Must-See MCTV: City Council détente breaks down

Why wait till Wednesday?

Posted by on Wed, February 22, 2006

"I didn't see that Mike [Ferreira] was a fit at this time."
— Bonnie McClung
"It's a sad day for Half Moon Bay."
— David Gorn

At last night’s Half Moon Bay City Council meeting, the nascent compromise between the two factions on the City Council completely broke down. The issue was Mike Ferreira’s appointment to the Planning Commission, but the implications are much broader.

The video of the meeting airs tonight at 7pm on MCTV, channel 6, and by all accounts you should program your Tivo, dust off your VCR, or turn on your TV, and check it out.

Despite Bonnie McClung’s willingness to compromise on the size of the Planning Commission and her apparent good relationship with former city Council member Mike Ferreira, she voted with Naomi Patridge and Marina Fraser to deny Ferreira an appointment to the Planning Commission.  Ferreira is a former planning commissioner. Following this vote, David Gorn and Jim Grady disengaged from the meeting, declining to participate in the nomination process and abstaining on all subsequent votes.

"I’m disappointed that they [Grady and Gorn] decided to pull out out of the process," McClung told Coastsider, saying that her vote was within the spirit of the compromise. "I didn’t see that Mike was a fit at this time because he’s a lightning rod for both sides."

"It’s a sad day for Half Moon Bay," City Council member David Gorn told me, saying that the spirit of the compromise, which was designed to avoid dividing the town politically, had been broken. "After this huge compromise, we have this mean-spirited political nastiness," said Gorn.

In response to a question, Gorn agreed that under the circumstances, it may have been preferable to let the majority remake the Planning Commission and take it to referendum.

Asked if this could be seen as an attempt to keep him out of circulation, Ferreira said, "I don’t need their help to circulate."

Here’s how it went down:

Gorn nominated current planning commissioner Kevin Lansing - approved 5-0

Grady nominated Mike Ferreira - denied 2-3 (Grady, Gorn ayes)

"You could hear a pin drop during the roll call", one observer told me.

Grady withdrew his nomination and asserted his right to withhold his nomination to a later date. The seat will remain vacant for now.

McClung nominated Doug Snow - approved 3-0-2 (Grady, Gorn abstaining)

Patridge nominated Patric Jonsson - approved 3-0-2 (Grady, Gorn abstaining)

Fraser nominated Thomas Roman - approved 3-0-2 (Grady, Gorn abstaining)

The council then moved to the at-large seats - Grady and Gorn did not nominate or participate.

Patridge nominated Jeff Allis, David Mier and Bob Feldman.

Fraser nominated Linda Poncini.

Jeff Allis - approved 3-0-2 (Grady, Gorn abstaining)

Bob Feldman - denied 0-3-2 (Grady, Gorn abstaining)

David Mier - denied 1-2-2 (Patridge aye, Grady, Gorn abstaining)

Linda Poncini - approved 2-1-2 (Fraser, McClung ayes, Grady, Gorn abstaining)

Technically, according to the ordinance, a majority of 3 votes is required for approval, but at this point everyone was so tired that they accepted Allis and Poncini for the two remaining seats.

As HMB Review Managing Editor Clay Lambert put it in his eerie signed column about McClung and Ferreira’s new-found friendship:

There are those in town who, for reasons I’ll never understand, are vested in continuing this Hatfield-and-McCoy feud between the so-called "no-growthers," which Ferreira was supposed to represent, and the "old guard," which is supposed to be the natural base for McClung. I’m sure there are supporters of each who think that fraternizing with the enemy is high treason.

He may be right.


Comment 1
Wed, February 22, 2006 4:48pm
Joe Falcone
All my comments

One minor correction:  my term was going to expire December 31, 2006 but the City Council affirmed Council Member Grady’s desire to vacate the seat after his nomination of Mike Ferreira was not approved so my last meeting on the Planning Commission will be Thursday night. 

Joe Falcone

Comment 2
Wed, February 22, 2006 5:45pm
John Lynch
All my comments

I remember being in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the night of the Saturday Night MASSACRE, on October 20, 1973 by President Richard Nixon. For those of you too young to remember the president dismissed special prosecutor Archibald Cox and forced the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckeslshaus. I was appalled.

Unfortunately, last night I was present when the newly elected council majority committed their version of the Half Moon Bay Tuesday Night MASSACRE. Again, I was appalled.

Creditability and civility was MASSACRED for the sake of political gain during the re-sitting of the Half Moon Bay POlanning Commission.

The past practice of interviewing all of the candidates was MASSACRED.

The established policy of many years standing of allowing each council member to seat the planning commissioner of his/her choice was MASSACRED.

Building bridges, and the coming together of our community, was MASSACRED.

Now if the new council majority actions last night doesn’t constitute a MASSACRE, what does?

John Lynch

Comment 3
Wed, February 22, 2006 10:15pm
Leonard Woren
All my comments

While watching it on MCTV, somehow I missed the explanation of what happened to the previously-announced agreement regarding planning commission appointments?  Fundamentally implicit in that agreement is that each council member would be able to appoint whomever they wanted.  Bonnie reneged on that deal by voting against Jim Grady’s nomination.

Comment 4
Wed, February 22, 2006 10:44pm
John Leads
All my comments

I’ve been out of the country for a few months and returned today in time to catch the city council meeting.  It made me want to catch the next plane back out of the country.  What happened that night was an appalling breach of trust and will clearly set the tone going forward (or perhaps backwards?).  Bonnie McClung is either a hapless pawn, beaten into submission for past sins of compromise or simply has no personal sense of integrity.  The entire meeting smacked of set-up, from the hooting juvenile behavior of the audience to the rolled eyes, and patronizing comments of Patridge and Fraser.  The complete steamrolling of David Gorn’s point was the low point for me.  The spirit of compromise was to allow each council member to appoint a planner that reflected his/her constituency - as Naomi repeatedly demanded for herself. Yet come time to offer that same opportunity to her fellow council members she chose to blindside them and suggest that they not take it “personally”.  At one point, McClung said with a dazed look, “I don’t know what I’m doing”.  I wonder.

Mr. Lynch has a severe case of selective memory. As President Ronald Reagan said to Walter Mondale, “There you go again.”

“The established policy of many years standing….” How many years, John? Less than 10 years ago then-Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Alliss was nominated for reappointment. It was written, “In the past, (councilmember preference seats) meant little opposition would be offered.” But Deborah Ruddock, Dennis Coleman, and Carol Cupp “turned into a political football” that nomination, and “the motion failed 2-3.”

Did John Lynch call that City Council’s actions a “massacre?” Did Jim Grady call it “sneaky” or “a betrayal?”

The comparison to Nixon having Bork fire Cox (with Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigning in protest) is laughable, and inappropriate.

How ironic that Lynch’s hyperbole appeared on the same day he’s quoted in The Review under the headine, “Time to Cooperate….” I hope his rant doesn’t obscure that message of cooperation (with which I agree). -Joel Farbstein

Comment 6
Thu, February 23, 2006 8:03am
Brian Ginna
All my comments


mas·sa·cre   P   Pronunciation Key (ms-kr)
The act or an instance of killing a large number of humans indiscriminately and cruelly.
The slaughter of a large number of animals.
Informal. A severe defeat, as in a sports event.


“Do you remember when Lynch and his LCP-cabal spent $23,178 to put up three candidates for City Council and only one of them was voted in?  Wow, that was a massacre.”

“I am participating, I’m participating by abstaining,” said Grady, after Fraser requested that he submit another nomination. “That’s well within my right as a councilperson.”

After this, former mayor and current (marginalized) councilman Grady was seen running home down Kelly with his ball.

Comment 7
Thu, February 23, 2006 10:13am
John Lynch
All my comments

C’mon Joel. You had to know that our article had to be submitted to the Review last week prior to the tragedy and debacle that occurred Tuesday night with the council’s handling of the planning commission issue.

Our Matter of Opinion article that appeared in yesterday’s Review was a serious attempt by Vic Tigerman and myself to bring both sides of the HMB political spectrum together. The Managing Editor had told us that it would not appear until the March 1 issue.

After the circus of Tuesday night, I was going to have the article “pulled” for I now feel there is not much hope that we’ll ever get beyond partisan politics in our town. There is no sense of consensus building. Sorry to say.

John Lynch

Let me be sure I understand what you are claiming, Joel. You are asserting that a member of the City Council (whose?) nominated Jeff Allis for his/her councilmember preference seat, and that appointment was defeated?

My recollection is somewhat different, and possibly wrong. I seem to recall Jeff having been Dennis’ appointee. There was a juggling of appointees when the commission was expanded to seven members, after which David Mier became Dennis’ appointee, and Robin King became Naomi’s. Bob Hansen was Jerry Donovan’s appointee, and so I believe that Jeff’s seat was an “at large” one. But I could be wrong. If you could provide independently verifiable references written at the time to buttress your claims, I would be glad to stand corrected. Until then, I have to regard your claim as “truthiness” rather than truth—there is so much of that going around these days.

But even if you are correct, the tone with which appointments were made Tuesday night is a stark contrast to the ones made a decade ago. Dennis waited until the expiration of his commissioner’s term, rather than ousting him mid-term as the current majority has done. And in choosing a different appointee (me), Dennis was very complimentary of Jeff. This contrasts starkly with the groundless, trumped-up tarring of the planning commission by Naomi Patridge, Marina Fraser and Chris Mickelsen, and with the astounding assertion by Bonnie that a citizen leader who garnered half the City’s support was not “fit” for the job.

Moreover, the public attending the meeting a decade ago was civil, waiting quietly for their turn to speak, and respecting the rights of city council members and other members of the public to hold different views. The unruly trash-talking members public who disrupted this week’s meeting, and the failure of Mayor Fraser to protect the speech of others by maintaining regular order, is the real contrast, destroying the healing mentality that could have taken hold. But then, some very competitive people feel that to win, there has to be a loser. What a sad way to see the world.

Call the new planning commission appointments whatever you would like, but don’t insult the now retired city council of 1996 by equating their process of choosing commissioners to the debacle that took place earlier this week. That really was a massacre and, Brian’s cheap shot notwithstanding, I understand why Jim Grady made the decision to abstain.

Notwithstanding this, congratulations to the new appointees. I wish them isolation from the disgraceful manner in which they were appointed, insightful staff reports, meaningful and civil public testimony, and wise decisions that conform to our laws.

Comment 9
Thu, February 23, 2006 12:50pm
Steve Terry
All my comments

I didn’t follow this story until watching the MCTV broadcast last night.  There seemed to be some sort of confusion about what exactly was agreed to in previous meetings vs what was actually exercised.  Could someone please clarify.

Also, the methodology used for establishing the “appointments”—(kind of a misnomer in itself)—was remarkable for its complete lack of democratic intent.  That is, the process was constructed so that the majority had veto power over any minority appointment while maintaining veto-proof power over any of their own appointments.  There was nothing fair about this at all (in a democratic sense);  it was simply a winner-take-all arrangement—nothing more, nothing less.

Wouldn’t it have been better to use some sort of rank-choice voting, thereby staving off the contention (and the nonsensical, overly complicated, and unworkable selection rules profferred by the City Manager), yet still allowing the majority to control the PC while allowing for minority representation, and thus making good on ostensibly genuine calls for cooperation?

Steve Terry

Do you think it would be politically divisive to start the recall process for Councilwoman McClung?  It seems we would need 25% of the registered voters to sign such a petition, according to

  —Harvey Rarback

Comment 11
Thu, February 23, 2006 7:38pm
John Lynch
All my comments

Brian Ginna.

You must think that I am a nincompoop as well as all the wire services and all the newspapers who used that expression to describe Nixon’s actions in October 1973. 

They knew, as well as I knew, that no deaths occurred so it truly was not a MASSACRE in the dictionary sense. It was literary license to show the gravity as to what occured.

It was precisely for that reason I used MASSACRE to show the travesty of what occurred Tuesday evening. I stand by my choice of the word—-MASSACRE indeed it was.

Also, losing by eight votes does not a massacre make.

John Lynch

Comment 12
Fri, February 24, 2006 3:26pm
lani ream
All my comments

This is what I remember from 1999 when I joined the Planning Commission. In 1997 there was an interview process for the vacant seat of Lisa Randolf who resigned prior to the Referendum when Staff stopped sending her packets. All those who filed a “willingness to serve” form were interviewed in front of the Council. I think Larry Kaye was there with a few other members of the public. Mike Ferriera was chosen as a direct appointment of Betty Stone’s. When Dick Curtis left Toni Taylor was appointed to the Commission which included Mike, Robin King, John Sullivan, Bob Hansen, Toni Taylor, David Mier and I’m not sure who the other one was. Dennis appointed Jimmy when Dave Mier’s term ended. Debbie appointed Linda Poncini in 2000 or 2001.I was appointed by Toni Taylor when she was elected to a seat on the Council. 
Dispite the Referendum the interview process and nomination process was fairly calm and civil. There was an opportunity for the public to attend the interviews, if they chose. Did the Public have any idea of the qualifications of the candidates this time? If it was important for Naomi, Marina and Bonnie to have the majority vote on the Commission( and a representative chosen by them )then why wasn’t that same choice respected and supported for Dave Gorn and Jim Grady?  lani ream

Comment 13
Sat, February 25, 2006 5:52am
lani ream
All my comments

I forgot to add that the way I read the transcript of what happened at the meeting Naomi, Marina and Bonnie each chose their preferred Commissioner and then also made both choices for the at-large seats and vetoed Jim Grady’s choice. So they made five selections of the seven Commissioners and overrode one. I thought the “Compomise” included a choice of one at large for each faction thereby giving four Commissioner chosen by the majority and three from the minority.  Is there anyone who thinks this was a democratic process? The Commissioner I missed in the above posting was Don Heinz who served with Mike, Toni, Robin, John, Bob and Dave Mier. lani ream

Comment 14
Tue, February 28, 2006 2:46pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Let’s try and keep the conversation more civil than the City Council keeps its meetings.

Coastsider allows a lot more latitude in commenting on public officials than on commenting on other posters. As always, when in doubt, refer to the Golden Rule.  If you want to put someone in their place, do it by refuting their argument, not by calling them names or abusing them.  Our policy notwithstanding, we would prefer that you not test the limits of what you can say about public officials, either.

Good idea; let’s try to stick to the facts.

FACT: Deborah Ruddock (+Cupp & Coleman) broke precedent twice 10 years ago by vetoing “councilmember preference seats” when “Donovan nominated Jeff Allis,” and not elevating the then-vice-mayor. And you can look it up. (As a rule I try to do my homework BEFORE I post on websites.)

Here, though, Jimmy Benjamin created new words in an attempt to cast doubt on factual statements. In his recent Matter of Opinion in the HMB Review, he claimed “Facts” to support his case. I guess that’s appropriate: Quote FACTS in The Review, while “truthiness” and name-calling are okay for

FACT: It’s a pretty short list of candidates who’ve been reelected based on the strategy of abstaining. OPINION: The lack of decorum from both sides of the table was unfortunate. Bonnie McClung got the best press recently by being a moderate. My suggestion as a way for Jim Grady to restore some dignity is to embrace the new LCP theme of “cooperation” and make a less-polarizing, more-mainstream nomination which—since the majority already indicated its willingness to cooperate by unanimously accepting the first minority nomination, and interview all at-large candidates—would probably be acceptable.

FACT: For the record, SM County Chief Elections Officer Warren Slocum reports Mike Ferreira lost by 15 votes (not 8). It’s too early for people to have selective memory over that one.

For those who weren’t able to attend the recount over the course of several work days in San Mateo, the gap was narrowed to 8 during the course of the extensive and careful recount.

While Joel is correct that the official count was not updated to reflect the results of the recount, the reader should know that that’s because the recount was called off by the candidate when it looked rather certain that the gap would not get much smaller than the 8 certain votes garnered in the recount.  Calling it off meant that the results would not be officially recorded, but there is clear evidence and no doubt that the gap was no more than 8, not 15.

Now THERE’S “truthiness!”

If Mike Ferreira or the LCP wants to put their money where their mouth is and pay the costs for the final result to show an 8-vote difference, they can do so. But the official record states the final tally was a 15-vote difference. Again, you can look it up.

The distinction between 8 and 15 votes is meaningless.  Bonnie was elected.  But she was elected by a razor-thin margin, regardless of how you count it.

Under our winner-take-all system, that tiny margin between Bonnie and Mike means that one side gets their way on everything for the next two years.  Even if Mike Ferreira were appointed to the planning commission, he would have been one of two votes on a seven-member board.

Can’t everyone see that the bitter divisiveness is caused by the current majority at any given time taking revenge for being ignored when they were the minority, and steamrollering over the current minority?

I think (and I hope) that after HMB voters see the damage that two years of the current regime can do to the city, that they’ll wake up and flip things over again.  The only problem is that it takes 10 years to undo that two years worth of damage.  And some things can’t be undone, like the disgusting wart on the EL Granada waterfront (which through 1959 sleaze happens to immorally be in the City of Half Moon Bay.)  To this day, the HMBCC people responsible for approving that wart don’t see anything wrong with it.  The depressing thing is that the people who elected the current majority probably don’t either.

Mr. Woren,

just so I can understand your logic - was the “divisiveness” ok when the current minority was in charge?  Regime?  We’re not talking about Bush/Cheney here - the drama is getting really tiring.

The current minority failed in a desparate attempt to show HMB voters (one of which, you are not, I might add) that they were moving the city forward.  They weren’t.  GET OVER IT.

You have every right to comment about HMB affairs, but please stop acting like the end of the world is near.  We’ll get along just fine, thanks.

The registrar’s team of counting specialists are truly specialists, and their careful, time-consuming efforts were praiseworthy.

With all due respect to Mr. Farbstein’s use of truthiness, the record of the totals from the precincts, painstakingly arrived at, leaves no doubt that (1) Bonnie got more votes, and (2) the number of those votes was 8.

Those precinct totals were read aloud and cross-checked.  Bonnie’s supporters were there taking down the same count numbers as Mike’s supporters without protest.

It’s a process that the public rarely gets to see, and one in which, even without taking it all the way through every last ballot, showed a narrowing to no more than an 8 vote difference.

It’s a fine point, but in the interest of avoiding truthiness all around, the narrowness of the margin is worth knowing about, and the public is unlikely to know without the information being made available.  Razor-thin margins can help inform public opinion and public decisions.  It’s important to know that, yes, Bonnie got the job, and virtually the same number of people wanted both candidates.

Now, why wasn’t the recount taken to completion?  The mail in ballots were where the change in counts were found.  Those ballots were counted first.

Then the ballots from the polling places were counted.  Ballots voted at the polls showed no changes.  The reason for this is simple - a mismarked ballot gets kicked out by the machine, and the voter has an opportunity at the polls to correct the ballot.  Voting at the ballot box is a much more reliable method of casting a vote, as borne out by the recount of several precincts.

The registrar has a process for making official changes to the official records.  Without Mike paying for the time to count the rest of the voted-at-the-precinct ballots, Mr. Slocum would not record the changes.  His process makes sense.  It also made sense to stop paying for the counting when it was clear that at-the-precinct ballots were all that was left, and they were unlikely to change the 8 vote difference.

The official record lists 15 votes. Period. Roughly 1 percent more people voted for Bonnie McClung than Mike Ferreira. While 15 is a slim margin, it’s 14 more than 1 vote, which is all that matters in an election.
For bookmarking purposes, here’s the URL:
True, it was a close election no matter how you look at it.

I think there’s a lot of obfuscation going on, and a lot of denial over the LCP’s self-created problem. If LCP-backed candidates were interested in “cooperating” a year ago, they would have appointed the more-experienced Naomi Patridge instead of David Gorn, and the LCP likely wouldn’t be in the minority today. Call it a big blunder, call it lack of foresight, whatever, but for the next 2-4 years it will have to learn how to operate from the minority position. And the sooner everyone gets through arguing over numbers, and starts working together and contributing to the democratic process, the better HMB will be.

(Ironic on a board about the HMB election you have one Montaran correcting another Montaran’s use of numbers on a Montara-owned website!)