Five candidates for two open seats have different priorities, visions for Monterey.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Alan Haffa has spent a lot of Saturday afternoons on the Colton Hall lawn this year, where he was active with Occupy Monterey. Now, the Monterey Peninsula College professor is looking for a seat at the table inside with a run for City Council.
“Even before Occupy began, I have been a leader and fighter for people,” Haffa says. “In selecting me, [voters] will have a courageous leader who’s not afraid to confront outside corporations and stand up for the people.”
Haffa, who was on the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District board for three years, joins four other candidates in a crowded field for two open council seats. Councilwoman Libby Downey is seeking re-election, and Councilman Jeff Haferman is not seeking another term.
Each candidate identifies a different set of priority issues, but trending national political topics—fiscal conservatism, corporate suspicion—are making their way into the campaign.
One challenger, retired Monterey Police Commander Ed Smith, says he’d buckle down on spending. “I am very interested in continuing to watch how we finance our downtown revitalization and capital improvements,” he says.
The next City Council is expected to take action on a number of major projects, from a new storm drain system and conference center remodel to implementing the city’s Downtown Specific Plan and Waterfront Master Plan.
Planning Commissioner Bill McCrone’s priority would be taking those visions from paper to reality. “We’ve had a lot of participation in the development of these plans, but when it comes time, people come out of the woodwork in opposition to any change,” he says. “It really takes leadership and a vision to forge the future. The current City Council has been too passive in seeing that these plans be brought to fruition.”
Every candidate is considering the vibe of downtown. Smith says the Alvarado Street neighborhood has a bad name because of isolated bad actors. “I think it is a safe place to go,” he says. “I would paint it as a very upcoming, future vibrant location.”
Downey says downtown is headed in the right direction, with a proposal for a market hall by developer Doug Wiele and an ongoing crackdown on nightlife hours. “We have got to keep our bars from staying open so late that we attract gangs,” she says. “We want those problems to go away, and I think we’ve done a great job with The Mucky Duck.”
In 2006, Michael Dawson unsuccessfully challenged Mayor Chuck Della Sala (who’s unopposed in his re-election bid), and is now running for council. “I’m the guy who’s been sitting in the audience for six years,” he says.
Dawson, who serves on the Architectural Review Committee, says his hot-button issue is historic preservation. But he also wants to see downtown cleaned up—literally. He proposes hiring someone to oversee trash pick-up downtown, modeled after Rudy Giuliani’s efforts in New York City. “He started cleaning up the little things, and the big things fell into place,” Dawson says.
The biggest issue for Downey is water supply. She serves as the city’s alternate to the Regional Water Authority and is on the Monterey Water Pollution Control Agency board.
Even before conflict-of-interest allegations against former county water board chairman Steve Collins emerged, Downey says, “I knew there was a good ol’ boys thing going, though I didn’t know exactly what it was.” Now, she says she’s applying pressure to the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to build a desal plant instead of Cal Am’s private project. “Then at least we would own it,” she says.