Blog Archives

April 19 – 25, 2023

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Covid tests and CVS, Ed Porter, Elza Minor, Musical Saw Festival, movies GREENSITE…on the city’s 5-Year Strategic Plan. SCHENDLEDECKER…our cities future. STEINBRUNER…supes meeting=no agenda, no video, where’s Zach? PG&E raise, new Soquel fire station, eminent domain. HAYES…see, you know this. PATTON…mind models. MATLOCK…cheating foxes and testing tester. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover WEBMISTRESS’…pick of the week. QUOTES…”May”


EMILY’S BAKERY BUILDING MAY 2 1962. This is of course Mission Street and Laurel before it became Emily’s Bakery in Oct.1982. No need to call your attention to the gas pump prices…or the lack of cars/traffic. Much has changed since then.

Additional information always welcome: email
photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.


LANI (ILWANI) FAULKNER  vs. MANU KOENIG. It’s the Grapevine talking again but the news is that Lani Faulkner is going to run against Manu Koenig for First District county supervisor! Cheers are going up everywhere because of Ilwani’s work on the Democratic Central Committee, The Sierra Club, and public transit. She’s got a long and positive record of leadership and unlike Manu, she shows up and works hard at her duties.

COVID TESTS AND CVS. There’s so much pushing and encouraging to get our “free” covid tests at the CVC’s everywhere. I got mine “free” from Medicare and at CVS Front Street. What is puzzling and maybe shady is that while I paid nothing, CVS billed Medicare part b $95.96 for my 8 day supply. More interesting is that the boxes each say, “use until 2022/03″. Something’s not right here…anyone know anything about this??

CELEBRATING ED PORTER. Ed was on our City Council in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004. He is also the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Club. Ed has two cancers and survived a fall in his house two weeks ago and was left undiscovered for days. The PDC had a fundraiser and tribute for Ed last Sunday and Ed watched from his bedside. He’s given and will continue to give so very much to our wellbeing.

ELZA MINOR LEFT THE “BUILDING”. Elza Minor was the director and my boss at Cabrilho College’s Small Business Development Center back in the late “90’s”. I had well over 300 businesses that I advised on marketing and communication. Elza and I remained good friends over all these years even after he moved to Salinas. He died March 23, and is missed by a huge community.

MUSICAL SAW FESTIVAL 2023. Santa Cruz is of course the Musical Saw capitol of the world. That’s due to Tom Scribner having been a resident here and Marghe McMahon’s statue of him now at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Charley Blacklock was the main organizer of the festival and now his son Kenny has taken the reins. He writes…

Dear Musical Saw Players and Friends,

We are pleased to announce that the California Musical Saw Festival will take place on Sunday, July 30th, 10 am – 5 pm at Roaring Camp in Felton, California. We hope to see you there. We are planning to also hold our traditional street jam in Santa Cruz and an evening potluck and jam in Felton on Saturday, July 29th. More details to follow in our next email.
For more information about the festival, please visit our website or Facebook page.
Please consider entering the Musical Saw Contest. Click here to register online.

You can support the festival by joining the International Musical Saw Association. The membership fee is only $5 and can be paid online. Please also consider making a donation of any amount using our donation link. We look forward to seeing you at the festival!

Sincerely, Kenny Blacklock
International Musical Saw Association

I search and critique a variety of movies only from those that are newly released. Choosing from the thousands of classics and older releases would take way too long. And be sure to tune in to those very newest movie 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.

BARRY. (HBO MAX) (8.4 IMDB) Now in its season #4 it manages to re-tell the complex plot behind standup comic, murderer and director Bill Hader. Henry Winkler has been the co-star and moving force behind the long complex and highly enjoyable plot. It’s funny, tragic and well worth getting involved and re-checking the earlier seasons, which are available.

ENYS MEN. (DEL MAR THEATRE).(6.2 IMDB).   To enjoy (or even understand the plot you need to know that “ENYS MEN” means “Stone Island” and has nothing to do with “MEN”. You’ll be even further ahead if you realize that the lead is a woman volunteer who goes to a tiny Cornish island (England) to study and record natures effects on some flowers. She goes through lots of loneliness and near insanity. It’s a fine film IF you remember who she is and why she’s there.

HOLY SPIDER. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (7.3 IMDB).     A woman reporter from Tehran in 2001-2002 faces all sorts of threats, dangers, and bloodshed as she works to find the killer of street workers/prostitutes/young girls. There’s opium and lots of drugs and suspicious suspects everywhere. A nice family man is suspect and brought to trial. Fine movie and you’ll stay alert.

WHERE HANDS TOUCH. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.5 IMDB).    It’s 1944 in Germany and Hitler’s force and strength are everywhere. The young boys in Germany are naturally split between pro and Con Hitler beliefs. There’s concentration camps, racial issues and good filming techniques through it all…go for it.

FLORIDA MAN. (NETFLIX SERIES) (6.7 IMDB). A former cop friend of a drug dealer goes to Florida to find a young, beautiful but wayward girl buddy. It’s billed as a dramedy which means it’s supposed to be part laughs/part drama. It’s actually a little of each and not worth thinking about.

WAR SAILOR. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.5 IMDB).   A deep and involved plot focused on the lives of mostly Norwegian sailors and before, during and after the German invasion of Norway. It gets behind the fears, motives, bravery and human reactions to war. It’s very real, well-acted, excellent camera work and well worth watching.

FARAWAY. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.7 IMDB). This is a must see for all the Croatians and fans of Croatia in our area. It’s in German with subtitles and centers on a woman trying to sell her inherited cliff house with a view. It’s listed as a romantic comedy and it is. Great photography, sincere plot, and it’ll remind you of early 1940’s Hollywood comedies….go for it. Yes, Donna Mekis loved this movie!


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, or PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.

GOD’S CROOKED LINES. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (7.0 IMDB). One of the best movies I’ve seen in ages. Deep, complex, intelligent story of a woman who gets inside a mental institution to ferret out a murderer. There are lies being told but who’s telling them? Acting is near perfect, it’s in Spanish but that adds to it. Watch this movie when you want to regain your love of cinema.

BEEF. (NETFLIX SERIES) (8.4 IMDB)   It’s referred to as a comedy set mostly in the Korean parts of Los Angeles except there’s no laughs. It starts with a road rage scene and doesn’t get far away from that hassle. Few if any interesting LA scenes and the plot never develops.


Basketball star Michael Jordan has made over four (4) billion dollars from sales of the Nike basketball shoe with his name on it. This dull movie is only about the business dealings behind the deal Michael made. Little or no acting from Matt Damon, Ben Affleck or Jason Bateman as they haggle over the huge financial dealings. Viola Davis plays Michael’s mom and she does her job nicely but it’s a dull money driven movie. Nope Michael Jordan is in it only over the closing titles.

JOHNNY. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (7.0 IMDB). This is a Polish biography centering on a priest who gives his all to everyone. Unfortunately it’s dubbed which means the words and meanings aren’t always the same. There’s good people in and around his parish and the priest goes to superhuman lengths to help them and this is even when he learns he’s dying of cancer. Due to the language shift we can’t tell how good the acting is because other actors are doing the voiceovers.

April 17


The public hearing to discuss and get input on the city of Santa Cruz’s 5-year Strategic Plan is set for Tuesday April 18th  9am to 3pm, well after you read this piece. Since I am/was unable to attend the hearing, I submitted the following. I hope it will encourage you to get involved as this Plan moves through the process.

Dear Mayor Keeley and City Council members,

Thank you and staff for the wealth of information and provision of tomorrow’s public hearing on the city’s 5 Year Strategic Plan. I am disappointed not to be able to attend. I have read the material and offer the following for your consideration.

First a minor data correction: under the heading of FTEs (  Full-time equivalent worker) by Department, the report incorrectly states that Police have the highest FTE’s when the data show the top FTE Department is Public Works.

Then, what seems to be a contradiction: in the Environmental Scan document there is an entry regarding Business Licenses over a ten- year period. It states that Business licenses have increased in the city by 177% (I’m rounding numbers). Yet under city Business license fees, the report states that there has been a 14% decline since 2014. This appears on the face of it to be a contradiction.

Now some observations and comments: 

  1. I am struck by the disconnect between the results of the survey of community members as to their priorities and the Focus Areas delineated in the Strategic Planning Briefing Book. The survey results show a clear community priority for the Natural Environment which came in at a weighted average as #2 at 3.47. In addition, the highest level of agreement among survey respondents was for “clean and safe parks and open spaces”with 64% agreement. The top 3 key words for a vision for Santa Cruz from survey respondents were, “environmentally focused, fiscally sustainable and safe.”  

Despite that clear message from the public, the 5 Year Strategic Plan appears to largely ignore it. The only time the natural environment is tangentially mentioned is in Focus Area 2 under the heading, Strong Business Communities, and a Vibrant Downtown. The entry reads “Invest in public and green space to create a welcoming, safe and attractive place to spend time.” This in the context of Downtown.

There is a clear public priority for the protection and preservation of open space lands. Despite that clear message and with a robust, well-funded Homeless Response Team including 2 full-time CSO’s and augmented by 3 officers on overtime shifts Monday through Friday, the entry in the report reads: “In addition the team conducts regular assessments and outreach to people who live in encampments in the city’s open space areas.” This approach does not respond to nor reflect the priorities of the community and needs to be revised with strategies for permanently removing camps in open space lands.

Given that the city’s natural environment is a priority for the community, one would expect that a 5- year Strategic Plan would include at least a recommendation to add an environmental specialist to the city staff. I believe the city of Watsonville has such a position. An environmental specialist could not only prioritize strategies for the protection of open space lands but could also advise the city how to best respond to environmental issues for city projects. Or, for example, advise that having goats and sheep eat all the undergrowth along the rail line in Spring is devastating to small nesting birds. That October would be fine.

  1. While the Strategic Report lists lawsuits as “threats”in fact it is only due to the city’s inadequate environmental reviews that the city has lost two significant lawsuits since 2015. This, despite paying large sums of money for outside CEQA consultants and legal costs. In both cases the city was determined to be lacking proper environmental review which is in opposition to the wishes of the community and fiscally irresponsible.
  1. The Report highlights aging infrastructure in Public Works and the Water Department, plus the need for tools, equipment, and software. These basic needs should be better reflected in the Focus Areas.
  1. Across departments, the high rate of resignation over a ten- year period of both managerial (225%) and non-managerial (75%) staff is concerning and needs more attention. Baker Tilly consulting firm apparently did not interview below the level of department heads. Lower- level staff interviews may yield helpful insights.
  1. The 22% drop in calls for service from SCPD deserves more careful analysis than is articulated in the Report which states “it doesn’t mean they are working less.” Similarly, the suggestion that some departments have small numbers of staff while others have bigger numbers and therefore more staff may need to be added to the smaller departments lacks validity without an analysis of the scope of each department’s work and responsibilities.
  1. There has been a 53% increase in revenues in the General Fund from 2013 to 2022 ($74 million to $112 million) and a 57% increase in expenditures ($71 million to $111 million). This increase has been augmented by a 314% increase in revenue from the State. It would help if the Report covered the areas which have absorbed the increased revenues in the decade studied. My observation is that it is due to a plethora of consultant hirings however I don’t know that for a fact. I do know that the frontline staff who keep our parks safe and clean and our trees healthy have inadequate staffing. A breakdown of staffing changes and at what level plus consultant hirings over the ten- year period studied would be helpful.

Thank you for considering these comments for the Strategic Plan.

Respectfully submitted,


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    Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.




Tomorrow  (4/18) (after I write this but before it’s published), Santa Cruz City Council will hold a day-long strategic planning workshop at the SCPD community room (in-person only).

The Value Architects™ of the workshop is global consulting firm Baker Tilly. Perhaps it is hidden somewhere in the city website, but so far I have not found any mention of the firm or budget line-item for the cost of engaging them. They look expensive and not local.

I’ve read through the (thankfully not very long) briefing book in the agenda packet and pulled out a few Focus Area “proposed strategies” (in bold) to interpret and comment on.

Identify new and expanded revenue sources that provide sufficient resources and facilities to deliver services and programs to the community. Meanwhile the “Environmental Scan” document reports that general fund spending per capita has increased over the past ten years: “This suggests that the City has been earning more funds over the years and spending more. It is important for the City to monitor its revenue and expenditure to ensure that it is using its resources efficiently and effectively.” It seems that the recent and current council majority’s tendency is to attempt to raise money from sales taxes, rate increases, and housing bonds rather than re-distributing funds or instituting wealth taxes.

Evaluate cost recovery levels and identify fees that need to be updated. Raise our permit, water, sewage, and refuse fees again?

Promote Downtown as a pedestrian-friendly center for commerce, housing, and transportation, including implementation of the Downtown Plan Expansion. Finally, we’ll pedestrianize Pacific Avenue and bring back the trolley!

Maximize development opportunities to repurpose existing land in support of a thriving community. They’re on board with mandating all city-owned property be prioritized for publicly owned, permanently deed-restricted VLI and LI housing. Yay!

Reduce the presence and impacts of encampments in the City. We will create and maintain a variety of smaller, resourced, managed and self-managed safe camping and parking zones, and tiny home villages, around the city. We’ll care for and re-integrate our unhoused neighbors into our community so that we’re no longer abandoning people to neglect, enforcing itinerancy, and pushing people to less-safe areas without access to services.

Provide outreach services for people living outdoors and in vehicles so they can be connected to housing and support services. And in the absence of available housing and support services, see above. We’ll meet people where they are (literally and figuratively) and provide harm reduction and support services in-place while we work on medium and long-term, permanent solutions.


Evaluate and potentially establish a Mobile Crisis Response Unit for the city. Nearly three years after the most recent calls for non-police alternative emergency response, we will fast-track pilot programs, as there are several successful models nationwide and plenty of research already available. We don’t want to endlessly delay racial and economic justice in our community.

Determine feasibility and funding of a regional public safety training center. A la Atlanta’s Cop City or New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services training facility? No thank you. A center like this could use an incredible amount of land, natural resources, and public money, and create a legacy of toxicities (much, much worse than the former skeet-shooting area in the Pogonip). If we do invest in a new regional public safety training center, we should partner with the community college and focus on non-police, community-led public safety.

Develop a skilled and trained workforce that can plan, develop, implement and operate

climate adapted infrastructure projects, facilities and community assets. No brainer: pay employees more and treat them better during bargaining.

Foster a positive workplace culture where all employees are valued, included, and

Supported; Increase employee engagement and recognition to ensure employees are productive and feel connected; Address recruitment and retention challenges. See above.

In honor of Earth Day (which since its radical origins has been compromised and co-opted by corporate interests like Dow Chemical), below I share Barbara Riverwoman’s update on “River Levee Vegetation Management” work.

Earth Day, Climate Action Plans, economic development, essential infrastructure, and Public Works shouldn’t treat plants as an afterthought, as they seem to have done with this levee accreditation work. As established trees and smaller plants are removed for a variety of developments (i.e. rail-trail, highway widening, and lot 4 project) we need to be proactively protecting, maintaining, and increasing our urban tree canopy–even moving towards urban reforestation and rewetlanding wherever possible. I remember Chris Krohn campaigning on tree planting, and what a shame that we seem to be going backwards instead of forwards several years later.

Dear Council Members,

I arrived just minutes after the April 11th Council meeting was adjourned.  I was planning to speak during Oral Communications in response to the Update from Public Works regarding current flood control work on the River levee (item #21 on your agenda, informational only, without public comment time).   

Instead, I am submitting a very different visual from that presented by Public Works as well as my 3-minute prepared statement.  


Barbara Riverwoman

BEFORE AND AFTER photos of  a manzanita patch on the east side of the  levee above Water St. (April, 2023)  Please compare these photos to the following statement posted on the Public Works website in March, 2023: “Yes, vegetation permitted and installed as part of the 1998 San Lorenzo River Flood Risk Reduction Project will largely remain in place.”

On January 11th, four members of the Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments stood with about fifteen of us on the levee on a very cold and drizzly day, explaining their commitment to saving as much native vegetation as possible, and answering a stream of questions based on our fears of native plant destruction and our strong desire to find alternatives.

We especially wanted to know about the science behind the proposed destruction of the native vegetation and where we could find scientific studies on any current changes in the stability of the Santa Cruz levee that would justify the extremely aggressive policies that were planned. Later we were told that FEMA did not have such studies available.

Fast forward almost three months. Today, on the east side of the river above Water St. the City has destroyed thousands of square feet of manzanita which until last week carpeted the crest and slopes of the levee. These manzanita patches, especially beautiful in this season when they are laced with ceanothus, served two important flood control goals. They provided important erosion control and they deterred ground squirrels. There was no observable ground squirrel activity where the manzanita was growing since this ground cover effectively blocked burrowing activity.  Ironically, now that the manzanita is gone, we expect the ground squirrels will begin to dig new burrows in this disturbed area. Ground squirrels prefer disturbed soil, which is clearly evident to anyone who has walked along the levee. We question whether the City’s plans to sow new grass will even begin to replace the effectiveness of the manzanita  as ground cover and squirrel deterrent, not to speak of the hummingbirds, songbirds, bees, insects and butterflies that the plant attracts (see for wildlife value),

The public has a right to get information regarding the science behind the City’s decisions to make major policy changes that reverse decades of City efforts to restore native habitat to the levee. Simply responding that FEMA requires it for insurance purposes is not enough.

In line with this, I would like to end by making two specific requests:

One that the Public Works Department set up an indoors meeting with those of us who met with them in the rain and cold on the levee. We represented many environmental groups in the community, including the California Native Plant Society, the Santa Cruz Bird Club, the Sierra Club and the Valley Women’s Club. I believe a science based in-person meeting with real dialogue could be very productive.

My second request is that Public Works provide references to the scientific studies underlying the current vegetation removal project. The City Council, the staff and the public need this to collaborate effectively in the future.

Thank you

Barbara Riverwoman

Joy Schendledecker is an artist, parent, and community organizer. She lives on the Westside of Santa Cruz with her husband, two teens, mother in law, and cats. She was a city of Santa Cruz mayoral candidate in 2022. You can email her at:

April 17


Why did the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors call a Special Meeting for SUNDAY, April 9 at 9PM, Easter Sunday?  It is unknown, because there is no agenda posted, and the corresponding video is that of February 14, 2023.

Take a look at the Board Calendar and see what you think

Maybe it is just a mistake by IT…or maybe not.  Write your Supervisor and ask!


I was grateful for the meaningful question Supervisor Justin Cummings asked of staff last Tuesday regarding Consent Agenda Item #36, a retroactive payment to Housing Matters for COVID sheltering to the tune of $1,242,700 to keep about 40 homeless people who are still being housed in hotels.

Listen to Director of Human Services, Mr. Randy Morris, explain why this is happening (minute 18:20- 23:06)


Chairman Zach Friend was not even in the Board Chambers at last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor meeting, but ran it from some office remotely, for the second time this year.  We do not know where he was or what he was doing,  because the first 15 or so minutes of the video recording of the meeting are missing…erasing that fact, as well as the public testimonies made in chambers by people who took time to be there.

I am glad Supervisor Justin Cummings actually did his job at the meeting as a representative of the people, and asked for an explanation of Consent Item #36, as opposed to the others who simply thanked and recognized… blah, blah, blah.  None of the other Supervisors asked for clarification of anything.

Transparency and public service???  Nope.  Supervisor Zach Friend is definitely working harder at being somewhere else.


A new law signed last June will soon affect your PG&E bill, according to new articles last week.  The article by George Avalos in last week’s San Jose Mercury News Business section claimed everyone’s bill could be reduced by as much as 33% but everyone will be assessed a new fee, based on household income, to pay for low income customer relief.

PG&E monthly bills could jump for many customers due to new state law

I contacted Mr. Avalos, asking for the legislative bill his article described. Take a look at AB 205

Admittedly, I skimmed the “legislatese” but noted that the law sunsets in 2026.  What I did not see was how the household income level data will be collected in order to apply the new fee, or the fee assessment levels Mr. Avalos reported in his article.  I have written him again…maybe you can, too: George Avalos


Last Thursday (4/13), the Board of Directors for Central Fire District (aka Aptos/La Selva and Central Fire Districts consolidated) heard an extensive presentation outlining what will be needed to secure a $20 Million Bond to build a new fire station in the Soquel area.  Over the 30-year life of the debt, property owners within the boundaries of the Fire District will pay over $36 Million.

The problems with flooding at the Soquel Village station, as well as frequent traffic congestion in the Village identified this station as the priority for relocation in the District’s Long Range Strategic Plan, which was also presented to the Board during last Thursday’s meeting.

Take a look at the Financing Presentation:  Item 3.0 that begins on page 6

Take a look at the Strategic Plan released by AP Triton….the darling consultant of the County for such work. (Page 128 as Item 9.3)

It appears the Board agreed to move full-steam ahead on building the new station, judging by the News Flash on the District’s website, looking for a Commercial Real Estate Service to send qualifications by May 14, 2023.

Request for Qualifications – Commercial Real Estate Services

By the way, Scotts Valley Fire is also following this path.

See page 35 of that Board’s meeting agenda packet from last Wednesday, April 13, 2023


The County of Santa Cruz has taken rather rare eminent domain legal action against two MidCounty home owners associations to gain control of land quickly, rather than negotiate a fair and agreeable price.  This same action is being taken now by CalTrans in the San Lorenzo Valley to bulldoze three homes in order to make a sidewalk on Highway 9.

Eminent Domain, also known as Condemnation, does just that…condemns your land so that the government agency can do something else with it.  The agency is legally required to offer a fair market value price for the land condemned and taken, but usually it is lower than what the property owner is willing to accept, having spent money to hire an independent appraiser.

So, the parties can negotiate, but that takes time. In the case of Soquel Creek Water District, it took nearly a year.  However, the County was not willing to spend that time working with the two homeowners associations, Capitola Knolls HOA and Sea Breeze HOA.  The County Counsel sued them, and their time was paid for by you and me.

The County and CalTrans want control of the land at Capitola Knolls HOA to widen Highway One and construct a sound wall.  The County and CalTrans want control of a bigger chunk of land from the Sea Breeze HOA to build the Mar Vista Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass over Highway One, as well as widen Highway One.

Last week, the Capitola Knolls HOA suit (Case #22CV01381) was due in Court, but was cancelled because the parties reached an agreement.  The HOA had to hire an attorney.  You can read more about the action the County took against the HOA here (enter the case number above)

I do not know the disposition of the Condemnation action against the Sea Breeze HOA in Aptos, but will keep you posted.  Maybe you know someone there affected?  Some properties in those HOA’s could not sell to anyone but a large cash buyer, because federally-insured loans could not be approved due to the litigation.

What will happen now to the property owners along Highway 9 who face the same action?


The huge orange crane to move pallets of cartridges for the PureWater Soquel Project in Live Oak was back again last week.  As I wrote last week, it is questionable whether the energy-hogging reverse osmosis and membrane cartridges will actually do the job without quickly fouling.

Meanwhile, the District’s construction is ripping up the roadways in the Soquel Village area.  At least the work this week on Main Street and Porter Street to attach the pipes to the Porter Street Bridge is being done at night.


This Friday, 1pm-3pm, listen to a new local online radio program “Community Matters” that will feature an interview with Mr. Leon Huntting from Catalysts for Local Control. Catalysts for Local Control |

Last week, over 35 people from this group met with elected representatives in Sacramento, protesting the State’s mandates under new Regional Housing Number Allocation (RHNA) that, in the case of Santa Cruz County, will triple the number of mandated building permits issued….or face legal action by the State.  California Sues Huntington Beach for Violating State Housing Element Law | California Governor

Tune in this Friday (4/21) at 1pm for the local Santa Cruz Voice program “Community Matters”, co-hosted by retired local attorney Jeff Bosshard and yours truly: Santa Cruz Voice





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

April 17


You’ll soon be familiar with one of this area’s most important native shrubs and its ecological interactions. The best poets, writers, and film makers have intimate familiarity with plants and ecosystems, enabling them to transmit their hearts and imaginations realistically. To be part of this place, to appreciate the nature around us, you might consider doing the same. Most start with the dominant trees – those are easy…aim for 10 species, and you’ll have a great start! The next step is to name and know the stories of the top 10 dominant shrubs. In this case, you’ll certainly include a shrub with a confusing array of common names: California lilac, blue blossom, wood tick bush, soap blossom, or (in yesteryear) blue myrtle (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus).

Whatever you call it, this shrub is starting to blossom right now with long fat clusters of tiny pale blue flowers, shaking with pollinators, and filling the air with incredible perfume.

Wild Lilac?

California lilac isn’t even closely related to the ‘normal’ lilac, but it is easily as commonly found in gardens. The European lilac is related to olives, has medium-sized leaves, and 4-petaled flowers with heady, sweet perfume. Our native wild lilac has a dusty-sweet scent, but you’ll have to squint or use a magnifying glass to see that the tiny flowers have 5 petals.

Garden Plants

There are many relatives of blue blossom, and you can even find some side-by-side in our area. My favorite is warty leaved Ceanothus, Ceanothus papillosus, which likes to grow in chaparral. This warty-leaved type has sapphire-blue flowers and a very memorable, sweet-resinous smell emanating from its leaves, especially when it is hot out. This diversity of Ceanothus types and their stunning beauty have made them very popular as garden plants. If you have well-drained soil and some space in your garden, you might consider adding one not only for their flower beauty, but for their evergreen beautiful leaves, as well as their attractiveness to wildlife. You can find forms from tight ground covers to tall and treelike with flowers from white to deep, dark blue. The flower scents are that variable, too- from very sweet to very musky.

Twenty Years Ago

Twenty years ago, it was a much more unusual treat to encounter California lilac in the natural landscape around Santa Cruz. The same can still be said of the areas that haven’t burned in anyone’s memory. Big, burly blue blossom could hardly be called a shrub back then; they seemed more like small trees, with 1foot thick, gnarly trunks and barely organized canopies festooned thickly with pale blue flowers. Those powder blue puffs stood out singly or in small groves, poking up through old manzanitas or coyotebrush, visible a half mile away for their brief flowering period and then disappearing for the remainder of the year, blending in perfectly.

And Then There Was Fire

California lilac is a pyrophile. How can life love fire, such a destructive force, cooking and searing plants and animals alike as the wind-fanned flames race across hill and valley, crackling and hissing, turning everything to smoking char? For blue blossom, there is naturally no next generation without fire and adults are lucky to live 50 years. These shrubs make a lot of seeds, which sit in the soil waiting for the winter after fire to germinate. Sleeping seeds awaken when they feel the sun and the sun-warmed soil, then seeds that have accumulated in the soil for years germinate. Carpets of blue blossom seedlings spring up, and 3 years after the fire are 6′ tall and blooming, soon raining seeds in preparation for the next fire birthing.

Getting Around

Blue blossom seeds don’t appear adapted to dispersing far from their parent shrubs. The seeds don’t have maple seed wings or dandelion fluff to disperse on the wind. And, the seeds don’t have obviously attractive fruit like acorns or avocados. But, when the seed pods explode on hot days, cracking and popping seeds loose from the mother plants, wildlife become alert to the new availability of food. Quail have been known to gobble them up, as theyscratch and peck in the shrub land understory. But quail and other birds don’t digest the seeds completely: the result, perfectly viable seeds being spread across the landscape, far from mother plants.

Not Just Fire

California lilac doesn’t require fire. Any disturbance that churns up the soil and shines new sunlight onto the seeds will work just fine. So, you can find new shrubs germinating in the wake of road or trail building, logging, and even suburban gardening. There are many other sneaky species like this: ones that appear abundant after fire, almost as if they require fire to germinate. There are many fewer species that do actually require fire to germinate- many of those are triggered to sprout by chemicals leached out of charcoal in the winter rains following wildfire.

California Lilac Uses

What good is this shrub? The vigor of this species in germinating after wildfire may be important for a few reasons. First, the shrubs might help to cover and then hold soil in place after fire. Second, the species has special roots that allow it to capture atmospheric Nitrogen and make it available as a plant nutrient. Adding this fertilizer to the ecosystem may help adjacent plants to grow and recover after wildfire. Blue blossom tends to grow especially well on poor soils, so it may be assisting many other species to make it in this soil-inhospitable situation.

Moths, Butterflies and Other Insects

Besides being good bird seed, moths and butterflies depend on California lilac. Ceanothus silk moth feeds on this species (its cocoons were used ceremonially by tribal peoples); many other species of butterfly and moths likewise raise their young on blue blossom. Tortoiseshell butterflies migrate from the Sierra Nevada to raise their young on blue blossom here along the coast. Somehow, the young know how to get back to those mountains to raise their children, which in turn fly higher in the Sierra and that high-mountain-raised generation is the one that comes to the coast.

Besides the post-fire explosion of tortoiseshell butterflies, one of my favorite phenomena are the annual gatherings of what I call blue blossom dancers. Thousands of tiny beetles fly in clouds above the blossoming shrubs at sunset, their silver-shining silhouettes are fascinating to watch pulsing and undulating in their fantastic annual ritual dance. Throughout the day, you can see those dancers feasting on pollen in the flower clusters, preparing for their energetic sunset display.

Where to See Blue Blossom….and a Cleaning Trick

Head for the post-fire ecological footprint! I hear that some Big Basin trails are open as are the trails in the Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell State Park. Both areas have huge rafts of California lilac just starting to flower. It is worth going before the winds on a warm day to immerse yourself in the scent. Do yourself a favor and get close to the flower clusters to see the awesome diversity of pollinators. If there is water nearby, grab a big hank of flowers and get to the water. Holding the mass of flowers between your wet hands, rub them together and you can experience the sudsy nature of soap blossom. Like apricot scrub, it has just the right amount of abrasiveness to help the nicely scented suds help clean your hands.

See, you know this! Ceanothus. You are on your way.

Grey Hayes is a fervent speaker for all things wild, and his occupations have included land stewardship with UC Natural Reserves, large-scale monitoring and strategic planning with The Nature Conservancy, professional education with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and teaching undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz. Visit his website at:

Email Grey at


April 14

#104 / Mind Models

I enjoyed reading the “Real-Life Spy Story” described in two different articles in The New York Times. One article, by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, was titled, “A Daring Ruse That Exposed China’s Campaign To Steal American Secrets.” That article ran in the March 7, 2023, edition. Another article, which I read in the hard-copy edition of The Times on Sunday, March 12, 2023, was a follow-up article by David Leonhardt. That second article had the “Real-Life Spy Story” title.

The two stories described efforts by the Chinese government to flatter an engineer at G.E. Aviation in Cincinnati into disgorging trade secrets. The engineer had moved to the United States from China in 2003, to undertake graduate studies in structural engineering. After earning his Ph.D. in 2007, the engineer went to work for G.E., first at the company’s research facility in Niskayuna, N.Y., and then at G.E. Aviation. An invitation to make a presentation in China was the way that the Chinese government sought to compromise the engineer. Ultimately, the engineer was turned into a kind of “double agent” by the United States, helping to uncover Chinese intelligence efforts.

Another article in The Times, from the Sunday, March 12th edition, focused on a completely different topic, and documented how the Chinese government had had recently succeeded in brokering a diplomatic “deal” between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That article made clear the intense competition that exists, currently, between the United States and China:

“There is no way around it — this is a big deal,” said Amy Hawthorne, deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy, a nonprofit group in Washington. “Yes, the United States could not have brokered such a deal right now with Iran specifically, since we have no relations. But in a larger sense, China’s prestigious accomplishment vaults it into a new league diplomatically and outshines anything the U.S. has been able to achieve in the region since Biden came to office.”

It struck me, reading these two different discussions of the rivalry between China and the United States, that our government – and the Chinese government, too, of course – have created a “mind model” that presupposes that “competition,” not “cooperation,” is how our relationship with China should be (or perhaps I should say, “must be”) understood.

We use such “mind models,” models literally created in our minds, to help us define the “reality” of the world in which we most immediately operate. Ultimately, of course, we live in the World of Nature, and the reality of that world is quite different. What we will accept as “real,” in the Natural World, is defined by scientific exploration, and by laws, or rules, that tell us exactly what must and will happen.

In the world in which we most immediately live, in what I like to call the “political world,” the rules that govern our conduct are rules that we “make up.” There is no inevitability in any of them, and that fact is directly related to the fact that the “reality” of this “political world” is not based on what must and inevitably will happen. Our entire “political world” is based on a “mind model” that we can, in fact, change. We actually get get to choose the “mind model” that we ultimately decide is our best description of the “political world” that we most immediately inhabit – or that we want to inhabit.

The New York Times, rather amazingly, I thought, has given us a nice example of what I am talking about. Recently, The Times has decided to urge us to consider a new “mind model” to be used in understanding the “reality” of our relationship to China. On March 11, 2023, The Times Editorial Board said this:

America’s increasingly confrontational posture toward China is a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy that warrants greater scrutiny and debate.

“Competition” between the United States and China – as the ultimate reality of how we relate to China, whether  in terms of diplomatic activities, or industrial policy, or in any other way – is not, The Times is telling us, “inevitable.”

The “competition” and “confrontation” model is one “mind model.” We could seek to formulate a different one, which would then lead to different conduct. The Times asks its readers, “Who Benefits From Confrontation With China?

Not a bad question! Military suppliers do. Who else?

I think The Times is on to something. We need a different “mind model” of the world in which we live. Maybe, we ought to be trying for a “mind model” that might better reflect a world in which we want to live!

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

Email Gary at

April 17


One of this week’s highlights may have been diminished with the Delaware judge overseeing the Dominion Voting Systems/Fox News trial delaying the scheduled Monday start until Tuesday…a sign that Fox is trying to broker an out of court settlement. If that succeeds (or has succeeded) the American public will be cheated out of fully seeing how a devious organization functioning as the propaganda arm of the GOP, which has been masquerading as a news network, has led us astray. Not being able to see the likes of the Murdochs, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, or Laura Ingraham on the witness stand, stumbling and flop-sweating their way through the court proceedings is truly a letdown.

Joyce Vance writes in a Civil Discourse post on Substack, that an early settlement appears unlikely, since the judge has already ruled that Fox was pushing falsehoods, leaving the jury to decide if Fox knew they were doing so in their reckless disregard of the truth, and subsequently the jury arriving at a settlement amount for damages. If the trial goes forward, it is estimated to last five weeks, but that won’t mark the end of Fox’s court troubles: voting machine manufacturer, Smartmatic is in the lineup, having filed suit in New York, to include Lou Dobbs, Rudy Giuliani and Maria Bartiromo; shareholders have filed suit alleging a breach of fiduciary duty, which could develop into a class action suit; and, former Fox employee, Abby Grossberg, has filed suit for being ‘coerced’ into providing false testimony which she says was a setup to make her a scapegoat, deleting evidence from her phone, and claiming that Fox has a history of sexism and discrimination against women. Fox has filed a countersuit against Grossberg, leaving this situation in play…so our getting cheated out of one big Fox exposition allows a few minor possibilities remaining in the docket.

Speaking of cheating…The Donald is already making excuses for losing the 2024 presidential election, even though he claims on Truth Social that his numbers are ahead of Biden’s. He posted, “The Dems are working hard on various forms of CHEATING, including Election interference through the illegal use of Prosecutors, on a scale never seen before. Do not discount their ability to CHEAT!!!” Which stage of grief can be attributed to his state of mind if he is already conceding defeat eighteen months ahead of a scheduled election? He is acknowledging the many criminal indictments and trials have already doomed his pathetic candidacy, but that he would have won if only the ‘cheating’ against him had not been allowed to happen. His president-for-life dream is over! As a former business associate of Donny’s, Donnie Deutsch, said on MSNBC, “I’m bored. This latest chapter seems to be enough already; I can’t look at this guy anymore; I don’t want to see this guy anymore.” Boredom! So that’s what killed the campaign…and tediousness?

Another loser in the news is ex-contender for the 2024 GOP presidential election slot, Governor Ron DeSantis, having such a disaster of a campaign rollout this month that one of his major Republican donors bailed on him. Losing a mega-donor because your polling numbers take a dive is a big hit ‘cuz that’s where the power lies, not with Mom ‘n Pop contributors. The donor in question closed his wallet “because of his (DeSantis’) stance on abortion and book banning,” going too far to the right with extremist positions. Decline in the gov’s polling spot show that those supporters became ‘undecideds’ or shifted to other candidates NOT to include The Trumpmeister. Media buildup of DeSantis as a legitimate opponent of Trump, now has no basis with his true character as a weakling being brought to the fore.

The end for DeSantis may lie in the food related incident that Trump and the MAGAts are blowing up. Story is that a few years back, flying from Florida to D.C., DeSantis lacked a spoon with which to eat his pudding dessert, so he improvised by using three fingers, expanding the folklore that he is one messy eater anyway. Being christened with a new nickname, ‘Ol Puddin’ Fingers, by The Don, and now a campaign video showing pudding being enjoyed in the DeSantis style, with a voiceover announcing that Ron has to “have his puddin’ fingers in everything,” where they don’t belong, such as our entitlements!

Possible GOP presidential contender, Mike Pence, showed up in his home state of Indiana for an appearance at the NRA convention, making history by being the first Republican candidate in memory to be booed by the attendees. Stepping onstage, the boos started, rising in crescendo as the gathering heaped its punishment upon the former vice-president. Shouts of “Traitor” could be heard amidst the booing, as Pence stood in the spotlight, waiting for the booing to subside, and as it quieted, he said, “I love you too.” After a short speech, he walked away from the spotlight, and the vicious booing showered over him as he exited. This humiliation won’t be enough to discourage him from his quest, and we can be certain that further rejections await him as he plunges ahead in his useless campaign to win over the old, white, gun toting crowd who drove their DeSotos with the ‘Perot for President’ bumper stickers to Indianapolis.

On ABC’s Sunday presentation of ‘This Week’, Senator Lindsey Graham slammed Marjorie Traitor Greene’s comment in praise of the Air National Guardsman arrested for leaking classified military documents, saying, “If you’re a member of the military intelligence community and you disagree with American policy and you think you’re going to be okay when it comes to leaking classified information, you’re going to jail.” Greene had tweeted: “Jake Teixeira is white, male, christian, and antiwar. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime. And he told the truth about troops being on the ground in Ukraine and a lot more.” The documents showed NATO intelligence about U.S. involvement in Ukraine, including deaths and training of Ukrainian troops, some of which officials indicated are doctored. Some Republicans who oppose this country’s support of that war were quick to strengthen their arguments upon seeing the leaked material, even though The Washington Post says there is a video of Teixeira “shouting racist and antisemitic slurs before firing a rifle.”  Figures!

Senator Graham rebuked their arguments, saying it would “destroy America’s ability to defend itself. And for any member of Congress to suggest it’s okay to leak classified information is terribly irresponsible,” being directed toward Marge. Representative Greene then responded to his criticism by posting a Photoshopped image of him holding a can of Bud Light beer with the image of transexual-influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Following last week’s brouhaha of the ‘Tennessee Three,‘ two of whom were kicked out of office in that state’s House, reinstatement was made by their home districts in just days. The House Speaker, Cameron Sexton, drew attention to himself with a report that he had purchased a home in Nashville, and not two hours away in Crossville which he supposedly represents. The Tennessee Constitution then makes him ineligible to represent Crossville since he isn’t a ‘qualified voter’ living within that district. He admitted that he and his family live in Nashville even though the Legislature is in session only four months out of the year. To obscure his purchase and the move, he established an anonymous trust to buy the property, with his financial advisor listed as trustee, with ability to sign all documents. Sexton’s wife, Lacey, signed the warranty deed for the property as the ‘affiant,’ but her name is not printed on the document and the signature looks iffy. The bank which handled the sale lists Sexton as a director and he assists in ‘business development.’ Tennessee law provides for a temporary residency, if the person intends to return to the original residence, but investment in a $600,000 property looks highly suspicious to say the least, since the Crossville house was sold.

During the legislative session, members receive a per diem to “cover meals and incidentals equal to the allowance granted Federal employees for such expenses in the Nashville area,” being about $79 daily. However, members who live more than fifty miles outside Nashville are given $313 to cover cost of lodging in Nashville, and per diem is available when Legislature is out of session if a trip is necessary to conduct official business. Of course, Sexton would claim the round trip to and from Crossville, which has cost the taxpayers $92,071 since 2021. Sexton’s new home is in District 56, six miles from the state capitol; the actual representative of District 56 has collected $10,885 in that same period. Karma is a bitch.

In a similar vein, Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal requested $2 million from the city council to fill 79 vacant deputy positions. Said Bilal, “Our office is consistently under-funded, and this jeopardizes the lives and safety of our sworn and civilian personnel.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, checking city records and internal documents has found that the awarded funds were rerouted toward hefty pay raises for her executive staff, with an attempt to raise her own pay by 109% which would have made her the highest-paid elected city official. She wisely declined comment in later testimony to the city council. A call by Rochelle to House Speaker Sexton for sharing an attorney might be a prudent move.

A recent vote in Missouri resulted in a ban for care of trans youths, with bans from sports to “protect kids.” The GOP-controlled Assembly passed the bill 106-45, and now needs another House vote to move it to the state Senate. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Moon, when asked about a vote on child marriage, defended the custom by saying he personally knows some who “are still married.” Moon ran on a platform toward “putting an end to abortion” along with his support of eliminating corporate taxes and limiting sex education classes. Next up is a bill to ban drag shows in public venues. Sounds as if Missouri has mixed feelings about being ‘The Show Me State.’

As it now stands, we as a nation are just six state votes away from holding an Article V Convention. Four major campaigns exist for such a gathering: the Balanced Budget Amendment, the Convention of States campaign, the Wolf-PAC campaign, and the term limits campaign…each with different goals but convincing 28 states that this is necessary. If six more state legislatures call for a constitutional convention, Congress will have to hold one because that rule exists, the catch being no rules for an Article V Convention are outlined in the Constitution. The danger is that those who convene such a group to rewrite our sacred document might be unelected and unaccountable, so many of our cherished rights might be revoked – right to peaceful protest, freedom of religion, or right to privacy! What’s to keep corporations from dumping money into the process to see their wishes are followed? Bottom line points to a disaster, leading to extensive and expensive legal fights, with uncertainty about the functioning of a democracy, and assuredly economic instability would follow. Extremists and wealthy special interests see a chance to pursue their far-right agenda, putting it into the Constitution, working fervently to convince those allies in the state legislatures to make the push. The issue is sneaking below the radar and needs to have the attention of us all!

Montana’s GOP is trying to change the rules for next year’s Senate primary to take down Democratic Senator Jon Tester and take back the U.S. Senate. A bill to change the structure of elections in the party primary system to one in which the top two preferred candidates would advance to the general election regardless of party – no Libertarians to muck up the results, thank you! Tester is in his third-term, and getting third party voters to switch to the GOP would be their best bet to oust him, though these voters like neither party. The GOP is calling this an experiment, is not applicable to congressional races, and would sunset in 2025, affecting only Tester’s race. Angry Democrats are being told by Republicans that it simply wants to ensure that the winner has more than 50% support of Montana voters. Democrat Jayson O’Neill charges that it is a D.C. implemented ploy – the Montana legislature didn’t come up with this on their own. “It’s a Hail Mary throw…throw deep and see if they get a catch. They are desperate to find the magic pathway to success, willing to throw anything at the wall to see if it sticks.” The NRSC declined to comment…fill in the blanks on your own.

Dale Matlock, a Santa Cruz County resident since 1968, is the former owner of The Print Gallery, a screenprinting establishment. He is an adherent of The George Vermosky school of journalism, and a follower of too many news shows, newspapers, and political publications, and a some-time resident of Moloka’i, Hawaii, U.S.A., serving on the Board of Directors of Kepuhi Beach Resort. Email:


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 you will find his most recent  Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.


“Lots of people go mad in January. Not as many as in May, of course. Nor June. But January is your third most common month for madness.”
~Karen Joy Fowler

“At last came the golden month of the wild folk– honey-sweet May, when the birds come back, and the flowers come out, and the air is full of the sunrise scents and songs of the dawning year.”   
~Samuel Scoville Jr.

“Ne’er cast a clout till may be out”.


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