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Surviving Election Night


Desperate businessman portraitNational elections always leave me feeling blue — not in a Democratic way, but in a depressed way. And that’s how everybody expects the Dems to be feeling after the polls close late today. Depressed.

To believe the polls and prognosticators, the Republicans — who have become simply the party of guns and loathing everything our twice-elected president has ever done — will win a bigger majority in the House and take a slim majority in the Senate.

Of course, a savvy survivor of midterm elections, in which sitting presidents always lose allies in Congress, knows that GOP control of Congress will change absolutely nothing. Republicans have held a House majority for the past two years, and the GOP exercised de facto control of the Senate for six years through a system of 60 percent majorities and anonymous holds on presidential appointees.

This is easily forgotten, even by a Utah Republican congressman who demanded a week or two ago that the U.S. Surgeon General take the lead in the existential fight against Ebola. He completely overlooked that Republicans have blocked the president’s nominee for the top doctor’s post for nearly a year because the National Rifle Association, that leading health care group, ordered it.

The knowledge that nothing will change, except new dance steps among hopefuls for president in 2016, eases my national election blues. As further protection, I will avoid all cable news coverage of the election tonight and any blog coverage chronicling how early returns showing how key races in lots of states other than California are shaping up. I say, to bend a quote by the English rock band Traffic, “See what tomorrow may bring.”

I would rather spend Election Night watching old Marx Brothers movies, reading year-old magazines or playing with our two young cats before they lose all interest in running after any of the 47 cat toys spread around the house like fallen autumn leaves.

Looking more closely at local races, I admit I have an interest in the anti-fracking measure in San Benito County, the Monterey County sheriff’s race, the District 2 supervisor race and the fate of a passel of local tax measures.

But again I can wait until Wednesday to find out the winners and losers. And it will probably be a longer wait to declare the winner in the Seaside mayoral contest, given the past two narrow duels between Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bachofner.

I don’t see a lot of drama in any of the other cities with council and mayoral races, where voters will probably decide to keep the bums in. The outlier, of course, is the Marina Coast Water District, which could undergo another of its periodic, violent mood swings.

When I used to cover elections in a newsroom, one of my methods to survive the hollowed-out feelings at the end of the campaigns was to make a few $1 bets with colleagues on some races. Sometimes I would raise it to $5 if my foe was being both boneheaded and profligate. I won far more often that I lost.

That would take the sting out of knowing that voters in Texas once again returned the stupidest House member, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Inhishead, to Washington D.C. I firmly believe they do this with Gohmert to either get him out of town or as a Texas-style Dada art piece.

But sadly, I no longer have folks sitting at nearby desks who are easy marks for Election Night bets. So tonight will be a tad more melancholy than usual.

What’s especially depressing, however, is that none of the $4 billion or so being spent in an orgy of political advertising, polling, consulting and go-fering this election will find its way into my pockets.

The real winners tonight — and you don’t want to bet against this — are the owners of local television chains, cable companies, web sites and other media that gleefully carried all the insane and infuriating video ads for the past few months.

They aren’t getting more gridlock, but “greenlock,” and happy days were here again, indeed, for them.


Some stories stand alone. Others aren’t quite long enough to justify all that precious cyber space, so the Partisan hereby initiates “Shorts,” an occasional column about politics, public affairs and whatever else is cooking.


The Bernal for sheriff camp was landing quite a few punches against Sheriff Scott Miller, mostly low blows, but Miller left the Bernal team dazed and confused with a flurry of jabs over the last few days.

For some reason, deputy Bernal’s handlers, led by Brandon “Tricky” Gesicki, thought it would be a good idea to get an endorsement from UFW icon Dolores Huerta even though she is about as popular as mildew among the grape growers and other agriculturalists who are the base of his support. I’m guessing they were hoping to capitalize on an earlier Miller misstep, hiring a retired DEA agent as his campaign spokesman despite the agent’s not-so highly evolved views on immigration and related issues.

Speaking of missteps, the Bernal people breathlessly announced the Huerta endorsement late late week. On Huerta’s behalf, Sen. Bill Monning announced the next day that it was a mistake. And Miller announced Tuesday that he now holds Huerta’s endorsement. Miller is hard to categorize politically but if you look in your neighborhood, you might notice that the Rush Limbaugh listeners on your street aren’t putting up Miller signs.

Gesicki went ballistic over the news coverage, of course. He does that. This time, he accused the media of lying, lying, lying. That’s because Huerta mistakenly said it was Bernal adviser Chris Marohn who had misled her about the candidates. The misleader was actually Bernal adviser Chris Schneider. Late Tuesday, it could not be determined whether Gesicki had calmed down.


In a field of strong Monterey City Council candidates, retired police officer Ed Smith has escaped much notoriety but he has one out-of-town critic who’s hoping to end that. The critic is Dean Gray, who edits a watchdog-oriented website in Desert Hot Springs, the Palm Springs neighbor where Smith worked after leaving the Monterey Police Department.

Starting late last year, Gray’s Desert Vortex News published  several stories critical of Smith for his association with Tony Clarke, the would-be promoter of what was to be the Wellness and World Music Festival in Desert Hot Springs. Here is a link to the most complete article, which he sent to the Partisan over the weekend. Its a safe bet that others in the race are well aware of it by now.

Monterey City Council candidate Ed Smith

Monterey City Council candidate Ed Smith

The gist is this: While working as a police commander in the desert town–a “well-respected police commander,” Gray wrote at one point—Smith was assigned to assist Clarke, largely because Smith had had considerable experience with large events in Monterey. The city also forwarded $265,000 to Clarke to help with the effort. After Smith retired from the Desert Hot Springs Police Department, he went to work with Clarke to try to finish the job. It turned out, however, that Clarke was not a music promoter as he claimed to be and they only thing he was really good at was spending the city’s money, Gray reported. Smith made presentations on Clarke’s behalf but he told the Partisan this week that he never reached a formal agreement with Clarke and never got paid for his work.

To give some context to it all, Smith noted that Desert Hot Springs is a troubled town, with more than its share of scandal and controversy. It has had eight police chiefs in just 11 years.

“I’m glad to be back in Monterey.”


 When California American Water formally accused water activist George Riley of illegally breaching a settlement agreement by speaking up on a key desalination issue, the utility might have figured he would shut up and go away. Cal Am has a kennel full of lawyers and seems to enjoy unleashing them.

But Riley isn’t backing down. In a letter to the company on Monday, he denied breaching anything and made it clear he will continue exploring ways to make the proposed desalination project more effective and less expensive. Here’s the letter: Breach Response

The accusation from Cal Am was that Riley had publicly declared that slant wells are not feasible for the project and that he would attempt to prevent a test of that technology at the Cemex cement plant site near Marina. In one of the several legal proceedings associated with the desal project, Riley was among the folks signing agreements not to disclose this or that. In Riley’s view, the agreement didn’t and doesn’t prevent him from speaking out about his concerns.

(Slant wells are drilled slightly inland but angled so that their intakes are in the sand and stone under ocean water. The design of the intakes is a critical component of each desalination plant as engineers seek to minimize the amount of damage to aquatic life.)

Riley wrote, “I treat your letter as a soft form of a SLAPP suit, intending to intimidate or censor me. You refer to comments before the Mayors Authority and the Water Management District, neither of which are in the permit track for the test well. You did not quote me. You did not summarize my comments. You did not show evidence of the impact of my comments. You have not identified any permit or easement hearing that I even participated in …

“I will continue to look at ways to support a water supply at the lowest possible cost, and on a schedule that meets local needs. And I will continue to seek reasonable discussions of a fast track that may have higher risk and cost, and may have unintended consequences. In my opinion, the pressures of the compressed schedule are driving out rational discussions. This is my focus these days.”


Speaking of Cal Am and slant wells, the company spent much of 2014 seeking approval from Marina officials to install a test well at the Cemex cement plant property on the Marina shoreline, but the request was denied. Later, Cal Am acknowledged that it had no formal agreement with Cemex but it is going to court to try to force a Cemex to cooperate.

Here’s an interesting sidenote that might explain how things went sideways. Local land-use lawyer Tony Lombardo has been representing Cal Am in its effort to find a location for the desal plant and I’m told by people who should now that Cemex has been using Lombardo for some time to represent its local interests as well. It’s a Mexican company.

Was Lombardo negotiating with Lombardo? Who knows. Lombardo hasn’t returned my calls in years, including the one I made Monday.


Does Steve Bernal have a future in the cattle business?


Sheriff’s deputy Steve Bernal

For less than a day, Monterey County sheriff’s candidate Steve Bernal had the endorsement of UFW leader Dolores Huerta, which made absolutely no sense to anyone who knows anything about Huerta, Bernal or his campaign opponent, Scott Miller.

Then, on Saturday, Huerta withdrew the endorsement, saying she had been lied to by the Bernal campaign. Huerta said she had been told that the incumbent, Sheriff Scott Miller, advocates for deportations of undocumented workers.

For some campaigns, this would be a giant deal, a huge embarrassment. Not for the Bernal campaign, though. It’s beyond embarrassment. For me, the Huerta fiasco brings up a few questions I might ask of the Bernal camp if they’d return my calls.

  1. Considering that almost all of Bernal’s support comes from South County ag interests, with the exception of Carmel Republican interests, why would he want Huerta’s endorsement in the first place?
  2. Bernal has been a deputy for 15 years mostly in South County. How’s his Spanish?
  3. Bernal criticizes Miller for personnel decisions. Yet Bernal apparently is employing Brandon Gesicki, Chris Marohn, Chris Schneider and others, including one fellow who escaped federal campaign corruption charges only by becoming a government  witness. There may be more. The question is this. How many GOP operatives does it take to run an expensive and clumsy campaign? (Miller’s running his own campaign.)
  4. How can Bernal claim that the Sheriff’s Department is a mess and that it doesn’t do a good job fighting gangs and then tout endorsements from the four sheriffs who held the office before Miller took over four years ago?
  5. There is this shadowy fellow, who may or may not be Jeff Woods, or Jeff Phillips, or Ryan Williams, who posts anti-Miller rants on You Tube. Does the Bernal camp pay him?
  6. Is Bernal’s family supporting him in this campaign because there isn’t a place for him in the family cattle business?


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 Flag

UPDATE: Here is Marina Coast Water District candidate Sarab Sarabi’s response to the news reported below on Oct. 8  that he is on probation following a marijuana-related arrest last year.

“I have been the state political director or the student wing of the California Democratic Party, I have served as the policy director of the western United States for the student wing of the Democratic National Committee, I have sat on the Senate Bill 1440 Implementation and oversight Committee, I was instrumental in getting several state lawmakers to support the California dream act, I have fought all my life for democratic values and supported leaders who seek to implement those values, locally I ran the canvassing operation with the mayor and designed the literature for Marina’s measure Ito fund police, fire and senior services all this work in the name of democratic values.But people are encouraging you to research a criminal record instead. Alright well since you asked, yes, I was arrested for possession of marijuana but there is no such thing as felony probation and I was released. Just a couple months after the arrest the DA tried to throw the sun and the moon at me but at the end of the day all of the original chargeswere dropped. I pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor just so I could get it over with. I should have had my medical marijuana license on me but the paper is so large and awkward to carry around I often just don’t. (The Partisan also asked Sarabi about a rumor that he had a previous arrest for arson) As to the fire damage I was playing with fire in my own room and it got out of hand I was just old enough for this to go on my adult record by the way that was almost two decades ago, Since then I have done many great things. I tutored at risk children in math and science while I was a student at Monterey Peninsula College, I have devoted my life’s efforts to the enfranchisement of young people whether it was access to college or the ballot box or something as simple as helping them with homework my efforts in Sacramento led to the legislature passing several bills that made college more accessible tohundreds of thousands of young people across California.

“I can go on and on about the past my local efforts on measure I ensured continued funding for fire, police, and seniors my work has not gone unrecognized as I have beenawarded various awards including one from our very own congressman Sam Farr as well as the state chancellor’s office.In the end I bring balance a fresh face, a policy background, passion and energy. I’m looking forward to being able to work with Jan (Shriner) and Margaret (Davis) to really unite Marina and do the people’s work. We can’t do that with Howard (Gustafson), Ken (Nishi) or Bill (Lee). Thank you. I hope this answered your question I look forward to building a long-term relationship with you if you would like to ask more questions in the future.”

Proprietor’s note: Marina police records say Sarabi was arrested after a small amount of marijuana was found during a traffic stop in 2013. A Monterey County Superior Court docket sheet says he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of possession of concentrated cannabis and that three other felony charges were dismissed as the result of a plea bargain. The record says he was placed on three years probation with the understanding that the felony would be reduced to a misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation. “The People indicate to the Court that the plea agreement included no reduction of count 4 to a misdemeanor unless the defendant successfully completes the term of probation, defense concurs.”



Continuing where we left off in Part 1, with the easiest pick of the season.

SHERIFF: When the Monterey County Weekly endorsed incumbent Scott Miller, it said the choice was so obvious that “even the Herald got it right.” Here here. Or is it hear hear. I have never been sure

Steve Bernal, a sheriff’s deputy with absolutely no management experience, should be ashamed of the campaign that Brandon Gesicki and other GOP henchmen are running on his behalf.

Gesicki has been telling people that the Bernal campaign has some bombshells to drop on the sheriff. They’ve made as much noise as possible for as long as possible about Miller’s son being a druggie. That, at least, is true. I’m betting that Gesicki and company will soon be making stuff up.

Bernal’s campaign advertising portrays Miller as some sort of crime boss and Bernal as the decent, honorable alternative. If hanging around with Gesicki and his ilk hasn’t drained all the honor out of him already, he should publicly fire his advisers, apologize to his boss and sign up for some training

Miller is highly experienced. He spent years in the Salinas Police Department, rising through the ranks, and was police chief in Pacific Grove before being elected sheriff. He inherited a mixed bag staff-wise with a fair number of deputies who had coasted through their jobs. He has worked to make them accountable and to weed out the worst. A goodly number of deputies are supporting Bernal and it’s no wonder. Who would you rather work for, a hard-nosed boss or your buddy?

Though the position is non-partisan, Bernal’s candidacy is all about partisanship. The local Republican Party is hellbent in getting as many GOPers as possible elected to local office. Before the campaign, one of the party bosses offered Miller a deal. Register as a Republican or we’ll run someone against you. You can see what happened.

For another glimpse at how things really work, check out Bernal’s list of endorsers and you’ll see some familiar names out of Carmel. Though cute little Carmel has little stake in law enforcement outside its borders, Bernal has been endorsed by former Mayor Sue McCloud and former City Council members Paula Hazdovac and Gerard Rose. Yes, they’re Republicans but that’s not the whole story. Some may recall that Miller’s wife, Jane, was once personnel director in Carmel and she successfully sued the city after she was repeatedly sexually harassed by the city manager at the time, during the incumbency of McCloud and there others. She received a settlement of $600,000.

You be the judge. McCloud, Hazdovac and Rose, sharp cookies all, decided for some odd reason to endorse a cluelessly inexperienced candidate for sheriff, or could it be retaliation? Politics at its worst.

In other words, re-elect Miller.

DEL REY OAKS: Incumbent city councilmen Jeff Cecilio and Dennis Allion are trying to stay on board while challenger Patricia Lintell, a retired computer scientist, is trying to knock one of them off. I’d go for Lintell because the incumbents in Del Rey Oaks seem hell-bent in turning their Police Department into a little Army for no particular reason. Forced to pick one of the incumbents to stick around, I’d go with Cecilio simply because I talked to him once and he seemed OK. I wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of voting for Allion, however.

GREENFIELD: I generally don’t dig too deeply into Salinas Valley races but Greenfield Mayor John Huerta has been in office long enough. He and I have quite a few mutual acquaintances. They always seem to pause when they talk about him. In other words, they have reservations but they’re reluctant to put them into words.

Challenger Michael Richard de Leon-Mungia is young, smart and eager. Let’s give him a shot.

MARINA: Mayor Bruce Delgado is one of the nicest guys around. In almost every way he is the opposite of past mayors Gary “You Talkin’ to Me” Wilmot and Ila “I’m An Army Colonel and Don’t You Forget It” Mettee McCutchon. Delgago has enough of the ‘60s peace-love-and-understanding stuff left in him to drive the Board of Realtors wild but he has proved to be hard-working, conscientious and respectful of his constituents.

Delgado’s opponent, Ken Turgen, is an architect and planning commissioner whose list of supporters reads like the guest list for one of Ila’s birthday parties. Delgado is receiving support from the slow-growthers. Turgen is the pick of the  fast-growthers. If Cal Am has any money left over from its last campaign, look for someof it to end up in Turgen’s treasury.

I’d suggest voting for Delgado unless you like strip malls and taxpayer-subsidized construction projects.

Meanwhile, two incumbents and a newcomer are competing for two seats on the Marina council.

Incumbent David Brown, one of three lawyers on the council, often votes with Delgado, Frank O’Connell and Gail Morton. Let’s call them the liberals. Incumbent Nancy Amadeo often votes the other way. Let’s call her not a liberal.

Re-electing Brown and Amadeo is a fine idea. It won’t shift the balance of power and will keep one person on board to help keep the others honest. Recreation Commissioner Dan Devlin Jr. also seems vote-worthy, partly because his late father, the former Defense Language Institute commander, was one sharp fellow. Even so, I’d vote either Brown-Amadeo or Brown-Devlin, not Amadeo-Devlin.

MONTEREY: Clyde Roberson will be the next mayor because he scared everyone else off. He was a very popular mayor a long time ago and every seems to think he did a good job.

The City Council race, however, is a real contest. Two seats are open, those of Nancy Selfridge and Frank Sollecito. Frank’s had enough and is hoping that another retired Monterey cop, Ed Smith, takes his place.

Smith is a worthwhile candidate. He’s studied the issues closely and understands city business. However, I can’t stop thinking that for him, job one would be protecting police pensions at the expense of everything else.

Selfridge is the wind-up councilwoman. She’s here, she’s there, this meeting today, that meeting tonight, or visiting a sister city at her own expense. Early on in her council career, she was hopelessly naïve. She’s wiser now but still an idealist. Every City Council needs at least one. During the past term, she expended much of her energy fighting with then-City Manager Fred Meurer. Now that he’s gone, she should be able to put her energy into larger causes. (When you read the Herald’s endorsement in this race, keep in mind that Meurer’s wife, Phyllis, is now on the Herald editorial board.)

With lefty Alan Haffa already on the council, his friend Tim Barrett could amount to one idealist too many. He’s a true peace-loving, homelessness-fighting Occupy Wall Street kind of liberal of the sort that has been in short supply here over the decades. Selfridge supporters fear, however, that a Barrett victory could mean a Selfridge defeat, so they’re urging voters to shy away from Tim. I’m also bothered by his ages-old arrest for allegedly manhandling his girlfriend.

Lawyer Hansen Reed is the solid guy in the middle. He isn’t fully up to speed on some of the issues, such as desalination, but he is known to be a quick study and is well regarded in the legal community. Barrett’s politics suit my own better but I agree that voting for him would reduce the chances of a Selfridge victory. I’m thinking Selfridge and Reed.

SEASIDE: If it was a popularity contest between Mayor Ralph Rubio and former Mayor Felix Bachofner, Rubio would win it easily. He’s the handsome charmer, the guy who remembers everyone’s name and accepts criticism with a smile. Bachofner, an aggressive, youngish businessman, won’t win on style points. And there’s that name. I just looked it up and I’m still not sure I’m spelling it right.

But style points or not, Rubio shouldn’t be in office for the simple reasons that he’s a mucky-muck with the Carpenters Union. No one else around seems to care but to me it is one heck of a conflict as much as I admire unionism. Most of the controversial items that go before the council involve development. When Rubio votes yes, as he almost always does, is he voting yes as the mayor or yes as the union executive who sees jobs for his members? The upcoming decisions on the Monterey Downs racetrack venture will be as controversial as they come. The project also would create quite a few carpentry jobs. I’d like to think the mayor’s analysis goes deeper than that.

Did you know that the Home Depot store in Seaside, which was fast-tracked through the Seaside City Council, is in a building owned by the Carpenters Union?

Rubio’s got all the moves, but Bachofner should be back in office. When he was mayor before being knocked off by Rubio, he worked hard on all sorts of issues and represented a wider range of interests than Rubio does. As a small businessman, he had minor conflicts of his own but he worked them out forthrightly. He’s the right choice.

Meanwhile, the Seaside City Council election is a four-man race for two seats.

I’ll always support incumbent Alvin Edwards, the retired fire captain and former water board member. That’s because he truly understands what working-class families are up against in Seaside and because he always laughs at my jokes. Alvin made a name for himself politically while he was on the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board. When development interests applied pressure to the board, and essentially disrespected the environmentalist bloc on the board. Edwards responded by stepping up and becoming a leader of the water-conservation, slow-growth contingent. I wish he would take more of a leadership role on the council, but I’m glad he’s there even when he’s quiet.

I’m also giving a thumbs up to landscape contractor Jason Campbell because he is smart, energetic and opposed to the Monterey Downs boondoggle. The council needs at least one person who won’t rubber stamp development. Jason was a leader of last year’s unsuccessful anti-Monterey Downs initiative, but even those on the other side of that campaign would have to admit that his side would have prevailed if the other side hadn’t relied on fraudulent advertising. He would be the odd man out much of the time, but he would be serving a great purpose by keeping the council accountable.

The other incumbent is the very likable Dennis Alexander. I find it fascinating that the ballot doesn’t say he’s an incumbent. Instead, it calls him a teacher and reserve police officer. Maybe the value of incumbency is slipping. He has done a fine job on the council but not fine enough to recommend him over Edwards and Campbell.

PACIFIC GROVE: For mayor, I’m going with the incumbent, Bill Kampe, though I have found myself disagreeing with him on water issues. I have a hard time supporting anyone who didn’t support the effort to take Cal Am Water public. But challenger John Moore, a lawyer, is too much of a one-note guy, all about pensions. Important thing, police pensions, but not the only thing.

Six candidates are competing for three seats on the P.G. City Council. If I knew more than I do, I’d tell you all about it, but I don’t so I won’t.

SALINAS: Mayor Joe Gunter, the former police detective, is a pretty good guy, though I wish he would vote his conscience more often rather than political expedience. Take him aside sometime and ask how he really feels about cardroom gambling.

If I lived in Salinas, I’d vote for challenger Bill Freeman, the outspoken Hartnell College trustee who has championed progressive causes and who has been a real friend to the instructors. I like his stance on most things, but I’m not going to pretend that most people in Salinas could ever support him. I wish he had run for a seat on the council first. Gunter would be the more practical choice but who says we always have to be practical? Freeman.

No matter what I say here, the three City Council candidates will be re-elected, though Kimbley Craig‘s opponent, Eric Peterson, seems to be coming on. I had initially felt that Peterson was simply too liberal for the north Salinas district, but he has demonstrated a command of the issues. Unfortunately, much of his key support seems to be coming from outside the district, particularly on the Peninsula.

As for incumbent Tony Barrera, I’ll simply remind him that he is still trying to rebuild trust after previous legal issues. His aggressive style can work well in representing the city’s poorest district but the tough-guy persona doesn’t always work. I’d remind Councilman Steve McShane the he’s not 23 any more and remind Councilwoman Kimbley Craig that expectations are rising. She’s not the new kid on the council anymore.

No, it hasn’t escaped my attention that these three incumbents are the very same three incumbents who got together and scolded the former city librarian to the point that she walked away with a big-dollar settlement from the city. But what’s that old saying about the devil you know….

MARINA COAST WATER DISTRICT: Now, to my favorite contest.

Many voters on the Peninsula figure there’s no need to pay attention to the Marina Coast Water District, which supplies water to Marina and much of Fort Ord. The thing is, the district board is an important player in area water affairs. At one time it was a partner with Cal Am in an attempt to build a desalination plant. Now, it may go it alone on a plant and no matter what happens, it has the capacity to play a spoiler role in other water-related efforts. That’s why it is important to have skilled and public-spirited people on the board. Therefore, I’ll start with the candidates who should NOT be on the board.

Incumbent Howard Gustafson and former trustee Ken Nishi are a two-man team apparently committed to keeping everyone confused. They say their motivation is to keep water rates down but it’s hard to tell because they seem to communicate in code.

Gustafson’s the board bully, or would-be bully. His tactics often don’t work because people often can’t figure out what he’s talking about. Nishi is the mischief maker, the sneaky one. Voters should be reminded of the time when he was serving on the Peninsula sewage treatment board at the same time and  arranged for the water district to hire away the sewage district’s chief executive, breaking several confidences in the process.

Gustafson and Nishi have a fast-growth agenda and other agendas known only to them. They have been endorsed by the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, a decision that decidedly cheapens the chamber’s other endorsements. If you live in Marina, don’t vote for them. If you have friends in Marina, call them and tell them not to vote for these guys. Having them on the board reduces the effectiveness of board member Tom Moore, one of the smartest people I know. He’s a Naval Postgraduate School professor and they’re all wonks over there. He also has a remarkable understanding of water politics and water-related engineering. Having Nishi and Gustafson on the board with him again would make board politics so difficult and confounding that his effectiveness could be seriously degraded. He’d have to spend all his time playing their games.

When Nishi and Gustafson were on the board together a few years back, I compared the district to a Moose Lodge. I owe an apology to the Moose.

Incumbent Bill Lee also should be thanked and excused. I’m not sure I understand his game either, but he calls himself a security consultant when he’s actually a bail bondsman. When his brother in law ran for a board seat a few years back, Bill introduced him to everyone without mentioning the relationship.

Initially I was ready to endorse Sarab Sarabi along with two excellent choices, Jan Shriner and Margaret Davis, but I have been urged to do some additional research on Mr. Sarabi. Court records indicate that he is on felony probation following an arrest last year for a minor marijuana offense. I have asked him about it but haven’t received a response. (UPDATE”: SEE RESPONSE AT TOP OF POST).

Shriner has become a water wonk and the board’s monitor of all things procedural. She obviously feels that things will work out well if everything is above board and all procedures are followed to the letter, which puts her at distinct odds with Gustafson and Nishi. She takes her position extremely seriously and deserves another term.  Davis, meanwhile, is an editor and land-use activist. She is fully conversant on the issues and would be a great addition to a board looking for ways to solve the region’s water problems.

Shriner and Davis



strategyThe race for Monterey County sheriff invariably becomes one of the most spirited local political races. And the current contest between incumbent Scott Miller and challenger Steve Bernal certainly fits the bill.

Even before the June primary, the sheriff’s race had been peppered with words like sleazy, shadowy, corrupt, snubbed, axed, no confidence and smear. And those were just the words employed by the folks trying to chronicle the no-holds-barred affair.

As the campaign comes down to the final five weeks, I anticipate receiving all sorts of highly uninformative mailers to aid me in making my choice. They, no doubt, will leave me slapping my head in wonderment at how stupid campaign consultants think we are.

As I see it, Miller is running on the assertion he has both the experience and education to deserve another four-year term and his opponent is a mere deputy, who has never administered anything more complex than an occasional move between Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.

Bernal, on the other hand, claims to better understand how deputies and the public regard the Sheriff’s Office and how it must be changed to better combat and prevent crime. He asserts that Miller has lost the confidence of the men and women in the department — or at least the current leaders of the deputies’ union and their friends.

That’s it in a nutshell. I leave it to the minions of the local media to get at the truth behind all the gates – PACgate, Uniformgate, Spokesmangate, Debategate, Songate, Friendofsongate and Burglarygate — swinging around the sheriff’s contest on squeaky hinges.

But I’ve had one nagging question, still unexplained, about Bernal since the plucky, country crooner announced his candidacy. What kind of candidate for an office with a four-year term makes a 10-year plan the centerpiece of his campaign, as Bernal has?

I would expect a more realistic four-year plan, or if an extended platter of policies is needed, an eight-year plan or a 12-year plan. You know, something evenly divisible by four.

A 10-year plan — a phrase reminiscent of those boffo Soviet five-year plans for agriculture, industry and world conquest back in the Cold War — makes me suspect Bernal would count on 2-1/2 terms before retiring with a mighty fine pension. The plan makes no mention of such a retirement schedule for Bernal or any of his top appointees, who also would be in line for salary-sweetened pensions after 10 years.

Instead it includes vows to fight gangs, increase numbers of investigators, set up violent crime and cyber-sex units, improve communications within the jail and with the public, and other swell things.

Nowhere does it say why all this must take 10 years, or, for that matter, how it would be financed. But money’s not my question. In case you’ve forgotten, it’s why 10?

Is it just because 10 is a double-digit number, and it looks big? Is it because that’s how many fingers the average voter has on his or her hands? Is it some kind of power number in law enforcement circles?

Bernal’s website has promised his 10-year plan would be fleshed out during the campaign. Well, good. Maybe the candidate can explain what he plans to do in the first four years under his 10-year plan. After all, that’s what this election is about.

And that’s, as they used to say in print journalism, three times 10.



UPDATE FROM ROYAL CALKINS: Very interesting to note that the Herald endorsed Miller today. Interesting because the Herald has been on a solid Republican run with its “suggestions” for statewide offices and Bernal, of course, is a creation of the local GOP. You can read the Herald’s endorsement here.