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Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.You might have seen those TV ads featuring four Monterey County mayors opposed to Measure Z, the anti-fracking initiative on the November ballot. They are Joe Gunter of Salinas, Jerry Edelen of Del Rey Oaks, Fred Ledesma of Soledad and John Huerta of Greenfield. They talk about how the oil industry is good for the economy. Left unsaid is how the industry has been good for Huerta, the Greenfield mayor, whose most recent job was in the oil fields of San Ardo, the focus of Measure Z.

Until December, Huerta did grading and cement work in San Ardo for Brinderson L.P., an oil exploration and production company working under contract to Chevron. Chevron, of course, is one of the main contributors to the No on Z campaign, which contends that the measure would shut down the oil industry of Monterey County.

Huerta lost his job when Brinderson lost its Chevron deal and laid off nearly 250 employees who had been working in the oil fields of Lost Hills, Coalinga and San Ardo. But Huerta said Monday that he has applications in to other companies involved in the oil fields and is hoping something comes through.

He said his opposition to Z is not personal, that he’s proud to be one the mayors featured in the commercials, part of a $3.2 million, industry-financed campaign against the ballot measure.

“It’s a good industry,” he said. “Good jobs.”

Huerta’s occupational status has been an on-again, off-again issue in Greenfield, where he narrowly escaped a recall effort in 2012 and now faces a second attempt. Meanwhile, he has been in the news there after city officials ordered an investigation into whether he acted improperly by ordering the city manager to order the police chief not to investigate a medical marijuana operation that has been operating in the city without permits.

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thai boxingJUNE ELECTION TO HAVE IMPORTANT LOCAL IMPACT

If you like your politics rough, you may enjoy the classic contest shaping up between Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue for the right to represent District 4, which takes in Seaside, Marina and some of Salinas.

New campaign expenditure reports show that Donohue has tapped into his colleagues from agribusiness, picking up $20,000 checks from some of the Salinas Valley heavy hitters. The reports also show that Donohue has been working with two campaign management firms with reputations for sharp-elbow tactics. One of them, Pivotal Campaign Services, features Christian Schneider, who teamed with local Brandon Gesicki last year to run the below-the-belt campaign that dislodged Sheriff Scott Miller and replaced him with under-qualified Steve Bernal.

Donohue also has been paying for advice from Robert Dempsey, who in just two years went from being executive director of the state Democratic Parties in Vermont, North Carolina and Virginia to freelance campaign manager. On this coast, he is best known for his coaching of San Diego Congressman Scott Peters, who rode to a 2014 victory over a Tea Party-backed challenger in a campaign that is considered one of the nastiest in San Diego history, which is saying something.

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Donohue campaign consultant Robert Dempsey

Donohue is, like Parker, a Democrat but he fancies himself as a champion of commerce and innovation. The tone of his campaign was likely set at his formal announcement last month when Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen labeled Parker’s supporters as “radical zealots” intent on imposing a “primitive” lifestyle on the citizenry.

Parker supporters bristle at the description, but she does have the environmental vote sewn up. In her two board terms, she often has been the lone vote against major development proposals, most of which have featured glaring deficiencies such as inadequate water supplies.  Supervisor Dave Potter, who is facing a big-league challenge from Mary Adams, has joined Parker on the losing side of some development votes in recent months but it appears to be campaign strategy rather than a genuine philosophical shift.

In terms of political style, the candidates are opposites as well. Parker is quiet and studious, conscientiously reading the voluminous staff reports that often go unopened on the desks of some of her board colleagues. Donohue is boisterous and even boastful, full of ideas but not necessarily the means to carry them through. He has been heavily involved in produce sales and marketing most of his life.

In the money-collection period that ended in December, Donohue picked up just over $100,000, putting his total at $164,000. Big spenders in his camp, at $20,000 apiece, were Rick Antle of the Tanimura & Antle produce concern,  Newstar Fresh Foods, Nunes Co. and, of course, the Salinas Valley Leadership Group. That is the political action committee put together by contractor Don Chapin to pursue a pro-development agenda at every level of government. Not far behind was Church Brothers, another large agri-biz concern, at $15,000.

While Donohue was receiving his $100,000, Parker was picking up $34,900, but her campaign treasury stood at $147,000, including some loans.

Her biggest contributor for the period at $9,250 was Shirley Devol of Carmel, who lists her occupation as consultant. Her late husband, Kenneth, was a journalism professor. Others writing sizable checks to the Parker campaign were women’s rights activist Margaret Schink, $2,500; the Democratic Women of Monterey County, $2,000; Harriet Mitteldorf and school counselor Doreen Gray, $1,500 apiece; and Monterey neighborhood activist Mike Dawson, physicist David Fried, Ann Fitzpatrick of Salinas, Lowel Figen, George Thomas and art dealer Susan Schlumberger, $1,000 apiece.

Other notable contributors to Parker were state Sen. Bill Monning, $274, and Peninsula water activist George Riley, $224.

Parker’s campaign advisers, according to the filings, are the Lew Edwards Group in Oakland and community activist Elizabeth Panetta.  Lew Edwards principal Catherine Lew has managed numerous campaigns up and down California.

Responses to this and other pieces in the Partisan are encouraged. Publication of reader comments, and the pieces themselves, do not constitute any endorsement of the positions presented. The Partisan greatly prefers accurately attributed comments that avoid personal attacks.

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“….and the gloves are off.”

I almost had to laugh except that it was so distasteful. I am referring to the Herald article of Jan. 12, “District Mayors Support Donohue for Supervisor.” What was most striking were the depressing and disrespectful statements by the Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen, who portrayed supporters of incumbent Jane Parker as “radical no growth zealots and organizations that care more about trees and fish than the people in the district.”

Edelen went on to say that these supporters “want to force district residents to live a more primitive, restricted lifestyle,” whatever that means.

These are hurtful, insulting statements meant to drive a wedge between those in the community who are in need of employment and those who would like to see a different kind of development in certain areas. It is so easy to throw insults, so easy to sling mud, and so low.

I sat at a Fort Ord Reuse Authority meeting  in 2011 and had to hear the stinging words of our current Seaside mayor pro tem saying, “We were doing all right until these tree huggers showed up.”  Others called people names. These statements reflect a playground mentality.  How would they feel if I started calling these folks asphalt kissers or concrete huggers?

Mayor Edelen and the others in his cohort know that growth is inevitable given the population dynamics and a capitalized economy.  The big question is what kind of growth and where. Don’t look now, but over the shoulder of this supervisorial campaign looms a big nudge that the Monterey Downs project is the only way to provide the economic development desired and anyone who opposes it will be denigrated as a “radical no-growth zealot.”

Perhaps it is time to turn the tables.  In my estimation, it is this cadre of politically elected officials lining up to support supervisorial candidate Dennis Donohue that are, in fact, doing us in. It is they, with the hospitality leaders, who have cut the deal for cheap water at a flat rate with Cal Am while the rest of us pay exorbitant tiered rates that will double in the near future. What could be more primitive than having to live with even less water, more pollution and traffic accidents that they want for us?

It is they who are favoring horse racing, gambling, low-paying jobs and lining of their pockets instead of thinking of the people and future of the 4th District. We should encourage small, sustainable business along with larger company efforts to bring light industry that is sustainable, such as electronics, tech, education or recreation-oriented businesses that commit to training and hiring local people who have suffered economically.  I fear that Mr. Donohue has been put up to run to defeat any resistance to the backroom plans laid out for Monterey Downs.  The money is flowing into his coffers to put him in place and sell him as our economic savior.

I sincerely hope that the people of the 4th District vote for candidates based on a careful evaluation of their real vision of the future and how it truly affects them and their children. I also sincerely hope that those who purport to commit to public service refrain from lacing their political arguments with low-level tactics of personal insult and divisiveness.

Susan Schiavone lives in Seaside.

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Peninsula people who aren’t sure that desalination is the cure to the region’s water troubles are indebted to Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen. That’s because he makes no secret of one of the goals that will be in play when officialdom works to merge two local water agencies.

In a recent interview with the Carmel Pine Cone, Edelen said it is his hope that adding five appointed city representatives to the board of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District would reduce the influence of conservationists, slow growthers who are concerned about the potential development-inducing impact of a large desalination project.

Referring to the district’s existing board, Edelen said, “There are not enough votes representing the folks who need the water. For too many years, the water management district was run by those who did not want growth.”

ManEdelen is a member of another body made up of the mayors of the six Peninsula cities. It is called the Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Authority, which was formed largely to advance Cal Am Water’s current proposal for a regional desalination plant. The mayors’ group is under increasing financial and political pressure to essentially wrap up its work, most likely by merging with the Peninsula Water Management District.

The Peninsula Water Management District was formed to promote conservation and seek additional water resources after the state ordered Cal Am in 1994 to reduce its reliance on the Carmel River. The water management district is governed by a board made up of five elected directors and two appointees representing the cities and the county. Each election turns into a contest between development-minded candidates and more environmentalist candidates, with each side essentially taking turns holding the majority.

While the water management district has led conservation efforts and has had success with aquifer storage projects, it is constantly accused of failing to produce any significant additional supply. Voters rejected an early effort to dam the river and Cal Am has made little real progress toward a desalination solution.

Meanwhile, the relatively new mayors’ group has been working closely with Cal Am to attempt to expedite that process while simultaneously controlling desalination costs and adding public oversight. With Cal Am’s venture encountering delay after delay, the mayors’ group sustained a blow politically and financially earlier this month when the county Board of Supervisors expressed steep reservations about formally signing on to the mayors’ group and continuing to help finance its work.

Representatives of the mayors’ group, led by Carmel’s Jason Burnett, are working on a plan to amend its shape and possibly its mission. At the mayors’ Oct. 9 meeting, Edelen proposed merging the group and its functions into the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. He said the resulting body would have more influence and greater efficiency. Edelen said the idea he is pitching, diluting the power of the environmentalists by altering the shape of the district board, originated with longtime board member Dave Pendergrass, mayor of Sand City.

In an editorial, the Pine Cone strongly supported the idea.

“Not long ago, you see, the water board … was dominated by environmental extremists who wanted nothing built, and they were willing to go so far to achieve this goal that they willfully stopped any new water from being developed,” the paper opined. “Horrible, yes, but true.”

“We think the mayors’ proposal is a good one, and we welcome a new era in land-use planning based on good public policy, not roadblock extremism.

The machinations come about while the Peninsula is under strong state pressure to step degrading the Carmel River and develop additional supplies. More than two decades after ordering reduced pumping, the state is now threatening to impose dramatic reductions starting in 2016 even though it is beyond obvious that construction of a desal plant could not even begin then much less reach completion. Burnett and other area officials are scheduled to meet with state representatives next months to plead for more time. Among their principal arguments is that reductions could cripple the hotel industry and other local commerce.

Conservationists and the growing number of Cal Am critics aren’t convinced that desalination is the answer, largely because it is a hugely expensive process that would inflate Peninsula water bills, already among the highest anywhere. They are pushing alternatives such as additional conservation, additional storage and reclamation of wastewater.

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