Blog Archives

January 5 – 11, 2022

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…future of Santa Cruz, free Covid tests on Pacific ave.?, speed limits, movie critiques. Live Here Now. GREENSITE… on the latest in architectural thinking applied to the downtown library. KROHN…electronic malfunction, be back next week. STEINBRUNER…buses on rails, RTC plans, land use control and 831 Water Street, Last Chance Road survivors. HAYES…all about eucalyptus. PATTON…Should government meetings be online? MATLOCK…musings on Trumpers and the old vs. new order. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”January”

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BRATTON ONLINE…19 YEARS AND RUNNING!!

This is and was our only complete gathering ever! Standing on the Left, that’s Gary Patton, Chris Krohn and Gillian Greensite. Seated in front left to right webwoman Gunilla Leavitt, me, Becky Steinbruner and Tim Eagan. Photoshop shy are Grey Hayes and Dale Matlock.                                                  

Photo(shop) courtesy Gunilla Leavitt

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE January 3 

THE FUTURE OF THE CITY OF SANTA CRUZ. I asked Bob Morgan activist, researcher, and spirited campaigner to bring us up to date on Our Downtown, Our Future because it’s the most principled, and informed organization dealing with our community. He wrote… 

“In 2021, a diverse group of Santa Cruzians put together a ballot measure for “Our Downtown, Our Future” concerning affordable housing, the Downtown Library, the Downtown Farmers’ Market, Heritage trees, and parking management. We revised it several times on the basis of input from others, submitted it to the City Attorney for his official title and summary, formed a California Fair Political Practices Commission campaign committee, and printed the petitions to get the initiative on the ballot for November 2022. 

The Our Downtown, Our Future initiative petition for the City of Santa Cruz hit the streets in mid-December. Volunteers have been collecting signatures at Westside, Downtown and Eastside locations. City voters are speaking up… and signing. With your support, we anticipate engaging in a strong, positive campaign for the future of our city. 

Donate to BrattonOnline

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Thank you!

We’re certain that City Hall feels a measurable Richter-scale earthquake coming. The most recent temblor appeared on the editorial page of Santa Cruz’s mainstream newspaper in a December 31st summary of issues residents care about. In the Sentinel’s view: “Though the city has spent a lot of time and money in putting together and revising the new [downtown library] plan, let voters have their say.”

Whether it’s due to the City’s duplicity with the library Measure S “bait and switch” or the displacement of the Farmer’s Market and sacrifice of 10 heritage trees on Lot 4 to make way for an expensive and unnecessary parking garage, voter dissatisfaction with City Hall’s planned downtown makeover has surfaced all over town. There is no need for a concrete edifice forcing the paving-over of paradise Joni Mitchell sang of. It’s time for a better way.  

We can realign downtown plans with our values: our measure raises choices central to the future identity of Santa Cruz: affordable housing, renovation of the existing Downtown Library, keeping the Downtown Farmers’ Market where it is, saving Heritage trees, and managing parking effectively rather than building a parking garage.  

You can help. Sign the Our Downtown, Our Future initiative and let the voters decide. Visit ourdowntownourfuture.org to learn where to sign the petition, volunteer, or get a printed logo to display in your window. We need to find a better way for our community… and we can!”  

COVID TEST SITE ON PACIFIC AVENUE? Many times in the last two weeks I drove by the free Covid testing tent in front of Forever 21 on the east side of Pacific Avenue. Nowhere could I find any info on who was running it or what hours would they be there. Not a word in Good Times and we know the Sentinel is struggling, but wouldn’t you think they’d at least let us know that free COVID testing was available downtown,…and give credit to the group/organization that is/ was managing it? I got my free testing on Pico Boulevard in a similar tent in Los Angeles last week…negative, thank goodness.  

SPEED LIMITS IN OTHER PLACES. Debbie Bulger author of “Secret Walks and Staircases in Santa Cruz” sent this YouTube link. She is looking forward to a safe and productive 2022 and wants to share a 10-minute video. She adds, “It’s about how speed limits are set and what other countries do to slow speeders down. It explains very clearly concepts such as the design speed of roads and the 85th percentile method of determining speed limits”.

Be sure to tune in to my very newest movie streaming reviews live on KZSC 88.1 fm every Friday from about 8:10 – 8:30 am. on the Bushwhackers Breakfast Club program hosted by Dangerous Dan Orange.

LICORICE PIZZA. (DEL MAR THEATRE). Not just superb but one of my favorite films of the year. The much recognized and honored director Paul Thomas Anderson created a swirling, tantalizing film about two young lovers coming of age in the 1970’s of the San Fernando Valley. The previously unknown leads Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman hold the twisted, clever, intricate plot together along with bit parts by Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Bradley Cooper. Do not miss this excellent movie. 

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH. (DEL MAR THEATRE) (7.6 IMDB) When you have Frances McDormand producing and acting as Mrs. Macbeth with Denzel Washington as her ghost ridden husband you’d think it would be the Macbeth to end them all…it isn’t. I think we all have our own private versions of the way Shakespeare’s great time tested lines should be enacted and this version just doesn’t ring any new bells. It’s in black and white and filmed with plaster castle walls, which makes it moody but not a single new interpretation has been acted. Even though, if you’re into Shakespeare you have to see this one if only to reaffirm the idea that you’d do it differently.

THE WHOLE TRUTH. (NETFLIX SINGLE). Unbelievable, but this is a movie about a hole/whole in the wall through which not everyone can see…or be seen. Set in Thailand teen age children can see the past lives of their parents and what they were up to! There’s suicides, drunk driving, senile dementia, and some pretty bad acting. Not worth your time to wade through this mystery.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.4 IMDB). What a cast…Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn and back again is Tim Blake Nelson!! Plus, it’s directed by Guillermo del Toro!!! Yet I agree with many other critics that it just can’t and doesn’t compare with the 1947 version starring Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell. Like Red Rocket it’s the story of a down and out guy going through hell and some few high hopes trying to get back to what he considers normal. Fine acting and nicely photographed but it lacks drama or cohesiveness. Go anyways, because you probably won’t bother rewatching the Tyrone Power version that I remember every clearly from when I was 13.

STATION ELEVEN. (HBO MAX SERIES) (97RT) (6.8IMDB) Happening in 2040 and focusing on the post pandemic world mostly in Chicago. There’s masks, portions of King Lear, and the stamina of the amateur theatre world, this low key drama is mostly a feel good story with the added reminders of what we are going through now in 2022.

RED ROCKET. (DEL MAR THEATRE) (7.5 IMDB). This piece of drivel centers on an out of work male porn star as he tries to move in on a bunch of equally uninteresting women and families. There’s little acting ability displayed not even much sex considering it’s about porno films. Sean Baker is the director and he’s made a few honest straight ahead films but this isn’t one of them.

1883 (APPLE TV) SERIES (83RT). I doubt that Sam Elliott could play anyone but a drawling, spitting old cowboy but he does do it perfectly. It’s settling the west complete with Indians, wagon trains, oxen and horses, gunfights and a chronicling of what our early settlers had to face.  There’s only been three episodes released so far and even though we’ve seen our share of cowboys and Indians this is very well done.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE. (NETFLIX SERIES). (7.0 IMDB)  This starts out as a fine, funny Swedish comedy and gets more serious as it goes on in its mini-series of six episodes. A father and son police team investigate a robbery that happens during an open house to rent/sell an apartment to several would be buyers. Who the robber is and how he/she escapes being arrested makes it good fun to watch. It is touching, laughable, well-acted and you’ll like it. 

TED BUNDY: AMERICAN BOOGEYMAN. (HULU SINGLE). (3.6 IMDB). Another attempt to tell us what this very real American serial murderer in the 1970’s was really like.  Two FBI agents lead the “largest manhunt in history”. Bundy was a good looking guy and used his looks to lure his young girls to their deaths. The acting is not good and even with bits of Utah and Seattle thrown in it’s not worth it.

MOTHER ANDROID. (Hulu Single). (4.4IMDB).Chloe Grace Moretz and Algee Smith make this worth watching. She’s pregnant and living in New York and has to deal with androids. 

It’s in some future and the tech world has taken over the USA. We can’t really tell the robots/androids from the humans and much of the plot centers on Chloe’s pregnancy. Chloe goes through hell to get to Boston and is helped by some odd characters. Watch it if only for Chloe’s fine acting.

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS. (HBO MAX SINGLE)(6.0 IMDB).(64RT). If you’re a fan of the first three Matrix/ Keanu Reeves movies you’ll still be puzzled by the plot in this one. It’s about memories, dreams, other worlds, and the conscious vs. unconscious mind. Keanu Reeves in his 50 plus years hasn’t learned how to act and this illogical story line gets more not less convoluted as the film drags on.

DON’T LOOK UP. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (7.3 IMDB). Few films have ever caused as much disagreement as this “satirical science fiction” tour de force. It’s about two astronomers Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence who discover a comet that is headed straight to earth within the next six months. It’s supposed to be a clever satire on how the USA has been dealing with the Covid scare. Meryl Streep is the president of the United States, Jonah Hill is a White House aide and Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman, Timothee Chalamet, Tyler Perry, Ariana Grande, Live Schreiber, Sarah Silverman, and Chris Evans all have small roles. For me, my daughter and my grandson (we watched it together) it wasn’t sharp enough, not funny enough, not cutting enough to laugh at.

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT. (DISNEY +SERIES) (8.1 IMDB)This is yet another sequel/spinoff from the Star Wars series and it really helps if you know who the tuskens, massifs, jawas are. According to a short film about Star Wars stuff the Boba Fett character dates back at least to 1978 in earlier sagas. BOBA Fett is played by a guy who looks a lot like an old Dwayne Johnson and has about the same acting ability. I can’t tell you about the plot because I couldn’t figure it out. This first episode is only 38 minutes long so maybe if you keep binging???

 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, PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.  

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

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

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

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

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

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SANTA CRUZ ACTORS THEATRE announced….
“8 Tens @ 8 Short Play Festival” at the Center Stage Theater 1001 Center Street (831) 431-6237 January 14- February 6.
Tickets here! Nope!! No tickets available, they are all sold out.

THE JEWEL THEATRE COMPANY presents…

“THE WEIR” a play directed By Conor McPherson and Directed by Susan Myer Silton. It’s said to “combine a comedic touch with deep resonant themes”. At the Colligan Theatre, in the Tannery Arts Center at 1010 River street. Jan 26 thru Feb 20, 2022

THE SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS announced…
“Gabriel Fauré and His Circle of Influence”
THE NISENE ENSEMBLE: Cynthia Baehr-Williams, Concert Director and Violin
They’ll be playing music by Martinu, Boulanger, Saint-Saëns, Kodály, Bloch and Fauré
It’ll be at Christ Lutheran Church, 10707 Soquel Drive, Aptos. (Off Highway 1 at Freedom Blvd.) Saturday, January 29, 2022 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 30, 2022 at 3:00 pm  Go here for info: scchamberplayers.org 

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January 3

Keeping the Old is the New Thing

When Jayson Architecture recently unveiled its design for the new library/garage/housing project on Cedar St., supporters, including most council members, were delighted with the rendition of the massive new multi-use building, applauding its green building features as a forward-looking enterprise worthy of a forward-looking city. Opponents were regarded as backward-looking, clinging to an outdated, musty old library that has outlived its usefulness. Turns out, the innovative, forward-looking, greenest position may be that which supports renovating the existing library in situ.

The winter edition of Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, includes an important article by Frances Anderton with illustrations by Jeff Hinchee. Titled To Build Or Not To Build, it explores the changes in architectural thinking as climate change, carbon footprint and sustainability issues take center stage.

A significant benchmark of this new thinking was the 2021 Pritzker Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in architecture going to two Paris-based architects, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philipe Vassal who create housing and civic space through building as little as possible. As quoted in the article, Vassar states, “We say, instead of demolishing, we should work with whatever exists.” Their work focuses on retrofitting unremarkable buildings with significant cost savings over demolition and building the new. Lacaton is quoted as saying “Demolition is a waste of energy, of materials, a waste of history. For us, it is an act of violence.”

This new approach in architectural thinking is spreading. The construction industry is a big greenhouse gas producer, with the production of cement being a significant contributor. While green building standards for new buildings have so far been the measure of the best we can achieve, such an approach is being challenged with statements such as “The greenest building is the one that is already built.”

Retrofitting and adapting existing buildings for new uses (abandoned office buildings for housing for example) has its own challenges such as seismic upgrades and replacement of toxic materials, however, architects on the cutting edge of this new approach see mainly advantages. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently wrote that, “It takes 10 to 80 years for a new green building to recover the environmental cost of demolishing an existing one.” 

Some cities such as Portland have deconstruction ordinances that require the salvage of materials from any structure built before 1940. The house I live in was built in 1929 and is as solid as a rock. When I’m gone I like to think a new owner would choose to preserve it, despite its diminutive 700 square foot size. Anticipating its demolition with all that good wood hauled off to the dump is an affront. Following that, construction of a far larger house with all that raw material extraction is further insult. The final straw would be having the new building sit empty as an investment or second home. We have to do better than this!

While community members, Our Downtown, Our Future are circulating a petition to garner enough signatures to put the question of a newly built, relocated library /parking garage/housing project to a vote, it would be forward thinking on the part of the city council majority and supporters of the project to take a step back and consider carefully what the best minds in the architectural world are analyzing and concluding: “that it is time to limit new construction altogether and simply work with what’s already there.”  

Not only is this wise, it’s what we thought we were voting on when we agreed to tax ourselves for a new downtown library.

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

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 January 3

Chris will be back and writing next week!

Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and a Santa Cruz City Council member from 1998-2002 and from 2017-2020. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 16 years. On Tuesday evenings at 5pm, Krohn hosts of “Talk of the Bay,” on KSQD 90.7 and KSQD.org His Twitter handle at SCpolitics is @ChrisKrohnSC Chris can be reached at ckrohn@cruzio.com

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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January 3

WHY NOT HAVE BUSES ABLE TO CONVERT TO RAIL FOR PASSENGER SERVICE IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY?

Imagine a system of existing Metro buses that could convert to traveling on the rail corridor within a few seconds, with a flick of a switch.  It is possible.

Japan has just launched a significant bus-to-rail conversion transportation project for rural areas that allows buses to quickly convert from rubber-tire on the road to rail mode, and vice versa.

I wrote the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) about considering this addition to the County’s public transportation routes, using existing buses and running on a rail corridor still bogged down in endless expensive studies.  No answer yet.

Why don’t you try contacting the RTC if you think this could help our County’s transportation woes?  

The Commission will next meet January 13 at 9am for a hybrid meeting, using the County Board of Supervisors chambers (701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz)

Commission Meeting (2022-01-13)

PUBLIC COMMENT ON COUNTY’S 2045 TRANSPORTATION PLAN CLOSES JANUARY 31, WITH PUBLIC HEARING ON JANUARY 13
Well, here is your chance to provide your thoughts and ideas on the County’s Draft 2045 Transportation Plan.  Take a look at the 278-page document, choose your topic area of most concern, and write the RTC with your suggestions and comments.

On December 2, 2021, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission released the draft 2045 Regional Transportation Plan for public review and comment. The public comment period for the Draft 2045 RTP runs from December 2nd, 2021 through January 31, 2022 and a public hearing is scheduled for 9:30am at the January 13, 2022 RTC meeting. Printed copies of the Draft 2045 RTP are also available for public review at the libraries in downtown Santa Cruz, Felton, Capitola, La Selva Beach, and Watsonville beginning December 3rd. Written comments on the Draft 2045 RTP for Santa Cruz County can be submitted to 2045rtp@sccrtc.org by January 31, 2022.

Learn more about the development of the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan at sccrtc.org/2045rtp.

A PROPOSED NEW TAX FOR SANTA CRUZ COUNTY PROPERTIES ALONG TRANSIT CORRIDORS THAT WOULD RUN WITH THE LAND?
This was proposed December 7, 2021 by Supervisor Manu Koenig as a consent agenda item (#39) to write a letter to State Senator John Laird and Assemblyman Mark Stone to enact legislation to lower parking requirements for developments on transit corridors but levy a new transportation tax on those parcels in perpetuity to support public transportation.  

What are your thoughts?  Send them along to your elected representatives…however those boundaries may be changing due to Re-Districting.

WILL THE STATE’S “30 x 30” PLAN TAKE YOUR PROPERTY?  COMMENT BY JANUARY 28
What exactly does the State have in mind to implement Executive Order N-82-20 which calls for the conservation of 30 percent of the state’s lands and coastal waters by the year 2030?  The Resource Conservation CDraft Plan was released December 15, and a virtual public meeting is scheduled for January 12 at 3pm. Sign up to participate and learn more about how the State’s plan might affect you and your neighbors.

Public Comment is due by January 28.

Here is one excerpt from the Plan timeline:

3.1.5 Based on the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and CalEPA’s 2002 Report to the Legislature, “Addressing the Need to Protect California’s Watersheds,” develop a state watershed policy with updated principles by 2021. By 2022, routinely utilize the policy and principles in watershed and coastal management including planning, policy setting, resource allocation, and project development.

(page 41)

This fits with the recent Regional Water Quality Control Board Triennial Basin Report wherein the Vision is stated on page 8 that  “80% of all watershed lands be managed by 2025.”  The staff could not define what “managed” means, and has no metrics for determining effective management practices.  

Here is the link to that 73-page report

Hmmmm….

MANY CITY AND COUNTY LEADERS AIM FOR STATE INITIATIVE TO FIGHT FOR LOCAL LAND USE CONTROL
If you want to have your local elected representatives and planning departments continue to have discretionary land use control, you need to ask them to sign on as supporters of a statewide initiative in the works to help that happen.

The State mandates are aggressively removing local jurisdictional discretionary control over land use and infrastructure developments in the name of compliance with requirements to build housing at a rate the State demands.   Now, some jurisdictions are fighting to maintain control over what projects get built in their cities and counties, and what infrastructure / parking requirements would fall on the financial shoulders of the developers.  

Cupertino, other cities back initiative that would fend off new state housing bills

The proposed initiative “provides that city and county land-use and zoning laws (including local housing laws) override all conflicting state laws, except in certain circumstances” involving the California Coastal Act of 1976 and prevent the state Legislature and local legislative bodies “from passing laws invalidating voter-approved local land-use or zoning initiatives.”

Santa Cruz City Council recently clashed over the State’s heavy-handed stick now wielded by SB 35 when the 831 Water Street high-rise development came before them.  They backed down from requiring the affordable units be distributed evenly between the two proposed five-story buildings crammed onto the lot adjacent to the Branciforte and Belvedere Terrace neighborhood because of SB 35 mandates to fast-track the project while providing little in terms of infrastructure improvements.


Add to this the potential pressures of SB 9
, which just went into effect, requiring ministerial approval (no discretion allowed) of all ADU and lot splits.

Will the cities and County of Santa Cruz sign on to join Cupertino and other local jurisdictional leaders for this statewide initiative effort?  Contact them this week to ask that they do so.

The Initiative will need 1 million qualified voter signatures by June to get it on the November 2022 ballot.  

REMOVING CEQA BARRIERS TO CREATE EMERGENCY SECONDARY EGRESS FOR FIRE SAFETY IN RURAL AREAS

On January 10, the State Natural Resources Committee will consider proposed legislation AB 1154 that may lend a helping hand to the Last Chance Community folks who are trying to rebuild after losing everything in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in August, 2020.  Contact your State elected representatives and urge their support.  Here’s why: 

If State Parks had not blocked the Last Chance Community secondary access, Mr. Tad Jones might be alive today because he could likely have successfully evacuated during the CZU Fire using that road he had known about and attempted.  But State Parks had blocked the road.  

The State Board of Forestry is now implementing new requirements for all subdivisions of 30 households or more to have a secondary egress for fire evacuation. 

The State Board of Forestry will likely require the Last Chance Community residents to find a secondary egress route in order to rebuild.   Logically that egress would mean re-opening the road into Big Basin State Park.  You can imagine State Parks will likely require the expensive CEQA analysis in an effort to keep the road blocked. 

That is where AB 1154 provisions may help the Last Chance folks.

On January 10, the State Natural Resources Committee will consider AB 1154.  Authored by Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), seeks to expedite fire safety improvements for subdivisions that are at significant risk of fire and lack a secondary egress routes. In particular, AB 1154 exempts from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), fire safety egress route projects stemming from recommendations made by the Board of Forestry (BOF).

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) has sponsored this legislation in an effort to help rural residents rebuild after fire loss.  Contact John Kennedy jkennedy@rcrcnet.org    or  (916) 447-4806 with any questions.

While you are at it, ask your County Supervisors why Santa Cruz County is not a member of the RCRC, which works actively to help residents and businesses in rural counties throughout California.   

FREE TOOL RENTALS AND INFORMATION ABOUT PG&;E WOOD HAULS FOR CZU FIRE SURVIVORS
The Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery and Resiliency (OR3), directed by Mr. Dave Reid, the analyst of former County Supervisor John Leopold, has a website showing a virtual Public Hearing January 12 for PG&;E wood hauls in the CZU Fire area.  It also shows there are free tool rentals in Boulder Creek every Saturday morning for fire survivors.  Please spread the news.

WAS THAT REALLY A LOCAL EMERGENCY?
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors held a Special Meeting on December 28 to hear staff present a request that they declare a Local Emergency for the December 13, 2021 storm damages.  Huh?  

County Supervisors approved CAO Palacios’ (or was it the Office of Response, R, R.) OR3 headed by former Supervisor John Leopold’s analyst Dave Reid??) declaration of a local emergency regarding the December 13, 2021 rain storm, claiming $2.3 million in road damage, which the Board had to quickly ratify.  

Four roads were damaged, not all in the CZU Fire area.  One was a failed culvert on Valencia Road in Aptos, where old metal culverts are rapidly failing due to deferred maintenance and replacement.  Yet, the Resolution only mentions damages resulting from the Fire area and debris flow.  

The presentation included some video of a debris flow on Foreman Creek in Boulder Creek….pretty impressive!  However, OR3 provided no evidence of damage to downstream culverts or bridges as a result of the debris flow.  No one asked.

Supervisor Bruce McPherson focused on how bad things would have been last year had the County received rain like this, and urged everyone in the CZU Fire area to be patient in getting permits to rebuild.  

Supervisor Greg Caput wanted to know if all damages claimed were in the CZU Fire area.  OR3 Director Dave Reid assured him that all damages were related to the December 13 rain storm.

This now allows the County to file for federal and state money to fix the roads.  But what price to locals?  Take a look at the staff report and documents.

The Local State of Emergency will freeze contractor pricing and the allowable cost of related goods and services for 30 to 180 days, not to mention rents.

Will it bring misfortune to the County to declare a local state of emergency when there really isn’t one?  What about the associated economic restrictions this will impose on local contractors, landlords and related supply businesses?  No Supervisors even asked staff about this, even though I provided the State Penal Code and Government Code that will now take effect.

Is this just crying “Wolf!” for the purpose of a money grab?

Here is the video of the meeting: Video Outline – Santa Cruz County, CA

What are your thoughts?

A SWEET DREAM COMING TO APTOS NEXT MONTH
Last week, I chanced to see work happening in the Rancho del Mar Center in Aptos at Bruster’s Ice Cream Shop, which was supposed to open last summer but hasn’t yet.  I spoke with Jeffrey Yee, the co-owner, who was directing a new forklift driver at the site.  He told me they hope to open next month, making fresh ice cream daily on site.  Only walk-up service and outdoor seating will be available, with the bulk of the building housing the equipment to make the ice cream on-site.

You may be interested to know that Santa Cruz County and Los Angeles are the two largest demographic market areas in the State for non-dairy foods.  Therefore, the Aptos Bruster’s will offer many non-dairy ice creams made creamy with avocado oil, all made right there in the former KFC restaurant.

While I am still troubled by how TRC Retail mistreated the former tenants of the Rio del Mar Center in the course of remodeling, I am happy to welcome Bruster’s Ice Cream, operated by a couple who is local, attended local schools, and wants to offer something sweet and fun to the Aptos Community.  

[Good Times eating out review]

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

Cheers and Happy New Year,

Becky

Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.

Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com

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January 2

PROVACATIVE EUCALYPTUS

Many Californians have opinions about Eucalyptus. Either you are for them or against them. It’s a subject like politics or religion that you hesitate to bring up at the dinner table. As with Covid-19 vaccination, you can’t predict who’ll be on what side (or why) – people of any political persuasion can surprise you with their beliefs. I’m betting that you know what I’m talking about…I didn’t even need to mention which of the hundreds of species of Eucalyptus I am talking about.

Eucalyptus Bad

The most common concern I hear about blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) in California is how fire-dangerous it is. Some recall the Oakland Hills fire of 1991, which killed 25 people and was at least partially blamed on Eucalyptus. Locally, some recall the 2008 Trabing Fire just north of Watsonville, ignited on a hot day by a poorly running vehicle backfiring, and spitting out fire balls along Highway 1. Grass caught fire and quickly spread into nearby invasive pines, acacia and Eucalyptus (those have since regrown denser than before). That fire surprised fire-fighting professionals from how high embers were flying…hitting their fire monitoring planes at altitudes previously thought safe. They cited the architecture of Eucalyptus forests…the tall, close very vertical trunks create chimney-like conditions, hurling fiery brands much further than expected. Leaves with volatile oils and large amounts of bark and branches accumulated in the understory are other reasons for fire concern. 

Eucalyptus Good

The most common defense of Eucalyptus I have encountered is its beauty. Our cityscapes have surprisingly few trees, but there are almost always huge Eucalyptus nearby. Many are fond of their massive trunks, shaggy bark, and towering, spreading canopies, shimmering with blue green leaves. I have seen many painters capturing the alluring patterns of rows of old Eucalyptus trees in many seasons, in many shades of light. A few people will dedicate their spare time and energy to protect big old Eucalyptus city trees from the too-frequent human desire to cut down trees.

What Do the Birds Say?

If birds are any indicator, Eucalyptus is good in some places and bad in other places. Birds like city trees including Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus adjacent to larger bodies of water are attractive to birds. You may have seen masses of herons and egrets using Eucalyptus as ‘rookeries’ where they raise their young. Trees near the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor are roosting areas for herons. The Eucalyptus grove south and inland of the Elkhorn Slough Bridge in Moss Landing has a huge rookery, with so many birds that their guano is killing the trees. Peregrine falcons were using the tall Eucalyptus near the river mouth for a while. Raptors like the tallest trees for nests and perches.

Gum Gone Wild

Eucalyptus in our area is considered an invasive species because the trees readily proliferate and outcompete native plants. As with so many Eucalyptus issues, this was once a source of controversy before Eric Van Dyke at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve demonstrated an 8 foot per year rate of spread of groves in northern Monterey County. Where Eucalyptus spreads into streamside habitats, there is a particularly bad impact for bird conservation.

River Gum Bad

Riverside or streamside (aka ‘riparian’) habitats are by far the most crucial targets for bird conservation in California. Most of these habitats have been highly altered and are no longer good habitat for wildlife. Many migratory birds visiting from the tropics nest in those habitats. The loss of riparian bird habitat compounds with the loss of tropical forests, and so these birds are particularly imperiled. Riparian ecosystems host many cavity nesting birds that favor holes in the soft wood of riparian trees like willows, cottonwoods, and alders. Eucalyptus trees quickly invade and transform diverse riparian forest, and cavities become much less common. Bird conservationists say that controlling Eucalyptus in riparian areas should be a ‘no brainer.’

Euc Pests

Some types of birds have recently been newly attracted to Eucalyptus because they like at least one of its natural pests that found its way to California. The blue gum psyllid is apparently tasty for birds such as warblers. I’m less sure if birds are eating other ‘new’ Eucalyptus pests: apparently a number of blue gum eating pests recently found their way to California. It used to be that Eucalyptus leaves were perfectly shaped, no damage- nothing ate them! Now, those leaves look like someone took a paper punch to them. Eucalyptus tortoise beetle are eating blue gum leaves – does anyone know if birds like to eat it or other of the new Euc pests?

The Arrival of Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus has a long history in California. It was widely planted in the 1870’s to address the ‘hardwood famine.’ Hardwood was becoming scarce because of its use as fuel for steam engines and heat, so there was a Eucalyptus planting boom. Eucalyptus was soon advertised as the solution to many problems: a fast-growing hardwood for fuel, people thought its wood could be used for railroad ties and other lumber, people said the tree would dry up wetlands and reduce mosquitoes, and its fast growth attracted people to plant it for windbreaks. People were buying large numbers of seedlings. Some advertised, promising investors good returns from productive Eucalyptus wood lots. 

Hardwood, though, eventually lost favor to petroleum in California. But, if you travel to Central or South America, where hardwood is still important for fuel, you will notice many areas managed for Eucalyptus firewood.

Heavy and Twisty

It turned out that Eucalyptus wood twists and buckles when drying, so it was eventually recognized as useless for lumber. Well, almost. 15 years ago, someone claimed they had a process for drying Eucalyptus “correctly” so that it could be used lumber, including for picnic tables. They donated one to the organization I worked for…it weighed 250 pounds and took 4 people to move! After a couple of years it was impossible to use. It was so warped that when people sat on it, it rocked wildly about, and created a balancing challenge with people bobbing around spilling their drinks at vastly different elevations. Woodlots for Eucalyptus hardwood are still around, but you are more likely to see Eucalyptus spreading from old, planted windbreaks. Look carefully for the oldest biggest trees in a row with many generations of younger trees spreading from there. One thing remains true from the old hype: Eucalyptus does well at drying wetlands!

Drink it Up

With its huge canopy thick with leaves, Eucalyptus is known globally for its thirsty nature. Deforestation in its native home in Australia led to salinization of the soil from the evaporating heightened water table. Here in California, people note the loss of springs where Eucalyptus grows. Although closer scrutiny is needed, using transpiration rates from Eucalyptus elsewhere in similar climates, it is likely that a grove of Eucalyptus drinks most of the rainfall falling on it along our coast. This is much more water than native trees use. One day, one mitigation for new development that demands more water might be investment in Eucalyptus control.

Thinning and Containing

Given the fire danger and negative ecological and water impacts of most Eucalyptus groves, it is sad that they are still proliferating. To be sure, Eucalyptus control is an expensive proposition. Having felled several large trees, I can attest to the work it takes to clean up a fallen tree properly. The wood makes great firewood and is easy to split if you split it soon after felling. But there is an enormous amount of slash to deal with…chipping or burn piles- either way a lot of work. The stand-out organization for Eucalyptus control locally is State Parks. They are ‘thinning and containing’ some groves that people like to look at while obliterating others in ecologically sensitive areas. They realize that Eucalyptus control will cost more each year they wait, so they do what they can with the (too few) resources that our elected officials budget for them.

Fer it or Agin it?

After reading this, maybe you will have a more informed opinion about this provocative tree. It is my hope that you be ‘for’ the ones that grow near bodies of water or are city trees and ‘against’ the ones in riparian areas or spreading through our other precious native ecosystems.

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

Email Grey at coastalprairie@aol.com

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December 23

#357 / Should Government Meetings Be Online? 

Bill Emmerson, a Republican, is a member of the state’s Little Hoover Commission. Pedro Nava, a Democrat, is the Chair. This bipartisan duo wrote a guest commentary that was featured on the editorial page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 1, 2021. Nava and Emmerson’s Op-Ed was titled, “Continue government meetings online – permanently.”

While I encourage readers to click the link in the first paragraph, and to read the Op-Ed in the original, let me summarize the Nava-Emmerson argument:
 

  • Online meetings save money.
  • Remote meetings increase public access.
  • Online meetings are more inclusive.

The headline of the Nava-Emmerson Op-Ed talks about “government meetings” in general (which certainly includes the meetings of local and regional governmental agencies), but the text of the editorial is focused on state-level boards and commissions. The state has lots of those. According to the State Treasurer’s website, to cite one example, the State Treasurer has administrative responsibility for over sixty Boards, Commissions, and Authorities. Click the link to see the list! Almost all of these bodies have members who live all over the state. Other agencies of state government will have a similar list of boards, commissions, and other advisory groups.

Nava and Emmerson are certainly correct to point out that it would save the state money if people didn’t have to travel to Sacramento every time there was a meeting of one of these bodies, most of which have a very narrow and specialized jurisdiction. It is also true that the public, generally, will have a lot more access to the meetings of such bodies if the meetings can be seen online, and if members of the public don’t have to travel to be able to observe their deliberations. It is also true – third point – that some potential members of such advisory and oversight bodies can’t afford the time it takes to travel to remote meetings, so that making online meetings the rule will allow for a more inclusive and diverse membership. 

All that said, and with due respect for Nava and Emmerson, online meetings are a terrible idea for local government agencies – and for lots of state agencies, too. The Coastal Commission, for instance would lose a lot if it met online only, instead of traveling throughout the Coastal Zone for its monthly meetings. Most particularly, it would lose contact with the public – and the public would lose contact with the Commission. 

Our local government bodies in Santa Cruz County seem to enjoy holding their meetings “online,” which avoids the necessity of dealing, directly, with the members of the public whom the elected officials are supposed to represent. The Santa Cruz City Council, for instance, is continuing to hold online-only meetings, and Council Members never have to see the public – not even onscreen. The Board of Supervisors, which is holding “hybrid” meetings, have designed a system that allows Board Members to “attend” the meetings remotely. One member of the Board, whose wife recently got a lucrative job as City Manager of the City of Coronado, is making decisions about Santa Cruz County from San Diego County, at the other end of the state. 

The pandemic required online meetings. In-person meeting were prohibited, to protect public health. Compared to no meetings, Zoom and other online platforms are great. However, online meeting are no longer required to protect public health, and they should be terminated immediately. “Watching” a meeting online suggests that we, as members of the public, are mainly supposed to be “observers.” Making it easy to observe is different from making it easy to participate – and that’s the problem with any plan to put “government meetings online – permanently.”

Having been an elected official in Santa Cruz County, for twenty years, I well understand the temptation that local officials have to put real distance between themselves and the people they represent. But setting up systems that allow elected officials to avoid direct contact with the public, during the meetings at which the public’s business is done, is a democratic disaster. 

The headline on the Nava-Emmerson Op-Ed (continue government meetings online – permanently) is not the right message for any local government agency, and for many state agencies, as well. Our government is not a “spectator sport.” Let’s not allow our elected officials to try to turn it into one.

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

Email Gary at gapatton@mac.com

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January 2

And on it goes, the ponies go up and down on the merry-go-round of COVID-19, the inability of Washington pols to accomplish anything, and the not-so-slow-motion coup of the Trumpers hiding inside the Trojan horse between the blue and the red ponies. No purple ponies on this carousel anymore, folks, but lots of white ones!

Trump’s acolytes continue to harass and pressure state election officials to find irregularities in the 2020 election results, even as those states change voting laws, and the operations of the election boards in order to strengthen the power and control of the reigning political party. School boards, city, county and state elective and appointive offices are fair game in this new knife fight to alter our systems from top to bottom. For those who are just starting to pay attention, the plastic knife and spork from your picnic basket won’t work against these fanatics.

Donnie-Two-Scoops is shedding supporters for several reasons, one being the aggressiveness of the January 6th Committee as it closes in on the coup-plotters, who are turning over documents and evidence relating to the insurrection. The Proud Boys, espousing the hanging of VP Mike Pence in January, are imagining a noose around DJT’s neck for abandoning them in his failure to march to the Capitol with them as promised, and, for his relative silence as they are prosecuted for their crimes. Perhaps The Don can borrow Alabama Congressman ‘Mo’ Brooks’s body armor, worn as he spoke to the rabble on that day, dependent of course, upon who goes to jail first.

And, poor Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy theorist and would-be TV evangelical preacher, after losing a fortune in judgements stemming from suits filed for his outrageous lies, has dumped on Trumpelthinskin for jumping on the Biden bandwagon after Joe gave DJT’s administration kudos for kicking off the COVID vaccine program, and for recent praise and advocacy for the vaccine’s effectiveness. The Man-of-Steal was roundly booed at a recent conservative gathering when he told the semi-crowd that he was vaccinated. Biden established that if only a bit of praise and flattery had been directed at DJT two years ago, many thousands of lives might have been saved.

President Biden is having serious problems in getting his legislation past Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema…oh, and fifty Republican senators. Manchin has been seen zipping around Washington in his Maserati as he tries to escape pursuing Republican recruiters, or fellow coal barons who want to add to his bank account, or get an invitation for drinks and dinner on his homely yacht, the Almost Heaven. 

And, speaking of Heaven, evangelicals, idolater Donald Trump, Jr., and others in the Order of the Golden Combover, Junior T is promoting a new gospel – don’t turn the other cheek, the Scriptures are a manual for losers, Jesus must have misspoke. The ‘New Good News’ consists of anger, revenge, intolerance and violence – the ‘Old Order’ gets you nowhere! Jeez, who would want to follow that ethic?

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: cornerspot14@yahoo.com

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

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

    January

“Lots of people go mad in January. Not as many as in May, of course. Nor June. But January is your third most common month for madness.” 
~Karen Joy Fowler

“January 26th. The day when nothing remarkable happens to anyone else.”
~Ashley Newell 

“Dickensian poverty tends to occur after Christmas in January. For it is then, with pockets empty, diary decimated and larder bare, that the general populace sinks into a collective pauper’s hibernation until Valentine’s Day.” 
~Stewart Stafford

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Betty White left us too soon. Here is every St Olaf story ever from the Golden Girls.


COLUMN COMMUNICATIONS. Subscriptions: Subscribe to the Bulletin! You’ll get a weekly email notice the instant the column goes online. (Anywhere from Monday afternoon through Thursday or sometimes as late as Friday!), and the occasional scoop. Always free and confidential. Even I don’t know who subscribes!!
Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
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