A FAST ONE… At first, Squid thought Zoom referred to how quickly Squid can move through the water. But it’s been a while since Squid’s athletic heyday, and why would everyone all of a sudden be speaking about Squid’s swimming records? Turns out they are talking about Zoom video conferencing, which Squid finally learned how to do, too.

Signing onto a Monterey County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 28, Squid expected a Zoom debate on a proposed $300,000 contract for catering services at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. But the contract was approved without mention.

The company awarded the lucrative contract is Golden Star Catering, which is owned by Gordon Chin. He happens to be the husband of Lavonne Chin, who works as an operations manager for the county – and is one of the county’s point people on Laguna Seca. No conflict of interest here, says County Administrative Officer Charles McKee. “There is a standing order that Ms. Chin have no role in the negotiation, processing or approval of any agreement between the county and Golden Star,” he tells Squid’s colleague, adding that “there is no prohibition in state law against the county contracting with a company in which an employee has a financial interest,” unless the employee influences decision-making. Considering how much criticism the county gets over Laguna Seca, Squid thought there might be an attempt to at least avoid the appearance of impropriety. Squid was wrong.

NOT SO FAST… Unless you count Squid’s humble lair, Squid is not a property owner. But it was Squid’s basic understanding that when you buy, say, a shopping center, you get to update it. That notion has been shattered following what happened when Russel Stanley acquired the Mid Valley Shopping Center in 2018 and began painting structural columns with the wrong shade of beige. Opposition to the paint job was immediate and intense, driven by allegations that Stanley secretly planned to take away resident-serving businesses and transform the center into a tourist draw.

All renovation work has ceased. To proceed, the developer must now pay up to $94,638 to complete an environmental impact report. An EIR is usually required for new major projects. Stanley was merely proposing “new paint, signage, landscaping and alterations to the roofline.” How did the critics force an EIR? After a county-hired architectural historian said the center was of no historical importance, the Carmel Valley Association hired an architectural design and preservation firm, which concluded the opposite – the 50-year-old outdoor mall was a gem. Because of disagreement among experts, the California Environmental Quality Act requires a full-fledged EIR. Squid looks forward to reading hundreds of pages on the differences between shades of white.

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