www.montereycountyweekly.com february 15-21, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 Members of local city councils and various special districts are elected to serve their city or district. But they also are appointed to fill various roles on boards of directors for regional agencies, giving them additional influence. Entities like Monterey-Salinas Transit, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County and Central Coast Community Energy are governed by appointees from various elected boards. These appointments can sometimes take on the tone of a perfunctory assignment process. Sometimes, the appointment process represents something much bigger. In the case of a seat for a member of Salinas City Council to Monterey One Water, the regional sewer treatment agency, it is political. A tense 5-2 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 6 to remove Mayor Kimbley Craig from the M1W board and instead appoint Councilmember Anthony Rocha was a blow to Craig, but also a sign of a bigger proxy battle in Monterey Peninsula water politics seeping into the Salinas Valley. A sewer district is perhaps an unlikely place for water supply politics to play out, but M1W is increasingly focused on transforming wastewater into irrigation and/or drinking water. The agency’s board already voted back in 2021 to expand its Pure Water Monterey project, which super-treats sewage to safe drinking water levels, as part of the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply. Support for that project became controversial, a stand-in for one’s support or skepticism of California American Water’s proposed desalination plant. By the time Craig joined the board of M1W in 2023, the Pure Water Monterey expansion was well underway. One thing she advocated for in her short tenure is adjusting the weighted voting system on M1W to better represent Salinas. For over 50 years, each member agency on M1W gets a vote weighted according to population (the Del Rey Oaks member now gets one vote, to Monterey’s three, to Salinas’ six). But Salinas represents over 56 percent of M1W’s population, and its weighted vote is just 27 percent. In September, the M1W board discussed the possibility of a new formula. Deliberations and a decision will be forthcoming this year. “I finally feel after 40 years that we are having a very open discussion about the weighted vote,” Craig said in defense of her leadership. Rocha says, “I want to build upon the work Kimbley has started to make sure that Salinas has adequate, fair representation.” Underlying their public statements, however, is where politics start to matter. A change to the weighted vote on M1W requires each of 10 member agencies to approve the change. Can Salinas get buy-in from across the Lettuce Curtain to increase its share of the vote? Both Craig and Rocha seem to think they are up to the task. But there’s a possibility that Rocha will have a better chance of doing so. And that’s because of an entirely separate vote Craig cast on a separate matter on a different regional board. In 2021, she cast a no vote on the Local Agency Formation Commission of Monterey County regarding a request from the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to pursue eminent domain to buy out Cal Am. Rocha may still have a hard time persuading all entities on the board to empower Salinas with a greater share of the vote, but he may have an easier time of it than Craig. Old grudges die hard in Peninsula water politics. “Kimbley has represented the city to the best of her abilities,” Rocha says. “However, I believe there are outstanding factors related to her vote on LAFCO that have hindered her ability to be effective.” Meanwhile, there is real fallout on Salinas City Council. “I don’t, frankly, see why this needs to be a divisive conversation,” said Councilmember Carla Viviana González. “I hope we look beyond personal or political agendas and see that this is a team.” It’s hard to see how it can feel anything but divisive when Craig faces a 5-2 vote to oust her after she developed a transparent, public-facing methodology for making appointments. “This council has asked me to be collaborative, has asked me to be compromising and I feel like I have done that,” she said. That is clearly the case. But no olive branch is long enough to cross the gulf of Monterey Peninsula water politics. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Against the Flow Peninsula water politics create a wedge on Salinas City Council. By Sara Rubin No backsies…Grannie Squid taught Squid many valuable lessons, including the importance of staying true to your word. It was with considerable side-eye that Squid watched the Monterey City Council meeting on Feb. 6, when City Manager Hans Uslar recommended a 180-day pause on the city’s retail cannabis ordinance, less than two months after approval by the Monterey City Council. Between Dec. 15, when the ordinance was adopted, and Jan. 29, the city accepted applications from cannabis retailers—13 in all for only four allowed stores. Despite no previous dire predictions by staff of cannabis-related calamities, Uslar was suddenly sounding alarm bells due to increasing incidents of bands of robbers invading cannabis businesses in the region since 2023, including the fatal shooting of an Oakland Police officer on Dec. 29. In addition, Uslar outlined how the industry has imploded economically, resulting in less tax revenue than cities and counties had estimated. Kevin Dayton, representing the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, called reneging on the applications “abusive,” and warned other businesses may stay away as a result. The council voted 3-2 against a pause. Squid has no seahorse in the cannabis race, but sending 13 willing businesses packing after already being told they may get the keys to a spot seems like, in the words of ‘70s rock group Brewer & Shipley, one toke over the line. Plan F…Squid loves a good bank robbery movie, in part because Squid enjoys the often elaborate plans to get in and out of the bank quickly and then get away scot-free to some tropical locale, or perhaps just a motel room in flyover country. Squid’s seen many such movies, and one way they vary is the amount of cash in the haul, and whether it’s the last big score. That said, Squid’s never seen a movie in which that score might not even be enough to cover a month’s rent. Such was the case with Michael Todd Haley, who allegedly walked into Mechanics Bank in Salinas on Feb. 5 and stole $1,800. As alleged, it was not an elaborate plan, as Salinas PD checked the camera footage and found the white vehicle Haley escaped in. Further investigation linked the same vehicle to another robbery that happened two days before in Gilroy. Haley has a long criminal history that includes robbery arrests in Perris, Milpitas, Monterey and Salinas from 2009-2013. If Haley is convicted for this latest string of robberies, Squid recommends he take up a more lucrative and legal trade the next time he’s free. If not, he should at least binge watch some crime capers when he’s sprung and draw some creative inspiration from Hollywood. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “I hope we can look beyond political agendas.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com