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The Partisan really hates to come off like a nag. Really. It’s just that giving positive advice requires effort, even research, but raising questions and being critical is, as they say, a piece of cake.

This is about the city of Monterey’s apparent plan to spend $80,000 to hire some fellows back east to provide guidance on how Monterey can keep its military institutions up and running after the congressional Base Realignment and Closure Commission performs its next round of cost-cutting. It’s on the 4 p.m. agenda today, so if you have something to tell the council on this subject, you need to start getting ready now.

The Partisan isn’t a fan of war and the like but recognizes that closing the Naval Postgraduate School or the Defense Language Institute would have quite an impact on the local economy. If a vote were taken on whether the people of Monterey would like to keep these institutions open, those who oppose the operations on philosophical grounds would be beaten into submission.

But the idea of paying $80,000 to something called Public Private Solutions of Alexandria, Va., raises several questions.

First, what is PPS? It has a web site but about all it says is that the company is run by a couple of people who used to work for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Their names aren’t provided. Details of their work aren’t provided. These people are probably friends with someone here in town. Who might that be?

The Peninsula is already in pretty good shape when it comes to knowing the right people when it comes to warding off base closures. Our own Leon Panetta ran the Defense Department not long ago. One of his close associates is Fred Meurer, the former Army colonel and Monterey city manager whose great work on protecting bases is the stuff of long reports and weekend retreats. Nationally, the approach is know as the Monterey Model.

I heard that Fred was willing to consult with the city on this effort. Which is fine, but I’m not sure the city would need  to pay him. He’s got a fine retirement plan already. Maybe there is a clause in his retirement contract allowing him to be summoned back to active duty. His work with Panetta involves raising money for a shiny new Panetta Institute and I’d think that business interests supporting the base protection effort would be willing to show their appreciation by donating to the institute project.

Another thought. The contract amount, $80,000, doesn’t buy a lot of consulting time these days. Might it be more effective to simply bribe someone?

Finally, the current assistant city manager, Dino Pick, is a retired military officer who knows his way around the base closure process as well. That expertise is a large part of why he was hired. Monterey’s been through this before. Meurer and others would be willing to fill him in on some of those details.

If top city officials really, really think we need to hire outside help, OK, fine then, but not until they’ve spelled out the whys and the whos in much greater detail than in the staff report for today’s  meeting.

I move we table the item. Do I hear a second?


circus elephantLike any member of Congress, Sam Farr, the Central Coast’s longtime House Democrat, must be a busy guy.

Just the other day, Farr lectured the House’s top administrator on ways to cut money out of its budget by creating an in-house Web bulletin board for goods and services a la Craigslist, eBay and Freecycle.

So it may take a while before the congressman notices the big story out of another circus world — the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which says it will phase out elephant acts by 2018.

For years, Farr drew “huh” notice in Congress for bills he sponsored to end abuses of elephants and other circus animals. One such bill was 2008’s “The Captive Elephants Accident Prevention Act,” in which Farr called for more humane treatment of circus animals.

“Animals like elephants are not horses or dogs,” Farr said at the time. Truer words were never spoken in Congress.

Over the years, when not touting his district’s tourism and farming industries and going to bat for big pots of Pentagon dollars for the Defense Language Institute and Naval Postgraduate School, Farr has been a champion against animal abuse, not only with circus performers but with puppy mills, too.

I believe he has kept his congressional nose out of the debate over the mistreatment of rodeo animals, but I’d have to check the record. It could strike too close to home. I know whatever Republican chooses to take Farr on in 2016 will have a tough time going against a guy who pitched in to protect show-biz elephants — the very symbol of the GOP. 

Given how the current Republican-held House has kicked off its first two months in power, Farr may be focusing his attention more on the circus elephants inside the Beltway big top. And like most Democrats, he probably isn’t too worried about their acts without a net.