Meet the New Bosses
Supervisors mingle at swearing-in ceremony.
Thursday, January 6, 2005
SEX and the
For political wonks and electeds, it’s the social event of the year—thus far, anyway. Winners and losers packed the standing-room-only Supervisors’ Chambers Tuesday morning, Jan. 4, to attend the swearing-in ceremony for newly elected Supervisor Jerry Smith.
It was also a swearing-in for sitting Supes Dave Potter and Fernando Armenta, who were both reelected in March. Armenta ran uncontested. Potter beat accountant and former Ocean Mist VP Steve Collins and Pacific Grove City Councilwoman Susan Goldbeck to win another term. From where the girl reporter sat, at the press table, in front of a row of Supervisors’ wives, she couldn’t tell if Goldbeck had come to the party. But she could see Collins standing in the back of the room.
He joined mayors, city councilmembers, labor organizers, developers, vintners and growers, environmentalists, land-use attorneys (of course) and other well-wishers who came to witness the pomp and circumstance, or possibly just get some free coffee at the reception.
She wondered if they read the Monterey County Grand Jury report, just released the day prior, which attacks the Supes for “not providing active leadership on many issues, but react[ing] to the events of the day and/or the wishes of the numerous special interest groups.”
The 229-page report also singled out Potter, saying he worked to discredit attempts by the Housing Authority, a quasi-public agency, to relocate poor, elderly and disabled residents from the Rippling River apartments in Carmel Valley. Hmmm, thought the girl reporter—advocating for the best interest of his constituents, challenging the Housing Authority’s overblown cost estimates (which were subsequently discredited by the US Army Corps of Engineers)—isn’t that what a Supervisor is supposed to do? Oh, well, what does she know.
Fashion, for starters.
A New Year’s Day
Today, the sun is shining, the wives are wearing white flowers pinned to their lapels, and even Supervisor Butch Lindley—who, within the next hour would be elected the new chair of the board—is wearing a suit and a tie. She can’t see whether or not he wears his trademark cowboy boots underneath.
First, Judge Philips administers the Oath of Office to Smith, with his wife, Byrl, standing beside him. Next up is Potter, with his wife, Patricia, and then Armenta, whose wife, Noemi, and son, Fernando, Jr., both joined him at the dais.
After the three Supes have been sworn in, they get to gab.
Smith, who’s wearing a charcoal suit, first “gives all my thoughts and appreciation to Jesus Christ, my lord and savior,” and then thanks his wife, and the Fourth District voters.
Potter, also wearing a dark suit, thanks his wife, “one of the most patient people in Monterey County,” along with county staff and District Five voters for “saying in March, very decisively, that the Fifth District needs…unique representation.”
Armenta, who is usually the best-dressed on the board, was no exception today, wearing a lighter taupe suit with a pale yellow shirt and a striped tie, with brown and copper, repeated his statements from four years ago, “recognizing a great movement in this county and a great leader: Cesar Chavez,” by reading the Prayer of the Farm Worker’s Struggle, written by the United Farm Worker founder.
“I will pledge to serve you with dignity and honesty,” he adds, saying he does wish he’d had “one or two opponents,” in his uncontested race for District One. Potter, always the funnyman, shakes his head and his hand.
Then Armenta speaks directly to the Grand Jury’s criticisms (as well as a Weekly story published some months ago).
“I have a great commitment to finishing the County General Plan, a commitment to balancing the budget,” he says. “Whether you gave me money or not…as long as you come and speak to me and let me know what your needs are. My door will always be open.”
It’s not going to be an easy year for the new board.
Many of last year’s big issues had to do with land-use: the decision to scrap the General Plan Update Process after spending five years and $5 million on the document; the vote to approve the huge pit mine and rock quarry between Chualar and Gonzales; and the go-ahead to build 4,000 homes at Rancho San Juan, the largest development in Monterey County history, just to name a few.
Many constituents complained that the Supes ignored the little guy, and only listened to land-use attorneys and developers with deep pockets. Now the Grand Jury seemingly agrees.
The County Supervisors are going to have to address this
charge in 2005, not to mention re-address many of the land-use
decisions they made—or ignored—in 2004.
Same Old Troubles
There’s the General Plan, the county’s supposed 20-year blueprint for growth. If it’s actually, finally approved in 2005, there will only be 15 years until planners have to turn around and start writing a new one.
But it’s more likely that three versions of the plan will duke it out in voting booths across the county: a plan written by county attorneys and planners, a second growth document written by the former Refinement Group, and a third, the Community GPU effort, led by groups including LandWatch and the Planning and Conservation League.
Also, Granite Construction’s planned pit mine will see its day in court later this month. Last year, a neighbors’ group called Preserve Our Valley and a watchdog organization called The Open Monterey Project sued Granite, the Handley Ranch, and the County, charging that Granite and the County ignored County codes and regulations, as well as state environmental laws.
And next week, on Jan. 12, the Rancho San Juan Opposition Coalition will give the election’s department some 9,000 valid signatures to put Rancho San Juan up before a vote of the people.
But no one talks about those downers this morning. After all, who wants to talk politics at a party?
The Board elects Lindley as chair, and Smith as vice chair. Lindley presents the outgoing chair, Supervisor Lou Calcagno, with a gavel. “You’ve lost some more hair; your hair got whiter,” Lindley jokes.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an African-American on our Board of Supervisors,” Lindley says. “Congratulations Mr. Smith. Welcome aboard.”
It’s a step in the right direction, thinks the girl reporter. She’ll drink to that. But then Lindley continues: “It’s been a long time since this county had a Board of Supervisors that didn’t have a woman on it. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll decide as we go on.”
Huh? Did he really just say that?
“We try to make it okay to smile in these chambers,” Lindley says. “These are not torture chambers.”
Well, that’s debatable.
Lindley touts the “real cream,” as opposed to the powdered crap that was implemented in 2004.
This year, “I tried to get a provision for brandy,” in the coffee, Lindley says, but unfortunately County Counsel Charles McKee said no.
Then he invites the crowd to join him at a reception in the East Wing Conference room.
There’s coffee. But no brandy. Bummer. The girl reporter already feels like she needs a drink.