Bratton…more throwback Greensite…will be back next week… Steinbruner…reminder: protest the Soquel Creek Water District rate hike . Hayes…the forest after the fires… Patton…Instant Stratification… Matlock…voting and cold weather… Eagan…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. Webmistress…pick of the week. Quotes….”Decluttering”
DATELINE January 24, 2024
UPDATE ON BRUCE Bruce is still on the mend. For more details, or to just say hi and get better, you can email him. I think he has a tablet so he can read email.
I did another deep-dive in the archives, and pulled up some content from 10 years ago. Check it out below!
[ABOUT A DECADE AGO]
LICENSE PLATE SCANNERS/ READERS. Brad Cava of Santa Cruz Patch brought this issue to the public when he printed, “With little or no discussion the Santa Cruz City Council Tuesday (9/12/13) approved the purchase of $38,000 of cameras that can photograph and keep indefinitely the license plates of every car entering or leaving the city. Called Automated License Plate Readers, the technology has been controversial in other cities, with freedom advocates claiming it is a step toward a 1984 surveillance system. The ones proposed by local police are mobile and can be kept in an officer’s car and set up when needed. They can read thousands of license plates per minute. The money comes from a federal grant to help local agencies buy equipment. Police across the country have used them for cameras and other paramilitary equipment. The sheriff’s department will share in the funds.
Then this….from Santa Cruz News.org September 2013
“The American Civil Liberties Union has called for restrictions on the devices’ use, asking lawmakers and law enforcement to adhere to certain principles, including:
- License plate readers may be used by law enforcement agencies only to investigate hits and in other circumstances in which law enforcement agents reasonably believe that the plate data are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
- The government must not store data about innocent people for any lengthy period. Unless plate data has been flagged, retention periods should be measured in days or weeks, not months and certainly not years.
- People should be able to find out if plate data of vehicles registered to them are contained in a law enforcement agency’s database.
- Law enforcement agencies should not share license plate reader data with third parties that do not follow proper retention and access principles. They should also be transparent regarding with whom they share license plate reader data.
- Any entity that uses license plate readers should be required to report its usage publicly on at least an annual basis.
Earlier this year, the ACLU released an extensive report on the use of the technology in municipalities throughout the U.S. The report was compiled after ACLU employees reviewed more than 26,000 pages of material gathered through public records requests from nearly 600 police departments in 38 states and Washington, D.C.”
John Malkin of Free Radio 101.3 fm talked about the scanners/readers on my Universal Grapevine program Tuesday 1/21. One topic we discussed was the very common reaction to scanners being…
“I don’t do anything illegal, and if it can track down criminals why worry about it?” The real concern is about invading our privacy. Think about all the places you go that are your own private concern. Places, choices, visits you don’t want made public. Doctor visits for a private concern, visits to a relationship that folks don’t need to know about, weekly stops for a little bottle of alcohol or a few drinks to get you through the week, seeing an ex-partner, an analyst or psychiatrist who’s helping you with affairs, seeing a healer, a Scientologist group, stopping at Frenchy’s Bookstore, learning where our politicians hang out when they aren’t supposed to. You can fill in your own private visits…all legal, and all worth keeping private. With these scanners there are few if any laws or regulations ruling who can use the results. When 1000’s of cars are scanned involving a specific crime there are only sketchy regulations regarding how long those scans can be kept. Many agencies around the US keep them for years.
There are issues here folks and as we keep learning our Santa Cruz City Council could care less and they approved these scanners, with no consideration whatsoever. Now we can do something about it. The ACLU Santa Cruz Chapter is having a meeting Wednesday, February 12 at 7 p.m. at London Nelson Community Center to talk about and hear background on License Plate Scanners.The public is invited and if you want to get involved with this scarey issue this would be the time to do it.
[BACK TO THE CURRENT TIMELINE What happened with this? Do we now have license plate readers everywhere we go? -Webmistress ]
KEEPING THIS HERE TO REMIND YOU TO VOTE YES ON MEASURE M…PLEASE DONATE NOW!!
There is still time to donate, funds are needed by Febrary 10, 2024 In short, if enacted by the voters, Measure M will accomplish TWO simple things:
#1.) Require the city to get voter approval before height limits can be raised to allow oversized, high-rise developments anywhere in the city, downtown or in our neighborhoods.
#2.) Increase the number of affordable housing units that big developers must provide, from 20% to 25% for projects of over 30 units, as the City Planning Commission researched and recommended.
Measure M is facing enormous and well-funded opposition from out-of-town developers and their allies. We NEED your financial assistance now to run a successful campaign. With only 60 days left before we vote on March 5, 2024, the sooner you donate the better. Another incentive to donate soon is we have matching funds.
Our fundraising goal is $50,000. This money will be used for our online presence, campaign materials, advertising, professional assistance and to rally residents to vote.
Make as generous a contribution as you possibly can to help pass Measure M and be part of the future design of Santa Cruz!
TWO ways to donate:
- Online with the DONATE button on: Yes-on-M.org
- Or Write a check to: “Yes on M”, and call us to pick it up 831-471-7822 or send the check before Feb. 10 to:
Yes on M, PO Box 2191, Santa Cruz, Ca. 95063
Partial List of Supporters:
Gary Patton, Former County Supervisor, Environmental Attorney
Katherine Beiers, Former Mayor
Jane Weed-Pomerantz, Former Mayor
Nell Newman, Founder, Newman’s Own Organics, Environmentalist & Biologist
Rick Longinotti, Author, Right to Vote on Desal Initiative
Joseph S. Quigg, Affordable and Market-rate Housing Developer
Frank Barron, Retired Urban Planner
Keresha Durham-Tamba, Bilingual Educator, Environmental-Climate Activist
Hector Marin-Castro, Santa Cruz City Teacher’s Aid and Service Worker
Susan Monheit, Retired State Water Regulator, Environmental Scientist
Steve Bare, Retired High School Teacher, Military Veteran
Laura Lee, Retired Teacher, Corporate Trainer & Facilitator
Bruce will be back with movie reviews as soon as he’s had a chance to write more!
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 http://darksky.org Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.
WHY WILL SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT CUSTOMERS PAY TO LEGALLY DEFEND DIRECTOR BRUCE JAFFE?
The Inspector General is taking legal action against Bruce Jaffe, and the Soquel Creek Water District customers will pay to defend him. The issue is unknown, but the situation is curious. Is it to protect Bruce Jaffe’s image for his Second District County Supervisor campaign or the District’s self-important image?
What could he have possible done to cause the Inspector General, a new County-level investigator of complaints against the Sheriff Department, to take legal action against him?
I had to file a Public Records Act request with the Water district to get the Draft Minutes of the December 5 Soquel Creek Water District Board meeting, hoping to see the report from Closed Session about Bruce Jaffe getting sued. I was outside the meeting chambers December 5 when the District’s legal Counsel quickly reported the results of the Closed Session. His report was hard to hear, so I asked him to repeat it. He was quickly whisked away by General Manager Ron Duncan, but called out “it will be in the Minutes”.
But the Minutes were not included in the next Board agenda packet, so I had to file a Public Records Act request to see them.
Ms. Western, Administrative Clerk for the District, sent a reply some days later that the Draft Minutes were included in the January 16 Board agenda packet.
Here is what it says about the District defending Bruce Jaffe (pages 14-15)
8.2 Conference With Legal Counsel—Anticipated Litigation Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (d) of Section 54956.9: 1 case
At 8:13 pm, President Christensen announced that the Board will return to closed session to discuss Items 8.1 and 8.2. General Counsel Nelson stated that the Board would meet in closed session for Item 8.2 related to potential litigation arising from an investigation by the Office of Inspector General related to meetings attended by Director Jaffe on behalf of the District.
For Item 8.2, by a vote of 4 to 0 (Jaffe recused), the Board voted to defend Vice President Jaffe under government code section 995.6, based on a finding that (1) the administrative proceeding is brought on account of acts within the scope of being a director, and (2) the defense is in the best interest of the District and that based on available information Director Jaffe acted in good faith, without actual malice, and in the apparent interests of the District. This defense is being provided with a reservation of rights. Vice-President Jaffe did not participate in Item 8.2 as he has a conflict of interest as the item relates to his financial interests.
Who is the “Office of the Inspector General”?
The OIG shall focus on matters relevant to Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures and shall not interfere with criminal, personnel, and other investigations by the Sheriff.
(B) The OIG shall provide independent monitoring of, and reporting about, the Sheriff’s Office related to law enforcement, jail operations, jail facilities, and the employees and contractors involved with law enforcement and jail operations, including the provision of health services in the jails, as set forth in this chapter
The State Inspector General is also with the purpose of law enforcement and correctional department oversight:
Agency Details | www.ca.gov
What is Govt. Code 995.6, the grounds upon which the Board voted unanimously to have Water District customers pay for Bruce Jaffe’s legal defense?
Section 995.6 – Administrative proceeding brought against employee
A public entity is not required to provide for the defense of an administrative proceeding brought against an employee or former employee, but a public entity may provide for the defense of an administrative proceeding brought against an employee or former employee if:
(a) The administrative proceeding is brought on account of an act or omission in the scope of his employment as an employee of the public entity; and(b) The public entity determines that such defense would be in the best interests of the public entity and that the employee or former employee acted, or failed to act, in good faith, without actual malice and in the apparent interests of the public entity.Ca. Gov. Code § 995.6
Added by Stats. 1963, Ch. 1683, Sec. 16.
I think the rate payers deserve to understand what they are paying to defend. I publicly asked the District Board for this explanation at last week’s Board meeting, but got no response. Is the District helping Bruce Jaffe’s campaign for Second District County Supervisor?
FINANCIAL WOES AT SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT?
The financial picture at Soquel Creek Water District appears of concern.
Why would there be unexplained credit card fees of $14,183.50 for the month of November? (see page 45 of the January 16 agenda)
Retiree health benefits for November, 2023 alone were $82,335.58 (page 60) For a company with staff of about 25, doesn’t this seem high?
Has the PureWater Soquel Project construction cost, which has ballooned from $60 million initially anticipated but now climbing to $200 million, caused unmanageable debt?
It seems the District’s full focus on this Project has also adversely affected other Capital Improvement projects that have been planned and are needed:
Quail Run Tank has been postponed….this was to provide water for the Aptos Village Project. The District borrowed 100% of the money needed to design and build it. page 65 of the January 16, 2024 engineering staff report explains…
2. Quail Run Tank (Design 100%) i. Due to staff workload and funding, no tank construction will occur in the near future
Many other Capital Improvements are described as “on hold due to PureWater Soquel Project”
12. Fairway Tank Recoat
i. Budgeted in FY 23/24, but on hold to prioritize Pure Water Soquel.
8. Maplethorpe/Victory Ln Main Crossing i. Staff contracted with consultant to perform topographic survey of the erosion before determining remediation measures. Received Map June 2022. ii. Topographic survey is complete. Design and construction on hold to prioritize Pure Water Soquel.
How will customers pay for the high cost of operating the Project, once it becomes operational? Initially, the District stated the annual operational cost was $2.5 million. Now, without explanation, the District rate study recently reported the annual operational cost will be $5.5 million.
Maybe the vague energy calculations in the Project 2018 EIR were not accurate? (Note: That EIR is hard to find on the District website, and the District refuses to place hard copies in the public library. I had to make an appointment to go read it recently at the District Office, and was restricted to one hour. )
The estimate in the EIR (page 3-43) was “Project’s expected electricity demand would be 3,600 megawatt hours/year. 1,800 MWh/Y for Advanced Water Purification Facitily (AWPF) operations, and 1,800MWh/Y for conveyance operations.” It really does seem they were making it up, doesn’t it? But the Board approved it anyway, and has never looked back except in 2020 and 2021 when there were Project Addendums that were so major, there really should have been public hearings and CEQA comment periods.
But this did not happen, and the Board approved it all. And now the bills are beginning to come due….
JUST MAKE THEM PAY MORE
Already, it seems that many customers of Soquel Creek Water District are struggling pay their high water bills. According to the Financial Director report (page 72 of the January 16, 2024 Board agenda packet):
• Staff applied for $77,000 in customer assistance through the Extended Water Arrearages Program offered by the State Water Resources Control Board. If awarded, these funds will apply directly to assist customers who have struggled to keep their accounts current post-pandemic.
• Customers continue to benefit from the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program. A bilingual bill insert was included with January bills instructing customers on how to apply for assistance.
The District’s answer is to raise fixed service charges, water rates and reconfigure tiers. The Board did NOT ask staff to cut costs (such as their own $200/meeting stipend, or the $1,600 and $1,000 monthly bonuses the top three management staff have been receiving since PureWater Soquel Project construction began and will receive until the Project is completed) or selling any of the surplus land the District owns (such as the large buildable lot adjacent to the District office or the unused mobile trailer next to the Office that was supposed to be the PureWater Soquel Project construction office).
However, the rate changes the Board approved last month are likely not even legal. Please read the Correspondence by Mr. Jon Cole, a District customer who sued the District and WON over this same issue.
Last time the District tried to make customers pay for a treatment plant that did not even exist. This time, the District wants customers to pay for a treatment plant that is not operational and not providing any service at all.
You can hear his public testimony at the January 16, 2024 regarding this illegal problem
here at minute 4:50
He pointed out that the District still had not posted the Raftelis Consultant Rate Study on their website, only the Executive Summary.
His testimony made a difference….the 2023 Raftelis Rate Study is now available, but one must scroll to the bottom of the page to see it.
If you or someone you know is a customer of Soquel Creek Water District, please protest the impending drastic rate hikes now. Find good information and a protest template here: protestscwd.com
People who live in mobile home parks with 100 or more units and a 4″ service connection would see their fixed service fees more than double by 2027. Ditto for commercial accounts.
ADU BUILDERS STILL MUST PAY HIGH SERVICE CONNECTION FEES TO SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT
Even though customers hoping to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) have testified recently to the Soquel Creek Water Board that their policies and costs associated are prohibitive to construction, the Board voted to keep things in place, with the exception of requiring applicants with a Tiny Home on Wheels (THOW).
According to the Staff Report, ADU’s are the most popular water service application. There have been 32 built in the District, and currently, there are 37 will-serve agreements for new service to ADU’s in the District. There is one applicant for service to a THOW.
“District’s Current Metering Requirements for New Residential Development The District’s current rules for metering are found in Ordinances 16-02 (Attachment 1) and 22-03 (Attachment 2, see Section 4(E)(1)).
For residential development projects, the District currently requires all new units to be individually metered from all other dwellings unless prohibited by law. Due to the California laws mentioned above, the District can no longer require separate metering for JADUs and Conversion ADUs. Submetering, where a dwelling unit is metered using a non-District meter and is read and billed by the property owner, is not currently allowed in lieu of separate metering unless approved by a variance.”
The Board was hesitant to make changes.
“Getting rid of the separate metering requirement for THOWs and ADUs would mean that they are not contributing towards the water system while increasing potential capacity. They also would not pay a separate monthly service charge from the primary residence(s). While this may result in lost revenue for the District, the current rate study did not include any new services in the revenue calculations so the absence of separate metering would not impact the revenue anticipated from new rates.”
Director Jennifer Balboni, brand new in her position, cheerily declared that she is happy with the District’s policies and felt there should be no changes. Ultimately, the Board voted to remove the requirement for THOW to have a separate meter. Director Balboni voted against it.
You can watch the Board’s discussion of this important matter, thanks to Community TV posting it right away on their website’s “Government on Demand” link to Soquel Creek Water District:
Item 7.3 discussion begins at minute 27:15.
REGIONAL WATER OPTIMIZATION REPORT UPDATE
A State Water grant funded a study for Soquel Creek Water District to collaborate with the City of Santa Cruz to model how water can be regionally managed.
The report has been promised, but is long-overdue. Finally, Montgomery & Associates consultants will be presenting an update to the Soquel Creek Water District Board on February 6.
• Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation Grant Optimization Study (Study)
o Groundwater and hydraulic modeling of “optimized” project alternatives continues with results to be presented to the Project and Executive Teams during a Workshop the week of 1/8. A key objective of the Workshop is for the Executive Team to select the four final optimized projects to be further analyzed for cost/economics and funding opportunities, environmental needs, and water quality, based on the modeling results.
o Staff plans to coordinate with Montgomery & Associates on an Optimization Study update to the Board in February.
4. Optimization Study i. Engineering staff has been attending optimization study meetings to coordinate hydraulic modeling consultant work. This work will take groundwater pumping distributions provided by groundwater modelers and evaluate how pumped water can be moved throughout the distribution pipe network.
This grant-funded modeling and study has been promised for a long time…tune in to the Soquel Creek Water District Board meeting on February 6 to learn more.
WHERE IS THE TRANSPARENCY FOR THE SHERIFF PATROL TAXES OF CSA 38?
This month, Santa Cruz County LAFCO Director Mr. Joe Serrano reported to the Commission the difficulties he found in tracing the use of $3 million collected annually since 1983 from County property owners to support the Sheriff Dept. patrols.
He is giving the County one year to develop a website link to show how the money is spent. If that does not happen, he is recommending that CSA 38 be dissolved for lack of transparency.
He explained to the Commission that usually he does extensive Sphere and Service Reviews, but he was not able to perform this level of investigation and reporting because
there just isn’t much information available to even show a connection between CSA 38 and the Sheriff Department.
In response to public comment questioning “Where IS the money going? What County Dept. has taken a flat $500 annually since 1983 for administration? Why was there a $9,400 surplus last year for the first time?” Assistant County Administrative Officer Ms. Melodye Serino, stepped up to the podium. “I said I wasn’t going to speak, but I just want to let you know that the money is being spent on Sheriff patrols.” Ms. Serino was also and Assistant to former CAO Susan Mauriello. Now that should make you worried.
Here is what the LAFCO report said, in part:
The CSA was created in 1983 as a funding mechanism to provide “extended police protection” in areas outside the four cities. However, there is no clear correlation between CSA 38 and the County Sheriff Department. LAFCO could not determine how CSA 38 provides services, how many employees operate the district, whether it has a standalone board and regular meetings, and could not locate an official webpage providing additional information, including but not limited to policies/bylaws. For these reasons, the County should clearly define CSA 38’s purpose and role in the county by providing more transparency and easier access to supporting documents (ex. agendas, minutes, policies, maps, finances, etc.)
CSA 38 MSR Staff Report
HOW SAFE WILL THE ACCESS TO THE CHANTICLEER OVERCROSSING BE?
Last week, I reported the disappointing news that the County Public Works has no plans to make improvements on Chanticleer Avenue or Mar Vista for the two new pedestrian / bicycle overpasses that are or will soon be built over Highway One.
Take a look at the photos of the Chanticleer area near Grey Bears, where blind and low-vision pedestrians will have to navigate in order to use the Chanticleer Overcrossing when it is completed.
The “Road Work Ahead” is the Chanticleer Overcrossing work at Highway One.
Another view of Chanticleer at the very busy Grey Bears area, looking down to the Overcrossing access. Again, no safety improvements are planned here for the near future.
FIGHT TO KEEP DEPENDABLE LANDLINE SERVICE FOR RURAL AREAS
Last week, many throughout Santa Cruz County and beyond received a vague letter from AT&T about hearings before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). What that letter does not make clear is that AT&T is asking permission from the CPUC to stop maintaining landline telephone service.
Landlines work in disasters when electricity fails, causing many with “bundled” internet and telephone service to lose their phone ability to call 911. If you or someone you know received this letter, and want to fight to keep your dependable landline phone service, make sure to submit written comment:
regarding AT&T withdrawing its requirement to be an Eligible Carrier for landline service
Here is the Public Advisor’s Office contact:
CANDIDATE FORUMS NEAR YOU?
There are not many opportunities to hear local Candidates or Supporters/Opponents of local measures speak. The League of Women Voters used to be a good source, but no more. Here is a link to some sponsored by LookOut Santa Cruz
WRITE ONE LETTER. MAKE ONE CALL. ATTEND A CANDIDATE FORUM AND ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT MATTERS TO YOU IN THE COMMUNITY. WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR.
JUST DO ONE THING THIS WEEK AND MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
3.5 Year Post Fire Forest
Halfway through this rainy winter and the post fire forest is vibrantly green with occasional crashing trees. In six months, it will be impossible to walk off trail in the footprint of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. You never know if what you view trailside is anything like most of the landscape…it normally isn’t.
What the Rain Brings
Trickling brooks, meandering newts, buds nearly bursting, lush mosses and fluffy lichens. With the frequent sprinkles and sometimes downpours the forest sings with the tinkling and bubbling of ephemeral streams. Every declivity carries water from the rains…some run for hours, some days and others weeks after a storm. The wetness has awakened amphibians. Chorus frogs croak, newts march. Otherwise bare tree trunks and rocks are glowing brightly with a hundred colors and textures of greens and whites – this is show time for mosses and lichens.
The wet winter belies human’s hydrological mistakes as water that used to go one way is diverted another – by trails, roads, houses, or other such developments. New, larger amounts of water than Nature designed are chanelled into drainages unfit for such flows – gullies open, slopes fail; this is not natural, this is ignorance, expediency, or greed. Silt and mud run into streams and rivers, turning them brown. The receiving ocean changes color, too. These mistakes are especially frequent post fire as plastic culverts burned, trail builders work mid-winter, between the storms (!) clearing and destabilizing fire-damaged slopes, and humans generally scuttle around, under-resourced, trying to rebuild and repair infrastructure in the mud. It is a better time to observe hydrology, make notes about drainages and seeps…rest and wait for the land to dry before mucking it up. And, it is a great time to monitor culverts and drains so they are working as engineered.
Fire damaged trees are falling fast. Perhaps thousands of fire-damaged trees reached a critical threshold for the wood destroying fungal hyphae. We had such hope that so many trees were resprouting after the fire – shade! Habitat! Now, many hopeful trees are toppling, especially big, majestic oaks. Fire-killed trees are also toppling. Five years after the Lockheed Fire, burned areas were criss-crossed four feet deep with tree carcasses. If you were nimble, you could walk across this cribbing, but woe to those who slipped! In between the fallen trees sprouts up a sea of shrubs, making it impossible to see the fallen trees, or how to walk across them. The ocean’s distant roar, soft pattering mist…and the crashing sound of another tree coming down. That’s what the fire’s footprint sounds like these days on Santa Cruz’s North Coast.
A Sea of Ceanothus
Mile after mile, one post-fire species is winning big time. Blue blossom, California lilac, aka Ceanothus (thyrsiflorus) germinated right after the 2020 fire and is everywhere. How did this shrub show up where there used to be redwood forest and no shrubs? Two things explain it: birds and seedbank. Many species of birds (especially quail) gobble up blue blossom seeds, but don’t digest all of them completely, pooping out seeds wherever they travel. Those undigested seeds last 40-100 years in the soil, forming a “seedbank.” Fire clears the duff, floods the understory with new sunlight and that seedbank germinates.
In just 3.5 years, the tiny seeds from that blue blossom seedbank have created thickets of 8′ tall shrubs, lush and green.
The problem is…there are too many shrubs! Not all those blue blossom shrubs will live. Already, rodents are girdling them or they are dying from other things – 1 in 100 of the shrubs are brown-dead right now. As they grow, they will compete for light and water. A drought will come and thousands and thousands of blue blossom will succumb, but they won’t be able to fall over: they are held aloft by their close neighbors. Millions of tons of bone dry, standing dead blue blossom will fuel the fire tornadoes of the next wildfire to cross this landscape.
The Old Ways
I ask anyone thinking that the CZU Lightning Complex Fire and the resulting vegetation is a ‘natural’ phenomenon to reconsider, please! First, consider what the word ‘natural’ means on our landscape. For millions of years, fires and the resulting vegetation would have been strongly affected by huge herds of browsing and grazing animals. Mastodons and mammoths toppled trees. Bison, horse and camel relatives, elk, pronghorn, ground sloth, and many more grazed and browsed. There would have been very little fuel (patchy) to burn: resulting fires would never have reached the proportions of the CZU fire, even in the worst droughts. There was a quick exchange of that Pleistocene megafauna for the stewardship of indigenous peoples – and their use of fire similarly resulted in fire-resilient forests. The post-clearcut forests we know have never seen such abuse and subsequent disuse.
Ray Dasmond, a globally renowned wildlife expert and ex-UCSC professor taught us that deer love brush. For a long time before the 2020 fire, there were very few deer. The exception was in the vicinity of town, where deer had always proliferated: irrigation creates summer green forage triggering females to have another batch of young, even if there’s not that much food. In more rural areas, sightings of deer were worthy of conversation. Some blamed the mountain lions: a mature lion eats one deer each week. The 2009 Lockheed Fire had scorched 7000 acres, leaving more than a bit of brush across its footprint, but apparently that wasn’t enough deer food, or there was a different deer-limiting factor.
Walking around the CZU fire area, I am seeing more deer and notice that the blue blossom is being lightly browsed. Right now, there are many big, healthy bucks and they are following females along with one or two of last year’s young. There are widespread deer trails in the wildland forest! Might it be that the local deer population will rebound?
I doubt that there could ever be enough deer to make up for the blue blossom growth. Is it time to re-introduce tule elk? How fast can we learn to use fire the way the Native Peoples did? What do we do with the miles of blue blossom? I fear the future fire. I fear we might lose our forests.
Grey Hayes is a fervent speaker for all things wild, and his occupations have included land stewardship with UC Natural Reserves, large-scale monitoring and strategic planning with The Nature Conservancy, professional education with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and teaching undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz. Visit his website at: www.greyhayes.net
Email Grey at firstname.lastname@example.org
MONDAY, JANUARY 22, 2024
The smiling face of Elon Musk, above, seems an appropriate accompaniment to this blog posting, which comments on an article that appeared in the January 18, 2024, edition of The Wall Street Journal. The article was titled, “Musk Gives Tesla’s Board a Big Headache.”
Musk is credited with being the “richest person in the world.” According to a January 2024 article in Investopedia, Musk has a net worth of $229 billion. Anyone who might have a hard time grasping just how big a number $229 billion is is might begin with this explanation from Paul Franz:
People don’t have a strong intuitive sense of how much bigger one billion is than one million. One million seconds is about 11 days. One billion seconds is about 31.5 years.
Take in what an immense number $1 billion is, and then multiply that number by 229. You get the picture. $229 billion is an “ungodly” amount of money. It’s what many might call an “obscene” amount of money. However, let’s save our outrage for the news conveyed by that article in The Wall Street Journal.
In the article, readers are informed that Musk has told the Tesla Board of Directors that he needs a raise in his salary. A considerable raise! Musk is currently the owner of about 13% of Tesla’s shares outstanding. He has demanded that he be given a 25% ownership interest. According to the online version of the article in The Journal, that amounts to a “$60-billion plus pay package.”
I like my title for today’s blog posting. It will make us all think, I hope, of the phrase “instant gratification,” which psychologists tell us has a “dark side.” A salary raise that so vastly increases economic and social stratification is definitely a “dark side” phenomenon.
There is a solution. It’s called “politics.” Musk is the number one example of a group of individual persons who have been permitted to sequester vast wealth, and the power that goes with that wealth. There is, as Bernie Sanders is fond of reminding us, a “billionaire class.” There are, apparently, something like 750 billionaires in the United States.
The political and legal arrangements that have allowed the growth of this “billionaire class” can be changed. However, not by writing blog postings (though those don’t hurt, I am hoping). Organized political efforts – what amounts to a “revolution” – is what must occur. That doesn’t mean killing a bunch of people, either.
It does mean that hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of ordinary people will have to decide that their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor will be pledged to what The Declaration of Independence called for in the first place – a society, an economy, and a political order in which all persons are created equal, and in which their individual ability to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, will be supported by their collective efforts, and not be allowed to perish from the Earth.
Our revolution renewed. This is what we need!
Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at www.gapatton.net
Email Gary at email@example.com
HAARPING AWAY TO WEATHER THE STORM
Over the past several days we have seen dramatic changes in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, with Christie, Scott, Ramaswamy, and DeSantis joining the Bootlickers VP Queue, leaving Nikki Haley to fight it out with Donald Trump. Three of the dropouts have not hesitated to jump onto the Trump bandwagon, with Tim Scott predicting that Trump will unite us as a nation. Where has he been for the last seven or eight years? In the ongoing Pundit Parade, Jonathan V. Last on The Bulwark says, “The future is Trump,” though he contrasts the ex-president with Biden, saying our current president despite having neither a cult of personality, nor media domination, nor engendering strong feelings in a party that does not fear him. The economy is in good shape and as long as this streak continues, the voters will begin to appreciate it fully. With Biden’s long list of popular legislative accomplishments, and his willingness to cooperate with Republicans to pass laws that create jobs, to invest in infrastructure, and reform laws, a rationale is created for his re-election. Trump has no actual policies for his whining candidacy beyond personal retribution, stopping immigration, and drill, drill, drilling for oil, an action on which Biden exceeds all presidents including Trump himself. Trump’s 91 criminal counts, a boon for his primary campaign, will burden his general election campaign, benefitting Biden. No word from DeSantis (now identified as Ron DeSuperfantastic now in Trump circles) on the disposition of his white go-go boots, which he should relinquish in exchange for a participation trophy.
Bill Scher in Washington Monthly says, “Forget New Hampshire. After Trump’s Iowa landslide, it’s over.” He feels that while the Hawkeye State rarely predicts a GOP nominee, Trump is different. The New Hampshire conservative vote is usually diluted by independent voters, which in the last three competitive NH primaries ranged from 37 to 47 percent; primary elections in those states through Super Tuesday have exit polls indicating independents are less than ? of the vote totals. New Hampshire was a springboard for Trump in 2016’s primary because he won 35% of the vote, with 49% of the remainder of votes cast going to five center-right challengers, due to the failure of the party establishment to back one candidate, and due to disunity within the grassroots conservatives. Hard-right candidate, Ted Cruz, who won Iowa garnered only 12%, but moving to more conservative state primaries brought coalescence around Trump. Scher gave Nikki Haley a chance of a reasonable showing in a three- or four-person race, but with the dropouts not in contention, it’s basically a two-person duel with heavy ramifications in future primaries. With NH behind us now, how did Haley’s candidacy fare in this test?
Sarah Longwell writes in The Bulwark that “It’s time for former Trump officials to come out against him if we want to stop a Trump restoration and his promised MAGA dictatorship. It’s going to require building a coalition of people who understand the stakes. And there are no better messengers better equipped to convey the peril of a Trump presidency than those who lived it firsthand, on the inside.” Then, she backtracks, asking, “But wait, haven’t they done that already? Mark Milley posed for a front-page spread in The Atlantic. John Kelly gave a statement to CNN. Others have back-channeled their grave misgivings, off the record to Puck and Politico. Hard truth: That’s not enough. I talk to Republican primary voters every week in focus groups, and you know what they don’t read? The Atlantic, Puck and Politico. Fundamentally, the reason they seem unbothered by Trump’s autocratic tendencies is that a lot of them don’t know about them.” Right, Sarah! The bulk of them DON’T READ…just like their messianic idol/idiot!
Charlie Sykes, also in The Bulwark, says, “Trump is dominant, but vulnerable. Biden has a problem with voters who are in denial. Iowa could help him with that. Via The Messenger: ‘Biden’s internal polling shows the vast majority of the campaign’s targeted voters don’t believe Trump will be the GOP nominee, a major issue for a campaign desperate to make 2024 a binary choice.’ Even Biden’s internal polling, according to top campaign officials, has highlighted this trend, with recent surveys finding around 75% of the campaign’s undecided voters do not believe Trump will be Biden’s opponent in November. Trump’s dominating win in Iowa last week could change that dynamic with undecideds.” The above pundit roundup quotes are garnered from Greg Dworkins’s Daily Kos post.
Mother Jones posted a memorable headline following Trump’s Iowa caucus triumph: “FLORIDA MAN FACING 91 CRIMINAL COUNTS WINS IOWA CAUCUSES. Donald Trump just accomplished something he wasn’t able to do in 2016 – he won the Iowa caucuses.” Not long after precinct sites opened Monday night, the networks called the first-in-the-nation GOP race for the former president, who appeared to be cruising to a dominant victory over rivals Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley. None of his four indictments, criminal counts, civil suits and a Supreme Court battle over whether he can even appear on the ballot in some states turned off Iowa Republicans. Instead, they rewarded him for it. Niece Mary Trump notes that Monday didn’t bring all good news for Uncle Donald in her Substack newsletter, The Good In Us…the former president’s attorney, Joe Tacopina withdrew his law firm from representation in the two New York cases, leaving Trump with Alina Habba to stumble along for him. Tacopina told ABC News that he had withdrawn “on all matters,” offering no immediate reason(s). Mary says, “On what everyone knew was supposed to be a day of victory for Donald in Iowa, this loss will still be burning in his mind. It’s not unusual for Donald to go through lawyers at an alarming rate, but Tacopina’s high profile status shows just how dysfunctional Donald’s ‘defense’ really is.”
Tacopina withdrew ahead of a Tuesday jury selection in a second defamation trial related to E. Jean Carroll’s allegations that Trump raped her in the 1990s, for which Trump was found guilty. Trump was dissuaded from testifying in the first trial but wished to speak in the second, which may have played a role in the attorney’s departure, according to Mary Trump, especially in light her uncle’s penchant for self-destruction behavior. In a statement to Reuters re Tacoima’s firm’s departure, a spokesperson for Trump said, “He has the most experienced, qualified, disciplined, and overall strongest legal team ever assembled.” In the history of the world, doubtless, and into the future for time immemorial, gosh darn it!
According to The Palmer Report, “Trump was represented in 2017 by the best, most powerful lawyers money could buy – before he was inaugurated, such as the Kassowitz Firm. Now he’s got this numbskull – Alina Habba. She has no idea what she’s doing, not a clue about how to get something into evidence, while being belittled by the trial judge and E. Jean Carroll’s lawyers. She’s completely destroying herself with her lack of knowledge about the rules in a Federal Court of all places!” Not up to the job, but, boy, is she a knockout…just ask her! However, this is the best representation the grifting money can buy, unless Trump can poor-me a bit more pitifully on Truth Social to get those rubes to increase their contributions. So, he goes from the Kassowitz Firm to threatening the Supreme Court to rule in his favor, since Kassowitz probably expected him to pay their bill, leaving Habba to work for nothing while basking in the glow of an orangey fake-tanned jerk with a bad combover. Joe Tacopina disclosed to Al Sharpton that he quit because he had to “consult his compass” which also involved personal reasons, and while he was vague in his explanation, it was clear he was tired of being a part of the Trump Dumpster Fire. The defense’s tactic to enrage the judge into making a mistake doesn’t seem to be working. No attorney will be able to save Trump from the finality of his fate, so Habba is as good as any in her blundering since Trump has no idea what is going on anyway…good karma for both of them.
“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.” Oh, the profundity! Bocha Blue on The Palmer Report says we should change those words to: “Traitor. Insurrection. Indictment. Trial. Prison.” Trump in his mental decline keeps bringing up the legendary quote regarding his quack exam by then-White House Doctor Ronny Jackson, who everyone knows is himself a complete basket-case. Trump, in his senility has revealed that Nikki Haley was once the Speaker of the House who refused to provide troops to control the J6 Insurrection…wow, who knew? Or how about his claim that George Conway is a city in New Hampshire? How did George accomplish this feat? And did Kellyanne know about this? And who can forget that the former prez remembers that Barack Obama is the current president who will be facing him in the general election in November? Plus, “Melania’s son, Barron, is tall.” Anything else, Donny?…Eric?…Don, Jr.?…Ivanka? OK, we won’t go there! He evidently is under the impression that he isn’t running campaign ads, but someone on the staff didn’t get the word, evidently, as we’ve all noticed a bunch of them. MSNBC host Johnathan Lemire says his decline is deeply alarming. “I think it’s going to be harder and harder for the campaign to manage this guy, and in just my opinion, he looks like he’s in a serious state of decline. And seriously, so confused.” Bill Palmer sees this as a now familiar pattern of The Don’s, “trying to say something that’s idiotic to begin with, and then getting so confused that he ends up saying something even more incoherently idiotic. This man is not well. How long before he’s so far gone, he ends up in an assisted living facility?”
The Iowa caucuses were affected by below-zero temperatures and with the thermometer predicted to see a high of -4 degrees, accompanied by 20mph winds, voters who were determined to turn out did so in diminished numbers which did not affect the overall resulting percentages. Enter Laura Loomer (formerly of Project Veritas, and best known for her rabid anti-Muslim positions, who also happens to be a lunatic heavily supported by Trump and the right), posting her conspiracy theory that the adverse weather was caused by HAARP to discourage caucusers from venturing out. HAARP is research project sponsored by the University of Alaska which studies the ionosphere, their location being advantageous for studying the Northern Lights, and according to Loomer, for brewing up horrible weather conditions to visit upon hapless voters. Conspiracy theorists have also blamed the organization for earthquakes, mind control, power outages, TWA flight 800, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and anything else their red-hat-covered-brains can bring from the rat hole.
Luckily for Trump, the weather provided him with a whole new campaign slogan going forward. He told supporters on the Sunday preceding the caucus date that even if they were “sick as a dog,” it was worth braving the chilly conditions to vote. Even if they then passed away, “It’s worth it,” he said. So, there you have it: “Vote and Die,” on the prospective t-shirts and bumper stickers. This is a perfect summation of Trump’s attitude toward his base…“Do this thing for me, and if you should die, that’s okay…I’m worth it.” Ah, Mother Nature! What would Trump be without it?
Colin Nissan had a recent humorous essay in The New Yorker magazine, entitled ‘Nature, Wow!’ where he says that, “People are curious about nature. That’s why there are so many Google searches about it, such as ‘Which snakes are venomous?’ And ‘Quick remedies for throat closing.’ Or ‘Can I write my will on a leaf?’…And ‘Places to move where there are less snakes.’ There’s something for everyone in nature, even deserts, for people who love the beach but hate enjoying themselves…Researchers have spent years trying to unlock the mysteries of nature, like why the plural of deer is also deer, and why sunsets are free but paying a taxidermist for one ferret cost me almost a grand. Twelve hundred with the sailor outfit. Nature is famous for its calm and tranquility. A good example is the beautiful silence right after a school of piranhas goes to town on a carp. The big takeaway here is that we need to do everything we can to live in harmony with nature or we can kiss those watermelons goodbye. That means listening when nature is trying to tell us something, and also cutting ourselves some slack if we can’t decipher nature’s cryptic messages amid all the intense weather and natural disasters.” So, there you have it…Laura Loomer and Donald Trump unravelled the cryptic messages for their purposes, but as for the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, not so much! For the rest of us, we don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…the answers are in plain sight!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner-view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.
EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at TimEagan.com you will find his most recent Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.
“Decluttering is infinitely easier when you think of it as deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to throw away.”
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
“Bottom line is, if you do not use it or need it, it’s clutter, and it needs to go.”
“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
I don’t know how familiar you are with improv West Coast Swing dancing. Contestants get a random partner and a random song, and come up with things on the fly, like this AH-MAZING number below. Do enjoy! Note: You can find clips on YouTube that have the same dance, but with the cheers from the audience audible as well.
Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
Direct phone: 831 423-2468
Cell phone: 831 212-3273
All Technical & Web details: Gunilla Leavitt @ email@example.com