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UPDATE: SORRY THIS DIDN’T GET POSTED EARLIER. MEETING WENT AS EXPECTED. SUPES APPROVED RANCHO CANADA PROJECT 4-0 WHILE SUPERVISOR PARKER WAS BUSY. THEY GAVE COUNTY COUNSEL CHARLES MCKEE AN EXTRA TWO YEARS ON HIS CONTRACT, MEANING IT WILL COST TAXPAYERS MORE IF THE NEW BOARD MAJORITY DECIDES TO GO A DIFFERENT DIRECTION WITH LEGAL COUNSEL. AND THE BOARD ALSO APPROVED THE MAKEUP OF A NEW SALINAS VALLEY GROUNDWATER COMMISSION HEAVILY DOMINATED BY FARMERS.

COUNTY COUNSEL COULD GET  EARLY CHRISTMAS GIFT

If you’re any kind of student of government – and many Partisan readers are – you should find Tuesday’s meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to be loaded with fascinating little subplots. It will be the last meeting for longtime supervisors Dave Potter and Fernando Armenta.

The big agenda item is the planned approval of the long-debated Rancho Canada development at the mouth of Carmel Valley, which Potter has helped keep alive for most of his two decades on the board. With Potter politically indebted to project proponents Tony Lombardo and Alan Williams, with Armenta a proud supporter of every development proposal ever placed before him and with Supervisor John Phillips clearly on board, this one appears to be a lock.

Also interesting but well below the radar, the supes are scheduled as part of their consent calendar to grant County Counsel Charles McKee another four-year contract extension even though he got a four-year contract extension just two years ago.

Here’s what that means. The current board, including lame ducks Potter and Armenta, are hoping to lock the new board, featuring newcomers Mary Adams and Luis Alejo, into four more years of McKee whether they want him or not. Yes, the new board would be able to send him off to another county somewhere but only if the county paid for the full four years or was able to fire him for demonstrably poor performance.

Armenta

McKee is a key figure in county government, helping to provide the supervisors with political and administrative strategies above and beyond his work as the county’s chief lawyer. He is considered an able lawyer but critics of the county’s role in the long-running desalination saga say McKee’s advice created huge legal bills for the county and prolonged the region’s search for solutions to its water problems.

The departure of Potter and Armenta creates real potential for a power shift on the board and the end of smooth sailing for even the most ill-considered development proposals. McKee clearly is astute enough to tailor his advice to new thinking at the board level, but the decision about the length of his tenure should be up to the new board, not the old one.

Potter

Also Tuesday, the board is scheduled to be lobbied on an important legal matter – whether the county will step up and defend the successful Measure Z anti-fracking referendum, and it is scheduled to give its stamp of approval to the farmer-heavy makeup of the new agency that will oversee the Salinas Valley groundwater supply.

California’s counties are under a new state mandate to create local agencies charged with monitoring and sustaining groundwater for the first time in state history, and each county is taking a different approach. Under bylaws written by McKee’s office, Monterey County plans to create the Salinas Valley Groundwater Sustainability agency with one person representing the environmental community and four members appointed by agricultural interests. The bylaws don’t give any particular weight to expertise.

What gets approved Thursday, and what gets postponed, would be considerably more significant than the ceremony honoring the outgoing supes for their service.

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New House Building

 

Fifth District Supervisor Dave Potter is abandoning all pretense of caring about good development in his final months of office. It used to be that Potter would shed crocodile tears about always losing on 3-2 votes for projects in his own district, while quietly making sure – wink, wink, nod, nod – that a majority was in place to approve bad developments. Think September Ranch and Ferrini Ranch subdivisions, or the shopping mall at Corral de Tierra and Highway 68. After having been trounced (I wonder why?) in his bid for re-election, Potter is now going all out to fast track the Rancho Canada subdivision at the mouth of Carmel Valley before his terms expires. Apparently he still owes favors to his developer friends.

The Rancho Canada Subdivision (RCS) application is a fraud being perpetrated by the developers with the active collusion thus far by Monterey County, thanks to Potter. The Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the application Wednesday and the Board of Supervisors in three weeks in the mad rush to get it done.

I don’t take the term fraud lightly, so let’s begin deconstructing the application. Years ago, the RCS developers started an application process, but its environmental impact report was so poorly done that the developers withdrew it and the project died. Lazarus-like, RCS is back, and the developers claim that it must be considered under the old general plan, which was replaced six years ago. Here, then, are the first two parts of the fraud: insisting that it must be considered under a long dead but more lenient general plan, and doing so to try to avoid the county’s binding legal commitments.

In 2012, in order to settle a lawsuit brought by the Carmel Valley Association, the county committed to cap new units created in the Carmel Valley Master Plan area to 190. This is a legally binding commitment that the county cannot simply set aside. During the discussions that reached the 190 cap – I was one of CVA’s negotiators – Rancho Canada was specifically discussed as being included under that cap amount.

By accepting a 281-unit subdivision application, the county is acting in bad faith and risks wasting taxpayer dollars in defending what would be an easy case against it. Simply asserting that it is considering the application under a general plan that was replaced in 2010 is nonsense and would never stand up to scrutiny.

But here is the real play that is going on: the 281-unit subdivision application is a Trojan horse, designed to get into the gate and approved instead a 130-unit “alternative” for the subdivision. A reasonable person may ask: why not then just apply for the 130-unit subdivision under the current 2010 general plan as that would fit under the 190-unit cap?

Here is where the fraud deepens. There are at least four reasons that taking this obvious and correct step would probably not work, and thus why the developers – and Dave Potter – insist on considering the application under the long-dead general plan.

First, even at 130 units the numbers might not work for RCS. Of the 190-unit cap, at least 30 units have already been allocated, leaving at most 160. But the 2010 general plan also specifically allocates 24 of those units to a project at the old Carmel Valley airport, leaving at most 136 units available. But we would need to see a full accounting of the allocated units first to be able to say for sure that 130 units were still even available.

If, in fact, 130 units are not available, then the county would need to make a general plan amendment re-allocating some of those airport units to RCS – and that is the second problem. Making general plan amendments under the current 2010 general plan is much more difficult than under the old general plan, and Potter does not have the time to wait. Under no circumstances could the county make a general plan amendment removing the 190-unit cap.

A third (political) problem would then arise: RCS would use up by itself essentially all the remaining unallocated units from the 190 cap, leaving no one else outside of the airport owners the ability to subdivide. Politically, Potter does not want the heat for effectively denying all other applicants outside of the RCS owners, so the fraud about considering RCS under the old general plan got ginned up.

Fourth, RCS is inconsistent in a multitude of ways with the current general plan, as both the Carmel Valley Association and Landwatch have pointed out, thus the developers have pushed for the friendlier confines of an expired general plan written nearly four decades ago.

Hopefully not lost in the fraud surrounding the application is that the 130-unit “alternative” itself is just straight up a bad project. It represents the worst of leap-frog, sprawl development that we have seen too much of in California. As well, the one commendable item in the original 281-unit application – 50% of the units were allocated to workforce housing – has been put aside in lieu of the county’s bare minimum standard of 20% affordable housing. There is nothing compelling about this subdivision application at all once that 50% workforce housing element was removed. It would also violate policy CV 1.6a that gives preference to projects that include “50% affordable housing units.” It is just another run-of-the-mill bad sprawl development with nothing to recommend it.

Potter’s support of RCS will undo his one really good achievement during his time as supervisor: the building of the “climbing lane” on northbound Highway 1 up Carmel Hill. Traffic congestion was utterly horrible at the mouth of Carmel Valley before the climbing lane was built. Part of Potter’s marketing of the climbing lane as found in various county documents is that it would be “no growth inducing” and was meant only to relieve extant congestion. But this was more than a marketing pitch; it had legal consequences. By framing the issue as “no growth inducing” Potter was able to bypass CEQA and not do an EIR for the project. Can anyone imagine RCS being contemplated with the congestion we had before the climbing lane? By considering RCS now, the county is violating its legal and moral pledge to the community that the climbing lane would not be used as an excuse to approve more development.

The Planning Commission should not be party to Potter’s rush to approve RCS. Compel the developer to return with a suitable project that is consistent with the current general plan and the legal commitments that the county has. The Planning Commission would do well not to be complicit in the RCS fraud.

Robinson is a professor who has long been active in Carmel Valley land use issues. See the update on the Rancho Canada subdivision and its clarification on the use of two general plans.

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Hand holding out a stack of money tied to the end of a stick for bribery

WITH UPDATE BELOW

 

Yes, I know. We’re all tired of politics. But I couldn’t pass this up because it’s about how things work behind the slick campaign brochures.

Alert readers may recall that back in April, the Monterey County Deputy Sheriffs Association contributed $5,000 to Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter and another $5,000 to supervisorial candidate Dennis Donohue. Nothing wrong with that. The association is the union that represents sheriff’s deputies and it’s only natural for it to cozy up to county supervisors who have the last word on wages and benefits. You may also remember that the head of the association, Dan Mitchell, filed a couple of specious election complaints against Potter’s opponent, Mary Adams, and Donohue’s opponent Jane Parker. The association even contributed $3,000 to one of Donohue’s campaign managers, Pivotal Campaign Services.

But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that campaign disclosure forms show that the week before the Deputy Sheriffs Association started making those contributions, it received a $20,000 contribution from Chevron, the big oil company.

In other words, the money that found its way into the Potter and Donohue campaign treasuries apparently didn’t come from hard-working sheriff’s deputies. It came from one of the world’s largest oil companies, which has drilled a few holes in Monterey County and has visions of drilling a few more. (Association officer Scott Davis also appears to have benefited from the Chevron money with $1,000 contributed to his upcoming campaign for a Salinas City Council seat.)

During the just-ended supervisorial campaigns, the various candidates were watching closely to see if they could connect the opposition to oil-industry money, especially fracking money. That’s partly because an anti-fracking initiative will be on the November ballot in Monterey County and few politicians are willing to admit that they are fracking friendly. Potter, who lost his seat to Adams, returned a $2,000 contribution from an important fracking fellow a couple days after the Partisan wrote about it but held on to a contribution from a fracking lawyer in Wyoming.

There weren’t any obvious signs of oil money in the campaign reports filed by Donohue, who fell short in his attempt to unseat incumbent Jane Parker. Turns out it was there, it just wasn’t obvious.

UPDATED INFO HERE: After this story was posted this morning, an alert Partisan reader pointed out another back channel Chevron used to route a little help to the fellows. On April 11, right around the time it was writing a check to the deputy sheriffs group, Chevron sent a $30,000 check to the Monterey County Business PAC, which is made up of hospitality and ag interests. Four days later, the PAC contributed $20,000 to the Donohue campaign. Three days after that, the PAC sent $30,000 to District 1 Supervisor Fernando Armenta and a week later it gave $25,000 to the Potter campaign.

What this boils down to is that a little bit of legalized money laundering apparently enabled Potter and Donohue to pick up some extra campaign cash and to make it look like it represented union and law enforcement support when it really represented oil company support. Though that’s how things work in politics these days, with contributors hiding behind PACs and Super PACS, this was as slippery as an oil slick, never mind how the Chevron website goes on and on about good government and transparency.

Mitchell didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday. If he gets back to us, we’ll share what he has to say.

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Runoff in Salinas still pivotal for Peninsula interests

Happy smiling beautiful young business woman showing two fingers or victory gesture, over gray backgroundOne of the Partisan’s defining traits is humility because we have so much to be humble about, but today we have developed a hint of a swagger because we didn’t come out on the wrong side of the election results.

I am kicking myself, gently, for not posting a prediction that Jane Parker and Mary Adams would prevail in Tuesday’s Monterey County supervisorial contests but if you work at it, you might be able to get one of the few people still talking to me to confirm that I had been making that prediction for weeks now.

There are votes left to be counted but not enough to change the order of finish. In District 5, where Dave Potter reigned for 20 years, long enough to be seduced by money and power many times over, Mary Adams won by what amounted to at least a minor landslide. See the results below for the actual numbers.

And in District 4, incumbent Jane Parker wiped the floor with Dennis Donohue, one of the most arrogant politicians I had ever encountered, a man who became so caught up in worst aspects of the campaign that he actually called exceedingly mild-mannered Parker a “bully.” No November runoff for Parker and Donohue because the vote for her was large enough to wipe out the potential impact of a minor third candidate.

As with most elections, there are things to be learned from Tuesday’s results. Let’s be optimistic about the first and say that the Parker victory tell us that deceptive advertising doesn’t work and that it might even backfire. The centerpiece of this contest was Donohue’s expensive attempt to persuade voters that Parker had disrespected our military veterans by opposing the Veterans Cemetery at Fort Ord and that she essentially doesn’t like veterans. The tactic exploded in Donohue’s face, however, when state Sen. Bill Monning pronounced Donohue’s assertions as flat-out wrong. She had supported the cemetery each step of the way and did not vote to move it somewhere as Donohue insisted. But Donohue’s big mistake was the advertising in which he said that Parker had actually blocked the project, causing great misery for our veterans, even though the project is well underway. Lesson two. If you’re going to lie, lie smart.

If the Partisan exists when other elections unfold, one message it is likely to harp on is that a key to understanding local elections is to expect the best-funded, best-connected candidate or measure to lie, cheat and steal if necessary to win. For evidence, look to how Cal Am was able to beat back a public-ownership measure and how the Monterey Downs people lied their way past a referendum to stop that silly project. Until not too many years ago, every statewide ballot measure in California was decided in favor of whichever side spent the most money. Scary when you think about it.

From the Adams-Potter race, the lessons are different. In this case, Adams was the underdog by virtue of Potter’s tenure and bank account, so she went after his record, hitting him hard for his promotion of the Monterey Downs horse-racing venture and his rotten record on the state Coastal Commission. Respected organizations like the Sierra Club and Surfrider ranked him close to last on their environmental scorecard, leading to his removal from the commission despite considerable effort by Potter and development interests to keep him on board.

In this campaign, Potter let the Carmel Pine Cone handle his counter-attack and it was a fail, largely because Adams was right about his removal and the weekly paper took up Potter’s cause in a shrill and repetitive fashion despite being armed with the flimsiest of arguments.

(Speaking of weekly newspapers, I stopped by Parker’s election night gathering at the Press Club, the lovely juice bar operated by Monterey County Weekly, and found myself in a spirited discussion with the newspaper’s owner, Bradley Zeve. Our focus was the Weekly’s endorsement of Potter over Adams and my published assertion that it had come over the objections of the newly departed editor, Mary Duan. Zeve insisted that I was wrong. I insisted that I was right, but I am forced to admit right here and now that he was there when it happened and I was not. I stand corrected. Reluctantly corrected and still hoping to find a way to prove myself right but with little hope.)

So where do we go from here?

To Salinas.

The other supervisorial race of the evening was one that barely captured the Peninsula’s attention and, unfortunately, a winner has not emerged. For the District 1 seat, it appears there will be a November runoff between state legislator Luis Alejo and Supervisor Fernando Armenta. I am not a fan of Alejo the way I am a fan of Adams or Parker, but I believe that Adams and Parker have the potential to reshape county policy only if Alejo wins in the fall.

Armenta is the ultimate old-school politician. Think Chicago alderman. He started as a passionate advocate for civil rights and other good causes but slowly turned into a ward politician who felt his job was to promote patronage and vote for anyone who contributed to his campaigns. He had proudly announced that he has never voted against a development project. Not a single leapfrog development with inadequate water supply has been bad enough to win a no vote from Armenta.

Being a county supervisor is about a lot more than land use but that is the key issue for most Peninsula voters, that and related matters such as desalination. If Armenta remains on board, big decisions on major land use policy questions will be decided by Armenta and supervisors John Phillips and Simon Salinas, all big fans of big development. Alejo is not as easy to categorize on land-use issues because he has seldom dealt with them in Sacramento, but what everyone says about him is that he is a politician, a professional politician who would apply a meaningful or at least intelligent balancing test before making a decision. With Armenta on the board, the future of our farmland and forests looks a lot like pavement. With Alejo on board, along with Parker and Adams, the future of our resources is up for debate.

In other words, voters and campaign contributors of the Peninsula, your work is not done.

County Supervisor, District 4
39/39 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
DENNIS DONOHUE 3,416 36.11%
ALEX MILLER 616 6.51%
JANE PARKER 5,428 57.38%
Total 9,460 100.00%

 


County Supervisor, District 5
51/51 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
MARY L. ADAMS 9,734 56.35%
DAVE POTTER 7,541 43.65%
Total 17,275 100.00%

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Mary_Adams_Headshot_cropped

Mary Adams

Reflections on today’s elections:

I hesitate to write about politics on election day because it robs me of my sense of humor. There is nothing about Dave Potter, Dennis Donohue, or Donald Trump that lends itself to anything but stinging satire. I can’t muster a smile.

I am hoping that, in our own backyard, Parker and Adams win because of all the reasons the Partisan has enumerated in admirable detail.  (No other publication I know of here comes close to its investigative talent.)  Their adversaries have behaved execrably even while Parker and Adams have kept their cool. There is no telling what special interests or lack of voter enthusiasm or any other wild card will do, but let’s hope for the best.  They are the best.

 

clintonpodium_600_1As for Hillary vs. Bernie, I hope Hillary wins. Yes, Bernie has inspired thousands of fervent idealists, mostly white and mostly young, and as a committed progressive I admire many of his ideas.  I don’t think there is much difference in what Hillary wants to accomplish and what he has articulated, but there is no practical way much of what he wants can actually be achieved.  Among other unlikely events, we would need Congress to transform itself into Robin Hood and rob the rich to help the poor. No nonpartisan organization that has reviewed his ideas has given them any semblance of fiscal reality. I realize that idealism does not permit practicality to intervene. Bernie’s intentions are grand but his ability to achieve them just about zero.

11227553_1088005437893861_3052587059151448666_n-1

Parker

And then there is the problem of his foreign policy creds.  Sanders has had a mostly undistinguished career in Congress. The international crises confronting the next president are daunting. They need to be handled by someone who has the chops to do it.  I don’t like Hillary’s past hawkish views and I hope she has been sobered by the horrible outcomes of our military exploits. Hillary has the experience on Day One to get in the game.  I have no idea what Bernie would do, and he hasn’t said.

Also, I wish Bernie had not crossed the line from evangelism to demagoguery. His followers look like they are about to burn down the barricades if he doesn’t get the nomination.  At this point, they have the affect of a cult. He has no chance of getting the nomination with the rules that he agreed to when he decided to run as a guest on the Democratic ticket, and he knows it.  His drive to the absolute finish line, with the crowds cheering him on, looks like someone who has finally tasted power and can’t give it up.

Yet, I am counting on him to beseech his followers to vote for Hillary, because we have to beat Trump. Bernie may leave the race a bitter man, but he cannot be so mad at Hillary that he would help Trump get in office.  If his supporters vote for a third party candidate as a protest, that is exactly what could happen. We cannot even contemplate handing over the future to one of the most racist ignoramuses ever to ascend to the head of a major political party. If Trump gets his hands on the Supreme Court, it will be far worse than not having Medicare for all, or not having free college for all.

This is why I have no sense of humor about these elections in particular. We have too many awful candidates running who need to be sent back to their lairs.  We have a lot riding on what happens today.

Here’s to Jane, Mary, and Hillary, who all happen to be women.  May they all win!

Meister is a writer who lives in Pebble Beach and who has contributed several pieces to the Partisan.

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Vote today or the dirty tricksters win again

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Dirty water in old concrete swimming pool

Here’s what I think of when I think about the Donohue campaign strategy: Dirty pool

This is for voters who need one last bit of motivation to get to the polls today and to remind your friends and neighbors to do the same. I’m  aiming it at Jane Parker supporters in District 4 but the message also works well for Mary Adams supporters in District 5.

On Monday, the Dennis Donohue campaign sent emails out to voters accusing Parker, the incumbent, of running an ugly campaign. Yes, she did go negative with critical, and accurate, mailers challenging his silly assertion that he was a successful crime fighter while he was mayor of Salinas. He did put considerable time and energy into Salinas’ crime issues but he certainly didn’t solve them as his campaign literature proclaims.

Parker was punching back, relatively gently and absolutely fairly, after Donohue had hit her with a barrage of false accusations to the effect that she had opposed the Veterans Cemetery at Fort Ord and is anti-veteran. It was one of the great local examples of deceptive, below-the-belt campaigning.

Yet on Monday, Donohue shared his reflections thusly:

“Election Day is tomorrow, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon recent ugliness the campaign has endured. It’s unfortunate how normal it has become for campaigns to go negative. Negativity distracts and muddies situations so it’s difficult to distinguish between a horrible personal attack (like being compared to Donald Trump) and a legitimate concern over a candidate’s ethics and moral compass.

“You and your neighbors I am sure have received countless attack mailers from Jane Parker. These personal and schoolyard antics are similar to how a bully behaves. And like any bully Jane is using her attacks to hide and distract us from who she is.”

Wow. I mean Wow! Dennis Donohue calling Jane Parker a bully! I guess that if you’re going to use the big lie technique, you take it all the way.

In District 5, incumbent Dave Potter took a similar tack against Mary Adams, accusing her of lying about his removal from the Coastal Commission. He was, in fact, refused another term because of his repeatedly pro-development votes and his horrible standing with environmental groups but he claims that isn’t so. He had considerable help from Carmel Pine Cone Publisher Paul Miller, who produced two stories in the news section and two editorials calling Adams a liar based on manufactured evidence. It was a shameful performance politically and journalistically.

Unless Parker and Adams win today, the take-away will be another reminder that dirty pool pays off even in a place like Monterey County with an enlightened and engaged electorate. We learned that when Cal Am crafted a campaign of nonsense to beat back a public takeover vote and when the backers of Monterey Downs whipped up some deceptive nonsense of their own to prevail in a ballot measure intended to stop the misguided project. Money wins, especially when it is used to manufacture and distribute a bogus product.

Anyway, back to the point. Don’t believe a word from Donohue and Potter. Get out and vote and take your neighbors with you. Voters say that politics and elections should be about character. Let’s prove it.

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Brochure says Dana Point mega project was “Inspired by Nature.”

1250_400_image1-1

The Strand at the Headlands, a housing development in Dana Point in Orange County that Dave Potter voted for when he was a member of the California Coastal Commission.

I wasn’t going to write any more about Dave Potter’s re-election bid because we’re so close to Tuesday’s election, but then he sent a provocation to my mailbox. It’s his latest campaign mailer and it has a nice photo on the front of an oceanfront cypress with the words “A delicate balance.” Inside, it says, “As the longest serving government appointee to the California Coastal Commission (1997-2009), Dave led statewide efforts to protect our most precious natural resource from unwise and excessive development.”

Forget that he was removed from the commission after compiling one of the worst environmental records of all the commissioners, according to annual rankings by Surfrider and the Sierra Club. The Carmel Pine Cone reported last week and plans to report again this week that he wasn’t removed, an absolutely incorrect assertion based on then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass’s overly polite comment that she wasn’t even aware of his voting record when she replaced him with a more environmentally friendly appointee. The Pine Cone accuses Adams of lying, and worse, even though Potter publicly acknowledged that “the environmentalists” had arranged for his removal over his objections.

Coincidentally, when Potter’s latest touchy-feely mailer arrived, I was contemplating a piece of my own, updating Potter’s yes vote on one of the most controversial Southern California development projects of his Coastal Commission tenure. I had been leaning toward letting it go, lest it be suggested that the Partisan has already made the case against his re-election and was piling on. But then I saw that cypress tree and read about how Potter has been “Guarding Our Coastline.”

Potter’s time on the Coastal Commission provided him with a great opportunity to become cozy with development interests up and down the state while portraying himself as a conservationist at home, a pretense he has partly abandoned in recent years. While casting token anti-development votes here, he routinely voted in favor of controversial development projects large and small along the coast. It was during one Los Angeles County application process that he met and became friends with horse-racing promoter Brian Boudreau, who brought his controversial Monterey Downs racetrack venture to Monterey County at Potter’s invitation.

But possibly the most controversial project of Potter’s time on the commission was the Dana Point Headlands project, which allowed a string of monster homes to be built on the sand over the super-strenous objections of just about everyone except the developer. Remarkably, while Potter’s commission vote in favor of the venture came a dozen years ago, he is still enjoying the benefits.

Str_HomesonBeach_

Photo of Headlands homes from Sanford Edwards’ website

The Headlands developer, Sanford Edward, early this year contributed $1,000 to Potter’s campaign against challenger Mary Adams for his 5th District seat. And one of the first millionaires to build a monster home there, David Demshur, contributed $2,000 just last month.

Here is what the Sierra Club said about the Headlands venture after the vote:

“The project violates the Coastal Act in that it calls for severe grading in the coastal zone and construction of a 2200-foot-long rock pile revetment/seawall to support about 70 custom lots on Strands bluff. Even the Coastal Commission’s own staff’s reports strongly recommended denial of this project based on its multiple Coastal Act violations.

If granted, the preliminary injunction would have halted construction on the Headlands project until the lawsuit came to trial, several months later.

In late June, Sierra Club and Surfrider assessed the situation. Without the preliminary injunction, construction on the site would continue until the trial; even if the environmentalists won at trial, undoing of the development work would be unlikely. The need to put resources into the much larger toll road/Trestles campaign loomed large. The groups reached regretful consensus to end the Headlands campaign.

Sierra Club National Litigation Committee approved dismissal of the suit in mid-September. Surfrider Foundation has also voted to approve dismissal.

The development is now in full swing. An outing to Strands Beach is now marred by the sight of heavy-duty construction machinery working on the bluff. The once-peaceful bluff has been cleared of all vegetation and looks like it has been strip-mined.

The Coastal Commission’s approval of the project has not only destroyed the natural beauty that once was Strands bluff, but also set a bad precedent for other coastal development projects throughout California.”

(A previous Partisan post misstated Potter’s vote based on erroneous information in a Los Angeles Times account.)

Demshur’s 10,000-square-foot home at the Dana Point development has received considerable publicity for its design. Incidentally, his primary residence is on a golf course in Houston, where he is the head of Core Laboratories, which is heavily involved in oil fracking. The Partisan’s mention of his fracking work May 12 prompted Potter to return his $2,000 contribution the next day. However, Potter had previously collected what is likely to have been considerably more from Demshur. The supervisor’s statement of economic interests for 2015 says his Potter Construction Co. received something in excess of $100,000 that year from Demshur and two companies, Enviro International and Ocean Breeze Construction. Specific dollar amounts and details of the work are not included on the forms and Potter did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Enviro International is operated by Safwat Malek, the Pebble Beach architect who is currently involved in a Carmel home-building project with Potter. It is likely that Ocean Breeze Construction is actually Ocean Breeze Quality Building in Carmel.

Coincidentally or not, both Edwards and Demshur now have business in front of Monterey County government. Edwards several years ago bought what used to be known as the Oreck estate on the 12th Fairway at Pebble Beach along with an adjoining lot. He demolished the 1924-era Oreck house and replaced it with a home for himself. He sold the other lot in 2012 to Demshur for $14 million but building plans have not yet been approved by the county. Edwards or someone working for him was cited by the county for demolishing the Oreck house without a permit but he was later able to clear that up, according to county records.

Potter Consruction Co., meanwhile, seems to have taken on a life of its own. Early in Potter’s tenure as supervisor, starting 20 years ago, it was a fairly active little operation specializing in cement work. It ran into financial problems, however, and soon was the subject of several mechanics liens from suppliers who had not been paid. Through the middle years of Potter’s supervisorial career, he said the company was inactive, though it maintained an office, and only in recent years has it come back to life. He said a month ago that it is largely operated by two subcontractors and requires little of his time. State records indicate the company has no employees.

Earlier this year Potter Construction was listed as the builder for renovations being done on Potter’s own home in Carmel and it is currently listed as the general contractor on the construction of a new, Safwat Malek-designed home at 6th and Dolores in Carmel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The election is June 7.

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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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Supervisor started touting the project six years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Monterey Downs website

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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:

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

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

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

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

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10003 (1)The Partisan is pleased to report that it has viewed campaign mailers from several candidates, including Dave Potter, Jane Parker and Mary Adams, all seeking seats on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, and has found nothing worrisome, no distortions, no unwarranted attacks.

The positive pattern ended today with a rather nasty mailer sent out by an independent political action committee backing state Assembly candidate Anna Caballero, the former Salinas mayor, former state commerce secretary and former lots of other things.

These PACs can pretty much do as they please except they are forbidden from communicating directly with the candidates and coordinating their efforts. There are those in positions of power who say that those rules are actually respected by some of the groups and candidates.

The rather nasty mailer was sent out by the Govern for California PAC, made up largely of business interests and lawyers opposed to public employee unions and in favor of charter schools.

The mailing is an attack on Caballero’s opponent, Watsonville City Councilwoman Karina Alejo Cervantez, who once was mayor of Watsonville.

“YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW KARINA ALEJO BECAME MAYOR,” the mailer screams in yellow and black.

“She became mayor through a backroom deal.”

How so?

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“After serving on the Watsonville City Council for just 1 year, Karina Alejo became mayor through the agreement of other politicians behind closed doors.”

Jeepers. Sounds bad.

In fact, the Watsonville City Council, like many other city councils, used to pick the mayor and vice mayor by a vote of the City Council. That’s what happened in 2013, the year Cervantez became mayor.

Later, Watsonville voters changed the procedure to base the selection on an automatic rotation of the council members, something quite a few other cities do as well.

The mailer says, without attribution, that Cervantez’s husband, state Sen. Luis Alejo, spent thousands of dollars trying to fight the new procedure. We couldn’t find evidence of that but it could be true.

SCORE: We’ll give this one a D because it is misleading without outright lying. On second thought, make it a D-minus.

By the way, Caballero’s campaign is receiving quite a bit of help from PACs in this campaign, especially the primary organization promoting charter schools in California. As of a week ago, the Parent Teacher Alliance had reported spending $375,000 on Caballero’s behalf.

Caballero also has received sizable contributions from the Fisher family of San Francisco, the people behind The Gap stores, who also are big supporters of charter schools.

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Business growth opportunity concept as a group of business people taking advantage of a tall tree grown in time to create a bridge to cross over and link two seperate cliffs as a motivation metaphor for financial patience and opportunismThe Partisan takes a timeout from its Truth-O-Meter series today to look instead at two recent endorsements by the Monterey Herald. It probably is not a coincidence that we chose these editorial endorsements because they ran exactly counter to the Partisan’s own choices.

We won’t argue the overall recommendations. Newspaper endorsements don’t have to make sense. Instead, we will pick and choose some of the key elements that seem to underly those choices.

More than any other topic, the Herald’s endorsement of Dennis Donohue to replace District 4 Supervisor Jane Parker focused on Fort Ord and the pace of redevelopment there.

It noted that the district takes in much of Fort Ord and says “the position and ideas of the District 4 Board of Supervisors candidates on reuse of Fort Ord are key factors in our endorsement, given the hopes pinned on Fort Ord reuse by the entire region for economic redevelopment, housing and jobs.”

The editorial, unfortunately, neglects to explain the governance of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, which is responsible for redeveloping the former Army base or, perhaps closer to the truth, for not really getting very far on redeveloping the former base, which closed in the mid 1990s.

The agency charged with redevelopment is governed by an unwieldy board of directors, 13 members with voting rights and a large cast of non-voting members. The voting members represent most of the government jurisdictions with a stake in the process, including the surrounding cities and the county. Four of the five supervisors are members or alternates. Parker is a member and so is Supervisor Dave Potter, who received the Herald’s endorsement in the other supervisorial race. By implication, the Herald seems to be faulting the FORA board in general for not doing more to turn old barracks into new shopping centers, but where exactly should that blame land? The Herald seems to be forgetting that Donohue was an active member of the FORA board while he was mayor of Salinas and, therefore, the newspaper made little of his  missed opportunity to speed things up. The Herald also seems to forget that a large segment of the local population isn’t all that keen on major new development at Fort Ord.

What’s that? One person can’t provide much momentum to the redevelopment bureaucracy. Our point exactly.

The Herald likes it that Donohue is in favor of the proposed but way-off-in-the-distance Eastside Parkway, a new highway that would run through Fort Ord to connect Highways 68 and 1. Again, as much as the Herald might wish it otherwise, while an individual supervisor wields considerable power on issues that come before the five-member Board of Supervisors, the same supervisor holds just one of 17 votes on the primary highway-building agency hereabouts, TAMC.

The Herald finds it telling that most of the city officials in the district support Donohue rather than Parker. The Partisan finds it telling as well. Those who support Donohue have histories of supporting virtually any project in their realms, everything from cookie-cutter fast food joints to the hugely unpopular Monterey Downs horse racing complex proposed for Fort Ord.

Herald political endorsements of late seem to hinge on the degree to which the candidate supports development, and while the development wish list always gives a nod to jobs and affordable housing, few public figures in our midst have accomplished anything of note in those arenas in recent years. Perhaps the newspaper blames Parker. If so, it has not been paying close attention. Peninsula residents, and to some degree all Monterey County residents, are witnessing a contest between the forces of commerce and the forces of conservation. While Donohue, like many other development-minded politicians, claims to be in favor of “smart growth,” he and his allies haven’t been able come up with concrete examples to propose or support.

The Herald’s endorsement of Donohue overstates the impact of one public official and mistakenly suggests that electing him over Parker would change the board and its direction. Actually, the opposite is true. Parker throughout her political career has been a nearly lone wolf fighting to protect the environment and she has been outvoted at nearly every turn by people in synch with Donohue. Keeping Parker in place and making changes elsewhere, such as in District 5, would amount to much more meaningful and positive change.

In case you didn’t notice, that was a transition. Moving along now to the Herald’s endorsement of District 5 Supervisor Dave Potter over challenger Mary Adams.

In the Potter endorsement, the Herald gives the incumbent big points for experience and tenure without mentioning what little has come of it.

“On water, Potter clearly knows the urgency of securing a new Peninsula supply,” the Herald writes. “He supports Cal Am’s desal project with reclaimed waste water as part of the total solution. Adams indicated she was still uncertain about the desal project, and she placed a higher emphasis on conservation.”

It is true that Potter “clearly knows” the urgency of securing a new Peninsula water supply. That’s because the state’s mandate that we cut back on our use of the Carmel River has been in effect the entire time he has been in office but his clear knowledge of the urgency has resulted in nothing except huge expense.

While serving on the board for two decades, Potter has worn a remarkable number of other hats. He has been on the state Coastal Commission and has forever been a board member for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. If there is any one public official who could have been expected to show leadership on the Peninsula’s water crisis, it was Potter. Yet the only leading role he seems to have taken was to help lead the county into a messy conflict of interest involving water official Steve Collins, a conflict that derailed years of work on a desalination solution.

It is true that Adams places a higher value on conservation. A large majority of Peninsula residents has lost faith in Cal Am and officialdom’s ability to complete a desalination project at anything approaching a reasonable cost and, out of necessity, also places a higher value on conservation.

“Potter has a much better grasp of all facets of the water issue, and there really is not any time for a steep learning curve on this critical issue,” the Herald opines. What Potter truly grasps is how a community spent 20 years failing to make measurable progress. If Adams is elected, it will take her about 20 minutes to get caught up on that history.

The Herald also likes it that Potter likes the idea of an Eastside Parkway and criticizes Adams for not knowing much about it. The Partisan’s suggestion is simply this. If it is so important to the local economy and well-being, perhaps some explanatory articles would be advisable. And perhaps the Herald can think of a way to give some special highway-building, job-creating, water-making powers to their favored candidates in case they win.

Partisan proprietor Royal Calkins is a former editor and opinion page editor for the Herald and, therefore, cannot convincingly assert that he is not disgruntled in at least some respects.

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