Step Right Up
Monterey hopefuls vie for council seat.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Jeff Haferman bounces down Alvarado Street past Jamba Juice with a huge smile on his face, holding a business card out in front of him, looking at it and laughing to himself.
Minutes before, the 2002 Monterey City Council candidate and downtown neighborhood advocate had posed for a photograph with Shin M. Mori, mayor of Kakamigahara Gifu, Japan.
Mayor Shin was in Monterey with an entourage from Japan getting a tour of the city from a planning department official when Haferman walked by. The official, Bill Wojtkowski, introduced Haferman to Shin, joking that Haferman was “the next mayor of Monterey.”
Of course the current mayor, Dan Albert, might not have appreciated such a joke, but it might not be far off the mark.
Because of the recent death of City Councilwoman Ruth Vreeland, a vacancy has opened on the Monterey City Council. Haferman is one of a who’s who of local political aspirants who now vie for Vreeland’s empty chair.
Vreeland, who died on Jan. 25 in a car accident on Highway 101, served on the Monterey City Council for 20 years. Her spot on the council has sparked what could be a contentious race with a wide spectrum of possible candidates.
As of Feb. 17, 15 applications had been picked up in person from the city clerk’s office. It’s unknown how many applications were retrieved from the city Web site.
While it’s not known how many will actually apply, what is known is the process for finding a replacement for Vreeland. At a special Feb. 11 meeting, the city council agreed on an application and selection process.
Mayor Dan Albert and Vice Mayor Clyde Roberson will act as a subcommittee to review valid applications. Any hopeful city councilmember must be a resident of the city and a registered voter; each must complete a 200-word statement of purpose and a Fair Political Practices Commission declaration of economic interest citing potential conflicts, and submit two letters of recommendation. The submissions are due at city hall by noon on Feb. 23.
Each member of the city council gets copies of the application. Albert and Roberson will then interview each hopeful. Then, at the March 2 meeting, the council will take any additional nominations, and select a new councilperson.
The field has not been solidified yet, as the only record thus far are of candidates who have picked up applications in person. The list includes Haferman, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2002 (in a race that saw longtime local Chuck Della Sala win a seat and Vreeland keep hers); Rick Heuer, a neighborhood activist who fought against a movie theater expansion at Del Monte Center; Barbara Bass Evans, a two-time mayoral candidate and perennial city government watchdog; Frank Sollecito, a city detective about to retire after 32-years on the force and past vice president of the officers’ union; Dave Fortune Sr., a retired city police captain; Bill McCrone, a city planning commissioner; Bob Oliver, past mayoral candidate and owner of Monterey Moped Adventures; and Toynette Bryant, a planning commissioner. Dan Presser, Steve Morgan, Libby Downy and Linda A. Dunlap have also picked up applications.
Although not listed in the phone directory, a woman named Kim Bilbo retrieved an application for her husband.
The Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce also picked up an application in case any of its members wanted to enter the race.
The unfortunate and unexpected opening on the council creates an opportunity for public office that leaves some with a sense that they need to continue in Vreeland’s footsteps.
Barbara Bass Evans has often been a thorn in the side of the city council. Until a recent illness she filmed nearly every city council meeting for the public access cable station. Her opposition to several projects—such as the high-profile retail/residential Ocean View Plaza on Cannery Row—has been unrelenting.
Evans says she finds her priorities—preserving an open coastline, protecting the environment and preserving open government—parallel to Vreeland’s. Likewise, Evans thinks the council should be balanced in gender.
“I strongly believe there should be another woman on the council,” she says.
Evans likes the idea of filling the spot for now, looking at it as an interim service, but she can’t say if she’d run in November if she were selected.
“One step at a time,” Evans says.
Not so with Rick Heuer. If selected he certainly plans to run in the November election to keep his seat.
Heuer has been involved in city and area politics for 20 years. He was a city planning commissioner and member of the architectural review board. He successfully fought a $158 million bond to repair the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District’s crumbling schools, but in the aftermath has served on the district’s facilities planning committee and its business advisory committee. He’s the president of the Alta Mesa Neighborhood Association and was a founding member of the Old Town Neighborhood Association. Asked why he wants to serve on the city council, Heuer says, “I very much want to preserve the quality of life for the city.”
Like Heuer and Evans, Jeff Haferman is another possible candidate who has been in the public eye lately.
A scientist for the Navy’s Fleet Numerical weather forecasting station in Monterey, Haferman moved here seven years ago and got involved with the Old Town Neighborhood Association right away. He owns an 1870 Victorian home on Spaghetti Hill and says his motivation was to hold on to Monterey’s “quaint” feel.
“It was a quality-of-life kind of concern,” he says. “I just wanted to be active and preserve that.”
Haferman was a loud critic of the city’s plan to build a new city hall, and says it put him at odds with the city leadership at times. He sees himself as a candidate who might see things differently than veteran locals.
“I am definitely looked at as an outsider,” he says. “I don’t want to put my finger on anything, but as outsider I can bring a different perspective to things. Right now there is a tight inner circle on this council. I could ask a lot of tough questions.”
But as an employee of the defense department, as well as a close watcher of the city budget, Haferman thinks he’s got his eye on two potential storms looming for the city. Besides fiscal instability across the state, the city’s two military facilities could be examined by the federal government for possible closure during the upcoming round of base re-alignments in 2005.
But Haferman, like the other candidates, is careful to remember why he has this unexpected chance to serve. Like Ruth Vreeland he considers himself a neighborhood advocate.
“In that sense I would follow in her footsteps,” he says.