Blog Archives

January 11 – 17, 2023

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Fred Keeley as the mayor, the Warriors, new towers? GREENSITE…will return next week. KROHN…still on vacation. STEINBRUNER…Keith McHenry’s Arrest, Watsonville Hospital takeover, Aptos Village issues. HAYES…January’s Flower. PATTON…Dwight was right! MATLOCK…Groundhog Day and the Battle of the Concessionaires. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover WEBMISTRESS…more on waste. QUOTES…”Piers”


THE SS PALO ALTO OIL TANKER. 1947. The Palo Alto Oil tanker was built in 1918 by the US Government for $2 million and was part of a concrete fleet. It was completed so late it wasn’t used in WW1. It was beached in Aptos in 1930 and broke in half in 1932.

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email

DATELINE January 9

OUR NEW MAYOR. Fred Keeley has sure been around and accomplished a lot in all those elected positions he’s held and expectations are sure high about his ability to take our local City Council and City to new heights. Buzzing’s around our city are watching extra closely to see how he works with Matt Huffaker the city manager. Our past history shows the City Manager as the real governing power behind and in front of the scenes. That’s largely because the mayor was only in office for a year now that Fred’s sitting there for four years who’s going to be in charge? Huffaker was making a salary of $22,199 per WEEK according to city records back in 2021.

Can we look forward to much needed attention to the sorry state of our downtown with all the shuttered businesses? Can Fred make waves and progress to assisting Pacific Avenue in coming back to life?  With the water deluge creating such destruction on and under our piers/wharves will the money interests back off with their ceaseless battle to add more businesses on to our Municipal Wharf? Can they be convinced by nature that development isn’t a wise move?

Mayor Fred Keeley is a Warriors fan, pure but not simple. He doesn’t just attend the games, he pushes the condominium development near their Arena. What promises has Fred given the Warriors, why his pushing of the Towers, and just who owns those would be monstrosities? And just what percent will be truly affordable, and not the affordable that only Silicon Valley escapees can afford.

Yes, we have a new mayor and the potential of a new direction of our city government…let’s hope and let’s hope together.

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.

CORSAGE. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (6.7 IMDB). An extra fictionalized version of Empress Elisabeth of Austria during the year of 1877. Complicated, fanciful and an excellent movie. The acting is perfect, and the director has taken great pains to make her story applicable to today’s world. Corsage can and does mean both a floral corsage and a corset, and Elisabeth’s corset gets much attention. You’ll never take your eyes off Vicky Krieps who plays Elisabeth. She is being touted for many cinema awards in the next few weeks.

IN THE DARK. (PRIME SERIES) (7.5 IMDB). A waste of both film to make this rip-off and your time to watch it. The actress playing the lead is supposed to be blind and she finds a friend murdered. She drinks too much and stumbles around unconvincingly to find the murderer. The plot is so over used and the acting and dialogue is so simple minded that I could only watch one and 1/4 episode.

THE PALE BLUE EYE. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.6 IMDB). There is a character named Edgar Allen Poe in this fascinating murder comedy. Plus the considerable talents of Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, Timothy Spall and Toby Jones. Great costuming, fine acting and a plot that will keep you completely involved.

THE MENU. (PRIME SERIES) (7.4 IMDB). This bizarre plot has Ralph Fiennes as a crazed billionaire chef creating a last meal for a number of eccentric guests. Those guests include the wide eyed Anya Taylor-Joy and John Leguizamo. Fiennes and the cast do almost believable jobs of acting out this crazed plot which centers on making fun of haut cuisine and the moneyed class. See it and you won’t forget it.

BABYLON. (Some theatres only). (7.4 IMDB). This heavily hyped movie stars Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Olivia Wilde and a lot more stars in this impossible to follow history of Hollywood and the movies from the silent days up to references to today’s movie product. It’s three hours long and seems longer as about six characters stories are detailed back and forth. The off screen wheeling’s and dealings of the film business are hinted at but not detailed enough to make it worthwhile. It’s one of the biggest box office flops in recent years.

THREE PINES. (PRIME VIDEO SERIES)) (7.3 IMDB). A genuine murder mystery that will have you guessing. It’s slow and even boring in parts but Alfred Molina as the investigating officer from Quebec leads us through some tricky and puzzling possibilities. There are four mysteries in the eight episodes and it involves protestors and stories about Indigenous women who face entire lives of trying to save their children. Complex, interesting and thought provoking.

EMANCIPATION. (APPLE MOVIE) (6.1 IMDB). It’s almost Simon Legree from Uncle Tom’s Cabin trying to catch Uncle Tom as we watch Ben Foster gunning after Will Smith who is a runaway slave from a large plantation. About 90 percent of the movie is Smith being chased through swamps, up into trees, across streams…just chase after chase. Will Smith does his best to look like a slave and keeps his jaw stuck out at a weird angle through the entire film. Don’t expect much.

WEDNESDAY. (NETFLIX SERIES) (8.3 IMDB). Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Morticia, Lurch is in there too, plus Luis Guzman as Gomez Addams and yes it’s all based on brilliant cartoonist’s Charles Addams family cartoons. Tim Burton directed it so one would think it would be sharper humor and not so idiotic, but there we are.

THE GLORY. (NETFLIX SERIES) (8.1 IMDB). A deep and nearly painful ten age abuse movie from Korea. A student is unmercifully abused, burned, branded and punished by her schoolmates. The film goes back and forth over the next ten years as she plans and plots some devilish and brutal revenge on each of her former bullies. A tough but well done movie that will leave you thinking about your early years in school.

KALEIDOSCOPE. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.1 IMDB). The engaging Rufus Sewell leads the cast in this bank robbery saga. What’s unusual is that there are eight episodes telling how the robbery is planned and we can watch the episodes in any order! There’s deeply involved treachery, lies, and betrayal among the team of would be robbers and more than enough suspense and fine acting to keep you completely attached.

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.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (7.4 IMDB). A star studded semi comedy about a murder and who done it? Daniel Craig is back in this part two of Knives Out and again has a western accent plus a surprising relationship with a surprise guest star. Serena Williams, YoYo Ma, Kate Hudson, Hugh Grant and Ethan Hawke all mug a lot around Ed Norton the mysterious billionaire host. It’s diverting and worth a smile or two.

GODS CROOKED LINES. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (7.0 IMDB). A genuinely thoughtful film dealing with truth. A therapist is sent undercover to a psychiatric hospital to find a murderer. She herself gets involved and has to prove her own innocence. But who is lying which court case do we believe? The ending will leave you absorbed and curious, go for it.

BARDO: FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (7.0 IMDB). Another cinema well done puzzle piece directed by Alejandro Inaritu. It starts off in Santa Monika of all places where a Mexican author and filmmaker returns to his native country to receive an award. There’s a series of painful flashbacks nightmares and visions as he faces the future. One funny but strange inside joke is that Amazon (yes that Amazon) is about to buy Baja California. It’s about the media, government, and fame and it’s an excellent movie.

TREASON. (NETFLIX SERIES) (6.2 IMDB). Ciaran Hinds plays the government official who is almost poisoned and Oona Chaplin (Charlie’s granddaughter) is his aide de camp. It’s a tricky trio of investigators with Russian backgrounds and connections trying to determine who is really guilty. Its politics, loyalty, love and espionage all wrapped together. Thoughtful, well done all wrapped together in a fine movie.

THE LOST PATIENT. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.3 IMDB). A teen ager wakes up in a hospital after three years to eventually remember that his entire family had been murdered in their house. Who did it? There’s a black hooded maybe killer, a woman therapist or who else? Much mystery, a lot of flashbacks and it’s almost believable.

ATTACK ON FINLAND. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.3 IMDB). There’s a big celebration in Finland’s palace and the president is shot and dies. Who dunnit is the big question. There’s armed guards but some of them are very suspicious. Guests are taken as hostages and threatened. It’s about changing the way all of Europe is controlled…a huge problem but this movie doesn’t add much in the way of tension or drama.


Gillian will be back next week

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.


Chris is still on vacation

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 His Twitter handle at SCpolitics is @ChrisKrohnSC Chris can be reached at

Email Chris at

January 9


On the morning of December 27, 2022, no less than 10 Santa Cruz City Police officers arrested Food Not Bombs leader Keith McHenry for occupying a parking space in the River Street parking garage where he and other volunteers were serving daily hot meals to homeless under the cover of the garage during a heavy winter rain.  Usually, the group is at the Town Clock, but relocated to the unused area of Lot 10 to get out of the rain.

“I don’t care if Food Not Bombs has to stand out in the rain to serve food,” said Officer Denise Cockrum.

The 10 officers arrested Mr. McHenry and other volunteers at about 10am on a misdemeanor charge and confiscated tables and serving equipment…for blocking a parking space and loitering. Mr. McHenry was released from the jail that night at about 9:15pm.

Mind you, Food Not Bombs had just served over 500 free hot Christmas Day dinners to homeless people in the City of Santa Cruz.

Do you think the arrest and confiscation of food serving equipment was necessary?

For a City that claims to espouse equality and restorative justice, what went wrong here?

Contact the City Council with your thoughts: Santa Cruz City Council


The two photos on the left are both from Beach Drive in the Rio del Mar area after the recent storm last Wednesday, and were taken by a friend.

Here is his description:

“Here are the photos, one being the pylons where the house was located and the other being the house. I spoke to the owner and he said the house was built in the 1950’s. Also that it was the surge in the height of the ocean that simply lifted up the house and it floated to where you see it in the photo. Amazing.”

Below is a photo of the Laurel Street Bridge in Santa Cruz on Monday, January 9.  Notice that the points of attachment that Soquel Creek Water District has installed for their large pipes of chloramine-laden pressurized sewage effluent (for the PureWater Soquel Project) is at a level on the bridge BELOW the top of the levee.  I saw many large logs floating in the swift San Lorenzo River flood currents as I took this photo…what would one of them do to partially-submerged effluent pipes on the Bridge?  Chloramine is toxic to all aquatic organisms…and does not dissipate with exposure to air.


Last week’s column here by Grey Hayes was excellent, with discussion about flooding, and   the importance of saving rainwater.

The County of Santa Cruz requires all new development to retain rainwater on site for a two-year storm.  Last week’s storms were real whoppers…obviously more than a once-in-two year event.  What can we do to save that volume of water to benefit the aquifers in a way that does not require high amounts of energy, chemicals, and technology dependent on foreign-imported components?

Dr. Andy Fisher’s Recharge Initiative has provided a map of the best soils in the County for percolation and rainwater collection projects that could promote cumulative groundwater health.

Take a look at the map of these recharge areas…could one of them be in your neighborhood?

  1. ANDY FISHER: Enhancing groundwater recharge with stormwater

Dr. Helen Dahlke at UC Davis is working with farmers in the Central Valley to explore the idea originally promoted by one of the farmers there to

let their farms flood in the winter storms, benefiting the groundwater table.

Here is a link to some of Dr. Dahlke’s recent podcasts

I have requested many times that the Midcounty Groundwater Agency and County Water Advisory Commission, and also the Flood Control agencies invite Dr. Dahlke to speak about this locally.  With the exception of Mr. Brian Lockwood, Manager of the Pajaro Valley Water District, none of the people serving on those agencies ever expresses an interest in learning about the potential benefit of flooding areas in the winter.


Last week’s Santa Cruz County LAFCO meeting brought interesting information and helped me connect some dots and come to the conclusion that the Scotts Valley Water District may be consolidating with Soquel Creek Water District.

LAFCO just hired Ms. Piret Harmon, who retired last month as Manager of Scotts Valley Water District, to act as a consultant for “two potential water district consolidations” anticipated in 2023.  Ms. Harmon now lives in Sacramento and, as an expert in the area’s water issues. would be paid $100/hour and up to $20,000/year to assist Mr. Serrano with these two potential consolidations.  One of the Commissioners stated that Operations Manager, Mr. David McNair, is serving as the Interim Manager. Scotts Valley Water District – Staff

I wonder why there is no announcement of Ms. Harmon’s retirement on the Scotts Valley Water District website?  Nor could I find anything about it in a local media search.

However, the Scotts Valley Water District website did provide this interesting archived interview from last September, with Ms. Harmon sharing an interview with Soquel Creek Water District Manager, Ron Duncan, and Ms. Melanie Mow-Schumacher, Special Projects leader for Soquel Creek Water District.: Scotts Valley Water District – Piret Harmon, General Manager discusses water on KSQD’s “Talk of the Bay” news program

Remember that Scotts Valley Water District is paying for a feasibility study that would analyze the benefits of consolidating that District with Soquel Creek Water District.

Remember that while the Soquel Creek Water District Board was not happy about the lack of control, their General Manager Ron Duncan was very supportive of the action.  He also presented the Board with adopting a new Assistant Manager title, and asked the Board to approve Ms. Melanie Mow-Schumacher, leader of the PureWater Soquel Project, for that job.  As a member of the Ad Hoc Committee that has been examining the Scotts Valley Water District collaboration, he explained that he already shares a lot of information with Ms. Mow-Schumacher, but crowning her with this new title as his official Assistant  Manager would allow him to share information on a deeper level.  Hmm….

She has been receiving a monthly $1600 bonus for her work on the PureWater Soquel Project since January, 2021, along with two other top departmental heads ($1000/month each to Ms. Leslie Strohm in finances, and Mr. Taj DuFour in Operations).  These whopping bonuses will continue until the Project is completed, and that now looks to be delayed out to sometime in 2024.  Aren’t bonuses usually awarded at the end of a job well-done???

When I asked LAFCO Director Mr. Joe Serrano during the Public Comment time about the two potential water companies consolidating, he explained to the Commission that Soquel Creek Water District and Scotts Valley Water District are currently examining sharing administrative duties.

Are you now connecting some dots here?  Stay tuned.

Here is the link to the LAFCO Agenda Item 7a, where the staffing issue was discussed


Last week’s LAFCO meeting also brought to light that the leaders of the new Pajaro Valley Health Care District still have not provided him with a business plan for how the Watsonville Hospital will operate financially.  Nonetheless, he was required by the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg law to seek approval of the Commission to formalize the boundaries of the new Health Care District.  However, a formal Service and Sphere Review will not happen until December, 2025.

The boundary lines of this new potential tax area were drawn by California State Senator John Laird when he provided $25 million in tax payer money for funding the Hospital purchase last year.  Like me, Commissioner Roger Anderson had questions about the overlap with the established sphere of influence to the south with the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital District.

You can take a look at those mapping issues by comparing the Vicinity Map and the Proposed Sphere Boundary Map, whose hyperlinks are provided at the bottom of the Agenda Item #6b

Mr. Serrano agreed that it was an issue to get cleared up, and he is working with Monterey County LAFCO to address the problem.  He explained that it appeared the new Pajaro Valley Health Care District lines were drawn on top of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District boundaries.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense, and brings to light the fact that this Hospital buyout was done very hastily, and without regard for following proper process to create a new Special District that most certainly will be used for future taxation to support the Watsonville Hospital’s operational finances.

While Mr. Pimental, one of the newly-elected Directors for the Pajaro Valley Health Care District, assured the public and County Board of Supervisors recently that the District does have a Business Plan in place, and we are welcome to attend their meetings, it is curious that no one thought to provide Santa Cruz County LAFCO with the actual information necessary to follow the law regarding the formation of the new District.

Here is the link to SB 418, the bill that Senator Laird pushed through in record time. (I wonder… was it a gut-and-amend job?)

You can read the SB 418 description of the new Special District boundaries created in this section:

CHAPTER  9. Pajaro Valley Health Care District


 (a) A local hospital district designated as the Pajaro Valley Health Care District is hereby formed within the Counties of Santa Cruz and Monterey.


A new Strategic Plan for Central Fire District is on this week’s District Board agenda item 8.1, but I really wonder how on earth those consultants can actually expect anyone to make sense of the mountain of words filling 240 pages….and this is only the beginning, with a further analysis to determine what actions the Central Fire District (CFD) will actually need to take!

Here is an example:

“CFD has not recently completed an environmental study, but one was included in the 2018 feasibility study. However, they have contracted with AP Triton to better understand the environment post-merger to update its awareness. This assessment will be completed as part of this master plan and further defined during the community-driven strategic plan. During this and the next phase, AP Triton will conduct evaluations.”

(page 84

Take a look for yourself.  Much of this data is a repeat of the feasibility study documents that were approved prior to the consolidation of Central Fire and Aptos/ La Selva Fire Districts.

However, fast-forward to the Findings, on agenda page 280 and see these eyebrow-raisers:

**The Thurber Station has structural problems on the living quarter’s side, likely because the station is settling. 

**The Capitola Station is inadequate in design and size, while it is also located in a flood zone. However, the necessity of this station location was demonstrated during the site visit because of the traffic situation.

**The Aptos station’s sewer situation is inadequate. 

**The Aptos station is not adequately designed to house the height of the current truck apparatus.

**The Rio Del Mar station is not a good design for a fire station. Crews should have better access to the bay floor and additional space to address health and safety concerns.

**The La Selva Beach station is insufficient in design and size. It is also located inappropriately to serve the District’s response needs.

**The five water companies’ agreement with the District has been in place for many years, and they all need to be reviewed.

Well….there is more that you need to read if you are served by the good people of Central Fire District.  Please take time to read through this Strategic Plan Draft and participate in this Thursday’s (Jan. 12) hybrid Board meeting.

The Report begins on page 49 of the Board agenda packet, trundling along through page 289 as Item 8.1 Long Range Master Plan.

You might find this of interest:

The map of number of  Emergency Medical Response (EMS) Incident Demand is interesting (page 126), and reflects the earlier feasibility study’s recommendation to close stations in Soquel and Capitola Villages and post Rapid Response Units in the areas where medical responses are greatest.  The addresses of some of those frequent call locations are on page 128 of the packet.

Page 131 shows ladder truck response times…and shows nothing at all for the Aptos Village Project, which has three-story structures in Phase I, with many, many more planned for Phase II.  Maybe the ladder truck (housed at the Thurber Lane Station) just cannot navigate those narrow roads and reduced turning radii on corners that the County gifted Swenson Builders as concessions for density?  Take a look at the map of three-story buildings in the District on agenda page 261. I don’t see the proposed four-story Kaiser Medical Facility or it’s parking garage.

The remarkably low reliability rates for response (ie, how likely is it that the crew will be able to respond when called) on page 139 troubles me, and I wonder how AP Triton developed that data?

Take a look at the traffic county numbers at 41st Avenue, Soquel Avenue and Highway One on page 267 of the agenda. Do you think they are accurate?  There is no source of the data provided, and the years of data collection also are also not included.

Look at the surprisingly high number of arson fires on agenda page 276.

Spend some time with this important, albeit word-speak, document…it will be guiding local Central Fire District operations…eventually.


Many wonder why the Aptos Village Project’s Parade Street entrance from Soquel Drive seems completed but remains closed…with occasional public outbursts of tossing the barricades aside.

Hmmm…What could be the reason?


Thanks to Brian Peoples for alerting me to this proposal on the RTC agenda this Thursday.  Progressive Rail seeks to store 50-100 rail cars on tracks sitting unused and vacant in Watsonville.  Progressive Rail gets paid a lot of money for sideline storage, but under the agreement, the RTC would get a 3%-5% commission, generating a few thousand dollars monthly.  The cars would contain corn and soil oil headed to Martinez for biofuel processing and would stay 2-8 weeks, regularly being cycled in and out. There could be as many as a total of 1,000 cars cycled in and out in 2023.

“…rail cars stored between MP 3 and 4 would be where the track runs along farm fields and visible from West Beach Street and Lee Road.” (see map on page 65) 

“Progressive would take full responsibility for maintenance of the rail line up to MP 4 for the initial one-year term, 

  • The initial one-year period will provide the opportunity to assess the condition of the rail line up to MP 7 for repairs and maintenance that may be needed for possible storage and expansion of Progressive Rail’s repair and maintenance responsibility beyond MP 4, 
  • Progressive Rail and Roaring Camp would work with RTC to ensure that any rail car storage would not be an impediment to any work done by the RTC for development of potential rail and trail projects or other work associated with the section of the rail line used for rail car storage.”

If approved, the cars could begin arriving this month.

However, there are some interesting disputes regarding who is responsible for maintaining the rail easement.  See page 60-63.

“A more significant fiscal impact may be savings associated with a potential resolution to the dispute over maintenance responsibilities. Savings to the RTC for one year of maintenance of the full section (MP 3.0 – 7.0) is estimated to be at least $50K, based on an RTC contract this past fall to remove fallen trees, cut back vegetation and clear ditches and culverts between MP 4 and MP 7.”

Here is what Progressive Rail is proposing and why:

“The request for SIT railcars comes from Marathon Oil who recently converted its Martinez, California, refinery from crude oil to liquid biofuels in an effort to help meet California’s carbon emission reductions by 2030. The two-year refinery conversion has just been completed in December of 2022, and Marathon is scheduled to begin production of biofuels in January 2023, with a target of 260 million gallons during its first year of production. The newly converted refinery has a limited amount of railcar storage at its Martinez facility and will need local Short Lines to provide SIT for inbound Soy Oil and Corn Oil tank cars in order to meet production projections.”

What do you think?  Write the RTC before Thursday, January 12:

Yesenia Parra


The RTC wants to buy historic property at 7992 Soquel Drive for the sole purpose of controlling the right-of-way during construction of the 16′-wide bike trail alongside the railroad tracks in the Aptos Village area, on the inland side of the tracks.  To fund the $1.2 million purchase, the RTC will grab Measure D money it does not expect to have until 2025 but spend it now anyway as an all-cash offer.

The parcel is 0.16 acres zoned neighborhood commercial with a 1,205 square foot office/residential building and a 2,167 square foot garage/shop.

“Upon completion of construction of the Project, remaining property, which is expected to include the residual land with one commercial/ residential building, can be repurposed or sold.” 

(See page 15 [pdf] )

Notice the 2,167 SF garage/shop are not mentioned, so likely will be demolished.


 See page 55 for an aerial photo of the property area [pdf]

Here is what is coming for the Aptos Village area with the RTC’s Segment 12 Project:

“The Phase 3 project includes auxiliary lanes and bus on shoulder improvements between the State Park Drive and Freedom Boulevard interchanges, widening of the Highway 1 bridge over Aptos Creek & Spreckels Drive, reconstruction of North Aptos & South Aptos Railroad Underpasses, and 1.25 mile Segment 12 of the Coastal Rail Trail along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line between State Park Drive and just south of the Rio del Mar Boulevard Overhead structure.”

According to the RTC website, this Project has just been awarded $30 million in public grant monies from the U.S Dept. of Transportation

The environmental analysis of this phase of the Project is due out next month.  Stay tuned.


Even though voters whole-heartedly approved Measure D last November, asking the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) to move forward with developing the public rail transportation, some still feel that a trail could be built on the rail corridor while the RTC completes yet more expensive studies, taking decades to actually get anything done to benefit the people.

Brian Peoples, the leader of Trail Now which supports removing the railroad track and installing a trail, shared this interesting proposal he has sent to the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), and hopes they will consider it.  Please see the attached plans and specifications for a pilot program between Watsonville and La Selva Beach.  Hmmm….

Iron Horse Preservation Society, Inc. is the expert consultant named in the proposal, but the name is a bit deceptive.  This consultant strives to remove rail components and build trails on the railroad bed, not really preserving any “iron horse” (train) at all. Our Philosophy | Iron Horse Preservation Society, Inc.

However, the company claims they would remove the rail tracks and ties, deriving the funding for the project from the sale of the materials.  It is an interesting proposal that merits consideration.

Would the RTC allow the work to be done on the rail corridor?  If it takes 20 years, as the RTC is claiming, to actually start building a passenger rail system, would they have a legal battle to remove the trail built by Iron Horse Preservation Society, and possibly have prescriptive rights?

I think this Demonstration Trail Proposal may have some merit in the areas of Aptos Village on the two trestles where Segment 12 requires new trail components be added.

Personally, I still strongly feel rail offers the widest opportunity for public transportation available to all members of our society…blind, handicapped, and young families who need to commute in all types of weather and are not physically able to bicycle from Watsonville to Santa Cruz for work and school daily.

Furthermore, I really think the RTC and Metro need to team up right now and install some rail conversion kits on a few busses that could travel the rail corridor then drive onto roadways to major bus hubs…or even major employment centers, such as the County Government Building, Dominican Hospital, Cabrillo College or UCSC.

But I try to have an open mind.  So tell me, what so you think of the “Demonstration Trails” Proposal?



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


January 9


For me, each month has its signature flower, one that I look forward to as a sign of the changing season that I can find as predictably as the sunrise and sunset. If you follow this BrattonOnline column in 2023 and are up for the challenge, I’ll give you 12 flowers to seek out, and I’ll describe the ways that it is emblematic of its given month. January’s flower is called Scoliopus bigelovii, Fetid adder’s tongue a.k.a. slink pod.

Stinky Lily

The name is not alluring, though perhaps you may find it beguiling: fetid adder’s tongue is the first wildflower of the New Year. It is a lily, but not your typical lily, so you might not recognize it as such. I judge how good I have been at being a naturalist each year on the basis of my having seen and smelled this distinct flower. The flowering period is brief. Too often, I find the plant after the flowers have faded, when I then recall its alternate name ‘slink pod’ for the seed pods that slink across the ground on long sinuous stems.

This is a very short plant, so you will have to bend nearly to the ground to put your nose to the maroon striped flower. The scent is like not very fresh fish, hence the ‘fetid’ part of its name. Those of us who sniff old mushrooms are familiar with the old fish smell of many mushrooms that are past their prime. The similarity of scent is not an accident…it is co-evolution.

Fungus Gnats

This year’s prize for my spotting this deep-shade wildflower was seeing its pollinator in action. Flies! “Of course,” I thought, “that smell and that maroon color are diagnostic for fly-pollination!” Reading up, I discovered that fungus gnats are important pollinators of fetid adder’s tongue, which needs to receive pollen from another plant in order to produce viable seed. The pods won’t slink unless the flowers get pollinated!

This flower appears in the darkest, coldest part of winter in the most shady, moist habitats around – not good conditions for most pollinators. Bumble bees, honeybees, and butterflies wouldn’t find enough to eat in the cold forest to warrant forays. On the other hand, moist soil and mushrooms are the perfect combination to support healthy populations of fungus gnats. As weak sunlight filtered through a rare patch of open sky, I watched slow-flying fungus gnats hovering around patches of the stinky fetid adder’s tongue flowers, dipping down to sip nectar, clumsily bouncing into the pollen-bearing stamens.

Ant Plant

As if specializing in dank forest fly pollinators wasn’t enough, fetid adder’s tongue also needs another insect helper to survive: ants. Once the fungus gnats have pollinated the flowers, the plant starts pushing the seed pods across the forest floor, far from the mother plant to ensure that any offspring don’t compete for the same rare forest floor nutrients. The pods ripen with seeds that have ant-food attached. The part of a seed that is ant food is known as an elaisome: it is sweet and fleshy and nutritious. To get the tasty parts, they haul off the seeds and, as ants will do, bury them in their colonies. This is particularly handy for the fetid adder’s tongue as then the seeds escape both hungry deer mice and scorching fires.

Conserving a System

Fetid adder’s tongue’s natural history illustrates the interconnectedness of nature and the reasons we need to think broadly about what it takes to conserve species. To conserve this amazing plant requires having large enough slink pod populations for cross-fertilization and big enough populations and diverse enough species of fungus gnats for pollination. How large and diverse those populations should be is unknown. Those ants, fungus gnats, and fetid adders tongue populations require shady forests and rich soil covered with moist thick duff: those elements speak to not too much soil disturbance…think trail or logging disturbance management. How does wildfire play with these factors? Fire can’t be too catastrophic, and patches need to be burned less for shade, soil, and duff: that might take forest fuels and other wildfire management. Also, there are issues about invasive species: invasive fungi, weeds, and invasive ants could all negatively affect components of this ecosystem that would trickle into the health of slink pods. This all points to the wisdom of our community in fighting so hard for so many years to protect vast areas of redwood forests – we are seeing the patchy but catastrophic fires, invasive Argentine ants invading forest edges, and expansive soil disturbance from trail networks. Do we have enough forest set aside so that future generations will be able to witness the complex relationships between fungus gnats, ants, and fetid adder’s tongue? Are enough people now appreciating and viewing these amazing interactions? Let’s get out there and see…

Sleuthing Locations

Slink pod is not easy to find, though with a little effort you can do so. The trick is to be on time (January!) and to know where to look.

When I want to research exactly where to go to look for a plant, I turn to a database called CalFlora. This amazing online resource often has great photographs of each species, the Latin and common name(s), and an interactive map of locations. Click on a dot on the map and out pops a window telling you how it was documented there. In some cases, that allows you to see a scanned image of the herbarium specimen of the species. By looking at that map, I can suggest the best places to see this species in our region. The Forest of Nisene Marks and Big Basin State Parks have many records of this plant.

Plant People

If you click on that ‘scanned image’ link above, and examine the herbarium sheet of the plant, you’ll notice that it was collected in 1991 in Nisene Marks by Larry Kelly, now a leading international botanist at New York Botanic Garden. Clicking on other specimens, you’ll encounter other famous botanists going back in time, including Dean Taylor, an Aptos resident who was one of the cornerstones of California botany (1986), David Self, a founder of ecological restoration in California (1975), Deb Hillyard, for years our region’s protector of plants via the California Department of Fish and Game (1975), Ray Collett, long-time Director of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum (1966), John Hunter Thomas, the author of the go-to regional plant book ‘Flora of the Santa Cruz Mountains’ (1954), and Milo Baker, one of the State’s early famous botanists (1896).

Join In!

The Cal Flora website has recently begun to host observations from people posting on iNaturalist, an online forum for documenting and learning about nature. Download the application to your smart phone, take a photo of the plant, and you have an easy catalogue of your nature observations. You can also ask for help identifying a species. This crowd-sourced scientific catalogue can help others find a plant for which they are looking and provide scientists with long-term data on the population trends of species. Plus, because there are so many people placing observations at the site, it is mesmerizing to virtually explore the photographs, maps, and conversations about species – already there is a lifetime of things to learn and the site is young.

If you are up to my challenge, take a deep, dark forest stroll soon and try to find fetid adder’s tongue in bloom…and maybe enter that into your iNaturalist account.

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


January 7

#7 / Dwight Was Right!

Dwight David Eisenhower

Caitlin Johnstone, who identifies as a “rogue journalist,” and who sends out periodic bulletins called, “Notes From The Edge of the Narrative Matrix,” has been mentioned in some of my earlier blog postings. Click that link for one of them.

Johnstone published one such “Note From The Edge” back in mid-December, specifically on December 17, 2022. Here is the first paragraph:

Johnstone’s “they” includes pretty much everyone in charge of the United States Government – all those people who explain (usually very patiently) why the United States of America has to spend more money on its military than the next nine nations combined, and why it is imperative that we risk nuclear war to bring assistance to Ukraine.

Johnstone is suggesting that maybe the reason that all these people keep telling us these things, keep insisting, so patiently, that we need to be engaging in military actions everywhere in the world – por todos lados, if you want to say it in Spanish – is actually that they are just “warmongers.”

When I read that, I wondered if Johnstone might have her finger on something important, and to pursue my thought, I decided to look up the word “monger,” to see how it is defined. Here’s how:

mon·ger ‘m??-g?r
: broker, dealer, peddler
: a person who attempts to stir up or spread something that is usually petty or discreditable
—usually used in combination

As it turns out, a former United States Army General (and the President of the United States at the time the above photo was taken) told the nation, back in 1961 (the year I graduated from high school), that we needed to be worried about a so-called “military-industrial complex” that was going to be trying to influence us in just the way Johnstone is talking about.

Dwight was right!

All these people who so patiently explain to us just why we need to build bombs (and then use them) all over the world are just “warmongers.” They are just peddling military involvements so they can make money.

Shame on us if we let them!

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

January 9


Instead of the Game of the Week: Mock the Mac, being over in one session, it stretched into four days of fifteen ballots in the House of Representatives efforts to select a House Speaker. The ‘one, two, three strikes…you’re out!’ reached the equivalent of five innings to get past the MAGA Holdouts, and not before harsh words and finger pointing almost ended in fisticuffs in full view of the families and pets present, and a worldwide television audience. Check out Bad Lip Reading’s interpretation of the Gaetz-McCarthy-Rogers encounter on the House floor preceding the fifteenth ballot, on YouTube for a good chuckle! Who brought the tiger?

“But remember, there’s more important things in life than winning or losing – there’s making fun of Kevin McCarthy for losing,” said Stephen Colbert in a monologue. It was fun watching the Kevin and the Holdouts Show for a few days, but now it gets serious for us, and Mac as well. Hostage McCarthy is closer to the MAGA credo than his opponents let on, but he is still untrustworthy for them, being more of a ‘big government’ politician to their ‘burn down the house’ aims. Probably a “Lucifer in the flesh” feeling similar to former Speaker Boehner’s attitude toward Senator Ted Cruz? We can bet that the feeling is mutual. When McCarthy tried to convince his opponents that he had “earned” the Speakership, Lauren Boebert of Colorado yelled, “B.S.”

Matt Gaetz commented that he “had run out of things to ask for” as he and his colleagues extracted concessions from the beleaguered Kevin, who will be hard pressed to meet all the demands now hanging over his head. In a weaker starting position than any previous Speaker, he laid out in his opening speech a MAGA-heavy wish list of vengeful actions awaiting Biden and the Democrats. Later, as he spoke to reporters, he made sure he mentioned the former president for sticking with him through the selection process while arm-twisting representatives to stay faithful to Kevin’s goal. Now if they could only come up with an agenda, a vision within a party controlled by a group of twenty who don’t believe in anything. Seems highly unlikely, and in the meantime Hunter Biden, Dr. Fauci, Attorney General Garland and the J6 Committee members are supposed to be quaking in their boots.

“McCarthy is going out of his way to gush over Trump at a time when his influence is clearly diminished and political brand is more toxic to mainstream voters than ever – especially on the anniversary of the insurrection – it’s notable and indicative of who he’ll be beholden as speaker,” says Aaron Rupar of Public Notice. It doesn’t seem likely that Kevin and the MAGA Holdouts are going to make much headway with their extremism in converting the public based on election results of the past couple of years, so voter restrictions will have to be the key to their success.

Trump called Gaetz at one point to urge him to find a resolution and end the stalemate, but he remained adamant that McCarthy would not receive this vote. After the third day of balloting, Gaetz had Mac supporters yelling at him, calling him a ‘clown,’ and walking off the House floor in protest. In one significant action caught on camera, the Flaxen Klaxon, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, attempts to hand her phone to anti-McCarthyite Matthew Rosendale of Montana, a ‘DT’ showing prominently on the screen, but he waves her off, not wishing to hear what the former president had to say to him. Rosendale, among others, tauntingly announced their votes for “Kevin”, then grinning, added “Hern” to indicate a vote for Representative Kevin Hern of Oklahoma.

The Democrat’s amusement at the GOP disunity was not appreciated, prompting GOP Representative Kat Cammack of Florida to describe the dilemma as “Groundhog Day,” accusing the Dems of breaking out the popcorn, blankets and alcohol for their viewing pleasure. Of course, the Democratic side took offense at the accusation, asking that it be struck from the record, but alas and alack, without a Speaker in the room that couldn’t be accomplished.

A bit of racist rhetoric had to arise to make the event a part of the American quilt. MAGA Republicans nominated Representative Byron Donalds of Florida for Speaker on day two, the first time historically the two parties had nominated a Black American for House Speaker. Taking offense, Democratic Representative Cori Bush of Missouri tweeted that Donalds is “not a historic candidate” as she accused the GOP of “perpetuating white supremacy” in using Donalds as “a prop.” Next, White Republican Dan Bishop of North Carolina accused Bush, a Black woman, of “grotesquely racist rhetoric.” Insert laugh track here!

That the majority party was unable to unite behind McCarthy, or any candidate, while the Democrats stood solid behind Representative Hakeem Jeffries speaks volumes – volumes of ridicule nationwide. Mac’s blood, sweat, and tears spectacle can only be seen as a fail, even as he tried to cast it in a positive light to reporters by saying, “This is the great part…because it took so long, now we learned how to govern.” WAIT! WHAT? Is this admitting that all this time the country has paid top salaries to a bunch of learner-permitted-legislators? Good one, Kev…good to know we can put our trust in you now!

Standing head and shoulders above McCarthy during the proceedings was Democrat and House Minority Leader Jeffries who used his ceremonial speech preceding his relinquishment of the gavel to the new Speaker. Speaking extemporaneously for several minutes, he schooled the GOP alphabetically on the core principles of the Democratic Party, contrasting them with the sore and bruised MAGAt’s tenets…a speech to behold, with several million views to follow online. During his presentation he was met with hoots and hollers from the GOP side of the chamber, but the lengthy standing ovation by the Dems wiped away any notion that it had no value.

How McCarthy overcomes the humiliations and hard feelings of the week, the concessions he had to make, and the hard choices he must make on critical items, such as the debt ceiling, remains to be seen; the popcorn and blankets must be put away to begin the difficult task of coping with a cantankerous and rebellious group within the unreasonable GOP. Start raising funds for the ransom, now!

Old joke: An Oxford professor meets an American graduate student and asks what he’s working on. Student says, “My thesis in on the survival of the class system in the United States.” Perplexed prof replies, “Oh really, that’s interesting. One didn’t think there was a class system in the United States.” To which the student says, “Nobody does. That’s how it survives.”

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.


“A life spent at the edge of the pier is a life full of regret, a life full of fear”.
~Ryan Lilly

“Piers are good places for pondering the eternal enigmas of the universe”.  
~Howard Rodman

“Despite their popular association with fun and frivolity, the function of piers is both an amusement centre and landing stage”.    
~Martin Easdown

“Some people wait so long for their ship to come in, their pier collapses”.   
~John Goddard

“Old Nick, the sea captain, was a rough, tough, jolly sort of fellow. He loved the life of the sea, and he loved to hang out down by the pier where the men dressed as ladies…
~Graham Chapman

“The piers that remain continue to be the focal point of their towns and are, on the whole, much cherished”.  
~Martin Easdown


I went down a massive rabbit hole about recycling, etc, on youTube, but it was very interesting and mostly worth it. This bit is about Veena Sahajwalla, who invented “Green steel”, and continues to come up with ways to recycle plastics and other materials.

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