Clouds in Carmel
Mayor, City Council members face challenges after a year of controversy.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Carmel Mayor Sue McCloud was practically raised at City Hall; her detractors fear she’ll never leave. The five-term mayor recalls celebrating her confirmation under the wooden beams of the City Council chambers when it was an Episcopal Church decades ago. She says she considered retiring this year, but opted to run to shepherd the city through a tough budget year and ensure the voter-approved sale of the city-owned Flanders Mansion is completed.
For nearly a decade, McCloud, a former CIA official, faced little opposition. But now, Carmel newcomer Adam Moniz is poised to challenge the mayor. Moniz is a 33-year-old energy consultant who once practiced law at inside-the-beltway law firm and DC lobbying shop Patton Boggs. Moniz (and his dog, Maddy) moved to Carmel in March after visiting regularly and keeping an eye on city politics since 2000. The aspiring pol sat out his first California election in May 2009, registering as a decline-to-state voter that month and voting for the first time in November.
Dressed in jeans and a sport coat with a gold hankie protruding from his breast pocket, Moniz perches on a bar stool at Il Fornaio restaurant with handwritten notes at the ready.
“I will throw open the doors and windows of City Hall so everyone can see in,” Moniz declares. He means that literally, he says, vowing to work behind a desk in council chambers so that Carmelites can wander in and watch the wheels of government turn.
(In case things turn ugly, he can always duck behind the bullet-proof counter that McCloud says was installed by celebrity Mayor Clint Eastwood in the 1980s.)
Moniz, who often punctuates his statements by repeating them verbatim, also promises twice-yearly town hall meetings, consideration of all options for future fire protection, and incentives for businesses that residents, not tourists, need. Additionally, he vows to serve no more than three terms, and to unplug the timer that flashes red when citizens exceed their three-minute time limit before the city’s lawmakers.
“If anyone objects to that, they can explain why,” he says.
McCloud’s critics charge that she has discouraged citizen participation by shutting down city boards and commissions and discouraging dissent. They point to a spate of lawsuits against the city, including one that alleges City Manager Rich Guillen favored female employees who’ve responded to his sexual advances.
Stephanie Pearce, who recently retired after 30 years with the city, argues that in the past decade, the City Hall work environment has turned hostile while city services have diminished. “The city deserves better,” she says. “The workers deserve better.”
Nonsense, McCloud responds; the majority-female City Council wouldn’t tolerate sexual harassment. Details will likely emerge in court, but the case won’t be heard until after the April election. McCloud notes she has brought cameras and web streaming to City Council meetings, given out her home phone number and publicly posted notices of city meetings. What’s more, she says, the city is financially sound. Sure, some boards and commissions have been consolidated for efficiency, but McCloud contends that recently fewer citizens have chosen to participate in civic affairs.
Meanwhile, former EPA official Jason Burnett, who is backed by three former Carmel mayors, is taking on longtime City Council members Paula Hazdovac and Gerard Rose.