Marina on the Move
Mayor Bruce Delgado shakes up city hall in promising start.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It’s nice – and rare – to see a politician living up to his campaign promises.
So it was good to see that Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado was good to go at his swearing-in ceremony last week.
As the Weekly’s Zachary Stahl reported, Delgado – one of only a handful of Green Party mayors in California – hit the ground running, with an ambitious agenda on everything from mobile-home rent stabilization to alternatives to the looming fiscal mess posed by the California Public Employment Retirement System.
He wants to review the Landscape Assessment District budget deficits and “consider sending letters to homeowners in Landscape Districts whose accounts are in the red.”
He also signaled he wants to pay attention to signage on Highway 1, make an update on the timeline for the downtown revitalization plan “a regular part of the agenda’’ and put in place sign policies “to increase Marina businesses’ visibility.’’
True to his Green roots, he’s pushing a Styrofoam and plastic-bag ban, and plans to sign the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement.
THE NEW DELGADO SEEMS AS MUCH A PRAGMATIST POLITICIAN AS A STARRY-EYED VISIONARY.
And he’d also like to do something about cleaning up litter and graffiti.
Not bad for his first day on the job – even if the opening session, in which Delgado was sworn in by Rep. Sam Farr – turned into something more like Long Day’s Journey Into Night (given the multiple agenda items), than the sleepy sessions for which Marina politics has been so justly famous. Jay Leno may be moving into primetime, but it looks like the Marina City Council is going to be missing Jon Stewart for a while, at least if last week’s meeting is any indication.
While we had little doubt that Delgado would be an improvement over his predecessor, Gary Wilmot, who never seemed to meet a development project he didn’t like – or whose unintended consequences he bothered to consider before waving them through – the question lingered: Could this longstanding rebel adapt to his new role as the city’s leader, who is now required to try to make things work, not just lob rhetorical bricks over the barricades?
It may be too early to tell – and we reserve the right to save our powder if and when Delgado makes policy calls we disagree with – but the style and energy with which he is attacking the process are just what is called for at this critical moment, in Monterey County and beyond.
Monterey County’s unemployment rate spiked to 8.8 percent in November, higher than the state unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, and considerably up from 7.1 percent in October. A good share of the local hit comes from the annual seasonal decline in the farming industry, but the recession is an equal opportunity reaper of bad news.
Part of Delgado’s challenge will remain how to transform campaign rhetoric into action.
Some of the Green dreams that permeated the county – and the country – as more and more people realized the inconvenient truths about climate change – are forcibly being put on hold, as folks scramble to hold on to their jobs, feed their families and make ends meet.
The new Delgado seems every bit as much a pragmatist politician as a starry-eyed visionary. He remains committed to sustainability, as he should be, but there seems to be an understanding that you need to have a live body if you’re going to visit the doctor.
The Dunes deal may be done, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, in a way consistent with the new urbanism goals Delgado has espoused, and with affordable housing and commercial development plans that make economic and environmental sense.
The goal is not to exclude growth of any kind – NIMBYism can be as elitist as any other dogma – but to try to draw up plans and projects that will take advantage of the natural beauties of the area and serve the people who live in Marina, and the county, at the same time they provide a badly needed increase in the tax base.
None of this will be easy.
But if Delgado approaches the rest of his term with the same enthusiasm, energy and commitment he brought to his first day at work, the city, and the county, will be well served.
One move we particularly liked – instead of holding the upcoming “retreat” for the council and city manager at the airport, away from public scrutiny, Delgado pushed to have it held in the City Council chambers, open to the public and available on videotape as well. One small step for transparency in a community that has long needed it.
The good old boys may not be gone, but they’re definitely feeling the heat.
Washington isn’t the only place where a new breeze is blowing these days.