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  • Snarkin’ With Marge

    OPINION: No $ for Mayors’ JPA. Pulling out is a better idea.

    As many feared, the Mayors’ JPA (Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Authority Board) is beginning to be expensive. Wednesday night, June 19 the City Council will consider an expenditure of $33,000 as Pacific Grove’s share of the costs of legal advice to the JPA Board, on top of $5,000 already appropriated as our share of a total budget – so far – of some $174,000 for the first year.

    We remain convinced that the Mayors’ JPA is redundant and expensive, as well as being “too little too late.” The Mayors have admitted that they do not have the expertise to undertake the question of water supply, so they seek to hire it done. Other agencies have been charged to do the same work, and instead of representing only 65.9 percent of the constituency as does the Mayors’ JPA, these other agencies represent the entire spectrum of ratepayers, both city residents and county residents.

    In fact, as Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala pointed out in his June 8, 2012 letter to California American Water, the “Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is the agency on the Peninsula charged with monitoring and managing our water supply. As a public agency with an elected body representing the entire Peninsula, the District should play a key role in solving our water crisis.”

    The same faces are at all the same meetings, including the Technical Advisory Committee. Ultimately the decision regarding water supply will rest with California American Water and the California Public Utilities Commission, which have already expressed a desire to use groundwater replenishment and aquifer storage and recovery as two points of a three-pronged system to provide water to the Peninsula. The Mayors’ JPA efforts at recommending those two systems is obviously a case of “preaching to the choir.”

    Cal-Am has already expressed their desire to “go it alone” without a public agency and build their own desalination plant. Why would they listen to the Mayors’ JPA?

     

    Pacific Grove has also undertaken an agreement with Moss Landing Commercial Park to build a desalination plant. (While allegedly set up to be a no-cost item for Pacific Grove, surely no one believes that will remain true in the long run.) Why are we participating in a potentially competing effort?

    The number of attorneys qualified to act in this capacity is woefully small in the Monterey Peninsula area, too. We already share our City Attorney with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. Part of the staff proposal involves the “concept of the JPA using our current City Attorneys at our meetings and as required.”

    We urge the City Council to, instead of appropriating $33,000 or even another cent to the Mayors’ JPA, withdraw from it at once. Our mayor and the mayors of the other five cities have serious problems at home and should be concentrating on those issues instead of duplicating the effort of others with more expertise, especially when the money could well be spent elsewhere in Pacific Grove.

     

    Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities + Response

    Was I the only one at the Pacific Grove Planning Commission meeting Feb. 2 who thoroughly resented the antics of those who opposed the application of the City to extend the hours at the Pt. Pinos Grill/Pacific Grove Golf Links? I don’t think so. Read more…»

    You already bought your ticket

    When I was in junior high school – called middle school here – and during my freshman year of high school, I lived in a small city in Wisconsin.
    It was still small enough that there was only one public high school, though it was growing and had split into two campuses. “South Campus,” the new complex that was meant for juniors and seniors, was the center of civic life in that city of 30,000. Read more…»

    Wasting our time and money

    From Cedar Street Times 01/20/12

    I have two items to talk about this week.
    The first is the Regional Water Authority, also known as the Mayors’ JPA, which I’m pretty sure is going to be a waste of money and time.
    The second is the “emergency” moratorium request to regulate adult-oriented businesses in Pacific Grove, which I’m pretty sure already was a
    waste of money and time. Read more…»

    It’s time to stay out after dark

    OK, it seemed like a pretty flimsy way to go about it, but we were convinced it was legal and so were five of the seven members of the Pacific Grove City Council who passed an emergency ordinance to allow the dining purveyor at the Pt. Pinos Grill to remain open after “nautical twilight.”
    To echo the sentiments of many at the meeting, if not most people in town, “It’s time.” Read more…»

    The Butterfly Effect in Butterfly Town

    Vote or be quiet

    The voters of Pacific Grove have spoken.
    Sadly, only 2,833 of them had anything to say. That’s the number of people who voted on Measure U. Add another 720, probably from Pebble Beach, and you get the number of of people who voted on Measure V. Another 424, likely Carmel voters in Water District 4, voted in the race between Jeanne Byrne and Regina Doyle.
    There are 9,019 registered voters in Pacific Grove, so that means that 31.41 percent voted on Measure U. There are 12,679 registered voters in District 4 of the Water Management Board, of which 31.36 percent voted for their representatives. Of the 10,855 voters in the Pacific Grove Unified School District, 32.73 percent voted on the parcel tax measure. Read more…»

    Letters to the Editor and Editorials: Election Nov. 2011

    Note: We have noticed a lot of readers coming to our website as a result of certain search engine queries. These searches indicate to us that you, our readers, are looking for information and opinion about the water board candidates running in tomorrow’s election. Many, we know, have already voted. But for the others, we have taken all of the letters from our print version and lumped them here in this post to make it easy for you and, we hope, easier for you to make up your minds. The latest are the ones at the top and from there they go back in time. Editorials are at the end.

    Letter writers are wrong about Byrne and ‘scare tactics’
    Editor:

    Vicki Pearse, in her letter (October 21 issue) accused Jeanne Byrne of using “scare tactics” in her campaign. Time to set the record straight with facts.
    The Cease and Desist Order states as of December 31, 2016 Cal Am pumping from the Carmel River is limited to its legal right of 3,376 acre feet. Fact.
    The adjudication order for the Seaside Basin states Cal Am pumping from that basin is limited to 2,299 acre feet for 2017 and 1,820 acre feet in 2018. Fact.
    Residential water use will be limited to 35 gallons per day per person (current use, 60 gallons per day per person). Fact.
    This means the hospitality industry, for example, could be out of business without replacement water. 20,000+ jobs lost. $40 million of local tax revenues generated gone and TOT revenue drastically diluted, directly impacting city services. All fact. Read more…»

    Playing politics with public safety

    The embarrassing mess at the Sheriff’s Department stinks of sour grapes to us.

    We’re not arguing that an accused drug dealer should not have been arrested, no matter who his father is. But we think the whole thing was handled badly and that it was done in such a way as to embarrass Sheriff Scott Miller.

    Now we have the detective sergeant in charge of the investigation, Det. Sgt. Archie Warren, filing a lawsuit against his supervisor, Sheriff Miller, alleging that Miller jeopardized deputies’ safety and obstructed in the investigation and arrest of his son by phoning his wife moments before the officers arrived at the upstairs apartment.

    She probably already knew. Someone had tipped off the press and they were out there in droves, cameras rolling, as the arrest was made. So says our source, who was riding by on a bicycle.

    So who called the press? Not Sheriff Miller. We were on the phone with him within a short time and he assured us that he was unaware of the investigation and pending arrest until the officers were “knocking on the door.”

    Here’s who didn’t get a call: The Pacific Grove Police Department. When we called them, right after the incident, they were surprised. There had been — and rightly so — no indication that an investigation was taking place. Secrecy is vital to many investigations. But when armed men show up at a private residence in a quiet neighborhood, there’s a chance that someone will call the local police in a panic and mayhem could follow. We have confirmed with Pacific Grove Police Chief Darius Engles that there was not even so much as a courtesy call. Bad form on the part of Det. Sgt. Warren.

    Sheriff Miller has called for a California Department of Justice investigation. We applaud that action. Calling for any other jurisdiction to investigate would have had the odor of conflict of interest on the part of the sheriff.

    Now Warren’s attorney has tried to get a restraining order against Sheriff Miller and undersheriff Max Houser because Warren was questioned about the case, his office safe was searched, and he was transferred from narcotics to the coroner’s office and he felt it was retaliatory. The judge denied the request, saying that he just didn’t see anything to indicate that Warren was “facing retaliatory action.” In fact, what we learned Wednesday, July 13 was that Warren had been transferred because he tipped off the media about a pending pot raid on a cartel-run farm in Big Sur resulting, eventually, in the cancellation of the raid because of the disclosure to the public, and in yet-unknown costs for Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement helicopters and agents on the ground, not to mention their safety.

    Shortly after Jacob Miller’s arrest, we were advised that a man in South County was arrested on the same charges, but his name was withheld because it’s part of an ongoing investigation. So who made the meth that Jacob Miller is accused of offering for sale? Probably not him. Are they looking for the manufacturer now, who has been warned off by Jacob Miller’s arrest? We’d likely know if there were a meth lab in Pacific Grove. Meth labs smell a lot worse than sour grapes. Or do they?
    — Marge Ann Jameson

    Does this aluminum foil hat make my butt look fat?

    There were some very brave people at the City Council meeting last night — three representatives from PG&E. Not only were they in a serious minority, but they dared to sit with their backs to the crowd.

    And there was only one police officer present! (We should point out that that’s all there usually is, but the local Fox affiliate was freaked when three officers showed up for crowd control at the previous meeting. At that meeting, the issue of PG&E Smart Meters was taken up, and they had to continue it until this week.) The hoped-for riot never materialized, but the television station was there beaming high frequency messages at all of us, listening for a sound byte but only getting an interview with Cdr. John, also known as Det. Laid Back

    So last night everyone donned their aluminum foil hats and took their seats after the pledge of allegiance, those who could find a seat. It was not TRO, but SRO in the council chambers, with a long line for public comment when Smart Meters came up on the agenda. Me, I had my usual press box seat next to Kevin, who was reading a John Forsyth novel called “The Afghan.” I was reminded that I should have brought my crochet work to make some more of those tacky butterflies I’ve been making for the tourists, but it was too late.

    “They’re ruining my lungs!” “I’ll get brain cancer!” “My children! And my ability to have more!” “Save the butterflies!” Truth is, nobody knows for sure what these Smart Meters will do, but it seemed pretty obvious that a big issue with the speakers was that PG&E would have the ability to turn off one’s electricity remotely, whether to protect the power grid during peak use times or for non-payment of the bill. Anyone who has let their power bill float until the 24-hour notice arrives in the mail knows what that’s all about.

    No one rioted or tried to storm the councilmembers, but Dilbert did have a slide show and why was I not surprised? He tried to tie the Smart Meters to the San Bruno blast but no one questioned him. Good thing — we’d have been there all night while he made another slide show. Trouble was, those nudniks applauded, which likely will only make the show longer next time. Obviously they haven’t had to sit through 20 or so of these things as I have.

    Now, I have to admit that there was one little old lady who wouldn’t sit down and eat her mushrooms, but kept hopping up and down and shouting “Arrest me! Arrest me!” Maybe she had a crush on Det Laid Back. She finally got hoarse and gave up just as Darius was moving in for the grab. There was another in the front row who, having been squelched by the buzzer after her allotted three minutes, kept waving signs at the dais. She gave up when Bill said, “Ma’am, I can’t read your writing.”

    Besides the health issues. the question of allowing Smart Meters to be installed when only the babysitter was home also became one of personal power, or the lack thereof. “Don’t tell me I gotta keep up with the times, especially when these things are waving micros around.” “Never mind how long I talk on my cell phone every day!”

    It took three iterations and three separate votes, but the council finally voted not to do much. No ban, no moratorium, no strong message to Congress. Nope, after the debacle with the Citizen’s Retirement Initiative (during which they wouldn’t listen to the City Attorney or the City Manager who both cautioned that they didn’t have the jurisdiction and would wind up getting sued) that got us sued by the police department, the council decided they didn’t have the jurisdiction and voted to have staff do some more research.

    Meanwhile, deep in the dark woods of Rip Van Winkle Open Space, there lurks a hairless coyote who got too close to the cell phone tower out by the butterfly sanctuary. Maybe he will come testify April 6 when the item comes up again.

    As for the city council, they took a break and I took a hike.

     

    Pushing all the wrong buttons

    By Cameron Douglas, Guest Snarker

    The huge copy machine sits near the front door of our newspaper office; a device of imposing physical size that could have been R2-D2’s bodyguard. We’ll call him MAX-1000. A proud machine that can make copies 87 different ways.
    I just have no idea how to make him do it. All my attempts to interact with MAX-1000 end with desperate pleas to my editor for assistance. After all, it’s her machine. The two of them go way back. I think they rode together in a holy crusade against the country of Xeroxia. She brought the mighty machine into the office to fill a need in the community, nobly making copies for anyone walking in the door for a tiny fee. I forget how much.
    It’s not that I don’t want to understand MAX-1000. There just isn’t time. In the busy world of journalism, it’s all we can do to maintain cordial relationships with our desktop computers, which, on occasion, plot with MAX-1000 in the dead of night to commit joint rebellions the next day.
    So when the demure lady walked in the other day asking how she could make copies, I panicked. Her Editorness was out of the office and it would be up to me. OK, I reasoned, I’m a grown man, there are buttons I can push, eventually something’s gotta happen. Unfortunately, the only buttons I pushed belonged to the demure lady.

    “How does it work with the copy machine?” she asked.
    “How many copies do you need?” The question drew a blank stare. So I elaborated: “One, ten, a hundred?”
    “Oh, I don’t need that many,” she replied. “Why, does it make a difference?” 
    It didn’t seem to be going well. I decided if I stood closer, we could communicate better. Big mistake. She recoiled as if King Kong were reaching his massive hand out to grab her up like Faye Wray. My efforts to be in command of the situation had gone awry. Was I being pushy? Was it my intensity, racing the clock against deadline? Was it MAX-1000’s forbidding stature? Or did she have something to hide in that shopping bag full of papers?
    “How much are the copies?” the lady asked.

    I didn’t know; so I did a song-and-dance, hoping MAX-1000’s long-time friend would return and save the day. “It depends,” I said. “Why don’t you show me what you have and we’ll figure it out.”  
    “Oh, never mind,” she snapped. She slammed the bag shut and started for the door. I got the feeling she didn’t want me to see the contents of the bag. My reporter’s mind wondered just exactly what she might be toting around in there. Secret plans to overthrow Pacific Grove? Torrid letters from some deliciously illicit love affair? Her life’s collection of grocery lists? 
    On her way out, she called over her shoulder, “You’re a little condescending, you know.”
    Condescending? My feelings were hurt. I thought I was at least overbearing. 
    MAX-1000 just sneered at me.


    Where’s the Condor?

    The Jan. 19 City Council meeting had all the marks of being another boring evening, if one were to judge by the agenda. The first clue, however, that it was going to be Another One of Those Nights was the sight of a certain retired attorney with a very large, bullying voice, lips tightly pursed, getting out of his Mercedes. True to form he got up at oral communications and berated everyone with his version of the CalPERS issue. Like he was going to surprise anyone. And he didn’t.

    Some woman from some group I never heard of got up to talk about the county economic report, and too late to take notes I realized that she was making sense. She was at the end of her talk before I realized why:
    She didn’t mention the King of the Chamber of Commerce, let alone credit him with anything. That explained the spluttering sounds I heard from the general direction of where I had noticed him sitting.

    Lee tried to convince us that having liquor at the golf course would result in people throwing up in her yard. Or was that last week? She doesn’t live very close to the golf course, however. Another familiar former candidate for mayor said something similar, with about the same effect. Or was that last week?

    Deputy Jim presented some potential changes in the litany of city employees, one of which was the elimination of the position of gift shop manager at the Museum. Well, that set the mayor off. “Is the gift shop manager eliminated because the job went to the foundation — are we still going to have it or is the person eliminated too?” Lucky for the unfortunate gift shop manager, she keeps her job as she now works for the Foundation. No point in carrying her on the books, you see.
    “Where’s the condor?” Dan-O asked.

    Best not to let that gift shop manager too far out of our sight — maybe she has something to do with the missing condor.

    They thrashed around the interim operation of the Pt. Pinos Grill, with staff asking for a whole bunch of money (like $220,000) and promising to earn a whole bunch ($230,000. Hello?) The point was made that they really only expected to have to have the money until the question of the new concessionaire and the potential liquor license were approved, plus lights to keep us from falling on your faces if we all get drunk.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the poor golf pro is running the show. “What does he know about running a restaurant?” asked Dan-O. Probably no more than he knows about the missing condor.

    The rest of the meeting was contentious, to say the least, with Dan-O showing his colors over the question of hiring a real pro at the tennis courts, not allowing himself to be recused even though he lives across from the courts (he rents, you know, and says he has no financial interest in the ancestral seat — how did that happen? Anything to do with a condor?) He wanted it to be about noise that could potentially annoy his twins if people actually used the tennis courts. Alan wanted to make it about Dan’s brother (You Know Who) and the fight was on. Much shouting (on Alan’s part)  and pointing of fingers and shouting (on Dan-O’s part) and shifting of seats on the part of everyone else, including Darius. The condor, he lay low.

    There were two 4-3 votes that evening, demonstrated a less-than-cohesive city council, and I only have one piece of advice: Saying “No!” louder doesn’t increase the count for your side.

    Trees vs. City Council: The Never Ending Story

    At the recent City Council meeting, Roger stopped by the Press Paddock to berate Kevin because the Herald had updated the count on its website to 250 people in favor of liquor at the golf course. Kevin allowed as how he had nothing to do with it, either the online survey or the golf course. Obiwank wished me a happy new year. The police were there congratulating themselves and pledging the flag, so I took their picture and put it in the paper.

    Everyone got all confused between Mo Roddick and Moe Ammar, but here’s how you can tell the difference: Mo Roddick wears a police uniform. Moe Ammar wears advertising T-shirts.

    The Usual Suspects (plus some hysterical blonde woman with a bad haircut whose name luckily escapes me) got up and ranted about the prospect of serving alcohol at the golf course, forgetting that the golf course was given to all the citizens of Pacific Grove and not just those who live there or nearby.  Roger said that the Herald had actually had the temerity to update the count on its website to 300 people in favor of liquor at the golf course, but I didn’t catch the part where he checked it again in between berating Kevin and getting up to talk. That extra 50 people were pretty speedy with the mouse.

    One very calm lady representing the women’s club got up and said she thought it was a grand idea.

    Snick sang some song about TOT (or was the meeting before when he sang us all a Christmas carol?) and we all settled down to business. Obiwank wished me a happy new year.

    The council thrashed around the consent agenda, with its life-changing items about laundry service and crack sealing. That one worried me, but no one else seemed concerned. Dilbert put in his two cents’ worth, but there was no slide show.

    Lynn from CDD sat in the hot seat and answered questions about the sign code, and  a new planner named Ashley sat in the hot seat and answered questions about windows. Dilbert put in his two cents’ worth, but there was no slide show. Kevin did the crossword from the Sunday Chronicle pink section, in ink.

    And then, sounding suspiciously like a broken record, the Tree Ordinance came up. The Ladies in Green were there, and allowed as how it was OK. Dilberry got up and put his two cents’ worth in, but there was no slide show. And then, after all these years and meetings and drafts and tears and hollering, the mayor actually moved to go back to the original one and just make a couple of changes. There were some resounding clunks as everyone’s chins hit their respective chests; but we survived, everyone ignored her, and we went back to the business at hand. They did not, however, pass the tree ordinance.

    Earlier I had raised questions (in writing, to save time) about the Visitors’ Center that Moe has plotted. If you read Cedar Street Times, you know the story: A mother/daughter-run restaurant got kicked out after 27 years in the same location because Moe wants the location, which is about three times as big as the one in Monterey for a city that’s not half as big. I had questions about the budget: $179,000 for four months, nothing matching, lots of stuff missing. Tom forwarded it to Moe and he answered in writing but unfortunately that also gave him time to strengthen his case and write a speech for Henry who dutifully got up and said it was a good idea, even though Henry is the Chamber president or manager or whatever he is, and the Visitors’ Center is supposed to be about HID. Here’s how the deliberation went:

    Moe: It will be a wonderful thing! The money is all there.

    Councilmember: So who paid the deposit?

    Moe:The Chamber.

    Councilmember: So whose Visitors Center is it, the Chamber’s or the HID?

    Moe: The HID. The chamber has nothing to do with it.

    Councilmember: So who took care of the insurance?

    Moe: The Chamber.

    Councilmember: So whose Visitors Center is it, the Chamber’s or the HID?

    Moe: The HID. The chamber has nothing to do with it.

    Councilmember: So who’s going to staff it? You have this $8000 item for payroll.

    Moe: Chamber volunteers. They’ll work for free,

    And so it went until the real question got asked:
    Councilmember: If the whole thing fails, who’s on the stick?

    Moe: The HID. The chamber has nothing to do with it.

    Councilmember: Not the city?

    Moe: No.

    So everyone patted each other on the back and OK’d giving Moe $179,000 and withdrawing the HID’s advertising budget. Kevin finished his crossword and ran out to file his story on trees, Dilbert commented three more times over the rest of the evening, and Obiwank wished me happy new year.

    Wait. Isn’t the HID a City entity? How is the city not going to be on the hook? Don’t ask me, I’m still looking for the condor.

    Saturday is the planning session. Don’t know if Dilbert will be there, but Moe probably won’t be. He’ll be in his advertising Tshirt supervising his new $179,000 Visitor’s Center.

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