I have a knot in my neck. Not so much in my neck, but kind of to the left of it, above my trapezius muscle. Several years ago, when it first came into being, I named it “The Cushman Knot,” in honor of Weekly Publisher Erik Cushman and his propensity to be a pain in the neck (among other sensitive places). The Cushman Knot flares if I let my posture get bad or if I do that reporter thing of balancing my phone between my left shoulder and ear while I type. It also flares in times of tension.
Election season is upon us and, gentle readers, The Cushman Knot is flaring like nobody’s business. And I’m not even talking about the national election and what happens to us all in November, when Donald Trump is presumably going to lose but refuse to leave come inauguration time. I’m talking about local elections, where a lot of people are now jockeying for either a little bit of power, or a whole lot of it.
For example, on July 29, I listened in to the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council’s candidate forum, held via Zoom, for the Salinas City Council races, where as of that day, eight candidates and one incumbent—District 1 Councilmember Scott Davis—are vying for three seats. I lost track of the number of times a candidate said “accountable.” And when the question of defunding the police came up—and of course it came up—the only one to say they would like to see resources redirected to things like libraries and recreation centers was Davis, who is himself a cop.
The issue of policing and accountability also came up this week via a push poll sent out in the race for District 4 Monterey County supervisor that has Salinas Councilmember Steve McShane running against Wendy Root Askew, current Supervisor Jane Parker’s longtime chief of staff. McShane isn’t taking credit for the poll (although a knowledgeable source says it came from his campaign), and probably with good reason: In a ham-handed effort to smear Askew, he ended up splashing mud all over himself.
It was the subject of my Local Spin column this week, but not everything fits in print. Among the questions asked of poll recipients: Have you heard of Black Lives Matter and if so, do you support it? Have you heard of the Seaside Police Department? Have you heard of McShane, Askew, Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby and longtime Seaside activist Helen Rucker?
And then came the smear. The poll implied that because Askew had opposed school resource officers in her capacity as a school board member, that she could be blamed in the case of a mass shooting event. It stated she was a law breaker because she missed a traffic citation hearing, and implied she was an even worse lawbreaker for paying her husband through her campaign, which is against the law.
The reality: Askew, in collaboration with fellow trustees on the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District board, made sure resources were directed at placing counselors in schools. The 2011 traffic citation—a fix-it ticket—was dismissed upon proof of correction. The payments to her husband were reimbursements for charges he made on his personal credit card for things like postage, filing fees and office expenses, and are totally allowed with proper documentation, which Askew had.
I’m at a point in my career where nothing should surprise me, but this one surprised me. I had hoped McShane, in whose Salinas council district I reside, was going to run a clean campaign. Whoever on his team concocted this poll gave him bad advice, and that he took said advice and ran with it speaks volumes.
-Mary Duan, managing editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.