P.G., Del Rey Oaks fiddle while Salinas burns.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Where to begin?
Times of crisis are supposed to bring out our best, not worst instincts, but you sure can’t tell it by what’s going on around here lately.
Start with Pacific Grove, where longtime self-appointed “gadfly’’ David Dilworth decided to take it upon himself to launch an e-mail intimidation campaign and (laughably unsuccessful) recall effort against Mayor Dan Cort.
Dilworth, let’s remember, ran for City Council himself last November. He lost, ending up in second to last place, but to judge by the imperiously inappropriate tenor of his missive to Cort, however, he’s the new P.G. kingmaker. “Do not construe this as a negotiation, nor is it up for a discussion,’’ he flamed the mayor, furtively offering to keep the matter secret if Cort acceded to the ludicrous demands. (He’s since apologized, but the damage has been done.)
Incredibly, the exasperated mayor did indeed withdraw from the fray – not, he maintains, because of Dilworth’s threats but out of disgust with the ongoing heckling he’s been getting from a vocal group of critics who apparently want to go back to the failed policies of the past. “I have a responsibility to my family and my business and my life and that of the city,’’ Cort told the Weekly’s Kera Abraham. “It’s difficult to be the mayor of Pacific Grove. You have to be able to breathe.’’
DAN CORT SHOULD CONSIDER THE SOURCE, AND STAY THE COURSE.
Fair enough. But now that he’s had a chance to take a deep breath – and to drink in the waves of support he’s been getting from the community – Cort should consider the source, and stay the course. He was elected because of promises to help create a sustainable, progressive, environmentally friendly and economically viable P.G. Sticking to his decision, however understandable the reasons, will hurt, not help matters.
P.G. is not the only community on the verge of meltdown. The city staff in Del Rey Oaks have submitted a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mayor Joseph Russell, at the same time D.R.O. has sworn in a new city manager. This time, the accusations appear to have substance – Russell is apparently a micro-manager and meddler of titanic proportions for this tiny community. But the entire episode underscores why regional solutions are needed to deal with the problems of the Central Coast. Frankly, the notion that Del Rey Oaks needs: a) a mayor, b) a city manager, or c) a police department, with a donated Hummer, when the cities of Monterey or Seaside could easily subsume these functions, is an example of radically misplaced priorities at a time when the entire community faces more serious perils. “Be true to your school” may have worked as a Beach Boys lyric, but it doesn’t begin to explain why time, money and energy are being wasted for a misplaced sense of local pride.
Speaking of civic scandals, the most recent outbreak of violence in Salinas further illustrates the vital importance of keeping priorities straight.
The 21st victim of gang-related shootings this year was José Manuel Perez, a 15-year-old Salinas High student. The fact that he was an innocent bystander should only heighten our outrage.
In contrast to his predecessor, the ineffectual Dan Ortega, Salinas Police Chief Louis Fetherolf has personally hit the streets to try to help deal with the out-of-control violence; every possible Salinas police officer has been reassigned, and the anti-gang Violence Suppression Unit has been working day and night. The Monterey Sheriff’s Office has reassigned eight deputies to help, and the CHP has sent more officers out. State Attorney General Jerry Brown has been talking about getting involved, which one hopes is not mere campaign rhetoric, and there have been renewed calls to get the National Guard involved.
But let’s be clear about what’s going on: the Norteños and Sureños have taken the city hostage. Crime may be a product of social injustice, but these gangs are urban terrorists. They’re not staging a political protest; they’re looking for higher profits – and, maybe, kicks.
The disgraceful performance of our Sacramento legislators, led by Gov. Schwarzenegger and his Republican cohorts, represents another form of economic terrorism, robbing Salinas of the tools needed to fight badly needed wars against crime and unemployment at a time when it is desperately needed. They should be indicted for what they’re doing to this state.
Speaking of misplaced priorities, it would be nice to see some of the other, more affluent cities here – Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Marina, Del Rey Oaks – help out Fetherolf and his officers, instead of engaging in pointless political bickering.
Maybe their police forces are dealing with other pressing priorities – parking tickets, barking dog complaints.
But I wouldn’t want to tell that to the family of José Perez.