They’re gone. Former City Manager Carlos Palacios, former Assistant City Manager Marcela Tavantzis and numerous city employees mostly from the Community Development Department finally hit the road after Grand Jury investigations, a Grand Jury initiated Audit, State Audits, and a former councilmember-now blogger (yours truly) shed enough light to send them scrambling for cover. Even if former Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter Donna Jones was still around, she couldn’t have used her historical bush league spin tactics to conceal the obvious…..that at the end of Palacios’ 20 year reign, Watsonville was left on the verge of bankruptcy. Did corruption and cronyism finally take its toll?
But one of the most asked questions by some members of the community is how and why Palacios and Tavantzis were rewarded with jobs by the County (Palacios as a Deputy County Administrator and Tavantzis as an Assistant Director of Public Works) considering their performance or lack thereof. A conceivable conspiracy theory is that Palacios and Tavantzis, with the assistance of some council members and other city and county administrators, made a deal with the County to build the majority of low-income housing, over 2,500 units, in a flat area with easily accessible utilities…..the airport. And although the attempted feat was foiled by the Watsonville Pilot’s Association (led by the late Mr. Dan Chauvet) by winning two legal battels in both Superior Court and the State Appellate Court, could it be possible that some county officials felt obligated to reward Palacios and Tavantzis for their efforts? Or, was it also possible Palacios handed over the city’s Buena Vista landfill methane gas to the County who sold it to produce green electricity? Both the County and the City own adjacent landfills on Buena Vista which produce methane gas. The gas creates “green” electricity according to a 12/29/2004 Environmental News Network article which also included that Palo Alto’s utilities department “has inked a deal to buy "green" electricity created by the methane gas that seeps out of the buried, decomposing garbage in the Santa Cruz County landfill”. Did Watsonville, or just the County, profit from that deal? Sounds like a Public Records Request to me.
Regardless, Palacios and Tavantzis were forced out of their comfort zone just prior to their golden years, and now face bosses who expect them to work after a brutal commute. I can’t help but smile while driving leisurely to the harbor to hop on my boat to go fishing knowing that Carlos and Marcela are grinding their teeth trying to clock in on time, stuck in a sea of slow moving headlights wishing for a Diamond Lane.
The Irresponsible Culprits
But who are the ultimate culprits who disregarded Palacios’ continual questionable conduct even after the 2012 Grand Jury found:
“The City of Watsonville had not been conducting its business in a professional way; one that is transparent in all its dealings, and one that gives all relevant information needed by elected officials to be able to make informed decisions.”
“……. the 2011-2012 Grand Jury decided to investigate issues that are “illustrative of a laxity of process and controls” in the Watsonville City Government, both those identified by the prior Grand Jury and new relevant concerns:
· Issuance of a $225,000 check in April 2008 for a fire truck, more than three years prior to its delivery. Nearly a year after its delivery, its operational status remains unclear.
· Continuing concerns about the process by which Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds were used to purchase the fire truck.
· Cash handling procedures for the Strawberry Festival
· Citywide cash handling policy and procedures
· Difficulties obtaining complete, accurate, and timely information, which suggests a lack of transparency.”
The answer may lie in a quote by Andrew Jackson: “The people are the government, administering it by their agents; they are the government, the sovereign power.” If you and I are in fact the government and councilmembers are our agents, we are the ultimate culprits for our failure to vote, to vote responsibly, and/or hold elected officials accountable.
Well most of you are more responsible for our city’s pitiful reputation and financial devastation than I am because as some of you may recall I was the city council member who determined the whereabouts of the fire truck in question and that it was a lump piece of sheet metal, and also questioned at a city council meeting why $20,000 cash was floating around during a Strawberry Festival which instigated the 2 Grand Jury investigations and the Superior Court Ordered Performance Audit. And I did it without any support from fellow Latino council members (and two wannabees) who also misled the tax paying public to believe that Palacios was doing a good job regardless of what was determined by the Grand Jury and Audit.
So here we are again with 3 city council seats up for grabs in November and we have another opportunity to elect council members who will represent our best interests, not theirs or special interests groups they support. Thus, this brings up to question why Oscar Rios once again is seeking a city council seat. Rios, President of the Non-Profit organization, La Alianza Del Valle Pajaro (Which is the money engine for Mexican Independence Day and Fiestas Patrias here in Watsonville) may have an underlying motive. Rumors are that councilmembers Felipe Hernandez and Karina Cervantez-Alejo are not pleased with newly hired City Manager Charles Montoya and may want to oust him already. Four votes are needed by the city council to hire and fire the city manager, city clerk, and/or city attorney and at this point in time the Alejoite contingent do not seem confident that they have the votes to rid themselves of Montoya.
What did Montoya do that irked Hernandez (who was Best Man at Luis Alejo and Karina Cervantez’s wedding) and Cervantez-Alejo? Seems one of the reasons is that Montoya had the audacity to hire Anglos for the Assistant City Manager and Deputy City Manager positions. What the….? How dare he hire on the basis of competence because after all, we’ve endured incompetence for around 20 years. What’s another 20? And it also seems that Montoya has voiced concern that the Strawberry Festival is a financial liability therefore another location, possibly the Fairgrounds, would be the solution and/or a location where an entrance fee would off-set the costs.
You know, I’m baffled that some of our populace still eat up the BS that we need the likes of Rios on the city council once again. This is especially true considering his documented history of racially divisive tactics on his previous stints as a councilmember. Surely we can’t believe that he is concerned that almost 90% of the city’s population will not be appropriately represented. I mean, how many white people do you see while driving around town? The wide-eyed ones, mouth agape, looking lost and speeding on the wrong side of the street towards Highway 1 don’t count. Fortunately Rios is being opposed by David Hermosillo, a former Watsonville fireman. I have not personally met Mr. Hermosillo although I did have the opportunity to read about him and also had a conversation with him. He is well informed of the issues facing Watsonville as he has lived in the community for the majority of his life. And unlike Rios, he will not cater to a racially divisive agenda which creates an us against them mentality, but rather focus on needed short term and long term remedies especially considering our police and fire departments.
In District 1, unfortunately we have current mayor Felipe Hernandez running unopposed.
My concern with Hernandez along with his pal Luis Alejo and cohorts is that they are, in my opinion, most responsible for rendering Watsonville a stigma in the Monterey Bay area. Hernandez has the political experience to create the illusion that he is inclusive with dog walks (“Excuse me sir but I believe that the pit bull clamped onto your leg is my dog”) a Bike Ride (“Gee I thought there we would be more than just four of us following Felipe down Main street…”) and a Food Truck Party which was an idea I presented to the City back around 2008 along with a Sports Complex. Although, he is almost professional when it comes to photo-ops; I would bet that he would appear at the unwrapping of tamale if it got him print. The only other councilmember that might give him some competition is Lowell Hurst.
Then, there’s Hernandez’s list of bunkum. In a publication, he was quoted that his campaign will highlight his accomplishments over the past four years, which he cites as “job creation, economic development, housing, parks, downtown revitalization and a better quality of life for all residents.” He creates jobs but he doesn’t have one? And, Watsonville still ranks as the city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state as it has for at least the previous 10-15 years. Additionally, in regards to him being part of the downtown revitalization, do you recall the last movie you saw at the Fox Theater or the last time you shopped at the Gottschalks building? But the best illusion he has created is that he is inclusive. Does he really believe that we have forgotten Measures H, I and J? Had Felipe been inclusive why did it require a Measure (Measure I) which dictates that the Mayor is chosen on a rotating basis? Instead, he adhered to his buddy Luis Alejo’s agenda which included exclusive self-serving actions such as voting for his replacement on the city council, helping to prevent councilmembers (especially Anglos) from being appointed mayor, and his attempt to name the City Plaza after Dolores Huerta all of which were the instigating factors for the Measures. All three Measures were resoundingly approved by voters. No we don’t need Hernandez on the city council but he is running unopposed. If people could vote for “Other” I wonder if “Other” might stand a chance.
District 6 councilmember (My District) Trina Coffman-Gomez is being opposed by Doreen Martinez (No relation). Coffman-Gomez, in my opinion, is a fortitude-lacking weathervane. Early on she voted on the side with the most votes until Councilmember Jimmy Dutra called her on it. But, my concern is that Doreen Martinez has an agenda which would include creating another Bloc whose underlying intent is to either control or oust City Manager Montoya. Montoya, who is on miraculous tract of making chicken salad out of chicken shit, should not have to answer to a contingent of politicians whose records are reflective in one of the entrances to our city: the embarrassing 20 year old eyesore, Freedom Blvd. What I want to know from both of these candidates is their plan for City Manager Montoya. Possibly Ms. Martinez may come knocking on my door, while walking the District, allowing me the opportunity to ask the question. Coffman-Gomez? Let’s hope Rios doesn’t win because she is not an independent thinker and could side with that group at the sight of a changing wind.
Hey remember Daniel Dodge (aka T-Boned)? He is the former city council member who attempted to hoodwink us with Measure T. I read that he is running for a seat on the Cabrillo Community College District Board of Trustees. He is running against incumbent Leticia Mendoza whose credentials include a B.A. in Economics from UCSC, two M.A.s in Public Administration and Philosophy from Columbia University, and a lengthy list of Community Involvement Awards and Fellowships. Daniel? I believe graduated from high school but I don’t know if he could spell Trustees if you spotted him “trust”. But he may have received a Proclamation for Best Baggage Handler of the Decade from Assemblyman Luis Alejo who has since left his beloved Watsonville for Salinas.
Mo Money Mo Free Lunches and Mo Disneyland Tickets?
Good ole free-money chasing Little Louie Alejo supposedly has been living apart from his wife Karina, a City Council Member and Assembly candidate, for around 1 ½ years? That would be the case if truly she is still residing here in Watsonville at the Carr St. residence to meet city council residency requirements while Luis resides in Salinas to comply with residency requirements in his running for a Monterey County Supervisor seat. Ah….their dedication to helping citizens’ best interest…. or theirs?
But, I am of the opinion that Karina Cervantez-Alejo’s chance of winning against her opponent, Ms. Anna Caballero, are about as good as Luis skipping a free Hawaiian Convention sponsored by special interests groups. Oh…I forgot….Karina also went on the Hawaiian vaca…er….convention. Do we really need more special interest group supported politicians in our Assembly and County?
Assembly: Ms. Anna Caballero
District 1: Other
District 2: Mr. David Hermosillo
District 6: Depends How the Wind is Blowing
Cabrillo College Board of Trustees: Ms. Leticia Mendoza.
For Congress: Ms. Casey Lucius
For President: As a friend said, and I quote, “We’re F#@ed either way!” I replied, “Hey we’re from Watsonville so we know how that feels!”
Well off fishing again because as always something smells fishy in Watsonville.