Good, Bad and Ugly
The top ten local stories of a (mostly) weird year.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
10. GOOD: GLOBAL WARMING DISCOVERED—BIODIESEL COMES TO SOUTH COUNTY. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth premieres in Monterey at a Weekly-sponsored event, featuring a panel of local scientists who are even smarter on this topic than our big-brained former vice-president. The film goes on to becomes a huge hit nationwide, and helps fuel a growing movement to fight global warming. Meanwhile, a biodiesel plant is built in Gonzales.
9. BAD: A RED CITY GROWS IN A BLUE COUNTY—MARINA EMBRACES BIG-BOX SPRAWL. News that Wal-Mart is coming to town is met with cheers from elected officials. Then, a few months before University Villages is outed for screwing labor unions, a Weekly story reveals the big-box mall at the heart of that purportedly New Urbanist development. Finally, straight-shooting Mayor Ila Metee-McCutchen, who makes no apologies for her love of all developments, wins re-election in a walk.
8. BAD: SUPERVISORS QUASH DEMOCRACY (AGAIN)—ANTI-SPRAWL INITIATIVE SPIKED. Frustrated that the Board of Supervisors successfully dodged a citizens initiative aimed at stopping the controversial Rancho San Juan development last November, anti-sprawl activists gather enough signatures to qualify their slow-growth Community General Plan Initiative for a public vote. The Supes refuse to put it on the ballot, citing a spurious lawsuit which claims that the Initiative violates the Voting Right Act because it was not circulated in Spanish.
7. UGLY: LAND-USE WAR GOES NUCLEAR—ENVIRONMENTALISTS ACCUSED OF RACISM. An activist who instigated the lawsuit against the General Plan Initiative says slow-growth policies are “racist” because they hurt Latinos who need affordable housing. Developers, who routinely fight rules to require affordable housing in new projects, cheer.
6. GOOD, BAD AND UGLY: HOUSING SALES COOL AS REAL ESTATE MARKET ENTERS LIMBO—AFFORDABLE HOUSING REMAINS SCARCE. Reflecting a national trend, housing prices in Monterey County stop their climb heavenward. But buying a home remains difficult or impossible for many or most working families, who also now must fear a slump that will stick them with inflated payments. Meanwhile, local leaders do little or nothing to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.
5. BAD: TAINTED SPINACH TRACED TO SALINAS VALLEY—LOCAL AG INDUSTRY FEARS ANTI-VEGGIE BACKLASH. Public health officials never identify the specific cause of a nationwide E. coli outbreak that sickens hundreds and kills two, but local farms are found to be responsible. In addition to the human suffering, the event causes a panic that hurts local growers. The long-term effects remain unknown.
6. BAD: LAFCO QUASHES DEMOCRACY (AGAIN)—CARMEL VALLEY INCORPORATION SPIKED. Once again, a citizens initiative is undone when the Local Agency Formation Commission refuses to allow a vote on the creation of a Town of Carmel Valley.
4. GOOD: LIVE MUSIC THRIVES—CLASSICAL ORCHESTRAS, JAZZ COMBOS AND BAR BANDS FLOURISH. Dave Brubeck performs his new Cannery Row Suite at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Old Ramblin’ Jack Elliott returns to Big Sur to open for the kids in Brightblack Morning Light. Longtime local rock star Tom Ayres gets a huge record contract. The Bach Festival, Chamber Music Society, etc., continue to evolve. Nightclubs do brisk business. And Salinas votes to allow live music in Oldtown.
4a: GOOD: THEATER AND ART THRIVES, TOO—LOCAL CULTURE BUILDS ON RICH TRADITION. In addition to abundant natural beauty and good weather, we are blessed with a cultural environment that helps make life worth living. In life, 2006 was a mixed bag; in art, it was a good year.
3. GOOD: INTEGRITY PREVAILS—SUPES VOW TO PUT GENERAL PLAN TO PUBLIC VOTE. At press time, it is still not certain that the Board of Supervisors will keep its promise to reverse course and let voters decide the future of the county. If they do, it will be a commendable triumph of good sense.
1: GOOD: 2006 ENDS—A NEW YEAR BRINGS PROMISE. The November election means Monterey County once again has a voice in DC, as Rep. Sam Farr joins a majority that has vowed to take the country in a new direction. New mayors come into power in Salinas, Monterey and Pacific Grove—all of them bringing fresh ideas and energy. Simón Salinas returns from Sacramento to once again serve on the Board of Supervisors, where he is likely to bring a moderating influence. There is reason to believe that the dramatic changes to the political landscape will help make 2007 a better year.