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Psst. Want to hear a secret? Well OK then, just don’t tell the papers or anyone at Monterey City Hall. Knowledge is power and loose lips, and all that.

Here goes: At least 12 people have applied for appointment to the Monterey Planning Commission and there’s a good chance a couple of them will be appointed next Tuesday.  And there is quite a behind-the-scenes effort underway at the moment to make sure one of the favorites doesn’t make it.

The applicants are:

  • Paul W. Davis
  • Mike Dawson
  • Sharon Dwight
  • Daniel Fletcher
  • Thomas Hamrick
  • Terry Latasa
  • Bill McCrone
  • Stephen Millich
  • Luis Osorio
  • David Stocker
  • Susan Theodore
  • Kathleen Wall

Davis, Osorio, Stocker and McCrone are on the commission now and have been for a while. There hasn’t been much public discussion of the applicants, largely because Mayor Clyde Roberson thinks the applications are confidential. Fortunately for the forces of light and common sense, they actually are public record.

Normally, Planning Commission appointments in Monterey receive scant attention. That’s partly because the commissioners tend to stay put and openings don’t occur that often. Mayor Roberson is changing that up, however. He and the other member of the City Council’s nominating committee, Alan Haffa, sent emails to a couple of the incumbents a few weeks back, politely but clearly suggesting they look for some other way to be of service. Davis and Stocker got the notes but not the message for they both submitted applications for reappointment.

The mayor’s note said he thinks there should be limits on how long commissioners serve. Most of the rest of the council seems to agree on that though one council member, Libby Downey, thinks there should be some policy set on that question or, at the very least, an open discussion and maybe even some talk about qualifications and that sort of thing. When it came time for a second to that motion last week, council chambers got really quiet. The other four council members surely had reasons for their silence but they weren’t sharing.

Anyway, the bookie who services City Hall says the odds are good that Stocker and Fletcher are history, and by that, he doesn’t mean the Historic Preservation Commission, though there are applicants for that as well. (Carole Dawson, Charles Denley, Laurie Hambaro, Jennifer Lambert-Hamrick and Jerilynn Smith-Crivello.)

The odds-on favorites to fill in for Stocker and Fletcher as of Wednesday were Mike Dawson and Sharon Dwight, both of whom have been exceedingly active in their neighborhood organizations. Dawson has run for office several times and come close. He’s a nice guy, exceptionally knowledgable on city affairs.

Dwight has been a tireless advocate for neighborhood funding and is well known in and around City Hall. Too well known, according to some.

Back before Roberson was mayor, Mayor Chuck Della Sala sent a strongly worded letter to Dwight, calling her down for creating “an unwelcome and inappropriate confrontation” with planning commissioners in June 2014. Read it for yourself.

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The letter started making the rounds Wednesday. I got it from a Twitter posting by Herald reporter Phil Molnar. There’s more to the story than that but I’ll let him tell it.

The good news is that McCrone is likely to stick around even though he is one of the City Hall’s all-time top feather rufflers, agitating as he has against sweetheart lease deals at Fisherman’s Wharf. Coming up soon is a political fight over the amount of parking near the wharf and losing someone with McCrone’s knowledge and stamina now might have signaled that the public was going to come out on the short end. Roberson would rather appoint just about anyone other than McCrone but in politics timing is everything.

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BULL AND BEARWhen things are going well, the Buich brothers are a couple of affable guys. Their family has been in the restaurant business for decades and they generally understand how the hospitality business works. But when things aren’t going so well, it becomes a different story, one that won’t necessarily have a happy ending.

Brothers Anthony and Alex Buich own and operate the Bull and Bear Whiskey Bar and Tap House on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, formerly known as the Mucky Duck. It is the liveliest nightspot downtown, with music and sometimes boisterous crowds. For the most part, that’s all fine and good. But sometimes things get a little too lively, according to the Monterey Police Department, which says the places accounts for far more than its share of police calls in the area.

So this week, in an effort to calm things down, the Monterey City Council ordered the bar to close an hour early—1 a.m. instead of 2 a.m.—for the next three months. Councilman Ed Smith suggested the proprietors were lucky that closing time wasn’t set much early. Relations between the business and the city have been rocky for years, starting well before the Buich brothers acquired it, and city officials are justifiably tired of hearing that the place is being picked on.

So did the brothers go away contrite after the unanimous vote and full of promises to do better? Not according to what Anthony, the older brother, had to say on Facebook. He lit out at the council and Phil Molnar, the Monterey Herald reporter who had covered the proceedings.

First, he criticized Molnar for not mentioning “all the fundraising for military and the hosted events for local charities over the last 3-plus years under new management… .” (Reminds me of the defense fraternity presidents put up when their houses have come under any kind of scrutiny.) He also criticized Molnar for not having visited the establishment while working on the story, even though he had.

After Molnar politely responded, Anthony poured it on.

“Phil, you disgust me,” he wrote. Really. But he wasn’t finished. “You and the city council are about as clueless as it can be. You helped crush the income of over 20 people with your garbage. Nice work. You write like a child.”

I don’t want to make too much of this. When we’re angry many of us say things we shouldn’t. I also wouldn’t want the City Council to hold this against the business going forward. But it leaves me unconvinced that the proprietors have been as diligent as they claim about addressing the issues, which primarily relate to a simple matter of allowing some customers to drink more than they should.

I like to see people downtown. It’s nice knowing that there’s a place where people can go to dance and drink, a place where young people can act like young people. I’d like to see more places with live music and large crowds, places that don’t close down at sunset.

But making nightclubs work well is a  tough job and a big responsibility. It takes cooperation between the staff and law enforcement. The Buich brothers say that their place has a disproportionate number of police responses because the staff is quick to call the police when appropriate. That’s a good thing and if it’s true, the police know it. But it takes even more than that to make a lively nightspot a welcome neighbor. Among other things, it takes a good attitude, and that’s something that at least one of the Buich brothers simply doesn’t have.

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If you know anything at all about architecture, anything, you know more than I do. In journalism school, my professors told us not to become expert, even adequate, at anything because it would only confuse us later. I took the advice to heart particularly when it came to architecture. You could say I’m the Sgt. Schultz of architecture.

What I do know is that most buildings probably should have some architecture and it is probably better if it is not the result of committee action or popular vote. I understand there are examples of excellent architecture in the world, mostly in other countries these days, and that Mr. and Mrs. Average Person in Barcelona or Tokyo or Sydney might have vetoed the designs if they could.

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Having said all that, let me just go out on a skinny limb to say I’m not so sure about the design for the makeover of the Monterey Conference Center. That’s that big space next to the Portola Plaza Hotel. Several floors tall. Panetta Lectures. First Night shows. You know the place.

I know enough about architecture to know that the firm that drew up the initial drawings, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is a big name in architecture, as in the new World Trade Center building. I recognize the Skidmore name and I think the only other name in architecture that would ring a bell is I.M. Pei. I’m not sure if that is a person or a company. Oh, yeah, there’s Skadden Arps. Oops, wait a minute. That’s a law firm.

My initial reaction to seeing the drawing above in the Monterey Herald was that it was a throwback, something from the Herald’s archives, perhaps the unveiling of drawings for a post office in Marina, circa 1972.

I mean, it looks fine. It looks like a place where medical device salesman from throughout the tri-state region could hold a fine conference and/or convention. There is nothing about the look that would prevent any of the attendees from pinning on their nametags and walking right on in. I have been to quite a few conferences in important places like Indianapolis and Dallas, even Phoenix, and I must admit I remember much more about the hotel bars than I do about how the convention center looked.

Phil Molnar, the Herald reporter who wrote about the design’s debut, shared on his blog that he has been getting some heat from people who thought he shouldn’t have given so much space to those who were less than delighted with the look.

“It’s going to have to look way different or I’m going to hear about it,” said Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson, who never struck me as a troublemaker. Sounds like fair comment. It’s not as though he had compared it to a slaughterhouse or said the architects should be arrested.

You know a design debut isn’t going well when the response to the response is that it’s a work in progress, it’s a first draft, nothing’s set in stone. Oh, this? It’s just some concepts we were tossing around.

That’s probably a good approach whenever the audience gets its first look and grimaces. But there is a body of thought that in architecture, unlike in writing, first drafts should be discarded, not reworked or merely edited. “All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft, for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come, in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail and ornament, alas!” Who said that? T.E. Lawrence, alias Lawrence of Arabia, who was not an architect. At least he wasn’t in the movie.

In fairness, it should be noted that this is a makeover, a remodeling, not a start from scratch, reach for the stars design. This is like plastic surgery on an older person. If people don’t point at the result and whisper, “Look like it’s had some work,” the designers can claim some measure of success.

Also, it’s not like the city and Monterey’s hospitality-hydrology complex are rolling in dough, even though they just may be. This is quasi-government stuff. There is a budget, dammit, and someone is going to get some pretty stern looks from someone if it is broken.

The Partisan is hoping, of course, to hear from Partisan supporters about what you think of the one and only picture we were able to get showing how this thing might look. Heck, we’d even like to hear from non-supporters, those of you who only read the Partisan in order to find out what “those people” are up to.

Chime in. The comment section starts just a couple of inches below here.

Cheers.

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New labor contract reached at the Monterey Herald

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Herald Guild

Herald union activists celebrate after signing a new labor contract this week. From left, they are crime reporter Ana Ceballos, photographer David Royal, reporter Dennis Taylor, graphics editor/night editor James Herrera, sportswriter/editor Tommy Wright, business writer and Guild unit Chairman Phil Molnar, and reporters Julia Reynolds and Claudia Melendez Salinas. Union members at the Monterey Herald

Union members at the Monterey Herald announced Thursday that they had signed a new labor contract providing them with one extra paid holiday annually  a cap on health care costs and increased cell phone reimbursements but no raises.

Business writer and Newspaper Guild unit Chairman Phil Molnar said, “We would have liked a raise but we are glad to have finally reached an agreement after more than a year of hard work by Guild members.”

Thirty-eight Herald employees had signed a position asking Herald Publisher Gary Omernick to agree to the first increase in base pay in four years. During that period, employees were required to take unpaid weeklong furloughs. Union members had conducted a campaign that included rallies and participation in a national campaign urging Digital First Media to find new ownership for the Herald and other papers in the national chain.

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