By Royal Calkins
Election Day 2018 wasn’t good enough to make us forget the toxicity of Election Day 2016, but the results nationally and locally were signs that there is light at the end of the dark Trump tunnel.
In Monterey County, the outcome barely could have been improved. The success of Measure J, the Cal Am takeover initiative, amounted to a victory of common sense over big bucks, and the voters in several cities on the Peninsula proved that they have been paying attention to what’s been going on in their various city halls.
I danced a little Voices of Monterey Bay dance when I saw that voters in the Marina area had finally wised up and ridded themselves of Marina water district trustee Howard Gustafson. For years now, Gustafson has been sort of a mini-Trump, insulting and attempting to bully everyone around him.
Carmel voters also did the smart thing, voting in Dave Potter as mayor and Jeff Baron as a city council member, eliminating Mayor Steve Dallas and Council Member Carolyn Hardy. I may be a little too close to this one in that I wrote several stories this year about Carmel City Attorney Glen Mozingo’s grossly inflated resumé and the illogical support he received from Dallas and Hardy, his two biggest champions. But it seems clear that Mozingo’s ill-considered contract had a huge impact on the results.
Despite several fabrications on Mozingo’s resumé, the Dallas-led council not only hired him but then gave him a five-year contract containing virtually no cost controls. Not only that, the city that had gotten by for decades with one half-time attorney now employs three attorneys working as many hours as they please.
Unfortunately, Mozingo’s contract says he can be fired only by a 4-to-1 council vote. Along with Councilman Bobby Richards, Potter and Baron will likely create a new 3-2 majority on many issues. Which brings me to a suggestion. If they can’t get newly re-elected Carrie Theis and incumbent Jan Reimers to go along with a Mozingo purge, the new majority should consider terminating the contract on grounds of fraud. Did I mention it is a violation of the canons of the California Bar to lie to a potential client?
Potter’s victory is significant beyond city limits. The long-time county supervisor, unseated by Mary Adams, has followed a controversial path. He has been accused repeatedly of ethical and campaign-finance violations while shedding his environmentalist credentials. On the plus side, he knows as much about government and politics as anyone on the Peninsula and is fully capable of putting some professionalism back into Carmel’s quirky little City Hall. Look for him to emerge as Carmel’s representative to other government bodies, such as the Fort Ord Reuse Authority.
There was also a good outcome in Monterey. I wish more people had paid attention to the reformist campaign of mayoral candidate Bill McCrone, but there was no way he was going to unseat Clyde Roberson. Tyller Williamson’s election to the City Council is an overdue victory for diversity. His success meant one of two incumbents had to go, either Ed Smith or Timothy Barrett. I would have been fine seeing either one of them leave. The loser, Barrett, once showed promise as a progressive voice on what has long been a good-old-boy council, but his effectiveness diminished rapidly after he was seduced by the moneyed interests on the wharf and elsewhere.
The results were a mixed bag in Seaside but with more upside than downside. Unsuccessful mayoral candidate Kayla Jones had shown tremendous promise but her campaign imploded because of some questionable spending on her city expense account and other issues. Fortunately, though she lost out to former Council Member Ian Oglesby, Jones retains her council seat and, with it, an opportunity to grow.
Oglesby, unfortunately, represents the old guard in Seaside, the one that bent the rules to provide former Councilman Daryl Choates with an undeserved license as a marijuana retailer. Balancing that out, however, were the welcome victories of incumbent Council Member Jason Campbell and energetic newcomer Jon Wizard.
Campbell is the hard-working council member who led the fight to stop the Monterey Downs monstrosity, and Wizard was the hard-working candidate who seemingly knocked on every door in town. Along with Jones, they’ll make a good team that should be able to offset Oglesby’s tendency to listen too closely to outgoing Mayor Ralph Rubio and henchman Choates.
Winds of change swept through Del Rey Oaks on election night and blew long-time Mayor Jerry Edelen out of office. Edelen was so busy playing Fort Ord reuse politics and building a fully militarized and unnecessary SWAT team that he barely noticed that the townsfolk were far more interested in things like traffic. The new mayor, progressive Alison Kerr, has some fairly small shoes to fill. In fairness, Edelen worked hard and was good about returning phone calls.
I’m not sure what to say about Pacific Grove, mainly because the press corps, what’s left of it, did a piss-poor job of covering the races there this time around. (Yes, I must admit that I was distracted by Carmel and also did a disservice to the fine residents of most every other city hereabouts.)
Bill Peake should make a fine mayor in PG. The measure barring short-term rentals passed but we have not heard the last of that issue.
Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado won a surprisingly easy victory over popular Bob Nolan. Here’s hoping Delgado returns to his role as leader of the northern wing of the Monterey County progressives and realizes he has gotten too close to the hotel developers.
Yuri Anderson’s victory for a seat on the Monterey Peninsula College board is another sign that the voters have awoken. Her opponent should have been politely excused years ago.
As for Salinas. Ho hum. In three races, incumbents Joe Gunter, Tony Barrera and Steve McShane won and the challengers lost. Simple as that. In the race without an incumbent, well-connected Christine Cromeenes cruised into office.
Back to water.
First, it’s great news that George Riley will join the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board and that Alvin Edwards will rejoin the board.
Riley, who led the successful Measure J campaign, is the face of reform in Peninsula water politics and the fight to put the public back into the equation. Cal Am Water and its friends in the hospitality industry have dominated the debate for the last decade and the result has been water rates higher than anywhere else in the United States and a desalination project that will add immensely to those bills even if it never produces a drop.
Edwards is a retired firefighter and former Seaside City Council member. When he first served on the water board, he was friendly to Cal Am but soon became a critic after witnessing the company’s bullying tactics.
The success of Measure J means the water board will start the process of a conducting a major feasibility study of a public takeover of Cal Am and, if the numbers pencil out, the actual takeover.
Cal Am tried to scare voters by throwing out a grossly inflated price for the water system, more than $1 billion, a figure that conflicts with the company’s long-standing claim that it loses money on its Monterey operations. Expect disinformation to continue flowing through the Cal Am pipes until the issue is finally settled, most likely in a courtroom several years from now.
A toast to the victors and a hearty handshake to those who tried.