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Business people horse racingEIR and plan details go to Seaside Planning Commission on Wednesday

Opponents of the Monterey Downs horse race track venture at Fort Ord may be on the verge of a huge victory with the Seaside city staff recommending that the associated commercial and residential elements of the sprawling project move ahead without provisions for actual racing.

Celebration seems premature, however, because nothing in the staff recommendation to the city Planning Commission would prevent the racing operation from being revived at some point after somewhat less controversial aspects had been approved. Debate over the entire project and especially the horse racing component are expected to play a real role in the upcoming municipal election, which features a mayoral contest between project proponent/incumbent Ralph Rubio and project opponent Kay Cline.

The staff recommendation amounts to a couple of brief, nearly cryptic mentions in a lengthy report presented to planning commissioners for a special meeting Wednesday at which they will be asked to approve the environmental impact report and the so-called specific plan for the development. Southern California horse racing figure Brian Boudreau proposes 1,280 homes and apartments and considerable other construction on 700-plus acres partly within Seaside city limits and partly in Monterey County’s jurisdiction.

While the project has enjoyed significant support from elected officials and some business interests, the developer hasn’t been able to point to a continuing water supply and has been slow to cover expenses stemming from the application process. The project also has created something of a local coalition of animal-rights activists and environmentalists concerned about the loss of tens of thousands of trees. Perhaps incidentally, the Monterey Downs website detailing and promoting the project was nowhere to be found on Monday

City Manager Craig Malin elaborated on the staff’s current thinking in an email exchange with the Partisan on Monday and in a recent blog post.

“The staff recommendation is premised on planning and land use concerns; principally that setting aside the acreage required for horse racing (track, infield, grandstands, associated structures and parking) without a clearly defined path to financing and construction of those facilities is, at this moment in time, difficult to position as a highest and best use of the land,” Malin said by email. “There is a clear and significant consolidation of the California horse racing industry underway, and the amount of money wagered on California horse racing is, adjusted for inflation, down nearly 40% from 2005 to 2015, according to annual reports published by the California Horse Racing Board.”

But yes, Malin acknowledged, the racing enterprise could be re-inserted into the plan at some point.

“…In both a conceptual and practical sense, horse racing is a legal business.  Conceptually, cities can’t generally prohibit legal businesses from operating in a community, particularly those that are as much creatures of state regulation as horse racing is.  Conceptually, horse racing could come to almost any city with infrastructure that exists (or may be constructed) to support it.  Practically speaking, should the project move forward, it would be very difficult to add horse racing back into the project if homes are sold without that use allowed within the first approvals.

“Keep in  mind, it is just a staff recommendation at this point.”

Malin spent most of his public sector career in other states and his comments seem to reflect a poor understanding of California zoning and environmental protection law. Cities can, in fact, prohibit legal businesses from opening if they are deemed to be in conflict with the zoning.

In his blog, Manifest, Malin wrote about a recent excursion with Boudreau to the Del Mar race track near San Diego, where Boudreau explained the wagering process and the manager soaked in the atmosphere.

“It was all quite lovely, and I could see how responsible, normal people could enjoy a day, or a season, at the racetrack,” he wrote. “I could see that Del Mar is a regional attraction, and community institution, with a long and storied history. I could also see how Del Mar, at its present scale and with its southern California zeitgeist, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be replicated exactly here in Seaside. But perhaps something smaller in scale, and something more Northern California in manner, could.”

City Councilman Jason Campbell, who opposed the project, said the staff recommendation “is politically expedient” because it would mute much of the project’s criticism while allowing the city to pursue other aspects of the development.

The issue goes to the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Seaside City Hall.

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The Partisan’s 2015 wish list, toward a better tomorrow

christmas tree lightA review of the Partisan’s posts of 2015 reveals that we did a reasonably good job of accentuating the positive and avoiding unnecessary criticism. In that spirit, we are taking this opportunity to distribute some presents of sorts with the barest amount of advice necessary to provide context.

City of Seaside: A gift bag filled with enough wisdom to realize that this horse-racing thing is never going to happen. You need to know this before you waste more time and money. It might have come to something if the centerpiece of this proposal was something other than a horse racing track, but that’s what it is. Horse racing was a dying enterprise even before the public started recognizing how many horses actually die at the tracks. On top of that, the location is wrong, the developers’ own financial forecasts don’t support the idea and the development team seems to think it can force it down the community’s throat.

Craig Malin: For the incoming Seaside city manager, a subscription to the Weekly and the Partisan because you’ve shown yourself to be a fan of good local journalism.

Sand City: Don’t be jealous about Seaside’s present. Here’s a box of reality for you, too. That hotel on the beach? It was a bureaucratic fluke that got the proposal this far but if you think the community is going to let you build a hotel on the sand, knowing what happens when buildings go up on the shore, you need to get out more.

City of Mared christmas backgroundrina: Your gift is a back brace to help continue to build a people-friendly community rather than a conglomeration of shopping centers and parking lots. Yes, people want restaurants in their commercial districts but the City Council can and should set standards. Time will prove the council right.

The City of King City: A whole new start.

Salinas Police Department: May the big shiny box behind the tree be filled with at least a few months of peace. The way your officers stepped up to contribute money for the 9-year-old abuse victim in the recent child homicide case was truly heartwarming. They deserve something other than crime scene after crime scene.

Jane Parker: Here’s hoping Santa brings you two new colleagues this year. Imagine a board trying to work together to serve the public! Yes, it sounds crazy, but we’ve all heard of Christmas miracles, right?

Dennis DonohuBirch forest in wintere: The former Salinas mayor won’t come right out and say he will run against Parker, though he’s already collecting campaign cash. Our gift is a simple reminder that to beat Parker, he’ll have to take loads of money from people he wouldn’t to have as neighbors. It’s about governance, Dennis, not commerce.

Pacific Grove: A city engineer who can figure out how to use the new hotel tax money to get the ancient sewer system fixed.

Carmel: A few dozen barbecue grills and a mural at the Post Office depicting the good old days of beach bonfires.

Sam Farr: Some fishing tackle.

Jimmy Panetta: A challenge from the left to keep you honest.

Casey Lucius: A professional campaign manager.

Monterey County Democratic Party: Leadership.

Monterey County Republican Party: New leadership.

Cal Am: A conscience.

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Here’s an email Seaside City Councilman Jason Campbell sent to constituents regarding the scheduled vote tonight on a contract for a new city manager, Craig Malin.

Hello All,
Tonight the Council will vote to approve (or not) the contract for the new City Manager. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

I am thinking I will vote to approve the contract. (Of course I am not going to make my final decision until I hear from the other Council Members and we hear from the public.)

I believe the Council and the hired consultant did a good job vetting the candidates.

We were informed (early on) of the controversy over the development grading involving Craig Malin and the city electeds, but I was not made aware that it concerned a casino. That is an unfortunate oversight considering the gambling proposed for our area. I do not have any indication that Malin is “a friend of the casinos”, and any perceived city giveaway, to almost any development/developer would be unacceptable to many. I do not have all the facts and do not know what really occurred, yet I look at this as a potential learning moment: Don’t appear to spend public assets on wealthy developers and not expect blow back from the public! I am not saying this is what happened or suggesting who approved what. If someone does have evidence that shows an intentional misdeed, please let me know.

The Council spent many hours on this search and Malin rose to the top for several reasons. Our current manager is retiring at the end of this month, so hiring Malin is timely (please consider our options if we don’t).

I do like somethings that have been accomplished in Davenport during Malin’s tenure; such as scholarships for those who want them for continued learning.

http://www.cityofdavenportiowa.com/egov/documents/1211401715_746368.pdf

Please call me if you have more questions or concerns. And I look forward to seeing many of you at tonight’s meeting.

Sincerely
Jason Campbell
915-1092

You can see a previous Partisan piece about Malin right here.

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The man selected as Seaside’s next city manager says he will soon file a retraction demand with the newspaper that covers his previous community, Davenport, Iowa, but he won’t say what he wants corrected.

The Seaside City Council is scheduled to give final approval Thursday night to a contract with Craig Malin, who left Davenport in June after 13 years with the city. He left after the mayor demanded his resignation because, in the mayor’s view, he had acted without authority in providing the city’s help for a casino under construction. Malin says he did not resign and was not fired and said he left only because he had accomplished all his goals.

4d8b52d02e3b2.preview-300In an article published Tuesday, Malin told the Monterey Herald that he has asked the Davenport newspaper, the Quad City Times, to retract something it published about him but he would not say what information he considers inaccurate.

“The paper published information which was false,” told the Herald.  “We’re working on a resolution.” He said litigation could result if his request is not honored.

“I expect the Times will get the retraction demand next week,” he said.

Generally, retraction demands are submitted to newspapers at the start of discussions over alleged errors. Asked Tuesday what information he wants retracted, Malin said, “I think that is most appropriately first shared with the Quad City Times,” which suggests that he has not shared it yet even though he says a resolution is in the works.

Asked why he wouldn’t want to disclose what information he considers inaccurate, he replied by email, “Because I have a life. Because the Times made so many errors it was difficult to pick from. Because I wanted multiple independent opinions from attorney. Because the attorney who is handling it had a health issue. Because I see no advantage – to anyone – in rushing.”

In a Partisan article posted last week, Malin suggested that coverage of his departure had led to the subsequent departures of the newspaper’s publisher and editor.

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Craig Malin, the ex-Davenport, Iowa, city manager headed for the same job in Seaside

Usually when a city hires a city manager, it’s a fairly routine matter. The fellow, and it usually is a fellow, is introduced to the community through a short story in the local newspaper. There might have been some drama over the previous manager’s departure, but the new manager usually slips into the position quietly, barely to be discussed again outside City Hall until his welcome has worn itself out a few years later and the cycle repeats.

Expect something different this time around in Seaside, however. The fellow selected by the City Council as the new city manager, Craig Malin, left his previous job in Davenport, Iowa, with a splash. In fact, he seems to do most things with a splash and is still rippling the Davenport waters five months later. He says he was not fired but that he didn’t resign. He disputes much of what was reported about his departure and he accuses the daily newspaper there, the Quad City Times, of knowingly writing falsehoods about him.

In emails to the Partisan and elsewhere, Malin suggested that shoddy coverage of his situation may have led to the subsequent departures of the longtime publisher and longtime executive editor, an analysis that surprised those in the newsroom.

“He’s trippin’,” said a veteran journalist there. “Those were retirements.”

Asked to back up his assertion about the departures, Malin offered no evidence, nothing at all, but stressed that he had qualified his analysis with the word “perhaps.”

A cursory review of Malin’s tenure in Davenport suggests he is highly ambitious and unusually outspoken, almost flamboyant at times. He doesn’t accept criticism well but he can dish it out with seemingly casual regard for its accuracy. While most governmental managers try to remain behind the scenes, Malin maintains a blog that he uses to disseminate opinions on everything from his favorite restaurants to his least favorite journalists. The name of the blog, simply Craig Malin.

Seaside officials announced Malin’s selection in a news release last week and plan to make the hiring official with a City Council vote on Dec. 3. Routine business. There was barely any buzz at all until the Monterey County Weekly did some digging, in the form of a Google search, and found that Malin’s departure in Davenport was one of the bigger controversies to hit that riverfront city since his staff proposed to install a piece of public art, a giant push pin sculpture, a push pin like you might use to post something on a bulletin board.

Anyway, a Squid Fry column in the Weekly this week noted that Malin had served in Davenport for more than a decade, a lifetime by city manager standards, and that everything was hunky dory until it wasn’t. That had to do with a dispute over plans for a casino in an area already rich with casinos and Malin’s alleged decision to provide the project some $1.7 million in site preparation work without the approval of his city council. He denied acting without authority, others said he did and others said he didn’t. His ultimate defense is that he has sparred with casinos in the past so why would he suddenly try to help one.

There was much muss and fuss over the grading work. The mayor banged on his desk and publicly called for Malin’s resignation in June, but the 52-year-old manager proclaimed that he would not quit.

Malin did not let the Squid Fry item go unnoticed, responding online by saying he appreciated the wit exhibited in the item but not the information attributed to the Quad City Times.

“In any event” he wrote, “‘run out of town…negotiated behind the backs … on the hook for $2 million … and paid $310,000.’ All untrue. Perhaps why the editor, editorial page editor and publisher have all moved on? Who knows.”

Exactly how Malin’s job ended isn’t entirely clear, which seems to be the way Malin wants it. There was a council vote of some sort, and much intrigue. Agreements were reached. Malin’s departure was arranged and a $310,000 financial package was completed. He objects to calling it severance.

“The basics are Davenport paid me for my unused leave, provided up to $25,000 in transitional education/professional development reimbursement (which I don’t think exceeded $17,500), maintained my insurance benefits until I transfer to some other plan and paid two of three chunks of four months salary ($70,000 gross each). So the actual check math of something that wasn’t owed me in any event works to be about $157,500.

The Partisan asked him to elaborate on the separation.

“How would I describe my departure? Somewhat unplanned but entirely amicable. I did not resign. I was not fired or terminated (remember, the City Council boycotted the meeting called to terminate me).

“I set a record for service in Davenport that can’t be broken until 2030 at the earliest. I accomplished my personal goal of getting my kids through school in one place and surpassed every expectation of progress in Davenport that I know of. I hold the record for tenure for any Iowa city over 100,000.

“With a fully supportive City Council (the one alderman who voted against it did so out of principle that he didn’t want me to leave) I simply said, thanks, it’s been great, I wish you all the best. Repeating myself now – kind of a simple story, really. Goals secured, moving forward.

“I can consult. I can retire. Having worked full time since the age of 12, I can pretty much do what I want to do now.

“My plan is to come to Seaside, and help that community surpass its dreams.”

During his time in Davenport, Malin won all sorts of awards and the city did too. He appears to have been fairly popular with the city staff. The business community in Davenport expressed strong support for his redevelopment efforts, especially downtown and on the waterfront. The sore points of his tenure appear to involve repeated controversies over the city’s relationship with casinos in the area, the riverboat variety and others, the city’s attempt to regulate a porn business, and Malin’s truly horrible relationship with the Davenport paper, the Times.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO ILLUSTRATION This is a computer-generated image provided by the City of Davenport that shows how a 25-foot-high sculpture of a push pin would look on the riverfront near River Drive and a new downtown park.

A computer-generated image of the sculpture Malin’s staff wanted to build. It never materialized, which he blames on media criticism.

Based on a day or so of reportage, which is pretty flimsy, it appears that Malin was an unusually successful city manager in Davenport but a highly unusual one as well. While most city administrators try to assume a low profile, letting the elected officials take the spotlight, Malin appears to have promoted himself at every opportunity, touting his successes on his blog. The cover of the River City Reader magazine once featured Malin on a skateboard. The headline, “Malin Breaks the Mold.”

Much of Malin’s work with the city is chronicled in his blog, which contains a ridiculously detailed resume, photographic and written biographies and his views on a lot more than municipal governance. Some of the most interesting reading involves his beloved Chicago Cubs but his description of his interactions with the media is more revealing. He repeatedly criticizes the Davenport newspaper and gleefully comments on the arrest of an editorial writer for a minor drug offense. From that posting:

“The guy who turned barrels of black ink into judgment days for others – for years on end – now has his own judgment day before the black robes. All that permanent, black ink of false piety seeping into your skin, the concocted morality coursing through your veins, the sanctimony staining your soul as you delivered judgment after judgment after judgment on others. Day after day, and never being wrong, or even acknowledging doubt.”

Malin elsewhere describes the newspaper’s editorial board as the “all Caucasian, decidedly suburban and Baby Boomers and older need only apply editorial board ….” and writes of being grateful for being able to leave without giving the newspaper a chance for a photo of him cleaning out his office.

In an email exchange with the Partisan, Malin accused the Times of committing two of journalism’s greatest sins — “knowingly” reporting false information about him and fabricating a quote that made him look bad. Pressed to support those comments, he provided a list of news items he disagreed with but no evidence of their falsity or of the newspaper’s recognition of their purported falsity. As for the quote, his support is on the slim side of shaky.

So what does the newspaper have to say about him and his criticisms? Not much.

“We have no comment about Mr. Malin,” City Editor Dan Browerman said Tuesday. The Quad City Times, circulation around 50,000, is part of the Lee newspaper chain. Determining whether the paper treated Malin fairly or unfairly would require considerably more reportage but there are no indications that others have joined Malin in denouncing the coverage.

Seaside officials used a head-hunting firm to find Malin, who had been a finalist for a similar position in Glendale, Ariz., last month. Seaside officials said they were aware that he had left Davenport following a dispute with the mayor and others, but the connection to a casino was not widely shared. The Squid Fry item this week caught extra attention at Seaside City Hall because of the casino tie-in, a concern to some because Seaside seeks to become home to a controversial development featuring a horse racing track.

Based on anecdotal evidence, the vetting of public officials moving on to bigger and better things isn’t always what it should be. A search process similar to Seaside’s a couple years ago presented the Monterey Peninsula school system with a proposed superintendent who was embroiled in a major and highly publicized sexual harassment scandal at the time. Separation agreements negotiated during the departure of public administrators often contain clauses meant to discourage candor. (Malin says he provided Seaside with more than 100 references.)

If Seaside officials understand that they are getting something entirely different in Malin, if they understand that he is more interesting in giving advice than taking it, it should make for an interesting hire. He appears to be a can-do guy headed to a city where development plans mostly gather dust.

However, if the city’s leaders haven’t dug extra deeply into Malin’s track record and don’t understand the risks that attach themselves to a high profile administrator with some unconventional views, they might want to talk this one over some more.

BTW, here’s a quick quiz for those of you who have read this far: Who was Malin’s predecessor in Seaside?

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