Blog Archives

December 16 – 22, 2020

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…College towns voting for Biden, Quarnstrom poetry book, Scribner Statue news. GREENSITE… on how to ruin a historic icon: the Wharf and where to go from here. KROHN…District elections, conservatives & moderates, ranked choice voting, direct election of the mayor. STEINBRUNER…no column this week, Becky is filing a legal brief re. PureWater Soquel Project EIR. PATTON…Leftists and Moderates should get along. EAGAN…Classic Subconscious Comics and more Deep Cover opinions. QUOTES…”GIFTS”

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SANTA CRUZ CHRISTMAS EARTHQUAKE FLOOD. December 22, 1955. This is Pacific Avenue between what is now Rip N’ Curl and Paper Vision. This was also just about the week that Wally Trabing first started writing for the Sentinel. 

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE December 14      

DANCING IN LOS ANGELES. Big thanks to Scott MacClelland for finding this breathtaking video and using it in his Performing Arts Monterey Bay weekly

HOW BERKELEY AND SANTA CRUZ VOTED. Thanks to the Berkeley Daily Planet we now know what we probably suspected all along…Cities and towns with large student populations whose major employer is a college or university also tend to be strongly anti-Trump and pro-Biden. In addition to Berkeley, Cambridge and Amherst Mass, Evanston Illinois and the city of Ithaca New York make the list of cities with under 10% support for Trump. If you look at cities where Trump got only 10-15%, you’ll find even more college towns, including Santa Cruz, Davis and Palo Alto in California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; Boulder Colorado; Charlottesville, Virginia; Hanover, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont.  Other cities where Trump managed only 10-15% include San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Baltimore, Maryland; New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut; Richmond, Virginia, and Richmond, California. How Berkeley Voted Biden 93.3% Trump 4.0% – Trump Vote Second Lowest in Nation -Rob Wrenn

QUARNSTROM BOOK OF POETRY. Lee Quarnstrom is a noted reporter for the San Jose Mercury and the Watsonville Pajaronian. He also mucked about with the Merry Pranksters and we had many, many party nights together. He’s lived in La Habra for almost two decades. His wife Christine just wrote a book of fine poetry titled “I Knew I Was a Girl”, which she calls a memoir in poetry. In addition to a fine cover photo of Christine at a party with James Dean, it is full of poems that will impress you with their soul, humor and very unique style. You can order it at Bookshop Santa Cruz, or online at Amazon. (ps. There are some surprising stories involving Lee ,that I’d never heard.) 

TOM SCRIBNER, SCOPE PARK AND THE STATUE. During a recent interview on KSQD, Tom Noddy was a little vague on some details when he was talking about Tom Scribner and the statue’s conception. Marghe McMahon (that’s “Mar-“gee”, rhymes with “Mar key”) was a sculpture student at UCSC, and Professor Doyle Foreman was her teacher. On her own she decided to make that statue of Tom. She didn’t have enough money to pay for the bronze so Tom’s idea was to create a Musical Saw Festival, with the ticket sales to go to Marghe. That Musical Saw Fest drew, and has continued to draw, players and audiences from around the world, especially China. The organizers of S.C.O.P.E. welcomed the statue into SCOPE Park. SCOPE stood for Santa Cruz Organization for Progress and Euthenics. They managed the small triangle area at the intersection of Pacific and Mission streets by the Town Clock. Unfortunately Larry Edler and other Republicans in our then “right wing” town objected to the leftist Scribner statue being in so prominent a spot, and demanded its removal. Fortunately Neil Coonerty – then owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz – kindly offered a much more prominent location, right in front of the Bookshop, where it remains today. One other little-known fact is that Marghe was shocked, hurt, and disappointed when, in the final casting cool-off, the back of the statue collapsed! It’s hardly noticeable, and looks more like Tom’s aged frame. 

Scrolling around the tech universe to find something/anything worthwhile to watch can take patience, time, and disappointment. To aid your search I’ve added “Single” to the movies that are complete in one screening and “Series” to those with episodes.

PROM. [single] This is a big new musical, in every sense of the word. It stars Meryl Streep singing, dancing and mugging her way through this simple copy of a Stephen Sondheim-type show. Even though the “plot” centers on our serious and contemporary prejudice against gay men and lesbians, Streep, Nicole Kidman and James Corden make it all cute, flashy, obvious, and not quite memorable. 

UNDERWATER. [single] A truly unbelievable copy of every deep sea monster movie we’ve ever seen. Kristin Stewart and Vincent Cassel are in charge of a six mile deep oil drilling station in the Marianna Straits, or maybe Los Angeles! If you stay awake or interested long enough, you can see T.J. Miller – the geeky neighbor from the old Silicon Valley series – doing very little to keep this poorly-plotted saga from sinking deeper. 47 RT

THE GODFATHER. [series]. Now that Francis Ford Coppola has re-hashed and edited Godfather III into the newly released The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, I wanted to see just how memorable the series was/is. Watching Marlon Brando with stuffed cheeks, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall and good old and evil Sterling Hayden brings back many memories of the 1972 original thriller. Watch it again.

WHAT WE WANTED. [single] An Austrian relationship challenge. A couple can’t have children – whose fault is it? His or hers? We watch and relate to their struggle. They take a vacation in Sardinia. The couple next door add huge problems to our main characters. If you’ve had issues in your relationships, this may or may not be your best choice…but you will relate to this saga, I guarantee.

RAGNAROK. [series] A Norwegian environmental adventure. An interesting mix of Norse legends, Wagner, Thor and his hammer and all that jazz – except no Valkyries!!! A little Norway town called Edda is controlled by a PG& E type monster organization. Only Magne, the young hero – who looks like Chris Krohn – can save them. Good fun IF you like Norse/Viking/rune type history. 67 on RTomatoes. 

Still new Idea. The movies below are not ranked in any particular order. I’ve eliminated some of the most boring, time wasting flops…enjoy what’s left!!

MANK. [single] Mank is short for Mankiewicz as in Herman Mankiewicz who was the screenwriter of  Orson Welles “Citizen Kane”. C. Kane for non movie goers has been generally regarded as the best movie ever made. It’s on several worldwide “best of” lists and you owe it yourselves to see it at least once. But Mank the movie is mostly made for movie nuts. Amanda Seyfried plays Marion Davies, Charles Dance is William Randolph Hearst, and Tom Burke is Orson Welles. Mank was a professional screenwriter who drank more than anybody and somehow managed to finish the script for Citizen Kane just in time. Gary Oldman is way over the top when he plays Mank, but with the flash of this very Hollywood script he fits in perfectly. You’ll love it.

THE MITFORDS. [single] A fine documentary movie about the wild, wooly, and brilliant  six Mitford sisters. Plus there’s info here for all Santa Cruzans who remember when Jessica Mitford visited and lectured at UCSC. It should be called A Tale of Two Sisters. Jessica who we called Decca was an ardent left wing proponent. She married Oakland Civil Rights Attorney Robert Truehaft and they both attended my wedding in San Francisco back in 1967. Decca’s sister Diana was actually in love with Adolf Hitler and remained that far fascist right all of her life.  Watch this documentary it’s a family like no other.

A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK. [single] This is Woody Allen’s newest movie and although it bears a lot of resemblance to his earlier movies it’s only a poor copy at best.  It has a 45 on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s generous. Elle Fanning plays a poor copy of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall doing her flighty-nutty best to be like other humans. Jude Law is in it too but we’ll never figure out why, he does nothing to further anything. Timothee Chalamat is the usual Woody Allen type character in the movie and he has little reason to be there either.  It lacks the charm, sharp humor, social commentary and the class of what used to be Woody’s signature on cinema.

GHOSTS OF WAR. This World War II movie has a handful of  American troops occupying  a house that once belonged to a family that was tortured by the Nazis. The troops have visions both of the past and of the future including war scenes in Afghanistan. It’s about PTSD in the extreme. Maybe there are ghosts, maybe not. The makeup is poorly done, the acting is amateur at best. 

HILLBILLY ELEGY. A startling and impressive cast including Glen Close and Amy Adams in this movie directed by Ron Howard makes it worth watching. It’s a depressing story taken from the biography of J.D.Vance the author. He had a horrific, cruel childhood with a drug addict from law school. Heroic but depressing and it’s probably even worse than your childhood. Watch it but stay happy anyways.

PROFESSOR T. [series] Egged on by daughter Jennifer I too really liked the Belgian crime series Professor T. It’s not easily available so try going to PBS Passport series, its well worth your searching time. The Professor teaches at the Antwerp University and is a habitual germophobe. He advises the local police and detectives and manages to bring in humor which makes this 3 series very enjoyable. Beware of the German version and the Czech copy, 

LOVE AND ANARCHY. [series] It’s a Swedish half comedy with a fine plot. A beautiful babe who is mother to two children gets a job in a publishing company. There’s a lot of film buff material like Ingmar Bergman references, and that’s fun. But then the babe Sofie starts flirting and gets flirting back from a much younger techie at the company. How she and he handle it and their lives makes it fascinating and we get to watch the rise and fall of their relationship and the publishing house.

CARMEL or WHO KILLED MARIA MARTA. This documentary takes place not in Our Carmel but in Carmel, Buenos Aires. Thought to be an accident Marias body was found drowned in her bathtub. After much politics and news reporters telling of the story bullets were discovered  in her skull. Well paced, excellently timed, perfectly photographed, this is one to enjoy as the unsuspected truth is unraveled.

EYE FOR AN EYE. This is a Spanish drama and one you won’t forget. A wealthy, feared drug lord wants to get out of the “business” and goes to a rest home to retire. As luck has it he gets assigned to a male nurse who has suffered greatly from his unwanted connections with drug use. He has to decide in many ways whether or not to revenge the wrongs that were done to him. How he treats the drug king is so touching and revealing…and well done.

THE LIFE AHEAD. To see Sophia Loren at age 86, and see her looking like she’s 86 is a treat. She plays a holocaust survivor who acts as mother to some children of prostitutes.  Her interaction with a Senegalese 14 year old boy is a neat piece of cinema and it’s directed by her son Edourdo Ponti. 

THE MAN WITHOUT GRAVITY. Another Italian near fable about a baby born and floating to the ceiling attached to his umbilical cord. What he does with his life, and his decisions about letting the world know he floats make a near masterpiece. Not too near Italian Classics like “Life Is Beautiful” or “Amarcord” it’s still fun to think about.

THE 12TH MAN. The 12th Man is one of 12 Norwegian resistance soldiers who plan to blow up the Nazi invaders of their land. The Nazis kill 11 and the extra brave survivor becomes the target of a Nazi general. The very most loyal locals help hide the man who suffers terribly from ice, rain, and bullets survive and he makes it finally and safely back to Sweden. Fine film (or movie) and it’s based on a true story.  

CROWN. [series] I binged watched almost all of the new fourth season of Crown last Sunday, and loved it. Margaret Thatcher, The Falkland Islands, and of course Princess Diana make for exciting and involving viewing. Super acting and gorgeous photography make it even better. It’s odd and curious how Americans remain so hooked on and fascinated by England’s hierarchy. Not one in a thousand of us could tell you who runs Canada or Mexico but Britain’s Elizabeth’s and Diana’s secrets just never stop hooking us in. By all means view this Netflix series.   

INDUSTRY. [series] A young black female student from NYC goes to London to handle a job with a huge financial institution. She competes, challenges, loses, and wins against her fellow young employees. Well written, great acting, extra fast moving with little script padding. It’s on HBO and got a 78 on Rotten Tomatoes for its’ first episode. 

FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS. If you are a fan or follower of Werner Hertzog ( Fitzcarraldo, Heart of Glass, Lessons of Darkness) you won’t be surprised to know this new “documentary” of his involves visitors from outer space. Herzog and crew travel the earth finding bits and pieces of meteorites millimeters across to craters measuring miles across that have some traces of outer space creation. This movie makes a strong case for extraterrestrial life, and for the idea that we have been ignoring messages from way out there. Good to watch.   

THE QUEENS GAMBIT. [series]This earned a 100 on Rotten Tomatoes and deserved it. It’s from a novel about an orphan who learns chess from the janitor. She takes pills to cause phantom chess games, drinks , and in spite of all her weaknesses she manages to take on and beat almost every world champion. You don’t need to know chess to enjoy it.

SECRETS OF THE SAQQARA TOMB. [single] A straight documentary about how archeology works. It digs around a pharaoh’s tomb and will teach you much more about archeology than you thought you knew. It’s a change from what we “normally” watch.

THE UNDOING. [series] (HBO) Nicole Kidman and a older looking and very serious Hugh Grant take the leads as a gorgeous psychiatrist who’s married to a kind and empathetic doctor. They have a son who has a beautiful girlfriend. Everything’s fine until a murder happens. Being HBO this takes weeks to watch and the first three episodes look good so far. The finale is terrible and makes us wish we never watched any of this series. 

 DOLLY PARTON: HERE I AM. We’ll never see an off-screen minute of Dolly Parton. She’s always on and always surprising. She’s written over 3000 songs, she’s 74 years old, been married 30 years and this documentary is wonderful whether you are a fan or not.  Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin love her and talk about their friendship when they made “9 to 5”. Click on it.  

BORAT: SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM. [single] Supposedly a follow up to Sasha Baron Cohen’s earlier Borat movie. I copied some adjectives from other critics that I agree with…repugnant, filthy, incestuous, shocking, crude, cringing, appalling, harsh, repellent, menstrual and more. It also has a very strange actual scene with Rudy Giuliani and another with Tom Hanks that I’ll never figure out. Do not watch this mess.

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7. [single]This new movie written and directed by Aaron Sorkin is a fascinating movie , a good movie BUT it simply isn’t an honest look at what happened at the trial of the Chicago 7. Characters are added, romances are hinted at and Eddie Redmayne’s role as Tom Hayden is simply off base. Senator Bill Monning sent me a critique of the movie by Rennie Davis who is/was part of the 7. Former Santa Cruz Mayor Chris Krohn sent me another political reaction from the Berkeley Barb. They agree that this movie really adds lightness and Hollywood touches to a very important civil rights stepping stone. Watch it but be very aware. I’m also proud to tell you that on October 30, 2008 our then State Assemblyman Bill Monning (now our retired Calif. Senator) brought Tom Hayden to my KZSC radio program Universal Grapevine. We didn’t talk about his marriage to Jane Fonda and the movie doesn’t touch it either.   

BORGEN. [series]I started watching this series months ago, it’s one of the finest series I’ve seen. Now the world’s critics and audiences are catching up on it. Here’s what I wrote back on Feb. 5…

Borgen translates as “the castle” in Danish, and I must tell you that I’ve been totally immersed in this three season iTunes saga since my daughter Hillary found and recommended it. It’s the story of a woman who becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark. If you like politics and wonder what a politician’s life is like, forget any American versions and watch this instead. The show started in 2010, and from what I hear it won’t go past the third series. Forget “Veep”, “House of Cards”, “The West Wing” and the rest… Borgen is far superior. I’d give you your money back IF and etc….but it would be too much trouble, and you’ll love it too. Now there’s talk of a fourth episode to be released in 2021 with the original cast and on Netflix.

CALL MY AGENT. Daughter Hillary found this one and she’s right, it’s a good one. There might be a problem in finding this one under that title on Netflix, if so try “Dix Pour Cent”. Billed as a comedy it centers on the lives of the talent agents and stars who work at a famous show biz agency in Paris. Tempers, jokes, love affairs, and much talent all get very mixed and still it’s almost riveting.

THE GLORIAS. [single] This bio-pic of Gloria Steinem is a good one. Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander and two more women/girls play her in this near dream like history of the womens’ movement and her part in it. Julie Taymor directed it and does portray Gloria as her real mini-skirt, long nails gorgeous self. Timothy Hutton is in it too nut he shouldn’t have been. It has much fantasy, dreams, animation and oddly placed moves that obscure the important view of women’s equality fights that Steinman was an integral part of. Bette Midler plays Bella Abzug. Watch it, and don’t snicker at the odd ball parts

EMILY IN PARIS. [series] Lily Collins is Emily. Emily is from Chicago and is sent to Paris as a company rep. The Paris group doesn’t like her and Emily has a rough time adjusting to France. Cute, clever, time consuming, charming, and I imagine the series will be the same.

TEHRAN. It has a 93 on Rotten Tomatoes!! An international spy killer-thrill series. It mixes Iran, Tehran, Jordan, Israel’s internal wars with a young woman’s attempt to steal government high tech secrets. Complex, well acted, and if you can keep up with identities, you can continue forgetting about movie theatres.

CRIMINAL. [series] This is an unusual series that consists of four different story lines on four different websites. There’s Criminal: United Kingdom, Criminal: Germany, Criminal: Spain and Criminal: France. All episodes were filmed in Spain and center on criminals each being questioned and interviewed in exactly the same interrogating room with a very important two-way mirror separating them from the cops and legal team. I’ve watched almost all of the four series, they are clever, well acted, puzzling in a good way and well worth your time.

THE VOW. 82 ON Rotten Tomatoes is just about what I’d give this documentary. NXIVM is the name of a self awareness, mindfulness group. It has masters and slaves and even branding women members in private places. It’s a documentary but not your average documentary. If you’ve ever belonged to or have thought about joining one like maybe Scientology don’t miss this partial opening of their secret doors. Just a few weeks ago (Nov.2) Keith Raniere, the real life NXIVM leader was sentenced to 120 years in prison.

RATCHED. Named and promoted as a back story to the famed Nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher in Jack Nicolson’s and Ken Kesey’s  “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” book.For some reason the hospital is changed from a military rehab center in Menlo Park, where Kesey did time, to a spacious retreat in Lucia, which is near Big Sur. Judy Davis, Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon and believe it or not, Sharon Stone are in it. It’s a gruesome movie with such scenes as a doctor hammering an ice pick into a patient’s eye or being given a severed head as a present. The lesbian sub plot is very insensitive, so is the sodomy story…don’t bother.

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA. [single] This one hour and 20 minute documentary a Netflix original is so important, good, and timely. It focuses on the control the internet has over us now and the inevitable growth it will take as time goes by. The control goes much deeper than your searching for a toaster on Amazon and seeing toasters pop up on the next 20 screens you open. It’s about how Facebook, Twitter, Google, You Tube and many more. Are controlling how long we watch and how often we click on any site, then selling the data from our views to advertisers. They work hard to change our groups of friends to bring people with similar views together politically, religiously and change our lives in the process. My notes while watching say things like…the future and Utopia or oblivion,  causing a civil war, ruining a global economy, prioritizing what keeps us on our screen, election advertising, existential threat, can’t agree on what is truth, assault on democracy and on and on. Do see this documentary and think about it and us and yourself. … 

RAKE. [series] I’m still enthralled with watching RAKE. It’s one of the most consistent brilliant funny, curious, serious, series I’ve ever seen. It’s a Netflix feature from Australia back in 2010. This week Netflix introduced Charlie Kaufmann’s newest movie “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”. You need warnings about Kaufmann’s films. Remember “Being John Malkovich”, “Synecdoche, New York” and especially “Eternal Sunshine of the Eternal Mind”. “I’m Thinking” is one of his impressionistic, dreamlike. Psychological adventure voyages. It’ll stay with you for days after. 

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December 14 

CHOPPING OFF THE WHARF’S HISTORY
What would Henry John Brunnier think of the recently approved Wharf Master Plan (WMP) with its changes that threaten to transform the Wharf into an almost unrecognizable structure? Born in Iowa and the first in his town to go to State College, he moved to San Francisco in 1906, establishing an engineering firm that helped design many of San Francisco’s most prominent buildings and landmarks. He also designed the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. It is said that he spent a year living on Beach Hill, carefully studying the winds, the waves and the storms before attempting any design. That the Wharf (strictly speaking a pier) is still going strong after 106 years is no small testament to his engineering talents. Jutting a half-mile into the Pacific Ocean with its distinctive L-shape to lessen the impact of storm waves, it is among the longest wooden ocean piers in the world and the longest on the Pacific Coast of the United States.

Any changes to such an iconic structure belonging to the people of Santa Cruz (Municipal) should be broached with care, mindful of preserving its history and with broad support of the community.  With recent approval of the WMP, city staff and the city council majority failed on all three accounts. From the initial solicitation of federal Disaster Relief Funds based on the bogus claim of “severe damage” to the Wharf due to the tsunami, to the slipping of this Disaster Relief money to a SF design firm to draft the WMP, to the dismissal of massive public opposition, city staff and council majority have made it clear, we barely matter. Nor it seems does the Wharf, except as a cash cow and that is not a given.

Just one example of cash cow thinking is the plan to achieve 40 extra parking spots by restriping the current Wharf parking bays. That is, to make them narrower down to the legal limit. If you’ve ever parked on the Wharf on a busy day you might be forgiven for not thinking “wow, these parking spaces are overly wide; they sure could narrow them!” Zero thought given to those with a little less mobility and no, it won’t encourage them to ride a bike; it will only discourage them from visiting the Wharf. Many of these are long time locals whose support of the Wharf over decades has helped keep it afloat financially. But as the ROMA design firm said, there’s a need to change the demographics of visitors to the Wharf.

In the community’s critique of the most objectionable changes in the WMP, focus has been on the domineering Landmark Building at the Wharf’s southern end, an empty, hollow building that will cover the sea lion viewing holes. That plus the lowered Western Walkway, which both impacts migratory bird habitat and ruins the historical character, form and line of the wooden pilings. 

Yet there is another change that threatens the essence of this historical landmark and that is the new Wharf entrance plus sign. This new entrance, 70 feet wide, will be built on steel, not wood pilings with an 18 feet tall roll down gate to be closed at night plus a 6-8 feet tall sign on top of that. From the artist’s rendition it has all the charm of a freeway toll-booth. If you haven’t quite got the picture, visualize this entrance a long way down the Wharf, where the Wharf currently widens. So much for historical uniqueness as one of the longest wooden ocean piers in the world! The city has essentially chopped off 500 feet of its length, leaving the historical beginning of the Wharf as little more than a gangplank to the fun and recreation platform beyond the toll-booths. I believe I heard a gasp from Mr. Brunnier. As if that isn’t enough, to pay for parking, unlike the current arrangement, visitors will need to park and then hunt for one of the dozen parking pay stations that will be strategically placed along the Wharf’s length. We all know how much fun they are, let alone the visual clutter they will introduce.  

Some, including the CA Coastal Commission detailed concerns about the entrance and the sign but the city consultants in their trademark sunny, upbeat tone, celebrate this abomination as: “An attractive entrance sign will be centrally located atop the parking gates and will be designed to be visible from a distance, while keeping with the character of the Wharf, as determined through additional community engagement” 

The photos below are what the city staff and council majority view as inspirational images and examples of effective landmark signage.

While the WMP has been approved by city council with council members Sandy Brown and Katherine Beiers voting against it, approval from the CA Coastal Commission has to be obtained as it relates to the Coastal Act. Access is important to the Coastal Commission. If you consider narrowing the current parking bays and requiring people to use pay stations on a long Wharf negatively impacts access for certain demographics, now is the time to let them know. It is also germane to let them know what you think of the entrance, the gate and sign, the Landmark building and the Western Walkway since the Coastal Commission had questions and concerns about all those aspects of the WMP. They and the overwhelming majority of the community were brushed off by the city: so much for government by, of and for the people.  

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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December 14, 2020

DISTRICT ELECTIONS IN SANTA CRUZ
The conservatives and moderates–the Con-Mods–in Santa Cruz are getting near giddy. They just elected a super-majority, a solid 5-2 real estate-developer-friendly city council. Before, it was a 4-3 progressive council. That is, before the recall of Drew Glover and me the city council was consistently opposed to district elections. Not only did we oppose district elections we likely would’ve joined in the Santa Monica city council law suit in their fight to preserve at-large elections. The law suit is now headed to the state supreme court. By the way, anti-union right-wing Republican, Lanny Ebenstein from Santa Barbara assisted in bringing this law suit against Santa Cruz forward. His suit basically would impose district elections because Latinos, a “protected class,” do not often get elected to the Santa Cruz city council, it happened twice since 2000, Tony Madrigal and David Terrazas (Santa Cruz Faces Voting Rights Lawsuit ). Fair Vote, a Washington, D.C. voting rights organization that promotes Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) looked at where Latinos vote in Santa Cruz and determined that a Latin X district could not be fairly put together because Latinos are spread throughout the city. This case may seem simple on the surface, after all who wouldn’t want Latinos more fairly represented on the city council? But in reality, it’s a bit more complex and its real intention, politically and cynically, is to actually go after the most diverse voting base in the city, UCSC students. That is, why not gerrymander the campus vote and include it with that of upper Westside homeowners, then it would be unlikely that the bulk of campus votes could even sway that one district let alone the election of councilmembers over the entire city. 

Political Triple Crown
The Con-Mods believe they’ve just returned from the crusades. They mounted their bi-annual political dark horse campaign, expecting to cut off only a few leftist trophy heads, but lo and behold, they’re about to arrive into the Triple Crown winner’s circle. First leg; obtain a super-majority council, done. Second leg,  get council to support district elections in order to extirpate that pesky student vote, done. Third leg, direct super majority to hire a demographer who will conjure up district maps favorable to the new super-majority and then they will vote on it, almost done. With the Santa Monica case now waiting to be heard by the state supreme court, the prudent, and cheaper, thing to do would be to wait for their ruling. The ostensible reason for the city of Santa Cruz to move towards a district election system was because of the law suit, but the Santa Monica case… (Closing Brief)  is similar and no law suit here will have much weight until that voting rights case is settled by the supreme court. The Con-Mods, supported by other status quo political-types, will have none of it. They plan to plow forward with district elections by possibly as early as the next election in 2022. But the worst part of this district election decision is that the current super-majority shoves this issue into closed session every time it comes up. There has never been a public discussion, that I am aware, at a regularly scheduled city council meeting. This is called, government in secret.

Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked Choice Voting, RCV, cannot always be neatly explained, but has proven to be a more equitable voting system because it works in electing diverse candidates and potentially saving money. Instead of moving towards district elections, which I am not opposed to outright, could RCV be a remedy in getting more LGBTQ and BIPOC residents elected to the city council? Secondly, on that same diversity front, Santa Cruz elected two African-American men in 2018 and two African-American women in 2020. The current city council now also has six females occupying seven of its seats, and there are at least three renters among them. This does not only represent change, it is a tectonic shift in minority and female representation. If we want fairer elections, we might turn towards ranked choice voting which San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro have all implemented in recent years.

How RCV works:

  • Everyone has 1 vote. Ranking your favorite candidate more than once will not help them because your vote will only be counted once for that candidate. 
  • Indicating only one choice or “bullet voting,” does not help your favorite candidate because a 2nd choice only counts if your 1st choice is eliminated.

For more information, go to: Fair Vote CA, Tips For Voters 

Direct Election of Mayor
For far too long the Santa Cruz mayor has been elected by a majority of seven city councilmembers. “Learn how to count to four,” is the way one long-time councilmember used to intone. The prevailing myth among voters, and touted by certain councilmembers, is that the top vote-getter first becomes vice-mayor and then mayor. The reality is that this unwritten rule has been violated several times throughout recent history. Lining up and commanding four votes is the basic reality for any mayor chosen by the council, but is this the fairest method and does it produce the most effective mayor for the city? Many cities directly elect their mayors, and many here in Santa Cruz falsely believe the voters elect the Santa Cruz mayor. Anecdotally, when I was mayor (2002) people often would remind me that they voted for me when in fact the city council made that decision. So, why not end this charade and have voters directly elect the mayor? The mayor could then take a more commanding role in local government, a role that is often usurped by the city manager. 

Electoral Suggestion List
How do we make elections in Santa Cruz fairer, more inclusive, and realize better policy out comes? Glad you asked. Here are my suggestions. I am taking my ideological hat off and from my experience in and out of government I believe Santa Cruzans would be better served if the following changes were implemented:

  1. Institute a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system county-wide, if not state-wide.
  2. divide the city up into FOUR districts representing four city council seats, all chosen by districts, Eastside, Westside, Downtown, and University. Then elect two other members at-large, meaning all city residents get to vote on these two seats as well. That’s six seats so far.
  3. Directly elect the mayor, who would also be the seventh city council vote. Allow the mayor to choose the city manager, but give veto power to the city council in making that decision. This means the mayor and council have to work more closely together too. Now, a big one…allow the mayor to hire and fire city department heads as is now done only by the city manager. Again, the seven-member council would be able to veto any department head selection.

Final Note–The reason for two at-large seats is to allow all voters to retain the ability to vote for FOUR city councilmembers, a council majority that would include their own district representative, the two at-large members, and the mayor as well. Let me know your thoughts about these suggestions at ckrohn@cruzio.com

The Santa Cruz Political Report Goes to KSQD, 90.7
KSQD gave me a few shows and I am on my third week now. This Thursday at 5 pm my guests will include David Terrazas and Tim Fitzmaurice. We will be discussing district elections, Ranked Choice Voting, and the direct election of our mayor. Join us, Thurs. Dec. 17, at 5 pm, 90.7 FM, or on the internet.

“I represent Corona. It has an extremely high concentration of frontline, essential, & immigrant workers. Our people are the ones who ride subways hours to clean houses, deliver takeout, etc w/o insurance & left out of relief. It’s not a mystery, it’s inequality.” (Dec. 14)

Over 200 union enthusiasts came out, masked and socially distanced, last Friday night to support a unionizing effort on the part of Bookshop Santa Cruz workers. Among the demands were a living wage, healthcare, and pursuing alternatives to police entering the store when possibly a counselor or healthcare worker is actually needed. 
c

Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 14 years. He was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. His term ended in April of 2020.

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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December 14. 

There’s no column this week from Becky…she’s filing a legal brief in the Court of Appeals today regarding the PureWater Soquel Project EIR.

(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).

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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December 12
#347 / Comments On The Democratic Civil War

Michelle Goldberg, who writes for The New York Times, has some advice for the Democratic Party, as conveyed in the headline of Goldberg’s November 18, 2020 newspaper columnLeftists and Moderates, Stop Fighting. You Need One Another.

Goldberg calls the phenomenon she discusses a “Democratic Civil War.” As an example of what she is talking about, she specifically references recent exchanges between Connor Lamb (pictured to the left, above) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (pictured to the right). Lamb is a Democratic Member of Congress from Pennsylvania, just reelected. Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Member of Congress from New York. She was just reelected, too. 

After the election, according to news reports, Lamb “slammed” Ocasio-Cortez for “not being a team player,” and Ocasio-Cortez faulted Lamb for what she thought was a rather uninspired and lackluster campaign. The Atlantic weighed in on this conflict in an article by Elaine Godfrey that carried the headline, “The Democratic Truce Is Over.”

Here is how Goldberg described the situation in her column:

Today’s Democrats … are currently locked in an internecine battle between progressives and moderates. It’s a frustrating and destructive fight because both sides are partly right.

It’s the job of the activist left to push political limits, staking out positions that sound radical today but could, with enough work, seem like common sense in the future. But in the short term, an assertive left that garners national attention can threaten the political survival of Democrats who answer to a more conservative electorate.

In a postelection interview with The Times’s Astead Herndon, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed frustration with those who are blaming leftists for Democrats’ down-ballot losses. “Progressive policies do not hurt candidates,” she insisted, noting swing-district Democrats who had co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation and the Green New Deal and had kept their seats.

But most candidates who endorsed those initiatives were in safer districts than those who didn’t. When moderate Democrats like Conor Lamb and Abigail Spanberger say that left-wing slogans are poisonous in their communities, people who don’t live in those communities should take them seriously.

Moderates need radicals to expand their scope for action. Radicals need moderates to wield power in a giant heterogeneous country with sclerotic institutions and deep wells of reaction. Neither camp could have defeated Donald Trump on its own. It’s frustrating now, as it was heartbreaking in 2004, that revanchist Republicans retain such a hold on America. But that’s all the more reason for Democrats to stop their counterproductive sniping and work together to beat them.

Goldberg’s observation that Democrats should “work together” is certainly appropriate. “Internecine” battles always weaken the group in which they occur. In fact, as the built-in Google Dictionary puts it, the word “internecine” is an adjective that is applied to anything that is “destructive to both sides in a conflict.”

If it’s a “lose-lose” argument, why don’t both sides just cut it out?

Well, Democrats might well join Goldberg in hoping they will, but let me suggest a factor that is not much noted in our national political discussions. I have actually mentioned this before, in my blog posting on November 19, 2020. The factor I am talking about is the decline of a genuine federalism, which is the basis upon which our particular form of democratic self-government is supposed to operate.

We do live in “a giant heterogeneous country,” as Goldberg says, and our Constitution, acknowledging this, deemphasizes the “national” government, and emphasizes the primacy of our “state” governments. We are, after all, the United “States” of America, with our national government specifically identified as a government of “limited” powers. It is our different state governments that are supposed to do most of the “governing.” 

Why should Lamb and Ocasio-Cortez fight? He is from one place. She is from another. They’re different places, and they have different constituencies. It is presumptuous for Ocasio-Cortez to tell Lamb what sort of a campaign he should have run (he did get reelected, after all), and it is presumptuous of Lamb to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez’ advocacy, employing arguments that are winning arguments in her district, should have been modified to be pleasing to voters in Lamb’s district, where Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t running.

In a truly federal system, each individual congressional campaign would be separate. There wouldn’t be any need for Lamb and Ocasio-Cortez to snipe at each other. Once elected, the different flavors of “Democrats,” elected from all across the nation – which is, truly, a giant and “heterogenous” nation – would then work in Congress on policy issues and try to come to a politically effective resolution. Please note, “Republicans” could even take part in those negotiations and discussions. Working out differences – and thus illuminating those differences – would occur within the halls of Congress, not so much in the various campaigns, which all would be different, and reflect local conditions. That may not be the way it is now, but that is the way it used to be.

Today, our Members of Congress no longer run solely in their own districts, with campaigns aimed to succeed in those districts. All Democrats, and this includes the entire spectrum, from Ocasio-Cortez to Lamb, are actually running “nationally.”

This last election was an election in which “Democrats” were trying to make a national appeal to all voters, everywhere, as Democrats. Democratic Party candidates from every state in the nation were seeking money and assistance from all across the country. National media illuminated the issues on a national basis. Of course, the Republican Party was doing the same thing as the Democrats. Our politics, in other words, has become “nationalized,” and if there is going to be a “national” Democratic Party that operates a “nationalized” campaign, as opposed to individual candidates who run campaigns aimed at their individual districts, and whose campaigns are based on local issues, there really will be no way to avoid the problems documented by Goldberg and Godfrey. 

When you think about it, the kind of national politics that has been emerging in the United States reflects a “parliamentary” approach. In a parliamentary system, what is most important is the candidate’s “party,” not the individual candidate. Parliamentary systems operate from the “top down,” not from the “bottom up,” which is how our system of federalism is intended to operate. 

Which system is better? There are some advantages to each. One way or another, though, we need to find a way to end the “Civil War,” and until and unless we actually change the system that is reflected in our Constitution, I think I’m inclined to stick with federalism, and with that timeless advice from Tip O’Neill

All Politics Is Local

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

“GIFTS”

“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art”.
~Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

“Critique, feedback, reaction to one’s work or the way they have presented it, regardless of intention, is a gift”.  
~Mark Brand 

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy”.
~Meryl Streep

To me, life is a gift, and it’s a blessing to just be alive. And each person should learn what a gift it is to be alive no matter how tough things get”. 
~Tony Bennett

Reaction videos are a thing. Some of them are fun and cool, some of them are oh-so cringey… this one is somewhere in the middle, but a fun topic, so I went for it.


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Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
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Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
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