Thursday, August 19, 2004
DLI Eyes Local School Sites
Plans to add 245 new faculty members at Monterey’s Defense Language Institute (DLI) has the Army looking for 50,000-square-feet of classroom space and offices in the area near the Presidio of Monterey, or elsewhere along the Bay.
“What we’re looking at is an expansion of the facility that will begin October 1,” says John Elliott, director of public works for the Presidio. “We’re looking to expand by quite a number of people.”
Elliott would not say where exactly the Army is looking to install more classrooms and offices, because the lease negotiations will be taken up by the Army Corps of Engineers office in Sacramento.
However, one site that has been explored for DLI expansion is the Larkin School site neighboring the Presidio. Although it’s about half as big a space as the Army needs, its proximity and accessibility make it a contender.
“There are certain sites that are attractive to us,” he says. “Larkin from many respects is a very good site for us.”
The reason for the increase in faculty comes from an effort to improve the quality of language training by lowering DLI’s instructor to student ratio. Classes in difficult languages, such as Arabic and Korean, would be lowered from 10 students per teacher to six, according to Dr. Susan Steele, DLI’s provost and vice chancellor.
Steele says the number of faculty will increase dramatically over the next few years from 800 to 1600. The number of students, now at 3500, is also expected to increase five percent per year. Although funding for future growth is uncertain, funding for the additional 245 faculty to be recruited and hired by October is secured.
One obvious issue with DLI using Larkin, is that it’s currently home of the International School of Monterey, a charter school with direct state funding but oversight from the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD). Larkin pays MPUSD $100,000 a year in rent, but according to International School director Chrissie Jahn, the school was notified in July it had to move.
Jahn says she is not privy to who might be interested in leasing Larkin, but she confirmed one rumor that Army representatives had visited the school recently to measure classrooms.
But no matter who ends up in Larkin, Jahn says it’s time to move anyway. With nearly 200 students and more expected, the International School needs more space. With school starting on Aug. 25, new tenants means the International School would need to vacate quickly. Jahn says she’s been told one potential occupant needs to be in by November 1.
“It would be our greatest wish to finish our school year at this site,” she says. [AS]
Carmel Hotel Tax Initiative Begun
A small group of Carmel citizens has begun an effort to raise the City’s hotel tax from 10 percent to 12 percent, a move that they say would increase revenue without adding taxes for locals.
Calling themselves TOT/SOS (Transient Occupancy Tax/Save Our Services), the group has been collecting signatures at the Carmel post office in an effort to require a special election.
Mike Biele, a member of the group, says the campaign is several months old. He is concerned that Camel-by-the-Sea has seen a decline in city services because of tight budgets. Biele says the campaign needs 450 signatures to get on a ballot.
Among other complaints, Biele says public restrooms have not been open because of a lack of maintenance. Carmel library hours have been cut back as well.
“We want to restore the city services because the town looks shabby,” Biele says. “A lot of times they take down trees and don’t replace them.”
Biele, who has lived in Carmel for two years, says the proposal for a TOT increase is based on Seaside’s hotel tax of 12 percent. Other cities, like Monterey, use a 10 percent TOT.
According to City Manager Rich Guillen, Carmel runs on a roughly $11 million budget, $3.7 million or 34 percent of which, comes from the hotel tax. Despite its apparent wealth, Carmel has had to cut back recently. Over the past year, the city offered early retirement to three managers and laid off five full-time employees and 19 part-timers. Those cuts as well as leaving four vacant positions unfilled, cut $1 million out of the budget.
Guillen says he has not seen the paperwork for the current initiative but that adjusting the TOT remains a perennial issue.
“Every time the city talks about raising revenue, this comes up,” he says.
Hotel managers are not enthralled with the idea.
“Obviously we’re against it. Tourism is not doing well and to raise taxes and tax just the tourist is not fair,” says John Wilson, head of the 40-member Carmel Innkeepers’ Association.
Wilson, manager of Carmel’s Pine Inn, says raising the TOT will have a counterproductive effect on bringing dollars into town.
“Statistics have shown when TOT goes up, occupancy goes down,” Wilson says. [AS]
Take Back the General Plan Update
The first in a series of community forums on the General Plan Update will be held Aug. 21, at the Prunedale Grange, 17890 Moro Rd. from 9:30am to 12:30pm.
In June, following the Board of Supervisors’ decision to scrap the Plan and turn the rewriting over to County Counsel and the Planning Department, more than a dozen local organizations—including LandWatch and the local chapter of the Sierra Club—said they would convene a series of public meetings and move the growth document forward.
The various groups and individuals involved in these community forums say they want to develop a countywide blueprint for growth that is consistent with the Plan’s Twelve Guiding Objectives, which include providing affordable housing for working families, preserving working farmlands and protecting Monterey County’s clean air and water and natural areas.
“We’re trying to discern solutions to some of the half a dozen or so different issues,” says Fred Keeley, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, one of the groups co-sponsoring the forums. “If you write policy language that is vague enough, you can say it to anybody and they will be okay with it. We’re not trying to do that. We’re trying to have a substantive outcome. And we’re trying to create a venue in which that can happen.”
Keeley says he and the rest of the organizations involved hope to present a growth document that builds on GPU3 to the Supervisors in October. [JL]
Hydrogen Show At County Fair
With Monterey County being a hub for things like green building, sustainable farming, and organic foods, it’s appropriate that Stuart Energy, a company focused on hydrogen energy, will be bringing its Renewable Hydrogen Road Show to the Monterey County Fair, which runs Aug 17 through Aug 22. The show will occupy the Whole Earth Arena at the fairgrounds and promises both information, in this case regarding hydrogen initiatives and products, and entertainment, fluidly combined.
To fulfill the entertainment portion, EarthDance: The Global Festival for Peace, is bringing in environmentally-minded performers, like Bay Area singer Tracy Lyons. The EarthDance group is known for its 24-hour worldwide celebration on Sept. 18 that brings together nearly 200,000 people in 50 nations to promote non profit environmental, humanitarian, and peace-related causes. [FP]