Endorsements Pt II
The Weekly’s picks for local candidates and measures in the Nov. 2 election. (Unopposed offices are not endorsed.)
Thursday, October 14, 2010
COUNTY SHERIFF/CORONER | Scott Miller
Incumbent Sheriff Mike Kanalakis has a tough job. In the most contentious and commented-on race in the county, there’s zero debate about that.
Only problem is, he’s often the first to remind us. When his leadership is questioned – by, say, the residents of Castroville and Big Sur, or those within his own ranks – he responds with what amounts to, “You don’t know what it’s like to be sheriff.” He also forbids his deputies from speaking with the press. That’s no way to build the cooperation we so desperately need to ensure the county’s security.
Miller isn’t a perfect candidate, but he is a superior communicator – maybe even too slick – with multifaceted experience that ranges from beat work in Salinas to Spanish-speaking missionary efforts in Peru to the pothole-riddled landscape of Pacific Grove politics. He seems ready to take on Kanalakis’ tough job, and with more class.
Monterey County and its sheriff’s department need a change.
COUNTY TREASURER | Mary Zeeb
The county’s Salinas-born assistant treasurer deserves the chief bean-counter’s office. With a staff of 47 people, an investment portfolio of $1 billion and a revenue division that collects on everything from property taxes to traffic tickets, the office essentially functions as the county’s bank – overseeing daily cash flows, managing school spending and handling special district funds.
Two years ago, when Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual flopped, the county investment fund lost $30 million – but $7.7 million of that has already been recovered, and more ought to be on the way.
Zeeb is customer-service-oriented and knows the job as well as anyone. She’s sharp, energetic and ready for a promotion; we think she’ll prove to be worth it.
MARINA MAYOR | Bruce Delgado
All cities should be so lucky as Marina, where there’s a clear choice between candidates.
Leftie incumbent Bruce Delgado wants to create more of a university town and cut spending to close the city’s multi-million-dollar budget gap.
His conservative challenger, Councilman Dave McCall, has made public safety funding his priority, and backs Measures M and N, the hotel and sales taxes hikes, as enthusiastically as he does big-box development.
Delgado wouldn’t back the tax measures until the council acted to cut spending in both the short and long terms. He has a more fully formed vision for Marina’s downtown and has hustled to promote the city’s impressive international restaurants. And he aims to annex the currently unincorporated CSU-Monterey Bay area, which could net needed property taxes and civic involvement from currently disenfranchised young voters.
While McCall’s call for greater council harmony is encouraging, it rings insincere given his negative campaign literature.
MARINA CITY COUNCIL | David Burnett, David Brown
The good news here: All three City Council candidates are articulate, far more compatible than the mayoral candidates, and well qualified. The bad news: Hard-liner Jim Ford, who is not up for re-election, will remain on the council.
Council hopeful Nancy Amadeo has an admirable pragmatism and worthy ideas, like reducing fees to attract new businesses and revising downtown growth to bring storefronts streetside. But her conservative bent, and apparent willingness to woo developers by any means necessary, represent the wrong direction for the city.
Marina needs all the help it can get in advancing the proposed CSU-Monterey Bay annexation and closing the budget gap through longer-term planning. Burnett and Brown are best prepared to do that.
MARINA COAST WATER DISTRICT | Jan Shriner, Tom Moore, Bill Lee
Challenger Jan Shriner gets our most enthusiastic nod for her inquisitive mind, attention to detail and civility. We like that she questions MCWD General Manager Jim Heitzman’s highest-in-the-county public salary and wants a stronger voice for Cal Am ratepayers in the Regional Desalination Project.
She’d make a good ally for seasoned incumbent Tom Moore, who doesn’t let 17 years of experience on the board dull his own healthy skepticism.
Incumbent Bill Lee is more of an establishment man, backing Heitzman and the desal agreements as proposed. But at least he’s cordial and polished, in contrast to fellow entrenched incumbent Howard Gustafson.
MONTEREY PENINSULA AIRPORT DISTRICT BOARD | Dan Presser, Matthew Nelson
Our beloved little gem, MRY, continues to lose airlines and destinations, and offers fewer daily flights at rising fares. While there are alternatives, hauling to SJC, OAK and SFO will become less attractive once Highway 101 construction begins.
The current airport district board – which oversees MRY’s general manager, attorney, contracts, leases, and nearly 500 acres of property – gets a mixed report card. They did obtain $4.3 million in federal stimulus funds to improve storm drainage and runway safety. The terminal renovation was completed last year, energy efficiency is improved, security is efficient and the Art at the Airport exhibitions are stellar.
In June the board, recognizing that its noncompetitive taxi service sucked, signed onto the countywide taxi authority, which ought to eventually reduce cab fares. We still wish the airport would offer free Wi-Fi and offload baggage quicker, but without more flights and lower fares, the airport loses its real value.
Feisty Dan Presser will bring an independent and fiscally responsible voice to the board. Newcomer and former Southwest pilot Matthew Nelson will infuse the board with much-needed new blood.
PACIFIC GROVE CITY COUNCIL | Alan Cohen, Ken Cuneo, Rudy Fischer
That was a powerful coin toss. Ever since Carmelita Garcia was appointed mayor by the flip of a quarter, politics has seemed downright pacific in a town known historically for its small-minded acrimony.
In the past year, the council has worked through issues concerning the museum, the planning department, tree ordinances and city finances with a level of both thoroughness and professionalism that earns them the privilege of continuing to do so.
City services are still stretched thin, and pension obligations present a daunting budget obstacle, but the incumbent council appears able to tackle those challenges as well.
Mayor Garcia, along with councilmen Dan Miller and Robert Huitt, are unopposed; Bill Kampe’s term ends in 2012. The Weekly endorses the two incumbents, Alan Cohen and Ken Cuneo, in recognition of their good work so far.
Outgoing councilwoman Lisa Bennett’s seat will be a tough one to fill, but we think Rudy Fischer can imitate her trademark combo of shrewdness and civility.
SALINAS MAYOR | Dennis Donohue
This is an easy one. Donohue has the endorsements, campaign money, experience and vision to stay on as Salinas mayor.
Challengers Margaret Serna-Bonetti and Bill Freeman, though admirable for their civic spirit and service on local education boards, lack virtually all of the above.
We admire Donohue’s energy for tackling the city’s exhausting gang problems, attracting green businesses and re-imagining downtown. But we hope he’ll also leverage his next term to building better relations with city employee unions soured on furloughs and layoffs.
SALINAS CITY COUNCIL, DIST. 3 | Steve McShane
It is patently obvious that Steve McShane is politically ambitious, and he’s funded by a pro-development business PAC. Yet he earns the Weekly’s endorsement because he’s paid his dues on myriad local business and civic groups, including the city’s Planning Commission (which he now chairs) and the Hartnell College board.
McShane has the energy and enthusiasm to bring fresh problem-solving skills to the city’s perennial issues of public safety and economic development.
SALINAS CITY COUNCIL, DIST. 5 | Kimbley Craig
Council incumbent Steve Villegas, a retired sheriff’s deputy, cites public safety as his number-one priority. The question from the bleachers is, “What were you doing the last four years?”
The Salinas PD hasn’t endorsed Villegas this election. And while he has dedicated many years of service as a public employee, coach and involved community member, he’s produced insufficient results to support his re-election.
Kimbley Craig is a newbie in Salinas politics, and while we would have preferred her debut to have been on one of the city’s many boards or commissions, we like that she’d bring an under-represented demographic – as a single, female homeowner and small-biz entrepreneur – to the City Council.
SEASIDE MAYOR | Ralph Rubio
When asked what tattoo he’d get if he were going to ink up, incumbent Mayor Ralph Rubio described an Aztec warrior in a feathered headdress. His opponent, Felix Bachofner, said he’d go with a Swiss duck.
The answers don’t count for much, but they offer some insight into the two characters. Rubio, a well-networked labor organizer and Democrat, brings a calm determination to his leadership.
Comparatively conservative Bachofner is a bit muckier, proposing to give private developers more control over Seaside’s future at a time when redevelopment needs to be done deliberately and with restrictions. Though he uses bigger words than Rubio and exhibits an attention to detail that straddles the line between brilliant and obsessive, Bachofner can come off as self-important, not a quality we look for in the city’s top public servant.
We also take note that Bachofner’s supporters seem less enthusiastic about propping the challenger than about taking revenge on Rubio, whom they begrudge for backing City Manager Ray Corpuz in the ouster of former Seaside Police Chief Steve Cercone.
Until he gains more political savvy, Bachofner is better suited for the City Council, a position the Weekly endorsed him for in 2008.
SEASIDE CITY COUNCIL |Dennis Alexander, Alvin Edwards
Incumbent Councilman Tom Mancini is knowledgeable and friendly, but after 16 years on the council, he seems low on energy and ideas.
And while we admire challenger Annalisa Mitchell’s dedication to women, youth and the elderly – we’re ready for a female face on what for years has been an all-male council – she doesn’t express a deep understanding of Seaside’s major issues.
Incumbent Dennis Alexander, on the other hand, is everything we like to see in a councilmember: humble, smart, in touch with the community, open-minded and articulate.
Challenger Alvin Edwards, a Seaside fire captain, is more of a wild card; his objections to a joint powers authority for fire services seem self-serving. But the 13-year water district director has a feisty streak. We’re willing to give him a shot if it means more debate on a council that’s become too predictable.
MEASURE R (Cap Pacific Grove’s CalPERS contributions at 10 percent of employees’ salaries) | YES
P.G. has become a poster child for local cities’ struggles to control their skyrocketing costs under the California Public Employees Retirement System.
Pagrovians put Measure R on the ballot in an effort to keep pension costs from bankrupting P.G., but the City Council has already given its blessing by adopting the 10 percent cap as an ordinance.
We’re not sure the new rule will withstand legal challenges. And while we believe government workers deserve comfortable retirements, their benefits under CalPERS (more generous than most of the private sector’s) are a growing burden on depleted city coffers.
We think the question deserves clarification by the courts, which can guide other cities grappling with the same problem. P.G. has a better case if Measure R backs up the council-approved ordinance.
MEASURE M (Marina 1 percent sales tax increase) | YES
This yes is a reluctant one. The temporary sales tax hike won’t heal the deficit spending that has become Marina’s M.O., and sales taxes tend to hit lower-income residents hardest.
But Measure M will help shore up services, particularly recreation and public safety. The City Council, however, must be held responsible for making tough cuts, drafting far wiser deals with developers and bumping up incentives to attract more businesses to town.
MEASURE N (Marina hotel tax increase) | YES
Raising Marina’s transient occupancy tax is a calculated risk. At worst, it could make the city’s hotels uncompetitive and drive tourists elsewhere.
But we don’t think that’s a likely outcome. A temporary 2 percent hike, bumping the hotel tax from 10 to 12 percent, is in line with what other Peninsula cities are charging.
We hope that if Marina voters approve Measures M and N, more frugal city spending will reward their generosity – and one-time revenue from land sales will be reserved for capital improvements, rather than plugging unsustainable operating expenses.
MEASURE P (Monterey Peninsula Unified School District bond) | YES
Whether or not you trust government’s ability to spend our (borrowed) money, it’s important this $110 million bond measure passes. MPUSD’s facilities are so neglected, and its operating budget so sparse, that our kids are now learning in overcrowded, poorly heated, second-rate classrooms. And the dismal state budget will force the district to do even more with less.
If you listen to the anti-tax, anti-government chorus, there are many reasons you might oppose this bond: It gives the district too much spending discretion without enough oversight; it will increase your property taxes by $30 for every $100,000 of assessed value; it will saddle the district with a long-term bond obligation at a time when many homeowners are struggling to make their mortgage payments.
While we understand the concerns, not investing in our schools is a guaranteed path to failure. That is too high a risk, for all of us.
MEASURE Q (Pacific Grove parcel tax to support the library) | YES
This measure will raise $90 per home (or $45 per apartment) each year for 10 years to fund the P.G. Public Library.
Last year, a similar measure came less than 1 percent short of the two-thirds supermajority to pass. Opposition in the last round was primarily from anti-tax types; this year, the No on Q group proposes to incorporate the P.G. library into the county system. That alternative will still require huge payments from the city, but without the long-term benefits.
Measure Q is a modest and dedicated tax that seems befitting of a town that likens itself to Mayberry.