Ice Queen?… The scene is Gene’s Barber Shop in P.G. on a Saturday morning. A woman and a man enter with two little boys in tow. It’s time for the boys to get a haircut and Gene’s has an empty chair. The other customers eye the woman suspiciously. They know who she is, but are quickly disarmed by her friendly, talkative manner. The woman is Pat Keil, the new publisher of the Monterey County Herald.

But wait! Could this amiable person possibly be the union-busting hydra, the destroyer of lives and careers, the Knight-Ridder hatchet person so vilified by the Newspaper Guild?

“You look so handsome,” she softly tells her young son as he gets his hair cut.

Is this really the woman one Herald employee, in an interview with the Weekly, referred to as “the ice queen?”

Gee, maybe the Newspaper Guild went a little bit overboard. And maybe, just maybe, some Herald employees did not in fact measure up to Knight-Ridder standards.

Squid may not cancel that Herald subscription yet.


Next Up, RJ Reynolds Reports on Smoking If you weren’t in the Bay Area last weekend, you missed out on the Alameda Newspaper Group’s April 26 interview with Dina Ruiz-Eastwood, the part-time KSBW anchor whose latest project is a newsmagazine called “Quest for Excellence” that airs on several Bay Area stations. “Quest” is intended to highlight aspects of the state’s educational system, and a recent program highlighted a Monterey Bay student with cerebral palsy. The problem? The program costs are being underwritten by the California Teachers Association, which also pays a fee to run commercial-free news magazines. Some – including Dina’s editor at KSBW – consider having the largest educational union in the state foot the bill for an education program an enormous conflict of interest. But Dina apparently doesn’t. “How can a show that spotlights all the good things happening in public schools be a bad thing?” she asked Bay Area readers. Hey, good point, Dina, but let’s take a stab at the answer. Perhaps it’s a bad thing because the largest lobbying entity in the state, while it buys some legislators, shouldn’t be able to buy journalists.


Do You Feel Lucky, Tony?… Seven months after publishing a legendarily fawning article about Clint Eastwood’s blossoming real estate empire (believe Squid, it’s not easy getting “Eastwood” and “blossom” into the same sentence), the New York Times is researching what will likely be an equally sycophantic offering about a media-worthy member of Eastwood’s team of legal eagles: Tony “The Babe” Lombardo.

NYT staffer Linda Sandler, whose unintentionally humorous “Clint Eastwood Runs Gauntlet to Build His Golf Course” ran in February, was back on the Peninsula collecting stories from The Babe’s large circle of friends. Apparently, also from his enemies, one of whom told Sandler that Lombardo doesn’t win ’em all. And sometimes he gets accused of embarrassing things, like ghostwriting county government documents on behalf of planning staffers reviewing development proposals submitted by his clients. Seeing as though, however, Sandler managed to avoid telling NYT readers about how Clint leapfrogged a bunch of hopeful Carmel Valley water users – including the water district itself – to secure water rights for his Cañada Woods development, chances of her keyboarding unseemly facts about Lombardo seem miniscule.


Maybe He Should Work in P.G.… Thank goodness the citizens of Monterey have City Attorney Bill Conners to protect them from all things carnal. In response to one citizen’s hysterics over pornographic magazines touting women of “barely legal” age, Conners himself zoomed around town warning retailers to cover up the skin mags.

It’s certainly not out of character for Conners to take an active role in code enforcement. A few years ago, Conners went the extra mile and accompanied the Monterey Police on a number of raids involving massage parlors suspected of selling customers a little more than a back rub.

Squid declares, if it wasn’t for Conners, Monterey would surely go to hell in a hand-basket. Today it’s seedy massage parlors and “barely legal” porn. Tomorrow citizens will be smoking those funny cigarettes and dancing naked in the streets. Where does it end? Keep up the good work, Rev. Conners. Your white-fleeced flock needs you.


No Irony in Gender Politics… Some things don’t mix – cats and bathtubs, pineapples and pizza, stiletto heels and the streets of Carmel. There is a natural order to the universe that shouldn’t – no, mustn’t – be disturbed. The consequences are scarier than Al Gore in a beard. Which leaves Squid sadly shaking Squid’s head at groups like the Monterey Bay Republican Women’s Federated.

Wouldn’t that be the equivalent of Squid joining the Calamari Cookers of the Central Coast? Apparently these gals hold monthly meetings to discuss pressing concerns of Republican women today… like, fruit. Rare and exotic fruit.

Squid stumbled upon an invitation to the group’s December luncheon meeting, titled “Discover the World of Rare and Exotic Fruits” with guest speaker Steve McShane, assistant to Sen. Bruce McPherson. “Steve McShane will display a wide variety of exotic fruits from his garden and allow everyone to taste them,” it reads. Sounds yummy. But it’s going to cost you – 18 Benjamins to get a taste of Steve’s goods. You didn’t expect a free lunch from the GOP, did you?


Please, in the Name of Good Taste… Nothing horrifies Squid more than swimming into a friend’s under-sea abode and spying a Thomas Kinkade hanging above the hearth. Some call the Painter of Light’s mass-produced paintings of wildflowers at sunrise or rustic stone cottages “art.” Squid calls it “prints.”

In recent weeks, Kinkade galleries in Del Monte Center, the Barnyard, San Carlos Street in Carmel and one on Cannery Row have dumped their inventories. Adios, says Squid. Squid wishes the whole lot of them would pick up and go to Fort Worth, Texas, home of the Kinkade Family Galleries. And take the dramatically-simplistic-yet-majestically-lit-Christmas-Eve-cottage-at-sunset with them.


Dierolf vs. Everybody… Squid loves irony – especially when it involves Salinas anti-tax crusader Mark Dierolf. Back in October, Dierolf and fellow Measure O proponent Angie Morfin filed a lawsuit against the city of Salinas claiming that the city unlawfully spent more than $250,000 of taxpayer money to campaign against the unsuccessful initiative that would have axed the city’s utility tax. The city says it wasn’t campaigning, but was educating residents about the pending $8 million budget cut. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell will decide. But until he does, we can sit back, relax and enjoy the irony. Dierolf and Co., the very people who called for belt-tightening and launched the crusade against government waste are now engaging the city in a frivolous lawsuit. Does anyone else find this funny? Maybe it’s just Squid.


And Likes Amphibians… Squid likes amphibians, even ones that look like Monterey attorney Michael Stamp, who is suing the city for $200,000 in attorney fees from the July 2003 public records lawsuit he filed on behalf of land-use watchdog Pat Bernardi. In the case, Bernardi sought city records allegedly ghostwritten by Lombardo & Gilles – attorneys for the Ocean View Plaza retail-condominium complex – to, er, “help” city planners prepare documents for the Cannery Row project. So Assistant Monterey City Manager Deborah Mall called Stamp “that molting amphibian” in an email.

Now Squid’s always been quite good at insults, and Squid can’t help but feeling like Mall could have come up with something better than “molting amphibian.” In fact, Squid always thought molting amphibians were kind of cute. But maybe that’s just a cephalopod thing.


Public Humiliation… A funny thing happened at the latest Rancho San Juan hearing the other day. “I’ve been lobbied at just about every place you can think of,” Supervisor Dave Potter told the crowd. Yes, he admitted, even the men’s restroom. But never in a foreign country, until about 10 days ago, when one of Butterfly Village developer Moe Nobari’s peeps tracked Potter down in Croatia, even after he had changed hotels, to give Potter documents.

Now Squid took this as a mild rebuke to the developer – and the lengths to which some will go to lobby politicians, and supposedly, secure a thumbs up vote. (Potter still voted no on the project.) Silly Squid could have misinterpreted Potter’s entire intended meaning. Luckily, Supervisor Jerry Smith was on hand to set the record straight.

Lobbying in Croatia? Here’s what it means, according to Jer: “Our housing problem is an internationally recognized problem.” Right. That’s it.


So Long Tony… Here’s a very important lesson Squid learned on day one at a PR firm where Squid used to work. (Oh yes, in a past life Squid spent 180 miserable days of Squid’s life as a flak. All that spinning and tweaking language really soured Squid’s ink.) So here is the public relations lesson: If you want to hide a huge, explosive story, send out a press release at 6pm on a Friday. Looks like Monterey County spokeswoman Maia Carroll learned that lesson long ago. Late last Friday, she emailed a virtual bomb to local media outlets. “Monterey County’s Registrar of Voters, Anthony (Tony) Anchundo, has announced his resignation after a 17-year career in the Monterey County Elections Department,” it read, giving no explanation, no nothing, and happening just weeks before the June election.

Well it turns out that Anchundo is under investigation for possibly misusing his county credit card. Now that, Squid gets. It’s so easy to rack up bills shopping online.


Watching the Watchers… Squid’s commute time always depends on the tides. Some days Squid commutes towards shore, some days the tide takes Squid out to sea. Squid has learned how to go with the flow. But lately Squid has lost Squid’s bearings, baffled by all the madness circulating around the General Plan.

For instance, how is anyone to understand what the county is up to? The Supes voted unanimously to place the Community General Plan Initiative, which was circulated by the nonprofit group LandWatch, on the June ballot. At the same time, County Counsel Charles McKee will go into federal court Feb. 27 to argue that the initiative should be kept off the ballot. Where’s the logic?

Finger-pointing and mistruths make it even more difficult to follow the dizzying events. For instance: Monterey County Board of RealtorsSheryl McKenzie’s highly politicized letter to members claims LandWatch is “just interested in confusing the voters and throwing a monkey-wrench into the orderly system of government.” McKenzie has a right to oppose the initiative – but why attack LW’s intentions?

Meanwhile, the Carmel Pine Cone, circulated in a town that is uniquely lovely in large part due to its strong land-use rules, also comes out with an editorial attacking LandWatch’s motives. The hit-piece claims that LandWatch opposes any new housing, which is patently untrue – the Initiative calls for 10,500 new housing units.

It’s getting hard to understand all this monkey business. Squid’s hunch? That is exactly what some folks want.


Heston vs. Huff… Squid likes truth (along with snarkiness, smarts and smokin’ hot looks). So Squid was happy as a sea lion at a sardine buffet when the Fabulous Miss H, Arianna Huffington, visited Monterey last week.

She criticized George Bush and John McCain. Democrats, too, although most of her biting comments were reserved for the GOP. Sigh. Squid’s in love. But, according to rumors, other more conservative-minded mollusks in and around Monterey Peninsula College – not so much.

Nor is Joseph W. Heston, KSBW president and general manager. In his Sept. 12 rant, errr, opinion, titled “Working Hard for the Truth,” Heston blasted “Her Royal Newsness, Arianna Huffington,” for saying “the news media, reporting on two sides of a controversial issue, were not doing their job. That the pursuit of ‘truth’ cannot be objective or neutral; to do so she claims is ‘unethical.’

“We think reporting both sides of a controversial community issue is essential. We’ll report the facts as we know them; we also report on why one group or another feels the way they do, and examine evidence they offer to back up their position. We’ll leave the opinionated news to some activist weekly newspapers, cable news outfits and the Internet.”

(Squid’s note: KSBW didn’t attend or report on Huffington’s talk.) Here’s what Huffington said: “At what point do journalists decide the truth is established? People no longer debate if the world is flat… You’re not a partisan if you actually stand up for the truth – you’re an ethical member of the media and to be passionate about the fact that torture is not the American way does not mean that you are a left-wing partisan.”


Grinch Alert… Although Squid’s favorite publication detailed the espresso highs and financial hangover lows of Morgan Christopher and the Ol’ Factory Café (“No Ordinary Joe,” Nov. 12-18), Squid still runs into friends befuddled by the Sand City café’s closure. In the holiday letter tradition, sort of, Christopher offered fans and merely curious onlookers an update in the “XXXmas 2009” edition of his newsletter.

“What happened was GFLs… Greedy F-ing Landlords,” Christopher writes, saying his landlords Kevin “Robbie” Robinson and his wife Lynn, who own Camel Stone Imports next door, put an end to the cherished hangout by evicting him before Thanksgiving.

“After several desperate attempts to evict us on any grounds they could come with,” he writes, “these GFLs took time from building their new five-bedroom trophy home in Pasadera and opening their new stone showroom in the Barnyard – not that there’s anything wrong with that – to issue a three-day notice to vacate the premises. Just in time for the holidays.” Christopher owed about $14,000 in back rent. He claims that his landlords wouldn’t take offers from restaurateurs to pay off the debt and sublease the Ol’ Factory.

A bemused Robinson responds that he’s been more than generous with Christopher: “He’s owed me money for two and half years – since the day he opened. I tried to help him dig out of a hole; instead, he just kept digging more holes.” These holes include more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes and numerous other bills. Robinson says he didn’t see any chance of getting paid with the Ol’ Factory closed for six weeks.

As for subtenants, Robinson says he was never given a proposal and the one guy he talked to wanted a new lease. Squid knew Morgan’s relationship with Robinson, like his previous landlord at Osio – who he does not fail to dis in the newsletter – wasn’t going to end on good terms. Oh yeah, he also manages to get in a few potshots at the Weekly, calling our reporter, whom he’d previously praised for evenhandedness, “a tall young man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bob Woodward.” Squid prefers Hunter S. Thompson, but apparently he’s Morgan’s role model.

Despite the people he burned financially and the Third Place followers he let down by closing, Christopher hasn’t ruled out another coffeehouse. He writes that rising from the ashes like the Phoenix this time won’t be as easy. As Morgan puts it: “No one makes up people this sleazy, stupid and conniving.”

For once, Squid agrees.


All Saints Day… There’s always a local angle, or so Squid’s cephalopodic journalistic ancestors always advised. So it was with pride, joy and a sense of righteous vindication that Squid cheered on Carmel-based linebacker Scott Fujita of the Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints. It’s not just Fujita’s prowess on the gridiron Squid admires, it’s his willingness to stand up for what he believes: Before the game, Fujita, a graduate of UC Berkeley, spoke out in defense of the commercial spot from ManCrunch, a gay dating service, that didn’t make it on the air.

“The idea of doing it at the Super Bowl is going to raise some eyebrows,” Fujita told the New York Times. “Do they have the right? Absolutely.” Fujita has made it clear he’s straight – not that there’s anything wrong with that. “Just because I’m in favor of gay rights doesn’t mean I’m gay,’’ he told the Sirius XM Satellite Radio show last fall. “I know who I am. My wife knows who I am.” He believes in equal opportunities for media interviews, too, telling The Advocate why he supports gay marriage, whether or not it’s the most popular position in the NFL.

Saints starting guard Carl Nicks is a proud son of Salinas, a graduate of North Salinas High and Hartnell College. Good on him, but let’s leave the last word with Fujita, for taking a stand and risking some locker-room ribbing.

“Really, there should be no debate anymore,” he told The Advocate. “For me, in my small platform as a professional football player, I understand that my time in the spotlight is probably limited. The more times you have to lend your name to a cause you believe in, you should do that.” Go Bears. Go Saints. Go Scott.


Lump of Coal… Squid’s making a list, Squid’s checking it twice. That’s right, Squid-a-Claus is coming to town. Squid’s got a bundle of gift certificates: for Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado, endless double-doubles from In-N-Out (destined to ignore Marina as a potential new locale); a group-retreat weekend at Esalen for the Salinas City Council (so they can hug out their differences surrounding the hiring of new City Manager Ray Corpuz over acting City Manager Jim Pia). There’s a Budgeting for Dummies book for the Marina Coast Water District Board (with the hopes they’ll spend less on lawyers and the endless hunt for a PR firm that will make them look 20-percent less dumb), with a second copy for the Board of Supervisors, who spent $250,000 on an outside investigation that absolved themselves of screwing up the Regional Water Project. Squid’s also procured a medical marijuana prescription for Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer, thinking he needs an opportunity to settle down about the looming menaces of live music and pot dispensaries. Squanta even sprung for a bicycle so Lou Calcagno can ride on the Blanco bike lane, and a home-garden methyl iodide fumigation for Simon Salinas. For outgoing Carmel Mayor (and former CIA agent) Sue McCloud, a chaise and flat-screen TV for watching spy flicks and livestreaming council meetings, and for Supervisor Dave Potter, a horse-and-buggy ride through oak woodlands on the proposed Eastside Parkway route. 

And for P.G., the town that rejects pot dispensaries, chain restaurants and even BevMo!, how about a sex-toy shop? That last one isn’t a joke. It’s possible that Carmelita Garcia, mayor of America’s Last Hometown, was looking elsewhere – say, Sacramento – when this one went through the business licensing department. Adult novelty shop Ooh-La-La is scheduled to open before year’s end across the street from il vecchio.
Just looking at that gift list makes Squid ready for some nog. 


November Calling… The general election is still nine months away, but even as Squid enjoys hunkering down with a bowl of well-buttered, shrimp-flavored popcorn and a good GOP debate on TV, Squid is starting to become increasingly entranced by the antics in our local political scene. 

Cuddly Hero of the Masses Dennis Donohue shocked the hell out of the Lettuce Capital of the World by announcing last Friday he wouldn’t seek a fourth term as Salinas mayor. Councilmembers evidently didn’t know the announcement was coming: Pistol-packin’ mama Gloria de la Rosa cried, bound-for-glory county supervisor candidate Sergio Sanchez clutched his chest, and Kimbley Craig and Steve McShane wrapped themselves around cement gazillionaire/political shot-caller Don Chapin’s leg, screaming, “Pick me, pick me!” 

Squid kids about that last part. But what Squid does know is this: Perennial candidate Margaret Serna-Bonetti received a call just after Donohue’s announcement from someone representing a group interested in seeing her run. Kathryn Ramirez, who as a Salinas Union High School board member called the cops after Serna-Bonetti hip-checked her at a meeting, has formed an exploratory committee and is mulling a shot as well. With the delicious idea of those two going head-to-head in play, Squid’s offering a round of shrimp popcorn for everyone. Ag businessman Donohue, meanwhile, says he’ll steer clear of the fray for now and concentrate on convincing people that radicchio is more than a salad afterthought. 


Tears of a Chown… Squid can’t believe it’s been almost a whole year since Pacific Grove rich guy Nader Agha launched his vanity paper, Monterey Bay News & Views. From what Squid has seen, Agha makes a good show of playing nice with others. Same can’t be said of Jon Chown. Agha’s editor/publisher/lackey recently left one of Squid’s human colleagues at the Weekly a voicemail so bombastic it had the entire building rolling in the aisles. 

The problem dates back a month or so, when Weekly Distribution Manager Greg Tomascheski asked Chown to stop dropping News & Views in the Weekly’s slot in the wooden Carmel racks built by the Weekly in 1988 and administered by the city’s forester. If the News & Views are in a Weekly spot, Tomascheski moves them. Squid could feel Chown shaking with rage as he said (via voicemail) if Tomascheski put one more finger on a News & Views, he would sue. How to describe his tone? Think the shlub eaten by bears in Grizzly Man meets Robert DeNiro as Al Capone in The Untouchables (“I want his family dead!”).

“I’m thinking we’re probably going to sue both you individually and your employer,” Chown says. “We have problems… You should probably stop throwing my papers away before I own your house and your car and you lose your job.” 

Communications between Tomascheski and Carmel Magazine and even the Pine Cone have gone harmoniously, so Squid can’t imagine why Chowny-Come-Lately would rather muscle him than do the work of establishing his own drop spots. (Also, common sense would help – if Chown met Tomascheski, he’d know it’s dumb to sue someone who doesn’t own much.)

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