Blog Archives

December 1 – 6, 2021

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Manu Koenig and Derek Timm’s financial relationship. Matlock musings, screeners, streamers, Live Here Now. GREENSITE…on Santa Cruz, Techies and the Myth of Affordability. KROHN…Elections, nature, billionaires, revolutions, climate crisis. STEINBRUNER…Koenig, Timm and transparency, other supervisor conflicts of interests, redistricting, new look at 831 Water Street. HAYES…Bay Laurel, find them, fruits, medicine, Oak deaths. PATTON…Meta and Zuckerberg. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover .QUOTES…”Leftovers”

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PACIFIC AVENUE PARADE SANTA CRUZ, circa 1925-1928 at 3:31 p.m.    We can only guess at the celebration that drew so many trucks, posters and people. Note the original placing of our Town Clock high atop the ODD Fellows building next to the “Cooper House” county building.                                             

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE November 29

MANU KOENIG AND SCOTTS VALLEY MAYOR DERICK TIMM’S RELATIONSHIP.
This week Becky Steinbruner digs into the professional money/business relationship between Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manu Koenig and Scotts Valley Mayor Derick Timm. To give you some concept of how broad reaching that partnership is I’ve reprinted part of yesterday’s (Sunday, November 28) edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel in their “As We See It” editorial opinion column states…

“But the motion made by 1st District Supervisor Manu Koenig, whose district had contained a portion of Scotts Valley, and 2nd District Supervisor Zach Friend to make the entire city part of the 5th carried and McPherson’s district was enlarged by about 2,300 constituents. Timm later told the Sentinel Editorial Board that Koenig had advised him to move forward with his proposal.

The move was not popular for many living in the San Lorenzo Valley, who feel little connection to Scotts Valley, where many residents are Silicon Valley commuters. The SLV residents are in an unincorporated area with only supervisorial representation while Scotts Valley is a city with its own government and services that doesn’t gain all that much from being brought into the 5th District.

Opponents also felt that Timm’s proposal to redraw the map had been introduced late in the redistricting process, giving them little time to come up with counter arguments.

Critics also pointed out the move brought Timm’s own residence out of the 1st District into the 5th, raising suspicions the Scotts Valley mayor is preparing a run for McPherson’s seat when it comes before voters again in 2024. A similar scenario was drawn in the 2011 redistricting decision, when the Scotts Valley mayor had made plain he wanted to run for supervisor in the 5th district. Timm, however, told the Editorial Board said he has not made any decision about any future campaigns for public office. McPherson also argued against the new map, noting that the city of Santa Cruz is split into three supervisorial districts and that keeping Scotts Valley split encouraged “across-the-aisle cooperation” among supervisors. After the vote, however, he said he hoped Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley residents can find common ground and cooperation.

Koenig said the dispute was “representative of the political division we see in our country as a whole today, and frankly, that’s a little bit sad.” But that’s how redistricting often falls, in California and in other states, where drawing new congressional and legislative districts every 10 years following the census is usually a messy and highly partisan process, where the party in power tries to ensure they stay there. But overtly political gerrymandering in California ended this century, after voters approved two initiatives – opposed by leaders of both parties – that shifted the decennial mapmaking to an independent commission charged with ignoring partisan considerations, to draw districts to follow city and county boundaries and preserve “communities of interest.” That’s what Timm felt was the overriding issue in Scotts Valley and he deserves credit for the newly drawn 5th district”.” 

Now scroll down and read Becky Steinbruner‘s column and see what she’s learned about those two public servants.

MATLOCK’S MUSINGS. Local thinker and longtime friend Dale Matlock adds to his musings…

“Citizen Donald J. Trump has announced the upcoming release of his new picture-book (over 300 photos!), which he describes as the “book of the century,” highlighting key moments in the White House by the ‘first true outsider elected President in this country’. Entitled “Our Journey Together”, every caption is written by DJT, some handwritten in his trademark fat Sharpie, and available for preorder for $74.99, with a signed copy priced at $229.99.

For $599.99, the incentive of a round of golf at Trump’s golf club in Aberdeen, Scotland is offered (subject to Trump Golf’s continuing, and future, ownership). No other perquisites are included in this offer, such as airfare, travel accommodations, meals, escorts and tips.

Heralded as a fantastic Christmas present, it joins the array of gew-gaws, tchotchkes, t-shirts, medallions, commemorative coins, figurines, and prayer candles marketed by the Putrefactory. bumbledore, which is funding Trump’s legal bills and real estate woes, not to mention his tab at McDonald’s.

Editors have been asked by numerous associates and former administration hangers-on to please omit photos and content with their names, comments, and likenesses. One disgruntled former aide, noting Trump’s balkiness at his wish to be excluded, said, “My attorney will be contacting your attorney – as soon as we determine who your current attorney might be.”

Consequently, an attempted recall of the initial press run of 50 copies (publisher demanded upfront cash) may be too late; however, Barron Trump stands at the ready with an Xacto knife to relieve the tomes of offending pages should any be returned before being remaindered.

A future release of a coloring book, with Magic Markers, will be printed, celebrating Trump’s meeting with Kyle Rittenhouse, and aimed at the NRA youth crowd. The scuttlebutt that Kyle may be material for appointment to the Justice Department should Trump be successful in reoccupying his White House throne, points toward a blockbuster publication – $124.99, $125.99 autographed.

Blithe spirit, Melania Trump, not to be outdone, is planning her own photo book, eschewing the Washington years, portraying her modeling career – Playboy Press being the highest bidder for rights, so far, with the Library of Congress showing no interest. Aghast and incensed, Ivanka Trump has quietly reached out to her State Department, ICE, and CIS connections in an effort to put the kibosh on this unwelcome project. As Rachel says, “Watch this space.” 

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.

JULIA. (Del Mar Theatre). A brilliant documentary of Julia Childs who started cooking when she was 50 and died a world-famous chef at age 91. Audiences learn a lot about cooking, seasoning, flavors, and such but it’s also about France, AIDS, gays, PBS’s lousy treatment, and more. It’s not a film just for foodies it’s for anyone who eats. And it’s so graphic you should see it on a theatre screen for full effects.

TRUE STORY. (NETFLIX SERIES). Wesley Snipes and Kevin Hart are magnificent in this 7-part series, and I binge viewed it all in one sitting. It’s so well produced and acted that you’d think it’s a documentary. It’s the killing, robbery, family saga of a famous comedian (Hart) being cheated out of his happy, secure life. Ellen DeGeneres and Don Lemon from CNN are in it too. 

LOVE ME INSTEAD. (NETFLIX SINGLE) (7.1 IMDB)  A complex, tender Turkish film about two fathers trying to protect their daughters. One dad has been in jail for 14 years and his assigned guard is allowed to take him on a one-day leave to see his family. The guard becomes involved in a serious way. It’s beautifully filmed, the acting is excellent and the plot twists and surprises keep the story totally involving. 

THE WHEEL OF TIME. (AMAZON PRIME SERIES) (7.4 IMDB) (72RT) Because Rosamund Pike is the star you might be tempted to watch this zillion-dollar Amazon fantasy spectacle but don’t do it. It’s like mixing Game of Thrones with Lord of the Rings and it’s from a 14 book series. It’s also lifeless, but strong on women power. It does contain monsters and much beheading and other bloody scenes, avoid it at any cost or even for free if you are a subscriber.

 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 Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.  

KING RICHARD. (HBO MAX SINGLE). (76.6 IMDB). Will Smith is at his very best acting as he plays the stubborn, dictatorial father of Venus and Serena Williams during their rise to tennis stardom. Dad was driven by mysterious forces to coach both Venus and Serena way beyond any normal lives into being world conquerors in the game. Many, many surprises in their childhood and it’s an excellent film, don’t miss it and I predict Will Smith will get an Oscar for his part.

THE CLUB. (NETFLIX SERIES).(8.0 IMDB). It’s the 1950’s in Istanbul and a mother works and suffers to raise her daughter while she works in a nightclub. She’s been in prison for 17 years and her connecting with her very strong daughter is touching, heartbreaking, and well-acted. The actors sing, dance and perform surprisingly well and it’s a fine series. 

AMINA. (NETFLIX SINGLE) (3.9 IMDB) A very sad attempt to tell the story of a woman in 16th century Nigeria and how she became the leader of her kingdom. Poorly acted, shamefully filmed and no reason to watch.  

PASSING. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.6 IMDB). A very stylized story about two Black women in 1920’s New York City and the differing ways they spend their lives passing for white. Neither actress could pass for white so it makes for some desperate viewing to learn anything or enjoy watching this forced drama. For extra effects, it was filmed in Black and white…no no avail.

THE SHRINK NEXT DOOR. (APPLE SERIES). This movie is listed as a comedy drama and I don’t think it deserves either category. Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd are the leads, Ferrell being the guy who needs therapy and Rudd is the psychiatrist who works to erase the many problems. Ferrell has money and runs a business and Rudd works to squeeze money from him. Not my cup of tea AND it’s based on a true story!

YOU. (NETFLIX SERIES). (91RT) (7.7 IMDB). A genuine deep drama about a seemingly nice guy who is among other things a stalker. He manages a book store and has secrets in his basement that I won’t reveal. Lots of book/author dialogue and well-crafted suspense. Well worth watching and cringing over. 

MONTFORD. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.7 IMDB). It’s an excellent “western” and it’s the true story of Montford Johnson a member of the Chickasaw Indian nation who spent his life fighting against the Yankees after the Civil War as he struggled to raise a family and help his Indian brothers. Super movie, one of the best cowboy westerns I’ve seen. 

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HIDDEN VALLEY STRING ORCHESTRA. Sixteen of Northern California’s finest string players will be playing in the early tradition, the orchestra will perform without a conductor. Prepared under the direction of Stewart Robertson, performances will be led by concertmaster Roy Malan. Comprising sixteen of Northern California’s most talented and accomplished string players, the String Orchestra of Hidden Valley debuted to acclaim in November 2014. Lyn Bronson of Peninsula Reviews said of the String Orchestra’s debut, “A gorgeous performance. Every section . . . a perfect jewel.” 

TWO CONCERTS, TWO LOCATIONS:
Carmel Valley Saturday December 11, 7:30 p.m. Hidden Valley Theatre, 104 W. Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel Valley CA 93924

Santa Cruz Sunday December 12, 4:00 p.m. Peace United Church 900 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

Tickets are available online or by telephone at (831) 659-3115

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November 29

TECH-CITY: WINNERS AND LOSERS

Rendition of Front and Soquel Mixed-Use Project on the River levee

Santa Cruz is rapidly becoming a tech subsidiary hot spot. There are nearly 500 tech companies located in Santa Cruz, according to the CEO of one such company interviewed in the Sentinel on 11/25/21.  With more to come, since apparently “Santa Cruz has the five key components to creating a successful local company that has the ability to go global,” claimed the CEO. Besides a “strong source of venture capital”, what helps Santa Cruz rise to the top is “a good connection with its local government” (yes, we have noticed that). 

Unsurprisingly the Santa Cruz County Business Council and the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce are enthusiastic as is the real estate sector, which sees profits in the demographic shift towards high-income millennial earners, accelerating the acquisition of second homes and rental luxury apartments. For investors whose portfolios are heavily weighted with housing assets, the future looks bright. 

In the same article, the CEO is quoted as saying that “for every tech job placed into a community, it creates an additional five jobs in the local economy. That is because each new tech worker needs someone to sell them a house, someone to cut their hair, retailers to sell them clothes, and restaurants to feed them on nights out.”  

His imagination stops with the owners of such businesses. Other than perhaps the house-sellers and the hair-cutters, the rest are predominantly low-income workers. They are increasingly being displaced as the Area Median Income (AMI) rises with each influx of new, highly paid tech workers. 

Rents are tied to the AMI.  The current AMI for Santa Cruz is $110,000 for a family of four. Half earn above that rate and half earn below. For a single person, the AMI is $77,000.  A single person is considered to be low-income if they earn $74,350 a year. For a family of four, that figure is $106,000. A Very Low-Income category has an individual earning $46,000 and a family of four earning $66,200. A moderate income is $92,000 for an individual and $132,000 for a family of four. The city has more than met its housing obligations for the “moderate” category yet project after project includes units “affordable” for that income level, thereby easily meeting the city’s inclusionary laws plus securing state density bonuses and waivers. 

It should be obvious that most of our service workers (cooks, maids, janitors, dish-washers, car-washers, gas station workers, field workers, retail clerks, etc.) earn significantly less than the figures quoted above. However the “affordable” rents are tied to those income levels and they rise as the AMI rises, as more and more techies make Santa Cruz their home. Which means the term “affordable” is relative and increasingly out of reach. 

We are expected to cheer when a new mixed-use project has a small percentage of “affordable” units even when those units are increasingly unavailable for most low-wage workers.  Worse still, since most units in most new projects are market-rate, with the market rising every day, the “affordable” rents will rise like a perpetual incoming tide. The result is the steady loss of long-time local low-income workers, either relocating and traveling further and further to their workplace or moving away altogether. Despite this well-documented trend, “smart growth” advocates and YIMBY’s mouth platitudes about how increased housing density allows people to live near their workplaces, abandoning cars for bicycles, public transport and walking. Real-estate wolves in sheep’s clothing.

This trend, plus the state’s new housing laws are working in tandem to create the perfect storm of increasing un-affordability and loss of local control for Santa Cruz. 

While much of this is not solvable until we are clear-eyed that making housing an asset open to the investor class is the source of the dilemma, there is one avenue left for community input to shape the future of mixed-use buildings in Santa Cruz. It’s the only avenue allowed by new state laws.

December 6th is the deadline to weigh in on what you would like to see as “objective standards” for future developments in Santa Cruz. Check out that category under the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department. With a council majority, city staff, techies, and developers going for the max. It’s the only hope to salvage some of the character of Santa Cruz that is fast disappearing, including that which the tech CEO says is indispensable for success.  

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.

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November 29

THE ELECTION ISSUE

THE Election Issue: the SC Natural Environment, 

Part II of III

Will the next set of elections be about the environment? From UC Santa Cruz’s redwood forest all the way down past the eucalyptus groves standing tall in Lighthouse Field where the monarch butterflies spend their winters, and out to the Steamer Lane surf mecca, the natural environment is what frames this part of the world and makes it so precious, so breathtaking, and rather famous. Why do people live here and thrive along this part of the 37th parallel? Natural Bridges, the Pogonip, DeLaveaga Park, Wilder Ranch, the Moore Creek Uplands, and Seabright Beach, the natural environment is essential. Some of us, of course, take it for granted, but there is no denying the fact that we are blessed to live on such an ecologically diverse landscape. Given the global factors of the present climate crisis weighing so heavily, with planet earth itself in the balance, the salvation and growth of our local ecosystem ought to be the cornerstone of our politics. The next two election cycles, 2022 and 2024, must be about saving and enhancing our natural environment. Whether some candidates, or current elected officials, choose to ignore this fact, or plan to shape their campaigns around it, mother earth will not be denied. The natural beauty exists, but who will do what it will take to protect it? While protection of these resources has sometimes lagged in this region’s history, most people now understand that safe-guarding our local resources will also sustain our major economic engines: tourism, agriculture, and academia. The natural environment can support job growth, but on whose terms? It is our community’s endowment fund for generations to come, but only if we collectively grasp the politics of climate change and the monumental climactic events taking place as I write these words. Unless we elect representatives for congress, supervisor, city council, and school board who represent the interests of the environment and understand that they have a role in protecting, preserving, and promoting our fragile ecosystem, we will end up where Cop26 just did, with bankers and hedge-fund managers directing our future climate policies.

Senate and Billionaire-class Bumbling

It is increasingly clear that the world’s political leaders, as evidenced recently in Glasgow, Scotland at the Cop26 climate summit, are taking a frighteningly considerable amount of time in arriving at the inevitable: the elimination of fossil fuel burning. They are not there yet, and that is why we should worry. Leave it in the ground is what the protesters in Glasgow demanded. This 2021 Cop26 could simply not get to yes in phasing out fossil fuels as the slow boiling frog–planet earth–continues to cook. Despite making inroads on cutting methane gas burning (30% is not enough) and a treaty on saving the world’s forests, the greatest challenges were not met at Cop26. This is also mirrored in the US Senate’s likely inability to move on President Biden’s social policy and climate crisis bill, which is now being debated. The billionaire class too cannot be relied upon. Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos possess quixotic notions of getting off the earth for the distant, and currently uninhabitable, climes of planet Mars. Their money could perhaps put a dent in the climate mitigation struggle here at home, or at least feed everyone on this planet, but they seem to be looking for a more tried and true heroic historical legacy. Land someone on Mars and they might be remembered as leaders, or visionaries, or perhaps more rightly, marauding capitalist adventurers.

Those Who Make Peaceful Revolution Impossible,

Make Violent Revolution Inevitable (JFK, 1962)

In October of 2018 Extinction Rebellion (XR) began in London with a series of protests to bring attention to the changing global climate. XR believes that mass civil disobedience is likely the only solution left in appealing to the world’s masses and that the climate crisis is real and action must be taken now. On Nov. 17th of that year, more than 6,000 participated in blocking the five main bridges over the River Thames for several hours. Since then, XR members have participated in other high-profile non-violent actions including pouring blood on streets to represent that the lives of children are at stake, while others have glued themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace and the House of Commons viewing gallery’s glass partitions. On April 16, 2019, during the second day of XR protests, Central London was so overwhelmed with protesters it effectively brought many parts of the city to a standstill. The police reportedly stopped arresting people as they ran out of holding cells. These protests lasted 11 days and the cops said they arrested 1,130 people. Finally, just last (Black) Friday on “Buy-Nothing Day,” XR activists blockaded Amazon distribution centers in the UK in order to disrupt what the group believes to be one of the corporation’s most profitable days.

Extinction Rebellion in the US and Santa Cruz

The name, Extinction Rebellion, took hold in several US cities with some large actions in New York City in 2019, but for the most part, XR’s mass civil disobedience tactics have not taken hold stateside. In Santa Cruz, XR protesters have targeted local banks–Chase and Wells Fargo–who invest in fossil fuel. Coincidentally, through these actions some of the banks have closed their doors to depositors because of protesters’ presence outside the bank building, thus making the protest somewhat successful.

The Climate Crisis and the Santa Cruz Landscape

What is becoming increasingly clear is that local government–cities, towns, counties, and possibly statehouses–are likely on their own in this climate crisis. The federal government, hamstrung by corporate lobbying interests and an absence of a clear senate majority, will probably remain fumbling about for the foreseeable future while waiting for direction from corporate overlords. Santa Cruz can join this chaotic parade towards extinction if it chooses, or it can begin to act decisively not only in words, but in deeds as well. The science is clear, the seas are rising (we live on the coast), forests are being depleted (we have forest lands to protect and grow), plant and animal species dwindle to extinction (Zayante Band-winged Grasshopper, Mount Herman June Beetle, Coho Salmon), and we ignore these signs at our own peril. The pleading voices of our young people continue to call on us to take bold steps now, but will our political actions be enough? 

Next Week: A 10-point plan on how Santa Cruz can be a leader during the climate crisis and implement mitigating actions locally with an eye toward working together with like-minded communities as the global climate emergency continues to unfold.

Tweet of the Week is by Ro Khanna

“This year’s defense budget is $778 billion, with billions more than the President asked for, and no one bats an eye. And much of it goes to defense contractors. So why is it a problem when we want to spend just $175 billion per year to help working families?” (Nov. 20th) 


Artist Russell Brutsche’s vision of climate change in Santa Cruz…if we do nothing.

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 ckrohn@cruzio.com

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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November 28

PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY IS IMPORTANT FOR UPHOLDING THE PUBLIC’S TRUST
I have been troubled to recently learn about an existing active business partnership between Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manu Koenig and Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm.  

Nobody made any declaration about this partnership before the County Board of Supervisors took action on November 16 to change District boundaries for Scotts Valley, approving a map submitted by Derek Timm and supported by Supervisor Koenig, who cast the swing vote.  Several members of the public submitted maps, but only Derek Timm’s map received any consideration by the Board at all.  He submitted his map as a private citizen, not representing the Scotts Valley City Council, as the Deputy CAO Elissa Benson confirmed at the November 9 Board hearing on the matter. 

Later, it was brought to my attention that Supervisor Manu Koenig has a real estate sales license and is employed by Derek Timm for such work at Montalvo Homes & Estates. 

This is confirmed by the State Dept. of Real Estate license website

License Type: SALESPERSON
Name: Koenig, Raimanu S
Mailing Address: 755 14TH AVE APT 803
SANTA CRUZ, CA 95062
License ID: 02093543
Expiration Date: 06/05/23
License Status: LICENSED
Salesperson License Issued: 06/06/19
Former Name(s): NO FORMER NAMES
Responsible Broker: License ID: 01386067
Timm, Derek Jason
42 FRONT STREET
SANTA CRUZ, CA 95060
Comment: NO DISCIPLINARY ACTION
NO OTHER PUBLIC COMMENTS

I do not think Supervisor Koenig’s actions met the definition of financial conflict of interest, and I am honestly very glad that the City of Scotts Valley will have united representation.  I just think that on the face of things, transparency would have fortified public trust in our elected representatives, had Supervisor Koenig at least made a statement about his real estate licensing relationship with Derek Timm, who effectively is his employer.

Supervisor Koenig’s earnings from his real estate transaction commissions under Montalvo Homes & Estates (Derek Timm) is active and reported as $10,001 and $100,000 in his 2021 Form 700 Schedule C Income upon assuming office:

click here and enter “Koenig” in the Filer Name search box

To give you an idea of this significance, the “Regular Pay” for Santa Cruz County Supervisors in 2019 was $129,653.83.

Salary, Zachariah Friend 2019

Although the reunification of Scotts Valley’s representation by one County Supervisor is likely a good thing, and supported by the Fair Maps Act, it was odd that the Board of Supervisors granted no other cities the improved benefit they afforded Scotts Valley.  Watsonville City representatives had also protested this schism created in the 2011 redistricting, along with Scotts Valley City representatives at the time.  Watsonville City Councilwoman Rebecca Garcia attended some of the 2021 Redistricting Advisory Commission meetings and raised the question about this, as well as the form in which maps could be submitted.  

The Advisory Commission had wanted to do a better job of uniting areas of Capitola’s Jewel Box neighborhood but ran out of time.  They had hoped the Board of Supervisors would ask their group to reconvene, but Deputy CAO Elissa Benson did not bring up that issue in her staff report to the Board.  Despite my informing the Board of that issue, based on the Commission’s October 15 video recording, they ignored my multiple requests that they do so. 

Many members of the public felt that Derek Timm’s map, submitted under his own personal interest, not representing the Scotts Valley City Council, was to set the stage for him to run for District 5 County Supervisor in 2024.  If swept under the rug now, this issue is bound to haunt Supervisor Koenig, should Derek Timm decide to run for Supervisor. 

Wouldn’t it be far better if Supervisor Koenig made a public declaration that Derek Timm is his employer?  I think so, for the sake of transparency.  

I asked Supervisor Koenig if he plans to make such a declaration at the next Board of Supervisor meeting.  He replied that he is considering it, but feels it unnecessary because the information is publicly available on the state website.  

Well…that is true, but only if one knows to go searching. 

DO OTHER COUNTY SUPERVISORS HAVE POTENTIAL UNDECLARED CONFLICTS OF INTEREST?
The answer is “YES”.  Do they declare those interests or recuse themselves from making decisions affecting their interests?  The answer is “USUALLY NOT”.

Supervisor Zach Friend is a shareholder (value $10,001 and $100,000) in Yardarm Technologies,/Gunnegate LLC, which relies on cellphone coverage to employ the technology sending signals from the guns of law enforcement to dispatch staff when the gun is unholstered, and again, when fired.  Santa Cruz County law enforcement teams tested this technology free of charge for Yardarm, and Supervisor Friend traveled to Sacramento with then-County Sheriff Phil Wowak to meet with lobbyists to support broader use of the technology.  

Does Supervisor Zach Friend recuse himself from any citizen appeals regarding new cell phone tower construction in their rural neighborhoods?  No. Never.

Previously, Supervisors Ryan Coonerty and Zach Friend owned shares in PredPol (predictive policing software) but never made public declarations about their financial gain with local law enforcement use of this software and never recused themselves on discussions of related Santa Cruz County policy or budgeting.  Both either sold their stock or donated it to the Community Foundation a few years ago.

Only once have I witnessed Supervisor Bruce McPherson recuse himself when the Board was considering action regarding banking and County investments.  His interests in Santa Cruz County Bank and Omni Financial LLC rightfully required that he recuse himself…and he did so.

Enter the last names of other elected officials here.

The results are interesting.

SHOCKING REDISTRICTING MAPS PROPOSED FOR ASSEMBLY WOULD DIVIDE SANTA CRUZ COUNTY INTO THREE DISTRICTS
Why would it make sense to anyone to divide Santa Cruz County, the second-smallest county in the state, into three separate Assembly representational areas?  That is exactly what is proposed.

Here is what Assemblyman Mark Stone’s (District 29) currently looks like: District Map | Official Website – Assembly member Mark Stone Representing the 29th California Assembly District

   Now, take a look at what the State Redistricting Commission has proposed for our area and start pulling your hair: (pages 51- 53)

Note the really odd proposed division of rural MidCounty areas on page 29.   The nearby communities of Day Valley, Larkin Valley, Aptos Hills and Corralitos will be divided, some in Benito map, some in MontCoast map.  (see page 53)

The Gatoscruz map would combine Pescadero, all of the San Lorenzo Valley Santa Cruz with metropolitan areas of Morgan Hill and Campbell, becoming affiliated with the Bay Area map grouping.  (see page 28)

Public feedback can be submitted here, and will be taken for at least 14 days from Nov. 10, the date of public display of the first preliminary statewide draft maps of the Congressional, state Senatorial, Assembly and state Board of Equalization districts. The commission shall not display any other map for public comment during the 14-day period.

Final Redistricting Maps will be completed and certified by December 27.

State redistricting draft maps released for review

Here is more good information….submit your comments right away.

California redistricting 101: What you need to know

GOVERNOR NEWSOM APPOINTS RETIRED COUNTY COUNSEL AS NEW DIRECTOR TO SANTA CRUZ COUNTY FAIR BOARD
Last week, the Governor appointed Ms. Dana McRae, retired Santa Cruz County Counsel, to serve on the Board of the 14th District Agricultural Association (Santa Cruz County Fair).  She had served as Chief of Santa Cruz County Counsel since 1997, retiring in 2019. 

For some strange reason, she stepped in to act as the Santa Cruz County Director of Public Health recently when Mimi Hall resigned to take another job in private health industry.  

The Fair Board Director position does not require Senate confirmation, and she will receive no compensation.  

California Governor Newsom Announces Appointments

Some think that the reason Governor Newsom appointed Ms. McRae is to add a voice of legal direction and authority to the Fair Board, which has been plagued with various legal problems and complaints of late.  These issues caused four upper management staff to make a personal appearance at the Board’s November 9 Special Meeting and discuss various problems and solutions in a three-hour Closed Session. 

STATE BOARD OF FORESTRY SENDS EMERGENCY FIRE SAFE REGULATIONS TO ADMINISTRATIVE LAW OFFICE, PROVIDING LITTLE TIME FOR PUBLIC COMMENT DURING THE HOLIDAY
On November 22, the State Board of Forestry officially sent the second-adoption of the Emergency Fire Safe Regulations to the Office of Administrative Law.  It is worrisome that the Regulations give local jurisdictions some discretion, but with conditions that must be approved and certified by the Board of Forestry.

View the 16-page document on the Board of Forestry website: Welcome to Business

On November 24, these Emergency Fire Safe Regulations were posted on the Office of Administrative Law website

Under Emergency Rule Making laws, the public has only five (5) days to submit comment.  If you wish to make comments on a regulation listed here, please send them to the agency contact person and the OAL Reference Attorney at staff@oal.ca.gov.  The agency contact is:

Edith Hannigan
(916) 862-0120
edith.hannigan@bof.ca.gov 

and

publiccomments@BOF.ca.gov 

Office of Administrative Law File No. 2021-1124-02EE

I suggest that you submit comment even if the deadline is technically November 29.  Cite that the Thanksgiving holiday occurred during the five-day comment period, and ask that your comment be considered.

There is confusion and differing interpretations throughout the state regarding the applicability of these regulations to the reconstruction or repair of structures lost after a wildfire.

The fundamental problem is that there is confusion across the state regarding the application and interpretation of the SRA/VHFHSZ Fire Safe Regulations, reducing the likelihood of the state achieving its goals for increased housing supply and lower housing costs as well as reducing firefighter and civilian safety during mass evacuations. The regulatory mechanism which exists to establish the minimum fire safety standards for development in the SRA is currently not sufficient to address these areas of confusion, potentially creating hazardous housing conditions throughout the state.

See page 12 of the Emergency Fire Safe Regulations.

1270.02(c) Local government officials noted the SRA/VHFHSZ Fire Safe Regulations could be interpreted to apply to the reconstruction or repair of buildings in the SRA/VHFHSZ that had been damaged or destroyed by a wildfire. Subsection (c) was added to make it explicit that, at the discretion of and subject to any requirements imposed by the local jurisdiction, these regulations do not apply to the reconstruction or repair of certain buildings, under certain conditions. 

The first condition is that the exemption may only be utilized at the discretion of the local jurisdiction, and that the local jurisdiction may impose requirements to ensure reasonable access even if this exemption is utilized. 

This proposed revision also allows a local jurisdiction to exempt wildfire-related reconstructions or repairs from the specific standards in the SRA/VHFHSZ Fire Safe Regulations while giving them the flexibility to impose their own requirements to provide for adequate ingress and egress as is necessary.

The second condition is that this exemption only applies to legally constructed buildings impacted by wildfires. Those who failed to comply with the requirements when their building(s) their buildings were constructed should not be given a second opportunity to avoid compliance with the SRA/VHFHSZ Fire Safe Regulations, and so this exemption is limited to the reconstruction or repair of legally constructed buildings only. During the scoping phase of this rulemaking, local government officials brought up several hypothetical situations where the applicability of this exemption was not clear. In order to reduce confusion, and to address the specific emergency issue identified above, this exemption is limited only to reconstruction or repair necessitated by a wildfire. 

Property owners in wildfire-damaged areas will not be allowed the exemption if they wish to enlarge their structure, build a new structure that did not exist before the fire, or have a change of use of structures rebuilt that differ from the previous use before the fire.

1270.02(d) Local government officials noted the SRA/VHFHSZ Fire Safe Regulations could be interpreted to apply to the creation of ADUs, and that a property owner wishing to create an ADU would be required to make any necessary upgrades to the road network to bring it up to the minimum standards in the SRA Fire Safe Regulations.

The exemption for ADU or JADU construction specified in § 1270.02(d) allows local jurisdictions to place their own restrictions on ADU or JADU construction for fire safety, for example by requiring larger setbacks for ADU construction in FHSZs or not allowing ADUs or JADUs in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. 

  • 1270.04(b) and (c) were combined into the new first sentence of a revised § 1270.04(b), for clarity. 

(b) Counties may submit their local ordinances for certification via email to the Board, and the Board may certify them as equaling or exceeding these regulations when they provide the same practical effect. If the Board determines that the local requirements do not equal or exceed these regulations, it shall not certify the local ordinance.

A new sentence, “If the Board determines that the local requirements do not equal or exceed these regulations, it shall not certify the local ordinance.” was added because previously the regulations did not address the conditions under which the Board may decline to certify local ordinances as meeting or exceeding the state minimum standards. 

House Science Committee Approves Wildfire Bill

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a markup for, and subsequently passed by voice vote, the National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act (H.R. 5781). The bill, sponsored by RCRC delegation representatives Jared Huffman (D- San Rafael), Jim Costa (D- Fresno), and Jimmy Panetta (D- Carmel Valley), “would establish a National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program intended to reduce losses of life and property from wildfires by boosting related research activities across various federal agencies.” During the markup, the committee considered a slew of amendments from members in both parties and adopted most of them by voice vote, including proposals to support active land and forest management, promote more resilient buildings and landscapes, and study the interaction between wildfires and climate change. 

CAL FIRE HELPING TO RESTORE FORESTS IN BURNED AREAS
Cal Fire Helping Restore California’s Forests At Seed Bank In Davis.

SANTA CRUZ CITY WATER DEPT. FINAL EIR REVIEW FOR WATER RIGHTS 
The Final EIR includes responses to public comments received on the Draft EIR for the possible sales of water to other water providers outside of the City’s service boundaries.  This would allow the City to sell water from the San Lorenzo River when it is plentiful, to Soquel Creek Water District, thereby allowing the District ot stop or greatly reduce pumping groundwater.

The City Water Commission will review this Final  EIR on December 6 at 7pm..  The City Council will review it December 14 after the hour of 1pm  (virtual meetings only) Here is the link to the document

This is good news for the MidCounty area. 

LEGAL THREAT PROMPTS NEW LOOK AT 831 WATER STREET HOUSING PROPOSAL
The Santa Cruz City Council denied a housing proposal at 831 Water St. in a 6-1 vote on Oct. 12. (Rendering: Novin Development and Lowney Architecture)

1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23 / Online and by phone

Amid the threat of a lawsuit from housing advocates, the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday (11/30) will consider rescinding its Oct. 12 decision to deny a housing proposal at 831 Water St.

The proposal would build 140 homes on a four- and five-story complex at Branciforte Avenue and Water Street. The corner is now a strip mall with a car wash, convenience store and other shops. The council voted 6-1 to deny the project with Vice Mayor Sonja Brunner as the sole dissenting vote. Members of the council essentially said the project did not conform to its objective design standards because it had market-rate units in one building and income-based affordable units in a separate building. The developer has said the design was needed for the project to be financially feasible. The site is on two parcels and separation is needed “to secure state tax credits and in order to record local and state deed restrictions/regulatory agreements against the affordable parcel,” according to a Nov. 9 letter from the developer’s attorney.

Letters this month from the developer’s attorney and a “credible threat of litigation by YIMBY Law” have prompted the city leaders to reconsider approval of the project by Dec. 16, wrote Santa Cruz Deputy City Attorney Darcelle Pruitt in a city document.

City staff has recommended that the council:

  • Consider a public hearing at its Dec. 14 city council meeting
  • Direct staff to complete the Senate Bill 35 objective standards consistency review in light of new information from the developer and the attorney 

SANTA CRUZ HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND WINS PRESTIGIOUS AWARD
We all should be proud of the Santa Cruz High School Marching Band, recently awarded “Best Marching Band in Northern California”.  Congratulations!

MAKE ONE CALL.  WRITE ONE LETTER.  YOU WILL MAKE A BIGGER DIFFERENCE THAN YOU MAY THINK. 
Cheers, Becky

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

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November 29

BAY LAUREL
With their shiny, fragrant leaves and pale-yellow flowers, bay laurel trees (or just ‘bay trees’) grace our forests and are a tree worth recognizing…there’s nothing with which to confuse them. If you’ve been following this column, you’ll note that I encourage you to learn at least the trees in our area. There really aren’t that many types of trees, say compared to the 80 tree species I had to learn in my 8th grade biology class in Georgia where the forests are much more tree diverse. And “back east,” most of the trees lose their leaves so you have to learn subtle bark characteristics for half of the year. Bay trees are particularly easy if only from the scent of their leaves. Still, I find many people don’t rely on their nose to identify plants- a lost opportunity. Learning to identify trees, and paying attention to the trees around you, is a gateway into ‘seeing nature’ and being more present with the world around you. Through the distribution of trees, you’ll come to better understand wildlife, soils, hydrology, and so much more.

Spot the Bay
To find them, aim for the darkest part of the forest and there you’ll find a bay tree. These evergreen trees cast deep shade, and little grows under them. Wind rustling through long, thin, waxy leaves of bay trees sounds like rain. Walking on the cast-off leaves under a tree can be slippery. With age, the leaves are often covered with black mildew, but without that the fallen leaves are yellow-orange, fading to a light tan-brown. Please don’t pass up a tree without gathering some leaves and sniffing them: no matter how many times I do it, I never regret it. With some practice, maybe you can conjure the scent even without smelling the leaves.

On warm days, when trees are in full bloom, the sweet perfume from the flowers carries a long way with a citrus blossom aroma with a slight hint of cinnamon. They are starting to bloom right now.  I saw some new blossoms in Hageman Gulch adjacent to Arana Gulch recently. Spent flowers litter the ground as they drop off. You might still find bits and pieces of the last part of the fruit right now, too.

Where to Find Them
Some say that Swanton’s Scott Creek valley once had stands of magnificently large bay laurels and the few large remaining ones burned in the recent fire and are now resprouting. Pogonip Greenbelt, as well as Wilder Ranch and Nisene Marks State Parks, have stands of bay trees along many of the trails. The last ones I encountered were on moist north-facing slopes in western Wilder Ranch growing alongside live oaks; the bays and oaks there were in process of succumbing to competition with conifers, towering above them. The places bay trees thrive is where fire returns from time to time.

Fire tree
Bay trees erupt in flames during a wildfire, and then sprout quickly back after the fire from their basal burl. One day, if you are enjoying a campfire, throw a few bay leaves on it to enliven the party. The leaves pop and crackle loudly, sending out sparks – evidence of the oils in the leaves. After our 2020 fire, bay trees were sprouting up two-foot-tall tender shoots a couple of months after the fire. You often see bay trees with many trunks- probably because of the survival of more than one of those post-fire sprouts. The sprouting nature of bay trees allows them to leap up above the competing vegetation and to send out fruit in just a year or two after a fire, providing seedlings a better chance of establishment. But the seeds are a coveted cache.

Fruit
Squirrels, pack rats, mice, and jays love to eat bay “nuts,” which are also been popular with certain people. Although bay trees are relatives of avocados, and the fruit looks like a little avocado, there isn’t much flesh, which is only edible for a brief moment when ripe. The ripe fruit can be bright green or a deep purple. The nut is a better bet than the thin skin for eating, but you must roast it first. It is oily and if roasted just right tastes a bit like a roasted cocoa bean. Some people say they feel a bit wired after eating a few. No one I know has liked them so much that they repeatedly go to the effort of processing them, though native peoples are noted to have eaten them.

Medicine
After I led a barefoot friend of mine into a stand of chestnuts for a harvest (ouch!), he got even with me a year later with a bay leaf. We were hiking through a local forest, and he noted that I sounded congested, but I was in luck- he had a remedy close at hand! He handed me a bay leaf and told me to roll it up like a tube, put it in my stopped-up nose and breathe in through it deeply. And so, I did. I was able to remain standing, but just barely. At first, it felt like someone had punched me hard in the nose. The burning sensation spreading deep into my sinuses wouldn’t go away quick enough. I do not recommend this kind of medicine, not even as a practical joke. But there might be ways of inhaling the leaf scent with less vigor, which might be a treatment for congestion. Native peoples used the leaves for treatment of arthritis and for clearing fleas out of houses. Wood rats also use the leaves to get rid of insects in their houses.

Life on the Bay
I first learned bay trees not only by their leaf scent but also by their shelf fungus. There’s a shelf fungus that is on almost all older bay trees. This is called Ganoderma brownii and is tough like wood. The top of it is often the same color as the bay tree’s bark – a dark brown, though sometimes it is lighter. The underside is white to cream. 

Sudden Oak Death
Bay trees have gotten a bad rap as of late as they are hosts to an invasive pathogenic organism named sudden oak death. Local evergreen oaks growing under and adjacent to bay trees are threatened by a heavy rain of sudden oak death spores of falling off bay tree leaves. If you have a stand of these oaks that you want to save, it is suggested you cut out the bay trees that grow right next to them or above them. But, if you are considering cutting them down, you might want first to contact a woodworker.

The Wood
Bay laurel trees’ light to very dark wood is very beautiful and is used for furniture and musical instruments. Some people call it myrtle wood or Oregon myrtle. I haven’t encountered recent furniture made with it, but I once saw a hundred-year-old chest of drawers made from bay wood which looked like it had been made from American chestnut. After writing that, I looked on the internet and see that there are hundreds of very fine pieces of craftsperson- made furniture and musical instruments made with bay tree wood. Sometimes, I see that people use the burl wood for an extra dashing look. 

Tending Bay
Our forests would not be the same without bay trees, but I haven’t anyone restoring or planting the species in their landscapes. If you have a place for one, for the shade or for a privacy screen, you might consider planting one. Generally, it isn’t the fastest growing tree- maybe two feet a year at first but settling into one foot a year as it matures. If you keep the branches limbed up high off the ground, they might even help with the fire hazard. Bay trees serve well as part of a ‘shaded fuel break’ that is low maintenance because they suppress understory growth, reducing the need for mowing or shrub clearing. Plus, you’ll be creating food for wildlife for generations to come, and maybe a fine wood source for future craftspeople.

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: www.greyhayes.net

Email Grey at coastalprairie@aol.com

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November 27

#331 / Meta

That Mark Zuckerberg is restructuring his company, Facebook, as part of an effort to get “beyond” the place in which he and the company currently find themselves, is old news by now. The image above was gleaned from an article in the October 29, 2021, edition of The New York Times. If you have the credentials to slip past The Times’ paywall, you can read the entire article by clicking the following link. The article is titled, “The Metaverse Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch.”

“Meta” is defined as meaning “situated behind or beyond,” and Zuckerberg defines his “Metaverse” as “a clean, well-lit virtual world, entered with virtual and augmented reality hardware at first and more advanced body sensors later on, in which people can play virtual games, attend virtual concerts, go shopping for virtual goods, collect virtual art, hang out with each others’ virtual avatars and attend virtual work meetings.” 

Whether Zuckerberg’s reconfiguration of Facebook’s corporate structure will fend off further efforts to hold Zuckerberg and Facebook accountable for the business decisions that Zuckerberg and Facebook have made is yet to be determined. The so-called “Facebook Papers,” the internal corporate documents made public by Frances Haugen, raise a lot of questions. Time will tell whether renaming the company will make critics, including members of Congress and other official types, disappear. I tend to think it probably won’t. 

The question I would like to raise here, however, is a different one. I want to question whether Zuckerberg’s “Metaverse” is going to be a space that people will actually want to inhabit. One blogger, whose blog is titled, “We Live In The Natural World,” has already decided that he wants no part of it. As he says, “If the future of the real world, the natural world, is to be replaced by this proposed faux, digital, 3D simulacrum of life, I’m glad I won’t live long enough to see its arrival.”

At any rate, I would like us to think about what this “Metaverse” really implies. 

I am fond of touting my “Two Worlds Hypothesis,” which suggests that we can learn important lessons by understanding “the world” as really being “two worlds,” the World of Nature, a world that preexists our own appearance on the scene, and the “Human World,” which is the world that we (human beings) have constructed within the World of Nature. We live most “immediately” in the Human World, but “ultimately,” we live in and depend upon the World of Nature – just as that “We Live in the Natural World” blog says. How then, does the “Metaverse” fit into this way of understanding our human situation?  

The “Metaverse” is clearly part of the “Human World,” because it is a human creation. However, most of the “Human World” is actually tightly integrated with the World of Nature. That is one reason that some people resist the idea that we should conceptualize our existence as being placed in “two worlds.” After all, our homes are built out of materials found in Nature. If we walk on city streets, or country roads, we will hear, smell, and see that “World of Nature” upon which everything ultimately depends. Not so in the “Metaverse.” 

The “Metaverse,” sometimes called “Augmented Reality,” is completely synthetic and artificial. It is the opposite of “reality.” While we are wearing the goggles, or while we look through the AR glasses that provide an entry into the “Metaverse,” everything we see is a simulacrum of the “reality” that is that combination of Nature and human effort that constitutes the world in which we most immediately live. The “Metaverse” is a next step towards a world in which Nature has no place at all. One tipoff is that his “Metaverse” is going to be “clean and well-lit.” The dirty secrets and dark corners of the human-nature amalgam that constitutes our current reality are eliminated. The “Metaverse” is – not only for Zuckerberg, but for everyone who is willing to follow him there – a kind of “escape hatch.”

I would like to suggest that trying to escape our current reality (a composite reality, in the way I see it) is not a good thing. The promises of the “Metaverse” are built on the idea that we can truly escape the World of Nature, the world of constraints, the world of dark corners and dirty secrets that are the ultimate reality that we may try to avoid confronting, but which world, in fact, is our true home. 

Trying to “escape” the world we have, with all its problems and difficulties, is the very most certain way to insure that we will have more of both. 

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 gapatton@mac.com

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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

    Leftovers

“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart”.
~Robert Fulghum  

“My wife cooks. I can’t cook. I can remix leftovers pretty good, though.”
Big Boi

“At school, I always wanted to belong to a gang, and no one would have me. So I’d have to make my own gang, but with everybody else’s leftovers”.
~Kristin Scott Thomas

“Wolves are afraid of humans, whereas dogs are not. Wolves hunt game, whereas dogs scavenge human leftovers or eat what their human companions put out for dinner. Wolves are not great at following human commands, whereas dogs are brilliant at it”. 
~Annie Lowrey

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Stephen Sondheim passed away on the 26th, and here is a very sweet tribute from the Broadway community.


COLUMN COMMUNICATIONS. Subscriptions: Subscribe to the Bulletin! You’ll get a weekly email notice the instant the column goes online. (Anywhere from Monday afternoon through Thursday or sometimes as late as Friday!), and the occasional scoop. Always free and confidential. Even I don’t know who subscribes!!
Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
Direct phone: 831 423-2468
All Technical & Web details: Gunilla Leavitt @ godmoma@gmail.com
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