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The word VOTE written in wooden letterpress typeWhen this political campaign started, we were all younger and many of us were more tolerant. It has been a tough couple of years for those who pay close attention to such things, and it has seemed interminable unless you’re the type who enjoys train wrecks and other manmade disasters.

It is hard to believe it is almost over. Remember being 4 years old and waiting for Christmas? It’s been like that, only much longer. And scarier.

It’s like we have scheduled a national nervous breakdown for tomorrow with both camps freaking out. For those on my side of the political fence, it is like preparing for the election of Richard Nixon multiplied by the election of Ronald Reagan. We consoled ourselves by hoping back then that the sad results would speed up the revolution, that the ascension of the Republican ruling class would bring the masses to their senses. It didn’t work out that way.

Much has been written about how the Trump troops might react to a Clinton victory. The part of my brain that worries too much wonders how the Clinton troops might react to a Trump victory. Either way, one of the best jobs in journalism starting Wednesday could be the political protest beat.

If you haven’t voted yet, you need to start looking for your voting shoes now because, believe it or not, the campaign is coming to end and anytime after 8 p.m. tomorrow is too late.

And what of the local elections? Let us not forget that there are some pretty important things on the California and Monterey County ballots.

For the state propositions, I refer you once again to water guru and activist George Riley’s guide, which is as good as it gets if you associate yourself more with peace and love than with commerce and self interest.

On the local front, Measure Z is the most captivating issue. It would ban fracking, which the oil companies say doesn’t happen here even though it did and will again if Measure Z fails.

The Partisan recommends a yes vote on Measure Z.

To the Partisan, one of the most important local elections is the three-way race for two seats on the Monterey City Council. Two of our favorite elected officials, Libby Downey and Alan Haffa, should be re-elected but they are in for a rough ride against Dan Albert Jr., a nice-enough fellow who brings relatively little to the task except that he is the son of Dan Albert Sr. Albert Sr. is another nice fellow who was mayor of Monterey for like a hundred years and who became, in the process, the best friend the rich and powerful could imagine. He’s not a crook or anything. The rich and powerful are his friends and he likes to help his friends.

At stake here is the balance of power on the five-member council. At one point, Mayor Clyde Roberson was quietly progressive. Now, not so much. He is focused on neighborhood improvement issues but beyond that he’s become a go-with-the-flow guy and in Monterey that means going with the money and influence. Think Cannery Row Co.

Councilman Ed Smith is a retired Monterey cop who is friends with the same people Dan Albert Sr. is friends with.

Councilman  Timothy Barrett campaigned as a serious progressive and for quite a while he was with Downey and Haffa in their effort to stop undo the sweetheart deals that previous administrations had given to the rich and powerful at Fishermans Wharf. Then something happened. Campaign contributions from the wharf tenants and some sort of personal falling out with Haffa have resulted in a big change in Barrett. What happens next with him is hard to tell.

Which brings us back to Albert. He retired recently after a long career in the Monterey Peninsula school system. He taught and was principal at Monterey High School and he ended his working life as associate superintendent for business affairs.

You wouldn’t know it if you got all your information from the regular news outlets, but a significant financial scandal developed under Albert’s watch in the district, one that closely parallels events that have led to a hardcore FBI investigation in the Fresno school system.

In Fresno, the feds are investigating which laws were broken when district officials used a now-illegal contracting system to build a school. Shortly after Fresno school officials did what they did, Monterey school officials led by Albert used the same now-illegal contracting system to renovate several schools, sometimes using the same Fresno-based contractor that built the Fresno school, using some of the same school bonding firms, the same architect and the same financial adviser, who later was prosecuted by the SEC for violating conflict of interest rules.

I’m not suggesting here that Albert did anything illegal. He did what many other school officials elsewhere have done, which was to follow the advice of a band of slick operators who are getting rich by snookering school districts managed by people who don’t really have the expertise to make multimillion-dollar financing and construction decisions.

But an even better reason to vote for Downey and Haffa is that the election of Albert would essentially turn back the clock to an era when the council’s job was to get along and go along and make sure no one rocked the boat. Or the wharf.

The Albert camp is urging people to vote for Albert and Albert only, hoping that will make sure either Haffa or Downey don’t make it. It is a cynical tactic but an effective one. If you’re a Monterey voter, get out and vote for both Haffa and Downey. 

Another intriguing race is in Seaside, where three candidates are trying to knock off Mayor Ralph Rubio. We’ve always liked Rubio on a personal level, but he is a longtime Carpenters Union official and a longtime sure vote for anything that smacks of development, especially if carpentry might be involved.

Our choice is Kay Cline, a political novice who is on the correct side of the Monterey Downs issue (she says no to the ridiculous venture) and who has impressed most observers by having a long list of good ideas on every other issue as well.

For Seaside City Council, we say good guy Dave Pacheco and up and comer Kayla Jones.

In Pacific Grove, we recommend the re-election of Mayor Bill Kampe over challenger Dan Miller. We explained early that we were concerned about Miller’s temperament, and he has responded just like you might expect.

Previously we didn’t make any endorsements in the PG City Council race but Robert Huitt and Jenny McAdams are looking better and better.

In Marina, we’re hoping for a near-unanimous vote for Bruce Delgado, one of the nicest and most conscientious elected officials we’re ever known. Campaigning against him is an erratic fellow who makes Dan Miller seem like a career diplomat.

We couldn’t make a recommendation in the Salinas mayoral race. For the City Council, we’re saying Brian Contreras in District 1, Virginia Mendoza in District 4 and Jyl Lutes in District 6.

We’re not bothering to mention some of the foregone conclusion races. Kamala Harris will be our next senator, Anna Caballero will return to the Assembly along with Mark Stone. Bill Monning stays in the state Senate. Jimmy Panetta is going to Congress. Voters are making some great choices in all these legislative races.

Here’s the deal on the local ballot measures:

Yes on Measure A, taxing cannabis in Del Rey Oaks

Yes on Measure E, continuing an existing parcel tax for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District

Yes on Measure G, H and I, ministerial changes to the Monterey city code.

Yes on Measure J, taxing cannabis in King City

Yes on Measure L, taxing cannabis in Salinas

Yes on Measure O, taxing cannabis in Greenfield

No on Measure P, taxing special events and admissions to venues in Pacific Grove. Aquarium admission prices are already too high.

No on Measure T, a $167 million Hartnell College bond. For the Salinas Californian, Robert Robledo wrote a great piece earlier this year about how the cost of school bonds are hammering taxpayers in Salinas. We love our schools but we have to eat and pay the rent, too.

Yes on Measure W, taxing cannabis in Gonzales

No on Measure X, a countywide three-eighths-cent sales tax for transportation projects. They’ve sweetened this with a good measure of alternative transportation projects but more of the burden needs to go to the industries that benefit from road building.

Yes on Measure Y, taxing cannabis in unincorporated Monterey County

Yes on Measure Z, banning fracking and wastewater injection by the Monterey County oil industry.


LARRY PARSONS: Don’t be a dope. Get out there and vote


'Vote for me' political signIn November 1970, I was a 19-year-old college sophomore still ineligible to vote because you had to be 21 back then to vote or to drink legally. I figured it had to do with being able to take a couple stiff shots after going to the polls because of the horrifying experience.

It wasn’t until the next year that the 26th Amendment giving 18-year-olds the right to vote was added to the Constitution. The process took three months and eight days, making the lowered-voting-age amendment the quickest amendment ever ratified.

I figured the haste had a lot to do with the fact 18-year-old men could be drafted into the Army and become haunted war veterans without getting a chance to vote for the people who decide where and when to send young men and women to war.

To this day, I can’t understand why citizens eligible to vote in our democratic elections choose not to exercise their right.

Having covered scads of elections, I witnessed voter turnouts ranging from the embarrassing (18 percent) to the historic (Hip, Hip Hooray, a whole 78 percent!!!) I can’t recall any election that came within a pixel’s width of 90 percent. And those are turnout figures of registered voters, not of everyone over 18 who could vote if they had registered.

I really can’t understand why people who take the time to register to vote don’t vote. They must fill out the form feeling extreme peer pressure, thinking somehow it will get them laid, or mistakenly believing it makes them eligible for a Powerball lottery with a $100 million jackpot.

During a stint as an editorial writer, I wrote a few of those get-out-and-vote-because-many-people-died-for-this-right editorials. I may as well have written a piece trying to convince today’s Tea Party conservatives the population isn’t cleadivided between “makers” and “moochers.”

The reasons I’ve heard for not voting range from the reasonable (Everyone in the house came down with a vicious stomach flu) to the fatuous (I was driving to my polling place and my car was swallowed by a giant sinkhole. I crawled out of the wreckage and ran the rest of the way, but I got there just after the polls closed. Darn!)

Then there are the half-wits driving around with bumper stickers that say, “Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote.” That makes me want to say, “Hey, dolt, no matter what you think from watching FOX News or MSNBC, this is America! We share the blame equally.”

There is a gubernatorial election next month. They give me the chance to use my favorite word in my political lexicon — gubernatorial. Why? Because the first two syllables are pronounced “goober,” and I’ve always been a pushover for onomatopoeia.

Granted, the statewide races at the top of the ticket — led by the gubernatorial (ahh!) contest between the timeless Jerry Brown and temporarily homeless Neel Tushar Kashkari (last time I look up that spelling) — aren’t going to set anyone’s hair on fire.

But there are a few interesting and important state races and state ballot measures, and Monterey County voters have a platter of political delicacies to dine upon.

There is a countywide sheriff’s race. One of the prime duties of the sheriff is to run the county jail in a humane, orderly and secure manner. There isn’t a more important job in all of public administration. Picking the right sheriff is an awesome responsibility.

There are city council races and local tax and school bond measures galore. There are elections for airport, harbor, hospital, park and water district directors.

And North County voters have a choice for county supervisor between the darling of the political powers-that-be and one of the most energetic gadflies ever to get a cowboy hat seemingly stuck to his head.

If these weighty decisions don’t get your juices excited about voting, I figure you are dead, or really don’t care that much about citizenship.

I am not in favor of adopting mandatory voting because that’s authoritarian. And if there is a freedom that Americans cherish, it is the freedom not to participate — to play all dumb or hipper-than-thou.

If possible, I would favor warning people to vote or all the members of U2 will show up at their front door and play every song from their crummy new album until all eligible voters in the household produced a “I’ve voted” stickers. I figure that would only be fair.

Getting back to my original point. By November 1972, I was a 21-year-old carpenter’s apprentice. I couldn’t wait to vote that fall.

President Richard Nixon had campaigned four years earlier, saying he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. In 1972, that plan was still a big secret, and Nixon, meanwhile, had secretly expanded the war in Southeast Asia to carpet bomb parts of Cambodia.

I eagerly cast my vote for decorated World War II bomber pilot and Democrat George McGovern. Big loss, of course, but the paranoia and skullduggery the ’72 campaign instilled in Nixon led to his demise two years later.

Man was I hooked on voting. It makes you free.


American Flag Painted by Roller Brush, Wining Concept of FlagFor a journalist, few things in life are more interesting or more frustrating than elections.

Interesting for obvious reasons. People of differing persuasions put themselves in front of the public, seemingly inviting scrutiny of their views as well as their private and professional lives and then crying foul if any scrutiny actually occurs.

Frustrating because the diminished press corps these days does not have nearly enough time or resources to demonstrate all the rotten things they already know about the candidates.

But that shouldn’t stop us from providing some semblance of exploration and analysis, right? Here, just in time for the distribution of the absentee ballots, are glimpses into some key races at the state and local levels. Some of it is based on actual observation, largely during my past life as editor at the Monterey Herald. Some is based on second- and third-hand observation and some is supposition or worse. You should take it all for what it’s worth, which is about equal to the cost of subscribing to the Partisan.

If you fully agree with my analysis, I would seriously question both your powers of observation and your grasp on reality

Political Party Animals

GOVERNOR: Jerry Brown will be governor for as long as he wants. No credible Republicans have the energy to mount a serious campaign against him.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: It doesn’t matter who wins.

SECRETARY OF STATE: Democrat Alex Padilla is a party hack. Not a bad one but a hack nonetheless. Republican Pete Peterson comes out of the world of academia and think tanks. Party hacks don’t make good secretaries of state. Peterson would make for an interesting experiment.

CONTROLLER: Democrat Betty Yee has financial experience on the Board of Equalization. Republican Ashley Swearengin has experience as mayor of Fresno. The actor who played Bubba on “The Heat of the Night” had precisely the same experience. I’m voting for Yee.

TREASURER: It seems like John Chiang has been state controller forever and we never hear anything about him, good or bad. No news is good news. Now he wants to be treasurer. Good idea.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: Kamala Harris is the coolest AG we’ve ever had. I’m going with cool.

EDUCATION: If you think California schools are in good shape and that kids of all types are getting the best possible education, you should vote for Tom Torlakson, the incumbent superintendent of public instruction. If you think it’s time for a change, Marshall Tuck’s your guy. He comes from the world of charter schools but those who have watched him closely say he is looking to improve, not privatize, our schools. It’s time for Tuck.

CONGRESS: If you can’t think of Sam Farr’s opponent off the top of your head, and you very probably cannot, you should not vote for him, whoever hemay be.

STATE SENATE: Republican incumbent Anthony Cannella lives in the San Joaquin Valley. Democratic challenger Shawn Bagley lives in Salinas, is a longtime political activist and knows everything there is to know about agriculture. If you live in Modesto, you might want to vote for Cannella. Otherwise, Bagley’s your guy.

29th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: Democratic incumbent Mark Stone of Felton is the complete package. His opponent is not.

30th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: If you’re a Democrat, you probably should vote for the incumbent, Luis Alejo. If you’re a Republican, Alejo provides you little reason not to vote for Mark Starritt.

Political Party Animals


This is one of the biggies locally. Retired judge John Phillips and North County activist Ed Mitchell are competing to see who replaces longtime Supervisor Lou Calcagno of Moss Landing. If you haven’t followed Monterey County politics closely, you may not know that Lou is the prototypical good-old-guy in the backroom, the crafty dealmaker who couldn’t say no to farmers or most developers.

One of the big questions of this campaign season is why Phillips is running. He hasn’t presented any big list of goals and doesn’t seem particularly passionate about any of the issues, such as land use and water supply. My guess is that Calcagno and other movers and shakers in local ag and commerce persuaded Phillips to run in order to block keep Mitchell off the board.

Mitchell is, well, a troublemaker. In a good way. He has fought hard against leapfrog development and, in fact, has challenged the supervisors to base planning decisions on basic planning principles. Unlike some on the board, he thinks projects without a water supply shouldn’t be built and that existing taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to provide services to new subdivisions. The supervisors sometimes have trouble remembering those things.

As a former government contract compliance officer, Mitchell has caught the supes attempting funny business more than once. He would be an important addition to the board.

Though Phillips has important detractors who complain of seriously sexist tendencies, he is well regarded for his work establishing the Rancho Cielo youth camp. Though he has been retired for years now, he has remained a major political figure behind the scenes, helping anoint candidates for judicial appointments. Would-be judges who didn’t fare well in the process say they might not have kissed his ring with enough enthusiasm.

Phillips would be a conscientious supervisor but, all things considered, I suspect he would form a pro-development voting bloc with supervisors Dave Potter, Fernando Armenta and Simon Salinas. Not that I have anything against development. I just prefer the type that doesn’t involve cutting corners.

Electing Mitchell instead of Phillips would give Supervisor Jane Parker a like-minded colleague with whom to commiserate. She often seems lonely during the Tuesday meetings. And when neighborhood resistance to development is unusually strong, those two might sometimes be joined by Potter to defeat a particularly ill-conceived development project.

If I lived in Prunedale, I’d vote for Mitchell.

TOMORROW: Part two, starting with the sheriff’s race. One candidate’s ads tell us that he is endorsed by four, count ‘em, four former Monterey County sheriffs. As though that’s  a good thing.


'Vote for me' political signI’m so old I still get excited to check the snail-mail slot at home in the afternoon.

If the mail hasn’t arrived by 4:30 p.m., I worry about the nice carrier on my block, and then worry if I’ve forgotten it’s actually Sunday.

Five weeks before a November election is a busy time for mail-ophiles. Usually, there are lots of political ads along with the magazines, magazine subscription come-ons, ads for various systems to shove electronic content into the abode, unsolicited offers on burial plots and the occasional personal note. But so far, the political pickings are slim here in south Salinas.

Last week I received my first mailer of the general election season, and it’s still on my desk all by its little lonesome. I received it from folks urging voters to elect incumbent Steve McShane to another term on the Salinas City Council representing District 3.

Sidenote: Dividing a larger city like Salinas into six council districts, besides giving the public better representation in theory, also cuts down on the amount of political mail one receives. There are races in two other Salinas council districts on the November ballot, but unless a candidate’s campaign seriously gets its mailing lists crossed, I won’t be getting mailers in those races.

As a semi-retired journalist, that is frustrating for me. I’ve always liked to monitor what’s hitting the mailboxes in as many campaigns as possible to help me understand the political scene.

One rule of thumb: If a candidate goes negative early, he or she is probably trailing far behind the opposition. If a candidates goes negative closer to Election Day, it’s probably a close race, and he or she is trying to convince undecided voters the opponent is actually a soul-sucking fiend.

If both candidates go negative early and often, they should be pelted with water balloons – in non-drought years, of course.

Anyway at this point, for my sharp-eyed analysis I only have the McShane mailer to dissect and pontificate upon. And, frankly, it is watered-down grape juice.

It’s so positive that you could find more dirt in a 14-month-old “Highlights” magazine in a pediatrician’s office.

There are four pictures of McShane. In two he’s wearing polo shirts with one or two buttons jauntily unbuttoned. In a smaller shot, McShane sits on a piano bench next to a young girl who is playing the piano. Both of them are smiling. I can’t tell what the sheet music is, but it’s a safe bet it’s not “The Internationale.”

The front of the McShane mailer is dominated by a portrait, his last name, the words “city council,” and three bullet points: city councilman, successful businessman and community leader. All of this is placed over a manipulated photo of farm fields south of Salinas in which rows of young, eerily albino-like, white lettuce heads are growing.

The weird crop color probably doesn’t mean a thing, however. So I turn the mailer over for more meat. Here I learn McShane’s top priority is public safety, that he believes “strongly” in a vibrant arts community and favors expansion of sports facilities to keep “kids off the street.”

Oh yes, he also wants to reduce red tape and keep city fees in line with other communities seeking business. There are a couple blurb quotes, four icons from endorsing groups and social media campaign links. All in all, pretty tame stuff.

What candidate doesn’t promise to reduce red tape and keep fees modest, or want to make a community safer and more inviting? Only a loser or a performance artist, that’s who.

I give the mailer 1-1/2 stars. I don’t know why, but I like the pale lettuce heads.

It’s almost 4 p.m. Got to check the mail. There might be more political stuff, or another last chance to renew a subscription due to expire in 2018.

UPDATE: Today’s mail brought no more campaign folderol, but there was an attractive brochure about a hearing-loss clinic. Sigh.