Carmel at the Crossroads
Tough choices in mayoral, City Council races.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We wish Carmel voters had a different set of candidates in the mayoral election on April 13.
Mayor Sue McCloud deserves credit for financial stewardship (the city is now sitting on more than $10 million in reserve funds), leading the ban on Styrofoam in restaurants, gaining passage of an ordinance that permits live music in places that serve alcohol, and helping to see through the reconstruction of the Sunset Center. But despite McCloud’s accomplishments, there’s something uncomfortably secretive about her administration.
Her energetic young opponent, Adam Moniz, argues passionately for greater transparency at City Hall. But unfortunately, he can’t seem to get out of his own way on the campaign, and his loquacity has interfered with his ability to be taken seriously. McCloud got a lucky draw.
That doesn’t begin to excuse the mishandling of important issues by McCloud or her City Council supporters, Gerard Rose and Paula Hazdovac, also seeking re-election.
It was on McCloud’s watch that the sexual harassment charges against City Administrator Rich Guillen were leveled. Whatever the legal merits, the way McCloud’s team handled the allegations of unwelcome, inappropriate conduct toward former Human Resources Manager Jane Miller and questionable relationships with other female city employees gives stonewalling a bad name.
It would have been a simple matter to put Guillen on administrative leave, as is customary, and recuse City Clerk Heidi Burch, who is implicated in Miller’s lawsuit, from being responsible for the public records requests – an apparent conflict of interest that doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Instead, team McCloud dug in their heels, embarking on an expensive course of litigation defending Guillen, even trying to get the opposing attorney, Michael Stamp, tossed off the case, and refusing to answer legitimate questions.
The mishandling of the Flanders mansion flap is another example of questionable judgment.While Carmel voters have spoken overwhelmingly in favor of selling the mansion, the quagmire continues. Given the economy and the ongoing litigation, it’s unclear if there’s even a possible buyer.
The lingering dispute testifies to a City Hall governing style that seems constitutionally averse to conflict resolution.
McCloud says she’s exploring a compromise; the Flanders Foundation attorney denies it. Moniz says the voters have spoken, but wonders why any settlements weren’t explored long ago. He’s right.
But the mayoral race isn’t a close call. McCloud is a smart, shrewd survivor. While Moniz supports many positions we agree with, including greater resident participation in government and protecting the city from the expensive and unnecessary lawsuits, his clueless public persona leads us to believe he will be ineffective trying to run a town as cloistered and riddled with infighting as Carmel.
Under the circumstances, endorsing McCloud might seem like a no-brainer. But we can’t in good conscience offer her blanket support. If she’d commit to a change of tone in a sixth term, she could regain the trust of critics and finish her tenure on a high note (she has repeatedly said this is it for her).
McCloud will be re-elected. Whether she’s capable of such a change remains to be seen.
City Council candidates Gerard Rose and Paula Hazdovac have unfortunately acted as rubberstamps for McCloud’s regime, but it’s clear to us that McCloud needs to be challenged, not enabled.
Jason Burnett has brought intelligence, innovative ideas and a fresh approach to his City Council race. The former EPA staffer represents a starkchange in attitude from the current circle-the-wagons approach. His campaign is refreshing, his preparation and balanced temperament impressive.
Despite speculation that he’d take McCloud on, in the end Burnett blinked, and decided to go after the council seat. Perhaps he didn’t want to invest in a race he might lose, or understood the benefit of building some real-time political experience. But caution is not necessarily a virtue in the young. We would have liked to have seen him take McCloud on directly, instead of nibble around the edges.
We support Burnett’s candidacy for City Council, but can’t recommend a vote for either Rose or Hazdovac.
As for Mayor McCloud: Your vote should depend on whether her personal charm and intelligence outweighs the drawbacks of her lengthy tenure. Moniz, unfortunately, can’t play in her league. If Burnett were running for mayor, this would be an easy choice for us. As things stand, you’ll have to make it for yourself.