The era of Pacifica’s environmentalist wing’s dominance of city politics is over.
That’s according to the top two vote-getters in last month’s election for the two-year term on the city council.
Mike O’Neill and Victor Spano represent a pro-business faction that’s emboldened by an apparent repudiation of a once-mighty Pacifica environmentalist voting block.
O’Neill’s decisive win in the two-year race figured prominently in an election that dramatically changed the dynamic of a council that for decades has been dominated by the city’s environmentalist faction.
Pacifica voters last month gave the city’s pro-business faction a decisive 4-1 majority on the council, voting in Karen Ervin and returning incumbent Mary Ann Nihart, who along with O’Neill and newly elected Mayor Len Stone give the city’s pro-development wing more clout than it’s had in recent memory.
Sue Digre is Pacifica’s only remaining environmentalist left on the council.
“I think it shows that (Pacifica’s) pro-environmentalist movement subsiding,” said Victor Spano, the runner-up to O’Neill in the race for the two-year seat.
Spano finished ahead of Sierra Club-endorsed Richard Campbell by a razor-thin 23-vote margin (4,060-4,037).
The two pro-business candidates combined to garner more than 60 percent of the vote.
O’Neill said the election reflects a change in the electorate, with Pacifica voters expressing their angst with years of budget deficits, shuttered businesses and proposed cost-cutting measures.
“I just think people realize that there’s got to be more revenue,” O’Neill said. “The days of getting services and not paying for them just aren’t there any more.”
For his part, Campbell rejects the notion that Pacifica’s green movement has become non-factor in city politics, noting that his pro-environment stands did not in his estimation represent a hindrance to economic development.
“I think that’s a false choice between economic growth and environmental protection,” he said. “I don’t buy into that notion and that I was just representing environmental folks in town. I had a lot of support among a broad base” of the electorate.”
Campbell said he campaigned on economic development, too.
“I think the message was (that voters) want to see progress on development in the city,” he said. “All three of us campaigned on that message and all three of us split the vote.”
O’Neill acknowledged that Pacifica’s environmentalist faction is in tune with the city’s desperate need to promote economic development.
“I think they’ve acknowledged the realities of today’s world,” he said.
He also acknowledged that pro-business in Pacifica doesn’t mean the same thing as pro-business Bakersfield does.
“I don’t want to see the hills developed,” Campbell said. “There’s a reason you live in this town by the ocean and there’s a reason you have 60 percent open space. What (voters) want to see is a realization that there’s a budget and services that are in the city of Pacifica and there has to be some sustainability in order to maintain them.”
Spano and Campbell said they’ve both congratulated O’Neill on his victory.
“I wish Mike well,” Spano said. “We’ve got a great council now and as a member of the Pacifica Economic Development Committee I want to help out the entire council any way I can.”
Campbell said he believes O’Neill’s real estate background is an asset to the city.
“I wish him well and I believe he can serve effectively,” he said.
Both left the door open to a 2014 council run.
“Why not?” Spano said. “I thought the people of Pacifica received me well. We’ll see in 18 months.”
Campbell acknowledged he’s thought about another council run, too.
“Sure, it’s something to consider,” he said. “Absolutely.”