In today’s (Saturday, July 12) Salinas Californian, Kenny Wright wrote:
“I would like to share a perspective on those in Big Sur who chose to remain during the evacuation and fire. While many know Big Sur for its scenic beauty, fewer understand the character of its community of self-reliant, capable citizens.
Living in Big Sur is not the same as visiting, nor of having a vacation home here. It requires the willingness to accept the periodic power outages, road closures due to mud slides and wildfires as part of living in a world-class area of great natural beauty.
It is also a community which retains frontier values, paramount amongst them – the willingness to assist the community and one’s neighbors in the event of natural disasters.
During the almost 40 years I have lived in Big Sur, this is the spirit I have practiced and observed. During the road closures, fires and evacuations of the past I have worked with public agencies to assist their efforts, to assist members of the community and the Big Sur businesses.
Into this context stepped Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, the first time since his election that he had the opportunity to serve the community of Big Sur in the face of an emergency. His failure to provide the necessary leadership was complete and unmitigated. By the nature of the mandatory evacuation and its effect on the residents, as well as businesses, many in the community were both homeless and unemployed.
As a result of the inconsistent and seemingly vindictive enforcement of the evacuation order, some members of the community signed county liability waiver forms in order to stay and protect the community and assist the firefighting effort, only later to learn that if they attempted to leave their property they were subject to arrest.
Despite the callous law enforcement component of this evacuation, we in the Big Sur community are deeply grateful to the courageous efforts of the firefighters. Throughout the critical days of the Basin fire, crews from agencies throughout the country worked long and often dangerous hours on behalf of this community.
I am a retired peace officer, having spent 23 years as the resident CHP officer in Big Sur and well understand the role of law enforcement in times of natural disaster. I also recognize the chest thumping of those in positions of authority who perceive that authority has been challenged.
This is the behavior that the sheriff manifested during this time of opportunity to demonstrate leadership, compassion and community-based law enforcement. Despite the efforts of many of our elected representatives, notably U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, Assemblymember John Laird, D-Santa Cruz; and county Supervisor Dave Potter, it was many critical days before they were able to influence the decisions of Kanalakis.
The only voice I seem to have in his regard is at the ballot box. I certainly intend to make my voice heard at the next election.
KEN WRIGHT lives in Juan Higuera Canyon in Big Sur.”