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thai boxingJUNE ELECTION TO HAVE IMPORTANT LOCAL IMPACT

If you like your politics rough, you may enjoy the classic contest shaping up between Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue for the right to represent District 4, which takes in Seaside, Marina and some of Salinas.

New campaign expenditure reports show that Donohue has tapped into his colleagues from agribusiness, picking up $20,000 checks from some of the Salinas Valley heavy hitters. The reports also show that Donohue has been working with two campaign management firms with reputations for sharp-elbow tactics. One of them, Pivotal Campaign Services, features Christian Schneider, who teamed with local Brandon Gesicki last year to run the below-the-belt campaign that dislodged Sheriff Scott Miller and replaced him with under-qualified Steve Bernal.

Donohue also has been paying for advice from Robert Dempsey, who in just two years went from being executive director of the state Democratic Parties in Vermont, North Carolina and Virginia to freelance campaign manager. On this coast, he is best known for his coaching of San Diego Congressman Scott Peters, who rode to a 2014 victory over a Tea Party-backed challenger in a campaign that is considered one of the nastiest in San Diego history, which is saying something.

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Donohue campaign consultant Robert Dempsey

Donohue is, like Parker, a Democrat but he fancies himself as a champion of commerce and innovation. The tone of his campaign was likely set at his formal announcement last month when Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen labeled Parker’s supporters as “radical zealots” intent on imposing a “primitive” lifestyle on the citizenry.

Parker supporters bristle at the description, but she does have the environmental vote sewn up. In her two board terms, she often has been the lone vote against major development proposals, most of which have featured glaring deficiencies such as inadequate water supplies.  Supervisor Dave Potter, who is facing a big-league challenge from Mary Adams, has joined Parker on the losing side of some development votes in recent months but it appears to be campaign strategy rather than a genuine philosophical shift.

In terms of political style, the candidates are opposites as well. Parker is quiet and studious, conscientiously reading the voluminous staff reports that often go unopened on the desks of some of her board colleagues. Donohue is boisterous and even boastful, full of ideas but not necessarily the means to carry them through. He has been heavily involved in produce sales and marketing most of his life.

In the money-collection period that ended in December, Donohue picked up just over $100,000, putting his total at $164,000. Big spenders in his camp, at $20,000 apiece, were Rick Antle of the Tanimura & Antle produce concern,  Newstar Fresh Foods, Nunes Co. and, of course, the Salinas Valley Leadership Group. That is the political action committee put together by contractor Don Chapin to pursue a pro-development agenda at every level of government. Not far behind was Church Brothers, another large agri-biz concern, at $15,000.

While Donohue was receiving his $100,000, Parker was picking up $34,900, but her campaign treasury stood at $147,000, including some loans.

Her biggest contributor for the period at $9,250 was Shirley Devol of Carmel, who lists her occupation as consultant. Her late husband, Kenneth, was a journalism professor. Others writing sizable checks to the Parker campaign were women’s rights activist Margaret Schink, $2,500; the Democratic Women of Monterey County, $2,000; Harriet Mitteldorf and school counselor Doreen Gray, $1,500 apiece; and Monterey neighborhood activist Mike Dawson, physicist David Fried, Ann Fitzpatrick of Salinas, Lowel Figen, George Thomas and art dealer Susan Schlumberger, $1,000 apiece.

Other notable contributors to Parker were state Sen. Bill Monning, $274, and Peninsula water activist George Riley, $224.

Parker’s campaign advisers, according to the filings, are the Lew Edwards Group in Oakland and community activist Elizabeth Panetta.  Lew Edwards principal Catherine Lew has managed numerous campaigns up and down California.

Responses to this and other pieces in the Partisan are encouraged. Publication of reader comments, and the pieces themselves, do not constitute any endorsement of the positions presented. The Partisan greatly prefers accurately attributed comments that avoid personal attacks.

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Sheriff badgeIt took no time at all for Sheriff Steve Bernal’s fledgling administration to provide the Scott Miller camp with its first “I told you so” moment. In fact, Bernal hadn’t actually started when he declared that he would reverse six promotions that Miller had approved in his final week as Monterey County sheriff.

It turned out, as most knew it would, that the promotions of six deputies to sergeant had been handled appropriately and that Bernal had no authority to simply declare the six unpromoted. The are rules governing such things. It was a small victory for Miller and his supporters who had argued vigorously but vainly that Bernal simply doesn’t have the experience needed to lead a department of 400-plus law enforcement professionals.

But rather than hope for additional opportunities to be proved right, the Partisan is hoping that Bernal has learned some important lessons here and that this humbling experience has put in a new frame of mind. We’re hoping that he realizes soon that the people who got him where he is today will now be seeking their rewards, to the benefit of themselves and not the sheriff or his department.

Bernal’s decision to declare the promotions invalid was encouraged by the Deputy Sheriffs Association, the union that had worked tirelessly in support of his candidacy. If it did not occur to the new sheriff that leaders of the DSA wanted some of those promotions for themselves, let us hope that a lightbulb went off when the county personnel experts told Bernal he couldn’t do what he tried to do.

From within the department and without, Bernal surely is being peppered with suggestions and advice, and some of it is probably worthwhile. But he needs to know that most of the advice will come with a price and the suggestions will, for the most part, be self-serving. Because he had never been a manager before, he might not know that many subordinates who smile at the boss are not as kindly when the boss isn’t around. He may not know that all those invitations he receives these days are not a sign that he has suddenly become cool or popular.

Bernal will have the opportunity to appoint community members to advisory committees and such things as search and rescue squads, both real and honorary. He would be ill-advised to simply hand out appointments to those who contributed to his campaign. There are highly qualified people in the large group that did not contribute. He will be asked again and again to put his thumb on the process of approving concealed weapons. It is safe to say that a significant percentage of the South County ag types who supported his campaign would love to have licenses to carry the handguns they keep in their glove compartments. He will be told that the company that supplies linens or whatever to the jail supported Miller and needs to be replaced by a company headed by Republicans. The input will be voluminous and might seem helpful initially.

Bernal isn’t likely to see this article on his own. He isn’t yet a subscriber to the Partisan and we are not Facebook friends. But perhaps a mutual friend somewhere in the community will bring it to his attention. If so, we’ll capsulize the message here because we know he’s busy.  Steve: Don’t do anything without talking to the county personnel office first. Also, tell the County Counsel’s Office that you want the sharpest attorney there to be your legal adviser.

Bernal’s successful campaign against Sheriff Scott Miller was quite a scrap and there are many of us who remain irritated, or worse, by  the campaign techniques executed on Bernal’s behalf by his campaign management and the local Republican Party cabal. But the losing camp cannot claim any higher ground if we spend the next several months or longer simply sitting back and enjoying the gaffes. The Sheriff’s Department is a huge part of the local law enforcement establishment and bad or overly political decisions at the top can be dangerous for the community and everyone under Bernal’s command. If he listens too often to those whose goal is simply to get Republicans in office or who want to pass out get-out-of-jail cards to their friends, disasters loom.

Immediately upon Bernal’s victory, Monterey’s leading public relations practitioner, David Armanasco, volunteered his services to help the new sheriff with the transition. It may have been a nice thing to do but Bernal shouldn’t keep that relationship going any longer than necessary. The public information function for law enforcement agencies needs to be in-house and should be handled by sworn officers, the higher the rank the better. Having an outside consultant handle information or interview requests makes the process far too political.

Bernal quickly made several key appointments to his upper ranks and, to his credit, some of the chosen came from outside the department. That could prove wise because the appointees have significant experience. But if Bernal had appointed from within the department, he would have created several additional opportunities for promotion. Grumbling over that has already begun within the ranks and Bernal will learn soon that those who were quick to support his candidacy will be just as quick to turn on him when they feel they have been unfairly denied a chance to move up. He will learn soon, if he hasn’t already, that he can’t depend on political connections and friendships to help him sort out his complicated task. He has a big job to do and he needs the best help he can get.

The new sheriff in town also will have to break some of his campaign promises because if he doesn’t, the Sheriff’s Department will all but disintegrate. He promised deputies that there would be no change in overall scheduling practices without unanimous consent. In almost any organization, unanimity is an impossibility. He said deputies would be asked to volunteer for training opportunities but would not be forced into any. What if there are not enough volunteers for a specialized task. Will the task simply be abandoned?

Bernal has a big job. A week or so in, he may have some idea of just how big. Those who supported him during the race, and those who did not, should do what they can to help him succeed. The energy that people might have been put into undermining him would be put to better use wishing him well and working to convert the sheriff’s job into an appointive rather than an elected position.

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Proprietor’s note: To the surprise of many veteran political observers in Monterey County, sheriff’s deputy Steve Bernal upset the incumbent, Sheriff Scott Miller, in the Nov. 4 election. Residents of Monterey County are left with an unusually inexperienced young deputy to lead the largest law enforcement agency on the Central Coast, which has prompted some to call for taking the sheriff’s position out of electoral politics and making it subject to appointment. When asked by reporters to explain what happened and what it means for the county, Miller responded with this post mortem)

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While many contributing factors appear to have influenced voters in the election for Monterey County sheriff, the results of the race can be traced, in large part, to two major factors unrelated to the qualifications of either candidate to hold the office: 1) strategic phone polling and 2) campaign contributions, in the form of special interest money and one very rich relative.

On a quiet evening last summer during the lull between the primary and general elections I received a phone call at home from a political research pollster working for the Bernal campaign. I was asked a series of questions all prefaced with the phrase: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate if you knew…?”

There were questions related to endorsements: ”Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate if they were endorsed by former Sheriff Kanalakis? Former Sheriff Gordon Sonne? Governor Jerry Brown?” There was a Bernal campaign favorite: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if you knew there had been eleven claims of discrimination or harassment filed against him?

Sheriff Scott Miller

Sheriff Scott Miller

And perhaps the pivotal question and the pivotal moment in the 2014 campaign for sheriff: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if you knew he had received a vote of no confidence from the deputy sheriff association?”

I asked the pollster if Sheriff Miller had actually received a vote of no confidence. The pollster ignored my question and repeated the one he had originally asked: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if you knew he had received a vote of no confidence?” After several more attempts to clarify whether such a vote had actually taken place and several more rebuffs by the pollster, I gave my answer: “I would be MORE likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if I knew he had received a vote of no confidence.”

In actuality, I just wanted to move on to see what the rest of the questions were like. I mean, who in their right mind would actually be more likely to vote for a sheriff candidate who had received a vote of no confidence? Is that a condition or attribute that engenders confidence in a candidate for sheriff? Perhaps I’d be neutral on the issue if I had other information that would override the impact of a no confidence vote, but the pollster didn’t provide “neutral” as an option. It struck me that “less likely” was virtually assured of a response near 100%, unless you were the candidate in question.

Coincidentally, they were speaking to the candidate in question. I’m Sheriff Scott Miller. I thought at the time that I was really glad I hadn’t received a vote of no confidence. That would be powerful stuff. Good thing, I thought, that I hadn’t done a thing to merit such a vote.

This polling conversation took place months before I actually received a vote of no confidence from the Monterey County Deputy Sheriff Association (DSA). At the time of the phone call no one had mentioned the possibility of such a vote taking place. Even with the typical political murmuring taking place within the Sheriff’s Office during campaign season, everything seemed to be moving along reasonably well. Positive progress during my first term as sheriff had been steady and, in some cases, remarkable when compared to the work of previous sheriffs.

Most importantly, the lines of communication between the DSA and my administration were solidly in place. There were few, if any, complaints being voiced by the DSA leadership during our regular monthly meetings about any job-related issues under my control that weren’t already addressed or being addressed. Under my watch, training had doubled, special units had been restored, better equipment had been provided, staffing had been added and patrol deputies had been moved from fatiguing 12- hour shifts to 10-hour shifts. I had obtained funding to construct a critically needed jail expansion that would improve staff safety, funding that had been sought unsuccessfully by my predecessors. I had treated staff with respect, dignity and support and had participated in every department-sponsored social event to which I had been invited. In short, none of the conditions existed that normally lead to no confidence votes.

About two months after the phone poll, I heard a rumor that the DSA board was going to press the membership to conduct a no-confidence vote on me. (They had previously voted to endorse my opponent in the general election, Deputy Steve Bernal, in a secretive and equally dubious process). I learned the no-confidence vote movement was triggered at a DSA meeting attended by only 17 members of the 300-plus member DSA and, by special invitation, my opponent, Deputy Bernal, and one of his campaign handlers, Brandon Gesicki. According to individuals present, Bernal and Gesicki addressed the group for half an hour, encouraging them to conduct a vote of no confidence, advising them (based on the results of their phone polling) of the power such an action could have in the race for sheriff and of the relevance the DSA could regain by impacting the race. At the end of their presentation the members present voted 12 to 5 to hold such a vote.

I was never notified of the pending vote by DSA leadership. I was never given an opportunity to address the membership regarding the vote or provide a rebuttal to the one-sided, inflammatory and inaccurate information given to DSA voters in support of the vote, which was apparently scripted by the Bernal team. Points made as grounds for the no-confidence vote centered largely on actions, real and imagined, of my adult son and his friends, not on my actual performance as sheriff. I didn’t learn the specifics of what DSA members were being told until after the vote had concluded, when I read the information in a newspaper account.

Having heard that a vote of no confidence might be pending, I distributed an email to department employees reminding them of the many accomplishments we had achieved together during my term as sheriff, which amounted to three single-spaced pages of meaningful organizational improvements. As a result of my email I was threatened by the DSA board with legal action for “campaigning on duty;” not directly, but through a press release they and their attorneys issued to all media outlets. DSA leadership and their lawyers had morphed from a union-like organization interested in protecting the rights of their membership to an arm of the Bernal campaign. Not only was I denied the opportunity to address the allegations made in support of the vote of no confidence, I was threatened for distributing a generic list of achievements. They wanted to block any communication between the DSA membership and me, while they and Bernal’s team had unfettered access to them. This didn’t exactly amount to a democratic process or level playing field.

I was given no opportunity to have anyone from my side participate in monitoring the vote, which was purportedly done electronically. The votes were tabulated by the DSA president and his designees, who were already in my opponent’s camp. Ultimately the DSA president reported that, based on the secret vote conducted by him, approximately a third of the membership eligible to vote had voted to support the vote of no confidence. No mention was made that two-thirds of those eligible to vote either chose not to vote or voted to support me. Also not addressed was whether the vote actually qualified as an official vote under DSA bylaws, since the amount of votes received did not amount to a majority of eligible DSA voters, a contention that in 1998 helped propel detective Gordon Sonne into office as sheriff.

Regardless of the process used to obtain it, there can be no denying that the wielding of this “vote of no confidence” became a critical element in the campaign for sheriff. There was a top-of-the-fold headline in a local newspaper trumpeting the fact that there was going to be a no confidence vote, before the vote was actually conducted, followed by top-of-the-fold headlines following the vote. It became the centerpiece for every piece of campaign material coming from the Bernal camp from that point forward. A barrage of television commercials centered on the vote, (along with my alleged responsibility for all gang violence in the county, rising property crime rates and graffiti on the former Fort Ord). The Bernal message largely became the no confidence vote. Their message reflected the strategic direction of their phone polling.

Of course, such a message would have been limited in its effectiveness without the means to distribute it to the largely uninformed masses. Deputy Bernal, who couldn’t find the money to pay his monthly mortgage or car payments, managed to amass the largest campaign treasury to run for the Office of the Sheriff in the history of Monterey County. He bragged about raising $65,000 in one evening, actually suggesting at a forum that he could do the same to help fund any shortfalls in the Sheriff’s Office budget if he were elected, (such being his naiveté regarding the office and the budget process).

Much of his funding came by way of Margaret Duflock, a ranching and oil magnate, who is the mother-in-law of Bernal’s brother. She gave Bernal hundreds of thousands of dollars, via direct donations, loans and contributions to political action committees (PACS), which then steered the money to Bernal. She reportedly gave $25,000 to the DSA, which has usually been strapped for money, following its endorsement of Bernal and the no-confidence vote, as if to pay them for their actions. With her bottomless checkbook and ability to influence other donors, the Bernal campaign was able to run near-constant campaign attack ads on every local television station, day and night, seven days a week, throughout the month leading up to Election Day.

The lack of any limitations on campaign donations in Monterey County clearly facilitated the metamorphosis of a candidate who, by any objective measure, lacked the bona fides to serve as an executive or manager in any law enforcement organization in the United States, into sheriff-elect of the largest law enforcement agency on the Central Coast. In military terms, the Army private has managed to become the commanding general overnight. What I had diligently prepared for through education, training, experience and performance over the course of 38 years, Bernal achieved by attending Thanksgiving dinner with his brother’s mother-in-law. In other words, Bernal and his donors, with the assistance of the co-opted president of the Deputy Sheriff Association, were able to buy the Monterey County Office of the Sheriff as if it were a very expensive truckload of alfalfa hay.

Those of us who care about public safety in these parts should be troubled, not only with how this campaign was won, but with the troubling thought that this may now become the model as to how sheriffs in this county are elected going forward.

The timing was perfect for the type of campaign that relies on smoke screens and misdirection. Bernal’s handlers wisely kept the candidate sequestered from direct media access whenever possible. They cancelled his attendance at public forums after seeing how poorly he performed in them. They repeatedly made claims that were without merit and easily refutable, but who stepped up to question the veracity of these claims?

Our community’s historic fact-checkers–seasoned journalists with a thirst for the truth–have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Daily coverage of the sheriff’s race was delegated largely to inexperienced reporters who often seemed to receive little guidance from editors who, in fairness, likely had more important things to do, like figuring out how to save their newspapers.

After months-long hesitation, the local daily newspapers finally came on board. The Monterey County Herald and Salinas Californian issued strong and unequivocal endorsements for my re-election in late September. (To their credit, Californian political columnist Jeff Mitchell, Mary Duan and her staff at the Monterey County Weekly and Royal Calkins of the Monterey Bay Partisan had it right from the beginning). The endorsements used phrases like “the choice for sheriff is so clear, even the Herald got this one right;” “thankfully, this choice is an easy one;” and “Bernal is unqualified to be sheriff.” Bernal’s campaign and his handlers were categorized in various press reports as “slimy,” and “liars.” Obviously, the results of this election leave us with questions as to how many voters actually still read daily newspapers and the overall impact of (late-arriving) editorial endorsements.

Oddly, the only real issue germane to my bid for re-election–my performance as sheriff–was virtually ignored by the press. Instead, I was battered almost daily by press releases from the Bernal camp over largely nonsensical, trivial and irrelevant issues. These press releases, which in years past would have been tossed in the trash can by discerning newspaper editors, were usually published on the top of the fold after I was asked for a comment. While I provided copies of my resume, future strategic plans and accomplishments as sheriff to local media, they seemed to prefer dealing in the raucous allegations fed to them by my opponent. This strategy skillfully distracted the public from the real issues.

Broadcast news was largely missing in action, save an excellent profile piece on both candidates by Felix Cortez of KSBW, which was so revealing and instructive of the contrast between candidates that we posted it on our campaign website. KCBA Fox News doesn’t broadcast a local version of the news anymore, using instead an Oakland-based news show. Their sister station, KION News, who does, never contacted me about the election until they asked for an urgent sound bite—at 10 PM on election night, after all the polls had closed. If they ever covered the race, it was without my participation.

(After being contacted recently by a reporter from KION looking for my reaction to the latest election update, I asked her if the station had made a conscious decision to avoid covering the sheriff’s race. She told me KION station management had decided not to cover any local races, other than the fracking measure in San Benito County, because of the impact fracking might eventually have on Monterey County.)

I’ve been accorded the respect of my peers in the ranks of Monterey County law enforcement executives, who twice elected me president of our county law chief’s group and who unanimously endorsed my campaign for reelection. They universally praise the level of teamwork we have enjoyed the past four years, particularly compared to the relationship they had with my predecessor. Our interaction with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the cities in Monterey County has never been better. I have superior working relationships with every elected official who holds any sway on county issues, from the governor to local mayors. Many of them are mourning the pending change of leadership to an individual they have never met.

But while many may consider me an effective law enforcement executive, I certainly wouldn’t be mistaken for a formidable campaign manager or campaigner, at least not based on the results of this race. I made several decisions early on in this campaign that I was determined to follow, win or lose, which ultimately figured in the outcome:

First, I was asked to register as a Republican by the local party godfather-figure. (I am registered as a “decline to state” voter). I was told if I would do so, the Monterey County Republican Party would endorse and support only me, even though two of the candidates running against me in the primary, including Bernal, were Republicans. I was told the party would do their best to talk the others into dropping out of the race. I was offered the campaign management services of Brandon Gesicki, who ultimately ended up working with Deputy Bernal. I declined the proposal, choosing instead to remain independent, thus motivating county Republicans to work against me throughout the campaign.

In retrospect, if I had registered as a Republican I may have won the race in the June primary, but I didn’t want to feel compromised by a group who didn’t care about my skills as sheriff, but solely my party affiliation. Strategically, accepting the invitation would have been the smart campaign move. Of course, I wasn’t thinking like a politician. I was thinking like a cop who didn’t want to be led by the nose.

Second, I was determined to run on my qualifications and accomplishments. I was determined not to run attack ads or conduct negative campaigning against my opponent. I focused on Bernal’s lack of qualifications and experience, but avoided attacking the many vulnerable areas of his personal life and those of his campaign team. I believed my accomplishments as sheriff were substantial enough to carry the day. If the public didn’t agree, that was their call, but I wasn’t going to sling mud.

I kept this commitment, although in retrospect attack ads would have likely been more effective. I wasn’t willing to win at all costs, not being a true politician.

Third, I was determined to spend no more on my campaign than I could raise from donors. During the campaign for sheriff in 2010 I spent $122,500 of my own funds. Raising campaign funds is more difficult for some than it is for others, particularly when you are running for the office of the chief law enforcement officer in the county and you refuse to take money from people who expect favors in return. That severely limits the pool of potential major donors. I mean, who gives a candidate for sheriff thousands of dollars because of their winning smile? In any event, it became evident to me early on that I’d never be able to compete with the half million dollars or so that Bernal raised from relatives and special interests without selling my soul. I wasn’t willing to pay that price. Ultimately I spent another $40,000 of my personal funds on this race. Instead of raising campaign funds the past four years while in office, I chose instead to put my effort into running the Sheriff’s Office. Strategically, raising campaign funds through the years would have been the smart political play. Starting with an empty campaign treasury versus a bottomless checkbook obviously made the task of running a vibrant campaign an uphill climb.

My purpose in writing this piece is an attempt to provide some insight from my perspective to those who seemed baffled as to how a deputy with no leadership or management experience, no formal education beyond high school, no job development of any kind beyond entry level deputy, can win an election over an experienced, educated and highly qualified incumbent who, by most objective accounts, had accomplished more in four years as sheriff than my four predecessors combined. I invite an objective examination of my term in office to see if others agree with that conclusion. Otherwise, I’ll leave my efforts to be judged by history.

I wish the best for the people of Monterey County, particularly those who will suffer as a result of this election. Individuals who supported my administration are already being threatened with removal and intimidation by the camp of the sheriff-elect. He has looked into the personnel records of excellent current employees specifically to see if they are on probation and has intimated he will fire them, regardless of their performance, so he can replace them with his cronies. Rumors are he wants to hire family members, though he would have to violate county policy to accomplish that. He will come into office beholden to a large number of special interests and large donors, along with the architects of his largely unexpected victory, their clients and the mysterious business PACs who materialized to donate thousands to him.

My successor is unlikely to continue the community outreach efforts I had undertaken with the supporters of jail inmates, immigrant rights advocates and small neighborhood groups of Spanish-speakers in Castroville, Chualar and Pajaro. He has never participated in the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace in Salinas, the Monterey County Gang Violence Program, or any other community-based organization in Monterey County. He declined to attend a forum held by LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and, to my knowledge, has never attended a meeting of any civil rights group in Monterey County.

The sheriff-elect may not yet even realize how much he doesn’t know about the current state of the Sheriff’s Office, having overlooked reality to instead maintain his focus on campaign rhetoric. During an initial press interview with (now that the pesky fracking issue has been decided) KION News, Bernal said he will kick his administration off by improving relationships with other county police departments and communities, opening lines of communication, and so forth. He has no idea how strongly those ties already exist, albeit with an administration that will be leaving. He says he will strengthen the existing gang task force, apparently unaware that the task force is already the largest such team in California outside of Los Angeles. He says he will establish a violent crimes unit, again unaware of the mission and capabilities already in place.

And he certainly doesn’t know how he’ll pay for any of his plans, having little familiarity managing budgets, household or otherwise. The future outlook of the Sheriff’s Office budget looks pretty grim in the coming years, with expenses constantly escalating and revenues stagnant. The fact that he has never supervised a single employee means his learning curve will be immense, now that he will be responsible for more than 420 public safety employees, He will find that his new reality isn’t taking an occasional crime report and patrolling the fields of southern Monterey County; it’s now litigation, risk management, policy development, municipal budget management, managing complex human resources issues, crisis management and strategic planning, domains he knows absolutely nothing about. With luck, he’ll have the wisdom to bring in a team of experts to handle these critical issues, but they aren’t growing on trees and even the best advisors require executive oversight so as not to run amok. For the sake of public safety in Monterey County, let’s hope he chooses wisely.

I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to serve as your sheriff. I’m proud to have been in the fraternity of law enforcement professionals for thirty-one years. I will miss the profession, but I’m confident I will find other meaningful pursuits to fill my time. I wish you all the best.

 

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Transparency Word Magnifying Glass Sincerity Openness ClarityQuestion of the day:

What do the following have in common?

The Cannery Row Co. Pebble Beach Co. Granite Construction. Monterey County Business Council. Fort Ord Reuse Authority. FORA contractor EMC Planning Groupu.

First Tee. Granite Construction.Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. California Fisheries Association.

Monterey Convention and Business Bureau.  Carmel Mission Inn. Highlands Inn.

Several local law firms. Several local restaurants. A bank or two. Diocese of Monterey.

Give up?

Why, it’s David Armanasco. And the list of local companies and entities that are represented by his public relations firm goes on and on from there.

Now, add to the list the name of Sheriff-elect Steve Bernal.

As the vote count continued last week and it became increasingly clear that Deputy Bernal is going to upset Sheriff Scott Miller, Bernal announced that Armanasco will be handling his media calls and other public relations matters during the transition. No, strike that. Armanasco made the announcement.

It is a natural pairing. Bernal was backed heavily by the Republican Party locally and was backed by many key business figures, and those are Armanasco’s people. And Bernal apparently plans to keep up with his South County patrol duties for the time being, making it difficult for him to “interface” with community leaders, so he needs someone to serve as his proxy.

Armanasco is expert at dealing with the press and equally expert at ducking questions from the press. For instance, I asked him by email last week about the financial arrangements. Who’s paying him?

He responded quickly and pleasantly.

“We are helping through transition for Bernal.  He will not have any announcements until next week.  Since the incumbent has not conceded, Bernal has decided to wait for the latest vote count to be made public late Friday and the voter trend confirmed. Next week he will announce his transition adviser team.  He is still working on patrol so it helps him that we can field calls and make arrangements for him to respond to inquiries when he is off duty.”

Thanks, David, But who’s paying you?

Over the weekend, KSBW interviewed Bernal and asked if Armanasco was being paid out of campaign money. The answer was no. It apparently was a short interview and it wasn’t clear whether the reporter got a chance to ask a follow-up question.

Why does it matter who is paying Armanasco? Good question. Armanasco’s firm does all the things that most public relations firms do. It prepares news release and plans public relations strategies. It writes speeches for clients and helps craft their messages.But Armanasco goes a step farther. In addition to the other chores, he specializes in introducing clients to the right people, who, in many cases, are other clients.

If one was to draw a link chart showing connections between Monterey Peninsula businesses, governments and non-profits, Armanasco would be right in the middle like the hub of a wheel. He isn’t a powerful figure in his own right—though he did once serve on the Coastal Commission—but he’s friendly with the powerful people hereabouts and he’s not a bit shy about marketing his connections

Armanasco’s reach extends beyond the Peninsula as well. He is also a principal in a statewide lobbying and consulting company called California Strategies, which is made up of several former legislators and aides to high-ranking politicians. He joined the firm in October 2013, coincidentally the same month that it became the first company to be fined for lobbying without registering as a lobbyist or filing disclosure documents. Three principals, including former Central Coast legislator Rusty Areias, were ordered to pay $40,500 for lobbying the Legislature and the Air Resources Board on behalf of Boeing. One of the three ordered to pay the fine, Winston Hickox, is a former secretary of the state Environmental Protection Agency. His efforts helped Boeing avoid responsibility for cleaning up a toxic site near Los Angeles.

Look for Armanasco to spend many of his billable hours introducing Bernal to the powers that be on the Peninsula and beyond. Until his dark horse campaign, Bernal was an unknown on the Peninsula and in Sacramento, where he will need to focus much of his attention because of state funding issues. His 15 years in the Sheriff’s Department have been spent in South County and he lived much of that time in San Luis Obispo County. His kids go to school in Templeton.

During the campaign, GOP bigwigs introduced him to some of the right people on the Peninsula, those who could commit money and their good names to his campaign, but he still has some catching up to do. He still needs to meet construction company leaders. There are new jail facilities to be built. He needs to meet the bankers and architects and the lawyers and others on the Peninsula who have a growing interest in public safety in the unincorporated reaches of Monterey County.

Whether campaign contributions can be used for post-election PR isn’t entirely clear. Maybe Bernal’s family will pay Armanasco’s fees. Bernal’s brother, Mike, is a cattle rancher and his mother-in-law, Margaret Duflock is a rich cattle rancher. She contributed around half of the half million dollars he spent on the campaign. But if she pays, Bernal would eventually have to fill out a form reporting the gift.

There is a good chance then that Armanasco is working for free. Donating his time. He does that. He has worked pro bono numerous entities over the years.

One example comes to mind. Ten years ago, when the city of Salinas was struggling to find the money to keep its libraries open, city officials proposed several potential tax increases but was mostly focused on a sales tax increase. Along came the business community with an alternative. How about a utility tax on businesses?

It sounded so generous, so community-minded, and on top of that, David Armanasco would volunteer to help the city get the measure passed. For free.

Never mind that it was a virtual secret that there would be a cap on the utility tax, making it so that the maximum impact on any one business would be minimal. The utility tax would essentially cost businesses less than the alternatives. Never mind that some of the affected businesses were Armanasco clients.

Anything wrong with that? No. Anything illegal? Not a thing. It’s smart business, and many clients have found it smart business to hire Armanasco.

A couple years back, Supervisor Dave Potter was in some trouble because he had solicited and accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from developer Nader Agha and had asked Agha to make the check out to another fellow. Later, Agha found out that Potter had used the money for something other than his campaign, so he sued.

Armanasco, a longtime friend of Potter’s, went to work. He worked tirelessly to get Agha to accept an out-of-court cash settlement from Potter and to agree to make the amount and details confidential.Anything wrong with that? No, unless you think things like that ought to be worked out in public. Anything illegal? Well, yes, but not Armanasco’s part. And if it helped him get Potter’s support for his Deep Water desalination project, what’s so wrong about friends helping friends?

Armanasco is often quick to offer assistance. When I was editor of the Monterey Herald, I hired a business reporter. Armanasco quickly volunteered to hold a reception for the reporter and introduce him to the business community. My boss thought it was a great idea. I thought it was a horrible idea. The reporter was perfectly capable of meeting the business community on his own and I wasn’t interested in setting Armanasco up as a conduit to the Herald’s business page. I got my way but barely.

The point here is that Armanasco is part PR man, part schmoozer, part political fixer. Bernal can’t be blamed for wanting someone like that on his transition team. He doesn’t move in the same circles as Armanasco, and Armanasco certainly can help steer him in the right direction, even if it happens to be the direction that serves Armanasco and his clientele, the cream of the Peninsula.

But during the campaign, Bernal was quick to criticize Sheriff Miller for supposedly hiding things. Bernal says often that the public wants transparency, which means it wants access to information about how things work. If he meant a word of it, he needs to start by explaining his relationship with Armanasco and spelling out the financial arrangement. And if he doesn’t feel up to the task just yet, he could have Armanasco do it for him.

(Finally, though my prediction on the outcome of the sheriff’s race was a giant miss, allow me a couple more prognostications. I’m guessing that Bernal is going to name an old friend, Galen Bohner, from Southern California to the undersheriff spot or another top position and former sheriff’s Commander Mike Richards as a chief deputy. Some of his supporters won’t like the appointment of an outsider, though, because one promotion from inside the department leads naturally to two or three additional promotions from inside. So if Bernal changes his mind on that one, don’t hold it against me. Richards was terminated by Miller and later ran against him unsuccessfully. Bohner is a former Monterey County sheriff’s deputy who is now a lieutenant in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. For several years, he headed a regional gang task force in the high desert. Also said to be a serious contender for undersheriff or another top spot is Tracy Brown, a former sheriff’s commander who left the department when Miller was elected four years ago.)

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blindYou might remember when people used to say, “I don’t vote for the party. I vote for the person” Well, your friendly GOP is trying its damnedest to change that. Apparently Republican politics at the local level is now all about party affiliation, to heck with the persons, their philosophies or their qualifications.

Exactly why they would want to do that is known only to them, but a good example of the practice and its shortcomings is the apparent election of Steve Bernal as Monterey County sheriff. About the only thing the young deputy brings to the job is that big R, as in Sheriff Steve Bernal, R-South County.

Now, new evidence of the grand Republican plan comes from Paramount Communications in Salinas, where veteran campaign manager Andrew Russo is beating the bushes, almost literally, for Republicans to run for local office.

In a news release, Russo said his company is launching a recruiting drive for Republicans who might be interested in running for city councils, school boards or boards of supervisors, and for Republicans donors who might want to see more of their money used locally.

“We see a huge new wave of momentum for Republicans as a result of the historic wins in last week’s elections. We need to bring those successes to the Central Coast,” Russo said.

“Many of our Republican candidates are running and losing because of a lack of funding, organization, and effective campaign management. We are really doing a poor job of building our ‘farm team’ of local candidates.”

Russo said he’s looking for “new blood.”

“We want to go fishing in deeper waters, cast out the net to look for individuals who would be great candidates, but either never gave it much thought or didn’t know how to get started or who to talk to.”

Nowhere does he mention anything about looking for people with an interest in or experience in public service or governance, an interest in addressing society’s ills, in helping to advance their communities or bring people together or solve problems or make the world a better place. Maybe those are solely Democratic traits, or perhaps it is simply true that none of that matters to local leaders of one of the mainstream parties.

You might be under the impression that most local offices are and should be non-partisan. Well, for several years now, the Republicans have been taking advantage of your naivete and have been on a mission to build up the number of mayors and city council members who don’t mind sticking a capital R behind their names.

It’s been written here before but it bears repeating. Monterey County’s GOP chairman, Peter Newman, approached Sheriff Scott Miller before the current political season and made him an offer. If Miller, a registered independent, would register as a Republican, the GOP would back him for re-election. If not, it would find others to run against him.

Miller said no deal, so Newman and associates cast about and found two or three Republicans to run against Miller in the primary. Unfortunately, the least qualified of the bunch, Bernal, came in second in the primary and seems to have edged out Miller in the Nov. 4 voting. The vote count continues.

A few years back, Newman was bursting with pride because most of the mayors in Monterey County were Republicans. I never heard of him bragging about anything any of them had accomplished, but who would care about trivialities when there were so many Rs on the score sheet.

By the way, some of you may wonder why a publication calling itself the Partisan would be bothered by these examples of partisan behavior. It would be a fair question. The best answer I can muster is that partisan has more than one definition. There is, of course, this one: one who adheres blindly to a party. Peter Newman, for example. And then there is the somewhat overblown one I prefer: a member of a band of detached, irregular troops acting behind enemy lines.

And by the way, yes, I would have written this if the Democrats were up to the same kind of nonsense.

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Thinking ChildUpdate: New numbers late Friday put Miller farther behind…. 

When I was a young reporter at a paper in northern San Diego County, it was an everyday deal for 6 to 10 of us to lunch together.

Sometimes the crowd would swell with reporters from a few competing papers, and there would be more than a dozen of us for these movable feasts.

Then it came time to figure out the check. And the various formulas offered up to achieve equitable division of the sizable debt sounded like the confused squawks of a bunch of geese startled into flight.

I usually tossed a $20 bill in the center of the table, took my leave and expected to see the rest of my colleagues back in the newsroom in 45 minutes, seeking to recharge calculators and still wondering whether they got screwed on the charge for beverages.

Journalists are famous for their inability to get comfortable with numbers.

Perhaps, it’s because they can’t address gotcha questions to a long-division problem. No, a typical problem from a remedial arithmetic text suitable for seventh-graders shouts “Gotcha” at many of the able, skilled and star reporters I have known.

I know this because I was often asked to check on their calculations. Having gone all the way through calculus happily in high school, I was comfortable with a little basic algebra or solving the recorded value of a real estate transaction based on the transfer tax.

These moments made me feel like a magician, capable of pulling a rabbit with the ability to “cipher” from my notebook.

Invariably, I would try to show colleagues how easy their problems were to solve with three or four manipulations of the numbers. And they would invariably say, “I have never been good at math.”

To which I would say, “We’re not doing math here, but arithmetic. And arithmetic is not considered part of the math family. Math starts with algebra ….”

At which point, my colleague would hastily leave my locale before I could push the quadratic equation into the conversation like a giant bird breaking wind.

This week, when the final Election Night vote count and number of still uncounted Monterey County ballots were released, I hastened to put my arithmetic skills to test in gauging how Sheriff Scott Miller could overtake challenger deputy Steve Bernal in their tight race. I sadly report my first solution, which you may have seen on Twitter, was incorrect.

I worked and reworked the figures in my head for a couple nights before realizing where I had gone wrong. I was chastened, ashamed and could see the bright red “F” my favorite high school math teacher had written across the paper in my head.

But what really stands out about this numbered nostalgia is there once was a time when there were newspaper staffs at small daily papers large enough to command big tables at restaurants. And, even more fantastic, there were several competing papers in the same market with sizable staffs.

That’s because the only arithmetic operation the newspaper industry has seen during the past 30 years is subtraction, subtraction and more subtraction.

My advice to my colleagues in this shrunken, harried landscape, find experts to quote on their simple arithmetic questions.

To wit: Expert A said, “10 percent of 10 is one.”Expert B confirmed the number, adding, “Why are you asking me this, you dunderhead?”

The fact of the matter, based on the arithmetic, is that Miller needs about 52 percent of the uncounted Monterey County votes to catch Bernal.

Proprietor’s note: The Elections Office reports that it may have some additional numbers to report late today, Friday.

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Young man hiding in his jumperWhere to start?

It is a familiar feeling for most people who follow politics closely. Watching the numbers dribble in on election night, seeing a few pleasing results and then being blown away by that one decision that makes no sense at all, that makes you question the rationality and intelligence of slightly more than a majority of everyone in your community.

(New numbers expected at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Latest local results here)

I’m not talking about Howard Gustafson’s apparent re-election to the Marina Coast Water District board. I expected that one. He’s been around so long that people in that small district vote for him out of habit. Bad habit. The remarkable thing this time around is that he managed to get the endorsement of my former employer, the Monterey Herald. It is my sincere hope that some of the brighter lights in the community are letting the current Herald leadership know how wrong-headed that was.

I’m not talking about Alvin Edwards’ apparent defeat in Seaside. Excusing him from the City Council makes no sense except there is a good side, the apparent victory of Jason Campbell. Jason has a little to learn about diplomacy, but he will be a great councilman who will be of particular importance as the powers that be try to get the council to rubber stamp the ill-conceived Monterey Downs horse track development.

And I’m not talking about what happened in Monterey, where a relatively unknown and untested progressive, Timothy Barrett, apparently has displaced a known and tested progressive, Councilwoman Nancy Selfridge.

Not talking about the national results. Mitch McConnell will be his own undoing. National politics are a hopeless mess and will be until a new Supreme Court rules that passing money around in expensive briefcases does not constitute free speech.

No, not those results. I’m talking, of course, about what looks to be the outcome of the sheriff’s race, in which the experienced professional incumbent, Scott Miller, may have lost to the inexperienced, ethically challenged GOP front man, Steve Bernal. Enough absentee ballots remain uncounted to possibly turn this one around, but it’s not looking good at the moment.

As my colleague Larry Parsons tweeted earlier, the candidates at the end made this all about the media. The Bernal people say the media were out to get the young deputy, so much so that reporters were turned away from Bernal’s election night party. Miller says the media failed to focus on Bernal’s lack of qualifications and his deceptive and negative campaigning. As with many things political, there are grains of truth to both versions but this stunner wasn’t about the media.

Now that I am no longer toiling in the trenches of daily journalism, I have a different take on the definition of “the media,” but Bernal and Miller were talking about different arms of the octopus. Yes, the understaffed Herald and the Salinas Californian were highly reluctant to challenge the distortions offered up by Bernal’s handlers, Brandon Gesicki et al. Simple he said/she said journalism is easier and it plays into the hands of a campaign that decides to go with the big lie technique, a Gesicki specialty. But the Monterey County Weekly never fell for Gesicki’s schtick and this loud but undersized platform, the Partisan, was not at all shy about focusing on Bernal’s pathetic resume’ and Gesicki’s devotion to deception. KSBW did its part by reporting on Bernal losing his car to repossession during the primary campaign and losing his house to foreclosure, neither of which demonstrate enough financial prowess to help him understand how to hold a budget right-side up.

The winning strategy consisted largely of harping on the legal troubles of Miller’s son and manipulating the deputies’ union, the Deputy Sheriffs Association, into endorsing Bernal. I’m not enough of a social scientist to understand why so many sons and daughters of sheriffs and police chiefs get into trouble the way Miller’s son did. Fair game to a degree. But the Bernal/Gesicki crew managed to convince quite a few voters that Miller had countenanced the young man’s drug use and sales. The evidence of that? Not a shred. But when you say something enough times, some folks are prone to see things that aren’t there.

The Gesicki gang turned the DSA against Miller by having Bernal promise things he can’t deliver, like free lunches and veto power over deputy scheduling. The campaign also took advantage of a cultural rift between Miller and the deputies. In an era of increasing militarization of law enforcement agencies, Miller isn’t a typical gung-ho, grrr, grunt kind of sheriff. He’s a relative sophisticate, someone who grew up in Pacific Grove, went to college, learned to speak Spanish. He doesn’t wear a cowboy hat, doesn’t hunt, doesn’t go four-wheeling with the boys every weekend.

In Bernal, the younger deputies see themselves, and I suspect that many of them see the next four years as time to let it all hang out. That is not a good thing. Bernal said during his campaign that he would eliminate internal affairs investigations except in cases of likely criminal wrongdoing. What about cases of incompetence or dereliction of duty? What about sexist or racist behavior? Don’t sweat it boys, the boss has your back.

Another factor that hasn’t been discussed is that leadership of the DSA sees personal opportunities in a Bernal regime. Change at the top usually means considerable change  in the upper reaches of the department. Quite a few higher-ranking employees loyal to Miller will pull the plug on their careers, opening promotional spots for a like number of Bernal cronies. Judging from my email, the jockeying and backstabbing began on Election Night.

The media may be partly to blame for all this, but there is plenty of blame to go around. The starting point is the Republican Party as operated locally by chairman Peter Newman. This entity is so hell-bent on keeping score of the number of elected Republicans that it cynically and selfishly created Bernal as a candidate and helped finance his shameless campaign. Newman tried to get Miller to change his registration from independent to Republican, promising to support no one else if he did so. When Miller declined, Newman helped create Bernal and even supported other challengers in the primary last spring.

In other words, Newman and pals are not concerned that an extremely important public-safety agency populated by heavily armed men and women could soon be managed by a fellow who has never been a manager, a deputy who apparently couldn’t pass the sergeants’ test.

Among the passengers on Newman’s wrong-way bus are former Carmel city officials Sue McCloud and Paula Hazdovac, Republicans both, who endorsed Bernal but not because they know anything about sheriffs. I believe they were getting back at Miller’s wife, Jane, who beat Carmel City Hall in a sexual harassment case after her time as the city’s personnel director. (Former Councilman Gerard Rose was on that bus as well but I understand he got off at an early stop.)

Where were the judges and prosecutors on this one? In order to do their jobs, prosecutors need good police work. Individually, they praise Miller highly for his work within the Sheriff’s Department and previously at the Pacific Grove and Salinas police departments, saying his investigators consistently presented quality work enabling them to convict the bad guys. Bernal’s never even been a detective and hasn’t trained anyone to do anything. Why weren’t the prosecutors making commercials for Miller? Monterey County DA Dean Flippo was at Miller’s gathering Tuesday night. He told others that he can’t make endorsements in such a race because he has to work with the winner no matter who that is. The problem is that the public also has to work with the winner, no matter who that is.

How about the county supervisors, who deal with the Sheriff’s Department daily and are often left to clean up its messes. Jane Parker went with Miller but the others chickened out. Supervisor and dairyman Lou Calcagno, who is about to leave office, said he didn’t want to take sides because he had bought hay from Bernal’s family. Let me repeat that. Supervisor and dairyman Lou Calcagno, who is about to leave office, said he didn’t want to take sides because he had bought hay from Bernal’s family. Maybe they gave him a great deal or some great hay.

Supervisors Dave Potter, Fernando Armenta and Simon Salinas were silent, too, even though I don’t think they bought any hay. One explanation is that their lists of campaign contributions line up closely with Bernal’s list.

Another Bernal accomplice is the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and its political tentacles. It didn’t endorse Miller because Gesicki told chamber officials privately that Miller would soon be charged with a crime of some sort. That’s how he works and the chamber should have known that.

Finally, some of the blame has to go to Miller, not for his work as sheriff but for his decision to essentially run his own campaign. Gesicki is one of the least principled campaign managers I have dealt with in my 40 years in journalism, but that’s what he does for a living. He has run many campaigns, a couple successfully, and he understands spin and deception as well as anyone. The GOP brought in enough money to bring in an equally ruthless group of mercenaries to work with him.

Miller, meanwhile, made an early mistake by naming an ex-DEA agent as his campaign spokesman without realizing said spokesman had made some very politically incorrect statements in the past. After they parted ways, Miller was a staff of one. While he has been a good sheriff, and a fair poker player, he is not a campaign professional. He produced relatively little campaign literature and depended on overworked reporters to pierce Bernal’s messaging. You can see how that worked out.

The bright side, if there is one, is that maybe Bernal learned something from the campaign and will realize that the people he puts around him are exceedingly important. It is my fervent hope that none of them will be anything like Gesicki but perhaps he will attempt to reward competence over loyalty. Mary Duan, editor of the Weekly, dubbed Gustafson and the Marina Coast Water District board as the “Insane Clown Posse.” Here’s hoping that the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t become even more worthy of the name.

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Election letters that should be read

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One of the most interesting parts of many publications, this one included, is the letters. Here, for your edification and enjoyment, are three particularly interesting responses to the Partisan’s most recent post on Tuesday’s election. Take a peek.

And, by the way, if you haven’t seen Jim Toy’s blog, you should check it out as well, and not just because of his running list of Herald bloopers. Just click on his name.

  • Helga Fellay November 3, 2014, 8:48 am

You have pretty much said it all, and very well, too, about the Sheriff’s race, but just within the last week I became aware of another thing, or maybe two: 1. The DSA endorsement which Bernal uses as his strongest bragging right, is not what he makes it out to be; and 2. A disturbing connection between Monterey Downs, the giant horse racing plus casino development planned for the former Fort Ord, and the DSA (deputy sheriff’s association).

At a DSA meeting where 12 of 17 present voted to place the vote of no-confidence on the ballot. This is the meeting where Gesicki was present but Sheriff Miller was not invited. According to Scott Davis, the union has 316 members, of whom about 250 registered to vote. The final tally was 119 of 184 total votes in favor of a no-confidence resolution. But it was a corrupted vote. President Scott Davis himself counted the votes. There was no neutral person present to oversee the vote counting. Remember that the DSA and its president, Scott Davis, received $25,000 from Bernal relative Margaret Duflok, and the DSA received another $9,000 from Monterey Downs, LLC.(Schedule A, California Form 460, Contributions received, page 4 of 8, ID Number 1334267). Scott Davis, President of DSA, is now in a TV commercial touting Bernal. So how impartial and how reliable can that vote count really have been! It’s all smoke and mirrors. And they allowed Bernal to write a memo to the deputies before the endorsement (which made all those illegal promises to the jail deputies). They didn’t give the same privilege to Sheriff Miller.

We have always known that the Republican Party and Big Ag thought they could use a clueless deputy without any personal ambition to buy this election. But we also know that the DSA endorsement, Bernal’s biggest bragging tool, was bought with a $25,000 donation from Bernal’s family and another $9,000 donation from Monterey Downs, LLC. At least those are the only two we know about.

  • Ann Hill November 3, 2014, 10:50 am

    For the 55% of the 2nd district voters who are planning to vote for John Phillips for supervisor, you are voting for the judge made nationally notorious by a Charles Osgood poem on CBS radio, which made fun of Phillips’ decision awarding a thief damages against Costco. The thief had stolen items from Costco, and then tried to get away. He was stopped in his attempt to flee by Costco security officers, but he fought with them and lost. He was injured in the struggle to get away, and he sued Costco for his medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering. Judge Phillips saw merit in the thief’s claim and made Costco pay up. I remember at the time that many voters were calling for the judge’s ouster, because he appeared to have no common sense. Funny that this case was not brought up during the campaign for supervisor. Did the editorial board at the Herald know about it? Probably not. It is also not likely that any one of them spent any time in his courtroom, or they too would have seen the behavior described by David Brown – the temper tantrums, yelling at attorneys and throwing of files. And they might have understood why this judge was known as “King John” by some attorneys. So, get ready for a bumpy ride – judges wield absolute power in their courtrooms. They do not need to build consensus. Absolute power corrupts absolutely – and it is often abused. That abuse of power, as much as the poor treatment of women, was what I had previously written about for the Partisan. It is not a good character trait for a county supervisor. If this concerns you, vote for Mitchell instead.

  • Bill Carrothers November 3, 2014, 1:36 pm

    Royal, you seem to lack some rather elementary powers of observation. I am amazed that you cannot see Bill Freeman for what he is: a useful idiot being played by the open-borders sociopaths who use him to promote their growthio-sociopathic agendas. Second, what limited powers of observation and intellect prevent you from seeing Jan Shriner as anything other than what she is: a toxic agenda monster hell-bent on preventing any successful and practical solutions for the Peninsula’s water issues? There is simply no such thing as a useful conversation with this witch! As for the latest Ferrini Ranch debacle, there is a new word to describe the planning commission members and Board of Supervisors who voted for this additional mile of construction on the highway to hell: GROWCIOPATHS.

  • James Toy November 2, 2014, 8:37 pm

    Thank you for endorsing Felix Bachofner for Seaside. I’ve known Felix for about 24 years, and he’s as incorruptible as they come. My favorite reason for voting for him is that Felix understands land use issues better than anyone I know, and he’s seeking high quality commercial development of existing commercial areas, the type that will draw customers from the entire Peninsula, not just fast-food consumers from Seaside.

    Here’s a little more I wrote on Seaside’s election: http://mrtoysmentalnotes.blogspot.com/2014/10/ralph-rubios-momentum.html

    By the way, I struggled with Felix’s last name when I first met him, too. To help me remember, I made up a little saying: “I sometimes listen to Offenbach, but I tend to listen to Bachofner.” :-)

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

SCORE ONE FOR MILLER

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

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

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

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

 DRAMA IN THE DESERT

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

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

Monterey City Council candidate Ed Smith

Monterey City Council candidate Ed Smith

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

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

“I’m glad to be back in Monterey.”

RILEY RESPONDS TO CAL AM SABER RATTLING

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAYBE THEY WERE TRYING TO SAVE ON LEGAL FEES

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

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

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

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Does Steve Bernal have a future in the cattle business?

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Sheriff’s deputy Steve Bernal

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

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

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

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

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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

BALLOT MEASURES: Maybe later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If sheriff’s candidate Steve Bernal won’t debate Sheriff Scott Miller, he should drop out of the race.

stock-vector-scared-cartoon-chicken-vector-illustration-with-simple-gradients-all-in-a-single-layer-142762855stock-vector-scared-cartoon-chicken-vector-illustration-with-simple-gradients-all-in-a-single-layer-142762855stock-vector-scared-cartoon-chicken-vector-illustration-with-simple-gradients-all-in-a-single-layer-142762855

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Brandon Gesicki

Brandon Gesicki

SEE UPDATED INFO BELOW ON WHAT BERNAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER BRANDON GESICKI REALLY MEANT WHEN HE SAID, “WHAT, WHO ME? I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.”

Many years ago, my friend Grant Sims wrote a screenplay. It was a spoof of those heist thrillers in which a highly trained team foils extreme security precautions and makes off with the giant gem.

The twist was that the crooks were disabled. The team leader, played by Mike Connors of “Mannix” fame, was in a wheelchair. Another actor pretended to be blind while another had no hands. They would snare the diamond—not despite their disabilities but because of them. Grant’s script was meant to be silly, sort of a parody of political correctness.

Remarkably, it became a made-for-TV movie, “Beg, Borrow or Steal. Unfortunately, Hollywood played it straight. Imagine “Airplane” with Leslie Nielsen actually taking the role seriously. It was a very bad movie, but perhaps some good can come of it all these years later. It has inspired me to report on politics in a whole new way. I’m going to try to follow a campaign as though it was a spoof. I have chosen Steve Bernal’s run for Monterey County sheriff.

If I watched the campaign as though Bernal and crew were playing it straight, I would become distressed. The idea of a sheriff’s deputy running to be the big boss without management experience, without a college education, without any real understanding of the position, that could make a sober observer downright uncomfortable. But, hey, now that I have convinced myself they’re playing for laughs, I’m looking forward to the next skit. I bet it will be boffo.

Last week, we saw the Bernal camp propose to eliminate most internal affairs investigations, to give jail deputies free lunches and to let the Sheriff’s Department staff make scheduling decisions. Training would become optional. I was taking things seriously then, so I was alarmed. If deputies aren’t held accountable for breaking department rules, for harassing inmates, for doing any of the things that are commonly subject to I.A. investigations, won’t the Sheriff’s Department spin out of control?

But that was then. From my new perspective, it was all pretty funny. In fact, I envisioned a cafeteria full of deputies enjoying their 4-hour free lunches, each funnier than the one before. I saw food fights and laugh riots.

In my mind’s eye, sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Richards and Mike Kanalakis were still in the department. They were slipping on baloney sandwiches and flicking applesauce at the former internal affairs fellows who were getting stuff all over their new aprons. Hilarious.

It isn’t really clear who is running Steve Bernal’s slapstick campaign, but it seems that the GOP has brought in a heavy hitter to help, Tom Shepard, whose spotty career is nicely highlighted in the San Diego Reader. That link takes you to an old article about Shepard. You can find a more recent article here. Shepard seldom ventures out of Southern California, representing a large cast of law enforcement and city council types in San Diego and Riverside counties. Usually when he heads north it is to represent development interests fighting slow-growth initiatives. He’s done that in Saratoga and Sonoma.

Before I got my perspective tuned up, I also would have worried about my favorite campaign manager, Brandon Gesicki, and his role in the Bernal movie, er, campaign, which he may or may not be running. Gesicki is coy about such things because his record as a campaign manager tends to make him a campaign issue. It also allows him to take credit for a success and to distance himself from a failed campaign, which is known in political circles as a “Brandon.”

Gesicki was involved in Bernal’s campaign in the primary election, but no, hell no, he did not set up that pseudo-organization in San Benito County in order to produce an attack mailer against the incumbent, Scott Miller. Gesicki may have done exactly the same thing in the past, but not this time, no way, because that would not be funny, OK? (This may be what planted the idea of seeing the runoff election as a spoof.)

UPDATE: Although Gesicki has denied involvement in the San Benito County committee, the Monterey County Weekly now reports that an old college chum of Gesicki’s and his wife contributed $1,998 to the committee, which put out anonymous mailers during the primary election attempting to make Sheriff Miller out as a dirty, rotten bad guy. Gesicki still maintains that Bernal didn’t know anything about it. Which means one of two things. A. Gesicki is fibbing or B. Bernal is a tool.

Gesicki ran a couple of campaigns for Abel “Sounds Familiar” Maldonado, whose schtick was to run as a Republican. In one of the Gesicki-managed races, Maldonado ran in a primary election both as a Republican and a Democrat. He and Gesicki then tried to make us believe it wasn’t a tactic. They said they weren’t trying to block any Democrats from running. Never occurred to them. Instead, they said they did it for the nicest of reasons. It seems that Abel’s mother was a lifelong Democrat and had never had a chance to vote for her wonderful son in a primary election. So they did it for love and family, OK?  Gesicki seemed to almost be fighting back tears as he explained it.

In the current race, Bernal has a rich aunt who is providing a big chunk of his campaign financing. In my new spirit of mirth and acceptance, I will not let myself become cynical when Bernal or Gesicki explain that this is not about running the Sheriff’s Department or about getting a Republican elected. No way. It is about a loving aunt, probably a madcap aunt, whose only wish is to see her fine and misunderstood nephew accomplish something for once. Heck, looking at it that way, I might vote for Bernal myself.

Sheriff’s campaigns can be remarkably contentious and nasty, especially when both candidates are working in the same department. True or not, it becomes conventional wisdom that almost everything that ever happens is a direct result of the previous election and who supported whom. If a deserving deputy is promoted, it’s because he told everyone he had voted for candidate A even though he really voted for candidate B. If a supporter of the sheriff gets fired for something minor like never coming to work, it’s because the sheriff doubted the deputy’s sincerity during the campaign. If a sergeant gets sent home for dripping chocolate syrup on his uniform at lunch, it’s because he didn’t contribute to so and so’s campaign.

The old, dour me would have worried about what will happen if Bernal wins. For instance, what if he had 60 supporters within the department but only 10 promotions available. How would he pick? Since he has spent his career in South County and the jail and didn’t work with most of the staff, would he go with test results and the recommendations of interview panels? Not in this show. He’d have some good clean fun by changing the way promotions are made and how the department is organized. Remember, his campaign slogan is “Change Everything and Don’t Forget Your Socks.”

This is where I choose to enjoy the spoof rather than sweat the small stuff. In this script, deputies might get to choose their own ranks and assignments. Always wanted to be a detective? Go for it. Patrol, schmatrol. Solve something.

Undersheriff? Arm wrestle you for it. Head of Internal Affairs? Hey, never mind. We don’t need that any more (laugh track kicks in).

Like you, I’m looking forward to it and I’m glad to know all of this so far has just been rehearsal. Campaign season doesn’t really start until September, which gives Bernal’s writers time to come up with some really solid stuff. It will be more “Barney Miller” or Barney Fife than “Hill Street Blues,” but who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh now and then?

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When candidates for sheriff receive an endorsement from the Deputy Sheriffs Association, they’re hoping the public thinks it means the deputies are backing the most competent contender, the one best able to protect the public. They’d rather that voters not notice that the association’s focus isn’t public safety. It’s a union and it wants what’s best for the union members, the deputies.

Schooled by campaign handlers who know how the system works, deputy Steve Bernal, a candidate for Monterey County sheriff, made a set of outlandish promises to his fellow duties in his successful bid for the association’s endorsement. At the top of Bernal’s list of promises he can’t keep is using seniority to award weekends off for deputies working in the county jail and to determine who gets first pick for the most popular vacation schedules. That is a good goal, but Bernal takes it one large and silly step farther. In an email to the jail deputies, he wrote that “any changes to this policy should be unanimously decided on by the employees.”

“Any changes to this policy should be unanimously decided on by the employees.”

In other words, if the Sheriff’s Department administration needed to shuffle shifts around to ensure that deputies with the appropriate skills and training were on duty at the right times, it would need to get the approval of every deputy in the jail.

Why’s that? Bernal explains that “management should not be allowed to arbitrarily dictate your schedules.” Perhaps this would be a good place to mention that Bernal has never been a manager. Incumbent Scott Miller, on the other hand, has been a manager for most of his career.

Those are not Bernal’s worst ideas. Because jail deputies are always having to worry about internal affairs investigations arising out of complaints from the public, inmates and other deputies, Bernal promises to make some of those investigations disappear. Internal affairs investigations would be initiated only when it appears a crime has been committed. Such things as insubordination, breach of policy, undue absences or tardiness, harassment of inmates or their visitors would not qualify. Waste of time, that’s how Bernal sees it. He doesn’t say how non-criminal complaints would be handled. Maybe the deputies could take a vote?

There’s more. Bernal says deputies should be offered training to make them more versatile or to improve their chances for career advancement. But only on a “purely volunteer basis.” If a supervisor feels a deputy needs training with, say, weapons or writing reports or interpersonal skills, the deputy could just say no thanks.

Deputies assigned to work as bailiffs in court would be allowed to keep those coveted assignments for as long as they wished. Though they might really have to think about it, because if they were working in the jail in a Bernal administration, they’d get free meals.

As a sheriff’s deputy, Bernal is among the lowest ranking members of the Sheriff’s Department. His candidacy is a creation of partisan politics. The Republicans were casting about for a candidate and in Bernal they found a presentable young man with access to campaign money. If he is elected sheriff in November, he would jump over sergeants, commanders, lieutenants, captains, and the undersheriff to become the guy in charge.

Things like that do happen, in places like Indiana and Louisiana, where the political patronage system is still in style. It doesn’t make any sense there, however, and it certainly doesn’t make any sense here. If Bernal truly wants to be sheriff, he should volunteer for every training opportunity, work his way up the ranks and try again when he has picked up some management experience and a clue or two.

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