The Pine Cone's first story of the week

Candidates scramble to take Laird's seat

By KELLY NIX

Published: March 14, 2008

A LONGTIME attorney and activist, and a Carmel chiropractor are the two Monterey Peninsula candidates who will square off against a former Santa Cruz mayor and a San Lorenzo businesswoman in the Democratic primary for the 27th Assembly District seat in June.


The four Democratic Party candidates want to secure the spot held by Assemblyman John Laird, who will leave office this year because of term limits. He could have stayed in Sacramento another six years if Proposition 93 had been approved in February.

Chiropractor Stephen Barkalow and attorney Bill Monning, both Peninsula residents, will be on the June ballot. The Assembly seat is also sought by former Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly and former San Lorenzo School Board member Barbara Sprenger.

Libertarian Mark Hinkle and Republican Robert Murray, candidates from Santa Clara County, will be in their respective parties’ primaries.

Among the questions The Pine Cone asked the Democratic candidates was what they would do to help solve the Peninsula’s water supply problem. A cease and desist order being considered by the State Water Resources Control Board could compel California American Water Co. to reduce pumping of the Carmel River by 50 percent within six years. They had few specific answers.

Unsurprisingly, protecting the environment, providing affordable housing and improving education were important to the candidates.

- Stephen Barkalow

Carmel chiropractor Stephen Barkalow is one of two candidates who live on the Monterey Peninsula. Near and dear to Barkalow is the price of healthcare, which he said is one of the reasons for the high cost of living for employees and employers within the 27th Assembly District.

“I have witnessed how the lack or loss of healthcare coverage has affected so many different aspects of my patients’ lives - from personal finances to housing,” he said. “It is time for the people of the 27th Assembly District to have a legislator who is an expert in a field that is in critical need of repair.”

Increasing funding for education, providing affordable housing and protecting the environment are also on Barkalow’s priority list of issues he would tackle if elected assemblyman.

He’s also committed to seeing more “smart growth,” which he said is best directed toward revitalization of villages, towns and city centers rather than building new subdivisions.

“This kind of growth will allow cities to attract families and stimulate local business, while reducing the need to commute,” he said. “It will also increase the tax base and stimulate the local economy. This can be done instead of raising city taxes and will allow us to address our environmental and transportation concerns simultaneously.”

In establishing a water supply for the Peninsula, Barkalow is the only candidate who acknowledged the ambitious work by the Regional Plenary Oversight Group, which was created by the California Public Utilities Commission to come up with an alternative water supply for the Peninsula.

“This is a good example of thinking outside the box to find a solution which is reasonable, ecologically sound and diverse,” he said.

The group, headed by UC Santa Cruz professor Steve Kasower, has proposed using desalination of brackish water, recycled water, stormwater runoff and other sources to supply as much as 29,000 acre-feet of water from the Peninsula to Pajaro.

Barkalow’s endorsements include the California Chiropractic Association, psychologist Carl Alasko and photographer Doug Steakley.

- Bill Monning

Monterey Peninsula attorney, law professor and activist Bill Monning, whose family first settled in Carmel in the 1920s, said he can offer Peninsula residents “knowledge, familiarity, and experience” as assemblyman.

“I am strongly committed to protecting our communities’ environment and maintaining a high quality of life,” Monning said, “including support for quality education, healthcare services, and sustainable (smart) economic growth.”

If elected, Monning said, he would work to ensure the preservation of the coastal environment.

“We need to be vigilant about water and sewage runoff into the bay,” he said, “as the addition of toxic chemicals and other pollutants may damage the ecological balance of the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean habitats.”

Monning said he believes there is no single state or regional solution to the Peninsula’s water issue, but said the Peninsula must explore other available water resources such as green construction, “sustainable and environmentally appropriate desalination options,” and education and incentives that promote water conservation.

“I favor exploration of regional solutions and believe that the current overdraft of the Carmel River is not only in violation of state law, but also is unsustainable,” he said.

When it comes to California America Water Co.’s proposed Coastal Water Project, which includes a desalination plant in Moss Landing, Monning said he would withhold judgment of the project until the California Public Utilities Commission completes its final environmental impact report on the project.

“I believe that Cal Am’s Coastal Water Project provides a basis for promoting constructive dialogue on the issue of achieving a drought-proof water supply to the Monterey Peninsula,” he said.

Monning’s endorsements include 5th District Supervisor Dave Potter, Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis and former Monterey Mayor Dan Albert.

- Emily Reilly

Former Santa Cruz Mayor and City Councilwoman Emily Reilly grew up in a working-class Pennsylvania town without any of the environmental concerns of today.

“That ingrained in me a deep sense of appreciation for preserving the environment,” Reilly said.

Reilly said there are a number of environmental issues important to the Monterey Peninsula and the Central Coast, including coastal protection, fighting global warming and coming up with a more sustainable solution to the transportation needs of the the area.

“It is important to ensure that these protections are compatible with preserving jobs and expanding affordable housing,” she said. “My experience on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and as a mayor and city council member of Santa Cruz have taught me this.”

While mayor, Reilly participated in a commitment by the City of Santa Cruz to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and establish mandatory green building regulations for construction.

Reilly does not support legislation to provide a water supply to the Peninsula but would “find a solution that protects the environment and takes a fair look at all the issues.”

Reilly said she won’t commit to a desalination plant to provide a drought-free water supply, but said it is important to include the community in the process.

“I support finding a solution to the potential water shortage on the Peninsula,” she said. “A desalination plant is obviously one way of achieving this, and it is a solution we are pursuing in Santa Cruz through our integrated water plan.”

Reilly’s endorsements include Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, California State Board of Equalization Chairwoman Betty Yee and former Santa Cruz Mayor Katherine Beiers.

- Barbara Sprenger

Businesswoman and former San Lorenzo Valley School Board member Barbara Sprenger lists the environment as her “highest priority,” but includes healthcare reform, education and job security as other important issues.

“The people of the Monterey Peninsula primarily care about the same things as the rest of the district,” Sprenger said, “protecting our watersheds and forests, finding a reasonable balance between producing the affordable housing our working communities need and protecting the environment and open space, and providing the education and healthcare we all need.”

Sprenger helped organize Friends of Locally Owned Water, or FLOW, which has tried to turn California American Water Co.’s facilities in the Santa Cruz mountains into a publicly owned utility.

If elected, Sprenger said she would make water a primary focus of her work in the Assembly. She favors a regional solution instead of intervention from the state Legislature in securing a water supply for the Peninsula. “There are many potential solutions on the table,” she said, “and we must be sure we’re maximizing the lowest cost — both environmentally and financially.”

That could include conservation, recycling and desalination, Sprenger said.

“I will certainly work with all the players to craft solutions,” she said.

Sprenger’s endorsements include 24th District Assemblyman Jim Beall, former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer and 22nd District Assemblywoman Sally Lieber.