Showdown In Seaside
Incumbent Don Jordan faces three challengers in a duel for Seaside's mayorship.
Thursday, October 22, 1998
Seaside mayor Don Jordan must feel a little like actor Gene Hackman''s character in The Quick and the Dead. In the movie, Hackman plays the gunfighter mayor of a dusty cow town; for various reasons, he sponsors a shoot-out that attracts a host of notorious gunslingers--all of whom, for one reason or another, are gunning for Hackman.
In the current electoral contest, Jordan faces three challengers who are shooting for his mayoral seat: Gert Foreman, who served on the city council from ''94 to ''96; Felix Bachofner, who has served on the Seaside Planning Commission since ''94, the last two years as chairman; and Jerry Smith, a newcomer to politics. Come election day, they''ll step into the street for a reckoning.
All three of the challengers cite the current mayor''s leadership--or lack thereof--as the primary reason they chose to strap on their six-shooters. At the heart of the matter is the question of the city manager.
While other serious issues face Seaside--particularly the redevelopment of lower Broadway and plans for developing Seaside''s portion of Fort Ord--the leadership question has a direct bearing on them, and is the most explosive issue in the campaign. And nowhere has the current administration given opponents more ammunition than in the way it has handled controversial city manager Tim Brown.
"Lack of strong leadership prompted me to run," says Foreman. "This council and the mayor have neglected judiciary responsibility, and gave it to the city manager.he does things before they go to the city council."
Jordan, along with councilmembers Helen Rucker and Nancy Amos (whose seats are not up for election), have remained steadfastly loyal to Brown.
This despite the fact that the current city manager falsified his academic credentials; despite a no-confidence vote by the city''s four employee unions in 1997; despite a report by the independent consultation firm Mandalay and Associates (hired by the city in the wake of the unions'' vote) that stated, in part, the city''s administration style "caused mistrust and suspicion, worsened communication and created obstacles that.impede progress;" and despite a Monterey County Grand Jury report that earlier this year condemned the city''s management.
Jordan responds to the salvo of criticism of Brown by saying that the council provides a vision for the city and that Brown does a good job in executing the vision. He says the widespread resentment toward Brown stems from the city''s decision to downsize city departments and services in ''94.
"Tim [Brown] had a difficult job," says Jordan. "What a lot of people missed out on is that he follows council direction. One direction we gave him was the downsizing."
But Jordan''s challengers say that the council usually provides little or no direction and that too often Brown makes decisions which he later brings to the City Council for approval. And with the pro-Brown majority voting bloc of Jordan/Rucker/Amos, the city''s response to Brown''s actions are a foregone conclusion.
"As long as he has three rubber-stampers," says Foreman, "he can do anything he wants to do."
"I think the city manager should be subordinate to the City Council," says Smith. "I don''t think the council has shown the leadership to supervise the city manager; I would remind them that they are responsible to provide leadership and hold the city manager accountable."
According to Bachofner, the City Council''s inability to provide leadership makes it difficult to hold Brown accountable for his actions. "In effect, the city manager''s performance has been fine because he hasn''t been given any guidelines. The City Council must come up with its own vision and make a strong prioritization of what needs to be done."
In this regard, Bachofner and Smith have similar ideas for ways to handle the city manager. They both say the council needs, with input from the city''s commission and community-at-large, to develop a set of goals and priorities for the city staff and specific guidelines for ways to evaluate the city manager''s performance in implementing those goals.
"I would like to meet with employee groups, citizens and committees; I would welcome contractors and builders, as well as small retailers," says Smith. "I would have a meeting with all the departments and ask for their goals and objectives for the year. Once I have those, I will go forward from there."
Bachhofner speculates that if performance guidelines are established, Brown won''t be long in town.
"It''s questionable that he would be able to fulfill those requirements," says Bachofner. "Once those guidelines are in place, he would leave office. That would be my guess."
Regarding the redevelopment of lower Broadway, Jordan remains attached to the idea of developing a multiplex movie theater (up to 14 screens), bowling alley and shopping area that would stretch along Del Monte Boulevard from Canyon Del Rey Boulevard to Broadway, and he favors placing a supermarket at the undeveloped corner of Fremont and Broadway.
Both Smith and Foreman recall a plan by local architect Paul Davis, developed in the ''60s, that envisions lower Broadway as an "international market" that capitalizes on the city''s cultural diversity.
"We have to find our own identity," says Smith. "We''re not duplicating Monterey, Carmel or Pacific Grove."
Bachofner is partial to the idea of developing a mix of retail shops with upstairs apartments--much like Alvarado Street in Monterey--as a way to increase foot traffic on Broadway.
All of the challengers are critical of Jordan and Brown''s choice of Los Angeles-area companies to develop Seaside''s portion of Fort Ord and say they would focus on trying to get local developers involved in the process.