Run for Her Money
Harbor district commissioner challenges popular Salinas City Councilwoman.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
In an unusually uneventful Salinas election season, Vince Ferrante hopes to unseat longtime Salinas councilwoman Jyl Lutes by touting his budget balancing skills, nitpicking the school teacher’s record and (sound familier?) calling for change.
“I’ve been in Salinas too long to not know what’s going on,” the 65-year-old coach says. “And gosh darn it, we need a change.”
He’s got that part right. Ferrante has plenty of campaign fodder, namely the city’s $4.4 million budget deficit projected for the next fiscal year and an entrenched gang problem.
But Lutes says these problems are all the more reason to keep her behind the dais, representing north Salinas’ District 6. “The city is going to need all the experience it can get,” Lutes says. “I understand the budget. I know pretty much every line item in there.”
The anticipated budget shortfall is due to slumping property and sales taxes, Lutes says asking city employees to forego raises is off the table after the police union balked. So now the city looks to department heads to make cuts.
Ferrante points to his record as a commissioner for the Moss Landing Harbor District, saying he helped pull the district out of the red– although a small harbor district and a city with a $97 million operating budget is hardly a fair comparison. He says the city needs to trim the fat in the budget: For example, the $63,000 a year the city spends on car washes. He also wants to hire more police officers as opposed to paying excessive overtime.
Lutes fires back, saying calling for more cops is nothing new and the city can’t afford more officers. “Until he can say, ‘We need to [not fund] something to make that happen,’ that’s where the public courage comes in.”
Ferrante questions Lutes’ voting record, saying he would have never voted to close the libraries during the city’s last financial crisis. He also criticizes Lutes for not attending a recent debate. (Lutes didn’t attend because she was in Seattle, at a conference.) While the race is nonpartisan, Ferrante, a Republican, has endorsements from key GOPers like state Sen. Abel Maldonado and Supervisor Lou Calcagno. His campaign is mainly funded by a $3,000 loan to himself.
Lutes, who has been on the City Council since 1998, has endorsements from most of her council colleagues. Mayor Dennis Donohue endorsed Lutes, as did four of her five fellow councilmembers. (Councilman Tony Barrera hasn’t endorsed either candidate in District 6.) Additionally, Democrat-supporting donors have contributed money to Lutes’ campaign, including $1,000 from SEIU Local 521 and $300 from the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council.