BRATTON…Girl Scout Cookie news, Tom Bottoms art. GREENSITE…on Cuba: Part 2. KROHN…Measure O, UC vote and strike, Cummings victory. STEINBRUNER…Swanton railroad in danger, Pure Water Soquel and boiling water, Santa Cruz City Water, County salary increases, Soquel election. HAYES… The Elusive California Nutmeg. PATTON…Mike Davis: RIP. MATLOCK…The scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal! EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover WEBMISTRESS’…pick of the week. Trevor Noah Send-off QUOTES…”Lava”
DATELINE December 5
Bratton Online is a work of passion. Bruce and the other writers don’t get paid to do this. However, websites still cost money to run, host, etc. Going into 2023, we have been doing this for 2 decades(!), and we do need some upgrades.
Anything you give is sincerely appreciated.
GIRL SCOUT COOKIE NEWS. A regular and longtime reader sent this… “It’s beginning to look a lot like supply chain issues. With the holiday season ahead, be thankful for any Girl Scout cookies you can find in the Northern California region, as supplier Little Brownie Baker is facing production issues. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the outfit canceled December’s volunteer cookie events and is considering delaying the start of cookie season from February to March.
Girl Scouts of Northern California CEO Bri Seoane told the paper the issue is nationwide and not the first of recent frustrations. Some parents of scouts were angry that DoorDash became an option for select troops’ deliveries, and the release of a new cookie — the Adventureful — was similarly delayed by production issues”. This is just more news about how much money (big dough) the massive bakeries make from the Girl Scouts. It’s also the sad way our young scouts learn competition against each other and once again begs the largest question why can’t the scouts sell useful items instead of sugar sweet unhealthy fattening cookies”? Go here for more about this..
TOM BOTTOMS ART. Tom Bottoms has lived and painted in Santa Cruz for many, many years. His style is unique and beautiful…and unusual/original. Frank Galuszka is also a painter and an excellent tutor who takes us through pages of Tom Bottoms paintings with a very experienced eye. Together with Rita Bottoms (Tom’s wife) and Christina Waters (close friend of Galuska’s they created “Café Vernacular” a 118 page soft cover book that’ll delight you with the color and insight into Tom’s paintings. It’s for sale at Bad Animal Books, Bookshop Santa Cruz, City Lights Bookshop (Tom and Rita were close friends with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who visited them here in santa Cruz many times)…and it’s available at Liberia Pino in San Francisco.
I search and critique a variety of movies only from those that are newly released. Choosing from the thousands of classics and older releases would take way too long. And be sure to tune in to those very newest movie reviews live on KZSC 88.1 fm every Friday from about 8:10 – 8:30 am. on the Bushwhackers Breakfast Club program hosted by Dangerous Dan Orange.
PINOCCHIO by GUILLERMO del TORO. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (8.1 IMDB). No laughs, no cartoons, just perfect stop motion serious action during Benito Mussolini’s reign in Italy. Voices by Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, John Turturro, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and more. War, bloodshed, death and dying…this is no Disney version. del Toro is a serious director and his interpretation will make you dig deep and think through every frame of this two hour treatise.
LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.8 IMDB). This ancient shocking outré sex book was written in 1928 but no English versions appeared in the USA until 1960 and it hit thee fan and more than 3 million fans. Many filmed versions have lit up our screens and this one is super good. It’s a period piece taking place on a huge estate complete with a grounds keeper who is seduced by the Lady of the manor. Excellent sex scenes, super costumes, fine acting, even what are now common swear words, no big star names, and you won’t take your eyes off the screen for a second.
THE NOEL DIARY. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.2 IMDB). This is a futile attempt to create another big deal, feel good Holiday movie. It’s Chicago, the authors mother dies, he has been separated from his dad and will they get back together again…I’m sure no one cares. It’s corny, stilted, forced, and just plain bad acting too.
THE SWIMMERS. NETFLIX SERIES. (7.5IMDB). Two sisters who are Olympic swimmers lead this true story of their escape from Damacus in Syria in 2016 where the war rages on while they work to stay in athletic shape. Their goal is Rio and the 2016 Olympics. It gives us a small picture of what life in like as a refugee and what inhuman ways our fellow humans take advantage of people trying to find a better life. It’s excellent, heartfelt, sincere, well-acted…don’t miss it.
THE WONDER. NETFLIX MOVIE. (6.7 IMDB). This saga and I mean saga is the story of an English nurse who was sent to a small town in Ireland in 1862. Her job is to watch full time a young 14 year old girl who hasn’t eaten any food for four months. It’s a mystery we don’t find out the answer to for ¾ of the movie. It’s tight, mysterious, and also stars movie favorites like Ciaran Hinds and Toby Jones. It’s very serious but gripping, watch it.
FIRST LOVE. HULU MOVIE. (4.7 IMDB). This is a story focusing on two youngsters and their first loves. It’s more about middle class values and how finances separate us. The two leads are not convincing, the story is too superficial and there are no reasons to watch this fatal family drivel.
THE FABLEMANS. DEL MAR THEATRE. (8.3 IMDB) This is the heavily publicized half true biography of famed director Stephen Spielberg’s life up to the point he starts making movies. It goes from Cincinnati to Phoenix, Arizona and even to his brief time in Saratoga before going to Hollywood and meeting John Ford who is played by David Lynch. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are his parents and much of the plot centers on the Jewish aspect of his life. Its
2 ½ hours long and feels like it at times but it’s a fine film.
WELCOME TO CHIPPENDALES. HULU SERIES. (7.4 IMDB). It’s the back stage story of how the once famous nightclubs called Chippendales got its start. One very open minded smart promoter tried many versions of nightclubs that failed until some friends suggested he try a club with male strippers and even a male chorus line. Juliette Lewis is back onscreen again as another advisor who helps the club succeed. It all depends on how much you like watching male strippers, and you’re on your own.
GOODNIGHT OPPY. PRIME. (7.8 IMDB). Angela Bassett narrates this documentary featuring the twin robots that were sent to Mars starting back in 2003. The rockets roamed and stuttered around part of Mars for nearly 15 years and this movie treats them like childlike human beings. The entire experiment was to learn if there was water now or ever on Mars which would have allowed life to exist there. It’s a cute, human, unforgettable look at the humans at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Lab who created it. It’s also mildly diverting.
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.
THE GOOD NEIGHBOR. (HULU MOVIE) (6.3 IMDB). Two men forced to be neighbors become involved in a bike accident killing a young beautiful blonde girl. Their relationship to each other and how they work to avoid the guilt and legal problemsmakes this a positive nightmare to watch…and you should watch it.
FROM SCRATCH. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.9 IMDB). I could only take about 25 minutes of this mindless, low level “romantic drama”. A girl from Texas goes to Florence, Italy and despite the super scenery has typical Hollywood tete a tetes that will make you cringe.
1889. (NETFLIX SERIES) (8.1 IMDB).A German film centering on a cruise ship full of passengers that meet up with a ghost like ship named The Prometheus. It’s a fine film with great effects, good acting, intelligence and a plot that will keep you attached for episodes.
THE DEVILS HOUR. (PRIME SERIES) (7.8 IMDB). The plot is that 3:33 am is the devil’s hour for this mother who is raising her son. He has amnesia and she’s a social worker. The police are heavily involved in trying to solve a murder and she keeps seeing bloody scenes in her dreams. It’s worth staying up for.
FALLING FOR CHRISTMAS. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.3 IMDB). I was curious to see what Lindsay Loman (now age 36) looks like after all these years. This is billed as a “romantic comedy” but it really isn’t either one. The acting is nonexistent, the plot is terrible and it’s aimed at teen agers who haven’t learned what’s funny. Avoid at any or no cost.
FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE. (HULU SERIES) (6.7 IMDB). Jesse Eisenberg plays off Claire Danes as a separated but still married couple. He’s a doctor and is trying to adjust to being single and still raising their kids. Good acting, intriguing plot, and a chance to review your own issues with relationships. Go For it.
REFLECTIONS ON CUBA: PART 2.
The statue pictured is as provocative, if not more so, as the one from last week’s piece on Cuba. Sited also in the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, it was sculpted by Roberto Fabelo, the well-known Cuban contemporary painter, sculptor, and illustrator. It is untitled. Obviously, a statement on gender but what statement? Is the woman taming the male chauvinist rooster or selling her body for sustenance? Or both?
Conclusions about Cuba can also vary depending on point of view and knowledge of facts. For US Presidents from Eisenhower to Biden with a modest opening from Obama, kicked back into party line under Trump, the Cuban Revolution has represented a challenge to US hegemony and Cuban Americans a reliable voting bloc. Yes, the Cuban Missile Crisis was real. However, a reading of the unclassified documents from that time, as detailed in the excellent book, Back Channel to Cuba by William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh affords a more nuanced, complex understanding of that period as well as the entire post Cuban Revolutionary period.
Economic problems are visible and widespread in Havana. So many old buildings are crumbling, the city in many parts resembles a war zone. Some are in such a state of collapse it is easy to conclude that the building is abandoned until you see a line of washing out on the balconies. Or, hanging from one building, a gay pride flag. When a building is clearly beyond safe habitation, or just collapses, the vacant land is repurposed into a small park with trees, a fountain, and benches. And yes, my mind did wander back to Santa Cruz as a comparison. With land a commodity and profit the goal, such a spot would be labelled “underutilized”, snapped up by developers to make it “pencil out”. Heritage trees would be approved for removal even as we polish the city’s Climate Action Plan.
I asked the Cuban urban planner the reasons for such building disintegration. Apparently, it’s the lack of materials to maintain the buildings: cement, rebar, paint, wiring, pipes etc. Sixty years of the US blockade on trade with Cuba has taken its toll, most significantly after the collapse of the USSR. Besides buildings, this toll includes food, medicines, toiletries you name it. Remember how we were inconvenienced during the first year of Covid when supplies ran short? Cubans live with far more scarcity, including food, daily. There is trade, however it must be prepaid in US dollars which are in short supply since Trump put a halt to cruise ships visiting Cuba and Biden has done nothing to change that arrangement. As for other countries, the narrative goes something like this: “So, Australia…you want to trade with Cuba? Fine, go ahead. But, in that case you won’t be trading with the US.”
The sixty -year long Cuban embargo that even most US citizens don’t currently support, is kept alive for ideological reasons within the Republican Party and for political reasons within the Democratic Party. Candidate Val Demings opposed lifting the US embargo on Cuba, the source of much of Cuba’s misery and economic problems. The Democrats should realize that Florida is a lost battle for the foreseeable future. The Party should stop pandering to Cuban Americans to win votes for Democratic candidates. And while restrictions on sending remittances to Cuba have been largely lifted, the total amount allowed is modest and difficulties remain with financial institutions receiving US dollars. Nevertheless, it is a positive step. We need to express support and encourage the further lifting of restrictions, including the one that disallows US citizens from independent travel to Cuba.
In saying this, I don’t pretend to know what it is like living in Cuba. Nor is it an endorsement of one-party rule; nor a white washing of mistakes made by a small country that has survived the wrath of the most powerful nation on earth, ninety miles from its border. I certainly would chafe at not being allowed to criticize or organize against my government. However, having done both with others, been ignored or outspent by moneyed interests makes one question black and white assumptions.
There is much to admire and root for in Cuba. The Cubans I met had such warmth, such great senses of humor that I checked with those who had travelled to Cuba countless times to make sure I wasn’t over-generalizing. I wasn’t.
Beyond the fabulous music, the art, the culture, I noticed the efforts to democratize private wealth. Mansions for one family prior to the revolution are now sports or arts centers for youth although they are desperate for supplies due to the US embargo. There are no homeless people living on the streets; no desperate drug addicts; health care is free; all births are in hospitals; on almost every other corner it seems there is a specialized health clinic, probably strapped for supplies; 28% of Cubans graduate from university, all free; abortion is free and available; a recent nation-wide vote approved same sex marriage and expanded protections for women, children, and the elderly. The US falls short on many of these advances and no country has placed a debilitating economic embargo on our country.
As to the future? Hard to predict. Ending the US embargo is a crucial start. That might ease the rigidity of some in the Communist Party. A transition to a more robust private sector is important however I can understand the angst in moving too quickly in that direction. However, you can’t sustain a system for too long where doctors earn less than cab drivers and moonlight as cab drivers to earn a living wage.
Whatever the future holds, whatever mistakes were made disproportionally by us or by the Cubans, there is an overarching need to explore what system works best to provide food, shelter, health care, education, cultural expression, environmental protection, and freedom of expression for all. So far, neither country has the answer although it is Cuba that has borne the brunt of the US sustained effort to derail its attempts in that direction.
|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.|
MEASURE 0, UCSC VOTE & UC STRIKE.
If you are looking for a more in-depth analysis of why Measure O, Our Downtown, Our Future (ODOF), lost so decisively, go to Nov. 23-29 Santa Cruz Political Report, it’s in BrattonOnLine.com.(scroll down to 11/23 issue) If you want to read an emotional, heartfelt, and deeper psychic version of why only 40% of the voters marked their ballots in favor of Measure O, read on…Of course, we can take solace that some 9,622 individual voters thought through the complexities of the initiative and ignored the city attorney’s biased ballot language and voted FOR something. That’s only 690 votes less than Justin Cummings received as of last Friday. Also, compare that to Drew Glover receiving 11,796 votes in the recall election in March of 2020. There is still a vibrant Left in Surf City, so let’s not despair, yet.
The Continuing Story of O
Remember, Measure O was one of those initiatives that comes along once every couple of decades, think greenbelt and Lighthouse Field votes, and if passed, may have been able to significantly improve this community’s quality of life by creating downtown open space, reusing the Church Street main library, preserve 10 heritage trees, keep the downtown Farmer’s Market where it is, and create hundreds of units of affordable housing. Developers and real estate people outspent ODOF 3-1, $121k to $40k by confusing voters on what was really at stake. Perhaps the greatest injustice was committed by city attorney, Tony Condotti, and his falsifying what the ODOF ballot initiative was about. But that’s politics. The Matthews-Lane-Chamber of Commerce-real estate developer interests pulled out all the stops, stuck to a consistent message, and in the end, prevailed. We must learn how to fight better.
Commiseration, Grieving, and a Re-summoning of the Spirit
Twenty-eight people came together last Tuesday morning to discuss and ruminate on the Measure O ballot outcome. It had the feeling of a dear friend’s memorial, but also the criticism an adolescent might receive by not taking that fork in the road opportunity, not going with that intuitive time piece within that might change one’s life outcome in a decisive way. I took some meeting notes, and here are a few comments on the loss of that dear friend, Measure O.
- I am feeling depressed.
- I cry, I grieve, but we did get two new (progressive) supervisors.
- Beautiful campaign. It was a complicated measure. We ran a fair, equitable, and non-condescending campaign and it did not work. That is sad.
- I am disappointed in my neighbors. This campaign shakes my trust in the community.
- Living here now is living in the palace of the pharaoh. I don’t think this (SC, CA, USA) is where change is going to come from…this is a collapsing empire. It brings me to tears.
- Every time I walk past that lot (4), I am going to remember.
- It’s not over. The Disney Mineral King ski resort was stopped.
- From where did the NO votes come from? I would like to know how “No on O” did it.
- We learned a lot about campaigning. It’s not over. There is maleficence going on, this (city) project does not make sense.
- It’s a loss for the city…our city collectively has a lack of imagination…I am very disappointed by this outcome. It reinforces the narrative that city politics is only about tourism and real estate politics.
- We need to pivot and set our sights on the existing library building before staff gets ahold of it.
- People will be shocked when these buildings go up. They will realize they were not paying attention. I will be out there when the chain saws come.
- They (No on O) successfully hid the fact that there was a garage in this project. Maybe Justin (Cummings) will bring his climate credentials with him (when he takes 3rd District Supervisor office).
- The “undervote” (1211) mattered…they did not vote for anything…so maybe they are convincible? What we can’t do is think that someone else is going to solve the climate issue.
- I can’t help thinking Fred (Keeley) and Jimmy (Panetta) knew something in opposing Measure O. What did they know? Were they spurred on by the same developers who support them, or was it an intuitive sense about the electorate?
- Do people vote more on their fears than on their hopes?
- Voting “Yes” was an issue which people were not clear about. We did get affordable housing into the (city’s) project.
- I live downtown. I have a lot of grief…I want to make portraits of all those trees.
- We need to work in coalition, develop citizen assemblies, and pass campaign finance reform.
- I have a cold. I feel like I have put my health on hold (for Measure O) for like a year.
- Our (yard) sign did not say anything. I would do the campaign again, just do it better.
- It comes down to how do we get our message out? Imagine if a convention center were at the site of Lighthouse Field today?
- Measure O was about vision.
I am so proud of the young folk who are man-ing, woman-ing, and non-binary-ing the picket lines at all 10 UC campuses over these past three weeks. The strike is now entering its fourth week. The big concession on the part of strikers was taking the COLA, Cost of Living Adjustment, off the table. I have to say, a popular chant on the strike line has been, “Cops off campus, COLA in my bank account.” Many rank and file UAW members were so incensed by their own bargaining team’s move to cancel the COLA that they showed up in high numbers, more than 700, on a Zoom meeting last week to contest the decision. It was later reported that the bargaining team, on a 10-9 vote agreed to lower the $54k salary ask, to $43k. Then, on Dec. 2nd, a couple members on the bargaining team met with UC officials who offered a few more concessions that bargainers would bring back to the entire bargaining team. It has yet to be voted upon by team members before going to the overall membership. Many rank and file members are already urging a NO vote on this recent UC offer. A show-down over withholding undergraduate grades for the fall quarter is looming. Grade withholding by Teaching Assistants is perhaps the greatest bargaining tool in their struggle for more pay and benefits with the UC Regents. Wednesday, December 14th is the deadline for turning in grades at UCSC, so stay tuned to this largest-ever strike by academic workers, it may get even more interesting.
Get Out the Vote, Got Out
The large number of same-day votes appear to have pushed Justin Cummings into a 3rd District Supervisor seat and closed the gap, but it was not exactly enough to win. Overall turnout seemed to be the deciding factor in this November’s supervisor election. As of Monday, Dec. 5th, Justin Cummings leads by almost 3%, or 576 votes. The big winner here too was the Ami Chen Mills campaign and its goal to deny Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson (SKJ) a seat on the Board of Supervisors back in June in order to force a November run-off. To do that the Chen-Mills campaign targeted regular female voters over 40 years of age and offered them a choice. We (I was a Chen-Mills supporter) walked many precincts in our targeting women voters. Interestingly, following such an approach had its side-ways moments. Male voters would often open the door and we would ask to speak to the woman in the house. The name was from a list of voters we got from the county registrar. This became an interesting dance, as the male would say, ‘I’m a voter too,’ and would often deny access to his wife. The male voter would accept a campaign pamphlet and close the door before the canvasser could speak with the female voter.
Current 3rd District Supervisor Results vs. Primary Results
I called the county elections department last week, Nov. 28th. I spoke with John and he helped me with some statistics which makes it clearer on the importance of Ami Chen Mills running in the primary and how it likely led to a Justin Cummings victory.
June 2022 Primary
Turnout %: 50.98%
Total number of votes cast in 3rd District Primary: 14,735
Total undervote in Primary: 1,586
Nov. 2022 General Election
Turnout % in 3rd District: 69.84%
Total number of votes: 21,938
Total undervote in General: 1,744
June vs. November Turnout
The Ami Chen Mills campaign team sought to head off a primary victory by SKJ and force the election to go to November. We were under no illusions of an outright Chen Mills victory, and ever fearful of the way SKJ win as she came out of the box in December of 2021. If you remember, SKJ had already done a mass mailing and had quite the momentum going into March, before Justin’s campaign began to pick up steam. Ami entered the race under those circumstances fearing the worst. Also, the issue of climate change was not front and center in either Cummings or SKJ’s campaigns, and that is another reason there was strong support for Chen Mills’ candidacy. The above numbers portray a more engaged electorate in the November general election. Many more 3rd district voters cast ballots, and we surmised last year that Cummings would be a much more popular, and a preferable candidate, to the general election voter. Turnout on the UCSC campus also portrays that difference between the June and November turnouts.
There will continue to be UAW strikers at the base of campus as the strike goes into its fourth week.
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 email@example.com
Email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
CALPOLY WANTS TO SEND SWANTON PACIFIC RAILROAD PACKING
I received word last week that Cal Poly University intends to eliminate the Swanton Pacific Railroad from the Swanton Ranch and kick out the dedicated volunteers who have maintained it for decades, even though the property donor, the late Mr. Al Smith, (former owner of Orchard Supply Hardware and Cal Poly alumnus) bequeathed the 3,000+ acre ranch and Railroad to the University for educational purposes, and included a significant Endowment Fund to maintain it.
The 2020 CZU Fire destroyed nearly all, except two of the steam train engines that happened to be off -site.
Now, the University administrator, Mr. Thulin, has notified the volunteers that the University does not intend to rebuild the Railroad, and has conjured up a claim that posits Al Smith would be okay with it.
Dedicated volunteers have worked together for decades to maintain and expand the 1/3 scale steam railroad there, hosting many fundraisers for Community groups that included the Santa Cruz County Land Trust, and many other charitable groups.
How can we affect a change in attitude with regard to the future of the Railroad?
Here is what the Swanton Railroad Volunteers recommend:
Write emails and letters to:
President Armstrong, presidentsoffice@
Zachary Smith, Vice President of Development and Alumni Engagement, email@example.com
You may choose to copy Dean Thulin, firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you have donated to the Railroad Fund as part of the Support Swanton Pacific Ranch Recover fundraising effort, then you may wish to request a refund, as the funds are not being used as your donation was intended. Please also express your displeasure with the lack of transparency and consideration presented to the Swanton Pacific Railroad Society during the past two years.
If you have been awaiting the restart of Railroad activities before making a donation then please contact the above stating so and your displeasure with the lack of consideration for the Railroad Society.
If you are an individual that has made donations to or has thought about making a donation to Cal Poly in the future, contacting the above expressing your displeasure with the Dean’s actions would also be beneficial.
Please write to the above soon, as time is of the essence!
The Swanton Pacific Railroad is rebuildable. It may take a few years. I see so many great “Learn by Doing”/”Hands-On” projects.
Swanton Railroad Volunteer Committee
President Geoff Tobin”
HOUSTON, TEXAS BOIL WATER ORDERS…TECHNOLOGY FAILED TO ALERT OPERATORS OF A PROBLEM
What about the incidence of Houston, Texas residents having to boil water last week, due to a power outage that caused their water treatment plant to fail safe pressures within the pipelines? It is interesting that this malfunction happened in a newly-constructed system, supposedly equipped with state-of-the-art sensors that should have alerted staff to a radical drop in water pressure. This was not recycled water, but still very energy and technology-dependent, and should make us all question extreme blind-faith dependence on “state-of-the-art” equipment in matters of public health and environmental stewardship.
Ironically, that treatment plant construction improvement underwent a design-build streamlining process, just like the Soquel Creek Water District has sought for the PureWater Soquel Project that will inject treated sewage water into the MidCounty area’s drinking water supply.
IT WILL TAKE MONTHS TO DETERMINE WHETHER PUREWATER SOQUEL PROJECT’S TREATED SEWAGE WATER INJECTION HAS A PROBLEM
Soquel Creek Water District held a virtual Public Hearing last Thursday (11/24) because they are required to do so by the Regional Water Board to obtain a permit for Title 22 Recycled Water Permit.
Experts disclosed it might take three to six months to detect any problems in the aquifer related to the injected treated sewage water
There were four presentations that took a total of one hour, but the public was only given three minutes at the very end. We were not allowed to ask questions and expect staff to answer. No response to anything, other than “Thank you for your comments. All responses will be posted on the website.”
The presenters discussed how tracers will be used to evaluate how quickly the injected sewage water travels from the three injection well sites. One presenter claimed the injected water itself could be used as an indicator “because it will be so pure.” How can that anecdotal claim be made when earlier contamination studies have relied upon the natural mixing of the injected water with native groundwater to dilute the level of contaminants that cannot be removed in the advanced treatment process?
Keep in mind that the model for how all this will work is hypothetical. With the exception of the Twin Lakes Church injection well, there is no actual geophysical characterization to support any of the claims about travel time for the treated sewage water, but the State requirement for holding the injected water in the aquifer for at least two months, but combined with the theoretical models, the water stay in the aquifer for 33 months in the Twin Lakes church area(the shortest hold time of all three injection wells).
The District is hoping that the nearby Pine Tree Lane Water Mutual and Bluff Water Mutual customers will soon allow sampling of their water to establish a baseline of water quality so that if the injected water fouls their drinking water supply, Soquel Creek Water District can provide them bottled water….that’s the plan.
The presenters disclosed that the City of Santa Cruz is building their own small non-potable recharge facility (NRP) to provide the 360 Acre Feet/year Title 22 Recycled Water that is part of the Project agreement, which will be used for irrigating Las Barrancas Park next to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and offer a future bulk construction water filling station. The NRP will be considered in a separate permit document.
When I asked how the City’s National Pollution Effluent Discharge System (NPDES) Permit for the Wastewater Treatment Plant will be impacted by the PureWater Soquel Project concentrated effluent containing disinfectant byproducts (known to be carcinogenic) and the temperature fluctuations, and whether marine habitat impacts at the outfall were being considered, I got no response, other than that my three minutes were up. Gratefully, since there was only one other commenter, staff allowed me one additional minute to express concern that there still is no FINAL Anti-Degradation Analysis to show that the injected treated sewage water will not harm the high-quality waters of the Purisima Aquifer, which the District is required by State Water law (Resolution 68-16)to provide.
Public Comment ends this Thursday, December 8.
SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL OVERWHELMED BY PLANS PRESENTED TO SECURE FUTURE WATER
It was nice to be back in the Santa Cruz City Council chambers last week for a public hearing on the Plan to Secure Future Water for the City of Santa Cruz. The thorough presentation by the economist, reporting from Tasmania, seemed to nearly hypnotize the Council.
A few people spoke, including Mr. Rick Longinotti, leader of Desal Alternatives, to urge the Council to fully consider the importance of continuing to encourage water conservation, rather than the seeming focus on supplying plenty of water to irrigate golf courses without having to impose curtailment and harm the economy. I spoke, noting that Santa Cruz has a water storage problem more than a water supply problem to solve, urging the Council to consider having a variety of projects, with conservation a priority per the 2014 Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC), and to keep a regional approach with water sharing, with a nod of thanks to Mr. Scott McGilvray and Water for Santa Cruz efforts, and partnering with Soquel Creek Water District to develop the Glenwood Reservoir. I also encouraged the Council to prioritize projects with lowest energy demand and technology-dependence, pointing out that Indirect Potable-Reuse projects (such as the PureWater Soquel Project) met neither of those requests, and in fact came in at the highest price of all projects considered…$10,000-$12,000/
What questions did the Council have? Virtually NONE. All of them fell over themselves in appreciation for everyone and everything possible. Councilmember Sandy Brown seemed apologetic to be asking about how customers would be encouraged to conserve. Director Rosemary Menard posted a slide showing the increased conservation rates of customers, comparing 2003-2005 and 2016-2018, indicating a 40% drop in Single Family customer water demand average, and suggested it just couldn’t be reduced any further.
The Council approved the major effort unanimously.
NEW SANTA CRUZ CITY WEBSITE LISTING AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECTS
Here is a new website for viewing all affordable housing projects in the City of Santa Cruz, but note that the 831 Water Street project is missing. How come?
COUNTY PARTNERING WITH 3CE TO BUILD LARGE BATTERY STORAGE UNITS
Consent item #36
Large battery banks coming to a place near you? The Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with Central Coast Community Energy (3CE) to being evaluating four County-owned properties for large lithium-iron-phosphate battery banks to store solar-produced power for night-time use. This is not the same as lithium-ion battery technology that caught fire in Moss Landing last September, but we shall see what comes of this exploratory agreement. Personally, I do not feel the 701 Ocean Street Government Building is a good location, due to the San Lorenzo River floods that do happen there.
Approve one-year agreements with Central Coast Community Energy; authorize the Director of General Services to sign all related documents; and authorize the Director of General Services to execute future feasibility study agreements to support batter
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY FOR COUNTY SALARY INCREASES APPROVED
While I support paying our law enforcement officers well for the job they do, I feel the salary increases are not transparent in that there is no accounting shown for how much the increases are in total, or how much of the money to pay for it will come from the General Fund.
Take a look at Consent Item #39 on last Tuesday’s (11/29) Board of Supervisor meeting agenda. You will find two approved salary increase schedules for County employees, but nothing about the total cost to the taxpayers from the General Fund, or the State and Federal contributions. The first increases will happen December 10, and the second round of increases will happen automatically January 7, 2023.
- It is interesting that the Director of Psychiatric Services is the highest-paid, at $30,584.08/month
- The County Administrative Officer will get $29,065.71/month effective January 1, 2023
- The Auditor-Tax Collector $21,449.59/month.
- The District Attorney $24,942.19/month
- The Director of Human Services $22,553.70/month
- Medical Director of Clinics $24,552.19/month
- Planning Director $20,517.07/month (is that with the additional $10,— from Public Works Director, now that the two Departments have combined?)
- Public Defender $24,942.19/month
Consent Item #50 also extended $10,000 Incentive Pay Bonuses for 20 new Sheriff officers..
Adopt resolution amending Resolution No. 279-75 to extend the Corrections Officer Recruitment and Referral Incentive Pay Program, and take related actions, as recommended by the Sheriff-Coroner and Director of Personnel – Santa Cruz County, CA
BIZARRE SOQUEL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION
Why would this School Board member retire while the election was in process, then get elected, and return to the Board when he has no kids going to school, and seemed more interest in being on the Board, not in reaching out to staff and parents?
Mr. Justin Maffia, the other candidate running for the office and with children in the school, did not campaign because it seemed the Incumbent, by resigning, was not interested in serving. County Elections Clerk, Tricia Webber, assured me everything was done correctly, and it is up to Mr. Rodriguez to decide if he wants to serve again because he won the election
She said that School District voters could ask Mr. Rodriguez to resign, and let the Board appoint a new leader until an election can be held. December 14 Board meeting
Something similar happened in the Scotts Valley School District. A petition requiring only 1.5% of the voters, was successful, and a Special Election just opened last week. The sitting Board can appoint a Trustee, but if a petition requesting an election is valid, the School District must hold a special election.
The percentage of signatures required will change January 1, 2023, under a bill authored by Senator Laird.
ANOTHER BIZARRE BOARD ACTION IN BRANCIFORTE FIRE DISTRICT
Last month, Chairman (and former Chief) Pat O’Connell of the Branciforte Fire District Board ordered long-time Board member Mr. Pete Vannerus to resign, claiming he was not qualified to serve due to residency issues. Under duress, Mr. Vannerus agreed to step down. In protest, Director Mr. Dick Landon resigned.
Upon investigation with the County Election Clerk, Ms. Tricia Webber, Mr. Vannerus was and continues to be qualified to serve on the Branciforte Fire District Board, and will be one of two new Directors who take office this month as in-lieu candidates (no one else filed to run for the office, so they automatically have the seats). When Mr. Landon learned of this, he contacted Chair O’Connell and asked to be re-instated on the Board. The answer was “NO!”.
Can a Chairman of a Board make such determinations single-handedly? According to Ms. Webber, the answer is “No.”
Why would Chair O’Connell be so overly-zealous to eliminate Directors Vannerus and Landon? Perhaps it is because they have opposed the plan being strong-armed by LAFCO to spend $40,000 for a study and weighted ballot vote that would, if approved by a simple majority of weighted vote, cause all property owners to pay potentially $1500 – $1700 per parcel annually to keep their local fire station open when the District merges with Scotts Valley Fire?
Contact the Branciforte Fire Board with your thoughts. The website now provides notice that one Board position is vacant, with applications due December 16.
Also, attend the First District Supervisorial Town Hall Meeting Thursday (12/8) and ask what’s going on?
YOUR ONE-STOP SHOPPING WEBSITE FOR GRANT MONEY AVAILABLE IN CALIFORNIA
Take a look….lots of money to give away……
MAKE ONE CALL. WRITE ONE LETTER. SEND A COMMENT BY DECEMBER 8 ABOUT THE PUREWATER SOQUEL PROJECT INJECTING RECYCLED WATER IN YOUR DRINKING WATER.
ATTEND A PUBLIC MEETING.
MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK BY JUST DOING SOMETHING.
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
THE ELUSIVE CALIFORNIA NUTMEG
When I mention the California nutmeg tree to local people, I find most folks aren’t familiar with it, so this article might serve as an introduction to one of our least-known evergreen tree neighbors.
Needles to Say
California nutmeg has needles for leaves, and those needles hurt. Pines have needles in bundles, cypresses leaves are scales, and the local firs and redwoods look more like nutmeg in having single, short needles emanating along stems. Douglas fir stems have needles facing up and down and all around. Redwood and nutmeg trees have neater looking needles that just stick out the sides, along one horizontal plane. You can tell redwood and nutmeg needles apart because the latter have very sharp points. Because of the size and sharpness of the spines, nutmeg needles rival the painful jabs of blackberries and thistles.
I was taught that redwood trees were the only conifer that could have more than half of the needles singed off a tree and still survive. I was taught wrong. The 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire scorched through many acres with California nutmeg- I haven’t found one that died from the blaze. Instead, just like coast redwood, the trees are either sprouting from their bases (if severely scorched) or sprouting new leaves and branches from their trunks and limbs. As an aside, I also had a Norfolk Island pine that also burned entirely but is resprouting…so, there appear to be more fire-sprouting conifers than once was thought.
The wood of this tree is prized, but the tree is so uncommon that harvest is strictly non-commercial. The tree is not generally quick growing so it has close growth rings. And, the wood is quite different than any other wood around: it is a rich yellow-brown. I’ve heard lore that the native peoples used the wood for bows; people have mentioned to me seeing ‘bow wood trees’ where the tip of nutmeg trees have been bent over and weighted down to create a naturally curved trunk.
This species is in the yew family. Some of you know yews, whose uses you wouldn’t guess include ewes. And, you would be right (as far as I know).
Yews are common shrubs in landscapes with bright red berry-looking fruit. Nutmegs do not make bright fruit, but their fruits are substantially odd. Perhaps the term ‘California nutmeg’ comes from examining the seed: peel off the thick rind and extract the hard nut, carve it in half and you might be looking at a nutmeg nut. California nutmeg nuts are solid and resinous like the foreign nutmeg, but our local one isn’t obviously useful as food, though some suggest the nuts may have once been used as food. Don’t eat the nut, though, it is poisonous if you don’t know how to prepare it correctly.
The coating on the nut is very interesting- watery and yet resinous and quite pungent. Squeeze the nuts and you get juicy with juice that doesn’t quite want to come off of your hand.
Some of us recall the controversy of the cancer fighting medicine “Taxol” and the scare about losing the California nutmeg’s pacific northwest cousin the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia. Taxol keeps some types of cancer from spreading and was discovered in these yew-family trees. However, scientists figured out how to synthesize Taxol so we don’t have to rely on trees to make it, anymore.
When contemplating how to convince people that it is important to save species, I am advised to use examples like this where we have discovered life-saving drugs from wild plants. So, use this as an example.
Where to Find Native Nutmeg
I perused the herbarium records to let readers know where the public can go to see California nutmeg. It seems that the best places are in the Waddell Creek drainage from Rancho del Oso on up. One notable tree used to live near a waterfall in Big Basin- I wonder if is still there?
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 email@example.com
This seems an age of catastrophe, but it’s also an age equipped, in an abstract sense, with all the tools it needs. Utopia is available to us. If, like me, you lived through the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, you can never discard hope.
– Mike Davis
The quotation above – and the picture – are taken from an obituary in The New York Times: “Mike Davis, Who Wrote of Los Angeles and Catastrophe, Is Dead at 76.”
I didn’t know Mike Davis, but his obituary in The Times makes me think I did – I should have. We had a lot of common experiences, though I was definitely a Northern California guy. LA was a foreign country to me, during the time I was part of the antiwar movement, and supporting Students For A Democratic Society. Even though I was not really familiar with Los Angeles and Southern California, I avidly read Davis’ book, City of Quartz, when it was published in 1990.
I am presenting the entire obituary below, because readers of this blog posting might otherwise be frustrated by The Times’ paywall, should they like to find out more about Mike Davis. He is no longer with us, but you can still read his books!
Below is the full obituary, by Neil Genzlinger, as it appeared in The New York Times on October 26, 2022. The headline is my own:
You Can Never Discard Hope
Mike Davis, an urban theorist and historian who in stark, sometimes prescient books wrote of catastrophes faced by and awaiting humankind, and especially Los Angeles, died on Tuesday at his home in San Diego. He was 76.
The cause was esophageal cancer, his daughter and literary agent Róisín Davis said.
Mr. Davis, an unabashed leftist who once organized antiwar rallies for Students for a Democratic Society and was arrested at several protests, garnered considerable attention with his second book, “City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles” (1990), in which he wrote that Los Angeles “has come to play the double role of utopia and dystopia for advanced capitalism.”
That book examined the mythologies that had evolved about Los Angeles and Southern California, thanks to noir movies, surf culture and Hollywood, and contrasted those images with the harsh realities faced by thousands of Angelenos, especially members of minority groups.
“What we’re going to find out in short order is that for tens of thousands of people, there’s only one rung of the ladder,” Mr. Davis told The Los Angeles Times in December 1990, just after the book’s publication. “There’s no place to climb up.”
That comment, and the book, seemed particularly prophetic a little more than a year later, in April 1992, when disastrous rioting swept South Los Angeles after a jury did not convict four police officers who had been charged with assault in the beating of Rodney G. King, which had been captured on videotape.
Mr. Davis acquired a reputation as a seer, though in the preface to a 2006 reissue of that book he resisted that characterization.
“If there were premonitions of 1992 in ‘City of Quartz,'” he wrote, “they were simply reflected anxieties visible on every graffiti-covered wall or, for that matter, every lawn sprouting a little ‘Armed Response’ sign,” a reference to the home security warning placards that become ubiquitous on the lawns of the affluent in the 1980s.
Mr. Davis turned to fires and other natural disasters in “Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster” (1998), which included a particularly provocative chapter titled “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn.” That book too came to be seen as prophetic, and Mr. Davis found himself being interviewed every time devastating fires came through the area. Though nature delivered the wrath, he wrote, hubris and greed deserved the blame.
“Los Angeles has deliberately put itself in harm’s way,” he said in the opening chapter. “For generations, market-driven urbanization has transgressed environmental common sense. Historic wildfire corridors have been turned into view-lot suburbs, wetland liquefaction zones into marinas, and floodplains into industrial districts and housing tracts. Monolithic public works have been substituted for regional planning and a responsible land ethic. As a result, Southern California has reaped flood, fire and earthquake tragedies that were as avoidable, as unnatural, as the beating of Rodney King and the ensuing explosion in the streets.”
Economics was a constant undercurrent for Mr. Davis. The fires that he warned about, he noted in a 2018 interview with the magazine Jacobin, not only were destructive, they also increased inequity.
“The rebuilding just produces bigger, more expensive homes,” he said, “while the trailer parks and the homes of people who didn’t have adequate fire insurance through wealth are displaced.”
His 2005 book, “The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu,” talked about the likelihood of pandemics. Matt Steinglass, reviewing it in The New York Times, called it a “brilliant, concise jeremiad.” Among other things, Mr. Davis wrote in that book that pandemics would affect low-income people disproportionately, an assessment borne out years later by the Covid-19 crisis.
Detractors questioned the accuracy of some of Mr. Davis’s assertions and the hyperbole of his prose. That criticism seemed to peak after he won a $315,000 MacArthur “genius” grant in 1998.
“A lot of writers are tired of Mike Davis being rewarded again and again, culminating in the MacArthur fellowship, for telling the world what a terrible place L.A. is,” Kevin Starr, California’s state librarian, told The Los Angeles Times in 1999.
Supporters said the critics were resentful that his books, unlike theirs, made best-seller lists, and that he had achieved success without a Ph.D. Mr. Davis said his political views were also a factor.
“I understand having acquired a public stature and being someone with unpopular ideas that I’m going to get attacked — being a socialist in America today, you better have a thick skin,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “There is a kind of intolerance in the city for people who say things that went wrong haven’t been fixed.”
Michael Ryan Davis was born on March 10, 1946, in Fontana, Calif., about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, to Dwight and Mary (Ryan) Davis. He spent his early years in Fontana before his family moved to the San Diego area.
His father was active in the meat cutters union, and the struggles Dwight Davis experienced made a strong impression on his son, who described his father as a patriotic man who had faith in the inevitability of human progress.
“By the end of his life, he’d seen his union destroyed and his pension plan taken away,” Mr. Davis said in 1998. “It’s hard to see your parents lose their beliefs.”
Also formative was an experience he had at 16: A cousin took him to a civil rights rally in San Diego organized by the Congress of Racial Equality.
“The courage and moral beauty of what these ordinary human beings were fighting for struck me,” he said, “and I have never forgotten it.”
At about the same time, he became a meat cutter himself for two years when his father became ill. He also began working for Students for a Democratic Society, helping to organize antiwar rallies.
In his 20s he joined the Teamsters union and drove a truck for five years. His routes took him all over Southern California, acquainting him with its geography and its varied communities, knowledge that would underpin his writing.
He didn’t start on his path to becoming a scholar until relatively late: At 28 he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, aided by a scholarship from the meat cutters union. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in economic history there, and also studied in Britain. After graduating he lived in Britain for several years, serving as managing editor of New Left Review, a Marxist journal. In 1986 he returned to California to teach at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Santa Monica.
That same year his first book, “Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class,” was published. The formidable title was off-putting, and so was the text. John Gabree, in a review in Newsday, said that Mr. Davis “writes in the sometimes impenetrable style of a social scientist.”
He adopted a more reader-friendly approach in “City of Quartz” and his later books, many of which made best-seller lists. They included “Dead Cities, and Other Tales” (2002), “Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Working Class” (2006) and, most recently, “Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties” (2020), written with Jon Wiener. Among Mr. Davis’s admirers is Jay Caspian Kang, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a former opinion writer for The New York Times.
“The best writers burrow themselves in the back of your eyeballs and color everything you see,” Mr. Kang wrote in The Times in June after Mr. Davis said he was stopping cancer treatments. “Davis is that for me — my California is the California he excavated through his reporting, his scholarship, his activism and his unflappable moral integrity.”
Mr. Davis’s wife, Alessandra Moctezuma, survives him. Four previous marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter Róisín — from his third marriage, to Brigid Loughran — he is also survived by a son, Jack Spalding Davis, from his fourth marriage, to Sophie Spalding; and a daughter, Cassandra Davis, and a son, James Connolly Davis, both from his current marriage; and a sister, Janna Lazelle-Lake.
In an interview with The New Yorker in 2020, Mr. Davis was asked if he thought Los Angeles might experience another wave of violence.
“The socioeconomic conditions that produced the ’92 riots are still with us,” he said. “The Rodney King beating and police detonated it, but the riots came in the midst of a recession and revealed a city in which hundreds of thousands of people were living day by day, with no reserves.”
Yet he wasn’t all pessimist all the time.
“This seems an age of catastrophe,” he said, “but it’s also an age equipped, in an abstract sense, with all the tools it needs. Utopia is available to us. If, like me, you lived through the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, you can never discard hope.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SCANDAL ISN’T WHAT’S ILLEGAL, THE SCANDAL IS WHAT’S LEGAL!
As reported by Axios and other news outlets, our Former Guy, Combover Caligula, called for the termination of the US Constitution due to election fraud, particularly for the pre-fascist Twitter’s role in limiting access to a story about Hunter Biden – this revealed by new autarch Elon Musk. “So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION?,” Trump whined on his Truth Social media platform. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founder’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”
Oops! Seems that he forgot his oath of office: “I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, both foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…” Military personnel also take a similar oath if you’re listening General Flynn!
Through White House Deputy Press Secretary, Andrew Bates, the administration made the statement: “The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over two hundred years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together – regardless of party – and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights. Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned. You cannot only love America when you win.”
Benedict Donald is calling for the overthrow of our founding document, while advocating the establishment of a dictatorship. His fragile, unhinged mental state is obviously in evidence, resulting from the many legal suits pending, his appeals to the courts falling flat, and his failures and loss of prestige in the losses of midterm candidates he backed. He is getting the message that his party has tired of his antics and is ready to move on as it looks for sane and responsible leadership, neither term applying to him as he reels dangerously out of control.
Yet, despite all the ugliness, he is still the presumptive presidential nominee in 2024 because no GOP hopefuls(?) care to challenge him at this stage, nor do they wish to anger Trump’s loyal base, even as they slowly fall off the bandwagon. “This is a man who most Republican officials feel they cannot denounce publicly with any more force than one applies to a feather duster on a porcelain figurine,” laments Dan Rather. Regrettably, it’s ominously quiet in the halls of Congress after The Don’s call for throwing out, and terminating all our statutes as he calls for autocracy. Mr. Rather says we are “tiptoeing past the truth, for this is the seed of fascism – the very thing the Constitution sought to check.” To those who are taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude about 2024, he says, “All of this is fine, but it’s far from sufficient. It’s transactional. The political calculus is chilling. The political cowardice is reprehensible. Who will have the courage to say what everyone can see?”
In an interesting essay written several weeks ago by Louis Menand, entitled ‘American Democracy Was Never Designed to Be Democratic,’ and printed in The New Yorker magazine, he says, “To look on the bright side for a moment, one effect of the Republican assault on elections – which takes the form, naturally, of the very thing Republicans accuse Democrats of doing: rigging the system – might be to open our eyes to how undemocratic our democracy is. Strictly speaking, American government has never been a government ‘by the people.’ This is so despite the fact that more Americans are voting than ever before. In 2020, sixty-seven per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot for President. That was the highest turnout since 1900, a year when few, if any, women, people under twenty-one, Asian immigrants (who could not become citizens), Native Americans (who were treated as foreigners), or Black Americans living in the South (who were openly disenfranchised) could vote. Eighteen per cent of the total population voted in that election. In 2020, forty-eight per cent voted.” He goes on to say that the GOP concludes the sixty-seven per cent turnout was too high, based on historical figures, as they calculate that Trump might have won several more states with a lower turnout. Consequently, the Brennan Center for Justice made public its findings that legislatures in nineteen states passed thirty-four laws imposing voting restrictions: It’s illegal in Florida to provide water to someone standing in line to vote; Texas has limited the number of ballot drop-off boxes to one per county, to name a couple of egregious rules.
The not-so-subtle intention of these reforms will simply make it harder, more discouraging for people to vote, depressing the turnout, a problem, but that is not the fundamental problem. As the law stands, with the system working as designed and everyone who is eligible to vote does so, the government we get does not reflect the popular will. Menand says, “Michael Kinsley’s law of scandal applies. The scandal isn’t what’s illegal. The scandal is what’s legal.” Further, “It was not unreasonable for the Framers to be wary of the plebiscite, and true representative democracy, in which everyone who might be affected by government policy has an equal say in choosing the people who make that policy. So they wrote a rule book, the Constitution that places limits on what the government can do, regardless of what the majority wants. They also countenanced slavery, and the disenfranchisement of women, and excluded from the electorate groups whose life chances certainly might be affected by government policy. And they made it extremely difficult to tinker with those rules. In two hundred and thirty-three years, they have changed the amendments only nine times – the last was fifty-one years ago.”
Without the Bill of Rights the Constitution would have been even harder to get ratified, and today we still wrestle with our interpretations of this document, but no one has suggested it should be tossed – that is, until the Uncredible Huck attacked the whole ball of wax. We have to ask, “Is our Electoral College dilemma what James Madison envisioned?” And, what about our US Senate which is so disproportioned that Wyoming, with a population of less than six-hundred thousand has the same voting power as California’s thirty-nine million? Consider the District of Columbia which has ninety-thousand more residents than Wyoming and twenty-five thousand more than Vermont, yet has no Senators. Former Attorney General, Eric Holder, writes that half the population is represented by eighteen senators, and the other half by eighty-two, bringing into play the power of the filibuster, which would allow forty-one senators representing ten per cent of the public to block legislation supported by senators representing the other ninety per cent.
Menard also calls attention to another bugaboo of our system, mentioning Nick Seabrook’s book, ‘One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America.” The use and abuse of partisan gerrymandering, used consistently since the early 1800s, though used in some form as early as colonial times, has influenced elections through redistricting with some awfully convoluted state maps. Though current law calls for congressional districts to be approximately equal in population, it allows one party to gain more seats with fewer votes. Partisan gerrymandering is what allowed Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas to retain his seat in 1858, edging out Abraham Lincoln.
The make-up of the US House is determined by the decennial population census, and the party in power attempts to use that to their advantage to draw lines in effect for the next ten years, both nationally and in individual states. Even the census itself is subject to partisan manipulation, as one Donald John Trump proved in 2020 when he interfered by trying to reduce the count in Democratic districts. With each state having only two Senators, gerrymandering is of no concern in today’s political scene, but in the past as state lines were determined in the territories, preceding their admission to the Union, partisanship raised its head. Republican power in D.C. saw that dividing Dakota Territory into two states would double their fun in the Senate, and the same tactics were applied as other Western states were carved out.
Quantitative political scientist, Jacob Grumbach, in his book ‘Laboratories Against Democracy’, describes our country as being “under entrenched minority rule,” with the states being increasingly dominated by national groups through gerrymandering. These groups seek to “exploit the low-information environments of amateurish and resource-constrained legislatures, declining local news media, and identity-focused voters, aiming to freeze out the opposition,” according to Grumbach. “Anti-democratic interests need only to take control of a state government for a short period of time to implement changes that make it harder for their opponents to participate in politics at all levels.” Calls for states to pass laws requiring their Presidential electors to vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote would reform the Electoral College system without changing the Constitution, but elected officials aren’t about to change a system that keeps them in office.
Gerrymandering often favors rural areas, one dominant factor being ‘prison gerrymandering,’ in which states may count the incarcerated as residents, even as they are denied the vote. Only in Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C. can prisoners vote. By counting prisoners the rural vote is enhanced, similar to post-Civil War conditions when Southern states counted former slaves as full persons, rather than as three-fifths, with corresponding reapportionment – followed by their disenfranchisement, of course.
So, what about appealing to the Supreme Court to take down laws which seem to run counter to our rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? The nine members could do so without suffering any consequences, even if they were personally involved in cases that arose…not very democratic, eh, Justice Thomas? In 2016, Common Cause sued the North Carolina state legislature over redistricting, and were joined by a similar case from Maryland, but a lower court decided against them. In 2019, the high court vacated the lower court decision and ordered the suits be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction by a 5-4 vote. Justice Roberts, writing the opinion, did not deny the partisan gerrymandering was extreme in the two states, stating simply that the federal courts should not interfere, arguing that partisanship is a political, not a judicial matter. So, the court recognized the undemocratic practice, but declined to deal with it…why are we paying them? You just need the right software to implement the reapportionment and the Supremes will turn their heads.
A big exception – the Federal courts will jump all over a gerrymander intended to dilute the votes of racial minorities – redistrict by political party, but not by race, which is barred by the Fifteenth Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. By the same token, why doesn’t this apply to state voting regulations? Houston, TX has a large nonwhite population, but allows only one ballot drop box? Southern Blacks have a tradition of voting after church services on Sundays, but Sunday voting is disallowed in some jurisdictions? Early ballots can only be handled by certain designated persons, meaning a well-intentioned neighbor can’t drop off a ballot for an invalid or senior citizen? Nonwhites are seen standing in long, time consuming lines to vote, but can’t be given drinking water by a Good Samaritan? Where is the race-neutrality, Justices? In 2021, the court ruled for a restrictive Arizona’s law on ballot handling, saying, “Mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate that a group’s voting rights have been violated.” The Congress could make laws altering such regulations to make voting easier…let’s take bets on that happening soon!
But, here we are with a former president who feels he must run for office again as protection against the investigations and prosecutions for his life of crime. He certainly got the wrong impression from the Mueller Report, surviving two impeachments, not to mention his escapes from real estate/landlord indiscretions over the years. The New York Post’s Trumpty Dumpty thinks he has a two-year pass against his problems, and that if he wins the election his troubles are over…dream on, Dreamland Donnie. If such a tactic had validity, the Gambinos or the Genoveses crime syndicates would have been in power for years, and HBO would have had a sequel – ‘The Sopranos go to Washington.’
Dale Matlock, a Santa Cruz County resident since 1968, is the former owner of The Print Gallery, a screenprinting establishment. He is an adherent of The George Vermosky school of journalism, and a follower of too many news shows, newspapers, and political publications, and a some-time resident of Moloka’i, Hawaii, U.S.A., serving on the Board of Directors of Kepuhi Beach Resort. Email: email@example.com.
EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. Viewclassic 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.
“The grass may not be softer later, and it may be brown tomorrow, but at least it’s not lava.”
“New land formed by lava flows belongings to the state, not to abutting property owners. So ruled the Hawai’i Supreme Court in 1977.”
~Larue W. Piercy, Hawaii This and That
“I thought the Mauna Loa lava viewing area on Saddle Road in Hawaii was dangerous. Very dark and isolated in parts. Lots of crazy drivers and people strolling around in dark clothes in the night in the main viewing areas. A lack of police along the old Saddle Road on a major tourist attraction with thousands of people present. The two nights I went through there, it had huge traffic jams! It is at approximately 6,590 feet which is known to induce altitude sickness into people.”
Trevor Noah has done his last Daily Show, and the crew all paid their respects. It was quite the send-off, that’s for sure!
Snail Mail: Bratton Online
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Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
Direct phone: 831 423-2468
All Technical & Web details: Gunilla Leavitt @ firstname.lastname@example.org