Blog Archives

December 22, 2021 – January 4, 2022

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Abbott Square’s owner? Santa Cruz Opera Society celebrates. GREENSITE…on Don’t Morph the Wharf v. City of Santa Cruz results. KROHN…Will be back in January. STEINBRUNER…Soquel Creek Water District and dirty water issue, new Watsonville Mayor, Wildfire defuse. HAYES… Post Fire Early Winter Mixed Conifer Forest. PATTON…Violence Interrupters. MATLOCK…musings on Mar-A Lago, Trump, Birx, Nunes, McConnell and Freedom Tree. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Leftovers II”

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SNOW IN SANTA CRUZ!! One of my favorite photos that answers the big question, “does it ever snow in Santa Cruz?”. This was 1957 and was at the then corner of Mission and Water Streets or Front and Pacific. The Bianchi sign on the once McHugh Bianchi market is now the Bank of the West.                          

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE December 20
      

ABBOTT SQUARE MARKET, THE OCTAGON, MAH AND LEGAL ISSUES. The following issue (word for word) is from a very trustworthy observer, someone I’ve known for decades. It centers on the business dealings of Tom and John McEnery. John McEnery IV’s firm owns our Abbott Square Market, which now includes seven restaurants and two bars. It also owns the Oakland Assembly food hall project. Martin Menne the president of MCM also “serves as development partner with Barry Swenson Builder in several Bay Area projects” according to their website.

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“Former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery is at the center of a new lawsuit over an alleged botched business deal involving the city’s popular San Pedro Square Market.

John McEnery IV filed a federal lawsuit Monday against his uncle, Tom McEnery, alleging that the former mayor exploited him for his own financial gain.

Tom McEnery, who served as mayor from 1983 to 1991, is part-owner of the market — located on St. John Street between San Pedro and Almaden in downtown San Jose — along with his nephew, John McEnery IV, and MCM Diversified Inc., an investment company created and managed by Martin Menne. The market, which opened in 2011, consists of two main buildings with an eclectic mix of food and drink vendors and a large outdoor plaza.

John McEnery IV lives in South Carolina and began looking for ways to sell off part of his shares in the market after indoor businesses were shut down due to COVID-19 public health orders.

“Cash flow stopped, and John P. McEnery IV’s investment became harder to justify from a financial perspective. Unlike his wealthy uncle, McEnery IV’s investment in the LLCs represented a significant portion of his family’s financial assets and income,” the lawsuit states.

John McEnery IV started talking with his cousin, Oliver Herning, about selling him a portion of his shares. But, according to the lawsuit, the former mayor and Menne tried to intentionally ruin that venture soon after they caught wind of it. Tom McEnery allegedly began dropping by the home of Herning and “pulled out all the stops” to dissuade him from continuing discussions with his cousin, according to the lawsuit. Tom McEnery and Menne’s efforts eventually were successful and Herning walked away from the negotiations, depriving John McEnery of a viable business partner and the loss of at least $75,000, the suit states.

Patrick Hammon, a partner at the McManis Faulkner Law Firm, called it a “sad case.”

“There have been quite a few bad business dealings between members of the McEnery family for years,” Hammon said. “And it’s sad that the former mayor interfered with a business discussion between his nephew and another one of his nephews.”

Tom McEnery, who said he has yet to be served, called the lawsuit “unfortunate.”

“What we’re trying to do is keep 17 small businesses going within the market and make sure we can pay our bills,” he said.

The former mayor added that he felt the prominent San Jose-based attorney representing his nephew, James McManis, has some sort of vendetta against him.

In 2009, when Tom McEnery’s family first proposed the construction of a public market in downtown, McManis filed a complaint with the city’s Ethics Commission on behalf of an anonymous critic.

The 2009 complaint accused Tom McEnery and his family of failing to disclose dozens of meetings, as required by lobbying disclosure rules, while seeking $6 million in city redevelopment aid for the construction of what would become San Pedro Square Market. The complaint was dismissed after a five-month independent investigation that found the McEnery’s made a good-faith effort to comply with the lobbying rules despite a few omissions deemed unintentional. The identity of the anonymous critic was never revealed.  Hammon disputes Tom McEnery’s claims, saying that the law firm would never use a client’s case to sort out personal matters”. 

Now the question is what will our Santa Cruz County Government (the County owns Abbott Square, the City doesn’t) do about protecting this property? The loss of funds, the looming job losses and proper oversight of the entire operation are all in serious question.

SANTA CRUZ OPERA SOCIETY CELEBRATES. As a very long time supporter and opera lover (I’ve attended over 300 performances) I was delighted to attend the 45th anniversary celebration of the founding of SCOSI (Santa Cruz Opera Society Incorporated) by Miriam Ellis and Lili Hunter. In addition to seeing SCOSI members again we were gifted with a vocal performance by soprano Lori Schulman with maestro Michel Singher at the piano. It’s groups/friends like these that make Santa Cruz such a special place to live…BRAVO!

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.

SWAN SONG. (APPLE TV SINGLE). (6.6 IMDB) Mahershala Ali is an incredibly great actor and plays a man in the near future who decides to allow himself to be cloned by Dr. Glenn Close because he’s dying from some disease and doesn’t want his family to suffer from his departure. He has fine scenes with his double which are good fun to watch and the entire plot is intriguing. You can get quite involved with how you’d react to dealing with the real you or your double. Good for the whole family.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (81RT). I’ve never forgotten the 1947 version of Nightmare Alley starring Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell. It was awe inspiring and not in a good way. This new one stars Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara and doesn’t quite have the power of the early version. . It’s about the rise and disastrous fall of a huckster turned geek. Toni Collette, Cate Blanchett and even Ron Perlman don’t move the plot fast enough but they still remain the very best of our contemporary character actors

THE HAND OF GOD. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (82RT) An absorbing, perfectly acted, sensitive story of a young boy coming of age in Naples. Full of cinema touches like Fellini, religion, sex, Stromboli, and even an international soccer star, this is a surefire way to ease the holiday season. Don’t miss it. 

THE COYOTES. (NETFLIX SERIES) (5.2 IMDB) A squad of scouts in Belgium go into the woods and one of them finds some diamonds previously owned by the Mafia while he’s high on some kind of psychedelic. Hiding a body, questioning brother’s loyalty, fighting to be free of parental control all add up to a watchable series. 

IN THE EARTH. (HULU SINGLE) (5.2 IMDB) (79RT). Filmed in England just after the covid pandemic hit this film depends on our fear and worries to produce a very scary movie. 98 percent of the effects are done by easy camera edits and they work. It’s gruesome, bloody, and savage, contains flashing lights, and is a genuine unique thriller about being lost in the woods with something like Covid threatening at every turn. 

BRUISED. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.2 IMDB) (54RT). Halle Berry both directed and stars in this woman centered martial arts boxing in a cage soap opera. Berry plays a former boxing champ who’s fallen on hard times. Will she make it in her big championship bout is the question. It’s predictable, and she’s given the chance to become a good mother when her deserted son is returned to her. It could have been a much more exciting, biting movie.

SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, or PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.  

VIENNA BLOOD. (PRIME SERIES). (7.5 IMDB). It’s the very old story of the detective with an aide who actually makes the plot work. It’s 1906 in Vienna and the detective has a young Doctor who is far superior to his supposed mentor. There’s a suicide that really isn’t a suicide and some séance ghost friends who add to this very light, almost comedy. Enjoyable but not necessary.

THE UNFORGIVABLE. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (7.2 IMDB). Sandra Bullock plays a convict released from prison in search of her younger sister who was sent to adoptive parents. Solemn, sad, involving, but also containing some unbelievable plot points. The surprise ending changes everything the film was built on and makes it an involving but not great cinema effort. 

PIG. (HULU SINGLE). (6.9 IMDB). Not quite the sequel to Julia, this centers on Nicolas Cage as a famed master chef in Portland who gave it all up and lives in the woods with his truffle hunting pig. He spends the entire film searching for his stolen pig and encounters both bad and good adventures from his past life. Unusual, and contains deep connections about what’s important in our lives. 

BEING THE RICARDOS. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.2 IMDB) Quite surprisingly I’m having a tough time forgetting this movie about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem do as good as or better than anyone we could imagine. It’s about a week in the production of the I Love Lucy series when all involved have to deal with Lucy’s communism, her having a baby on television, Desi’s infidelity and more. Aaron Sorkin directed and wrote the movie and if you’ve ever wondered about Lucy’s real genius and ability to succeed on and off screen against all odds, you’ll like this one. 

AND JUST LIKE THAT. (HBO MAX). (6.4 IMDB). Sex and The City revisited from when the three city dwellers were cute and nerdy to now when they are in their 50″s and have wrinkles and somewhat deeper issues. Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis are still somewhat interesting to watch but the plot lines get tangled. They talk about a face problems with sex, semen, masturbation, racial problems, and gender decisions, and manage to get some laughs too. 

BORDERTOWN. THE MURAL MURDERS. (NETFLIX SINGLE & SERIES). 6.4 IMDB. A serial killer is on the loose in this Finnish dramatic mystery. But the killer only kills bad people who have been on police lists to be watched and investigated. Murals are painted with the blood of the victims. It’s tense, exciting and the acting is superior.

Dr. BRAIN. (APPLE TV). (7.0 IMDB). Famed Korean director Jee-woon Kim creates a weird fantasy when a brain Doctor has serious problems trying NOT to remember his childhood and all the pain and deaths it involved. He discovers new truths no one else can decipher. Then he learns how to transfer memories and thoughts from new cadavers and even animals into his own consciousness. A superior plot and unlike anything we’ve seen on any screen.

LANDSCAPERS. (HBO SERIES). (100RT) (7.6 IMDB) Brand new and each episode will be released on Mondays. Olivia Colman and David Thewlis costar in this comedy drama about an elderly couple who have some secrets in their past. It’s got a unique style that keeps us guessing about what really happened and why. With those two stars heading the cast it has to be great and a bit slow moving at times but it’s not to be missed.

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SANTA CRUZ ACTORS THEATRE announced….

“8 Tens @ 8 Short Play Festival” at the Center Stage Theater 1001 Center Street (831) 431-6237 January 14 – February 6.

Tickets here! 

THE SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS announced…
“Gabriel Fauré and His Circle of Influence”

THE NISENE ENSEMBLE: Cynthia Baehr-Williams, Concert Director and Violin

They’ll be playing music by Martinu, Boulanger, Saint-Saëns, Kodály, Bloch and Fauré
It’ll be at Christ Lutheran Church, 10707 Soquel Drive, Aptos. (Off Highway 1 at Freedom Blvd.) Saturday, January 29, 2022 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 30, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Go here for info: scchamberplayers.org 

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December 21

DON’T MORPH THE WHARF! v CITY OF SANTA CRUZ

For those who have been wondering what happened to the city’s Wharf Master Plan, that widely unpopular project to transform the 107 year-old Municipal Wharf, we have some good news. 

Last Friday (12/17), Judge Paul P. Burdick ruled in favor of the community group, Don’t Morph the Wharf!. He announced that he will issue a judgment and a writ of mandate ordering the city to set aside its approval of the Wharf Master Plan project. Among other things, the judge ruled that the city’s environmental review process did not adequately address inconsistencies with adopted land use plans and would affect the important recreational uses by removing the current sea-lion viewing holes and reducing fishing. Further, the city’s findings that an alternate plan that would eliminate the Western Walkway and the 40-foot Landmark Building proposed at the end of the Wharf would be infeasible was unsupported. The city “does not explain why engineered infrastructure support, other than a pedestrian walkway (which the City acknowledges would have adverse impacts on nesting coastal birds), could not be utilized to provide lateral support and protect pilings.”

The exact language of the judgment and writ as to particulars relating to aesthetic and structural issues will be resolved at a final hearing on February 18, but Judge Burdick was clear that judgment will issue for Don’t Morph the Wharf!

Kudos to Susan Brandt-Hawley, attorney for Don’t Morph the Wharf!, who legally dissected and dissolved the city’s arguments with precision. Thanks to Judge Burdick for his comprehensive review and enforcement of state environmental law.

Thanks also to Don’t Morph the Wharf! the community group which persisted since 2015 to confront the city to keep the character of the Wharf intact, reflecting the wishes of thousands of petitioners and hundreds of Wharf visitors who made their opposition to the city’s plan well-known.  

A brief history of the effort: In 2014 the city applied to the federal Department of Commerce for close to one million dollars (including a few thousand in matching city funds) to make repairs to the Wharf, which the city claimed was “severely damaged” by the tsunami of 2011. Those of us who stood on the cliffs above Cowell Beach and watched the tsunami come in disputed that claim. The waters around the Wharf were as still as a millpond, unlike the Small Craft Harbor that did suffer extensive damage due to its narrow opening.  A Public Records Act request uncovered the document to the feds that contained the city’s claim of “severe damage” to the Wharf while the city’s engineering report at the same time stated the Wharf was “undamaged” by the tsunami.

ROMA came up with a design that would transform the Wharf into a more upscale destination with an 86% increase in commercial space, three new public buildings of 45 feet in height, one at the end of the Wharf larger in mass than a single family lot size (60X120′) plus many more changes to send shudders down one’s spine. At first the city tried to get away with a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) that failed to include impacts on migratory birds nesting annually under the Wharf. We pushed back and they included the birds, citing no significant impacts.  The plan and its MND was headed to city council in 2016. A letter from Susan Brandt-Hawley citing the legal need to do a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) caused the item to be tabled until such EIR was completed.

 For a few years all was quiet. We hoped the project was off the stove rather than just on the back burner.  Then the EIR was released in 2019. Its weaknesses were apparent: no mention that the 45 feet tall building at the end of the Wharf would cover the popular sea lion viewing holes; inaccurate conclusions that the fishing areas would be increased; no impact on migratory birds’ access to their nests under the Wharf.  Pronouncements of “increased access” despite new limits on residents’ access to free fishing areas and free recreation such as viewing sea lions.

The city will have the right to appeal the legal ruling after it is finalized in February. Rather than a challenge to this fair and welcome ruling, a better course of action would be to go forward with a plan to preserve the Municipal Wharf without the unnecessary changes such as the Landmark Building and Western Walkway. 

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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Chris will be back for that first week in January edition.

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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December 20

SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT PLANS TO DUMP 1.5 MILLION GALLONS OF CONSTRUCTION WASTEWATER INTO THE BAY, WITH NO CURRENT PERMIT

The Water District is planning to dump 1.5 million gallons of contaminated construction wastewater into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary but does not have current Pollution Discharge Permit to do so, and therefore may not have to follow restrictions for developing this new well in Rio del Mar. 

 We all need to contact the State Water Board, NOAA and the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to demand this effluent be carefully monitored by their environmental staff.

The Country Club Well and 1, 2, 3-TCP Treatment Project at 251 Baltrusol in Rio del Mar will generate 1.5 million gallons of construction wastewater, containing high levels of a carcinogen 1,2,3-TCP, into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, but without a current permit from the State to do so when it is required.

The Board of Directors for Soquel Creek Water District is preparing to approve a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Country Club Well and 1, 2, 3-TCP Treatment Plant at their December 21 meeting that will allow the construction crew to dump 1.5 million gallons of contaminated well effluent and drilling muds into Bush Gulch in Rio del Mar, and on into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The District’s environmental analysis document states:

“All water discharged to Bush Gulch would comply with SqCWD’s existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements under Order WQ 2014-0194-DWQ, General Order No. CAG14001, Waste Discharge Identification Number 4DW0118.”  (page 12 of the ISMND found on page 222 of the Agenda packet)

However, a footnote on that page divulges that “the existing statewide NPDES permit under which SqCWD has coverage is formally expired; however, the SWRCB has indicated that until the statewide NPDES permit is renewed, SqCWD’s existing permit is administratively extended and continues to be in effect.”

Why would the District be allowed to discharge construction and well-development waters into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, not the Pacific Ocean, as the document states, without a valid Pollution Discharge Permit from the State?  The District has violated the conditions of the former permit by discharging turbid sulfate-laden waters into the Bay when developing the Twin Lakes Church Injection Well.  This construction wastewater will have high levels of the carcinogen 1,2,3-TCP, will also likely be very turbid, and may have high sulfate levels due to the dechlorination process used in developing the new well.   

I am troubled that the Project Determination Findings have been made by the District’s Associate Engineer, Mr. Mike Wilson, who is not an environmental analytical specialist. (see page 230 of the agenda packet).

Please write the State Water Quality Control Board and ask why Soquel Creek Water District would be allowed to dump 1.5 million gallons of construction effluent into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary without a current and valid NPDES permit that the State requires.  Matt Keeling matt.keeling@waterboards.ca.gov  and Thea Tryon thea.tryon@waterboards.ca.gov  Telephone Ms. Tryon, in Legal Affairs, at 805-542-4776.

Contact Fish and Wildlife environmental staff Serena Stumpf serena.stumpf@wildlife.ca.gov  and Wesley Stokes wesley.stokes@wildlife.ca.gov  

Contact NOAA environmental permit staff Lisa Wooninck lisa.woonninck@noaa.gov  and Sophie De Beukelaer sophie.debeukelaer@noaa.gov  Phone: (831) 647-4201

THANK YOU SUPERVISOR KOENIG FOR INCLUDING THE CALIFORNIA GRANGE IN NEW COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL CODE LANGUAGE.

The Santa Cruz County Supervisors generally tend to ignore all constituents who take time to testify at their Board meetings with suggestions and requests.  That is why it was refreshing and much appreciated that Supervisor Manu Koenig added language, at my spoken request, to include and recognize the California Grange as a valid animal raising and exhibition program for youth, on par with 4-H and FFA, at the December 7 Board meeting.

This matters a lot because youth who choose to be such independent exhibitors at the County Fair are recognized and welcomed, so it is necessary that the County’s new Animal Control codes regulating such activities also recognize the validity of the Grange for youth.

Oddly, the Santa Cruz County Fair Board ignored my similar request, but Supervisor Koenig did not.  Thank you, Supervisor Koenig!

STEPHANIE HARLAN APPOINTED TO CENTRAL COAST REGIONAL WATER BOARD

It was a surprise to find Stephanie Harlan back on the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for last week’s meeting.  She had served on that Board for one year (2018-2019) and was not reappointed…until just last week.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE 80% WATERSHED LANDS MANAGED?

I asked this question at last week’s Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting during their consideration of the Draft Triennial Watershed Report.   Mr. John Inman, the staff environmental scientist presenting the Report, answered that he did not have any metric for monitoring the watershed management just yet.  A bit vague…and did not address the core of my question about how this might affect private land owners in watersheds.

Another issue the Board discussed, thanks to thorough consideration of Director Dr. Hunter, involved scrutinizing the Los Osos wastewater treatment / water purification project that has been the subject of many, many problems.  She asked why it was not higher on the priority list of issues to address. This project is very similar to the Soquel Creek Water District’s Modified PureWater Soquel Project, aka using treated sewage water to recharge the aquifer.  

Dr. Hunter pointed out that the beleaguered Los Osos project construction and operational costs have skyrocketed to over $200 million (same current price tag as Soquel Creek’s boondoggle) and is causing great financial burden for the disadvantaged communities there (same as Soquel Creek Water District’s skyrocketing rates now, tailored to pay for their boondoggle project).  “The prolonged economic feasibility of this facility is in question.” she said….ditto for the extremely expensive Modified PureWater Soquel Project boondoggle. 

Here is the link to that 73-page Triennial Report 

The Vision for the Central Coast Water Board is Healthy Watersheds.  Here are the Board’s goals to align with that Vision:

“Healthy Aquatic Habitat. By 2025, 80 percent of aquatic habitat is healthy, and the remaining 20 percent exhibits positive trends in key parameters. 


Proper Land Management. By 2025, 80 percent of lands within a watershed will be managed to maintain proper watershed functions, and the remaining 20 percent will exhibit positive trends in key watershed parameters.

Clean Groundwater. By 2025, 80 percent of groundwater will be clean, and the remaining 20 percent will exhibit positive trends in key parameters. 

(page 8)   

Permaculture Design for Wildfire Defense

WELL…COULD THIS BE AN IDEA?

Creating fire defensible space is a real challenge for people living on the steep slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Because it is so arduous to drag vegetative material up the hill to get chipped, the work often just does not get done, contributing to high fire risk.  The video below discusses a great idea called “Hugelkultur” that uses downed trees (charred wood seems best) to make a foundation for large raised beds.  Add in swales to capture rainwater, and you have a nice place to grow something without irrigation…or at least a way to sequester carbon while creating fire defensible space, and adding in stormwater recharge to the aquifers.

Here is a bit more about that good word for your next Scrabble game, hugelkultur  

WATSONVILLE GETS ANOTHER GOOD WOMAN FOR MAYOR

What good fortune for the people of Watsonville to have a strong and intelligent woman now leading the City Council.  Many times, while observing Watsonville City Council meetings, Ari Parker has impressed me with her clear language and bright intellect, always taking firm and fair action to best support the people she represents. 

 Let’s hope she will run for County District Four Supervisor in the next election!

Ari Parker takes over as Watsonville Mayor – The Pajaronian 

Mayor Parker helped organize a citizens group, “Let the People Vote”, in 2014 that successfully placed three citizen initiatives on the ballot, and all were voter-approved. 

Measure H added to the City Charter  a requirement that a vacant (as defined) Council seat be filled only by voters at either a General Municipal Election or a Special Municipal Election rather than by Council election, required to be held within ninety (90) days after the vacancy (as defined) occurs.   

This recently came into play when Councilman Aurelio Gonzales resigned in September.  The seat remained vacant until the December 7 Special Election, whose results will be certified on December 28.

The other two successful citizen initiative measures were called Measure I and Measure J. Measure I required a rotating mayoral position, meaning that the council member from each of the seven city districts has a turn serving as mayor over time. Prior to Measure I, the city charter required the mayor to be elected from among the city council members by the city council. 

Measure J required public places to be named through an election of the people, instead of being named by the city council.

MAKE ONE CALL.  WRITE ONE LETTER.  YOU CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IF YOU JUST DO SOMETHING.

Happy Holidays and All the Best Wishes for a Healthy New Year,

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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December 20

POST FIRE EARLY WINTER MIXED CONIFER FOREST.

The widespread mixed conifer forest in the hills of Santa Cruz County’s North Coast is drippy wet now, even between storms. Seventeen months ago, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire devoured tens of thousands of acres of mixed conifer forest just north of Santa Cruz. Now, there are thousands and thousands of stark blackened standing dead trees. There are also living and resprouting trees. The dead and the living conifers tower over a wet, glistening, vibrantly green, and lush understory. It is slippery and hikeable now, but as the trees fall and the brush grows up it will become impossible to explore until the next fire…a decade away.

What is Mixed Conifer Forest?

Mixed conifer forest is our most common forest type. While it is true that we have patches of redwood-dominated forest and patches of Douglas fir-dominated forest, many areas have a mix of the two. At the larger scale, peering out of an airplane at 10,000 feet, all of the local forested landscape includes a mix of conifers – redwood, Douglas fir, knobcone pine, ponderosa pine, Monterey pine, and Santa Cruz cypress. Where Douglas fir and coast redwood co-dominate, this type of mixed conifer forest hosts a mix of plants and animals that are distinct to this habitat type. Low light levels from a high, dense canopy and a preponderance of difficult to digest resinous needles are important factors determining what else can live in this habitat type.

Flaming Bark

The mixed conifer forests burned unevenly in August of 2020. Douglas fir trees take a little coaxing, but coast redwood trees take real convincing, to burn. There are many more fire-killed Douglas firs than redwoods. During the last two fires, I watched both redwood and Douglas fir trees catch on fire. Fire seemed to race up Douglas fir trunks, spewing sparks and crackling away whereas redwood trunk flames were slower to move up the tree and was less sparky and noisy. 

Unlike redwood, Douglas fir trunks are covered with sticky sap that ignites easily. I heard a story about a teenager that thought it would be fun use a lighter to light some sap on fire on the side of a tree and very shortly needed the help of the fire department to put out the flaming tree, which was threatening the family home.

Glowing Holes

For weeks after the initial fire storm, glowing spots throughout the forest decorated the night. Mostly, these were the smoldering stumps of trees that had died long before the fire. In the mixed conifer forest, there were many dead or dying madrones and tan oaks that had been shaded out. These hardwood stumps made for some hot holes that burned for days. Some smaller Douglas fir trees had also died before the fire, but they burned up quicker.  There are now quite a few treacherous holes making forest hiking more interesting.

Understory Greens

The rains have germinated 3″ deep shag carpets of lush herbs and hydrated huge patches of shorter bright mosses below blackened tree trunks. Miner’s lettuce, phacelias, and weedy forget-me-nots make the carpet. In patches, taller plants like hedge nettle, blackberry, nightshade and many other plants add to the hillsides of bright green. Many areas are already dotted with white, pink, or purple blossoms brought on by the winter rains and encouraged by warm bright days between storms. A lot more sunlight hits the forest floor now. Where there are patches of live trees, the understory is less thick. In some places, the fire left small hillside meadows, without any trees at all. 

The forest soil is still black and slippery with soot and ash. During each of my recent forest hikes, I have slipped and would have tumbled a long way were it not for my grip on the very strong 4′ tall redwood basal sprouts. The soil, in the hotter burned places where the understory herb seeds were destroyed, is covered by strikingly bright mosses littered by needles and small branches blown from the few remaining live trees somewhere uphill or up wind.

Post Fire Wildlife

The burning of the mixed conifer forests means more food for more birds: redwood and Douglas fir forests normally have few seed producing plants, but that’s changed now. In mixed coniferous forest, deer have little to eat; now, the forest floor is covered with deer food. It is easy to see the birds and easy to find the deer tracks. Sharp deer hooves, forming new trails, cut through mosses and lush hillside wildflowers, exposing forest soil. The tracks criss cross the steep hills, patches of tasty miner’s lettuce chewed off. I’ve been seeing deer beds of very flattened understory plants, mostly on level spots along old logging roads. Expect healthy coats on momma deers, more big antlered bucks and spotted big eyed deer twins navigating the hills on dainty legs this spring. Mountain lions prefer dark forest to move around, but they’ll be enjoying more food while the forest canopy grows back.

Fire Makes Beaches and Bonfires

Mostly, the forest floor is healing, and little erosion has been happening. The exception is where humans created roads during the early logging days. To create roads on hills, people carved uphill and dumped the soil they removed downhill. This is called ‘cut and fill’ road engineering. Sometimes the fill side buried logs and stumps which burned under these old roads in the recent fire. Now, the uphill scar is unstable in many places, the fire having destroyed the stabilizing plants. Between burned out fill sides and steep, less vegetated cut sides…there is lots of erosion. Throughout the fire, you can find large and small scallops of hillside slumping onto the old roads or downhill from the roads towards the creeks. Besides being activated post-fire, this legacy of disturbance is most evident now that you can better see the soil surface across the hillsides.

With the couple large storms we had, streams have been carrying soil and logs. Local streams are flowing with mud, as evidenced by the ocean’s big brown plume up and down the coast right after the last storm. That mud will sort out and the sand part will become our beaches- bigger beaches after fires? We’ll see. 

One local stream was more black then brown for a while- probably because of ash and soot. Streams are also carrying logs. Judging from the scouring of streamsides, streams have been blocked by post fire logs (ever encounter the term ‘logjam?’); those blockages eventually give way and are swept downstream with great force, battering and baring stream banks downstream and far up their banks. Those logs become driftwood on the fire-augmented sandy beaches. That driftwood will become the bonfires for rocking all night parties that the Coastal Commission has just sanctioned by mandating the creation of 24-hour parking lots from Santa Cruz to Davenport. So, part of the post wildfire wildlife effects will be the noisy, blazing, smokey disturbance of whatever shorebirds were counting on nocturnal refuge on those once peaceful beaches. The CZU mixed conifer forest flames will carry on for human and non-human animals alike, for better or for worse.

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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December 18

#352/ Violence Interrupters

Anywhere there’s a significant level of crime there are also homegrown peacemakers.

An Associated Press story out of Nashville, Tennessee caught my attention on Sunday, August 8, 2021. I found the story in that day’s edition of the San Jose Mercury News. I was delighted to learn that there are grassroots efforts, throughout the nation, to combat community violence:
 
Smaller, grassroots efforts in communities across the country are trying alternative strategies to curb violence, recognizing the fallout from decades of “tough on crime” policies that criminalized a generation, leaving them with fewer resources and opportunities than ever.

That includes violence interrupter programs such as Gideon’s Army or Cure Violence Global, which started in Chicago and has branched out to other cities. Other groups, including the West Nashville Dream Center, primarily attack structural issues such as poverty and educational inequality. The groups differ in philosophy but share a common goal of improving life in their communities. 

Read more here 

Our salvation as a nation (and this is one of those “revelations” that Jad Abumrad talks about in one of my previous blog postings with a Tennessee connection) will come from small, local, volunteer, grassroots groups, mobilized to deal with problems that seem impossible to deal with at a larger scale. 

 
Think that can’t work? As one of our most impressive thinkers has told us, “it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

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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December 20

Much has come to light this week from D.C., NYC, Fresno, and Mar-A-Lago, as various committees, governmental departments, and legislators dig into the previous administration’s policies and actions. The rate of speed governing these investigations will likely take the next three generations of Americans to completely unravel, unless, of course, Boss Tweet manages to wrest the U.S. Constitution from its display case.

Revelations have shown how the Trump Maladministration ignored, undermined, and thwarted the roll-out of any strategies, or a campaign to aid Americans in the burgeoning COVID epidemic as it began its spread around the world. A harried and haggard Dr. Fauci was allowed out of detention periodically, from the White House basement where he was forced to live for several months after being too truthful in his initial reporting. Dr. Deborah Birx, was allowed some freedom as long as she kept her “What, me worry?” façade during her worried, and worrisome, press conference appearances. Outgoing NIH director, Dr. Francis Collins was pressured by Trump to endorse non-scientific remedies for the virus, near to the point of arm wrestling, as Collins tried to stay relevant in his precarious position.

Dolly Parton, twice offered the Congressional Medal of Freedom by Benedict Donald Trump, and turning him away twice, was instrumental in getting the Moderna vaccine developed by her generous monetary contributions. It was just revealed that she also had a ‘do not accommodate’ list for certain persons as a prerequisite for acceptance of her money toward the lab testing, and, admirably delayed her own dose until the project was well underway across the nation.

California’s 22d district representative, Devin Nunes, personal footstool (or milking stool) of The Lyin’ King will soon be on the payroll of the Trump organization’s new social media platform to spread his gospel of grift, and to continue milking the public, providing a bit of respite for the district taxpayer’s pocketbook – not to include those duped by the Trump 2024 campaign, and whose bank accounts are being drained as we speak. Nunes will be sorely missed by his central valley constituents. Heaven forfend!

Sen. Mitch McConnell, surprised at learning of the January 6th insurrection at the capitol, denied having any input before, during, and absolutely-cross-my-heart for certain, not afterwards, says he is eager to learn what the fuss is all about. More is coming to light daily, as many of the coup plotters respond to the U.S. House of Representatives January 6th investigating committee, with an abundance of emails from November 2020 through January 2021 flowing into the hands of the probers. Keep Mitch on your speed-dial to be the first to let him know when the perpetrators are conclusively revealed. O-o-oh, we can hardly wait!

A suspicious event occurred at Fox News headquarters this week, as the Christmas/Hannukah/Freedom/America ‘Tree’ is set afire by an unsavory, homeless, ‘released criminal’. The ‘tree’, a decorated framework with ornaments depicting Big Bird, Sponge Bob, Bert and Ernie, Elmo, Potato Head, Dora the Explorer, G.I. Joe, Cat in the Hat, Snagglepuss, and other cartoon or fictional characters, was partially saved by NYFD; however, the conflagration reeks of suspicion in that it may have been a planned inside job, a warning against further endorsement of COVID-19 vaccines by the companies that control these trademarks. The publisher of Dr. Seuss’ catalog could not be reached for comment. Heavens to Murgatroyd!

As the country slips into the holiday atmosphere, we can only hope that 2022 will begin with new vigor and we can slide from the darkness of the past into a brighter future. What say, Mitch? 

Dale Matlock is the former owner of the Shirt Factory in the Sashmill, lived in Hawaii off and on and can be reached at dalematlock@sbcglobal.net 

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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 II”

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”  
~Calvin Trillin

“I unwrapped my love for her like one might unwrap leftovers. Gotta eat up the old stuff first, as a cannibal might say in a retirement home”.
~Dark Jar Tin Zoo

“Leftovers come to those who wait.”
~Ljupka Cvetanova

 “All things come to him who waits, but they are mostly leftovers from those who didn’t wait.”
~Evan Esar

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Here’s more to show why I love trevor Noah.


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