This year, the CW editorial board had a particularly tough time making endorsements in some races--and in some races, we didn''t. We battled over issues that will no doubt confound many of you when you go to the polls on Tuesday. We wondered about the importance of experience versus good intentions, we debated the significance of campaign contributions--who they came from, and how much each candidate received. In the end, we agreed that--as journalists--we had had the opportunity to meet and work with contenders that many voters barely know. For this reason, we decided to use our expertise to give our readers guidelines that might prove useful on election day. Once again, we urge you to fire off letters or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) debating our views, but also to vote on June 2. Tough choices require tough decisions. Here are ours, but yours are the ones that really count.
Monterey County Supervisor District 2
Four years ago, the CW editorial board endorsed Judy Pennycook for the job of District 2 supervisor, giving her high marks for consensus-building, community involvement and compassion in her home turf of North County. Today, we find ourselves unable to endorse her campaign for re-election based on her apparent inability to understand the importance of public perception and trust.
In 1996, Pennycook''s plans to subdivide some North County property were revitalized after five years of dormancy, and in 1997, those plans were approved-ultimately by both the county planning commission and board of supervisors. At the time of those approvals, some concerns were raised about Pennycook''s use of a well-known land-use attorney to represent her case-an attorney who represents other land owners on matters that also come before the board. Now, allegations are being raised by Pennycook''s opponents that the supervisor used her influence on the board to secure approvals for her subdivision.
Pennycook herself insists she met with county planners only in her capacity as an applicant--a capacity she is, by law, entitled to retain. She has also reiterated over and over again her rights as a property owner to subdivide her property. We agree that Pennycook is legally entitled to subdivide her property. But we also draw a distinction between what is legal and what is appropriate. As Shakespeare once observed, Caesar''s wife must be above suspicion. Pennycook''s failure to recognize how her actions could--and did--place county staff in an untenable position in our opinion suggests that she lacks the proper judgment required for the job of county supervisor.
Pennycook''s opponents offer some problematic choices. Mike Weaver makes a strong case for better countywide environmental stewardship, but his ardent position against the desperately needed Salinas Union High School bond and his membership in the anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association troubles us, particularly at a time when the county will be forced to take on more social issues due to welfare reform at the federal level. While we respect Weaver''s firm stances on key local issues related to growth, his noticeable lack of support from much of the environmental community is revealing--not a good sign for someone who will need to build consensus to get anything accomplished.
Kurt Hunter''s slim record of community work and lack of grassroots support makes him too much of an unknown. Hunter may prove to be the tortoise in this race, and his positions on county growth and management make sense, however, he''s untested for this level of governmental service.
What''s a District 2 voter to do? Pick the candidate that''s right for you.
Monterey County Supervisor District 3
With Tom Perkins'' retirement, the entire board of supervisors complexion will change--and hopefully for the good. Perkins'' open seat has brought forward seven suitors. Given that field of contenders, it is unlikely any one will capture the necessary 50 percent plus one to win the seat in this Tuesday''s primary. Look forward to a runoff between the top two in November--allowing both to define their positions more clearly in the next five months.
The experience and congeniality of Lou Calcagno makes him our top choice. Calcagno has served for 18 years on the planning commission and although we haven''t agreed with his every vote (e.g. his support of the Rancho San Carlos project), he would add depth to the board of supervisors on critical land use issues facing the county, in particular protecting our agricultural lands from being overrun by urban sprawl. As a long-time dairy farmer, former chair of the California Coastal Commission and founding member of the Agricultural County Agricultural and Historic Conservancy Rural Trust--an organization that works to preserve ag land from development--we believe Calcagno potentially has the ability to work with both farmers and city folk. We support his position to make the Prunedale bypass the number-one county transportation priority, instead of the concrete cow called Hatton Canyon. Some of our board did express reservations about the contributions Calcagno received from some well-known pro-development sources. Nevertheless, it is our hope that Mr. Calcagno will bring refreshing representation to the District 3.
Monterey County Sheriff
When Norman Hicks first ran for office as a challenger in 1990 against challenger Bud Cook, he made a persuasive argument that the sheriff''s department was an entrenched system suffering from poor morale. Those allegations re-surfaced and dogged Hicks, when he himself faced challengers in 1994 and again this year as he faces Gordon Sonn, a sheriff''s detective who was also one of Hicks'' challengers in 1994. Sonn argues that there aren''t enough deputies patrolling the outlying areas of Monterey County, that too many deputies are assigned to special programs like DARE, and that the system is still plagued by poor morale. He cites as evidence of the latter a letter written and circulated by Deputy Sheriff''s Association (DSA) President Ed Hibbs, complaining of political pressure levied against the association, and the DSA''s failure to conduct an anonymous ballot in deciding its endorsement for sheriff.
Hicks, for his part, insists that during his tenure as sheriff, he has increased the staffing of deputies, that programs like DARE are fully staffed to proactively fight crime, and that any morale problems brought up by Hibbs have been addressed. We aren''t totally convinced that the department is without morale issues. However, we believe that some of those problems may be inherent in the system: The sheriff is forced to run for office at the same time he''s running the department, and deputies are faced with the political dilemma of endorsing either their current boss or the other guy-with whom they''ll have to work whether he wins or loses.
Our biggest concern with Sonn is that-despite 27 years on the force and two campaigns for sheriff--he has failed to articulate what he would do, if elected sheriff. He also has failed to explain why he hasn''t been able to collect strong endorsements from any known quarter, with the exception of Hicks'' old opponent Bud Cook.
We are troubled by allegations against Hicks that he hired a parolee to circulate petitions, allegations that have been turned over to the Monterey County District Attorney''s office and that could--if true--be in violation of state election regulations. Hicks argues that he dismissed the parolee from his duties as soon as he became aware of his parolee status, and that no one, not even a sheriff, can be expected to know the background of all his campaign workers. We definitely urge Hicks to cooperate with whatever investigation the DA''s office decides to pursue, but in the absence of viable competition, we endorse Hicks in his third bid for sheriff.
Monterey County Assessor
Over the years, we have found outgoing Assessor Bruce Reeves to be a competent, caring county employee, easily accessible to the media, clear and concise in his answers to complex assessment queries. We believe Reeves'' office fought the good fight in its very public efforts to re-assess the Pebble Beach Co. upon its sale six years ago. We believe Assistant Assessor Joseph Pitta will continue that tradition. In person, Pitta is soft-spoken and affable, well-versed in both the duties of his office and the rights of the public to access county records. Respecting both Pitta''s experience and his endorsement by Reeves, we add our endorsement to his bid for office.