Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ralph Rubio's "momentum"

When I saw Ralph Rubio's campaign ad in Sunday's Herald I nearly choked on my Cheerios. Under his list of "accomplishments" it read "Keep the momentum going!"

Momentum? Inertia is more like it. Under Rubio's leadership, the city of Seaside has been one of the most stagnant cities on the Monterey Peninsula.

Rubio was first elected as mayor in 2004. In 2010 he was replaced by my good friend Felix Bachofner by a mere 21 votes. Rubio took back the mayor's chair in 2012, winning by a little over 100 votes.

In Sunday's ad Rubio listed several "accomplishments" the first of which was a claim that he balanced twelve budgets. Unfortunately, he did it by digging into the city's cash reserves, which were nearly depleted by the time Bachofner took office in 2010. Felix actually did balance the budget without needing to dip into the reserves. In fact, under Bachofner's leadership, the city actually started replenishing its financial cushion. Unfortunately, Felix's hard work was undone when Rubio retook the seat in 2012.

Felix not only left office with a balanced budget, he left the city with enough money to hire more police officers. What happened? Rubio's administration spent the surplus on raises for existing employees, leaving Seaside's police department with the fewest number of officers in recent memory.

This is particularly galling because in 2008 Rubio successfully asked Seaside voters to approve a one-cent increase in the city sales tax. That tax was supposed to provide for greater public safety, including a beefed-up police department which never materialized. Instead the money poofed into thin air when the economy crashed later that year. We're now paying more and getting less. That's not the sort of momentum I want to keep going.

Other "accomplishments" Rubio listed in his ad were:
  • "Six project areas in exclusive negotiation agreements."
  • "Seaside Resort development disposition agreement approved by State Department of Finance."
  • "Main Gate regional mall ready for request for proposals."
He's boasting about baby steps. Steps get you started, but they are not in and of themselves accomplishments. The Seaside Resort and Main Gate developments, both on former Fort Ord property, have been in the pipeline for over a decade, yet they've barely budged towards construction in that time. Rubio's time. In that same time period neighboring Marina has successfully redeveloped a significant portion of Fort Ord, leaving Seaside in the dust.

Curiously, Rubio omits any reference to Seaside's development plans for Lower Broadway and a new library, both of which the city has been talking about for a good twenty years. That's because during Rubio's time in office no significant progress has been made. Worse, a major source of funding for the library, originally allocated way back in 1997, was withdrawn last January because of the city's failure to use it. Only slugs, snails, and tortoises would call that momentum.

Even more curiously, Ralph Rubio is often thought of as pro-development, due to his membership in the Carpenter's Union. But the reality is that during his years as mayor of Seaside bordering cities, even the tiny slivers of Del Rey Oaks and Sand City, have seen more economic development than we have. That's just one of several reasons why I'm voting for Felix Bachofner for mayor of Seaside.


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