10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY june 13-19, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Oftentimes, change happens when feathers get ruffled. Such is the case in Seaside, where Etienne Constable had a fishing boat—in perfectly fine condition—parked in his driveway for years. But after the city brought on a code enforcement officer in recent years, often enforcing codes that have long been ignored, Constable received a letter in July 2023, informing him that the boat parked in his driveway violated Seaside City Code 17.34.150— Parking Of Other Than Passenger Vehicles. Per the code, Constable is required to screen the view of his boat with a 6-foot-tall fence. Constable, who’s owned his home in Seaside for 29 years, was pissed off. But instead of shouting about it (although he says he did leave an angry voicemail, then another to apologize), he took a more creative approach—he commissioned his next-door neighbor, artist Hanif Panni, aka Hanif Wondir, to paint a facsimile of the boat on the fence he built. In May, Panni came through with a masterpiece, a detailed rendering, including the plants on the sides of the driveway, of exactly how the boat would look if the fence wasn’t there. Images of the mural went viral on social media, and the story was picked up by newspapers across the country. When Nick Borges, Seaside’s police chief and acting city manager, heard of the drama, he went and met with Constable on May 16 and literally gave him a high-five. And Borges got to thinking about enforcement without adversarial letters. A few ideas swam through his mind. One that stuck, after talking to a resident who was complaining about uncut weeds on medians and private property—unsightly to some, but a fire risk to all—was: Helping Improve Gardens & High Weeds 5 times a year. It’s not a perfect acronym for HIGH 5, nor is the new initiative limited to five, but it gets to the spirit of what Borges is going for. The idea is that instead of sending code violation letters to residents for overgrown weeds, the City will instead send a letter inviting them to apply to a lottery for public works to clear their weeds for them. Initially, it will be five residents per year, which could later expand. The new program is all inspired by Constable and Panni’s work, after which Borges asked himself: “How do we honor that and be inspired ourselves and get creative?” Borges expects the project will launch by the end of June. On Tuesday, June 11 the Salinas City Council unanimously approved a $259.7 million budget for fiscal year 2024-25, $10.9 million larger than 2023-24. Major city departments like police, fire, public works and libraries received comparable funds to last year. Salinas PD got the largest single piece of the pie with $60.5 million, or 35 percent of the general fund (down proportionally from 41 percent in 202324), followed by the fire department with $28.9 million, or 17 percent. The city once again set aside $300,000 for prevention and wellness grants for community organizations. Councilmember Andrew Sandoval said there is “a false narrative being pushed” regarding council’s support for public safety. He highlighted that the council has approved funds to recruit police officers. (There are 30 vacancies in SPD.) The council has also championed equity, as seen through a road repair effort to spend equally in each of the six districts. “We want to make it even. We want the entire city to look great,” Sandoval said. Streets and sidewalks got a $7 million allocation from the capital improvement program. Overall the budget sustains and slightly expands services. Libraries expect to extend hours of operation and increase programming, One additional position was funded in the Community Development Department. The future outlook is less certain. Acting Finance Director Selina Andrews said in May that projections show a deficit of 1.3 percent next year, growing to 7.7 percent by 2029-30. In addition, the City relies on revenue from voter-approved measures E and G, which are expected to generate $13.2 million and $24 million, respectively, in 2024-25. Measure G— which funds 116.5 staff positions—is set to sunset in 2030. “That’s obviously a key component to keeping the city’s success running and providing the services we need successfully,” Mayor Kimbley Craig says. In the future, Craig says the city should focus on economic development opportunities to increase revenue. Set Sail Inspired by an epic piece of art, Seaside rethinks how it does code enforcement. By David Schmalz news Free Furniture The County of Monterey is holding a surplus donation event, where teachers and nonprofit organizations can grab used office furniture and equipment for free. Organizations and educators must submit proof of their status to receive items at no cost. 10am-noon Friday, June 14. County of Monterey Contracts & Purchasing Division, 1488 Schilling Place, Salinas. 755-4990, countyofmonterey.gov. Best in Business Voting is underway for the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards. The public is invited to participate in the first round, and the top three businesses in each category with the most votes will advance to a final round of voting by chamber members. Voting ends June 14. bea.montereychamber.com. Pet Services SPCA Monterey County is hosting a low-cost spay and neuter clinic for dogs and cats residing in Gonzales. The clinic also includes a microchip and rabies vaccination for pets. Appointments only, Saturday, June 15. Gonzales Police Department, 109 Fourth St., Gonzales. $55/dogs; $45/ cats. spcamc.org/gonzales. Land and Housing The County of Monterey holds a community meeting on the Big Sur Land Use Plan update. Residents are invited to ask questions and share feedback on opportunities for affordable and employee housing in the Big Sur community. 4-6pm Tuesday, June 18. Big Sur Lodge, 47225 Highway 1, Big Sur; also on Zoom at montereycty.zoom. us/s/94456711368. Free. 784-5730, pricet1@co.monterey.ca.us. democracy in action Monterey City Council meets and, as always, accepts public comment. Tell your elected officials what they are doing well and what you think they can do better. 4pm Tuesday, June 18. Colton Hall, 580 Pacific St., Monterey. Free. 646-3799, monterey.gov. Clear the Air Tobacco control advocates discuss public health concerns from secondhand and third-hand smoke in multiunit housing. The Spanish-language event will emphasize tobacco’s impact on the Latino community. 6-8pm Thursday, June 20. Bread Box Recreation Center, 745 N. Sanborn Road, Salinas. 279-4620, coronadog@ countyofmonterey.gov. Fully Funded Salinas approves a rosy 2024-25 budget, but near-term projections show a tougher future. By Celia Jiménez In a photo taken by Seaside Police Cmdr. Matt Doza, Acting City Manager Nick Borges high-fives homeowner Etienne Constable for his creative solution to a code violation. e-mail: toolbox@montereycountynow.com TOOLBOX He came through with a masterpiece, a detailed rendering. Courtesy City of Seaside