t shift the balance of power and will keep one person on board to help keep the others honest. Recreation Commissioner Dan Devlin Jr. also seems vote-worthy, partly because his late father, the former Defense Language Institute commander, was one sharp fellow. Even so, I’d vote either Brown-Amadeo or Brown-Devlin, not Amadeo-Devlin.

MONTEREY: Clyde Roberson will be the next mayor because he scared everyone else off. He was a very popular mayor a long time ago and every seems to think he did a good job.

The City Council race, however, is a real contest. Two seats are open, those of Nancy Selfridge and Frank Sollecito. Frank’s had enough and is hoping that another retired Monterey cop, Ed Smith, takes his place.

Smith is a worthwhile candidate. He’s studied the issues closely and understands city business. However, I can’t stop thinking that for him, job one would be protecting police pensions at the expense of everything else.

Selfridge is the wind-up councilwoman. She’s here, she’s there, this meeting today, that meeting tonight, or visiting a sister city at her own expense. Early on in her council career, she was hopelessly naïve. She’s wiser now but still an idealist. Every City Council needs at least one. During the past term, she expended much of her energy fighting with then-City Manager Fred Meurer. Now that he’s gone, she should be able to put her energy into larger causes. (When you read the Herald’s endorsement in this race, keep in mind that Meurer’s wife, Phyllis, is now on the Herald editorial board.)

With lefty Alan Haffa already on the council, his friend Tim Barrett could amount to one idealist too many. He’s a true peace-loving, homelessness-fighting Occupy Wall Street kind of liberal of the sort that has been in short supply here over the decades. Selfridge supporters fear, however, that a Barrett victory could mean a Selfridge defeat, so they’re urging voters to shy away from Tim. I’m also bothered by his ages-old arrest for allegedly manhandling his girlfriend.

Lawyer Hansen Reed is the solid guy in the middle. He isn’t fully up to speed on some of the issues, such as desalination, but he is known to be a quick study and is well regarded in the legal community. Barrett’s politics suit my own better but I agree that voting for him would reduce the chances of a Selfridge victory. I’m thinking Selfridge and Reed.

SEASIDE: If it was a popularity contest between Mayor Ralph Rubio and former Mayor Felix Bachofner, Rubio would win it easily. He’s the handsome charmer, the guy who remembers everyone’s name and accepts criticism with a smile. Bachofner, an aggressive, youngish businessman, won’t win on style points. And there’s that name. I just looked it up and I’m still not sure I’m spelling it right.

But style points or not, Rubio shouldn’t be in office for the simple reasons that he’s a mucky-muck with the Carpenters Union. No one else around seems to care but to me it is one heck of a conflict as much as I admire unionism. Most of the controversial items that go before the council involve development. When Rubio votes yes, as he almost always does, is he voting yes as the mayor or yes as the union executive who sees jobs for his members? The upcoming decisions on the Monterey Downs racetrack venture will be as controversial as they come. The project also would create quite a few carpentry jobs. I’d like to think the mayor’s analysis goes deeper than that.

Did you know that the Home Depot store in Seaside, which was fast-tracked through the Seaside City Council, is in a building owned by the Carpenters Union?

Rubio’s got all the moves, but Bachofner should be back in office. When he was mayor before being knocked off by Rubio, he worked hard on all sorts of issues and represented a wider range of interests than Rubio does. As a small businessman, he had minor conflicts of his own but he worked them out forthrightly. He’s the right choice.

Meanwhile, the Seaside City Council election is a four-man race for two seats.

I’ll always support incumbent Alvin Edwards, the retired fire captain and former water board member. That’s because he truly understands what working-class families are up against in Seaside and because he always laughs at my jokes. Alvin made a name for himself politically while he was on the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board. When development interests applied pressure to the board, and essentially disrespected the environmentalist bloc on the board. Edwards responded by stepping up and becoming a leader of the water-conservation, slow-growth contingent. I wish he would take more of a leadership role on the council, but I’m glad he’s there even when he’s quiet.

I’m also giving a thumbs up to landscape contractor Jason Campbell because he is smart, energetic and opposed to the Monterey Downs boondoggle. The council needs at least one person who won’t rubber stamp development. Jason was a leader of last year’s unsuccessful anti-Monterey Downs initiative, but even those on the other side of that campaign would have to admit that his side would have prevailed if the other side hadn’t relied on fraudulent advertising. He would be the odd man out much of the time, but he would be serving a great purpose by keeping the council accountable.

The other incumbent is the very likable Dennis Alexander. I find it fascinating that the ballot doesn’t say he’s an incumbent. Instead, it calls him a teacher and reserve police officer. Maybe the value of incumbency is slipping. He has done a fine job on the council but not fine enough to recommend him over Edwards and Campbell.

PACIFIC GROVE: For mayor, I’m going with the incumbent, Bill Kampe, though I have found myself disagreeing with him on water issues. I have a hard time supporting anyone who didn’t support the effort to take Cal Am Water public. But challenger John Moore, a lawyer, is too much of a one-note guy, all about pensions. Important thing, police pensions, but not the only thing.

Six candidates are competing for three seats on the P.G. City Council. If I knew more than I do, I’d tell you all about it, but I don’t so I won’t.

SALINAS: Mayor Joe Gunter, the former police detective, is a pretty good guy, though I wish he would vote his conscience more often rather than political expedience. Take him aside sometime and ask how he really feels about cardroom gambling.

If I lived in Salinas, I’d vote for challenger Bill Freeman, the outspoken Hartnell College trustee who has championed progressive causes and who has been a real friend to the instructors. I like his stance on most things, but I’m not going to pretend that most people in Salinas could ever support him. I wish he had run for a seat on the council first. Gunter would be the more practical choice but who says we always have to be practical? Freeman.

No matter what I say here, the three City Council candidates will be re-elected, though Kimbley Craig‘s opponent, Eric Peterson, seems to be coming on. I had initially felt that Peterson was simply too liberal for the north Salinas district, but he has demonstrated a command of the issues. Unfortunately, much of his key support seems to be coming from outside the district, particularly on the Peninsula.

As for incumbent Tony Barrera, I’ll simply remind him that he is still trying to rebuild trust after previous legal issues. His aggressive style can work well in representing the city’s poorest district but the tough-guy persona doesn’t always work. I’d remind Councilman Steve McShane the he’s not 23 any more and remind Councilwoman Kimbley Craig that expectations are rising. She’s not the new kid on the council anymore.

No, it hasn’t escaped my attention that these three incumbents are the very same three incumbents who got together and scolded the former city librarian to the point that she walked away with a big-dollar settlement from the city. But what’s that old saying about the devil you know….

MARINA COAST WATER DISTRICT: Now, to my favorite contest.

Many voters on the Peninsula figure there’s no need to pay attention to the Marina Coast Water District, which supplies water to Marina and much of Fort Ord. The thing is, the district board is an important player in area water affairs. At one time it was a partner with Cal Am in an attempt to build a desalination plant. Now, it may go it alone on a plant and no matter what happens, it has the capacity to play a spoiler role in other water-related efforts. That’s why it is important to have skilled and public-spirited people on the board. Therefore, I’ll start with the candidates who should NOT be on the board.

Incumbent Howard Gustafson and former trustee Ken Nishi are a two-man team apparently committed to keeping everyone confused. They say their motivation is to keep water rates down but it’s hard to tell because they seem to communicate in code.

Gustafson’s the board bully, or would-be bully. His tactics often don’t work because people often can’t figure out what he’s talking about. Nishi is the mischief maker, the sneaky one. Voters should be reminded of the time when he was serving on the Peninsula sewage treatment board at the same time and  arranged for the water district to hire away the sewage district’s chief executive, breaking several confidences in the process.

Gustafson and Nishi have a fast-growth agenda and other agendas known only to them. They have been endorsed by the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, a decision that decidedly cheapens the chamber’s other endorsements. If you live in Marina, don’t vote for them. If you have friends in Marina, call them and tell them not to vote for these guys. Having them on the board reduces the effectiveness of board member Tom Moore, one of the smartest people I know. He’s a Naval Postgraduate School professor and they’re all wonks over there. He also has a remarkable understanding of water politics and water-related engineering. Having Nishi and Gustafson on the board with him again would make board politics so difficult and confounding that his effectiveness could be seriously degraded. He’d have to spend all his time playing their games.

When Nishi and Gustafson were on the board together a few years back, I compared the district to a Moose Lodge. I owe an apology to the Moose.

Incumbent Bill Lee also should be thanked and excused. I’m not sure I understand his game either, but he calls himself a security consultant when he’s actually a bail bondsman. When his brother in law ran for a board seat a few years back, Bill introduced him to everyone without mentioning the relationship.

Initially I was ready to endorse Sarab Sarabi along with two excellent choices, Jan Shriner and Margaret Davis, but I have been urged to do some additional research on Mr. Sarabi. Court records indicate that he is on felony probation following an arrest last year for a minor marijuana offense. I have asked him about it but haven’t received a response. (UPDATE”: SEE RESPONSE AT TOP OF POST).

Shriner has become a water wonk and the board’s monitor of all things procedural. She obviously feels that things will work out well if everything is above board and all procedures are followed to the letter, which puts her at distinct odds with Gustafson and Nishi. She takes her position extremely seriously and deserves another term.  Davis, meanwhile, is an editor and land-use activist. She is fully conversant on the issues and would be a great addition to a board looking for ways to solve the region’s water problems.

Shriner and Davis

BALLOT MEASURES: Maybe later.

{ 36 comments }