≡ Menu
Share

Common sense dictates that the Partisan take a couple weeks off around this time of year in order to avoid becoming trapped in a loop of parochial politics, water and who owns it, income disparity along the Highway 68 corridor and the antics of Howard Gustafson, Paul Bruno, Brandon Gesicki and the Salinas City Council. Even a blog must occasionally clear its head.

But that does not let you, the Partisan readers, off the hook. In fact, it creates extra pressure for you to contribute to this enterprise, which is intended to be a collective endeavor. We here at Partisan central tend to measure the success or failure of individual posts by the number of commenters who chose to weigh in, and we readily admit that the community comments are much more interesting and enlightening than anything we have to say.

So what do you say? What’s on your mind? Many of you place little thought nuggets elsewhere, such as on Facebook. Here’s your chance to expound at considerable or even ridiculous length. I’m talking about you, Larry Parrish, Beverly Bean, Roberto Robledo, Karl Pallastrini, Roger Dahl. I’m talking about you, Eric Peterson, Craig Malin, Joy Colangelo, Amy White. Helga Fellay and David Fairhurst, you’re excused from this exercise. You, too, could use a break.

Here’s what the Partisan’s chief cook and bottle washer looks like when he is not poring over the latest grand jury report

To get the party started, a few prompts:

  • Has the initial flurry of anti-Trump activism locally just become quiet or has it died. Can it be revived? Would it do any good?
  • Where is the best pizza in Monterey County?
  • If you live on the Peninsula, what do you think of Salinas? If you are a racist, you’re disqualified from this one.
  • If you live in the Salinas Valley, what do you think of the Peninsula?
  • What can we do to house the homeless?

If you could force local government to fix one thing, what would it be?

OK, by now, you’ve got some ideas of your own. Feel encouraged to share,

Many of you will have ideas of your own. Please feel encouraged to share.

{ 37 comments }

Carmel’s quick fix for its spending problem

Share

Carmel’s Sunset Center

In recent weeks the Carmel City Council has complained about the costs of various city maintenance projects, including a $5,000 contract to oversee painting at the city library and a $50,000 contract with Monterey Peninsula Engineering for a new railing at Sunset Center. Last month the council called a timeout on the contract with the engineering outfit.

Deservedly or not, the city’s public works director, Rob Mullane, is out of a job effective Friday. The council’s inquiry into the contracts likely will end with that personnel move, which was announced to Mullane’s staff on Wednesday.

Monterey Peninsula Engineering won the Sunset Center contract through a competitive bidding process involving one other company, DMC. Incidentally, MPE and principal Paul Bruno have been significant contributors to Republican politicians, including at the City Council level, but the city apparently doesn’t consider that to be a disqualifier.

{ 14 comments }
Share

Abel Maldonado

Abel Maldonado’s like that piece of gum you just can’t get off your shoe no matter what you do. It seems like he was just running for governor or stepping down from something and here he is again, under consideration to be U.S. secretary of agriculture.

He was interviewed by Donald Trump on Wednesday and is said to be among the front-runners. And to that, we say good for him. All things considered, there are worse possibilities. In fact, if not for some of his associations among the GOP establishment in Monterey County, we could almost see our way to seconding the notion. He does have a farming background and, unlike a number of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, there is no reason to think he would be out to destroy the agency or its subject, in this case agriculture. He would not be Trump’s worst pick.

It’s not that the Partisan has become a Maldonado fan. We’ve always considered him to be an opportunist, always looking for his next office without stopping to accomplish anything along the way. Partly on the strength of being a rare Republican Latino, he’s been a city councilman, a state senator, even a lieutenant governor. He’s in no position to say government is all bad even though he doesn’t have a lot to show for his efforts. He has crossed party lines on occasion, which is a good thing, but he acts as though that makes him a hero. Our standards are higher.

But he does have that farming background. His family grows a variety of crops near Santa Maria and, while he doesn’t have many calluses to show for it, he apparently has done actual work on the farm.

Our biggest problem with Maldonado are the kinds of campaigns he runs and the kind of people he has had running them.

Regular readers of the Partisan might remember that we have written about Brandon Gesicki and Paul Bruno in the past, not always favorably. They have played key roles in Maldonado campaigns and they haven’t always played fair.

Brandon Gesicki

It was Bruno a decade or so ago who posed as a Green Party official to approach a party member and encourage him to enter a state Senate race featuring Maldonado and Democratic candidate Peg Pinard. The idea was to draw votes away from Pinard. It was alleged that Bruno offered help with filing fees or somesuch but he denied it. He denies everything.

Bruno has been the Monterey County GOP secretary and spokesman, budget chairman for the state GOP, and Maldonado’s treasurer. Whenever the state finds problems with the accounting under his watch,  he invariably blames clerical errors.

Paul Bruno being told, no thanks, we’ll handle the protesters without you and your chains

Our  Maldonado campaign trick was the work of Gesicki. While his buddy Maldonado was running for Congress as a Republican, Gesicki advised him to run as a Democrat as well in order to help prevent a Democrat from making it onto the general election ballot. It was kind of a smart move, but Gesicki’s explanation wasn’t smart. In fact, it presumed that the rest of us are stupid. He insisted that Maldonado had put his name on the Democratic ballot only because his mother, a Democrat, had never been able to vote for her boy in a primary election. General elections, sure, she got to vote for him then, but apparently there is just something about a primary election to get that maternal pride flowing.

Gesicki is probably best known locally for running Steve Bernal’s successful campaign for sheriff. It was a typical Gesicki campaign in that it featured all sorts of dirty tricks and distortions. It was atypical in that his candidate won.

During that campaign, Gesicki told one important endorsing organization that Bernal’s opponent, then-Sheriff Scott Miller, was about to be charged with a crime and that the group would look bad if it had endorsed him. It was pure fiction but it worked.

Maldonado isn’t a lock for the job but he does have something else going him besides the muddy boots. When he became California’s lieutenant governor, it was at the invitation of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, as everyone knows by now, will be Trump’s stand-in on Celebrity Apprentice while Trump is learning the ropes of the precedency.

Bruno, meanwhile, when he isn’t busy watching the GOP’s ranks dwindle in Monterey County and the rest of California, runs Monterey Peninsula Engineering, which is making a fortune putting in pipelines for Cal Am.

He spends a lot of time on Facebook, posting pictures of Hillary Clinton in a jail jumpsuit and President Obama running from elephants. There are sore losers and then there are sore winners. Yes, he’s the guy the CHP stopped from going out onto Highway 1 with chains and a plan to drag protesters away.

Bruno once told the Monterey County Weekly that government “should act more like the mafia.” Maybe Maldonado will need an assistant and he can show us what he means.

This story initially reported that Bruno had been treasurer of the Monterey County GOP and the state GOP. It has been updated to contain the correct titles.

{ 7 comments }
Share
31c935_709459992c724a56a088998a6d968663

Potter, right, enjoys the support of fellow Supervisor and former Judge John Phillips

Dave Potter’s transformation is nearly complete. About all that’s left for him to do is change his registration.

Throughout his political career, Potter, the 5th District Monterey County supervisor, has been a Democrat and has enjoyed considerable support from the party and its spinoffs. This year, however, the best he could do endorsement-wise was a co-endorsement from the local party, which also endorsed his opponent in the June election, Mary Adams.

Adams, meanwhile, also received the endorsements of party-related groups that used to endorse Potter, such as the Democratic Women of Monterey County. Adams also picked up endorsements from the Monterey County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America and the Salinas Valley Democratic Club.

Demonstrating how far Potter has drifted away from the progressive crowd that once supported him, one of his latest mailers (SEE BELOW) includes lengthy endorsement messages from one of the GOP’s most outspoken local activists, Paul Bruno, and longtime Republican bigwig Jeff Davi.

Davi was California’s real estate commissioner under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger (though the mailer makes him out to be the current commissioner.) He is perhaps best known for his agency’s nearly complete failure to prosecute any real estate interests during the height of the mortgage crisis. Some will also remember that Davi was Potter’s opponent in his first campaign for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Bruno would have been a Ted Cruz delegate if his favored candidate had stayed in the presidential race. He says in the mailer that he is a fan of Potter’s as well because “for me, it is all about good government.” He goes on to say that Potter has “an impressive record on issues of importance to us – jobs, the economy and fiscal responsibility.” Look for specifics in the next mailer, perhaps.

Bruno, some will recall, is the fellow who dragged a chain out to a political demonstration on Highway 1. He was going to haul the protesters away until the CHP made him stop. He’s also the fellow whose company, Monterey Peninsula Engineering, seems to have a lock on Cal Am pipeline work.

Also pictured in the same flyer is Potter endorser Steve Bernal, the young sheriff of Monterey County, also a proud Republican.

In his campaigns of old, Potter touted endorsements from the Sierra Club, Democratic legislators Bill Monning and Mark Stone. Not this time. His flyers of old included kind words from LandWatch activists. Not this time.

Clearly the mailer featuring Bruno, Davi and Bernal was tailored to Republican households in the district – Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Carmel Valley, Big Sur and the Highway 68 corridor – so it makes sense that he emphasizes the economy and public safety rather than the environment and social issues. The big headline on the mailer, featuring a photo of Bixby Bridge, is “Bridging the divide,” but the mailer never goes on to explain what divide he means.

There is another mailer, of course, for Democratic households. In it, Potter is still in favor of attracting jobs and economic growth, but in this version he wants to do that “without threatening the quality of life that makes us unique.” (By omitting that caution from the GOP version, is he telling his Republican constituents that he’s OK with threatening the quality of life?)

In the GOP version, he’s all about growth and jobs. In the Democratic version, “He’s said no to bad development projects that poorly impact our water supply and traffic.” In the GOP version, he doesn’t mention the environment. Not at all.

In both versions, he lists a number of organizations endorsing him this time around. They include:

That last one is particularly interesting. Not unexpected, but interesting. The Salinas Valley Leadership Group was formed primarily by contractor Don Chapin. Its board of directors includes Brian Finegan, the Salinas lawyer who specializes in representing real estate developers; architect Peter Kasavan, who helped design the proposed Salinas general plan element that calls for Salinas to expand onto prime farmland; and accountant Warren Wayland, who handles campaign reporting duties for most Republican candidates in the area.

Dues-paying members of the SVLG include Monterey Downs racetrack principals Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer, Salinas promoter and bar owner David Drew, Monterey PR man David Armanasco, the head of the deeply troubled Alco Water System, and the builder and developer of the Ferrini Ranch development that Potter voted against after it became clear that it would win county approval regardless of his vote.

Potter’s mailer to both Democrat and GOP households mentions his endorsements from law enforcement unions. Oddly enough, the mailers to Democratic homes includes blurbs from his endorsements by the Monterey County Weekly and the Herald, but those aren’t mentioned in the mailers sent to Republicans.

In the mailers to the Dems, Potter touts his endorsement by a group called Evolve California, which also endorsed Adams. He doesn’t mention Evolve in the GOP version, however. Perhaps that’s because in order to get the Evolve nod, he said he favored increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing property taxes for businesses. Potter’s making a big deal in this campaign about being the experienced candidate. What he’s demonstrating with his mailers is that he has plenty of experience tailoring his message to his audience, no matter what he really thinks.

DSCN0391 (2)

{ 19 comments }
Share

????They once promised to be the solution to one of desalination’s biggest drawbacks. Most of the world’s 14,000 desalination plants draw seawater directly from the ocean, sucking in varying amounts of sea life. But slant wells, sharply angled in order to pump water from below the ocean floor, would use the sea bed as a natural filter, leaving all the aquatic critters where they belong.

That idea turned into a noble but failed experiment as California American Water began the long and expensive process of building a desalination plant to solve the Monterey Peninsula’s water problem. At the direction of state regulators, including the California Coastal Commission, Cal Am adopted slant wells into the design and for the past several months has been testing one such well at the plant site next to the Cemex facility on the Monterey Bay shore north of Marina.

The testing was delayed because of political opposition, concerns about feasibility and questions about whether the environmental impact of the testing itself had been fully considered. Once it started, it encountered additional delays for technical reasons and the discovery of a glaring conflict of interest. One of key hydrologists involved in the design and execution of the testing turned out to be a patent holder on the technology being tested, calling into question the advice he was giving his employers, both Cal Am and Cal Am’s chief regulator, the Public Utilities Commission, a compound relationship that created yet another conflict.

At one point, the testing was halted because a monitoring well showed that groundwater in the area was dropping significantly. Among the factors being tested is the desalination plant’s impact on area groundwater and, most specifically, an underlying aquifer that extends all the way to the Salinas Valley and supplies much of the water that sustains Salinas Valley agriculture. Though the intent is to draw seawater exclusively, the test well in fact draws a significant amount of its water from the brackish oceanside edge of the aquifer. If the desalination process draws too much water from the aquifer or aggravates the existing issue of seawater intrusion into the fresh water aquifer, the desalination plant’s design and/or location seemingly would be doomed, absent a purely political solution.

According to Cal Am’s declarations to state officials, the testing remains highly inconclusive but the company says it has learned enough from the exercise to plunge ahead into the overall plant approval process and then into the construction phase, which would result in the drilling of an additional nine slant wells. According to water activist George Riley, the company has already started awarding well-drilling contracts despite the absence of any data supporting that decision.

If the plans continue on that track, the Marina plant would be the first in the world to use slant wells. Recent tests of the same technology at a proposed Dana Point plant failed dramatically, taking in as much fresh water as salt water, and operators of a proposed plant at Huntington Beach, also under state pressure to use slant wells, recently announced the technology there to be unfeasible.

Against that backdrop, an array of speakers at a forum sponsored by Public Water Now lined up Tuesday night in Carmel to explain why the slant-well plan should be abandoned in the name of maintaining some semblance of control over the desal costs.

Public Water Now founder George Riley ran out of descriptors as he labeled the slant-well approach “a sham, a hoax, a fraud” because it provides none of the benefits that its supporters promised and carries with it unacceptable costs and complications. The most recent cost estimates show that water from the proposed Cal Am plant would cost more than double the costs expected in either Dana Point or Huntington Beach.

Public Water Now was formed to pursue public ownership of Cal Am, an idea that Monterey voters narrowly rejected a year ago. Riley and the organization support desalination as a solution to the region’s water-supply problem but they argue that the state Public Utilities Commission will be making a huge and expensive mistake if it does not order serious study of alternate, cheaper proposals, the People’s Project and Deepwater Desal, or does not toss out the slant-well approach on grounds of inefficiency and expense.

A partial solution to one of the slant-well technology deficiencies was announced Tuesday, when Cal Am revealed a plan to sell fresh water to the Castroville area. The fresh water to be sold is same fresh water that the slant wells will draw into the desal plant, where it will be processed along with the sea water. That agreement settles one of several potential water rights disputes that Cal Am faces but it is an imperfect solution to a problem that would not exist if the slant wells worked as intended. The volume of freshwater pumped from the aquifer essentially increases the size and cost of the desal plant, an expense borne by Cal Am customers, but Castroville is not expected to pay a commensurate amount.

Among the revealing presentations Tuesday was one by retired mathematician and computer language expert David Beech. He demonstrated how Cal Am has misled the public and even the Coastal Commission by repeatedly suggesting that the test well would extend 1,000 feet into the sand below Monterey Bay. In fact, Beech showed, the drilling angle and the location of the inland wellhead reduce the overall length to just 724 feet and the net effect is that only the final 35 feet of the well are in contact with ocean water.

Most of the water pumped into the desal plant under the current design would come from the freshwater aquifer, Beech and others concluded, which strongly suggests that there is no reason to use expensive slant-well techniques when vertical wells drilled directly into the aquifer would produce approximately the same result. The idea of switching to vertical wells was even endorsed Tuesday night by Paul Bruno, president of Monterey Peninsula Engineering, an aggressive backer of Cal Am’s desalination project. EDITOR’S NOTE: Bruno now denies having said this. He said his comment was that vertical wells would be less expensive than slant wells. 

Another speaker, water activist and retired teacher Michael Baer, complained that Cal Am and its contractors still have not fully tested the potential ramifications on the groundwater despite repeated urging from a hydrologist working for Salinas Valley ag interests.

Ron Weitzman of the Water Ratepayers Association of the Monterey Peninsula, another proponent of public ownership and alternate proposals, used computer modeling to demonstrate his assertion that Cal Am has intentionally manipulated its measurements of sea level and groundwater levels in order to make its plans appear logical.

Riley noted that the cost of the testing has risen steadily, adding additional costs to a project that will result in astronomical water bills throughout Cal Am’s local service area. The initial estimate for the testing was $4 million, which rose to $7 million as a result of both avoidable and unavoidable delays. It rose next to $10 million, which doesn’t include the costs of special review by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The overall cost of the plant is now estimated at more than $300 million.

If Cal Am shareholders were responsible for the costs, they would have ended the slant-well experiment long ago in favor of something more efficient and less expensive, Riley insisted. Unfortunately, though, common sense does not prevail when the regulators and the utility know that the costs of every misstep will be passed directly to the water ratepayers.

Riley said there is no longer any question that a desalination plant will be built. A looming cease-and-desist order on the overuse of Carmel River water has created enormous political pressure to find a solution and nothing on the horizon presents meaningful competition to desalination, Riley acknowledged. It is entirely likely, he said, that the various state agencies will approve the overall project even before the environmental impact study for the plant has been completed and before various other water rights issues have been adjudicated.

What is important now, he said, is for Cal Am customers and their elected leaders to persuade state officials to stand up to the momentum and take a long and deep look at the costs of staying on the current path. Both the alternate plant proposals and simpler well technology promise lower costs for the ratepayers, he said, and it is the responsibility of officialdom at the local and state levels to do everything they can to take the sting out of future water bills.

{ 23 comments }
Share

I read a piece in Politico the other day about how the Republican Party is shrinking, in part because Republicans tend to be older than Democrats, etc., and older people tend to die before younger people. The GOP leadership, being reasonably astute, undoubtedly recognizes the problem and is likely taking steps to address it. Among the first things it will take is to change the membership oath to no longer require newbies to pledge allegiance to Fox News, the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove.
announcement, conference or political campaign

Locally, the party is taking a different approach to build up its muscle. Classified advertising.

The Salinas-based campaign management firm of Paramount Consulting, also known as Andrew Russo, is running ads in the Craigslist employment section seeking Republican candidates for everything from school boards to the state Senate.

Russo doesn’t require an oath but potential candidates “must be pro-business and fiscally conservative.”

“Some record of prior community involvement (is) highly desirable.”

Paramount lists a long list of previous clients who made it into office, including Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal, Congressman Jeff Denham, Salinas school board members Jim Reavis and Lila Cann, former Monterey County Supervisor Judy Pennycook and former Monterey City Councilman Jeff Haferman. That is quite a list but that’s all I’m going say about that.

Also going the Craigslist route is the Monterey County Republican Party, which has been looking for an executive director for quite some time now. That might be because of the compensation. At first I thought it was a typo: $2,500 to $3,000 per month depending on experience. Seems to me that no self-respecting, Democrat-disrespecting Republican would take a job in that range. Maybe it’s a test.

Despite the puny pay, it’s a big job. There are funds to be raised, an office to manage, reporters to be dealt with, interns and volunteers to be supervised, Facebook pages to be fed and a board to be interacted with. The successful candidate has to be skilled in Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, DreamWeaver, Indesign, and Adobe Acrobat. Finally, he or she “should have a sense of humor.”

That last requirement is key. The executive director would be dealing with people such as Brandon Gesicki, who placed the ad, and businessman Paul Bruno, two of the most madcap merrymakers to ever try to stuff a ballot box for comic effect.

Brandon “Why Doesn’t Anyone Like Me” Gesicki is one of those campaign managers who will use every trick in the book, every type of deceptive advertising, phony front groups and various intimidation tactics and then tell you he is doing it to prevent the GOP from being taken over by unprincipled people.

Speaking of Gesicki, he’s also advertising on Craigslist for interns for his own office, Capitol Consulting.

He describes it as “an incredible opportunity for anyone wanting to break into public relations and politics.”

The positions are unpaid for three to six months but will turn into paid positions at some point. There is no mention of college credit but, hey, there might be a Republican president by the time the IRS comes around asking questions.

Gesicki says he is looking for someone with good technical skills but he doesn’t mention anything about working on a web site, which is kind of surprising considering that his company’s website is still soliciting clients for the 2013 election and doesn’t include last year’s sheriff’s race as one of his success stories.

On his website, he does make it clear, though, that politics is a “full contact sport” and that “winning is everything.” The part about public service and philosophy is missing from the pages, but that’s merely an oversight. There is a section for  testimonials and I’m sure it will be very interesting when it is no longer  “under construction.”

Come to think of it, maybe I should apply, if not for an internship, possibly the exec director’s job. I have a sense of humor, or at least I did before I became old enough to be a Republican.

{ 8 comments }