Blog Archives

February 8 – 14, 2023

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Keeley and Warriors and Cynthia Mathews, Marilyn Liddicoat’s gun, blue spy balloons, parking garages, gun manufacturers. GREENSITE…on West $Cliff Drive. SCHENDELDECKER…housing and shelter, police murders, public safety. STEINBRUNER…Cabrillo name, fire rebuilds, general plan, zoning changes, Aptos historic property, goats. HAYES…Fire lines. PATTON…What Dr. Swenson said. MATLOCK… Trial balloons and porker indictments. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover WEBMISTRESS…doesn’t really wanna do the work today… QUOTES…”Balloons”


AN EARLIER STORM. To be honest, I have no date or even an accurate location on this photo. It’s either Capitola or Pleasure Point and obviously it’s soon after an earlier storm. Any facts are welcome.

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email

DATELINE February 6

KEEN ON KEELEY? We’ve had our first taste and views of Fred’s Mayoral talents. In addition to his approval of Cynthia Mathews to the Downtown Commission we remain alert to his pro Warriors development. As I’ve said before many times Fred’s a full time Warriors fan. He flies to their out of town games, attends as many as possible right here. But it again is the proposed development of the south of Laurel properties that need research relating to Keeley’s attachment. In addition to all of that much ire and questions were raised relating to our new city districts and their representation…stay tuned. Do remember that Cynthia Mathews is a downtown property owner and should be prevented from voting or influencing any changes in our downtown as she has been doing for decades.

OTHER VIEWS ON PARKING GARAGES. Longtime friend and tech wizard Patrick Casey sent this article from Ars Technica.   Among other thought provoking zingers are statements like…

Ars Technica: City planners are questioning the point of parking garages.

“Yet parking garages and parking lots end up using precious land to house cars instead of people at a time when cities are confronted with a severe housing shortage and skyrocketing housing costs“. “Only 20 percent of homes for sale are affordable to people making average incomes. And “Parking requirements are a particular burden at many affordable-housing developments, where low-income residents are less likely to own cars. It goes on to tell what has been done in cities that found better uses for already built garages. We need to consider all of above with the proposed development of the South of Laurel- Warriors-and Keeley- territory.

ABOUT MARILYN LIDDICOAT. The January 28 Santa Cruz Sentinel ran a lovey-dovey piece on our former County Supervisor Liddicoat, who died in December 2022. What they didn’t mention, and what tells us more about her personally, is that she carried a pistol in her purse!!

SPEAKING OF GUNS. As a way of keeping political relevance I read the Berkeley Daily Planet weekly. Their issues, especially as they relate to their relationship to the University of California, are very similar to our local problems. They quoted… “for the record: According to the Violence Project and Everytown for Gun Safety, the five companies whose weapons are most often used to commit America’s mass-murders are: Smith & Wesson, Rutger, Bushmaster, Sig Sauer, and Daniel Defense”.

SPY BALLOONS. We’ll be hearing, reading and watching soon to find out just what the contents of that Chinese balloon really are/were? An obvious question that I haven’t heard anyone ask is why they didn’t paint that balloon blue instead of that brilliant white that stands out against any sky?? Suggestions welcome!!!

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.

LIVING. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.5 IMDB). Bill Nighy who’s actually only 77 plays a much older rigid, tightly controlled city worker who gets the news that he has just six months to live. How he handles the rest of his life and the changes he makes creates a heartfelt and super movie. The acting is award winning and the plot touches every one of us. It’s actually a re-make of Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” (1952) and it ‘s even more personal.

THE SNOW GIRL. (NETFLIX SERIES) (6.8 IMDB). A Spanish movie about the kidnapping of a six year old girl. The story goes back and forth between the real parents who are searching for her and the detectives and a reporter who keep on the trail for many, many years. It turns into a mystery and has a melodramatic ending but it keeps you awake and involved.

THE WATCHFUL EYE. (HULU SERIES) (6.4 IMDB). Only the first two episodes have been released so far and they look promising. It takes place in New York City in a haunted but classy old fashioned apartment building. It has many shots reminding us of The Shining with people appearing and disappearing in hallways. It’s not near any Hitchcock film but there are minutes that will keep you glued to your screen.

MY NAME IS VENDETTA. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.6 IMDB). Yet another Mafia movie and yet it has minutes that are exciting, well-acted and quite watchable. From Italy and taking place in Milan, a father and young daughter work hard to escape the Mafia who are determined to seek revenge on the father for an evil deed he committed years before. It’s violent, bloody, nearly predictable but well worth watching IF you like that sort of movie.

HOW I BECAME A GANGSTER. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.9 IMDB). The biggest problem with this version of the movie is that it is dubbed in English from the original Polish. For me that’s a loss both visually and acting wise. We learn that still another country has a Mafia or a branch of it and there’s not much else to discuss, we’ve seen it all before.

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

YOU PEOPLE. (NETFLIX SERIES) (5.6 IMDB). A huge cast of stars in this attempt at a comedy. Eddie Murphy, Jonah Hill, Elliot Gould, Richard Benjamin, and even David Duchovny and not a laugh amongst them! It focuses on relations between Blacks and LA’s Jewish populations. Family issues, religious differences and it’s just sad…not funny.

THE ENDLESS NIGHT. (NETFLIX SERIES) (8.1 IMDB). This is an incredible re-enactment of a fire in 2013 in a Sao Paulo Brazil nightclub where and when 242 people died. The flammable ceiling was the cause and to this day the club owners have not been held guilty. Survivor families have banded together, hired experts and struggled to have justice and this movie details all of that. Tragic and spell binding.

JUNG-E. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.4 IMDB).It’s all about interactions between robots and humans. It’s a Korean sci-fi adventure and is technically excellent. We soon lose interest in the re-creating of more robot tricks and fewer human skills. It’s probably 80% action, chase, violence and 2 % human. Don’t plan to stray up late to watch it.

SHRINKING. (APPLE TV+) (7.7 IMDB). Big money was spent to attract Harrison Ford, Jason Segel and Jessica Williams to this touchy, feely un funny comedy. Set in Pasadena Ford and Segel are therapists with many more issues than their patients. Harrison Ford does what he was supposed to do with this script and does it well, but aside from the fact that he’s actually shorter than you’d think, he doesn’t get laughs either. You must have more interesting things to do than to watch this one.

NARVIK. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.7 IMDB). Narvik is a small town in Norway that was the site of the first defeat of Hitler’s battles in 1940. The main story centers on a soldier and his wife and how he has to take arms and go into battle. His wife has to defend her household and young son and was forced to make plans that helped the Nazi attackers. Loyalty, patriotism, love, and brutality are the issues and it’s an excellent movie.



This Great Blue Heron is hunting in Lighthouse Field on a day of calm weather between the January storms. West Cliff Drive and Monterey are in the background. As I stopped and watched this magnificent bird I thought about its future, with entrepreneurs swooping in from all sides to “re-envision” West Cliff Drive as an economic asset.

The storm damage to two sections of West Cliff has spurred the formation of a group calling itself Save West Cliff.  Wallace Baine interviewed two founders of the group for the February 5th issue of Lookout Santa Cruz. The list of other “founders” is long and replete with big names, most with self-congratulatory monikers. Their newsletter invites others in the community to add their names and emails to receive updates, which I did. Apparently I didn’t meet with approval since I have received nothing, while others I know who signed up, have. This suggests the founders’ claim of bringing the community together is about building a single-minded force for developing West Cliff into an enhanced commercial zone.

One of the founders interviewed and quoted by Wallace Baine is Nik Strong-Cvetich, CEO of the non-profit, Save The Waves. This outfit travels the world promoting what it terms, World Surfing Reserves.

In 2012 civic leaders accepted the 7 mile stretch from Natural Bridges to Pleasure Point as a World Surfing Reserve. Besides surf breaks east to Pleasure Point, it includes Cowell Beach, Steamer Lane, and West Cliff Drive to Natural Bridges.

In December 2021, the city council approved an MOU between Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save The Waves and the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation Department. The MOU includes language that says the “parties” have a shared interest to “manage West Cliff Drive and nearby parks; bolster surfing locations; plan and promote events; reap economic rewards and invest in local surfing.” Part of the mission of a World Surfing Reserve is to “quantify the economic contribution associated with Santa Cruz’s quality surf environment.” For West Cliff, it states it will “undertake an economic valuation study.” Huntington Beach is cited as an example bringing in $55.3 million and 375,000 attendees when it hosted the US Open of Surfing.

In January 2023, Nik Strong-Cvetich was nominated by council member Scott Newsome to the Parks & Recreation commission and council unanimously voted him in. I also applied to be appointed to the commission, having just completed a four-year term (two terms are allowed) and elected unanimously as commission vice chair. That aside, the new commissioner will have to recuse himself from discussion and vote on any issue that comes before the commission involving West Cliff Drive, Cowell’s, Main Beach, nearby parks, and related budget items since he has an economic conflict of interest as CEO of an organization with an MOU with the city involving those areas. Despite that limitation in the public arena, back-channel communications will likely be in full swing as the West Cliff Drive repair project moves ahead, for which the city Public Works department should be commended. It’s clear to me that the groups named above are exploiting the current erosion and repairs of West Cliff Drive to move surfing to a modern digital sport which drives economic development on steroids.

And the future for the Great Blue Heron? Its hunting in Lighthouse Field is tenuous given the current human impact. Add thousands more people for special events as West Cliff becomes commercialized and this beautiful bird along with other species will likely leave us, leaving us poorer in spirit while some richer in profits.

Gillian Greensite is a long time local activist, a member of Save Our Big Trees and the Santa Cruz chapter of IDA, International Dark Sky Association    Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.

February 6


This week I plan to visit my partner in Berlin for 9 days (where he is in the middle of a 3-month fellowship), I am relieved that there’s no city council meeting this Tuesday. No agenda to study: no summary sheets, resolutions, ordinances, or budgets to scrutinize and respond to; no immediate issues to rally around for a social media campaign or call to public comment. It’s nice to get a little break from this variety of unpaid community care work.

But we all know who never gets a break from the city: People without housing. People who live completely unsheltered, in tents, or in vehicles.

Thanks to the dedication of Reggie Meisler, we have documentation of the continued harassment and ticketing of vehicle residents throughout the series of storms and cold weather over the past six weeks.

Thanks to the attention of “Jet Silver” we have several first-hand accounts of people’s recent experiences with emergency shelter and collective camp care.

I wrote an op-ed for Lookout a few weeks ago on our city and county’s shared failure to adequately plan for people with disabilities and “access and functional needs” during and after emergencies. Literally all of us experience access and functional needs when we are infants and children. If we’re lucky we’ll be in that official status again if we reach our elder years. And most of us will experience temporary, chronic, or permanent disability at various points throughout our lives. People without housing by definition experience disability or access and functional needs all the time.

As it continues to sporadically rain, and many nights are especially cold, city-funded emergency and respite shelters aren’t opening. Footbridge Services has scaled back their programs, and though their coldest/wettest nights Warming Center remains operational, capacity is limited and only open when temperatures are 36* or lower. For vulnerable people, hypothermia can occur even indoors when temperatures are as warm as 60-65*. So just imagine how difficult it must be for people living outdoors or in vehicles to stay warm enough–when even daytime temperatures may be lower than 65* and everything is damp–how easily core body temperatures could drop to unhealthy or deadly levels.

Despite official talking points that shelter is available, people are on waiting lists for shelter and safe parking programs. Whatever local progress has been made, we must do better, faster, without further harming people through policing.


There also has not been a break from white supremacy or police violence for BIPOC communities, migrant workers, or activists.

Police murdered 20 people in the US this January, including forest defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Teran, Keenan Anderson (beloved teacher and cousin of BLM organizer Patrisse Cullors), Tyre Nichols (creative soul and father, with a chronic illness), and Anthony Lowe Jr. (father and wheelchair-using double amputee). These killings amount to extrajudicial execution.

There were an inconceivable 56 mass shootings in the US this January, including Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay. Addressing the shootings in Half Moon Bay on Instagram, Campesina Womb Justice began a post with these words: “Today Chinese and Mexican Farmworkers were killed by White Supremacy. Blame the White Men creators of weapons of mass destruction. Blame Settler Colonialist Structures that breed hate, greed, violence, and destruction.” The shooter was a victim too, of white supremacy and exploitation.

Gun violence in the US is inextricable from white supremacy and patriarchy. We must address these issues together with a commitment to intersectionality and building solidarities that cut through our multiple identities. We must not see ourselves in a special enclave that’s outside of these systems of oppression, or immune from internalizing them no matter our complex and hybrid personal stories.

And dear white people: when we are called-out or called-in to our own racism, we must be humble and attentive to the harm we have caused, even if unintentionally.

The murder of Tortuguita should touch everyone who says they value environmental protections. Aside from the continued and intensifying use of repressive police and paramilitary violence, and domestic terrorism laws to harshly penalize peaceful land and nature defenders, the US has now joined the list of countries including Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines that have used state-sanctioned murder against journalists and land defenders.

As we work towards the ultimate horizons of Abolition and universal liberation, we must avoid non-reformist reforms that are ineffective, maintain the status quo, or increase police budgets and profits for corporations that make reformist tech-fixes like body cams.

In 2012, Santa Cruz was the birthplace of PredPol, celebrated as a better way to reduce crime. Eight years later, in the wake of calls for police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, we were the first US city to ban predictive policing. PredPol, still based in Santa Cruz county, rebranded in early 2021 as Geolitica, and continues to do business with dozens of cities around the country (according to one of their blog posts, 1 in 33 Americans is “protected” by their tech, more than 10 million people), and many more around the world. I’d guess it’s no coincidence that they rebranded and pivoted their promotional language after 2020’s uprisings and increased scrutiny of PredPol and data-driven policing. Seems like it worked and business is still strong, but as a privately held company, there’s no real transparency. And yuck!, just look at this LinkedIn post from two weeks ago trotting out MLK even as they’ve been found to uphold practices that violate civil rights.

What can we do here?

We need to make changes to our Public Safety programs and policies, and we need to have the people most impacted by those policies not just at the table but centered in those discussions and decisions. We can’t continue to exclude people because their ideas are inconvenient or challenging. For example, our BIPOC residents who want more radical alternatives to policing should have just as much representation as those who are in positions of power and advocate smaller reforms. Our unhoused neighbors need a seat at the table for every decision that affects their ability to survive. Our residents who advocate for re-allocating some police funds to a non-police alternative emergency response program should be taken seriously by our Council and Police Chief.

We must shift our focus on policing to align with our values of community care with new programs for neighborhood Community Care Emergency Response Teams. Starting with downtown and city workers, we can use our highly capable community of mental health care professionals to train and support residents to help their neighbors with non-police problems.

Reducing our arsenal of military-grade equipment and chemical weapons will save us money, benefit all living things, and increase public safety. Now that we have more transparency because of federal law AB481, we can insist that our police department’s equipment aligns with community values, international law, civil rights, and a sensible budget. We need an independent citizen oversight body with teeth, for review, accountability, and recommendations for SCPD budget, policies, actions, and equipment.

We can find the links between our community and Atlanta’s Cop City, like the Atlanta Police Department’s use of PredPol/Geolitica technology. We can put pressure on local leaders in positions of power–business, governance, and organizations–to pull any support of and make explicit statements against the Cop City development. Watch the webinar Cop City: The Wrong Response to Racist Police Violence to educate yourself and others, and to inform our collective response.

What I’m reading: “An Abolitionists Handbook: 12 steps to changing yourself and the world”, by Patrisse Cullors. This book has been on my bedside table for a few months now and I’ve been reading it casually, but in this moment I commit to reading it more carefully and earnestly.
What I’m watching: “Star Trek: Voyager”. In every series they really get knocked around a lot during turbulence and conflict. Why don’t they have seat belts?
Joy Schendledecker is an artist, parent, and community organizer. She lives on the Westside of Santa Cruz with her husband, two teens, mother in law, and cats. She was a city of Santa Cruz mayoral candidate in 2022.


February 6


Cabrillo College Trustee Dan Rothwell wrote a Guest Commentary in the February 1 Santa Cruz Sentinel that really made no sense and cements my opinion that the current Board of Trustee decision to change the school’s name was a stupid thing to do.

“Why I Voted to Change the Name of Cabrillo College” outlined Trustee Rothwell’s thinking:

1) Disregarding the public survey that clearly opposed the name change was okay because surveys don’t matter… people can change their mind later: “The data are merely suggestive of a point of view but certainly not definitive.” and “In a democracy, we do not mindlessly follow the majority.”

2) Changing the name won’t adversely influence passage of future bonds because those are just anti-tax voters anyway,

3) No school money will be spent because the school plans to seek donations from anti-racist and equity issue groups;

4) Wokeness is just a word;

5) Changing the school name despite the overwhelming opposition stated by alumni who donate might cause donations for scholarships to drop, but oh, well; and

6) Putting the matter to the vote of the people was not necessary because “State law gives the board singular authority to change the college’s name.”

Honestly, Trustee Rothwell’s logic is both bizarre and shocking.  Please write the Sentinel  and the Board of Trustees with your thoughts.

One subsequent letter by Warwick Boulton of Aptos suggested keeping the Cabrillo College name but re-name buildings after California Native American tribes.  Each building’s lobby could feature information about that tribe to help educate the public.  I hope Mr. Boulton will serve as a Trustee in the near future!


That was the question Supervisor Bruce McPherson asked of County Planning staff last Tuesday, after actually pulling Item #38 that would have been swept through on Consent, but that merited public discussion about whether or not the 4Leaf Consultants are actually helping people in the CZU Fire area to rebuild, and should the County extend their contract to help recent storm victims rebuild.  The good discussion became public under Regular Item 11(b).

Supervisor McPherson cited interesting facts that show many CZU Fire rebuild permits have not been issued, or have been issued but not picked up.  Only 600 of those whose homes burned are even shown as trying to work through the permit system, even though the County is paying a lot of money to 4Leaf consultants to “streamline” the permitting process.

Hmmmm….  Listen for yourself here, beginning at minute 2:23:05, and pay special attention to what Supervisor McPherson says at minute 2:26:30 when he asks for a full report on February 14 to explain the problem before expanding 4Leaf’s contract with the County.

“These are questions I am asked every day, but I don’t have any good answer for,” ended Supervisor McPherson.


Last Tuesday’s County Board of Supervisor agenda item #10 was deceptive and a blatant tactic to keep the public misinformed, and therefore, not participating.

Tell me, what in the world do you think this means:

Consider approval in concept of “Uncodified Ordinance of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Amending Ordinance 5423 Related to the Effective Date of Amendments to the Santa Cruz County Code Chapter 13.10 as part of the Sustainability Policy and Regulatory Update of 2022,” and schedule the uncodified ordinance for second reading and final adoption on February 14, 2023, as outlined in the memorandum of the Deputy CAO/Director of Community Development and Infrastructure”     ?????????

What it actually refers to is shoving through the massive changes in the County’s General Plan and Zoning ordinances that will dictate what you can and cannot do on or with your property and where extremely dense developments will be focused.  Why can’t the Board of Supervisors use plain English and better-inform, and therefore involve, the public?

Take a look at what County Code 13.10 is:


If you take the time to dig into the Staff Report, it becomes clear that this confusing and vague language is used to cover up a mistake made in an earlier Board action that would approve some of the Zoning changes outside of the Coastal Zone, making them effective after 30 days, but the other changes in Zoning within the Coastal Zone not be effective until blessed by the Coastal Commission.

Here is what the correction will accomplish and why it is necessary:

“In order to maintain consistency between the General Plan and SCCC Chapter 13.10, the proposed Ordinance will correct the [inadvertent] error, ensuring Ordinance 5423 goes into effect throughout the County once it is certified by the Coastal Commission, along with the General Plan amendments and other implementing ordinances.”

Why not just explain that up front in the Agenda Item description?  CYA, I suppose.

Incidentally, a member of the public testified regarding this item that originally, there was little documentation available to the public in the December, 2022 agenda when the inadvertent error action was taken by the Board, at the behest of the Planning Department staff leaders.  He wrote to the Planning Dept. and was provided an additional 2,000 pages of documentation that was not linked to the agenda at the time.



The County Board of Supervisor meetings are video recorded and made available on the website for those who cannot attend their Tuesday, 9am meetings.  As one who is able to participate regularly in these meetings, I can tell you that they are VERY POORLY ATTENDED by the public.

So, it is very unfortunate that none of comments made January 10, 2023 by people who took time to actually attend the meeting were recorded, and all but the last 17 seconds of my remote Public Comment at the meeting seems to be missing.  One would think the Board would take special care to make sure the recordings are complete and accurate.

Was that a mistake to omit nearly all of the public comment, or was it censorship??

Please write your Supervisors and ask.

Santa Cruz County Board of or call 831-454-2200.

It is amazing to see all five men actually showing up in person at these meetings!

Last Tuesday’s Board meeting recording was better, but had many gaps of silence throughout.  You might appreciate the Public Comment from the Corralitos resident who actually came to the Supervisor meeting because no one from the County ever responded to her community’s multiple requests for help from her Supervisor (Zach Friend) or Public Works in guidance for removing a storm-damaged private bridge and rebuild primary access for 31 homes.  (see minute 11:25)

click here to continue (link expands, click again to collapse)


Last week’s trip to Santa Cruz on Highway One Northbound was a shock for me to see the miles of areas once lined with lovely trees but that are now bare and littered with stumps.  It got depressing at the Fish Hook to see the piles of logs and mountains of sawdust that represented the trees that used to line the highway, converting CO2 to oxygen.

This is the first of three phases to widen Highway One and will include a bicycle/pedestrian overpass near the Sheriff Center on Chanticleer Avenue.

Santa Cruz Local: Highway 1 Widening

SCCRTC: Hwy 1 corridor

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) just announced receiving an award of a $72.6 MILLION for the next phase of this project: three miles of widening between Bay Avenue/Porter to State Park Drive in Aptos.

[Fact Sheet: Hwy 1 aux lanes Bay/Porter updated]

The RTC also received a $3.3 million grant for Pedestrian Safety Improvements on Highway 9 in Felton:

The project proposes to construct pedestrian and bicycle facilities to improve safety on Highway 9 near Felton from Kirby Street to north of Fall Creek Drive. For more information about the project, visit the Caltrans project website.

For some historic analysis, here is a good article….from 10 years ago.

What’s changed?  Voters passed Measure D in 2016 that helped fund highway widening, and other transportation projects, such as bike lanes and buses.


Many thanks to the reader who sent this information.  Tune in, if you can to the free webinar this Friday:

Water Equity, Affordability and Climate Change


Many popular programmers from KSCO radio and other radio vets have migrated to a new local internet radio platform called “Santa Cruz Voice”.

The group is launching a “soft opening” this week.  Stay tuned.


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

February 6


With the rain and cool weather, for many reasons….it is fire time. How do we weigh the balance between the benefits of burning wood for heat and wildland fuel reduction with the drawbacks of indoor and outdoor air pollution and atmospheric carbon additions/global warming?  This moment in this season is a good time to enter that reflective space.

Thinking Ahead

February is historically the wettest time of year on California’s central coast. The most rain falls in February, and the days are still short and the air is cool, keeping the environment moist between rainstorms. In just a handful of months, it will be dry and hot and fire weather will return. Anyone with responsibility to manage any vegetation must regularly plan for fire. Fire storms now march right into towns and so the smallest yard keepers have to think about the flammability of their situation. Why wait until the fiery weather is upon us? Cool days make for excellent outdoor working weather, and the wet environment opens up all sorts of opportunities for biomass processing.

Our Cultural Controls on Pile Burning

The native peoples burned dry natural vegetation, and so must we. With the rains and surrounding vegetation so moist, it has been an excellent time to do ‘pile burning.’ The CZU CAL FIRE unit, which oversees Santa Cruz and San Mateo County, started allowing rural residents to burn dry piles of vegetation starting last November 11, but how long that permission will last depends on the weather. CAL FIRE says, “Dry, natural vegetation, grown on the property may be burned outdoors in open piles unless prohibited by local ordinances.”  But first you have to apply for a CAL FIRE permit using an online system; and then you can only burn on a day that the Air Resources Board says is okay – when the smoke won’t be too much of a health hazard. You’ll need to do another permit application from them using, again, an online system. Interestingly, while CAL FIRE allowed burns a few weeks earlier, the Air Board burn season is December 1 – April 30.

Burning Assistance

This past December, and maybe again in the future, the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association hosted workshops teaching “the foundational concepts of safe pile burning.” They offer this online resource for more guidance.

What About Composting Woody Debris for Fire Safety?

There is an understandable uprising against burning given concerns about climate change. Many people are suggesting composting biomass instead of burning it.

If you are in town, you can meter out your green waste bins by pruning out any dead or overgrown plants, a little at a time …. week by week. If you live out in the countryside and have to deal with a lot of woody biomass, you haul it to the dump or think of other solutions. How the dump manages to dispose of that much composted biomass is a conundrum.

There are permaculture folks and other Hügelkultur practitioners who suggest burying woody material beneath agricultural or horticultural beds, taking advantage of rotting wood for soil carbon benefits including increased water retention. This is a lot of work so it is applicable for only small amounts of woody debris in specific situations. Others suggest burying biomass to reduce erosion in down cutting drainages. My limited experience suggests caution with this approach as any wood that appears out of the soil will probably ignite during wildfire, burning and cooking the soil in the drainage. I share the same experience and caution for Hügelkultur: bury it well and hope it rots fast (you’ll need to keep it moist)!

What About Chipping?

With diesel or gas-guzzling chipping machines, it is questionable whether chipping is any better than burning biomass for atmospheric carbon impacts. There is also a concern about the wood chips catching fire in wildfires. One person I know had a nice pile of chips slowly disappearing into their grassy yard soil until someone built a warming fire on top of them…which ignited a few days later into a large conflagration that was difficult to extinguish. Best to bury chips, too – but not so easy to do! The same cautions apply for the practice of mastication- those big machines that chip vegetation ‘in place.’ Masticated material lying in carpets across the ground are less dangerous, but they still carry wildfire. And so, let’s turn back to the burning option.

Burning in Santa Cruz

The CZU Lightning Complex Fire burned 85,000 acres….mostly incompletely. That’s the region’s biggest, most obvious UH-OH! If you look at most of that acreage, you will see thousands and thousands of dead trees, which are slowly falling and creating a giant fire hazard. Do you recall the Creek Fire pyrocumulonimbus cloud and extreme fire behavior, including tornadoes of flames? That fire and other fires in the Sierra Nevada were greatly exacerbated by large numbers of trees killed by drought and beetles. We are facing the same danger in the footprint of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. State Parks and other landowners have been using pile burning to reduce fuels to mitigate such a catastrophe, but a lot more needs to happen: the ‘treated landscape’ is much smaller than the untreated areas at this time. Still, I know of more than 500 burn piles having been ignited this season, so there is hope.

Another method of burning involves using an ‘air curtain burner’ or a ‘carbonator.’ These both look like large metal shipping containers. Air curtain burners use high powered fans to contain sparks while logs get incinerated. Carbonators use more controlled air exchange so that they create ‘biochar’ – charcoal that can be used in agriculture or horticulture. Vineyards have been experimenting with biochar as a soil amendment that holds some promise for increased soil water retention. Horticulturally, biochar may substitute for carbon- and nature-unfriendly (mined) peat moss. We need to study biochar to see how long it retains carbon in the soil – long- or short term – to understand its potential for helping global warming by sequestering carbon.

Burning Wood: Carbon Neutral?

There is a movement afoot to reduce the use of wood for fuel, but to what end? In the San Lorenzo Valley and elsewhere, folks have long complained about air quality degradation due to badly managed wood heating apparatus. Unfortunately, folks use old wood fueled heaters and/or burn poor quality wood. As with burn piles, folks should be careful to burn only dry wood: there ought to be some rules for firewood sales to disclose percent moisture content in fire wood. Also, firewood needs to be stored so it doesn’t get wet after it is delivered to someone’s home. Wet firewood smokes a lot. Dry firewood burned in a modern woodstove, using smart fire building and maintenance methods can greatly reduce pollution while using a sustainable fuel source. The California Air Resources Board has a great website on cautions about, and helpful tips for, using wood for heating, and as an alternative suggests using electrical heaters.

Two thirds of California’s electricity comes from natural gas – fossil fuel! That figure is more hopeful in our region if you choose to get your power from Central Coast Community Energy, which is shooting for 60% renewable by 2025. Heating with wood is considered by many to be carbon neutral because the carbon that cycles from the atmosphere into plants, and then into wood fuel, isn’t fossil carbon but natural-cycling carbon. Plus, harvesting that woody carbon has a potential around here of being part of the solution to our current, catastrophic wildland fire fuel problem.

I hope you will carefully consider the right way to use wood for heat

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

Email Grey at


Saturday, February 4, 2023

#35 / What Dr. Swenson Said

That is Dr. Robert Swenson, pictured above. Sandy Lydon, who has been known to call himself “The History Dude,” has a website that provides us with a little background about Dr. Swenson, informing us that Dr. Swenson was the founding president of Cabrillo College in 1959. Dr. Swenson retired in 1976, and he then served as the Executive Director of the Community College Accreditation Commission, a position he held until 1986. Swenson died in 2007 at age 89, two months short of his ninetieth birthday.

Back at the end of December, at the swearing-in ceremony for two newly-elected members of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors (Justin Cummings and Felipe Hernandez), an old friend who knew Dr. Swenson told me something that Dr. Swenson once said. I thought that Dr. Swenson’s commentary was worth passing on:

There are just three kinds people, Dr. Swenson said:

First, there are the people who make things happen.

Second, there are the people who watch things happen.

Third, there are the people who say, “What happened”?

I hope you’re with me when I say, let’s all shoot for that first category!

Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at

Email Gary at


February 6


As the country looks up to the sky searching for more Chinese surveillance balloons, the accident rate remains pretty much unchanged from the days when everyone looked down at their cell phones. The balloon’s trip across the USA resulted in ripples in the fabric of international relations, as well as a domestic brouhaha in Washington, DC. The PRC called the balloon a civilian craft, a weather balloon that the US had no business destroying, and precipitating a cancelation of the planned visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China. Speculation that the ill-timed launch of the balloon was done by the hard-line component in the Chinese military as a poke in the eye to US…or maybe it was simply done in error through non-communication within the governmental departments. Intelligence has determined that the PRC has a ‘fleet‘ of thirty to forty of these spy craft, and that they have been tracked around the world, notably, at least three sailing over this country during the Trump administration. The Donald responded, “The Chinese had too much respect for me to do that…I know nothing of the kind!” Of course, you don’t, Donnie Dotard! Why would you, never having read any of the daily intelligence reports?

The Republican contingent tried to make hay over Biden’s allowing the balloon to cross the continent before taking it down over the Atlantic where it fell into shallower waters, allowing for retrieval of the fallen elements. Left unsaid was the attempt to take down an unidentified balloon over Wyoming, which drifted toward the Dakotas and the Mount Rushmore area. Later, a yellow Baby Trump Balloon was found draped over the outsize nose of a stony-faced George Washington…not a pretty sight and one incident to surely put a lid on. There was no evidence that the ‘mothership‘ was dispersing smaller devices, but as the real balloon drifted toward Missouri, a takedown was ruled out just in case a similar incident fell upon the St. Louis Gateway ArchSenator Marco Rubio says China is telling the world, “We can do whatever we want and America can’t stop us.” Senator Ted Cruz told CBS, “I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government,” as he exited a wintry Texas for parts unknown. Count on six more weeks of winter for Texans!

An official with the Department of Defense speculated the balloon’s capabilities did not appear to be “over and above” those of Chinese satellites and other methods of surveillance, though better granularity is provided with lower altitude imagery. President Biden opted to have the balloon shot down over open water to minimize the unwarranted risks of injury to Americans and their properties had it been dispatched over populated areas. Ohio Representative Michael Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, compared Biden’s decision to “tackling the quarterback after the game is over.” Because the remnants of the destroyed interloper fell into water, resulting in a softer landing, they should remain reasonably intact, allowing intelligence to examine and reverse-engineer the Chinese systems, with Pentagon officials hoping that this country gains more information than did The PRC. Biden’s reticence as the airship traversed the country, rather than making threats to destroy it, may have prevented the Chinese from triggering a self-destruct mechanism, which could have endangered citizens, and finally prevented the military from finally making a recovery attempt, not to mention any data resulting from our observations in its travels.

It remains to be seen if Biden picks up any ratings points from this Chinese incursion, but regardless, voters have little enthusiasm for a Biden/Trump rematch in 2024, both of whom are the current leaders in their respective parties. In fact, neither engenders a high preference quotient, and Americans overall would feel let down or irked if either one wins the general election. Biden at this point has not formally announced a run, nor does he have any challengers; Trump, on the other hand has made his early announcement and can expect a handful of challengers, the first speculated to be Nikki Haley in the coming days. Another eight or so are biding their time as they quietly explore any support lurking in the wings, with Ron DeSantis being the most prominent in early polling. The President has a 31% preference in his own party, but WAPO/ABC polling finds that 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents prefer another nominee.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents want someone other than Trump with 49% expressing their inclination, countered by 44% who are hanging tough with the Former Guy. Neither the midterm’s elections success of Biden and the Dems, nor the classified documents investigations of both men has changed the overall judgements of the two. Trump’s whining and droning on and on with false claims about a stolen election has grown tiresome, with many Republicans blaming him for the poor midterms results as they attempt to come up with a believable agenda. Biden and the Dems are looking for a boost following the State of the Union address to overcome a 53% disapproval rating among voters, 42% of whom disapprove strongly.

Radio host John Fredericks, who has been a rabid supporter of DJT, has taken issue with the former Commander-in-Tweet over his “petty media feuds and grievances.” His message to Trump is, “Nobody cares!” He feels that political issues are being ignored as attention is focused on far-fetched lawsuits and rants about “fake news.” Fredericks was also dissatisfied with the former prez’s support of Ronna McDaniel as she won the re-election for the RNC chair, expressing his views that The Don “should have stayed out of it and let the chips fall where they may… the same with the House Speaker chair.” Far-right GOPers supported conservative activist Harmeet Dhillon, who lost by a wide margin, but beating MyPillow guy Mike Lindell who only got four votes. Fredericks goes on, “I’m telling you, folks, I’m just telling you. Nobody cares. I mean, they just don’t care. I just don’t care!” We get it, John…if only it would soak in a bit deeper!

Trump’s 2016 campaign will have to void hundreds of non-disclosure agreements to settle a suit brought by a former campaign aide, a settlement providing $450,000 to campaign workers for abusive treatment, and opening up the way for them to speak out regarding events about the 2016 election. Jessica Denson alleges the campaign tried to quiet her when she went public over her treatment, being abused by another worker, for which she was awarded $25,000. Hundreds of other workers and volunteers are now released from their NDAs, as attorney David K. Bowles announced, “The Trump NDA is invalid and unenforceable, and the campaign workers should never have had to live under its shadow.” Now, what about the NDAs that the Trump Syndicate forced people to sign reaching back years, and into his presidency? May the floodgates open wide!

Imminent.” We keep hearing that word in connection with all of Trump’s legal troubles, and it popped up again last week as Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Willis said her probe into DJT’s activities were advancing, putting him squarely into being criminally charged in three different jurisdictions in 2023. Bill Palmer in his The Palmer Report says, “Once Donald starts getting hit with these indictments, we’ll hear about how ‘unprecedented’ it is that a former President of the United States is being put on criminal trial. But that’s not the story. Not really. The real story is that a career criminal, who should have been put in prison several decades ago, who managed to steal the presidency and use it as part of his lifelong crime spree, is now finally facing criminal justice. The only reason Donald Trump never went to prison during his lifelong crime spree is that he was never indicted. Now he’s being indicted by three different sets of prosecutors, likely on a wide variety of criminal charges. The odds of him being fully acquitted of all charges, in even one of the three jurisdictions are infinitesimally small. Trump is going to prison. It’s the only fate he was ever going to face once he was booted from office, and now he’s facing it.” Best prediction of the week!

Former Trump personal attorney, Michael Cohen, recently appeared for testimony in the Manhattan DA’s probe into the $13,000 hush money paid by Trump to Stormy Daniels for her silence in their affair during the 2016 presidential campaign. At this juncture, it only indicates that the office is close to making a decision about charges against the Former Guy. Cohen is slated for further questioning, in addition to others, and in his mind, “I don’t believe they would have called me in at this stage if it was merely for show.” Cohen has already served time for some of his activities under Trump’s employ, so if Cohen is guilty why wouldn’t the same apply to Trump? During an appearance on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace program, Cohen stated, “You know how they say a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich? In this case they’re gonna indict the whole pig!” Sounds like the real deal…oink, oink!

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


EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.

EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at you will find his most recent  Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.


“BALLOON, n. A contrivance for larding the earth with the fat of fools.”
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“No air, no balloons!”
~Ljupka Cvetanova, The New Land

“To millions of children, a condom is nothing but a balloon.”
~Mokokoma Mokhonoana, On Friendship: A Satirical Essay


I love this song 🙂 It expresses how I feel at times… If you want to see the entire musical, here’s a link to it: Firebringer

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