BRATTON…831 Water Street development, Details on Rail and Trail, reactions to Colligan’s blurts, NO on recall, Live Here Now. GREENSITE…on Texas abortion law implications. KROHN…Recall balloting by numbers, write ins for governor?, Save farmers market, petition session, tax empty homes. STEINBRUNER…Wildfire camera available, new Kaiser medical center issues, new Watsonville lumbermill, Santa Cruz water rates increasing, county redistricting, Sentinel reporting error not corrected. PATTON…The True Cost Party. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Climate Change”
DATELINE September 6
FOCUS ON 831 WATER STREET. I asked Lira Filippini to give us a broad-sweeping coverage of all the facts and facets of what’s being pushed for the development at 831 Water Street. Lira is a licensed real estate agent, President of six small towns’ Chambers of Commerce and is also a scientific reviewer. Here’s her report…
“We desperately need affordable housing – but not at the expense of the health, safety, sustainability, social equity, and wellbeing of our existing community, or new community members who may move into new developments. The proposed development at 831 Water St unfortunately threatens all of these and is attempting to be approved for a ministerial streamlining that would fast track into the permitting and build phase without CEQA (environmental review).
Of course the most intense and direct impact will be on the neighboring residents, and yet – this project will impact the entire City both directly and indirectly. Being the first development using SB 35, it is a template for other developments throughout our City. If we allow our standards for developing a sustainable community to be side-stepped with 831 Water, we should not be surprised when developments like this one pop up all around our community and we’ll have already set a precedent making their identified impacts impossible to fight by allowing this one.
The Most Significant Identified Impacts Of The 831 Water Proposal:
- No Environmental Review/CEQA: If this development is approved for SB 35 streamlining, there will be no California Environmental Quality Act process. CEQA was developed to ensure we don’t harm our natural or built environments, and it is a state law that should be adhered to. Imagine the impact on air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, etc… if there is no environmental review process for developments.
- No Public Hearings: If approved for SB 35, there are no public hearings. Imagine projects like this being pushed through the permitting process at lightning speed without any way for you to give input on your concerns, even if you can substantiate those concerns. Our community needs a voice in how our community is developed, especially at the sheer mass and scale being proposed for this and other projects.
- Mass/Scale/Density: This development would be 145 units on less than one acre, in zoning that is only supposed to allow up to 55 units per acre. It would also be 60 feet tall and take up almost the entire lot when it is zoned for only 40 feet tall and should include more open space for any new residents. Loopholes with the density bonus and new state laws are attempting to allow developers to build way larger and denser than is healthy for our community.
- Segregated Housing: This development segregates the affordable units from the market rate in two separate buildings, promoting classism and racism; we cannot allow the development patterns in society to perpetuate this segregation. It is redlining on a smaller scale and the Santa Cruz community demands equity in building practices. We have two City Ordinances that dictate that all inclusionary affordable units are to be “dispersed throughout the development.” This includes our Inclusionary Ordinance as well as our Density Bonus Ordinance. In fact, it is a specification as a qualifying standard for affordable units, in order for a development to apply for a density bonus in our City.
- Public Safety – For Cyclists: The only proposed entrance/exit for the underground parking garage poses an unusually unsafe situation for cyclists riding down the new protected bike lane down Water St.
- Traffic – Public Health: The traffic already backs up on the corner of Branciforte Ave and Water St. Adding this much population density to such a small lot will dramatically increase this. And it’s not just the density, the only entrance/exit for this huge influx of residents and accompanying new retail is on Water Street where the center divide will force everyone entering and exiting the property to have to make U-turns to access the property, depending on which way they are heading. Traffic has not just been linked to dangerous air quality, but also anxiety disorders, and many other negative health impacts.
- Historical/Archeological: The Villa de Branciforte holds significant yet largely ignored historical and archeological significance for the City, the County (originally named Branciforte County) and the State. Potential buried structures/foundations and artifacts from that era must be protected and the presence of which should disqualify the development for SB 35 approval. The Villa had a completely different culture than the Santa Cruz Mission town. Native Americans and Mestizos were allowed to vote in the Villa and some even held office. This is in stark contrast to the secular and controlled society at the Mission, where huge numbers of Natives perished. For being such a small strip of town, the old Villa de Branciforte area needs to be treated with great archeological care during any deep excavation that would completely remove the historical Bolcoff Hill for a two level underground parking garage.
- Public Safety – Building Safety/Earthquakes: This site is on a hill that is more than 30 degrees with very specific geography. The type of soil is loose and crumbly with chunks cracking and falling along the retaining wall on Water St. Santa Cruz is in an area with 6 major faults surrounding us and the Ben Lomond Fault going straight through our City.
- Unfortunately, SB 35 only restricts developments within areas in which the State Geologist has published official maps showing them as delineated earthquake fault zones. Unfortunately “no data” has been officially added to our City’s area on the official maps, even though the fault activity map on the State’s “geological survey” shows a ton of faults. If you go to our City’s address on this map and zoom out, you will see many faults and we know firsthand that our City is prone to plenty of damage due to earthquakes.
- The oversight of our City not yet having adequate data on the State Geologist’s site should not be allowed to result in improperly constructed large developments throughout our City that don’t get the proper EIR/CEQA process that could mitigate such dangers by requiring earthquake retrofitting in the design.
- Standing Water – Public Health: This site is hydrologically challenged due to its geography. Water is trapped above the substrata of mudstone and pools in the neighborhoods North of Water Street as it runs down the mountain. Water Street gets its name because water constantly seeps through the retaining wall along Water at this site. If the developer is allowed to put in a concrete two level underground garage, it will “dam” the entire length of this long, narrow lot. That poses a considerable health issue, coupled with number 10. Standing water + total shade = toxic mold.
- Shade – Public Health: The 60′ height of these buildings would cast shade on the Belvedere Terrace homes so that during the winter, many of them would see zero sun for the entire day. This is linked to depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It could also cause serious illness due to toxic mold when those properties would have neither the drying warmth, nor UV sterilization from the sun during the wet time of the year.
- Parking: This site does not provide even close to the amount of parking needed for the density of housing proposed and only a couple parking places for their commercial retail. On top of that, the parking will be expensive for the residents and paid for separately (uncoupled) which poses an extra strain on new residents needing the affordable housing. All of this will cause many residents and commercial patrons to park elsewhere, greatly impacting all of the neighboring streets. Imagine this being allowed all over the city.
- Cultural Heritage & Aesthetic: This building is in the architectural style they call “modern,” which comes from the architectural period called “brutalism”. Not only is this particular building design cold, unwelcoming and boxy, it completely ignores the historical aspect of the Villa de Branciforte adobe aesthetic that should be honored in all new developments in the area that makes up this old Township.
- Open Space/Privacy: Green open space is crucial to include in any development for physical health, mental health and wellbeing of residents, as well as the air-scrubbing needed from plants to mitigate the huge increase in population density and associated traffic. Besides a couple of very small strips, the only open space proposed for this development is the rooftop, where people will be able to look down directly into the yards and homes of the neighboring community.
- Cumulative Impacts: Large developments are already permitted all over the City and more are being proposed. The cumulative impacts on our community are not being discussed and the crucial infrastructure needed to support such density is not being adequately addressed. We are already over our carrying capacity for many necessities, such as water.
Take the cumulative impact element and apply it to some of the other issues mentioned, like parking. Imagine developments being allowed that are roughly 3x the density for their current zoning, popping up along all of the major corridors. That is what is being planned. For example, the huge commercial strip just East of this site was just put up for sale and even larger development proposals are to be expected for it. Development proposals already abound that most of us are currently unaware of. Here’s the City’s webpage for current significant development projects. You will see they are already being proposed for the Westside, Eastside and Downtown. And this is just the beginning, now that these housing crisis package of senate bills are active, and more are moving through the congress.
Whether or not the State or our City Staff want to recognize it, citizens do have the right to engage in public process with their elected representatives on land use decisions. The state bills are saying that Charter Cities must obey because the state has initiated an “official housing emergency”. But some cities are standing up to this and protecting their CA Constitution given rights of “home rule”. This basic land use right was put in place for good reason and it should not be taken away. Every municipality (county and city) has different resources, different infrastructure, and different needs. Our “carrying capacities” are not all the same. One small but important example is that Santa Cruz has a big water problem right now that is different from the water problems happening elsewhere in the state. That’s because we have a limited storage capacity for a limited closed system and don’t have access to pipelines and aqueducts for purchasing water from other areas, the way some cities can.
Yes, we need affordable housing in our state and our local community. And our City has met all of our housing development quotas (RHNA) except the “very low” income quota. So let’s ensure that our City provides affordable housing – and do it in a way that is beneficial and not detrimental to our society.
CIRCLE CHURCH SERVICE.
Brandon O’Sullivan, pastor of the Gospel Community Church, will hold a service on September 26th with a large celebration of the property afterward, to celebrate the existence and history of the Errett Circle Church property. Details are being worked out…save the date.
THE RAIL AND TRAIL DEBATE. Printing Bud Colligan’s argument for no rail with a trail resulted in lots of feedback. The debate goes on – here’s some of the internet reactions…
“All Greenway’s positions are poppycock. biased, speculative, hyperbole.”
“This combination of low-paying jobs and high-cost housing makes it difficult for lower- and moderate- income households, who may commute into work in this area, to find housing they can afford within Capitola,” city representatives wrote.
“Delays? Removing the line would easily have added 8+ years, we’d have no trail at all had we gone there.
Kills transit? Yes, “The RTC is unaware of any paved trails that have been converted back to rail once it has been railbanked.”
Harms environment? Yes, Greenway provides a minimal reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled and greenhouse gas generation (UCIS)
Dark Money? The Yes-Greenway is a campaign committee created by a 501(c)4 with minimal transparency. What little reporting is required will be published too late to matter, nothing has been published to date about funders.
Isolates our county? Yes, both people and freight need rail for efficient reliable congestion free movement, buses are in congestion, the trail doesn’t get people out of cars over distances, and you can’t put freight on a Metro bus, you idiot.”
“Bud Colligan is such a lying, deceptive bastard!”
“I just don’t understand the trail only thinking in Santa Cruz. With all the building going on, with the continued traffic congestion throughout Santa Cruz County, with the rise in tourism, with the future plans of adding thousands of more students at UCSC, the future of driving a car in this county will be much more of a disaster than we can possibly imagine. We need to think of not only our own personal desires, but the needs of future generations, who will be the ones that have to deal with the decisions we are currently debating. Bicycling is great, but it is not even close to a solution for our transportation issues.”
“Silliness. Their plan is neither quick nor useful.
People aren’t going to bike twice daily between
Watsonville and Santa Cruz and it will take forever to build the whole thing, if it ever starts.”
“It is hard to believe that our RTC could possibly support a Greenway railbanking/bike path solution which is certainly not a “Regional” Transportation Solution. More importantly it prevents one from being built in the future. Moreover, a bike path is not transportation for either those who cannot bike, nor most people with a handicapped placard. Both groups would be effectively excluded from transportation corridor use. Complete the rail business plan.”
“Obviously, the cost to remove the trail, rebuild the rails, then rebuild the trail next to the rail = impossible.”
This week’s Good Times: “Fielding Concerns”
Page 18 – “In Addition, the city would develop the Manabe-Ow property for industrial use,…”
I believe that the Ow family is among other Greenway supporters who would benefit from land they own near the railroad tracks. But someone needs to double check that. Perhaps Barry Scott would know for sure.
ANOTHER REPLY TO BUD COLLIGAN. Reader David Dean emailed to say…
Since BrattonOnline didn’t contextualize Bud Colligan’s comments, I would like to do so:
- The estimate of how long it will take for trail only to be constructed has already been calculated by the RTC as a minimum of eight years. We should have at least the 18 miles of trail built by 2030 (8 years after the election)
Fact Sheet MBSST Coastal Rail Trail
Attaching excerpt of George Dondero’s summation of the trail only 8-year delay, but if you want to see it in context,
you can go here (pp. 56-60)
- “while preserving future rail options through railbanking” This has been discussed to death already, Never since railbanking was invented 40 years ago has rail been removed and then brought back into service. Railbanking is a legal fiction to take away public infrastructure. Quoting the RTC: The RTC is unaware of any paved trails that have been converted back to rail once it has been railbanked.” [FAQs
- The current plan reduces VMT, which is good for the environment, Greenway’s plan does nothing to reduce VMT in any substantial way.
- “YES Greenway” is a completely separate organization than Santa Cruz Greenway. Santa Cruz Greenway is the 501©4 dark money group that is hiding Colligan and others’ donations from public view.
- Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway cannot use the #17 express to transport anything. They will be completely cut off from the National rail network with Greenway’s plan.
NO ON RECALL, AND RETURN YOUR BALLOT! Planned Parenthood sent this urgent message…
Last week, we saw the latest example of extreme right-wing Republicans trying to turn back the clock on reproductive freedom when SB 8, the Texas law that bans abortions as early as 6 weeks, was allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to take effect. It’s clear: Roe v. Wade is under attack, and with anti-abortion extremists trying to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, we need to stand up and vote NO on the Recall. Every registered voter in California should have received a ballot in the mail. Vote NO on the Recall and return your ballot TODAY.
Ballots must be postmarked by election day, September 14th and postage is FREE. Do your part and cast your ballot today. Together, we can defeat this recall and ensure California remains a leader on the frontlines to defend reproductive freedom.
LIVE HERE NOW. Many of our local Art/Music/Theatre institutions are either gearing up or are already in presentation shape….some of those are…
JEWEL THEATRE. Their first production is HEISENBERG by Simon Stephens.
Directed by Paul Mullins, it features Paul Whitworth and Erika Schindele. The setting is a bustling London train station that brings an unexpected encounter between free-spirited American Georgie and reserved Irishman Alex, thrusting two strangers into a life-changing game. It plays Sept 15 thru Oct 10, 2021.Go here for tickets, dates and info . Of course Jewel Theatre is a fully vaccinated company. All patrons must present proof of vaccination with matching ID and be fully masked.
ESPRESSIVO. As fans surely remember, Espressivo is a small, intense orchestra. Their new season opens Sunday September 19 at 4 p.m. Wear masks and bring your COVID shot card. The concert features…
A Mozart Symphony Arcangelo Corelli — Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, Nr. 3
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari — Concerto for English Horn — Soloist: Peter Lemberg
W. A Mozart — Symphony Nr. 29, K. 201 The performance will be held at Santa Cruz Community Church, 411 Roxas Street, Santa Cruz, CA. Go here for tickets and info. https://espressorch.org
NEW MUSIC WORKS. Director, composer, and ceaseless worker Phil Collins tells us that big plans are underway for New Music Works – even considering the COVID-related setbacks they’ve endured. He’ll keep us posted, and it’s happening!!!
Their current show opened Friday September 3, and features pen and ink drawings by Johannes A. Gaertner – a retrospective exhibit. It runs Sept 3 -23rd. Our hours are limited due to COVID – Tuesday and Thursday 1-4 or by appointment. The gallery is in the old Wrigley Building at 2801 Mission Street. Go to rblitzergallery.com 831-458-1217
Be sure to tune in to my very newest movie streaming reviews live on KZSC 88.1 fm every Friday from about 8:10 – 8:30 am. on the Bushwhackers Breakfast Club program hosted by Dangerous Dan Orange.
PORN AND VIOLENT FILMS…A QUESTION. One of the movies I critiqued this week had porn films as a theme. In it, one character asked “how come most of the world allows and watches film with murder, blood and violence, and won’t allow porn or sexy films. Every human on earth engages in sex of some kind, yet we censor such films”. Good question – and I too am looking for an answer.
ADULT MATERIAL. (92RT). Goofy Rupert Everett returns in this British movie, as a weird supporter of a mother with three daughters – some of whom make porn films. Mom makes public the bad treatment she and her friends receive in the business, and it goes from fun and laughs to cringing moments. Not too bad. And yes you’ve seen better – but not a movie centering on porn.
NEWS OF THE WORLD. (HBO SINGLE). (88RT). Dependable, talented and Oakland-born Tom Hanks makes another fine film. There actually is a Castroville in Texas, and Hanks is challenged to save and take a young girl across hundreds of desert miles in search of her parents. It’s set in 1870, and involves sub-plots of race and Civil War issues. A fine film, better than 90% of what’s available, either streaming or on the big screens.
POST MORTEM. (NETFLIX SERIES). A young dead woman wakes up on an operating table in Norway. The plot revolves around her being able to stay alive if she is alive. Her father and her brother run a funeral home. Good acting, new plot, and it’ll keep you awake – worth watching.
WORTH. (NETFLIX SINGLE) (75RT) This is a true story, or so they claim. Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan costar. The film centers on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when four airplanes were hijacked by al-Qaeda. Keaton and Tucci represent different views on how much – if any – compensation will come to the thousands of victims of the attack. Not very exciting, but an extremely thoughtful chance to think and make your own decisions about how much lives are worth.
HELSTROM. (HULU SERIES). This series earned a poor 27RT, but I liked it more than that. It’s a spinoff from Marvel movies, so it’s full of poorly-developed characters running around in cliché circles. But the “funny” interest I got from it was/is how much Ariana Guerra – who plays one of the searching scary sillies – looks exactly like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (hair styles and all) It does throw you off a bit and the rest of the plot takes place in Colma, Portland and almost at the Vatican. Don’t spend any money renting it.
THE CHAIR. (NETFLIX SERIES). Sandra Oh is back, and has become the chairwoman of a prestigious but suffering private college. It plays big on her Korean background and actually I didn’t laugh once through at least three episodes. Jay Duplass has a supporting role, but doesn’t add anything to this unfunny comedy.
ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING. (HULU SERIES). With much hoopla and multi promos we get to watch Steve Martin and Martin Short try very hard to make a comedy. Some guy is murdered in their NYC apartment building and these two – plus Selena Gomez for some reason – become crime numb-nuts. Three episodes have been released and the murderer won’t be revealed until much later in the series. Not funny, but in these days I’m not sure what is funny anymore. I laughed at Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Mort Sahl and George Lopez… but nowadays well, it’s different.
THE KINGDOM. (NETFLIX SERIES). Politics in Argentina are made to look a lot like our local scene. An evangelist Pastor is running mate to his prominent friend for the presidential campaign, and by mistake the business man’s friend is murdered at a huge public rally. The hows and whys of the murder keep the plot boiling and keep us thinking about the raw side and inside of politics everywhere. Go for it.
PERFECT STRANGERS. (PRIME SINGLE). Don’t confuse this with Nicole Kidman’s Nine Perfect Strangers. Sam Neil does a fine job of being a kidnapper who takes his pickup date to a very private island. She survives his drugging and then stabs him seriously, but she ends up helping him. There’s some extra mysteries involved and we try to figure who is really insane. Do watch it, but don’t come crying to me if you’ve seen this plot before a few times.
BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR. (NETFLIX SERIES).(80RT). It’s supposed to be about making movies in Hollywood in the early 90’s, when gas was $1.18 per gallon. The acting is terrible and revolves around a girl writer who wants to direct a film. Catherine Keener is in it as sort of a witch. There are references to curses, devil doings and muck like that. I wouldn’t give it 80RT, but see it just for fun and the restaging of old Hollywood.
HARD. (HBO SERIES). A fine, decent wife inherits her husband’s business which surprises herm, because she did not know it’s a porn film company. It’s a comedy, and takes place in Brazil. Some quick sights of porn filming ,but mostly it’s corny and funny. They produce a film titled “Squirt Wars”, if that’s a clue to the humor involved. Not great ,but then again just how great are any of the movies we screen? Go for it.
CLICKBAIT. (NETFLIX SERIES). Adrian Grenier and Zoe Kazan head the cast . It takes place in Oakland, but was actually filmed in Australia! It’s a serious film about abusing women, equal rights, and murder. A TV producer tries to determine who killed Adrian, and why. Lots of internet-centered action and plenty of down time as we wait for anything to happen. Boring ,actually.
SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.
SWEET GIRL. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (21RT). It takes place in Pittsburgh where mom needs medications to keep her going. However the CEO of the big pharmaceutical company is the villain and Mom’s huge hulking protector gets very violent in trying to help her. Almost silly in its fight scenes which we’ve seen way too many. Don’t watch it, you don’t need to see more of this stuff.
REMINISCENCE. (HBO MAX SINGLE). Hugh Jackman does his usual fine job acting as the therapist directing patients into his sensory deprivation tank. Thandiwe Newton is his conscience and partner. Jackman falls in love with a nightclub singer who vanishes and reappears often. It’s diverting and viewable while watching mob violence, New Orleans scenes and mind stretching twists.
RUROUNI KENSHIN. Another in the manga series and if you like Japanese Samurai stuff this is an excellent example. Starting in 1878 it’s samurai versus the shogun rulers in Kyoto. The main character is named Battosai a striking young actor who performs great battles and multiple killings. This is only for fans of the old Japanese samurai films and it’s near perfect.
ANNETTE. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE). An unique and I mean very unique movie. Adam Driver acts and sings his role as a standup comic. Marion Cotillard sings her way as an opera star who loves Driver. Its half musical, half tragedy and half an hour too long. They have a baby and we’ve never seen a baby like this one. Driver is maybe accused by six women of abuse, her career gets better and better but then she drowns!! Driver goes to prison and the plot gets even more complex. Watch it just for the uniqueness, not for any laughs.
TEXAS ABORTION LAW
Senate Bill 8, the new Texas law, which makes abortion virtually unobtainable in that state is expected to be soon emulated by Arkansas, Florida and South Dakota. While the law stops short of overturning Roe v. Wade, the fact that the Supreme Court decided on a 5-4 vote to not block the Texas law does not auger well for the upcoming Supreme Court deliberations on the Mississippi abortion case challenging limits on (anti) abortion laws as established by Roe v. Wade.
Since 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled in support of Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents have been fervently active at the grassroots and legislative levels. In liberal Santa Cruz, supporters for the constitutional right of a woman to obtain an abortion vastly outnumber opponents but even in this small neck of the woods, opponents to abortion have not been silent.
In the early 1980’s after establishing some presence at UCSC as a feminist activist I was asked to debate the issue of abortion at Aptos High School for the full school assembly. My debating opponent was to be Dr. Levonian, a well-respected local doctor who practiced for 54 years before his death in 2017. I recall I tried to avoid the invitation: reproductive-rights were not my area of expertise, although like many women I had had an abortion. This was in Sydney, Australia when it was still illegal and contraceptives such as the Pill were only just becoming obtainable. I recall going to a doctor to get a prescription for the Pill and being denied since I was unmarried. A bench mark of sorts. Fortunately, the leading doctor in Sydney who provided abortions was nothing short of heroic so I and other women were spared the horror stories that usually accompany illegal abortions.
The Assembly hall at Aptos High was filled to capacity. The doctor opened the debate and presented the usual litany of reasons to not get an abortion but rather to take advantage of other options such as adoption. I had decided to put abortion into the context with which I was familiar, gender sexual dynamics, and avoid overly focusing on “abortion as a right and a choice.”
My argument was that nobody is saying abortion is a “good” thing like going on vacation is a “good” thing; that we all would rather live in a world where every pregnancy was planned and wanted by all parties; where sex education in the home and at school taught boys and girls communication skills and the real meaning of consent… and much more, including the global status of females, the reality of rape etc. But that is not our world and until we are there, then the drastic impact of an unwanted pregnancy on all concerned, requires options that include abortion.
While some of the details of the occasion have faded with time, one incident is indelible. While I was speaking, the students were listening and largely respectful, except for two girls in the center of the room, who were energetically chatting. This I found irritating and hoped I could regain their attention. I had just gotten to the part about myths that a decent sex education program would counter with facts and one example I used was the widespread false belief that you couldn’t get pregnant while on your period. At that, the girls sat bolt upright, eyes wide with horror. I internally grinned, thinking, “I know what you’ve been doing. Let’s hope you’re lucky!”
Forty years later we still are not in a world where rape is the exception; where sex education is universal, focused on relationships, consent and communication. Texas is just one of the states where sex education in schools is not required and if present, must focus on abstinence. Nor are we anywhere near a society where despite the availability of abortion every child is wanted, nor where parenting skills are widely disseminated, nor where every parent has the resources to support a child or another child. We are in a country where the courts are now stacked with conservative, anti-abortion judges, including the Supreme Court. The anti-abortion activists have been very busy while most of us rested on past successes, except for pro-choice activists who have seen this day coming for quite a while. There are ten times as many “crisis pregnancy centers” aligned with anti-abortion organizations in Texas as there are abortion clinics and we can expect most of the latter to close in that state and other states that follow suit.
The legal strategy in Texas was both brilliant and insidious. To put enforcement of the law in the hands not of the state but in the hands of any person who has an axe to grind over provision of abortion, with $10,000 in recompense plus court costs makes a legal challenge to the state law well-nigh impossible. Beyond slogans and demonstrations, we need a creative legal strategy not yet articulated. And renewed activism around sex education, gender relations and rape prevention, not to mention economic and social justice reform. All are connected.
|Gillian Greensite is a long time local activist, a member of Save Our Big Trees and the Santa Cruz chapter of IDA, International Dark Sky Association http://darksky.org Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.|
September 6, 2021
RECALL, PART II
Recall Balloting by the Numbers
Vote-By-Mail Counts in the California Recall as of Sept. 2nd:
- Number of ballots mailed to registered voters: 22,349,461
- Number of ballots returned to all county registrars of voters: 5,476,946
- Turnout statewide is currently: 24.5%
Santa Cruz County balloting:
- Number of ballots mailed to registered voters: 171,070
- Number of ballots returned to SC county registrar of voters: 51,925
- Turnout countywide is currently: 30.35%
Thinking of Writing in Mike Rotkin for Governor?
Think again. In case you are wondering about writing someone in on your ballot for governor, chances are if you’ve already voted, whoever you wrote in will not receive your vote because they were not an official write-in candidate. “The official list of write-in candidates” was only released by Secretary of State Shirley Weber, on September 3rd, well into the recall voting process. The list is short and only includes seven candidates, two Democrats, one Republican, one American Independent, and three NPP’s, or No Party Preference. (Hint: Mike is not on the official list.)
Watch for those petitioners, there’s a lot on the line and to paraphrase Peter Douglas the former Executive Director of the Coastal Commission, Santa Cruz is never saved, Santa Cruz is always being saved. And folks, the chips are down right now on many progressive fronts. The 5-2 pro-developer and pro-realtor Santa Cruz city council is not letting up. With the status of the planning commission now in limbo–most of their past half dozen meetings were cancelled by city staff–the city council continues to permit one housing development after another, and in all due respect to my YIMBY friends, no, all housing is not equal. Most of what is being approved is higher end housing and most of it is comprised of studios and one-bedroom apartments because that’s where the profits are. With UCSC set to grow by 9,000 more students and when 3000-4000 more new staff and faculty are added into the mix, building market-rate housing is all the rage now in Surf City. Beginning with the 100 Laurel Street project (corner of Pacific Avenue) with a planned 205 condos and not one unit in this complex will be affordable, all the way to a planned hotel on the site of the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, there’s a lot to talk about and Santa Cruzans are not going to take it lying down.
Save the Farmer’s Market, and the 11 Trees
The Campaign for Sensible Transportation is teaming up with the Sierra Club, Don’t Bury the Library, the Downtown Commons Advocates, and the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network to take the fight into the community. Their petition is going through the final stages of legal look-sees, printing, fundraising, and culminating in a circulation day party (TBA). This is one of those Made in Santa Cruz initiatives that comes along once every generation. Lighthouse Field was one, Saving the Pogonip was another, and stopping the Dream Inn and La Bahia Convention Centers were yet other political stands that the community took when the developer dollar signs of night always seemed about to overcome the progressive community’s first light of dawn.
Our Downtown, Our Future
If passed, what will this ballot measure accomplish? It will (1) address the City’s housing crisis by prioritizing the development of affordable housing on City-owned properties in Downtown Santa Cruz; (2) it will keep the Downtown Farmer’s Market, an important community institution, at its current location in-perpetuity and also preserve the heritage trees at that site; (3) this measure will prevent the construction of a multi-level parking garage that the city’s own transportation consultants concluded is unnecessary; and finally, it will (4) keep our downtown library at its historic site, where it’s been for more than 100 years. If you like the market, enjoy shade trees, want more affordable housing downtown, and also desire a remodeled downtown library forming one piece in a revitalized Civic Center, then sign the petition so we can get it on the Santa Cruz ballot! Our Downtown, Our Future initiative needs 5,772 signatures to qualify for the November 8, 2022 ballot, according to the Santa Cruz city clerk.
Tax Empty Homes? Hell Yeah!
Have you been seeing a lot of empty apartments, ADU’s, and big houses around Santa Cruz lately? Me too. Best indication is to bike around at night and notice the no-lights emptiness on West Cliff, at 555 Pacific, and at the large complex at River and Pacific near San Lorenzo Lumber. Enter from stage Left, the Empty Homes Tax Working Group. They’ve been organized for more than six months studying parcel tax measures in Oakland, Portland, Maine, and Vancouver, Canada. Turns out they work. If homes are taxed for leaving them vacant more than 120 days per year, the owners either rent their property out, thus providing more housing, or they pay the tax. The tax will be $6,000 per house that is left vacant per year and $3000 per apartment per year, but only in apartment complexes over seven units.
Where Would the Tax Money Collected Go?
The revenue collected would fund more housing units, either they would be bought or built. Those units would be kept at an affordable rent in perpetuity. Monies in the Fund may be used for the purchase or construction of affordable housing units for rental, sale or resale that are deed restricted to permanently maintain affordability to low, very low, and extremely low income individuals or households pursuant to Title 25 of the California Code of Regulations, Section 6932
Here is essentially a summary of what the Empty Homes Tax ballot measure would do:
The Santa Cruz community consistently identifies the creation of more affordable housing as a top priority. Funding to support the creation of affordable housing for the lowest income levels is often identified as a barrier for the production of low, very low and extremely low income deed restricted affordable units. The Santa Cruz Empty Home Tax is a community driven ballot initiative to increase affordable housing options in the city of Santa Cruz by raising funds through a parcel tax on empty homes to create affordable housing.
Is Gavin Sweating Yet?
As of 9/2/21, the California Secretary of State’s office reports that only 24.5% of recall ballots mailed out have been returned. That’s not good news. In Santa Cruz County, it’s a slightly different story, but we’re not significantly better. There were 171,070 ballots mailed to county voters. Of that number only 51,925 Vote-by-Mail (VBM) ballots have been accepted by the county registrar of voters, which is a 30.35% return rate. Joshua Spivak, who follows these numbers closely, says on his Twitter feed, “Day over day turnout numbers drop below 400K for the first time. A blip, a tail-off or does the bottom drop out (as opposed to 2020, when the turnout expanded by the end)?” We’ll see, but first, please turn in your ballot and if you have, call five friends to turn in theirs too! Vote no this phony recall.
Correction from last week. Dr. John Randolph Haynes (not Haynes Johnson as reported here) was the Philadelphian and socialist who is credited as bringing the “direct democracy” concept to California, which evolved into our initiative, proposition, and recall processes.
Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and a Santa Cruz City Council member from 1998-2002 and from 2017-2020. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 16 years. On Tuesday evenings at 5pm, Krohn hosts of “Talk of the Bay,” on KSQD 90.7 and KSQD.org His Twitter handle at SCpolitics is @ChrisKrohnSC Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Chris at email@example.com
PG&E WILDFIRE FIRE ALERT CAMERA SYSTEM IS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE
I am glad PG&E and CAL FIRE have added these ALERTWildfire webcams in the South and East Bay for emergency responders and the public to monitor any fire activity. Take a look:
This system is a consortium of three universities: The University of Nevada at Reno, the University of California at San Diego, and the University of Oregon (Eugene). The cameras provide access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom fire cameras and associated tools to help first responders and the public to (1) discover, locate and confirm fire ignition, (2) quickly scale fire resources appropriately, (3) monitor fire behavior, (4) assist in evacuation decisions in fire storms, and (5) monitor burned areas for flare-up activity.
The idea for this early wildfire detection system was initiated in 2009 by a group of youth from Meadow Vista, California, calling their group the Forest Guards, who won international recognition for their collaborative work with the Nevada Seismological Laboratory.
The first network was the pilot project in the Lake Tahoe area. Take a look at the situation there at this moment: ALERTWildfire | Tahoe
After the Camp Fire in 2018, the system was expanded, with an additional 300 cameras added in 2020. Counties, utilities and fire districts throughout the western states continue to add more cameras, with an estimated 175 more for this year.
Interested in adding an ALERTwildfire camera to your area? Contact Dr. Graham M. Kent, University of Nevada, Reno at: or call 775-527-1574. “The ALERTWildfire team, (universities and partners) can assist in building fire camera infrastructure from the ground up, and/or use existing infrastructure to rapidly deploy a system within a region in just a few months.”
Contact your County Supervisors, and State Park officials to ask that more of these cameras be added to areas such as the Soquel Valley, Branciforte area, Summit area, Davenport, and Corralitos.
The lack of this helpful information for Santa Cruz County fire protection was pointed out in the 2020 Santa Cruz County Grand Jury Report, “Ready? Aim? Fire!” (Note the County Fire Dept. and the Watsonville City Manager did not provide requested responses, and the Watsonville City Council did not provide required responses)
Here is the vague and rather stupid response from the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors regarding the ALERTWildfire problem:
F4. Most of Santa Cruz County in addition to the City of Santa Cruz with its large eucalyptus groves are not being monitored by the ALERTWildfire Imaging Surveillance system and would be well served by the installation of cameras capable of monitoring coastal areas occupied by eucalyptus groves in areas harboring potential sources of ignition.
X PARTIALLY DISAGREE – Response explanation (required for a response other than Agree):
Eucalyptus groves are a problem in general due to the abundant fuel loading they provide, but one fuel type in the county should not be singled out. Fires occur in areas of redwood forest as well, example, the Rincon Fire in 2018. The use of the ALERTWildfire camera system is a great way to provide for early confirmation of wildfire in the county. CAL FIRE/County Fire is working with ALERTWildfire and PG&E to determine locations to install cameras to provide a system for early confirmation of wildfires.
Hold our elected officials accountable and insist more of these ALERTWildfire webcams be added to our area’s fire observation system.
FOUR-STORY KAISER MEDICAL CENTER TRAFFIC STUDY CLAIMS IT WOULD REDUCE 2,000 VEHICLE TRIPS??? ANYTHING CAN WORK ON PAPER!
Public comment on the proposed large new Kaiser Medical Center on Soquel Frontage Road closed last month, and now changes to the Project will supposedly be made to address input. Hmmm…I wonder what that might include?
Traffic and water are the big issues.
“…a four-year traffic study conducted by Kimley-Horn concluded that the project will eliminate about 20,000 miles of vehicular traffic due to rerouted health care trips.”
1) CAP AND TRADE AUGUST MARKET AT RECORD HIGH…SHOULD THE $203 MILLION GO TO WILDFIRE PREVENTION?
LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY UPDATE
RCRC (Rural County Representatives of California) has urged the Legislature to allocate an additional $203 million to wildfire prevention and forest resilience programs from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), the full estimated amount available for such programs from the August Cap-and-Trade auction. The current 2021-22 State Budget Package has less than $500 million dedicated to wildfire mitigation and forest management projects, with another $500 million to be made available “if needed” during the fiscal year. RCRC has urged the Legislature to demonstrate the necessary sense of urgency around protecting California’s residents from future catastrophic wildfires by increasing the current allocations from the GGRF.
The August quarterly carbon Cap-and-Trade auction netted the highest proceeds in the program’s history, earning an unprecedented $1.14 billion for California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. Included in the auction windfall is an estimated $203 million available for programs that aren’t already subject to continuous appropriations by the Legislature from the GGRF. As the state experiences another record-breaking wildfire season, RCRC sent a letter to Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon on August 27, 2021 strongly urging the Legislature to allocate the entirety of the available August GGRF funds to fire prevention and forest health projects.
RCRC’s letter to Senate Pro Tem Atkins and Speaker Rendon can be viewed here.
2) STATE WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD FINES MONTEREY WATER ONE FOR RAW SEWAGE RELEASE INTO MONTEREY BAY
Monterey One Water to pay $800,000 for discharges of untreated wastewater into Monterey Bay
3) MISSION BELLS GONE. HISTORY TEACHING MOMENTS, TOO?
Where Santa Cruz’s final mission bell now tolls not the question — just its tragic history, what it stood for – article in Lookout Santa Cruz. “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill
4) AB 1401 WOULD PROHIBIT REQUIREMENT TO PROVIDE PARKING FOR COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL AREAS
What do you think this will bring about?
5) SENTINEL REPORTER SMEARED MY NAME WITH INACCURATE MISINFORMATION
Sadly, Sentinel reporter Melissa Hartman erroneously reported a quote and action attributed to me in an article regarding the August 24 County Board of Supervisors hearing on mandating COVID vaccination of all County employees, even though I was not even present or participating in the hearing.
She retracted the mistake only online, and to date, the editors have failed to print any retraction of the mistake and libel.
SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon chose what was described by staff in its report as the “middle approach” when it comes to an employee vaccine policy — the option to either get vaccinated or be tested weekly. “This is an issue that isn’t (going to) please them all, no matter what we choose,” Board Chair Bruce McPherson said of the decision. “This gives encouragement as well as an option, a fair offer so to speak.”
The unanimous vote launches a 30-day period during which unvaccinated individuals are given the option to get their shots or seek accommodations through authorities such as doctors. After that period, non-compliant employees will face a leave without pay or termination. County Personnel Director Ajita Patel said that her department has reviewed preliminary contracts for a mobile vendor used by the cities of Capitola and Santa Cruz use that could come to the county sites and bill health insurance companies accordingly.
During his presentation, County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios estimated that 85% of county staff members are already vaccinated based on data from mid-August. He said he hopes in the next survey to be up to around 90%, but without taking any action that would leave 10% of the county’s workforce unvaccinated — a risk in the time of the Delta variant.
Palacios offered three options — maintaining the status quo, or doing nothing, mandating vaccination without exception and mandating vaccination with the exception of those with religious or medical exemptions that allow for once-weekly testing.
“Staff recommends (the third) option at this time … due to operational and legal issues in requiring vaccination without an alternative. Given the laws employees are subject to and due process rights that they have, entering into discipline over someone who refuses to get vaccinated could be a lengthy, difficult process.”
County Counsel Jason Heath did clarify later in the meeting that the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would make the second option, vaccination or a firing, legally viable. However, there haven’t been cases yet that really display the due process rights of this kind of situation in public employment.
Though McPherson was the first to vote his support for staff’s recommendation, colleagues Zach Friend and Ryan Coonerty expressed their concerns around selecting an option that allows anti-vaxxers leeway. After all, as Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel voiced during the call, unvaccinated people are seven times more likely to contract the virus. A mandate may encourage other cities in the area to adopt a similar policy, limiting community spread, Coonerty said.
“In this highly polarized political environment, there are people who historically would have been fine with mandates that are for some reason now disproportionately not,” Friend said. “…Those who are unfortunately going to hospitals are all of a sudden finding religion, trusting doctors, nurses and any kind of experimental medication that will come their way so I do think that realistically we need to just make sure that everybody is vaccinated and if that requires a mandate for our employees to start we should consider that.”
Those who do not trust the science behind the vaccines protested the action, calling it “immoral,” “experimental” and “medical apartheid.”
“Blind trust is not a virtue. You will only have yourself to blame for the adverse reactions,” former supervisorial candidate Becky Steinbruner said before playing audio of a Catholic friar alleging that epidemiologists and their supporters created the vaccine to exterminate part of the human population.
In early October, staff will return to the board to provide an update on lessons learned through the process, including elements such as costs to test employees and the number of people who chose to get vaccinated after the supervisors’ actions. At that time, the board will decide to keep their policy or change it back to the status quo or forward to mandatory vaccination without any exception.
Let me repeat….I was not even attending or participating in this hearing! Please contact Ms. Hartman with your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org and Editor Melissa Murphymmurphy@santacruzsentinel.com
WRITE ONE LETTER. MAKE ONE CALL. ATTEND A ZOOM MEETING FROM YOUR COUCH. MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK, AND JUST DO SOMETHING!
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
If I am right about what I said in my blog posting on July 29th, and that we need to do everything we possibly can to stop the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, and that we need to do that as soon as we possibly can, the question that immediately comes to mind is this one:
Adbusters, which definitely shares my diagnosis of where we are, presents our current situation in these terms:
The Global System Just Tipped Closer to Extinction
Catastrophic flooding in Germany and China. Record-breaking temperatures north of the 49th parallel. A “heat dome” that annihilated one billion marine organisms in one fell swoop. Wildfires which make the Plagues of Egypt look like small stuff.
It’s no mere coincidence. Climate change is unignorably here. And humanity’s in it neck-deep the world over.
But while ordinary people bear the brunt of the devastation, world leaders are content to sit by and twiddle their thumbs — “progressive” types not excluded.
Take handsome, smiling PM Trudeau. In 2019, his Liberal government gave the fraught $4.5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion the go-ahead the very day after it declared a national climate emergency.
Pres. Biden, too, likes to blow a lot of hot air about his environmentalist cred. But the all-American likes of ExxonMobil continue to pump billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, despite having covered up the fact that for decades they knowingly imperiled the entire human species — and paid to keep it secret.
It’s the crime of the century. So where’s Joe when justice needs serving? If the U.S. won’t take the first big step onto a sane sustainable path, then who will?
These are dire days indeed. No one is safe. But whereas governments are asleep at the wheel, we’ve got a people-first solution to wrest climate-control back from the powers that be.
Adbusters’ answer to that “How?” question is what they call “true cost” pricing. Here is how they pitch it:
The Solution To Our Climate Crisis
There’s a lot of brainpower converging on the global climate emergency, with green-energy and biosphere-repair ideas being floated in every country on earth. The hope is that each small advance is a piece of the puzzle, and a fair, just, sustainable and secure global system will emerge if we all just commit to reducing carbon emissions through every hack we can think of.
But let’s get real: Things are too precarious to continue to play the same game more intensely.
The late Stanford philosopher Paul Watzlawick had a way of explaining the thinking required to get out of impossible jams.
A “first-order” change is to stamp on the gas pedal. A second-order change is to shift gears. A third-order change is to get out of the car and find another way to get there.
That’s where we are now.
If you burrow deep into the innards of the capitalist algorithm, you’ll find a major flaw. It’s that the vast majority of humankind’s carbon emissions are unpriced. Out of the trillions of transactions made every day in the global marketplace, only a tiny fraction reflect their true cost. From the tires on our cars, to the phones in our hands, to the Big Macs nesting in napkins in take-out bags, every purchase we make is essentially a mistake. And each one drives us a little closer to global system collapse.
With every bogus transaction, another drop of meltwater slides off an iceberg, another puff of CO2 rises to the sky, another bubble of methane burps from the tundra. If we keep repeating that mistake, trillions of times a day, week after week, month after month, year after year, what do you think will happen?
Economists speak the language of efficiency, and they’ve taught the whole world to do the same. But why are so many economists silent on these, the greatest inefficiencies of all? Why are we selling off our natural capital and calling it income? Why is the profession of economics, when it should be rushing into the breach to lead us, so monumentally negligent?
Economists, this is your new brief. Let’s figure this out. What is the real cost of shipping a container load of toys from Chongqing to Los Angeles? Or a case of apples grown in New Zealand to markets in North America? And what is the true cost of that fridge humming 24/7 in your kitchen? That steak sizzling on your grill? That car rolling off the production line? How much are the byproducts of our way of living actually setting us back?
The Road To True Cost
The new accounting starts with the little stuff: plastic bags, coffee cups, paper napkins. Let’s say the eco costs turn out to be five cents per plastic bag, ten cents per cup and a fraction of a cent per paper napkin. We tack those on. Of course we’re already doing that with the various eco-fees and eco-taxes included in the price of tires, cans of paint and other products. But now we abandon the concept of ancillary fees and taxes and start implementing true-cost pricing from cradle to doorstep, across the board.
True Cost Plastic
How much plastic is coming out of the industrial bunghole annually? We ask economists to spin up a rough number. Say it’s a trillion tons. Then they make their best guess at the environmental price we pay for our clogged garbage dumps, polluted oceans and the shitspray of plastic microbeads through the food chain – say it’s $500 per ton. Every manufacturer, corporation and retailer that uses plastic in their business will be required to account for that. Maybe it’s a surcharge of a quarter on every bottle of Coke. Coca Cola can’t take a hit like that on their margin. They’ll have to change their business model. Likewise, the automobile industry will have to redesign their cars. Food producers will have to adapt.
The cost of living will rise, and that’ll hurt. But plastic packaging will gradually disappear from our lives. We’ll buy our milk in glass bottles and bring them in for recycling like we used to. We’ll wash our plates, knives and forks and use them year after year, some for a lifetime. The garbage gyres in the oceans will shrink and finally disappear. Blight will vanish from beaches and ravines. Microplastics will stop plugging the tissues of every mammal including us. And the horror of bringing our children up in a world awash in plastic will be over.
True Cost Driving
Once we add on the environmental cost of carbon emissions, the cost of building and maintaining roads, the medical costs of accidents, the noise and the aesthetic degradation of urban sprawl, your private automobile will cost you around $100,000, and a tank of gas $150. You’ll still be free to drive all you want, but instead of passing the costs on to future generations, you’ll pay up front.
Plenty of people will howl and moan – at least in the beginning. A bitter meme war will be fought about how true cost disproportionally punishes the poor. But once true-cost pricing is in place, car use will plunge and bicycle use will soar. City skies will be clearer. Breathing easier. Ride sharing will spike. People will live closer to work. Demand for monorails, bullet trains, subways and streetcars will surge. A paradigm shift in urban planning will calm the pace of urban living. Cities will be built for people, not cars. Catastrophic weather events like hurricanes, floods and superfires will subside. The spectre of global warming won’t feel so ominous anymore.
True Cost Eating
We tally the hidden costs of our industrial farming and food-processing systems. We raise the price of groceries to reflect the true cost of shipping them long distances. An avocado from Mexico will cost you $15. You won’t be able to indulge so often. And that shrimp from Indonesia? Once the eco devastation of mega-farming and container shipping are added on, it will run you about $35 a pound. A Whopper with cheese will quadruple in price. So will most meats, produce and processed foods. You can still eat whatever you want, but you’ll have to pay the real tab. Inevitably, your palate will submit to your wallet. But the cost of organic and locally produced food will go down, nudging us all in that direction. Local farmers will be celebrated. We’ll grow tomatoes on our verandas, eat at home more and maybe lose some weight and be a little healthier. Bit by bit, purchase by purchase, our global food system will heave toward sustainability.
True Cost Shipping
For years it’s been ridiculously cheap to use mega tankers to ship stuff across the ocean. All that will stop. Our current way of exporting and importing goods, the one economists have been touting as a way to spur growth but which depends on a mightily subsidized transportation system, will no longer fly. Globalization — capitalism’s bred-in-the-bone burden — will cease to be the dominant economic paradigm. Just about everything at the megamarts will cost more. The whole tenor of world trade will be transformed. Exports and imports will stabilize at a reduced level. Trillions of purchases every day will come back to your neighborhood.
Next-level Accounting: The Social and Psychic Costs
You’re cruising along an eight-lane highway and suddenly everything lurches to a halt. There’s a lot more going on here than a heft blast of carbon emissions. A traffic jam is a huge collective stress event. There are health costs to being pinned in your car, on a dammed river of steel, fingers tightening on the wheel, blood pressure rising. Mental health costs too. A recent Swedish study found that a daily commute to work of forty-five minutes or longer increases your chance of divorce by 40 percent.
What is the psychic cost of advertising, that daily broadside of pro-consumption messages? Or the mental toll of continually checking your phone — bridling against Big Tech’s surveillance algorithms, over and over and over? Or the social and psychological cost of losing the indie shops in your neighborhood as Starbucks, Home Depot and Walmart muscle their way in. All this is part of the True Cost story — and so must eventually be part of the final accounting — of the epidemic of mental illness now sweeping the planet.
For conventional economists, True Cost is a gut punch. A True-Cost Marketplace would slow growth, reduce the flow of world trade and curb consumption. It would force economists to rethink just about every axiom they’ve taken for granted since the dawn of the industrial age.
The efficiency of size would be challenged. The hidden cost of Walmart coming to town, revealed. The lie of never-ending growth on a finite planet, exposed.
“Progress” itself would be redefined.
There would even be angels-on-a-pin debates about the psychological and social costs of individualism.
True Cost could turn out to be one of the most traumatic and painful economic / social / cultural projects we have ever undertaken.
But also one of the most transformative.
In a True-Cost world, there’d be no need for pleading and hectoring, no need to wallow in conflicting consumer emotions. No one would be badgering you to eat less meat. No one would make you feel guilty about owning a car, or for going on that holiday to the Bahamas. All you’re being asked to do is become a consumer in a new kind of marketplace.
Instead of “lowest price wins, and don’t ask too many questions,” Adam Smith’s invisible hand would start working its magic in surprising new ways. We’d become part of a worldwide process in which every one of the trillions of transactions made every day are working for rather than against us.
Only a handful of economists have bothered to think of externalities as anything but marginalia — a few paragraphs in Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics textbook. This would remake the entire profession. True Cost would put a shine on the dismal science. It would ground economists, give them something real to do. It would create a virtuous, progressive occupation out of a retrograde one. The profession would become something a young grad would be proud to devote their whole life to. Environmentally minded students would be streaming into Econ 101 because economics is the Queen of the Sciences now, incorporating sociology, anthropology and psychology. It’s the essential discipline for working our way out of our existential crisis.
How To Put It in Place
Implementing a global True Cost marketplace would actually be quite simple. It could be made to work through the UPC code that’s already on just about every product sold around the world. When you swipe it, a true-cost price adjustment automatically kicks in. All the ecological costs of making and marketing and shipping and distributing that thing you’re buying are baked in to the price. One swipe, one truth. Sticker shock: take it or leave it.
How To Spend the Money
True Cost would generate a vast pool of income — probably in the trillions of dollars a year. Agreeing on how to spend it would no doubt be a messy, angry, contentious affair. It may well torpedo the whole project. But it could also turn into a beautiful collective brainstorm. Humanity’s joint endeavor. The birth of a global mind, with the stakes as high as they go: our very survival.
The True Cost bounty would amount to a kind of global superfund. Money would flow to each nation, based on its population, to spend as it sees fit.
Many countries might choose to plow it into priority projects to help them reach their carbon reduction goals. Others might decide to bounce some, or even all of it, directly back to the taxpayers. A hefty check would arrive periodically in the mail, as compensation. People agree to take the pain up front, knowing relief will come.
The nations of the world may agree to pool some of the money into a Global Emergency Relief Fund, to be spent by the United Nations and NGOs when calamities occur. For the always cash-strapped UN and relief organizations, and for people anywhere in the world who suddenly cannot cope, that would be a godsend.
Is True Cost a Pipedream?
True Cost? Great idea! But it’s never gonna work.
That’s what they all say.
I get it. Nothing of this scope, on this scale, has ever been tried. It feels like about Plan D — after all the more ‘sensible,’ green-energy and techno options have been kicked around.
And our record of working together is pretty dismal. Look how we handled Covid. We couldn’t come up with a coherent global thrust to beat it back. Or to distribute the vaccines. Hell, some of us couldn’t even agree to wear masks.
But the global mood will change as our planet overheats. Ecological collapse is a slow-motion catastrophe. You don’t feel it yet, you can’t apprehend the urgency of it. Because your hair isn’t on fire. Yet.
But once we pass a tipping-point — and we’ll absolutely know it when it happens — when resource skirmishes erupt into full-scale wars, and slow violence turns into fast violence, and suddenly it’s your children who are hungry and your house that’s being swept away and your country that’s at war . . . that’s when you’ll forget “never gonna work” and reach for the ax on the wall.
Winning the Planetary Endgame
Sometime in the third decade of the 21st century, as Earth registers a rise of two or three degrees and we contemplate the possibility of total civilizational collapse, the world will be ready for a monumental pivot.
The True Cost Party of America
We put True Cost on the platforms of all the Green Parties of the world. Once they start winning elections, that’s when True Cost can start to jell into a unified global force.
The Adbusters’ solution – the “True Cost Solution” – seems pretty attractive, particularly if that solution could be put in place before we reach the point of “total civilizational collapse.” That point of total collapse is quite accurately described by Adbusters as the point at which “it’s your children who are hungry and your house that’s being swept away and your country that’s at war … [the point at which you] reach for the ax on the wall.” That point is coming; I’m pretty sure of that, and I question, when it gets here, that there will then be a move towards Adbusters’ proposed “True Cost Solution.”
I am not convinced, in other words, that the Adbusters’ presentation successfully overcomes the “Pipedream” objection. Adbusters thinks that once the “tipping point” has been reached, everyone will suddenly understand the need for a “True Price” approach, which will then be promptly instituted as outlined and will work through our normal market mechanisms. Capitalism corrected, as it were!
Maybe that’s true, but I have two reactions: #1 – In fact, I think that the “tipping point” has been reached. We are not on the brink of a “climate and extinction crisis.” We are already in such a crisis. So, if the tipping point is, itself, supposed to bring on the needed change, we ought to be seeing more change! #2 – As I said a few days ago, “Something For Nothing is Everybody’s Plan.” Are we all really going to be willing to give up our personal automobiles (which we won’t be able to afford), while the super-rich will be able to drive around when and wherever they want (and with no traffic problems for them)? Maybe. But my instincts tell me no.
Adbusters indicates, without using the word, what is being suggested can occur only if our politics changes – and changes dramatically. That, I think, is indubitably true, and that kind of change will occur only when individuals start making dramatic changes in their own lives. We better not wait around for anyone else. We are going to need to do it collectively and cooperatively. I don’t think the “market” is going to get it done!
Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at www.gapatton.net
Email Gary at email@example.com
EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.
EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at TimEagan.com you will find his most recent Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.
“I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction. This is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now.”
“We don’t have time to sit on our hands as our planet burns. For young people, climate change is bigger than election or re-election. It’s life or death.”
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”
I was in the desert last week, enjoying what was dubbed “The Renegade Burn”, “Not Burning Man Burning Man”, and “Plan B” among other things. There was no fire art and no Man, but some genius person did this, and it was incredible! These are drones! DRONES!! Unbelievable is an understatement.
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82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
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