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IMG_0690Monterey City Councilman Timothy Barrett frequently aligns with colleagues Libby Downey and Alan Haffa but has taken a sharp turn to oppose their effort to reform the city’s archaic leasing policies for the city-owned Fisherman’s Wharf.

Barrett has distributed what he is calling an “information paper” to argue essentially that the city treats commercial tenants at the wharf unfairly even though several are operating under below-market rental agreements negotiated decades ago.

Unfortunately for Barrett and others who have taken up the tenants’ cause, he sabotages his argument with erroneous information, including a huge exaggeration of the taxes generated by the wharf merchants.

Early in his paper, Barrett features a list of “incontrovertible facts.” One is that the city is spending some of the wharf income on impermissible expenses. He writes that state law requires all income derived from tideland properties to be expended in the tideland zone but he cites no examples of money improperly spent. The implication is that wharf income must be reinvested in the wharf, though state law and city policy clearly allow for the money to be used for other tideland purposes such as harbor dredging.

The heart of his case that the city is impermissibly profiting from the wharf and not reinvesting all the rental income into the wharf for maintenance, improvements or other expenses. He argues that the wharf enterprises are subsidizing the city and suggests it should be the other way around.

What’s wrong with his argument is simply this. If all the income from rental property had to be plowed back into the property, what would be the point of owning the property? Would any commercial landlords intentionally adopt a break-even business plan? The city could operate the wharf as a non-profit venture by offering discounted rental rates, but it would need to offer leasing opportunities to all comers and require them to provide a public service component beyond the catch of the day.

Which brings up another of Barrett’s “incontrovertible facts.”

Without much thought, apparently, Barrett writes this: “Incontrovertible Fact: Wharf 1 generates approximately 25% of the City of Monterey sales tax revenues. Sales tax revenues accrue to the General Fund where they support City services such as fire and police, services which benefit the entire community.”

The problem here is that the wharf generates only 4 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue, according to City Manager Mike McCarthy in a memo to the council last week. Not 25 percent. Not 10 percent. Four percent.

Barrett must not have thought about the scale of the wharf operations – a dozen or so restaurants, some gift shops, some fishing and cruising operations – and compare it to the scale of the rest of the sales tax-generating businesses in the city. Such as Del Monte Center, downtown, the Fremont and Lighthouse business corridors and, of course, Cannery Row.

You may have seen Barrett’s 25 percent figure repeated in a letter to the editor of the Herald the other day. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

Finally, Barrett falls for a big piece of the PR campaign being waged by the wharf merchants in support of the status quo. They have argued, without evidence, that the city’s effort to modernize the leasing structure would bring in chain restaurants and eliminate some of the unique and local operations there.

Barrett writes, “On multiple occasions during comments delivered to the Monterey City Council, proponents of the City’s Leasing Policies / Guidelines have indicated a desire to see corporate chains on Wharf 1 where locally owned and headquartered businesses now exist.”

I emailed Barrett over the weekend and again Monday to ask him if he could cite specifics. I haven’t heard back from him. Downey said Monday that she has not heard any city representatives say anything of the sort. She and Haffa, the chief proponents of reforming the lease policies, have made it clear repeatedly that they want the city to maintain the local character of the wharf.

The council takes up the issue of wharf leases again Tuesday night. With Barrett’s defection from the reform camp, it seems likely that the wharf interests will continue to chip away at the reform measures and that people who signed wharf leases years ago will continue subleasing the properties to others for multiples of what they are paying the city. It amounts to profiteering at the expense of taxpayers.

There’s a lot of tradition in a place like Monterey, the good kind and the not so good.

Here’s Barrett’s white paper and the city manager’s response.


Money greed. Business man holding holding case with dollars tightly isolated on grey wall background. Worship, miser, excessive gain, finance conceptOops, says Cal Am. When we said we needed $40 million more from our Peninsula customers, plus loads of interest, we really meant $50 million, plus loads of interest.

That was the gist of a story in Friday’s Monterey Herald about how Cal Am is amending its request to charge its local customers for the water they didn’t use because they were conserving water, partly because Cal Am hasn’t been able to provide a sustainable supply.

Never mind that Cal Am’s original request was for $40.6 million in reimbursement even though the Public Utilities Commission’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates says the original request actually amounts to $44.2 million. (In the world of utility finance, maybe $3.6 million is a rounding error.)

Never mind that the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, after a lengthy examination, also found that it was Cal Am’s own mistakes and miscalculations that resulted in its failure to collect  at least half the money it is now seeking.

Never mind that the Public Utilities Commission is supposed to keep utility company’s financially healthy but has no obligation to make a tremendously profitable venture even more profitable.

Here’s an earlier Partisan piece that does a pretty fair job of explaining the whole thing.


Little happy cute boy catching sun in skyIt’s official. Those surveys about the best this or the worst that are nonsense. The final piece of evidence, the nail in the coffin, the dramatic confession, the incontrovertible evidence was the news today that Salinas is the second “healthiest and happiest city” in the United States.

Last week a heating company with the aid of a social scientist declared Salinas the third “coziest” city in the land. Perhaps, my daughter suggested, they were thinking about the crowded housing, especially in East Salinas, where a legitimate study years ago calculated the population density as comparable to Manhattan’s.

Now comes the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being: 2015 Community Rankings list released on Tuesday. It purportedly measures how residents of 190 U.S. cities feel about their physical health, social ties, financial security, community and sense of purpose.

 In first place, Naples, Fla., followed by Salinas, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Barnstable Town, Mass.

In sixth place is Santa Cruz/Watsonville and in 10th place San Luis Obispo.

Based a national telephone survey, residents in these places are said to have the lowest levels of stress in the country, report little depression and eat healthy on a daily basis, the report found. Many of them like their daily activities and enjoy a sense of purpose.

Salinas ranked extremely high in the categories of purpose and physical, meaning the residents have a strong sense of purpose and feel they have the health and energy to pursue it.

So why can’t I just be happy for Salinas and let it go? Some will ask me “Don’t you like Salinas?” and my answer will be, “Of course I do.” I find it to be a fascinating and frustrating place with lots of strengths and interesting challenges.

Here’s why I can’t just let it go. The survey bothered me mostly because one must read the fine print to learn that when they’re talking about Salinas, they’re really talking about the Salinas Metropolitan Statistical Area, a Census Bureau designation that actually means Monterey County.

As the biggest city in the county, Salinas gets its name on the SMSA, which is fine for Census purposes but not for understanding results.  To portray the city of Salinas as one of the happiest and coziest places in the nation ignores the realities of gang violence, crowded housing and cultural segregation. Mix in Carmel and P.G. and Monterey and Del Rey Oaks and a very different picture emerges of Salinas, the Metropolitan Statistical Area, as opposed to Salinas, the city. Taken that way, the findings may be close to accurate.

Certainly Salinas is filled with purposeful and healthy people but way more than the average city? It would be nice to believe that, but the latest effort does not convince me.

The Salinas Police Department’s PR man put out a news release late in the day trumpeting the survey’s results and overlooking the reality that it isn’t really about Salinas.

Why do they do these surveys? For publicity, of course, and I have fallen into the trap. Newspapers and TV stations and pretentious little blogs all around the country are breathlessly reporting on the findings today, even the news outlets in the bottom-dwelling cities, the Toledos and the Newarks. Who is Healthways? They manage health plans for somesuch. I got bored with the web site before I could figure out exactly what they’re selling.

There was another ranking put out Tuesday, by Forbes magazine, which rated Sacramento the most miserable place in the United States. That’s a judgment call, I guess, but here’s my question for the Forbes people. Also ranked really high on the miserableness scale were Stockton, Modesto and Bakersfield, some of the garden spots of the San Joaquin Valley, but Fresno didn’t make it into that tier of the rankings. Maybe that could be Fresno’s new slogan: “We’ve always been better than Bakersfield but now we’re better than Sacramento, too.”

Bottom line. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And don’t take anything at face value, with the possible exception of what you see here.


The white deer of Monterey

We just finished raking dead holly tree leaves from the juniper bushes. We hope we didn’t need a permit for that.

Raking unsightly deciduous leaves from low-spreading conifers is apparently the sort of landscape maintenance required of responsible urban dwellers.

Or maybe not. We’re still learning the rules of urban dwelling. We understand that domestic water use should be minimized, but we have not yet received municipal directives about yard-waste maintenance.

We moved to Monterey a couple of weeks ago, to a house in the Old Monterey neighborhood behind Colton Hall. It is an area that we had heard referred to as Spaghetti Hill, though we were recently told by a kindly neighbor that enlightened natives call it Garlic Hill. The woman has apparently lived in the neighborhood since forever, so she probably knows.

We come to the neighborhood from Prunedale, a state of mind along the northern fringes of Monterey County. We were there for 35 years, which amounts to three-and-a-half decades of hearing lamebrain Prunetucky jokes.

It’s also 35 years of avoiding (mostly) the responsibilities of civilization. It’s been 35 years of crowing roosters, landscape-munching deer and starry, silent nights punctuated by the occasional baffling shotgun blast. It’s been 35 years free of Cal Am Water Co., municipal interference and enforcement of basic county regulations.

Out in Prunedale, where the oak trees meet the eucalyptus, the whims of home ownership are variable. You can live in a palace situated next to a rusty double-wide. Some people have access to water; others don’t. If your property is situated along a major road, it’s best to meet county requirements in all activities. If your property is at the end of a long and terrifying driveway, you can likely get away with any sort of toxic situation.

Our life in Prunedale was sublime. Terrific neighbors, quiet oak forests, functioning schools and not as many skunks as you might have heard. When we first moved there, it had a reputation as some sort of hillbilly holler, but it has diversified nicely over the years. As an example, the property at Dolan Road and Castroville Boulevard that was once a roping arena is now a busy weekend Charreada facility.

The seclusion of Prunedale is great, yet its centralized geographic location and recent highway improvements mean that Prunedaleans are no more than a half-hour drive from Salinas, Santa Cruz, Monterey or San Juan Bautista, and less than 90 minutes from the heart of San Francisco. It’s a convenience that shouldn’t be overlooked.

But then, as the kids got lives of their own, we realized that everything was a half-hour away. The location didn’t seem so convenient anymore. It came time to find a place where we could simply stagger home rather than weave all over the highway.

So we settled on Monterey. We’re now in a neighborhood with neighborly neighbors, functioning sidewalks, expensive Cal Am service and curbside trash pickup. Our house is 105 years old, a middling but comfortable stepchild in a neighborhood teeming with stately architectural charm.

We are learning to adjust. We require a permit to park on our street. Vehicles careen up and down the street less than 20 yards from our living room. Porch lights beam through the bedroom windows. Pedestrians parade the sidewalk. Students attending MIIS are tucked away in apartment buildings everywhere. The holly tree drops its leaves on the juniper.

Change is difficult, as we know. Habits are formed in a place that served as home for more than three decades. We loved Prunedale. But habits can be quickly broken in a city like Monterey.

The day after the crew from Cardinale Moving and Storage delivered our stuff to the new home, we let the dog drag us around the new neighborhood for his post-dinner walk. We headed up the hill, toward the gulch behind Monterey High School. As we turned a new corner, we encountered a white deer standing in the middle of the street. She calmly assessed our presence and quickly determined we were no threat to her two fawns.

The white deer is a rarity in these parts, but it’s a creature of myth and legend. Tribes of Native Americans revered them. The white stag is the heraldic symbol of England’s King Richard II. A white deer is said to have sent King Arthur’s Court on adventures against fairies and gods.

And in Hungary, a mythological white stag led two brothers, Hunar and Magar, to a fertile land to establish the Hun and Magyar people.

The white deer of Monterey did not lead us here, but we’re grateful she welcomed us to her neighborhood.

Livernois, a former editor, reporter and columnist for the Monterey Herald, is the author of “The Road to Guanajuato.”


shutterstock_185810549-2 2HUG: The agribusiness giant Tanimura & Antle deserves thanks from the entire community for its plan to build a farmworker housing complex on its Spreckels property. The plan isn’t popular just across the road in the postcard community of Spreckels, which got its start as a company town. That’s understandable because the labor camp would house some 800 people, close to the number who already call Spreckels home. But T&A is helping the larger community by providing decent housing for the men and women who tend the crops, taking some of the pressure off already crowded neighborhoods in Salinas and other places in the Salinas Valley. Some of the company’s labor practices in the past have been less than sterling but it is a solid business in most respects and can be expected to be a good job with this venture. Let’s hope the Board of Supes agrees.

HISS: I was disappointed not to see any new news in the papers or on TV so far this week on Friday’s shooting of Naval Postgraduate School police officer Eric Glazier.He was shot by two Seaside Police Officers when he walked out of his house holding a gun while the officers were returning his wife home after a disturbance elsewhere? A tease on one local TV station (not KSBW) said he had aimed his gun at the officers but the subsequent newscast had nothing to back that up. Lack of follow-up since the weekend reflects a couple of things. The Police Department hasn’t issued another news release, the lifeblood of local journalism these days. And the various news staffs were too busy with the rodeo, motorcycle racing and the weather to go out and knock on doors. Now if anyone wants to criticize the Partisan for its failure to haul itself out to Glazier’s neighborhood, we wouldn’t be able to put up much of an argument but the size of our staff makes the Herald look like a real newspaper.

HUG: Someone posted some Facebook photos of the interior of the new Taylor building in downtown Salinas, and it looks pretty darned spectacular. I love downtowns and I’m hoping this is a catalyst for the rebirth of downtown Salinas, which, by the way, really isn’t bad at all. You Peninsula types who haven’t tried the Patria restaurant are missing something special.

HISS: The Osio Cinema closes its doors, without warning, leaving Peninsula residents with nowhere to go out to a movie except for the big theaters that play the same movies that all the other big theaters are playing. The reaction is strong but will it be enough to convince the owners that there are enough customers willing to give up Netflix and Amazon for the evening and venture out into the wilds of downtown Monterey? There is talk about some sort of crowdsourcing or subsidy to save the theater. More practical, it seems to us, would be for the Lighthouse theater in P.G. to play around with an art house approach. If it does, you all need to get out of the sweats, put some shoes on and put your money where your mouth is. It also occurs to us that the Golden State is empty most nights. Hint, hint.

HISS: Local radio personality Mark Carbonaro was the latest to weigh in with the nonsense that candidate X is more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton. Does she lose experience points because of her gender or what? In Carbonaro’s case, he said the candidate with the superior qualifications is, who else, Donald Trump? If we need a president who is good at setting up shell companies and playing the bankruptcy system, Trump could be our guy. After all, what’s Hillary got going for her other than having be a senator for eight years, secretary of state and essentially assistant president for two terms?

HISS: Now, for what might be the most inconsequential Hiss published so far. Bet you haven’t noticed something that the Partisan has, but you’ll notice it hereafter. As you’re tooling down the highway, pay attention to the color of the cars going the other way. What you’ll find is a remarkable absence of color. Black, grey, silver, white, two more black cars, silver, beige, silver, grey, black, black, white. Often, you’ll see as many as 30 or more cars whiz by the other way before you’ll see a red one or a blue one. Why is this a Hiss? People who have an opportunity to put some color in their lives but go for grey, there are too many of them and we’d like to see something done about that.


自衛隊 小銃Leon Panetta, the most respected politician ever to come from the Central Coast, has a new book out called “Worthy Fight,” and he’s been making the rounds of cable shows doing interviews about it.

Since Panetta, who served President Obama as both secretary of defense and CIA director, criticizes the president for his decisions on Syria, Iraq and ISIS, the book tour has caused a lot of twittering in the Twittersphere.

Right-wingers, of course, are ecstatic to see one of the president’s right-hand men knock the White House. They knock the White House every day and always can use a little help.

Left-wingers are aghast that a) Panetta didn’t hold his fire until January 2017; b) Panetta flip-flopped on the use of torture in the endless war on terrorism once he took the helm at CIA and apparently went native; and c) Panetta is sad more U.S. military boots aren’t on the ground today in Iraq.

This apparent transformation, in hopes of selling more books, of a once left-of-center Democrat into a neo-neoconservative has been disconcerting for Panetta admirers both in D.C. and here on the Central Coast.

He was on Bill O’Reilly’s no-spin-zone FOX News show earlier this week, and the conservative blogosphere feasted on Panetta’s knocks of Obama that Billo elicited.

As always, I missed O’Reilly, but figured I would take in Panetta’s extended interview Wednesday night with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”

My enthusiasm was whetted for two reasons: Some liberal pundits back east gleefully reported Stewart knocked the stuffings out of Panetta for his turncoat ways. If there is a gravitas-wielding newsman left in the world, it is fake newsman Stewart, for whom NBC execs reportedly were willing to rob Fort Knox to take over their battered “Meet the Press” Sunday show.

Unfortunately, the Stewart interview was lackluster. Panetta’s belly laughter operated at full force. Stewart made a few perfunctory CIA jokes. Panetta said the situation in Syria is chaos, and the battle against ISIS is going to take years. Nothing earth-shaking there.

When Stewart knocked Congress for taking a break without debating U.S. strategy against ISIS, Panetta said the president should call the legislators back for such a discussion. Stewart said members of Congress could take it upon themselves to convene a debate. Panetta got the biggest laugh when he responded, “This Congress has had a hard time trying to find the bathrooms in the Capitol.”

Panetta pointed out the 1,500 to 2,000 U.S. advisers in Iraq, for the ostensible mission of helping the Iraq army fight ISIS, wear “boots on the ground”

So Stewart asked why 5,000 or 10,000 U.S. troops would do much better, after the Iraq war demonstrated the high costs of trying to impose a democratic form of government in a region beset by religious infighting for centuries.

Panetta seemed to agree, but went on to say the greatest threat to U.S. security is dysfunction in Congress. “We are operating by crisis,” he said.

When Panetta said he recalled when Congress worked well across party lines, Stewart sputtered, “How OLD are you?”

Panetta reeled off the names of congressional leaders who did great things on civil rights, the environment and health care when he was a young Senate aide and Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

Then my iPad froze, and I missed the last couple minutes. I figure Panetta either told some great Tip O’Neill stories or blasted Obama for a big fail on the Ebola epidemic. Hard to tell when there are books to sell.


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