In Pacific Grove, it's a 10-candidate race in a two-issue town.
Thursday, October 26, 2000
If elected, above four candidates would be first-time councilmembers. Clockwise from upper left: Dan Miller, Susan Goldbeck, Roger Pasquier and Bill Corcoran.If the other municipal elections on the Peninsula seem remarkably devoid of defining issues, Pacific Grove more than makes up for them. At the center of the battle for three council seats and the mayorship are charges that the current administration has sacrificed maintenance of the city''s infrastructure--notably the sewer and storm drain system, whose decrepitude has resulted in thousands of gallons of raw sewage spilling into the bay--to build a posh new civic center.
Bearing the brunt of the criticism is three-term mayor Sandy Koffman, who was elected in 1994. But Koffman takes credit for the opening of Pacific Grove''s youth center and says the city has made progress on the creation of a senior center. She also maintains the city acted responsibly by commissioning a study last spring of the city''s sewers as a step toward solving the sewer problem.
"I probably share the frustration of anyone who hasn''t worked in the public forum or who has just entered into the public forum," says Koffman. "Things take a lot longer than you would ever think they could."
Koffman''s opponent, Susan Goldbeck, is a newcomer to the political process. She''s been publisher of Pacific Grove''s newspaper, The Beacon, for four years, during which time the paper has been shrilly critical of the city. She accuses the current administration of having poor priorities.
"Koffman came into office in 1994, and her crowning achievement has been getting the civic center online," says Goldbeck. "The most important issue is one of public health and safety because of the neglect of basic infrastructure: sewers, streets and storm drains. The people of Pacific Grove are good people, they are proud people, and they''re not proud of this."
For the most part, the eight council candidates loosely fall into two camps: those who generally support Koffman''s administration (and who happen to be familiar faces in Pacific Grove politics) and those who agree with Goldbeck.
-- Incumbent Morrie Fisher served as a councilmember from 1975 to 1986, when he was elected mayor. He retired from city politics in 1990, then ran for council again and won in 1996. Fisher is a civic center supporter but admits the city could have dealt more aggressively with the sewer problems.
"We should have taken steps to float a bond," he says. "We should have been doing that study a long time ago."
-- Jim Costello, an incumbent seeking his second full term, says that although the civic center was a necessity, it''s now time to move on to solving the infrastructure problems. He also thinks that the discontent about the council''s priorities is not nearly as widespread as the council''s critics make out.
"It''s interesting that not everyone wants to pay attention," says Costello. "We''ve had presentations and the same 12 people showed up [to complain about the civic center]."
-- Don Gasperson spent 37 years with the Pacific Grove Fire Department, 22 of them as fire chief. He was also on the council for eight years, from 1984 to 1992. He says he has consistently supported the idea of a civic center, but says it''s time for the city to move forward now that the center is a "done deal." He feels the city needs to offer more youth-oriented activities. He sees himself as occupying a middle ground in the sharply divided city.
-- Former city councilmember Bob Davis served from 1990 to 1998. He also maintains the civic center was a necessity. "It''s been misnamed a ''civic center,''" says Davis. "It''s a community building that''s going to serve 17,000 people in the community. I don''t care what they call it, they need a building to house three departments and they need to make city hall ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible."
-- Dan Miller, a community activist who ran for the mayor''s seat in 1996 and for council in 1990 and 1998, is probably the most constant and vocal critic challenging the status quo. He also authored an initiative that would have required a vote from Pacific Grove residents before the civic center project could have proceeded; that initiative was challenged in court by the Pacific Grove City Council and was thrown out.
He expresses concern over what he feels is an exorbitantly high city payroll and maintains that with the city''s expenditures for the civic center, there is no way the city can fix the sewer system without a bond issue being passed.
-- Bill Corcoran makes more moderate criticisms of the council. He co-authored Measure C in 1986, which limited PG motels to their current size. He has served on the city''s traffic commission and, more recently, on a committee that reviewed city salaries.
"The report represents that there are some inequities, both high and low," says Corcoran. He points to the wide range of services (including a museum, golf course and cemetery) offered by a relatively small city as one reason for salaries taking up such a high percentage of the city''s budget.
-- Political newcomer Roger Pasquier says that the lack of action on infrastructure problems is an indication that it''s time for a change. "It''s time the City Council gets back to basics and figures out how we''re going to deal with the sewers and senior housing," he says.
To help with the financing of those projects, Pasquier casts his eye toward the city payroll. Pasquier says, "It''s only a matter of time before this kind of spending comes home to roost."
-- Rounding out the candidates running for council is Jenny Beardsley, a lifelong resident of Pacific Grove. Although she doesn''t attend council meetings, the inexperienced Beardsley maintains that she watches the council meetings on television and is concerned about the way the city is being run. Once she''s in office, Beardsley feels that she''ll be better able to assess what actions the council should take.