The Partisan: Better than the best One guy’s version of "The Best of... "

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece originally referred to the Weekly’s survey by its formal name, “The Best of Monterey County.” But Weekly publisher Erik Cushman complained that using the actual name was a trademark violation. So henceforth, we will refer to it as the Weekly’s Ad Sales Promotion Survey.


By Royal Calkins

One of the many things that makes this best-of list better than the Monterey County Weekly’s annual version is that you and other readers don’t have to participate. In fact, you can’t participate. I’m not even consulting with the folks who run this online news magazine. It may not be as interactive as the Weekly’s deal but if it turns out as I’m hoping, it might be more interesting.

Actually, I’m not a fan of these Best Of Whatever features because, as we all know, they are more about selling advertising than they are about helping folks find excellent dentists, dog groomers and calamari sandwiches. But that hasn’t stopped me from making some nominations of my own and even casting a vote here and there. I also should admit that I likely would not be producing the list below if the Weekly’s special Best Of edition last week had picked Voices of Monterey Bay as the Best Something or Other. I know we were nominated because I did it myself.

The winning blog this year was Big Sur Kate’s excellent production,, which provides highly useful information about the important things that happen in Big Sur — fires, rock slides and tourist invasions. Even so, I would have picked Voices of Monterey Bay because I am biased about this and many other subjects, or so I have been told.

Enough of the throat clearing. I hereby present this year’s winners in some categories the Weekly weighed in on and some that I will be making up as I go. Because you don’t get a vote, there won’t be any ballot-box stuffing, which explains some of the Weekly’s choices.

So here goes.

Best Lawyer: The Weekly’s readers picked Jeannette K. Witten, at least partly because they always pick Jeannette K. Witten. I’m picking Neil L. Shapiro, because he’s the one who got the city of Carmel to turn over a bunch of public records that helped prove that the details of now-former City Attorney Glen Mozingo’s resumé bore only a slight resemblance to his actual work history.

Best Politician: Dave Potter. Who else could get booted from the Board of Supervisors and then become mayor of Carmel by a landslide?

Best Activist: George Riley, the Peninsula’s tireless advocate for public water and for transparency in the murky world of water. He played a huge role in getting the successful Cal Am takeover measure on the ballot and now has had to change hats to become a member of the water management district. Which, I guess, makes him the Best Public Official.

Most Surprising Politician: Congressman Jimmy Panetta. He campaigned as a moderate, sort of like his dad before him, but he has done a great job of making like a progressive at times, showing his face across the great divide in the Salinas Valley, appearing at such places as César Chávez’s birthday march last weekend. Appearances aren’t legislation but they count for something.

Best Transition of the Year: Hotelier John Narigi’s move to Seattle. Bye bye.

Best Musician: David Holodiloff. If he can think it, he can play it.

Best Real Estate Person: Steve Hunt of Sotheby’s in Carmel, because he hustles like no one else.

Best Ex-Old Guys Water Polo Teammate: Steve Hunt, because he hustled like no one else.

Best TV Reporter: KSBW’s Felix Cortez, who also qualified as Tallest TV Reporter.

Best Print Reporter: Gotta go with the Weekly’s Mary Duan, partly because she digs and partly because she gives a damn about Salinas. Some Peninsula people may not understand why this matters.

Best Print Sportswriter: The Herald’s John Devine.

Only Print Sportswriter: The Herald’s John Devine.

Best Food Writer: Mike Hale.

Best Breakfast: Jeffrey’s in Carmel Valley

Best Online Reporters: That’s easy. Joe Livernois, Claudia Meléndez Salinas, Julie Reynolds Martínez and Kathy McKenzie, all of Voices of Monterey Bay.

Best New Business: Downtown Books and Sound, 217 Main St., Salinas. Big, spacious, well organized. It’s not just another used book store. Worth a trip from the Peninsula.

Best Teacher: Phillip Moore, history, Salinas High.

Best Basketball Game of the Year: Carmel High’s buzzer-beating victory over Monterey High.

Best Real Estate Trend: Infill mid-rises with a significant amount of affordable housing. OK, it’s too early to call it a trend but it’s the way things are going to be. Don’t fight it. Instead, push for more affordable units and more-affordable units.

Most Interesting Public Employee: Seaside City Manager Craig Malin. He’s smart but he’s also unusual. I’m not really sure what to make of him. If you’re interested in local politics and government, pay attention to this guy.

Best Proposal: Postponing a decision on a new ambulance provider, and new rules, for Monterey County. On its current path, the Board of Supervisors is about to make a monumental mistake.

Best Fish ’N Chips: LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle, commercial wharf.

Best Senior Living Facility: Mariposa Assisted Living, Seaside. They took amazing care of my mother.

Best Volunteer Organization: CASA of Monterey County. Yes, I know, the SPCA won the honor 10 of the last 11 years. Don’t know who won in 2010, but CASA is at least as deserving as the SPCA. What they do for dispossessed children is miraculous.

Best Business Trend: The explosion of cannabis shops in the area, not because we can consume all that weed, but because the owners have really done a good job architecturally and there is going to be some fine retail space available when the pot boom goes bust.

Best Cheap Eats: Chopstix, Seaside and Monterey. What you get for the price is remarkable.

Best Thrift Store: Last Chance Mercantile at the Marina landfill.

Best Defunct Thrift Store: Salvation Army in Seaside, because they had the best prices. Maybe that’s why they closed.

Best Used Record Store: Tie. Recycled Records and Vinyl Revolution.

Best Dog Park: Seaside, Noche Buena and Kimball or thereabouts.

Best Event: West End Celebration in Sand City.

Best Movie Theater: Tie. Osio in Monterey and Maya in Salinas. Often when Del Monte Cinemark is crowded, the Maya is way more comfortable.

Best Radio Station: KRML, 102.1 FM.

OK, that’s it for now. But in a nod to interactivity, you may notice below that your comments are invited. Toss out some of your own favorites. Let’s see if we can get some arguments started. Friendly ones, of course.

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter or leave a comment below.


Royal Calkins

About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. For the past couple of years, he has produced a local news and commentary blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan. He can be reached at

5 thoughts on “The Partisan: Better than the best One guy’s version of "The Best of... "

  1. As a purely voluntary blog, with no ads, I can’t afford an ad in the Weekly or elsewhere. Thanks for the kind words, and I do read Voices, since a couple of my favorite (former Herald) reporters write for this newsletter.

  2. So Royal…I like most of your picks. But how about Molly Erickson for best attorney…she has been on the environmental side for many a victory. As for Jimmy Panetta I am still waiting for him to surprise me…how about him supporting our first amendment right to BDS re: Israel?

  3. I agree with your assessment of the West End Celebration. Its contributions to music and the arts are admirable. Plus, it’s free Full disclosure: I have been a West End volunteer for years. I would like to add a shout out to the West End honcho, Steve Vagnini, who is also the county assessor/recorder. He is easily the best public servant in the county. Kudos also to you, Royal, because you care.

  4. I agree with most of your picks, Royal, and so happy for your opinion on the hack “best of” in the past Coast Weekly. I have said for years it’s all about the money in advertising for the paper. I am a business owner and had several people working at some of these “winners” tell me their boss required them to “ballot stuff” for their business. A local spa was one of them! I would disagree with the Best Politician. Maybe your choice of Dave Potter was a little tongue in cheek but in my opinion, Jane Parker is our unsung hero as a Board of Supervisor and has turned around a good ole boys club and brought transparency and integrity back to the BOS. She will be sorely missed in 2020 when she retires!

    1. Terri… You are, I’m sure, correct about Royal’s tongue being firmly planted in his cheek while naming Dave Potter “Best Politician”–in this case Politician is meant in the pejorative! You are so right about Jane Parker–if only she could carry on another 4 years! But it must have been a very long and strenuous haul for her. I’m sure she needs a change.

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