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The Monterey Herald has not given me a voice in its recent editions. I am the obvious one to respond to its criticism regarding Public Water Now’s activities, and hospitality industustry executive John Narigi’s criticisms (twice). But I have been denied that voice.

Following a Herald piece critical of the current effort to put Cal Am Water under public ownership, and similar arguments from Narigi, I submitted a response late last week. So far, it has not been published. Either the Herald editorial team has completely committed to one side, or it has taken a dim view of dialogue, or it is inept.

Regardless I am deeply disappointed in the Herald’s editorial view regarding its broader community of ratepayers, residents, voters, and the basic local economic life around water.

The Herald’s editorial of Oct. 6 called the new effort to buy Cal Am a distraction from the process of getting a new water supply.

First of all, ownership and supply are two very separate and distinct issues. Neither hinges on the other. Supply is short term. Ownership is long term. Whatever develops with supply will have to be incorporated into the ownership proceedings.

Second, call it a distraction. Call it a ground squirrel. Call it whatever. But those who call it anything cannot deny this fact: Cal Am is a monopoly using Peninsula water as a cash cow. The real question is not about distraction. It is who is the ostrich refusing to see the obvious.

The Herald is not the only one playing ‘ostrich’. The next day, Oct. 7, a paid commentary by the Coalition of Peninsula Businesses argued for a larger desalination plant and claimed that “most recent local water savings has (sic) come from initiatives undertaken by commercial businesses.” Somehow residential conservation was overlooked, which did not endear the coalition to many local ratepayers.

On Monday, Oct. 16, the Mayors’ Water Authority meets with the Peninsula Water Management District at 5:30 p.m. the district office. The mayors voted 4 – 2 to not discuss the community opinion of Cal Am.

During the Measure O campaign in 2014, Cal Am and the others expressed confidence that a new supply was close at hand. But here we are four years later, and still Cal Am flounders. Other supply projects have caught and passed Cal Am’s desal plan.

The foursome must spend a lot of time talking to themselves. Because they seem deaf to ratepayer complaints. Do they care? Ratepayers have been vociferous. Who is listening?

Public Water Now is the largest ratepayer advocate community organization on the Peninsula. Others are WRAMP (Water Ratepayers Association for Monterey Peninsula), previously called WaterPlus; and a new group, Citizens for Just Water, representing residential interests in the Marina area. All three participate in CPUC proceedings. All three hear from ratepayers and residents all the time, and the messages have been simple and clear – Cal Am is too costly, is arrogant in its approach to water, hides behind CPUC rulings, has a history of failure, and is no longer welcome.

Back to the starting point. Where is the distraction? The Herald, the business coalition and the mayors’ authority Business Coalition, Mayors Authority, all do not seem distracted. They seem focused. But they have not been successful. So are they actually distracted? Or is there another motivation?

My perspective is that all four want a distraction. They want a scapegoat. They want to have something to blame if Cal Am flat out fails. They want to be able to say that the community has “again” not marched to the “leadership” powers that be. They need an excuse to explain to the state water board why the cease-and-desist order regarding Carmel River water needs another modification, or why Cal Am cannot get it right, or why “they” cannot get it right.

Here is the obvious. Ratepayers are upset. Ratepayers have been gouged. Ratepayers and residents are reacting. It is time for a change. It is time for Cal Am to leave town. It is time for public ownership. Since the ostrich ‘leadership’ will not lead, ratepayers will.

In summary, ratepayers are being hammered. Monopoly water is too expensive and wrong. Public water is more affordable and right.


Look for a public water petition and sign. You will be doing the entire region and the future a big favor.

George T. Riley is managing director of Public Water Now, which is circulating petitions supporting local public ownership of Cal Am, a privately held international company.


Adios Monterey Bay Partisan. Viva Voices of Monterey Bay



I was surprised when I realized  the Monterey Bay Partisan was born more than three years ago. Time truly does condense as we grow into our crotchety years. It seems more like three months.

Either way, the Partisan is nearing its last fight and its last typo. But, and it is a big but, there is cause for celebration because the Partisan’s impending fadeout is precipitated by the advent of something bigger and better. It’s a new online news source for the region and it is called Voices of Monterey Bay.

In a soft opening, the web site has been operating for a few days now and the full kickoff is coming soon. You’ll want to read about the details at the Voices site but here’s the Readers’ Digest version. It is the brainchild of former Monterey County Weekly Editor Mary Duan, former Monterey Herald reporter Julie Reynolds Martinez and Joe Livernois, who preceded me as editor of the Herald. I’ll be coming on board as a contributing writer, specializing in investigative efforts, and other journalists will be signing on as well.

The people behind Voices of Monterey Bay are thinking big – much bigger than us Partisan types ever did. It’s a non-profit with charitable status, which means your absolutely critical donations will be tax deductible. A morsel of seed money is in hand but look for plenty of opportunities to help create a budget solid enough to support some solid full-time journalism with a focus on identifying and solving problems. Voices has aligned itself with a Southern California nonprofit that nurtures fledgling news operation and it is seeking financial help from various foundations – and from you. To the greatest extent possible, the Voices report will be bilingual.

This is happening for the same reason I started the Partisan back in 2014 – to supplement the shrinking news report from other sources. Don’t get me started about what isn’t covered in the Herald anymore. The Weekly is fast becoming the dominant source of print news locally and, one can hope, it will continue to grow into that role.

I am proud of a few things we did at the Partisan. I’m very proud of the number of community contributions to the report and those many wonderful essays on politics and dachsunds by Larry Parsons. I think we have done a halfway decent job covering politics, environmental issues and the antics of Cal Am. We kicked a few butts that needed kicking. We plan to maintain an archive after we stop adding content in the coming weeks.

The Partisan proprietor, preparing to sign off

None of this would have been possible without the able and patient contributions of our techmeister, Paul Skolnick, a retired TV journalist who worked without compensation or recognition. Back when I was a newsroom manager, I was smart enough to hire folks smarter than me. I accomplished the same thing by coaxing Skolnick and Parsons to come aboard.

We had several pieces that helped readers interpret the mess that is Peninsula water politics, and we published numerous contributed commentaries that cleared up misunderstandings about inclusionary housing, land use, transportation issues and other topics. Regular contributors included Bill Hood, Jim Toy, Jane Haines, George Riley, Joe Livernois, Bill McCrone, Glenn Robinson and Celeste Akkad, all writing about important topics.

Our biggest financial backer has been winemaker Tony Dann, who has already agreed to help get Voices launched. Other significant contributors included Gillian Taylor, Jane Haines, Michael Stamp, Dan and Jeanne Turner, Larry Parrish, Bill Leone, Lou Panetta and others too numerous to name. I also loved all those $10 checks that wound up in my mailbox. Thank you all.

I hope we have occasionally enlightened and entertained. I am exceedingly grateful for your support and I urge you now to transfer it to Voices of Monterey Bay.



The Monterey Herald’s most recent editorial on the important subject of water might have been compelling if its premise had been correct. Ironically, the errant editorial began with a lecture strongly and wrongly insinuating that backers of a public takeover of Cam Am Water play fast and loose with the facts.

The focus of the piece Thursday’s was that “some public water advocates have expressed the view” that the Carmel River Steelhead Association supports Cal Am’s deeply troubled desalination project because the organization has received money for its noble work protecting the fish in the endangered river.

(I would include a link to the editorial but as far as I can tell it is not been posted to the web.)

The Herald doesn’t get specific about the source of the supposed payments to the association, but the editorial seems to be saying that those unnamed “public water advocates” have alleged that the association gets money from Cal Am. The Herald doesn’t identify or quote any of the public water advocates who purportedly have accused the association of having been bought off. I could be wrong, but I believe there were no names or quotations in the article because nobody has made such an accusation, at least not in any type of public forum.

Several years ago, I asked one of the association’s most active leaders, Frank Emerson, if the group was getting any money from Cal Am. I raised the question largely because Emerson has defended Cal Am so strongly and has been so vigorous in his criticism of Cal Am’s critics. He said Cal Am hadn’t provided a penny. I believed him then and I believe him now. I disagree with Emerson’s view of Cal Am. He seems to forget that its record of overpumping the Carmel River and its neglect of the San Clemente Dam were key reasons that the steelhead are in danger in the first place. I disagree with his opinion but I don’t question his honesty.

The issue of a public takeover will be on the ballot late next year. The last time the issue was on a public ballot, Cal Am fended off the effort through an exceptionally well funded and deceptive advertising blitz. If the Herald wants to play any useful role in the next election, here’s hoping it plays it straighter than it did this week.


Local Libertarian Lawrence Samuels’ latest offering in the Monterey Herald opposing a public takeover of Cal Am raises at least two questions. The first is how far the Carmel Valleyite will go in creating awkward comparisons.

A few months back in the Herald, Samuels equated a negotiated public takeover of a public utility with the type of nationalism that occurred under the European Fascists of the previous century.

In April he wrote, “It is nothing new that the anti-water crusaders want to force the sale of a business concern via eminent domain. This type of government seizure occurred in the 1930s all over Europe. Mussolini nationalized three-fourths of his economy in 1934. The National Socialists of Germany did the same, confiscating over 500 large companies through Reichswerke Hermann Göring in an anti-capitalist bid to establish a command economy and to increase the redistribution of wealth.”


Now, on Thursday’s opinion page in the Herald, he goes farther yet, farther even than the headline writer envisioned. The headline declared that “Using eminent domain against Cal Am is like stealing.” Samuels didn’t stop there. I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

“… (T)he ballot measure proposed by the pro-eminent domain ideologues to forcibly seize Cal Am is reminiscent of antebellum slavery.”


In a seemingly earnest attempt to back this up, Samuels tells us about the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who was well known for using the word “manstealing” in connection with slavery. Because a man’s life has value, enslaving that man amounts to stealing.

So how does Samuels link this to public ownership of Cal Am, the water company that serves most of the Monterey Peninsula?

Not well.

“Garrison was also a proponent of ‘self-ownership,’ meaning that people owned themselves and therefore cannot be stolen and enslaved. He worried that if government itself attained the authority to legally steal, it could take anything by force.” What that has to do with slavery isn’t clear, and that’s being charitable. And to get from there to a Cal Am takeover requires a leap of a length that would tax most imaginations, but apparently not Samuels’.

Eminent domain is a fancy term but it’s really pretty simple.  When the government, as a representative of the public, decides that it needs to aquire something to advance the public good, even something that is not for sale, the law allows it to apply the principle of eminent domain and require a sale. It is most commonly used to acquire land for roads or railroads, or such things as schools and post offices. Fortunately for landowners, but not for Samuels’ argument, the law does not allow the government to simply take the property in question. Instead, it requires the government to pay fair market value. Sometimes that price is arrived at through simple negotiation. Unwilling sellers tend to negotiate more vigorously than willing sellers.

Not always but often, the parties involved are unable to come to an agreement on the price. So they put on their better clothes and hop on down to the local courthouse to make their cases to a judge. This process is a lot like a trial, often involving accountants and expert witnesses paid to say things like “too low” or “that simply won’t cover it.”

In several recent cases of public takeovers of Cal Am water systems around the county, the court has awarded the company significantly more than the government agency had offered. Based on the stock price, it appears that Cal Am shareholders have not suffered.

While the use of eminent domain has accomplished much good over the decades, it has taken on a bad name, partly because government has done a lousy job of explaining it. Despite its obvious necessity at times, some politicians play to the crowd by vowing never to use it. Former Monterey Mayor Dan Albert Sr.  was wildly popular in part because he shunned eminent domain while carrying out the Windows on the Bay campaign, which opened the Monterey waterfront to the public. It took longer but the city simply waited until each property owner along the beach was ready and willing to sell.

Cal Am insists it is not a willing seller, but could that be a negotiating tactic? For years now, Cal Am officials have maintained that their Peninsula system is not for sale even though, they say, it is only marginally profitable despite its government-backed profit guarantees.  If statement B is true, doesn’t statement A become suspect?

Back to Samuels for a moment. After trying briefly and unsuccessfully to tell us how eminent domain is like slavery, he briefly revisits Germany of the 1920s before asking how the “pro-stealing cohorts” eyeing Cal Am would like it if someone came along and used eminent domain against them.

“If stealing becomes acceptable,” he asks, “should we eminent domain Public Water Now supporters, confiscate their homes and bank accounts for the common good, bulldoze their buildings for public parks? Wouldn’t this be the appropriate karma?”

How to answer that other than to call it what it is, an asinine question. How about this? Perhaps Lawrence and his buddies at the Libertarian Lodge can start a fund to buy the houses and other assets of every school board member who ever voted to use eminent domain in order to build a school, every senator who ever voted to build a highway, every city council member who ever voted to turn an eyesore into a park?

At the top of this essay, I noted that Samuels’ piece raised at least two questions. The second is simply why the Herald would print something like this. Is it as simple as my friend Dan Turner opined after the earlier Samuels piece: that it was free? Or has the newspaper adopted a position that nonsense is OK in defense of Cal Am?


Last week’s decision by the California Senate to approve a single-payer health care bill (SB 562) was ridiculed by our local daily newspaper, which editorialized on June 6 that “Single-payer health vote just a political stunt.” The editorial concluded SB 562 “is a glorified political stunt which, if it proceeds with the same thoughtlessness shown to date, could do real harm to the state of California.”

That’s a bit insulting to Mark Stone, our local Assembly member who is co-sponsoring SB 562, and to Bill Monning, our local Senator who voted in favor. Furthermore, it’s contrary to the only comprehensive economic analysis of SB 562 available so far, the 82-page economic analysis by Robert Pollin, cistinguished professor of economics at University of Massachusetts/Amherst, who was economic spokesperson in Jerry Brown’s 1992 campaign for U.S. President. Pollin’s analysis concludes “establishment of the Healthy California single-payer system [SB 562] will generate financial benefits for both families and businesses at all levels of the California economy.”

The editorial argues the approval vote “was a proposal lacking crucial details without which a responsible vote in favor is impossible.” That’s correct on the minor point that SB 562 does not lay out the specific tax structure it would establish nor does it offer supporting calculations about how that structure would fund its implementation. However, the major point is that SB 562 commits California to a single-payer system that will provide coverage to all Californians at a lower total cost than what we pay now. Pollin’s study explains specifically how SB 562 would reduce California’s total health care costs while expanding coverage (9% increase in costs to cover uninsured and underinsured, 19% reduction in health care costs due to a variety of savings measures such as lower cost prescription drugs by negotiating directly with Rx companies) equals 10% net savings.

Thus, SB 562 meets the financial test (we would get more for less) and the moral test (we would cover all of California’s citizens regardless of income). Moreover, the exact funding structure must be established before the system becomes operational (SB 562 states it will not become operative until the secretary of California Health and Human Services certifies there is revenue to fund costs of implementation).

The major point is that health care costs would go down by 10% even after moving to universal coverage; the minor point is that the exact details of the funding mechanism have not been determined at this stage.

The editorial also argues SB 562 should be voted down because it will raise taxes. However, the issue is total health care costs, not labels for how these costs are paid. California businesses and citizens currently pay roughly $200 billion per year for health care. They pay this through something called “premiums” and “out of pocket costs,” and in return for these payments they cover 90% of the state’s population. Under SB 562, California businesses and citizens will pay less than what they pay now through something called a “tax” and for this they will get 100% of the state’s population covered. In other words, Californians will get more for less because we can either pay something called a “premium”’ and “out of pocket,” or we can pay something called a “tax.”’ The important point is not what you call it; what’s important is how much you pay and what you get for that.

The editorial overlooks some of SB 562’s honest-to-goodness problems. For example, before SB 562 becomes operational, it must still must be approved by the California Assembly and, eventually, by Governor Brown and ultimately by the voters, because it would need to be exempted from spending limits and budget formulas in the state Constitution. Additionally, the Trump administration would need to allow federal funding currently directed to Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare (among others) to be re directed in California. Significant transitional issues will occur as California moves to this new system, and details about deductibles, copays and similar cost sharing measures must be worked out, as must the final payment/contribution structure for businesses and individuals, plus near-term health costs are likely to surge as the uninsured and under insured immediately receive care they have delayed.

However, those real problems are minor points compared to the major point that by passing SB 562, California will commit itself to a path where it receives more for less. The editorial’s concerns are akin to objecting to JFK’s first call for the U.S. to put a man on the moon by saying “that is just a political stunt, he has not even figured out how phase three, sub procedure six of the re entry procedure will work.” It is true that phase three, sub point six had not been worked out at that time, but that was a minor point that paled in comparison to the major point of whether the U.S. should commit to send a man to the moon.

I am not proposing we send a man to the moon; I am proposing Partisan readers not be fooled by one-liners and take seriously that SB 562 is California’s chance to provide health coverage to all Californians at a lower total cost than what we pay now.

Jane Haines is a retired lawyer who lives in Pacific Grove. She has previously written for the Partisan on housing issues and development issues.


The incredible shrinking newsroom(s)


It wasn’t a good sign a couple weeks back when the Salinas Californian announced it would no longer concern itself with breaking news. The once-proud daily had been reduced to a three-days-a-week schedule, and who wants to read about a Sunday-night fire on Wednesday?

Unfortunately for all involved, it was possible for things to go down even from there. Now that copy editors have been removed from many newsrooms, the growing trend is newsrooms without editors of any sort. For evidence, look no farther than Wednesday’s announcement that the Californian will now join the ranks of newspapers without any editor on site.

Californian Editor Pete Wevurski already had been spread mighty thin, also serving as editor of the Visalia Times-Delta and the closely related Tulare Advance-Register. As you may or may not know, Visalia and Tulare are not within shouting distance of Salinas. They are, however, part of the Gannett chain, which never met a cost it couldn’t cut.

The new arrangement has the Californian, the Times-Delta and the Advance-Register operating under the editorship of Silas Lyons, the longtime editor of Gannett’s Redding Record Searchlight. If your California geography is rusty, all you need to know is that the drive from Salinas to Redding is three times longer than the drive from Salinas to Visalia. And it’s in a different direction.

Lyons is a fine editor, highly capable, and he may prove to be an adequate overseer of three-plus news operations with little  in common. The Gannett public relations team managed to put the best possible spin on it with a news article that presented  him as uniquely qualified for the geographical challenge. It notes that he grew up in North Fork, a scant 60 miles or so from Visalia, and that his first job out of college was as an intern for the Monterey Herald, for which he covered the California Rodeo in Salinas. It did not mention whether he had visited the city since.

In case you’re not catching my drift here, what concerns me is that readers are best served when the journalists serving them know something about the community whose name is in big letters on the front page. Creating clusters of newspapers led by one person off in Timbuktu might appeal to the bean counters at corporate but I’ll challenge all readers of local newspapers to point to a time when doing so led to improved coverage.

I’m not an objective critic of this trend. I was once the editor of the Monterey Herald. That ended three years ago when whoever was in charge decided it would be better if the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel was to become the Herald editor as well. Given the resource constraints, Don Miller has worn both hats well though some readers complain that the two papers seem too similar on some days. There are some readers who believe Miller has done a better job than I did. I might be able to name each of them and I wouldn’t think of arguing with them.

My regular golf partner chides me when I grouse about the demise of local newspapering, and he’s right to complain. It’s just the way it is and pointing it out probably does no one any good. I guess I go on and on about it because, in a lifetime of local newspapering, I have seen how much good can be accomplished by competent newspapers and how much important, even critical, news is being ignored these days. That’s why the Partisan exists but it is like a minnow swimming against a tsunami. The bad guys like what’s going on with newspapers.

I was discouraged as well this week when my former former employer, the Fresno Bee, announced the layoffs of eight writers and the transfers of a couple of editors. The Bee had not been spared from any of the previous rounds of cuts but there are those who had thought the bottom had been reached. Not yet, apparently. Among the casualties, Donald Munro, the arts writer. He’s the only person who had been covering music, theater, art, etc., in a city of more than half a million.

As usual, the announcements in Fresno and Gannettland made mention of the digital age, not by cursing its role in weakening the printed word but by promising a warmer embrace in the future. In both cases, it was an example of doubletalk that almost suggested that eliminating some journalists amounted to an improvemernt.

Said Lyons: “The newsrooms in Salinas, Visalia and Tulare have incredibly rich histories covering their communities and are extending that local journalism into the digital age.”

Said Bee Publisher Tom Cullinan: “We must remake our newsroom to drive digital readership while at the same time reckoning with budget and expense realities that necessitate a smaller, more focused, nimbler newsroom.”

Good luck, Tom, and good luck, Silas. If you can figure out how to drive digital readership by shrinking your newsrooms, maybe you can also figure out how to stop my paper from landing in a puddle.

So, you ask, what can you do to help reverse the trend, to help the struggling minnow, to help convince publishers to embark on a strategy of improvement rather than degradation? Simply this. When something important to you is approaching, call the newspaper and point it out. And when something important to you isn’t covered, call the publisher and complain. It might not do any good but it certainly can’t make things any worse.


What was wrong with the two energy-related commentaries in Sunday’s Monterey Herald? It’s hard to know where to start, so let’s just go with the first headline.

Both pieces were objections to the planned Monterey Bay Community Power project, a three-county, government-led consortium that would compete with Pacifc Gas & Electric Co. One piece was one written by Pacific Grove businessman Jeff Gorman and the other by Libertarian Party stalwart Lawrence Samuels, who seems to be opposed to just about everything.

The headline on Gorman’s piece, reflecting a theme also picked up by Samuels, reads “Monopoly on power not the answer.” OK, as I pointed out a jillion times in my reporting days, the headline is not written by the author. It is written by a copy editor, who, in the case of The Herald, probably lives somewhere near Chico.

Regardless, it’s an airball of a headline even if it isn’t entirely Gorman’s fault. The three-county MBCP entity would be an alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a true monopoly. As a competitor of PG&E, the new entity would, by definition, not be a monopoly. PG&E would remain in business. And here’s a point not made in Gorman’s piece, residents of the three counties involved – Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito – would be allowed to opt out of the new power structure and stay with PG&E at a cost of $10 a month.

Gorman writes that state law “allows these new government entities to convert PG&E customers into government customers without customer approval.” That simply is not so. Rather than be a monopoly, MBCP would eliminate a monopoly and customers would have a choice.

Organizers of the MBCP, led by former Republican state senator and California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, say the goal is to provide cheaper power than the power we are forced to buy from PG&E and to promote the use of sustainable power supplies such as solar and wind-generated energy. Low-income households now receiving discounts from PG&E would be able to retain the discounts.

Each of the three county governments and most of the cities in those counties have signed onto the plan.

The headline on Samuels’ piece declares “Rates will zoom with new agency.” Which might be true but a more accurate headline would have been “Rates will zoom with new agency or they might actually go down.” A similar setup in Sonoma County led to lower rates while the other consortiums in California are still pursuing that goal.

Samuels, like Gorman, gets lost in the monopoly thing. “As any first-year student of economics can attest, government monopoly and state ownership is far less efficient and greatly more expensive than the private sector …. “ He mentions “backward incentives.” But quite a few first-semester students of economics would remind Gorman that there is a worse creature out there, generally less efficient and more expensive than the others, and that is the government-regulated monopoly. If PG&E isn’t proof of that, just think about California American Water, which pretty much invented backward incentives. Enough said.

Samuels wasn’t finished, though, having still another foot to shoot. After his wayward lecture on monopolies, he tells us “no private sector utility is able to compete with a government agency swimming in taxpayer-provided state subsidies.” In other words, he seems to be saying MBCP’s prices would likely be lower than PG&E’s, which maybe should have been his point in the first place.



With the Trump administration looming like greedy locusts, much is being written about what the media can and should do to help limit the destruction nationally. Simultaneously it will be a great and horrible time to be a journalist covering a president who thinks he’s king.

In his war with the press and other modern realities, Trump has enlisted legions of foot soldiers who believe the New York Times is the ultimate enemy though many of them have never read it. We are entering a time of the new regime communicating with its subjects via Twitter and expecting them to get the rest of the story from the Russians via Facebook.

It’s an upside world, with the traditional media mortally wounded though they have never been more important. Though the right and much of the left dismiss the media, we remain dependent on the newspapers and the networks to deliver most of what we know about this new order.

But what about the local situation? Does the quality of local news matter in this time of national calamity? I say yes, of course, but there is no denying that, overall, much of local journalism seems to be slipping toward irrelevance.

If Medicare and Social Security are diminished, we may know the national ramifications but who will tell us about the impact at home? If Trump tries to punish California for voting intelligently on Nov. 8, who will tell us about grants that have gone missing or field offices being closing? Of friends being loaded into trains? If you think we can count on KSBW and the Monterey Herald to keep us up to speed, you’ve been away for a while.

Just as numerous advocacy organizations are regrouping, news organizations nationally are reconsidering their missions, and it certainly is not too soon for a community conversation about the state of the local media. Consider this a status report and a call to action. A diminished news corps plays into the hands of the Trumpistas nationally and also makes it much harder for the public to follow along as corrupting influences chart the course for our institutions locally.

The one bright spot, the only bright spot locally, has been the success of the Monterey County Weekly in filling in some of the gaps created by the erosion at the Herald and the Salinas Californian. At the end of this report, look for some thoughts about what the community can do to encourage the Weekly – and possibly others — to take on a larger load.

As some of you know, I was an editor at the Monterey Herald for more than a dozen years and then the chief editor for a couple of years until the bosses there became tired of my ways. (Cost-cutting played a role.) I still have friends at the paper and at other media outlets that I will be mentioning. Media people tend to look at media critics the same way police officers look at Internal Affairs and I’m hoping they won’t take my analysis too personally.

For decades, and longer, the Herald was the dominant news organization of Monterey County. Arguably, it now shares that distinction with the Weekly and KSBW. How times have changed.


The Herald was founded in 1922 by Col. Allen Griffin, a real-life Army colonel with a distinguished military career both before and after becoming a newspaperman. Newspapers back then were different. They were solidly black and white and equally stodgy but they took stands. They pointed out problems in their communities and campaigned for solutions. Griffin fought, with some notable success, for preservation of historic buildings, especially Monterey’s Colton Hall, elimination of coastal blight, eradication of billboards, and for trees. He had some influence on how Highway 1 was configured as it snaked through the Peninsula.

The colonel was a Republican but Democratic administrations repeatedly tapped him for trade missions. He was a member of every important organization in town and he was eager to share his opinions, either in conversation or in print.

Unfortunately, 14 years before his death, the colonel sold the Herald in 1967 to the Block family of Ohio, which operated it as part of a small chain. In a trade of assets, the Herald was then acquired in 1992 by a larger chain, the E.W. Scripps Co. It was traded again in 1997 to the Knight Ridder chain, which made it part of bigger and better brand name after a rocky beginning.

The Knight Ridder chain began its Peninsula tenure by firing the news staff and forcing the employees to apply for their old jobs. It was an unsuccessful attempt at union-busting and it cost the Herald much goodwill in the community. Some strong people were lost in the process.

The good news was that Knight Ridder was one of the largest and most prestigious newspaper chains in the country and the Herald, for a period, had the resources it needed to serve the community adequately.

I joined the paper in 2000 as city editor, heading the local news operation. Many have grown weary of my recitation of how many people worked for the Herald when I started and how many remain, but the information remains informative.

The newsroom back then employed almost 50 ink-stained wretches. The “cityside” news operation, producing the local report on courts, crime, politics and the like, amounted to 24 people. Today, the entire newsroom staff numbers about a dozen and the volume of local news has declined almost as dramatically. Good public officials like seeing a reporter in the room when the council or commission meets. Bad public officials prefer to work in the dark.

While the end of the 20th century had been fat years for the newspaper industry – with annual returns for individual properties often exceeding 20 percent and even 30 percent – the new century was not quite as kind. Contrary to the impression you may have, the high profits continued at many newspapers but only because managers were forced to trim costs so dramatically. Initially, it amounted to mere belt-tightening. Eventually, it would become a case of self-destruction, selling of the seed corn.

Under pressure from investors used to fabulous profits, Knight Ridder put itself on the auction block in 2006 and was sold to McClatchy Newspapers, a smaller but relatively prestigious chain based in Sacramento. Unfortunately for the staff and the readers, McClatchy spun off the Herald and several other KR properties to MediaNews Group, William Dean Singleton’s chain of bargain-basement, cost-cutting newspapers.


There were some twists and turns after that and each brought expense cuts and layoffs mirroring national trends. Eventually, the MediaNews Group morphed into something called Digital First Media, which tried to revitalize its holdings by putting greater emphasis on breaking news online rather than in print. It was a sound idea but it was executed slowly and the ownership, a New York-based hedge fund, lost interest.

Of significance locally, Digital First also acquired the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 2013, presenting the opportunity for cost-cutting through consolidation. Early on, the publisher and ad director of the Herald were assigned to the same duties at the Sentinel and soon after the editor of the Sentinel, Don Miller, was assigned the same role at the Herald, displacing me.

There were and are obvious opportunities for the two papers to share some of their journalistic roles as well but they have been slow to take advantage of the geographic closeness, seemingly intent more on controlling costs than on increasing reach. Recently, the features pages of both papers have been produced by the Sentinel and the two papers help each other out with some sports coverage, but otherwise there has been little overlap.

Since 2013, copy editing and page layout for the Herald, the Sentinel and several other Digital First papers have been handled by a crew based at Digital First’s paper in Chico. That enabled the coastal papers to lay off several copy editors. The only remnant of the old copy-editing staff in Monterey is workhorse wordsmith Christy Hoffknecht, who is responsible for coordinating matters with the Chico desk.

In charge of the news operation is Miller, who spends more than half his time in Santa Cruz and who had been expected to have retired by now. He was the longtime No. 2 editor in Santa Cruz, working for many years under the now retired executive editor of the Sentinel, Tom Honig. Honig now works part time writing editorials for the Herald and the Sentinel. (After leaving the Sentinel, Honig worked briefly for the David Armanasco PR operation in Monterey and for the Panetta Institute.)

In some ways, Miller and Honig are more at home in Monterey than in Santa Cruz. The Sentinel for decades was a sharply conservative voice in an increasingly liberal community. (I worked there, too, for a couple of years before moving to the Herald.) In private and in editorials, they were openly hostile to the city’s left-wing politicos, though the tone has moderated in recent years. For years, before taking on their Peninsula responsibilities, they regularly attended the Panetta lecture series and became fairly chummy with former Monterey Mayor Dan Albert, the Cannery Row fellows and others from the Peninsula power structure.


Honig may not be a registered Libertarian but he should be. Miller’s political leanings are not as clear as Honig’s but he is no rocker of boats. They are joined on the editorial board by Publisher Gary Omernick and Phyllis Meurer, the former Salinas City Council member and wife of former Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer, who now works for the Panetta Institute. Together, they have supported most development projects, including the ill-considered Monterey Downs, and all pro-development candidates. Phyllis Meurer, in fact, played a leadership role in a ballot measure campaign intended to advance the Monterey Downs project, which has since died a natural death.

To some extent, most daily newspapers attempt to reflect their communities editorially. In much the same way that the Sentinel was never in tune with Santa Cruz, the current Herald leadership seems to have misread the Peninsula and the rest of Monterey County, which is a deep shade of blue. It may not be as liberal as Santa Cruz, but few places are. The paper has become a constant champion of Cal Am Water and seldom misses an opportunity to dismiss environmentalists as nettlesome obstacles to progress.

Under Miller is City Editor Dave Kellogg, a veteran editor who spent much of his career with the sports staff at the San Jose Mercury before becoming sports editor at the Herald. Few editors anywhere work harder under more trying circumstances. Having too few reporters to supervise does not make the job easier.

Many recognizable names are gone from the cityside news operation. Larry Parsons, Virginia Hennessey, Julia Reynolds, Dennis Taylor, all departed. Significantly, they were among the strongest writers ever to work for the Herald, and Hennessey and Reynolds were two of the strongest investigative reporters. What remains is a small reporting crew with a big heart but limited range.

The only survivor in the sports section is John Devine, who has covered high school sports in Monterey County longer than anyone. Few reporters anywhere work harder.

Covering county government and the all-important water beat is Jim Johnson, who is remarkably thorough and accurate but who seldom endeavors to dig beyond Cal Am Water’s official line even though water and Cal Am’s role in delivering it amount to the most important local stories of the time. You may have noticed that when something big happens in the water world, such as another setback for the deslination project or another Cal Am rate increase, the Herald quotes Cal Am’s spokeswoman at length but seldom seeks input from the company’s highly visible critics such as George Riley and Ron Weitzman.

Claudia Melendez Salinas covers education, social services and immigration-related issues while sharing Salinas coverage with Johnson. Melendez is a champion of the underdog, which helps her stand up to the challenge of being responsible for covering a dozen or more school districts, several colleges and other important topics. She is responsible for some the paper’s most ambitious reporting of the past couple years.

James Herrera was the Herald’s longtime graphic artist when he was pressed into service as a reporter, mostly covering Seaside and Marina. He has done an admirable job of mastering the basics but lacks the experience to dig much beyond the official agendas. He is doing a job that two reporters once handled.

Carly Mayberry’s experience is mostly in the entertainment industry. She has done solid work covering the city of Monterey and other lighter assignments but, like Herrera, isn’t generally equipped to push officialdom for details beyond what it wants to give up.

Tommy Wright was a young and ambitious sportswriter when he was reassigned to cover courts and cops for the Herald. Again, he has done an admirable job under difficult circumstances but it would take many years of experience and strong supervision before he could be expected to produce work like court reporter Virginia Hennessey put out on a regular basis.

I don’t mean to criticize any individuals here. Blame for the Herald’s deficiencies rests squarely with the ownership. But no matter where the fault rests, what the community is left with is an inadequate daily report from an overburdened news staff and superficial analysis by an opinion staff with little local foundation. Yes, this is the opinion of a disgruntled former employee, but that does not mean it is wrong.

Once there were separate news, sports and features staffs. Now the sports staff is one person and there is no features staff. Two photographers remain, solid professionals Vern Fisher and David Royal. I’m betting one will be gone within a year.

Over the past year or so, Melendez has produced some strong work on school-related topics and on a troubling rape case but the others have had virtually no time to address anything beyond the daily grind. Investigative reporting, or the euphemistically named enterprise reporting, takes time and time is money. The shareholders don’t like to share.


The situation at the Salinas Californian is even more dire. It is owned by Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, which has contented itself over the years with watching its products deteriorate in order to keep the cash flowing in the corporate direction.

Forever, the Californian was a six-day weekly but it now publishes only three times a week. Its Alisal Street headquarters was recently sold and the staff soon will move to smaller quarters. A short-term rental would seem prudent.

With the looming retirement of veteran journalist Roberto Robledo, who has handled just about every newsroom task, the news staff will be down to two reporters and there is an open question about whether it will remain that way. Columnist and City Hall reporter Jeff Mitchell once covered the Salinas hospital’s troubles well and he has produced significant City Hall coverage but he now works principally on health issues under a special grant, so his voice is usually missing from the daily report.

The newspaper offices close at 5 p.m. and so does the search for news. Salinas is better off with the Californian than without it, but that’s the about best that can be said of the situation.


Fortunately, there is the Monterey County Weekly. Usually, weekly papers in communities with dailies are called alternative papers, but the Weekly has become required reading.

Originally known as Coast Weekly, the paper was formed in 1988 by Bradley Zeve of Carmel Valleyy, who has become an active figure in alternative press organizations. While most papers of its type focus largely on entertainment and food, the Weekly has put greater energy into coverage of government, politics and the environment.

For much of the time I worked at the Herald, I found that the Weekly covered pretty much the same topics and, with a weekly deadline instead of daily deadlines, often did a better job explaining the fine points. I was surprised, and still am, that it didn’t adopt a flashier strategy but it has worked out well for the community.

In my humble opinion, the Weekly has unnecessarily expended much of its energy in recent years with its online effort, breaking daily news on its website, often interesting crime news of relatively low importance. With the recent departure of Editor Mary Duan, a true newshound, that seems to have fallen off, which will be a good thing if it results in more time for more thoughtful journalism.

The editorship of the Weekly has been a bit of a revolving door in recent years, in large part because of short-staffing in the management ranks and a grueling workload. Veteran reporter Sara Rubin is the interim editor and, by all appearances, has earned the permanent title but I’m hoping she can negotiate for some additional help with production duties.

There is little to fault with the Weekly’s news coverage — except for volume. The reporters have been breaking stories with some regularity, much more often than their counterparts at the dailies or the TV stations, and they weigh in frequently with solid explainers on long-running stories or environmental issues. They have done well with the Monterey Downs saga and the continuing story of severe erosion issues surrounding the Cemex plant in Marina.

My first suggestion for the Weekly – and I’m hoping for some community support here – is that it step things up.

The Weekly’s news staff numbers about eight plus the occasional intern. I don’t have any real numbers, but it appears to grown little if any over the last decade. True, most papers have lost staff; some have lost most of their staffs because of tight times. But the status quo isn’t going to position the Weekly to take a bigger role in protecting the community from the bad guys nationally and locally.

The paper is thick with ads, so I feel comfortable guessing that Zeve has the assets needed to greatly expand the news staff and the space to be filled with news. If he’s waiting for encouragement, here it is.

My second suggestion is in the same vein. It’s also about stepping up.

Back when I used to hire talented young reporters, one of the first pieces of advice I gave was to think big. Don’t try to be one of the better reporters on this staff, Be the best and then be better. If you didn’t have the ability to succeed here, I wouldn’t have hired you. Think bigger.

I have similar advice for the Weekly. Don’t settle. I’ll use this as an example, but don’t think I’m picking on you, David Schmalz.

Schmalz has done a lovely job covering the Cemex issue and several others in his relatively brief time at the Weekly, but he received perhaps the most attention for his recent piece on financial issues surrounding the family of Monterey Downs promoter Brian Boudreau.

It was a fine account, well researched and well packaged, but the information had been sitting around for a while and didn’t really connect significantly with the Monterey Downs controversy. People acted as if Schmalz had a Pulitzer on his hands. The community is starved for investigative reporting and anything that hints of it is likely to received outsized appreciation.

The point is simply this. Good work needs to become routine and truly special work is needed with some regularity unless we’re willing to concede victory to the dark forces. There is plenty of trouble to be explored in Monterey County and, given what’s happening in the rest of the county, the list of topics will only grow.

I could go on and on about the important local topics that have received no or little attention from the local media, including, in some cases, the Partisan. The Herald and the Weekly have written about the controversy over city rental practices at the Wharf but neither has provided anywhere near the depth that Willard McCrone has in the Partisan. Schmalz has written some interesting pieces about some funny real estate transactions involving developer Nader Agha and his downtown headquarters, but no one else has followed up.

The county Board of Supervisors is putting growers in charge of monitoring groundwater in the Salinas Valley, all but ignoring the interests of environmentalists and the general public, but the topic hasn’t made print.

There’s funny business afoot at Carmel’s City Hall but no one including the Carmel Pine Cone is picking up on it and the Pine Cone probably won’t bother with it until someone manages to offend the publisher.


Oh, TV. Almost forgot.

KSBW does one thing exceedingly well. With a small news crew, it manages to cover almost every significant piece of breaking news in not one county but three – Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito. The news director, the assignment editor, someone there is a magician.

Beyond that, KSBW and, to an even greater extent, KION, shouldn’t even be mentioned in a discussion of news involving process, procedure or politics. In fact, it should be discouraged from covering topics such as Fisherman’s Wharf leasing policies or desalination because the staff has neither the time nor the expertise to cover them well. A bad news story is probably worse than no story at all.

So where does that leave us? Here’s where.

Under the current ownership, the Herald is almost a lost cause. Unless the entire news business goes through a dramatic turnaround, the staff will continue to shrink and the quality will continue to slide. The Herald has one of the most expensive subscription rates in the nation. I’m not recommending that anyone stop reading it or stop advertising in it, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone put a lot of energy into trying to fix that situation.

I suggest that people who don’t read the Weekly start reading it. (It’s free and you can find it in news boxes all over the county). And when you see something you like, let them know. And when you see something you don’t like, let them know. If you know of news, call ‘em up. If you think they are missing the news, call ‘em up.

If you advertise, advertise with the Weekly. Don’t cancel your Herald or KSBW ads but increase your budget and get your face in the Weekly.

No, I’m not getting a commission. My relationship with that publication has been a rocky affair. I thought its endorsement of Dave Potter in the last election was absolutely indefensible. Some onlookers at one recent event thought Zeve and I might have been on the verge of actually scuffling over something I had written. But it is locally owned, clearly headed in the right direction and obviously has the potential to help fix some of the things that need fixing around here if Bradley is willing to spend a buck or two.

Finally, the community should also look for other opportunities to increase the amount of time, energy and space committed to uncovering and solving the community’s problems and trumpeting its achievements. To that end, the Partisan and some of its supporters are contemplating an effort to expand our range and upgrade our offerings with a structure that involves more than a couple of old guys popping off now and then. Yes, we would be in competition with the Weekly and the rest, but competition’s a good thing.

We’re thinking a Web production with more features, wider participation, and a more sustainable financial structure. The plan isn’t even a plan yet, it’s that amorphous, but you will be hearing more about it. If you have encouragement or support to offer, if you’d like to be part of it, chime in below or send me your thoughts at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.


Business growth opportunity concept as a group of business people taking advantage of a tall tree grown in time to create a bridge to cross over and link two seperate cliffs as a motivation metaphor for financial patience and opportunismThe Partisan takes a timeout from its Truth-O-Meter series today to look instead at two recent endorsements by the Monterey Herald. It probably is not a coincidence that we chose these editorial endorsements because they ran exactly counter to the Partisan’s own choices.

We won’t argue the overall recommendations. Newspaper endorsements don’t have to make sense. Instead, we will pick and choose some of the key elements that seem to underly those choices.

More than any other topic, the Herald’s endorsement of Dennis Donohue to replace District 4 Supervisor Jane Parker focused on Fort Ord and the pace of redevelopment there.

It noted that the district takes in much of Fort Ord and says “the position and ideas of the District 4 Board of Supervisors candidates on reuse of Fort Ord are key factors in our endorsement, given the hopes pinned on Fort Ord reuse by the entire region for economic redevelopment, housing and jobs.”

The editorial, unfortunately, neglects to explain the governance of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, which is responsible for redeveloping the former Army base or, perhaps closer to the truth, for not really getting very far on redeveloping the former base, which closed in the mid 1990s.

The agency charged with redevelopment is governed by an unwieldy board of directors, 13 members with voting rights and a large cast of non-voting members. The voting members represent most of the government jurisdictions with a stake in the process, including the surrounding cities and the county. Four of the five supervisors are members or alternates. Parker is a member and so is Supervisor Dave Potter, who received the Herald’s endorsement in the other supervisorial race. By implication, the Herald seems to be faulting the FORA board in general for not doing more to turn old barracks into new shopping centers, but where exactly should that blame land? The Herald seems to be forgetting that Donohue was an active member of the FORA board while he was mayor of Salinas and, therefore, the newspaper made little of his  missed opportunity to speed things up. The Herald also seems to forget that a large segment of the local population isn’t all that keen on major new development at Fort Ord.

What’s that? One person can’t provide much momentum to the redevelopment bureaucracy. Our point exactly.

The Herald likes it that Donohue is in favor of the proposed but way-off-in-the-distance Eastside Parkway, a new highway that would run through Fort Ord to connect Highways 68 and 1. Again, as much as the Herald might wish it otherwise, while an individual supervisor wields considerable power on issues that come before the five-member Board of Supervisors, the same supervisor holds just one of 17 votes on the primary highway-building agency hereabouts, TAMC.

The Herald finds it telling that most of the city officials in the district support Donohue rather than Parker. The Partisan finds it telling as well. Those who support Donohue have histories of supporting virtually any project in their realms, everything from cookie-cutter fast food joints to the hugely unpopular Monterey Downs horse racing complex proposed for Fort Ord.

Herald political endorsements of late seem to hinge on the degree to which the candidate supports development, and while the development wish list always gives a nod to jobs and affordable housing, few public figures in our midst have accomplished anything of note in those arenas in recent years. Perhaps the newspaper blames Parker. If so, it has not been paying close attention. Peninsula residents, and to some degree all Monterey County residents, are witnessing a contest between the forces of commerce and the forces of conservation. While Donohue, like many other development-minded politicians, claims to be in favor of “smart growth,” he and his allies haven’t been able come up with concrete examples to propose or support.

The Herald’s endorsement of Donohue overstates the impact of one public official and mistakenly suggests that electing him over Parker would change the board and its direction. Actually, the opposite is true. Parker throughout her political career has been a nearly lone wolf fighting to protect the environment and she has been outvoted at nearly every turn by people in synch with Donohue. Keeping Parker in place and making changes elsewhere, such as in District 5, would amount to much more meaningful and positive change.

In case you didn’t notice, that was a transition. Moving along now to the Herald’s endorsement of District 5 Supervisor Dave Potter over challenger Mary Adams.

In the Potter endorsement, the Herald gives the incumbent big points for experience and tenure without mentioning what little has come of it.

“On water, Potter clearly knows the urgency of securing a new Peninsula supply,” the Herald writes. “He supports Cal Am’s desal project with reclaimed waste water as part of the total solution. Adams indicated she was still uncertain about the desal project, and she placed a higher emphasis on conservation.”

It is true that Potter “clearly knows” the urgency of securing a new Peninsula water supply. That’s because the state’s mandate that we cut back on our use of the Carmel River has been in effect the entire time he has been in office but his clear knowledge of the urgency has resulted in nothing except huge expense.

While serving on the board for two decades, Potter has worn a remarkable number of other hats. He has been on the state Coastal Commission and has forever been a board member for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. If there is any one public official who could have been expected to show leadership on the Peninsula’s water crisis, it was Potter. Yet the only leading role he seems to have taken was to help lead the county into a messy conflict of interest involving water official Steve Collins, a conflict that derailed years of work on a desalination solution.

It is true that Adams places a higher value on conservation. A large majority of Peninsula residents has lost faith in Cal Am and officialdom’s ability to complete a desalination project at anything approaching a reasonable cost and, out of necessity, also places a higher value on conservation.

“Potter has a much better grasp of all facets of the water issue, and there really is not any time for a steep learning curve on this critical issue,” the Herald opines. What Potter truly grasps is how a community spent 20 years failing to make measurable progress. If Adams is elected, it will take her about 20 minutes to get caught up on that history.

The Herald also likes it that Potter likes the idea of an Eastside Parkway and criticizes Adams for not knowing much about it. The Partisan’s suggestion is simply this. If it is so important to the local economy and well-being, perhaps some explanatory articles would be advisable. And perhaps the Herald can think of a way to give some special highway-building, job-creating, water-making powers to their favored candidates in case they win.

Partisan proprietor Royal Calkins is a former editor and opinion page editor for the Herald and, therefore, cannot convincingly assert that he is not disgruntled in at least some respects.


Oil and gas well profiled on sunset skyRead this if you want, but it’s really meant for Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas.

Hey Simon. How are things?

Did you see the Herald today. It had a well done article about the anti-fracking initiative that local activists are working on and the oil industry-sponsored ad campaign to combat it.

The article mentioned that Monterey County is the only California county without regulations to protect critical water sources from oil production. And then it had you saying you were concerned that the initiative might wipe out the existing oil industry here and, “My position is that if current regulations are not strict enough, then people should talk to Governor Brown and state Legislature.”

So here’s the thing, Simon.

If you’re concerned about the adequacy of local regulations on the subject, and if you’re concerned that the potential ballot measure might go too far, why don’t you and your county colleagues work on shaping some local regulations that protect the water supply without wiping out existing oil production.

If you don’t see the sense in that, let us know and we’ll draft up a new job description for you and the other county supervisors. Maybe that’ll get us on the same page.

Take care.


Mexico refugee illegal immigration border migrant crisis economy finance war business.According to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, Brigido Hernandez was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on charges of disorderly conduct and drug possession last Sept. 7.

But not really.

Upon further reflection, the Sheriff’s Department says Brigido Hernandez is not Brigido Hernandez, but instead is Nazario Arguello Rodriguez, who was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 28 on charges of manufacturing counterfeit goods.

But, strike that. The Sheriff’s Department says Nazario Arguello Rodriguez is really Juan Tentle Ortiz, who wasn’t arrested by sheriff’s deputies. Instead, he made it to the Monterey County Jail by way of the Los Angeles County Jail for reasons apparently unknown, at least unknown to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.

What is known about Brigido Hernandez/Juan Tentle Ortiz is that he/they was/were turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials late last year after Sheriff Steve Bernal reversed longstanding county policy and invited immigration authorities to set up shop in the jail.

The identities of Hernandez and Ortiz, and numerous others, became an issue after the Partisan made a public records request for information on him/them and a number of other former Monterey County Jail inmates who had been turned over to ICE for deportation.

The public information request was prompted by a Nov. 29 opinion piece written for the Monterey Herald by Michael Moore, chief deputy of the sheriff’s corrections bureau. In his column, Moore wrote that between Aug. 14 and late November 140 jail inmates had been found to have had previous convictions that qualified them for deportation via ICE.

He elaborated somewhat, saying they all met the federal criteria under Priority 1 status, meaning they had prior felony convictions and street gang affiliation, or Priority 2 status, meaning they had at least one serious misdemeanor conviction or three less significant misdemeanor convictions.

A spreadsheet provided by the Sheriff’s Department listed 160 arrests. In 42 of those cases, the only charge listed was drunken driving. In several other cases, men arrested for drunken driving also were accused of violating probation, an indication of at least some criminal history. There were, of course, numerous arrests on more serious charges including domestic violation, battery and hit and run but there also were arrests in which the only recorded charges were prostitution and providing false information to authorities. In most cases, the inmates turned over to ICE had been arrested but not convicted of any current charges.

In his Herald article, Moore mentioned that one inmate turned over to ICE was a Castroville gang member who had been arrested for murder and drunken driving. The Partisan made inquiry into details on that suspect, largely because it seemed odd that someone wanted on a murder charge would have been turned over to immigration officials rather than to authorities where the murder charge had been filed. It turned out to be another case of mistaken identity. The fellow was facing a drunken driving charge but not a murder charge.  Both his nationality and immigration status could not be determined this week.

In most cases, it is impossible for someone outside law enforcement to verify whether someone qualifies for either Priority 1 or 2 status because arrest records for previous incarcerations are considered confidential in California. Public court records would provide answers in some cases but that would require person-by-person searches in dozens or hundreds of courthouses.

“Verifying identities is one of the biggest challenges we face, every day,” said a local police official who asked not to be identified for fear of alienating the Sheriff’s Department. “But you would think they would get the names and basic data right before handing over information like that. I hope that they got the info right before they handed the people over, but I presume they did.”

A spot check of other inmates turned up discrepancies in the dates of arrest but no obvious mix-ups of identities.

The arrest that put Joel Dorante Cruz into the hands of immigration officials involved public drunkenness in a Seaside alley in September.

Ricardo Lopez’s arrest by Sand City police was for vandalism, loitering and being under the influence.

Maria Ortiz Cortez was arrested by Salinas police for shoplifting. The arrest was either Sept. 30 or several weeks earlier, depending on which department you talk to.

The Partisan’s inquiry hardly amounts to a scientific sampling but it did turn up  a string of discrepancies serious enough to suggest additional attention should be put into an examination of how the Sheriff’s Department is processing inmates suspected of being in the country illegally. Immigration activists and others criticize law enforcement agencies such as the Sheriff’s Department that routinely provide ICE with access to inmates. They and some law enforcement officials maintain that fear of deportation prevents many undocumented aliens from cooperating with law enforcement, testifying in court or even reporting crimes. On Jan. 5, the Partisan requested a copy of the sheriff’s written policies on immigration holds and its interaction with ICE but there has been no response.


After seeing the journalism procedural “Spotlight” in Monterey, I want more than two thumbs to thrust upward in ringing endorsement.

I was glued to the seat as the film tautly demonstrates how a Boston Globe 2002 investigation by four reporters unfolded. It shows them working their tails off to reveal the Catholic Church’s systemic cover-up of scores of sexually abusive priests and hundreds of their victims.


“Spotlight” is the better of the two great U.S. journalism films of the past 40 years. The other is 1976’s “All the President’s Men.”

The movie about the Washington Post’s Woodward-Bernstein reporting team and Watergate was a Washington, D.C., movie — secret sources, timely leaks, the reluctant but ultimately grinding strength of the capital’s machinery of political power.

“Spotlight,” though based on what happened in Boston and how a Boston paper finally told its Boston readers what happened, is really about good, below-the-surface journalism in any community.

That’s apparent from three screens (using very small type) that appear before the final credits. They compose a long list of other cities around the country and world where cover-ups of Catholic clergy abuse were brought to light after the Globe’s example.

Monterey, of course, was on the list, as someone in the row behind me said aloud as the names quickly scrolled before the lights came up.

Former colleagues of mine at the Monterey Herald had worked those local stories about abusive priests in the Monterey Diocese. And local media still work the story, as evidenced by the Monterey County Weekly’s Oct. 29 cover report on unsealed court records in a case involving alleged sexual abuse by a priest in Salinas.

Much commentary about “Spotlight” has focused on the question of whether the shrinking staffs and resources of American newspapers — especially regional papers and those in smaller cities — will support the commitment to time-consuming investigative reporting like the Globe did 14 years ago.

Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of the New York Times, addressed the question in two of her recent columns — here and here.

I’m hopeful important journalism about stories that mean something has a future because I see the evidence every day. That said, the media in Monterey County — home to two daily papers in thrall more to financial returns than community service — have an uphill battle to go beyond the daily blotter into the heart of matters. But there are good journalists here, new tools to gather information, new ways to tell stories, and the old fire that has always begged for “more reporters” and “more time.”

What made “Spotlight” so good were little details the film’s makers got so right about the work reporters do and the buildings where they work. It’s true there is a certain nostalgia for a very recent past at play here.

My heart raced with joy at the scene where one of the Globe reporters asks the paper’s library to pull all the clips — the paper’s previous stories — on clergy sexual abuse.

I loved rifling through those little manila envelopes stuffed with yellowed, but date-stamped clips. When the paper’s own library collected, copied and collated them, I felt bliss. Those were the days.

(Rule of thumb in working a big story: Check all the clips at the get-go.)

Other parts of “Spotlight” had me chuckling to myself. Small details in the film deftly captured so much of newsroom life.

— A farewell party in an opening scene with newsroom staffers holding small paper plates and little squares of frosted white cake. My teeth still ache with the molar memory of so many similar newsroom occasions.

In earlier days, they were usually to honor colleagues moving on to bigger papers, better jobs or family moves. Toward the end of my career, more cake breaks marked simple retirements, buyout retirements or colleagues moving into –gasp — better-paying public relations jobs. The ones who left via layoffs didn’t get to break cake at all with the shrinking pool of survivors.

— Near the end of the film, the top Globe editor scratches out something in a final draft of the first big story in the paper’s investigation. The reporters, who can’t see which of their words are being scrubbed, gasp as if their first-born children are being wrested from their arms.

“Just another adjective,” the editor explains without lifting his eyes.

That’s good editing, what every reporter needs. Nouns and strong verbs tell stories best. Adjectives and adverbs are weaker words, and too often inject a writer’s editorial opinion. Cut them away.

— In a short scene, Rachel McAdams (playing reporter Sacha Pffeifer) demonstrates what a good reporter does best: listen to what people say and ask logical follow-up questions. McAdams’ character actually spends much of her screen time doing what reporters do: knock on doors, interview people and take notes.

In this scene, she confronts a retired priest about his abuse of children. Her expression is neutral as the old man offers a sickening alibi. It wasn’t really sexual abuse, he reasons, because he derived no pleasure. Like myself, I’m sure many viewers felt like slapping the old man silly.

But McAdams’ expression remains unchanged. She hurriedly asks more questions without being judgmental. Keep people talking. That’s what reporters do.

Of course, the scene ends when the old man’s sister appears, tells the reporter to go away and slams the door. McAdams is still writing in her notebook as she goes down the steps, getting all the details of the brief exchange down in the record. She doesn’t react in any way to the door being shut in her face. That’s just part of the job.


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.


The man selected as Seaside’s next city manager says he will soon file a retraction demand with the newspaper that covers his previous community, Davenport, Iowa, but he won’t say what he wants corrected.

The Seaside City Council is scheduled to give final approval Thursday night to a contract with Craig Malin, who left Davenport in June after 13 years with the city. He left after the mayor demanded his resignation because, in the mayor’s view, he had acted without authority in providing the city’s help for a casino under construction. Malin says he did not resign and was not fired and said he left only because he had accomplished all his goals.

4d8b52d02e3b2.preview-300In an article published Tuesday, Malin told the Monterey Herald that he has asked the Davenport newspaper, the Quad City Times, to retract something it published about him but he would not say what information he considers inaccurate.

“The paper published information which was false,” told the Herald.  “We’re working on a resolution.” He said litigation could result if his request is not honored.

“I expect the Times will get the retraction demand next week,” he said.

Generally, retraction demands are submitted to newspapers at the start of discussions over alleged errors. Asked Tuesday what information he wants retracted, Malin said, “I think that is most appropriately first shared with the Quad City Times,” which suggests that he has not shared it yet even though he says a resolution is in the works.

Asked why he wouldn’t want to disclose what information he considers inaccurate, he replied by email, “Because I have a life. Because the Times made so many errors it was difficult to pick from. Because I wanted multiple independent opinions from attorney. Because the attorney who is handling it had a health issue. Because I see no advantage – to anyone – in rushing.”

In a Partisan article posted last week, Malin suggested that coverage of his departure had led to the subsequent departures of the newspaper’s publisher and editor.


A former colleague now lives in a sizable city where the daily newspaper became a three-days-a-week paper a couple years ago.“It’s dreadful,” she says. “We still get the printed paper, but so much of it is old news by the time it arrives. It’s a shambles. I hate what has happened to a good newspaper. The community has lost the common voice, and that bodes ill in so many ways.”

Now it’s the Salinas Californian’s turn to go from daily to three days – Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a sad thing, a very sad thing for a paper that launched shortly after the Civil War, but it isn’t the newspaper or even its staff that I worry about. I worry about the community, one that has already lost much of its cohesion because of the newspaper’s slow but steady decline in recent years.

newsWednesday’s announcement had been expected for quite some as circulation tanked like it has at so many papers.

As usual, management at the newspaper felt compelled to search for a positive spin. Editor Pete Wevurski’s column about the changes wasn’t as fatuous as it might have been but the headline was the worst: “You’ll still see all your favorites … and more.”

The “more” promised in the headline apparently is additional commentary provided by you, the readers, on those days when there are enough pages to accommodate anything more than the essentials.

Publisher Paula Goudreau put her true feelings in a box and hid them beneath her desk before writing her column, which told us, “Today I am excited to announce a significant change that is an important step to assuring The Californian will continue to build on its first 144 years for many decades to come.”

“This shift – driven by our consumers and advertisers – enables us to invest in a new way of doing business and better position ourselves for the future. Salinas has evolved into one of California’s youngest markets, and research tells us that a decidedly large portion of that key younger demographic clearly prefers to get their news on mobile devices, rather than print.

“The Californian has recognized the digital opportunity these past few years and has focused on local breaking news and local content that appeals to the changing marketplace in Salinas. Its mobile apps for smart phones and tablets were upgraded early in 2014 and the mobile version of TheCalifornian.com web site is robust. And more improvements related to new kinds of content, video and advertising opportunities on the mobile platform are in development. We’ll be telling you about these in the coming weeks.

“Blah, blah, blah….”

In other words, not to worry. We’re excited to tell you that less is more.

I’m not trying to be mean here or pick on anyone at the Californian. Though it was a key component of the competition while I was at the Monterey Herald, newspaper people love newspapers and other newspaper people. It’s just that I’ve been through my own share of belt-tightening and cutbacks in the industry and I’ve heard too many people at the top of the food chain tell us that the readers would still love us no matter how thin the gruel became.

Fortunately, cutting back on production should not require any cuts to the production staff in Salinas because the paper, for the most part, is edited and put together at a sister paper in Visalia, another outpost in the huge Gannett chain.

My biggest fear now is that some bean counter at corporate will calculate that a three-day-a-week newspaper doesn’t need as many reporters as a daily. One might look at it that way, I suppose, but not after being reminded that most journalism of real value takes longer than a day to produce. In other words, there’s nothing at all wrong if a reporter working on Monday also spends Tuesday working on a story for the Wednesday paper instead of a Twitter blurb about a fender bender.

Goudreau tells us that this is not a cutback, not a retreat, but simply a change in direction, a change in platform, away from the old days of print and toward the exciting new world of digital. That is, of course, exactly what is happening at newspapers everywhere, which promote the concept of instant news on readers’ phones and laptops. Which would be a good thing if it was in addition to what we used to get in print and not a replacement.

The Herald is owned, for now, by a company known as Digital First Media, a name that included the mission statement. Unfortunately, news distributed digitally is not as lucrative as news delivered to your porch, and the company is now for sale.

Fortunately for readers on the Peninsula, Monterey County Weekly has done an excellent job supplementing the news supply as the Herald has trimmed staff and pages. For better or worse, the Weekly also has devoted considerable resources into its Web product, which unavoidably takes resources away from the print product. Still, all in all, the Peninsula is relatively well served by a combination of the Herald, the Weekly and the Pine Cone with an intermittent assist from the Partisan.

The case is not at all similar in Salinas. There isn’t a weekly. There isn’t a Salinas Partisan or, for better or worse, anything resembling the Pine Cone.

The loss of the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday Californian won’t have a dramatic impact immediately. People will get used to not having the paper every day and not knowing as much about civic affairs. The process will be gradual, like the community’s adjustment to the slippage of recent years. For now, perhaps we should take a clue from Goudreau and Wevurski and express some optimism, real or imagined.

Perhaps Gannett will discover that the old way was more profitable.

Perhaps someone will start a good weekly or a Partisan or two will spring up.

Maybe someone with more money than sense will buy the Californian and turn it into what it once was.

Or maybe, just maybe, someone at the paper will read the promises that Goudreau and Wevurski made about commitment to the news and the community and actually try to make good on them.

Wish them luck. Wish us all luck.