Odd Man Out
Local business owner shakes up Seaside City Council race.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In an election year when the buzzword is “change,” the incumbent Seaside City Council is hoping for more of the same.
City Councilman Don Jordan’s decision not to seek another term leaves three candidates– Mayor Pro Tem Steve Bloomer, Planning Commissioner Ian Oglesby and former Planning Commissioner Felix Bachofner– vying for two council seats.
The current councilmen, including unopposed Mayor Ralph Rubio, back Bloomer and Oglesby. Incumbent Bloomer’s advantage is obvious, and Oglesby appears to be Jordan’s anointed successor; Byrl Smith, widow of former Seaside Mayor and County Supervisor Jerry Smith, runs Oglesby’s campaign.
The politically incestuous endorsements rankle Bachofner, who says it’s “short-sighted” for councilmembers to stump for people they’ll share the dais with. “Frankly,” he says, “I don’t think I would accept an endorsement from any of them.”
This statement exemplifies the businessman, who is running the race’s feistiest campaign. In 1994, Bachofner was appointed to the Planning Commission at age 25. He served for the next five years, often pushing the idea of residential cisterns as a way to conserve Seaside’s limited water supply. Since then he has been a vocal regular at city meetings.
He says the council needs a “better sense of fiscal responsibility and better planning,” complaining that city leaders depend too heavily on taxes and projected future revenue to support current spending. And he rails against the city’s “massive developer giveaways” on Fort Ord and other redevelopment areas.
As the owner of a marketing company, Bachofner knows how to control his message. He’s hesitant to let the Weekly shoot his photo, preferring his own official headshot, and masterfully steers his answers toward his talking points.
But he also talks about bringing more discussion to the lock-step council, which votes unanimously most of the time.
“The council seems to be homogeneous in its thinking and as a result, homogeneous in its voting,” he says. “I question whether the council values the input that the city’s boards and commissions provide.”
While Bachofner is brash and specific about the changes he’d bring to the city, candidate Oglesby is agreeable and vague. The Soledad prison guard identifies gang suppression, government transparency and sustainable economic development as his top issues.
Three years ago, former Supervisor Smith appointed Oglesby to the county’s Overall Economic Development Commission, and a year and a half later Mayor Rubio sat him on the Seaside Planning Commission. He also serves on the Monterey County Board of Education.
With the incumbent council unanimously behind him, Oglesby plays it safe. He says the city is on a good course under the current leadership and, while he emphasizes his independent voice, he offers no examples of how he would steer the council in new directions.
When pressed, Oglesby says the council should seek more community input, redesign the city website and improve communications with the Planning Commission. He also supports more youth activities, resources for public safety departments and green building incentives.
Incumbent Bloomer is even more invested in the status quo. In the nine years that he’s served on the council, the city’s revenue has risen from about $11 million to $25 million, according to his campaign brochure. He hopes to move redevelopment projects forward in order to generate more local jobs and revenue.
After serving in the Army, Bloomer worked for three decades as an engineer for the Monterey County Public Works Department. He is now employed with his brother’s company, Bayview Pest Control Services.
Speaking by phone, Bloomer says he wants the city to stay the course with its existing strategic planning process. Aside from some improvements in code enforcement and traffic, he doesn’t see the need for any big changes. “That’s a cliché word, ‘change,’ as you’ve heard from every presidential nominee,” he says. “Here’s what I think: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
While Bachofner is the only saber-rattler in the pool, he’s not the maverick candidate local Libertarians threatened to put forward.
The Seaside Taxpayers Association pledged to recall or replace all of the council incumbents– including Rubio and Bloomer– after their unanimous vote in June to renew the city’s power of eminent domain. But the group never put forth a candidate, and both Oglesby and Bachofner say they would likely have voted the same way.