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It took forever for the state to get its act together on groundwater, but it finally did. The Legislature agreed in 2014 that the groundwater that supports agriculture and other life forms cannot continued to be mined without concern for the future, that some sort of management structure must be put in place to assure that the underground water not be pumped for profits without a mechanism to make sure that it be maintained, if not for all time, at least another century or two.

Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to create rules. And to craft and regulate those rules, bureaucracy must be created. Again unfortunately, the state left that task to the local governmental jurisdictions, many of which have spent decades or more proving their inability to manage resources. The biggest groundwater basin hereabouts is the Salinas Valley basin and it is in serious decline although a Farm Bureau leader optimistically describes it as “almost in sustainability.”

That means we pump more out of it than rain and runoff put back into it. That means we, or actually the agency created for this task, need to figure out how to take less water out or put more water in. As the escalating water woes of the Monterey Peninsula make expensively obvious, creating water is a steep challenge.

Faced with rapidly approaching deadlines, Monterey County officials have begun the task of creating the structure to manage the water of the Salinas Valley basin. They may not be off to a strong start.

As ordered by the state, there is a new Salinas Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Its 11-member board was sworn in earlier this month, heavy with agricultural and governmental interests and painfully short on the environmental side despite the seemingly environmental bent of the assignment. Remarkably, the one seat reserved for a representative of the public went to Lou Calcagno, the former Monterey County supervisor who served almost as an unpaid lobbyist for agribusiness and development interests during his 16 years in office.

He was appointed by the current Board of Supervisors on a motion by Supervisor John Phillips from a field of three applicants. The others submitted lengthy applications with essays about their thoughts on groundwater management and made presentations to the board. Calcagno provided 20 words in writing and made no presentation.

Calcagno, a dairy operator when he isn’t politicking, is the prototypical backroom dealmaker, the ultimate good-ol-boy of Monterey County politics. He does have something of an environmentalist streak but he has been involved in so many deals over the years and has received so many campaign contributions that it becomes impossible to know whose voice you’re hearing when he speaks.

I called Phillips to ask why wanted Calcagno on board. He didn’t return the call. That’s the way he is. I didn’t call Calcagno for comment because he made it clear last time that he’s never going to return my call.

The county gets another seat as well, filled by Supervisor Luis Alejo, representing something known as GSA-eligible agencies. When I find out what that means, I will let you know.

The environment, big as it is, is represented on the 11-member board by one member and only one member. Fortunately, she’s a good one — Janet Brennan, the tireless League of Women Voters leader. She has worked as a land-use planner and is skilled in water quality issues. Probably as much as anyone in the county, she speaks with authority on environmental matters.

Things could change, possibly even for the better,  because the board is an interim creation, formed to meet some deadlines and potentially subject to wholesale revision in the fall. If that occurs, and if the board is serious about fulfilling its mission, it would be wise for it to be less weighted toward ag and politics.

The farmers will tell you, and it is true, that they are great stewards of the land and that they have led the way on water conservation. It is very true that they have altered irrigation techniques and have aggressively pursued other means to cut back on water use. But one grower engaging in all the best practices doesn’t stop the landowner next door from drilling a deeper well and putting another 100 acres, 1,000 acres into production.

Of course ag must be well represented on this board. It is the biggest user of the basin and what it produces from that water sustains most of the economy of the Salinas Valley, and more. After a year or so of government-financed start up, much of the expense of running the agency will fall to agriculture, which is not necessarily a winning formula because it solidifies the notion that ag interests are fully in control. Most of the start-up money will come from Monterey County and the city of Salinas, on about a 66 percent/33 percent split with the smaller cities responsible for another $130,000 or so.

The structure, created by a working group appointed mostly by government and ag interests, calls for four members to be appointed directly by agricultural interests and for those four to maintain special voting powers at times. Those four are  Colby Pereira of Costa Farms,  Adam Secondo of Secondo Farms, Steve McIntyre of Monterey Pacific Growers and Bill Lip, formerly of NH3 Service Co.

Pereira is president of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, which has been heavily engaged in the process. However, its  executive director, Norm Groot, indicated this week that its involvement is somewhat begrudging.

“What has astounded us is how expensive this all is, and that it is really coming down to an unfunded mandate that the state is imposing on all of the counties,” Groot told AgAlert. “It’s almost staggering how much they’ve put on us and in the end, for a basin like ours that is almost in sustainability anyway, we’re going to be spending millions and millions on this and the solution is probably far less costly.”

Other board members are:

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The Monterey County Board of Supervisors, on a 3-2 split, continued to press its case Tuesday for providing additional voting strength to the county and Salinas in the formation of a regional electrical power consortium.

The plan has been in the works for several years now, but with a formation deadline approaching next month, supervisors John Phillips, Luis Alejo and Simon Salinas are essentially saying that unless Monterey County gets an extra vote, they’ll pass on enabling Monterey County residents to reduce their reliance on carbon-heavy energy sources and replace them with power from renewable sources.

Here’s the Monterey Herald story on Tuesday’s action. Here’s our previous story.

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Board splits along gender lines

Monterey County’s effort to gain additional authority over a regional electrical power consortium seems to be coming up short, with most of the other 20 government partners unenthusiastic about awarding the county an extra vote on the governing body.

Monterey County staffers are scheduled Tuesday to brief a divided Board of Supervisors on their effort to persuade the other counties and cities involved to bestow additional voting rights on Monterey County. That item is on the board’s 1:30 p.m. agenda.

The proposed Monterey Bay Community Power agency is intended to be an alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., an energy brokerage of sorts dedicated to increasing the Central Coast’s use of renewable energy and potentially driving down the cost of electricity. It would be the seventh such “Community Choice Energy” agency in California.

It would be operated by a joint-powers agency made up of the governments of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties and the cities in those counties.

Five years into the process of creating the agency, most of the government agencies involved have formally approved the structure and the operating principles but three members of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors have thrown a wrench into the works by insisting that Monterey County receive an extra vote because it has the largest population of the three counties. As it stands, Monterey County and the cities in the county would have five of the 11 votes on the board, more than any other county, but supervisors Luis Alejo, Simon Salinas and John Phillips say Monterey County deserves a second vote of its own, giving the county and the cities in the county a total of six votes. As an alternative, they say they could support weighted voting,.

The issue has divided the board, with Chairwoman Mary Adams and Jane Parker supporting the original plan. Parker, in fact, is urging her constituents to attend today’s board meeting and be prepared to argue in favor of moving the venture along.

According to Parker’s office, the agency would:

  • More than double our use of renewable energy resources (from 27% renewables to 59% renewables)
  • Provide 70% greenhouse gas (GHG) emission free electricity
  • Provide annual surplus revenues of approximately $9 million dollars in funds that can will support our local regional goals
  • Help build local renewable energy projects, stimulate local economic reinvestment and support local green job creation.

Government staffers in Monterey and elsewhere say it is difficult to tell whether the Alejo-Salinas-Phillips triumvirate is simply seeking a stronger voice on the agency board or is attempting to scuttle the venture.

Alejo didn’t return a call or email requesting comment, but he reportedly has argued privately that he fears the agency could end up raising power bills for low-income residents. The person who has worked most closely with the venture says that simply isn’t true, as demonstrated by the agency’s voluminous technical studies.

That person is Virginia Johnson, an aide to Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson, the former secretary of state and legislator who has led the formation process.

Johnson said Monday that some other community power agencies have succeeded in lowering overall electrical rates and that even if that did not prove to be the case on the Central Coast, current PG&E customers would be entitled to continue their PG&E service along with any low-income discounts.

“There is no way poor people are going to pay more,” Johnson said.

San Benito County officials originally expressed similar concerns but were won over by activists working closely with the Catholic Church, which has embraced the plan.

A popular feature of the new entity is that it would allow for relatively affluent households to pay a premium for power in order to be supplied entirely by relatively clean sources such as solar or wind.

The overall plan had been scheduled for final approval by the end of 2016 but was delayed until March because of Monterey County’s reservations, which, according to Johnson and others, have received scant support elsewhere.  Johnson said the other entities would much prefer that Monterey County stay with the plan, largely because additional population creates additional buying power when purchasing electricity, but she said the others are fully prepared to move ahead with or without Monterey County.

As it stands, Monterey County and jurisdictions in the county would have five votes on an 11-member board of directors. Those votes would be assigned to the county, Salinas, the Peninsula cities as a group, Seaside/Marina/Sand City/Del Rey Oaks as a group, and the South County cities.

Santa Cruz County and its jurisdictions would control four votes and San Benito County, with the smallest population of the three counties, would control two votes.

Under the alternative weighted voting proposal, Monterey County, Santa Cruz County and Salinas, the largest city in the region, would be apportioned extra voting power on some issues.

Monterey Bay Community Power would be a government-run non-profit operating under a 2002 state law that enables communities to choose to buy power from clean sources while contracting with PG&E to maintain power lines and provide customer service.

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If you get all your local political news from the papers or TV, you can be forgiven for not knowing that Tony Barrera, a Salinas City Councilman, is running for Monterey County supervisor.

That’s because he wasn’t mentioned in one paper’s account of Assemblyman Luis Alejo’s decision to run for the District 1 supervisorial seat held by Fernando Armenta or in a TV station’s report on Alejo’s announcement. The newspaper at least mentioned Armenta. The KSBW report mentioned no one other than Alejo.

Alejo’s entry into the race likely makes Barrera even more of an underdog. Armenta, who hasn’t yet announced whether he will run again, would be able to raise far more campaign money than Barrera and so will Alejo, of course. The district takes in most of Salinas but you can expect to see most of the campaign money coming from elsewhere.

And why does this matter to you if, like most Partisan readers, you live somewhere between Salinas and the Pacific? Here’s why. Armenta is a fairly conscientious fellow when it comes to representing his district, but when it comes to important matters outside the district, especially development issues, it’s all about campaign contributions.

Armenta is a sure vote for development, good development, bad development, he doesn’t really care. His mind is made up. And if it’s a traffic-clogging project proposed for the Corral de Tierra area, a subdivision at the mouth of the valley, a model of leapfrog development in north county, his vote is just as important as that of the supervisor representing that district. If you don’t think more strip malls and cookie-cutter subdivisions would enhance the Peninsula, you want someone more thoughtful than Armenta on the board.

As it stands, the only consistent board vote for good planning is Jane Parker. She represents Seaside, Marina and a small part of Salinas. She’s up for re-election and is being challenged by former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue. Donohue will get considerable help from the business community and development interests.

The other seat up for grabs in the coming year is held by Dave Potter, who is not quite the sure development vote that Armenta is but only because he is cagy enough to oppose developments when he knows they’ll get approved anyway. In a district that takes in Monterey, PG, Carmel, Carmel Valley and Big Sur, he is being challenged by Mary Adams, the retired United Way exec, who is receiving support from slow-growthers, progressives in general and some quarters of agriculture.

Which takes us back to Armenta’s district. If the white hats manage to re-elect Parker and elect Adams, Armenta’s re-election would mean that logic-defying developments would still have three nearly automatic votes, those of Armenta, John Phillips and Simon Salinas. Like Armenta, Salinas apparently has never met subdivision he couldn’t support.

But with Barrera or Alejo in office instead of Armenta, development proposals would be the subject of healthy examination and debate. Developments that create housing and jobs without aggravating traffic and water problems would be considered on their merits. The size of the proponents’ campaign contributions would be less likely to be the deciding factor.

In the coming months, voters countywide should study Barrera and Alejo. Barrera is the rough-and-tumble type. He has a somewhat checkered past but is trying to get people to forget it by working hard to represent everyone in his district, not just the players. Alejo is smoother, the career politician type who has wisely weighed in regularly on issues of importance in the Salinas Valley. He is moving to Salinas from Watsonville because he is being termed out of his Assembly post and needs a job. (His wife, Watsonville City Councilwoman Karina Cervantez, is running for his Assembly seat in a race that includes former Salinas Mayor Anna Caballero.)

So here’s the bottom line.

If you live on the Peninsula and prefer trees over asphalt, you can’t afford to focus only on your own backyard. You should pay attention to Parker and Adams and you also should consider getting involved in the race shaping up in Salinas.  It’s either that or watching a lot of 3-2 votes in the wrong direction.

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Monterey County supes tell enviros to pound sand

Businessman discouraged and saddened by his failures

Maybe this fellow is downhearted because he just learned that the county supervisors consider the general plan a business plan, not a land-use plan. Or, he’s simply a model in a stock photo.

Anyone who doubts that a political and cultural war is being waged in Monterey County would have been disabused of the idea at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

The issue on the table was approval of a settlement agreement that county staff had negotiated with the government watchdog group Open Government Monterey and the environmental group LandWatch Monterey County. The agreement was meant to end litigation in which those groups spelled out their concerns about the impact and legality of the county’s 2010 general plan, which is heavily weighted toward the wants of developers and agribusiness.

Everyone in the room knew there was no chance that the supervisors were going to publicly ratify language taking back any of what the business interests had won five years ago, but the session provided them with the opportunity to talk tough in front of various benefactors.

“We can’t strangulate this county,” said Supervisor Fernando Armenta, according to a report in the Monterey County Weekly. Armenta said he had recently enjoyed a drive along Napa Valley’s vaunted wine trail and wished Monterey County could be more like that, green and relatively lacking in contentiousness. He mentioned without making his context clear that he had not seen any of the endangered species that are issues in Monterey County planning matters.

Much of the discussion was about Monterey County’s wine corridor, which the wine industry envisions as a series of wineries and tasting rooms along River Road on the western edge of the Salinas Valley. Although county officials have expressed nothing but support for the idea, little has materialized there.

(In a meeting with Monterey Herald editors several years ago, vintner Kurt Gollnick was asked what benefits a wine corridor would provide to those outside the wind industry. He couldn’t come up with an answer at the time.)

Specifics of Tuesday’s discussion included what can and cannot be planted on steep slopes susceptible to erosion, what can be done to accommodate the passage of wildlife through farms and fields.

The advocacy groups and the county had reached a tentative agreement in January but it could not take effect without a majority vote of the supervisors. It didn’t come close. Supervisor Jane Parker was the only supporter. She noted that the county’s legal bills are adding up quickly as the discussions continue and court proceedings loom.

By a vote of 4-1, the supervisors agreed to continue the discussion for another couple weeks, but the chances of a negotiated settlement appear to be growing slimmer.

Supervisor John Phillips voted for the extension but was dismissive of the general plan opponents.

“We all know the plaintiffs here live by litigation and that’s how they support themselves,” said Phillips, who supported himself by working as a lawyer and then a judge before joining the board

The supervisors were being cheered on by the county Planning Commission, several farm and business groups, the mayors’ association and the cities of Gonzales, Soledad and even Sand City, which is almost entirely unaffected by anything that goes into the general plan.

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Silhouettes of construction cranes against the evening skyIF FERNANDO ARMENTA WINS AGAIN, ENVIROS ARE FIGHTING A LOSING BATTLE

People of the Peninsula, listen up. Yes, I’m talking to you. This is important, including the part that involves Salinas. Try not to go into your “I don’t care about Salinas” mode when we get to it.

Here’s the deal. There’s a local election coming up. It’s not until next year but you need to start thinking about it now – and setting money aside for it.

Three of the five seats will be up for grabs on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. If the election goes one way, we could end up with a transparent, responsible board that carefully considers development issues and approves only the projects that make sense. Or, more likely, it will go the other way we’ll end up with a board fully and proudly resistant to good land-use planning. A board like we have now, only worse.

One of the contests should get your attention right from the start. That’s the one for Dave Potter’s seat in District 1, which includes the Peninsula from Seaside south. That means Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Big Sur, and the Highway 68 corridor.

Once upon a time, Potter was able to straddle the fence on land-use issues well enough to keep both the environmentalists and the business community fairly happy. Times have changed, however. Now, Potter will vote against poorly planned projects in his district but only after making sure there are enough votes for approval. The Ferrini Ranch and Harper Canyon projects are recent and glaring examples. He was able to tell his constituents that he tried, darn it, while actually doing nothing to prevent the result his campaign contributors wanted.

Don’t forget, Potter’s also the guy who brought the Monterey Downs people to the Peninsula and put in a good word for them.

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Mary Adams

Fortunately, a solid candidate has stepped up to the challenge of taking Potter on: Mary Adams, executive director of the United Way of Monterey County.

Adams is an accomplished and talented manager who is quite capable of doing what Potter once did, balance the concerns of progressives with the needs of commerce. She’s no ideologue but she understands that we can’t keep approving subdivisions when we don’t have enough water to take care of our existing needs. Because of her long years of service in the non-profit arena, she is on top of other key areas of county governance, particularly health care and social services. Yes, there is more to the Board of Supervisors than land use, but those topics are less relevant to residents of the Peninsula cities.

Potter’s campaign will be well-funded. The Adams’ campaign also needs to be well-funded. That’s where you come in.

Just as important is the race in District 4. That’s the seat now held by Jane Parker, the board’s lone wolf on environmental issues, the woman in the white hat. You know all about her. District 4 takes in Seaside and Marina and, unfortunately, slides on over to cover part of Salinas. I say unfortunately because the Salinas territory is what enables former Salinas mayor Dennis Donohue to throw his oversized hat into the ring. His isn’t white.

Though the primary election for these seats isn’t until next June, Donohue is already campaigning. He and contractor Don Chapin’s Salinas Valley Leadership Group were likely behind the recent push-polling in which respondents were asked if they would vote for Parker again if they knew she doesn’t get along with the rest of the board. Like that’s a bad thing. Voting is more than a year away and already they’re playing mean.

Donohue, like Potter, will have plenty of money for his campaign. He’s a well-connected part of the produce industry and he has cozied up to the development industry. He’s smart and fairly slick, but he offers little of value to the Peninsula.

When Jane Parker first ran for the board, Donohue supported her opponent, former Marina Mayor Ila Mettee McCutchon, and her “Pave Marina” crusade. He endorsed Mike Kanalakis for sheriff over Scott Miller and Lou Calcagno for supervisor over Ed Mitchell. Get the picture?

How much will development and ag interests pay to try to knock the Parker’s enviro vote off the board? Plenty. There are loads of growers in the Salinas Valley whose retirement plan involves planting houses where lettuce grows now. The only question they’ll have for their candidate will be “How much you need, Dennis?”

picJaneParkerSunset

Jane Parker

Now for the Salinas part. Stay with me.

Supervisor Fernando Armenta has represented District 1, much of the city of Salinas, for four terms now. He says he cannot remember ever voting against a development project. Oh, there was that one time, he acknowledges, but it was only to send a message to the development boys that they shouldn’t take him for granted. True story.

Armenta has found one of the sweet spots of politics. All development proposals that reach the Board of Supervisors come from outside his urban district. So he can collect campaign contributions from everyone with an interest in development and vote their way without upsetting any of his constituents. And if anyone in his district ever did question him, he could claim the high road by saying he is voting for jobs and affordable housing, as though the trickle-down theory applies to the construction of luxury homes far from his district.

Whoever wins will be on the board with supervisors Simon Salinas and John Phillips. Neither has any trouble approving poorly placed developments without adequate water supplies.

Do the math. It’s a five-member board. If Armenta wins again, the Parker-Adams tandem still would be outvoted 3-2 whenever the supes were presented with a ill-advised but big-bucks project.

Which takes us to Tony Barrera. He’s on the Salinas City Council but most of you have never heard of him because, well, you know why. Salinas.

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Tony Barrera

On top of that, Barrera’s not really a Peninsula kind of guy. He’s smart, very smart, but he doesn’t use big words. He’s got a rough side. He got in some legal trouble a few decades back and had to claw his way back into politics. At the moment, he’s under some scrutiny over a neighborhood beef. Barrera wasn’t at the Food & Wine event at Pebble Beach last weekend. He was at a neighborhood meeting in the Alisal.

When Donohue was endorsing Ila Mettee McCutchon, Barrera was supporting Parker.

When the Harper Canyon and Ferrini Ranch proposals went before the board, when the construction unions that support Armenta were recommending yes votes, Barrera was pointing out that the water for the projects doesn’t seem to exist, and if it does, it is already spoken for.

Barrera ran against Armenta four years ago. He got clobbered, not surprising since Armenta outspent him 8-to-1. He’s going to try again next year. Stubborn, I guess. There was talk of Armenta stepping down next year and letting Assemblyman Luis Alejo move down from Watsonville to take over the District 1 seat, but Armenta apparently nixed the deal, holding out for one more term.

So, people of the Peninsula. Is the message being received?

You can put time, effort and money into the Parker campaign next year and feel good about yourselves. You can put time, effort and money into the Adams campaign and feel even better. With enough of your time, effort and money, they might even win, unless the big money on the other side buys too many deceptive ads and pays for enough unscrupulous campaign staffers. In other words, if the activists of the Peninsula follow the standard script, it is possible that Parker and Adams will win.

But if the people of the Peninsula don’t broaden their horizons and think beyond the familiar, if they don’t also put time, effort and money into the Barrera campaign, who are they going to blame when the next project from hell is approved by a 3-2 vote?

Think it over.

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Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand votes

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Jay Varney, sworn in this week as sheriff of conservative Madera County, is on to something. Varney did some effective messaging with his creative typography and his deft reference to having had law enforcement experience in Texas, a separate nation when it comes to policing. Monterey County candidates may want to consider his technique rather than going with the same old Joe Blow for Supervisor signs.

Some suggestions. When he runs for re-election in four years, Sheriff Steve Bernal may want to use a large dollar sign in place of each S to remind potential challengers that  he’s the guy with all the campaign money, assuming he hasn’t done something to upset his brother’s well-heeled mother-in-law.

When prosecutor Jimmy Panetta runs for Congress, he might want to skip the last name entirely and just use a picture of his famous dad with a big smile. Similarly, when Felix Bachofner runs for Seaside mayor again, he should just leave off the last name and let it go at that. Too difficult.

Whatever Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett runs for next, his signs could have his name inscribed on military-style tombstones like those at the new national cemetery at Fort Ord to remind people that he was the guy who made the cemetery a reality. Congressman Sam Farr would quibble, of course, but he’ll probably be out of the picture by then. As for Burnett, the tombstone imagery might become even more apt if the desalination project doesn’t get on a better track and if voters haven’t forgotten the meltdown at City Hall.

Monterey City Councilwoman Libby Downey, surrounded now by so many progressives on the council, should think about using her full name, Liberal Downey, on her signs to make it clear she belongs.

Spanish-speaking Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning of Carmel has statewide political ambitions. To appeal to the widest possible demographic, he would be wise to scatter some accent marks throughout his name.

During his successful race for county supervisor, retired judge John Phillips was criticized in print by former prosecutor Ann Hill, who contended that he was a not-so-good-old boy when it came to issues of gender equality. To remind voters that he was the guy who shook it off and went on to a convincing victory, he might want to highlight four letters of his last name, as in John PHILLips.

Over at the Marina Coast Water District, Howard Gustafson could turn the O in Howard into a face of an angry man yelling at someone.

Ex-cop Joe Gunter, mayor of Salinas, could simply steal the gun idea from Varney.

And Supervisor Dave Potter, if he runs again,  should have his signs play up both of his faces.

 

(BTW, it would be really useful to the Partisan if those of you who read this on Facebook would hit the share button so all your friends can see what kind of nonsense amuses you)

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110_F_66851562_fFaspr2gJRZ649D8HnBiDZyATXAzuOcPI’m always asking myself what’s the end of the year without a news quiz. Actually, I stole this idea from the Fresno Bee. Give it a try and see how you do. And, yes, I do know that the questions should be numbered and the answers should be lettered, but I am remain a klutz when it comes to formatting anything, so I’ll make this my last formal apology of 2014.

A. Which of the following happened in 2014

  1. One of the four open investigations into officer-involved shootings in Salinas was completed
  2. The various Peninsula agencies agreed on a plan to increase groundwater storage and expand conservation efforts
  3. A sheriff’s deputy with no management experience was elected to head the county’s largest law enforcement agency

B. Which of these development projects moved ahead despite demonstrably inadequate water supplies:

  1. Monterey Downs
  2. Ferrini Ranch
  3. Corral de Tierra shopping center
  4. All of the above

C. GOP political consultant Brandon Gesicki

GOP campaign manager Brandon Gesicki

GOP campaign manager Brandon Gesicki

  1. Managed a principled campaign
  2. Told a chamber of commerce committee that his candidate’s opponent would soon be charged with a crime
  3. Became a campaign issue to the point that he had to pretend to leave the campaign

D. The Monterey Herald editorialized that

  1. Water should not be an issue when developments are proposed because no single development could exhaust the county’s entire water supply
  2. The Pebble Beach clambake golf tournament should be moved to summertime so better weather would attract more tourists
  3. Howard Gustafson and Ken Nishi were the best candidates for seats on the Marina Coast Water District board.

E. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey

  1. Was caught skinny dipping with the PG&E board of directors
  2. Told Southern California Edison shareholders that if they thought rates were too high, they should just discontinue their electrical service.
  3. Called victims of the San Bruno explosion “a bunch of crybabies.”
  4. Finally got the hell out of Dodge.

F. California American Water Co. spent more than $2 million on

  1. Defeating a public campaign to take over the business even though it claims to be losing money
  2. Brochures touting the company’s frugality
  3. Lunches with Michael Peevey

G. The proposed design of the Monterey conference center was compared to

  1. A post office, circa 1962.
  2. A dental office, circa 1972
  3. A visionary yet misunderstood monument to man’s inhumanity to man

H. In his book, Leon Panetta

  1. Disclosed that the CIA staff kept him in the dark about everything
  2. Revealed that he worked as a script adviser on Zero Dark Thirty
  3. Disclosed that it was Sylvia who found bin Laden
  4. Mentioned that he had wanted Al Pacino to play him in the movie, a young Al Pacino.
  5. None of the above.

I. The oil industry spent $2 million on

  1. Attempting to defeat a public campaign to prevent fracking in San Benito County even though the oil companies contend there is no fracking in San Benito County.
  2. Beautification of the Lost Hills oil reserve
  3. Brochures touting the industry’s environmental resolve

J. Lou Calcagno’s final act as Monterey County Supevisor was to

  1. To take Steve Collins  to lunch
  2. Give John Phillips’ home phone number to Tony Lombardo
  3. Pardon Dave Potter
  4. It’s a secret

Answers: A. (3). B. (4). C. (2 and 3). D. (2 and 3). E. (4). F. (1). G. (1 and 2). H. (5). I. (1). J. (4)

If you correctly answered all 10 questions, consider this an offer to come to work for the Partisan, especially if you have other income.

If you got more than six questions right, you’re a true newshound. You probably borrow your neighbor’s Herald occasionally and pick up the Weekly once in a while.

If you got two to five right, you probably know what comes on right after the KSBW news.

If you got none or one right, Peter Newman’s team at the local GOP would like to talk to you about running for office.

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billete monedaFor a few moments Tuesday, it looked like those opposing the proposed Encina Hills development in San Benancio Canyon were going to prevail. The Monterey County Board of Supervisors was considering the project, yet again, when supervisors Dave Potter and Jane Parker made it clear they had run out of patience with the developers and their inability to demonstrate that the 18-lot development would have an adequate water supply.

Parker noted that they developers had delayed well testing until this week, now that rain is recharging the overburdened aquifer. She wasn’t buying their excuses for why it just wasn’t possible to meet their deadlines and to get started during the dry months: Busy season for hydrologists, other expenses, etc., etc.

As usual, supervisors Fernando Armenta and Simon Salinas weren’t bothered and were ready to grant the developers every accommodation. That’s the way Armenta and Salinas are when it comes to development. No one even bothers asking them why anymore.

So that left Lou Calcagno, the lame duck chairman of the Board of Supervisors, to break the tie. And he had expressed serious exasperation with the developers in the spring after it was revealed that the test well for the project had not been tested in eight years.

It sounded at first as though Calcagno would side with Parker and Potter and vote to put an end to the project, but he punted. Calcagno, who leaves office at the end of the year, said he wanted to be extra fair to the developers and give them just one more chance to demonstrate the power of their pumps, never mind the impact on the already overdrawn groundwater. The new deadline for water testing is in March. Retired Judge John Phillips will have taken Calcagno’s place on the board and he’ll be receiving the punt.

If anyone is willing to take your bet, put some good money down on the side of the project winning approval..

In general, Phillips will be a friend to the development and construction industries. They contributed heavily to his supervisorial campaign, which resulted in an easy victory over slow-growther Ed Mitchell. The Realtors and the construction companies and development lawyers don’t make big contributions to candidates in hopes they’ll just fortuitously turn out to be friendly votes. They want some kind of assurance before they write those checks, and someone let them know that Phillips was on the team.

On this project specifically, there’s good reason to believe a little thing like a sketchy water supply isn’t going to bother Phillips all that much. First off, the project lawyer, Michael Cling, contributed $1,500 to Phillips’ campaign the day before the election. It was the last contribution Phillips reported on his disclosure forms.

Cling also contributed $200 to the judge’s campaign a couple days before the May primary.

When Cling arrived at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, he and Phillips greeted each other warmly in the lobby.

“Nice to see you,” said Phillips.

“I was hoping you’d be here,” said Cling, who did the talking for the development Tuesday.

After the session, Cling passed by Phillips on the way out and got the nod, the wink and the handshake.

Reading too much into circumstantial evidence, and flimsy circumstantial evidence at that? That certainly could be. The Partisan predicted that Sheriff Scott Miller would win re-election, so our ability to read the political tea leaves obviously is suspect at times. But one doesn’t have to be certain to make a bet, and we’re betting this one has already been decided. They’ll say it’s about property rights.

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Election letters that should be read

One of the most interesting parts of many publications, this one included, is the letters. Here, for your edification and enjoyment, are three particularly interesting responses to the Partisan’s most recent post on Tuesday’s election. Take a peek.

And, by the way, if you haven’t seen Jim Toy’s blog, you should check it out as well, and not just because of his running list of Herald bloopers. Just click on his name.

  • Helga Fellay November 3, 2014, 8:48 am

You have pretty much said it all, and very well, too, about the Sheriff’s race, but just within the last week I became aware of another thing, or maybe two: 1. The DSA endorsement which Bernal uses as his strongest bragging right, is not what he makes it out to be; and 2. A disturbing connection between Monterey Downs, the giant horse racing plus casino development planned for the former Fort Ord, and the DSA (deputy sheriff’s association).

At a DSA meeting where 12 of 17 present voted to place the vote of no-confidence on the ballot. This is the meeting where Gesicki was present but Sheriff Miller was not invited. According to Scott Davis, the union has 316 members, of whom about 250 registered to vote. The final tally was 119 of 184 total votes in favor of a no-confidence resolution. But it was a corrupted vote. President Scott Davis himself counted the votes. There was no neutral person present to oversee the vote counting. Remember that the DSA and its president, Scott Davis, received $25,000 from Bernal relative Margaret Duflok, and the DSA received another $9,000 from Monterey Downs, LLC.(Schedule A, California Form 460, Contributions received, page 4 of 8, ID Number 1334267). Scott Davis, President of DSA, is now in a TV commercial touting Bernal. So how impartial and how reliable can that vote count really have been! It’s all smoke and mirrors. And they allowed Bernal to write a memo to the deputies before the endorsement (which made all those illegal promises to the jail deputies). They didn’t give the same privilege to Sheriff Miller.

We have always known that the Republican Party and Big Ag thought they could use a clueless deputy without any personal ambition to buy this election. But we also know that the DSA endorsement, Bernal’s biggest bragging tool, was bought with a $25,000 donation from Bernal’s family and another $9,000 donation from Monterey Downs, LLC. At least those are the only two we know about.

  • Ann Hill November 3, 2014, 10:50 am

    For the 55% of the 2nd district voters who are planning to vote for John Phillips for supervisor, you are voting for the judge made nationally notorious by a Charles Osgood poem on CBS radio, which made fun of Phillips’ decision awarding a thief damages against Costco. The thief had stolen items from Costco, and then tried to get away. He was stopped in his attempt to flee by Costco security officers, but he fought with them and lost. He was injured in the struggle to get away, and he sued Costco for his medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering. Judge Phillips saw merit in the thief’s claim and made Costco pay up. I remember at the time that many voters were calling for the judge’s ouster, because he appeared to have no common sense. Funny that this case was not brought up during the campaign for supervisor. Did the editorial board at the Herald know about it? Probably not. It is also not likely that any one of them spent any time in his courtroom, or they too would have seen the behavior described by David Brown – the temper tantrums, yelling at attorneys and throwing of files. And they might have understood why this judge was known as “King John” by some attorneys. So, get ready for a bumpy ride – judges wield absolute power in their courtrooms. They do not need to build consensus. Absolute power corrupts absolutely – and it is often abused. That abuse of power, as much as the poor treatment of women, was what I had previously written about for the Partisan. It is not a good character trait for a county supervisor. If this concerns you, vote for Mitchell instead.

  • Bill Carrothers November 3, 2014, 1:36 pm

    Royal, you seem to lack some rather elementary powers of observation. I am amazed that you cannot see Bill Freeman for what he is: a useful idiot being played by the open-borders sociopaths who use him to promote their growthio-sociopathic agendas. Second, what limited powers of observation and intellect prevent you from seeing Jan Shriner as anything other than what she is: a toxic agenda monster hell-bent on preventing any successful and practical solutions for the Peninsula’s water issues? There is simply no such thing as a useful conversation with this witch! As for the latest Ferrini Ranch debacle, there is a new word to describe the planning commission members and Board of Supervisors who voted for this additional mile of construction on the highway to hell: GROWCIOPATHS.

  • James Toy November 2, 2014, 8:37 pm

    Thank you for endorsing Felix Bachofner for Seaside. I’ve known Felix for about 24 years, and he’s as incorruptible as they come. My favorite reason for voting for him is that Felix understands land use issues better than anyone I know, and he’s seeking high quality commercial development of existing commercial areas, the type that will draw customers from the entire Peninsula, not just fast-food consumers from Seaside.

    Here’s a little more I wrote on Seaside’s election: http://mrtoysmentalnotes.blogspot.com/2014/10/ralph-rubios-momentum.html

    By the way, I struggled with Felix’s last name when I first met him, too. To help me remember, I made up a little saying: “I sometimes listen to Offenbach, but I tend to listen to Bachofner.” :-)

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500_F_53293135_27J85jZn71YPw8YyiI93FVhmRFHQ1gFuI have been accused more than once of talking too much. I like people and like sharing stories. It takes a lot to make me speechless. At the moment, I’m close.

Some background:

Last week the Partisan published a commentary by retired Monterey County prosecutor Ann Hill about John Phillips, the former judge who is now running for Monterey County supervisor. Hill asserted that throughout his career Phillips had demonstrated sexist traits and lapses in judgment of the sort that would make him a poor supervisor.

Shortly afterward, the Monterey County Weekly belatedly discovered that someone has been anonymously distributing flyers featuring a cartoon depicting a wild-eyed Phillips engaged in intercourse with Lady Justice. The result of that discovery was a piece by Weekly editor Mary Duan that was posted online late Friday. It contains an assertion by Phillips’ campaign manager, Plasha Will, to the effect that I might have played a role in production  of the trashy flyer. Her evidence? I formerly was a newspaper editor and therefore knew some cartoonists. Really. That is what she said. You can read it by clicking here.

Duan apparently also deduced that timing could constitute some sort of evidence against me. She reported, incorrectly, that the flyers started appearing after Hill’s piece ran on this blog on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Among the many shortcomings of that theory is that Prunedale residents had started receiving the flyer in the mail sometime before Sept. 12. I’m trying not to make too much of this anyway because I was already having trouble tracking the notion that an entirely reasonable piece by a well-identified 30-year prosecutor is likely to result in a crude and anonymous cartoon. Because of Hill’s piece I gathered my cartoonist friends and urged them to do their worst?

I understand that Hill’s piece may have bothered Judge Phillips. If you’ll scroll down below this post, you can find Hill’s writing and, connected to it, several comments supporting Hill’s point of view and several others firmly defending Phillips. I think it is a good thing that Hill’s piece set off a civil debate about a candidate’s record and character. That is exactly what should happen in a political campaign. Unfortunately, the judge’s attempt to point a finger at me over the ridiculous flyer could be viewed as support for Hill’s point about lapses in judgment.

For the record, the existence of a commentary on this website does not in any way constitute an endorsement of the thoughts contained therein. We don’t have to agree with something in order to print it. I barely know the judge. Before Hill’s commentary ran, I asked him if he wished to respond. Plasha said he did not.

By the way, the Phillips camp essentially accuses his opponent, Ed Mitchell, of being the sly character behind the flyer, possibly in concert with my stable of cartoonists. Mitchell told the Weekly he didn’t care for that one bit and wants an apology. Oh, also, the offensive cartoon is there on the Weekly’s website so you can see what the fuss is about.

OK, enough. I am now back in speechless mode.

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UPDATE: ANN HILL’S RESPONSE TO COMMENTS ON HER ORIGINAL COLUMN, PRINTED BELOW
I could have remained silent. According to some of the responses to my commentary, I should have remained silent. It was a difficult decision whether to come forward with the information I shared about the second district supervisorial candidate John Phillips. For those who have not had any negative experiences with him and who wrote about him glowingly, that is your good fortune and that is your right. I tried to focus on some traits I witnessed that would raise serious questions about this candidate’s fitness to be one of five county supervisors. Each candidate – Mitchell and Phillips —
in this race has his loyal supporters. I wrote for the undecided voter in the second district who is seeking information on both candidates. Perhaps there is someone who has known Ed Mitchell for more than thirty years who can share information about him. Sharing information is not “ranting”. Let’s continue to share information about both candidates.
Ann Hill

 

 

COLUMN BEGINS HERE

The race for District 2 supervisor has focused primarily on whether voters want a third pro-development vote on the Board of Supervisors or whether they want a majority of smart-growth county supervisors. This is a reasonable assessment of the major difference between John Phillips, who is getting lots of money from developers and builders, and Ed Mitchell, who draws support from conservation and environmental groups. But it fails to look into the character of either candidate. I do not know Ed Mitchell, but I have known Judge Phillips for more than thirty years, and I am concerned about certain traits he has displayed in two prior positions of authority: assistant district attorney and Monterey County Superior Court judge.

Supervisorial candidate John Phillips

Supervisorial candidate John Phillips

Judge Phillips was my boss in the District Attorney’s Office before he became a judge. The DA’s Office was a boys’ club when I was hired in 1981. There were just a few women attorneys. The men were in control and Judge Phillips was the alpha male. Some would say that most men who are his age (70 and up) have a history of sexist remarks in their past, because “that was their generation.” I am nearly 70 and I believe that most men in my generation were not as blatantly sexist as many of the men my age with whom I worked in the DA’s office. And Assistant District Attorney Phillips was the leader of that pack.

As a judge, John Phillips was very concerned about the rights of the criminal defendant – rightly so. However, he often did not show the same concern for victims or witnesses who came to court to testify – particularly female victims and witnesses. The case that stays with me involved a gang drive-by shooting in South County. As the deputy district attorney prosecuting one of the gang defendants in the car, I had subpoenaed to court a teenaged girl who had also been in the car at the time and could identify who had done the shooting and who was driving. With the help of an investigator I was able to persuade the girl and her mother to come to court, so the girl could testify against one of the defendants. She was our only cooperative eyewitness. Naturally, both she and her mother were terrified of retaliation by gang members if she took the witness stand. Somehow, she summoned the courage to be sworn in and to identify the defendant as one of the participants in the shooting. She testified before Judge Phillips, who turned to her at the end of her testimony and criticized her in front of a courtroom full of people for what she had worn to court.

In my eyes, the witness had on a clean, pressed, age-appropriate outfit with several layers on top, including a transparent blouse that was over another opaque top. But to Judge Phillips, it was not her courage in coming forward in the face of certain violence against her and her family that he noted. Rather he chewed her out for wearing clothing that he felt was suggestive. The girl left the witness stand in tears. She told me that the judge made her feel like a prostitute. A male deputy sheriff sitting in court who was waiting for another case commented that Judge Phillips was way out of line in the way that he had humiliated the young witness.

This incident was troubling when it happened, and it is still troubling because it makes me wonder whether Phillips would treat a young woman who appears before the Board of Supervisors in the same manner. Maybe he has matured since leaving the bench and establishing the Rancho Cielo youth camp but can we take the risk that a candidate with a history of sexist remarks to and about females has become enlightened and is no longer disparaging of girls and women? More than half of Judge Phillips’ constituents are female, and many women and girls appear to speak before the Board of Supervisors. Will their comments be taken seriously, and will they be given a fair shake if  Judge Phillips is a supervisor, or will he focus on their style of dress or find some other sex-based reason to put them down?

My concern is based in part on Judge Phillips’ reaction to a written complaint filed against him with the Commission on Judicial Performance by the young girl and her mother. An investigation was conducted by the commission. I was contacted and asked if I had witnessed any inappropriate treatment by the judge. The defendant’s attorney was contacted too. I was told the entire investigation was confidential and that I should feel free to speak truthfully. I told the investigator that I had indeed witnessed the judge browbeat the young witness about her clothing choice  and that she had felt degraded by his treatment and told me she would never return to court to testify. The defense attorney warned me against being honest with the investigator, because Monterey County is small and the legal community is even smaller.

After the investigation was concluded, a year-end report of the Commission was issued that indicated that a Monterey County Superior Court judge had received a letter of reprimand for inappropriate comments to a female witness. While no case name was cited, it seemed clear to me that Judge Phillips had been reprimanded. Sometime after the report came out, another Superior Court judge came to me at a Bar Association meeting and told me that Judge Phillips hated me because I had “beefed” him to the Judicial Commission several times. Never mind that I had not ever “beefed” Judge Phillips to the commission – I had just answered the investigator’s questions honestly – from that time on I knew that I would not get a fair shake in his courtroom.

What is most disturbing about Judge Phillips’ reaction to a complaint about his performance as a judge is that he blamed the witness and the prosecutor who presented the witness for getting him in trouble. He apparently never saw anything wrong in his mistreatment of the terrified young woman. Furthermore, he jumped to the wrong conclusion about me – based on no evidence – that I had filed complaints against him – and then he shared this mistaken belief with at least one other judge. He never confronted me directly with these false assumptions, but knowing his belief that I had “told on him,” I made every effort to avoid holding any hearings or trials in his courtroom, especially any that involved women or girls as victims or witnesses.

The negative traits that I have witnessed in Judge Phillips – sexist remarks, poor treatment of a witness, inability to acknowledge one’s own bad behavior, developing and holding a grudge based on a mistaken belief – are not traits I would like to see in any elected official, especially one of our five county supervisors. If you don’t acknowledge that you have done wrong and learn from your mistakes, you just keep making the same mistakes. That is the concern I have with supervisorial candidate John Phillips. The five supervisors vote on issues of importance to all of our lives in Monterey County. We cannot afford to have even one of those five decision-makers relying on personal biases rather than the facts presented to the board.

Retired lawyer Ann Hill was a deputy district attorney in Monterey County for 32 years. 

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County supervisors in California are responsible for lots of things, from health care to jails to the potholes on your street. But few people pay much attention to the supes until a big land-use issue comes along.

Even something as relatively small as the Corral de Tierra shopping center proposal last year pulled the citizenry away from the TV and caused neighbors to argue over open space vs. private property rights. Suddenly the five supervisors were receiving the attention they should have been receiving day to day—attention of the sort that detects patterns. It turns out that when the issue is land use and the stakes are high, our supervisors are following a script written years ago.

I bring this up now because an important supervisorial contest is on the November ballot. It’s Ed Mitchell against John Phillips in District 2. It’s about who will represent the north end of the county but it should matter to you no matter where you live, because the script impacts land-used decisions countywide.

Will the script be followed when the supervisors vote on the upcoming Ferrini Ranch development along Highway 68? It depends on who wins in November.

Here’s how it goes:

For most significant development projects, the script gives the developer two votes from the start. Supervisor Fernando Armenta of District 1 and Supervisor Simon Salinas of District 4 are almost guaranteed yes votes. That’s partly because most of the larger development projects are on the Peninsula, a place that doesn’t matter to Armenta and Salinas. They represent parts of the Salinas Valley, so they have nothing to lose by voting for projects and plenty to lose when they vote against. Such as campaign contributions. Lose those and you lose cushy jobs.

Armenta once told a jarring story about how he sees development issues.

It was at a Monterey Herald editorial board meeting. I asked Armenta whether he had ever taken a stand against development interests. He chuckled and said that he had. He explained that it was during the debate over the current Monterey County general plan. Developer types and property owners who hope to develop their land some day were pushing a development-friendly version of the plan while environmentalist types were pushing a new, slower-growth version.

It had turned into a chess game, and the development forces and their buddies on the board thought they saw an opening. They decided to try to pass the development-friendly plan on a surprise vote before the opposition could figure out what was happening.

So at one Tuesday board meeting, then-Supervisor Jerry Smith introduced a surprise motion to approve the developers’ plan. Everyone then looked at Armenta.

Armenta said everyone assumed he would second the motion. Others on the board were ready to vote in favor but didn’t want to second the motion because it would become too obvious that the fix was in.

“I just sat there,” Armenta said, grinning.

I asked him why.

He said it was simply because everyone expected him to second the motion because he was such a pro-development guy. He said he needed to teach “them” a lesson about taking him for granted. In other words, he wanted people to know that if they wanted him to vote for their project, they’d better ask nicely. His support wasn’t automatic. There were conditions. By the way, Armenta did not seem at all embarrassed by what he was saying.

The script continues. Though her vote is not nearly as automatic as those of Armenta and Salinas, Supervisor Jane Parker is a good bet to vote against large development projects of the sort that create traffic and water problems and upset environmentalists. Most developments.

So it’s now 2-1. What about Dave Potter, the cagey one?

If you were to go back through his land-use votes over the years, you might not detect a pattern. Like I said, he’s cagey.

If the development is in his district—maybe in Carmel Valley, Corral de Tierra or the southern coast–and if there is considerable opposition, the script calls for Potter to vote no, but only after making a deal with his co-star, Supervisor Lou Calcagno.

Now it appears to be a 2-2 tie. But remember. Calcagno and Potter have already made a deal. The vote is actually 3-2 in favor of the project. Potter can tell the neighborhood opposition that he did his best to stop it and he can tell the developer about how he and Lou made it happen.

There can be deviations from the script, occasional ad libs. Which is OK with the players as long as the story turns out right.

So why does it matter who wins in November? Calcagno is retiring from the board.

His District 2 replacement will be either Ed Mitchell or John Phillips. If Mitchell wins, they’ll have to write a new script.

Mitchell is the feisty land-use activist, a fixture at board meetings, a longtime neighborhood organizer in Prunedale. He’s the troublemaker in the white cowboy hat. Mitchell worked for years as a contract compliance officer and he’s a detail guy. He has watched as the county for years has made empty promises about providing water to the dry parts of his district. Whenever a land-use proposal goes to the board, he wants to know where the water is coming from.

Phillips is the more polished of the two. He is a retired Superior Court judge who has won great admiration for his work developing and operating the Rancho Cielo youth ranch, which has provided vocational and educational alternatives for hundreds of at-risk youngsters. He’s also much more of a behind-the-scenes guy than Mitchell. For years now, he has played an informal but key role in helping to select local lawyers for judicial appointments.

Phillips is well known and well liked within the upper crust but no so well known to the general public. While Mitchell’s motivations are fairly clear—he wants to solve problems in his district and disrupt the script on land-use issues—Phillips’ intentions are less clear. So are his views on development and land-use issues.

Which brings us back to the point of this missive. This runoff election is important well beyond the confines of North County. While people living in Pacific Grove and Carmel and King City won’t have a vote in November, they still have an important stake. That’s why they should go to campaign forums and ask questions. How would you have voted on the last general plan, Judge Phillips? Have you received campaign contributions from developers? Mr. Mitchell, can you see yourself supporting a large residential development anywhere? How about on farmland? What defines a good project?

The people of PG and Carmel and King City also should make it clear to the media that those kinds of questions need to be asked, and answered.

Voters in Pacific Grove and Carmel and King City who already know which candidate they prefer also should do one more thing. Campaigns, unfortunately, run on money. Voters with strong feelings about the future of Monterey County should be making campaign contributions now if they want a say on how this plot turns out.

If you think the 255-home Ferrini Ranch subdivision would be a good thing to add along Highway 68, you should consider sending a campaign contribution to Phillips, or volunteering to help in his campaign. If you worry about traffic along Highway 68 or other ramifications of what amounts to leap-frog development, you’d be better off helping the Mitchell campaign instead.

No matter where you live.

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