SQUIDFRY 12.07.17: Soul Suck – Monterey County Weekly

SOUL SUCK… Whenever Squid tries meditating, Squid finds Squidself wracked with existential anxiety. Will Salinas pave over all the farmland to build shopping malls? How soon will drones be able to break into Squid’s lair? What’s the risk of nuclear war?

Squid was thinking of oozing down the coast to the Esalen Institute for a retreat to help ease Squid’s mind, when Squid came across a Dec. 5 New York Timesstory about who Esalen is really meant for – and it ain’t exactly Squid. Apparently, it’s for tech bros who may or may not have souls. “It’s about putting Silicon Valley back in their bodies,” one former Google employee is quoted as saying. “Everybody’s got a soul. It’s about finding it.”

CEO Ben Tauber, himself a former Google employee, puts it in context – woe are the tech executives, who are making millions on the backs of the little people! – and who need expensive retreats to help them get over it: “The CEOs, inside they’re hurting. They can’t sleep at night.”

RUBBER STAMP… Squid makes a habit of live-streaming public meetings from the lair, where Squid can nom on shrimp-flavored popcorn and let Squid’s beak hang open while public officials and interest groups duke it out. On Dec. 5, for instance, Squid watched Catherine Kobrinsky-Evans, president of the Salinas City Center Improvement Association, tell City Council who to listen to: “Don’t let people from the Peninsula decide the future of Salinas.” And Senior PlannerLisa Brinton detailing the Economic Development Element – the city’s plan for growth – in a slow voice with lots of long vowels, as if she was explaining it to toddlers.

The controversial plan had plenty of voices of opposition, coming from the County Ag Commissioner’s office, from the Monterey County Resource Management Agency, and from nonprofit LandWatch. Squid also saw plenty of interest groups and regular residents get up and speak in support of the plan, which calls for converting 440-plus acres of existing agricultural land to residential, industrial and commercial uses. One resident in the pro camp was former Salinas Planning Commissioner Matt Huerta – former as of Dec. 4, when Mayor Joe Gunter called to tell him his service on the commission was no longer needed. That’s 11 years after he was appointed by Anna Caballero, then retained by Dennis Donohue.

“Most of our commissioners change every four to five years,” Gunter tells Squid’s colleague. “I had a very good run with him.” Squid can’t help but note that just a couple of weeks earlier, when the Planning Commission voted on the Economic Development Element, Huerta seemed like a shoe-in – until he voted no. City Council went ahead and unanimously approved it without the Planning Commission’s blessing, leaving Squid to wonder if a yes man would’ve kept the seat.

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