Blog Archives

July 21 – 27, 2021

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Latest Rail Trail section completed and celebrated, 831 Water Street planning disaster, unearthing early Santa Cruz, anti-doubling highway 1 lanes picnic. GREENSITE… on gender and pronouns. KROHN…Looking Back at the Fiscal Year. STEINBRUNER…Soquel Creek Water District issues, City Water rates going up, Newsom’s new water rulings. Fire risk area changes. PATTON…The Biggest Threat to America. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Pandemic Times”.

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SOQUEL AVENUE AND DAKOTA STREETS, February 11, 1961.  This is now the long established location of The Hindquarter Restaurant. Riverside Electric is right across the street.

                                       
photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.
Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE July 19
    

WATSONVILLE STRETCH OF RAIL/TRAIL COMPLETED. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported this on July 16. I re-wrote parts of it to bring it up to date…

WATSONVILLE — Segment 18 of the Coastal Rail Trail has been open to the public for approximately a month. That didn’t stop enthusiasts from throwing a ribbon-cutting event in its honor Saturday July 17, complete with booths and prizes.

From 10 a.m. to noon at 800 Ohlone Parkway in Watsonville, there was an opportunity for attendees to walk the new loop after speeches. Attendees also found booths with local groups who have sponsored activities and were handed a map that can be stamped as booths are visited. Just before the event ended, a Santa Cruz Branch Railway locomotive will pass by so that people can take pictures with it in the background, Watsonville Principal Engineer Murray Fontes teased. “It’s for little kids and big kids alike,” he said.

Paperwork necessary for the completion of permitting requirements ultimately delayed the official opening, according to Fontes. Fontes said that despite signs that were put up to discourage the trail’s use, people continued to utilize it.Other than securing permits, the construction of the project that connects the rail trail to the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network was on schedule until crews encountered poor soil quality.

“The pandemic didn’t help … but there were some soil contamination issues to address and it took more work than we thought,” Fontes said. “There were utilities we had to work around or move, which pushed us into the winter. We did get some rain which is good, but not for construction. It just caused (further) delays.”

Fontes and his colleagues anticipated some problems around the site, such as the fact that a finding around soil quality may add to the project cost.

“We usually allow for the worst but hope for the best,” he said.

Segment 18, a one-mile continuous paved bicycle and pedestrian trail, features fencing on the side adjacent to Watsonville’s active freight line — a consideration that was top-of-mind for the entire process, even leading to everyone on-site taking rail-safety training.

“You will see, for much of the trail, a retaining wall as the trail is higher than the adjacent ground. There is a second railing there so that people won’t step off the trail and fall over the retaining wall,” the engineer said of the rail side of the trail.

On the other side, crews provided a ground cover. Unfortunately, it didn’t take, Fontes said.

Bigger plans

The city of Watsonville was able to secure a $600,000 Active Transportation Program grant because much of the jurisdiction is considered to be disadvantaged, Fontes confirmed. The criteria around that type of grant, which is becoming more frequent, involves income, the number of students eligible to receive free or reduced lunches, local water quality and pollution levels and more.

“Watsonville is the one part of the county that qualifies in many of those categories,” the engineer said. “That makes us eligible for funding. That is just one source we used to pay for this project.”

City staff plans to continue seeking out equity-driven grants in order to strengthen its trail network that weaves through the city. Today, there are 10 miles of trail, including the Watsonville Slough trail system, that provide residents additional transportation opportunities, Fontes explained. Segment 18 links to the slough trail system and has the potential to, in the future, connect to the rest of the Coastal Rail Trail going toward Davenport and Santa Cruz County Land Trust’s Watsonville Slough Farm property set to break ground next year.

“Not only is this going to be linked into 10 miles of existing trail in the city, but it is part of the network of trails the city is currently developing that will extend west toward the ocean and go beyond the highway,” Fontes said. “Then it will follow Lee Road … and head back toward Pajaro Valley High School, giving alternative access to students who bike or walk.”

Additionally, the network could expand in coming years as the city of Watsonville recently secured an $11.7 million grant to build a pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 at Harkins Slough Road. This, Fontes said, will help high school students get to and from Pajaro Valley High in a safer manner.

“I’m excited about this addition to our trail network that we are developing. I see the rail trail as just one component of it,” Fontes said.

GARY PATTON ABOUT BRANCIFORTE AND 831 WATER STREET DEVELOPMENT.
I asked Gary if I could re-“print” his FB statement about the proposed development at 831 Water Street, he assured me it was fine with him….” There was a garage sale Saturday, July 17 for a cause – namely to defeat the massively out of scale project proposed at the corner of Branciforte and Water Streets. The idea is for an outsized six floor structure, with a rooftop bar, on a seriously dangerous intersection with geologic and fire access problems to boot. The developer wants this project to be treated as a “ministerial” project. That means NO environmental review; NO Planning Commission hearing; NO opportunity for the public to raise concerns to be addressed; NO CITY COUNCIL VOTE. This is to be an “over the counter” permit for a six-story, massive new development. Check out the picture. It would dwarf even most of the Santa Cruz downtown. This development is in the vicinity of Belvedere Terrace, which would be overwhelmed by this horrible proposal”.

Go here to see the official take on it.

Be sure to read Gary’s daily blog at www.gapatton.net and his weekly opinions and news just a few knuckle twists further down this page.

HIGHWAY 1…DOUBLING THE LANES and a PICNIC!!! Here’s what The Campaign for Sustainable Transportation says…. “We’ve been at it since 2002. We’ve stalled, but haven’t yet stopped the RTC’s plan to double the lanes on Highway 1. But the expansion plans could grind to a halt if our lawsuit wins at trial in January. In our fundraising for the lawsuit and in our advocacy work for transit and safe streets, we’re part of a larger social transformation towards keeping the planet livable and prioritizing social equity. We want to thank everyone we know who has been a part of this effort. Let’s celebrate our persistence”. So they are having a picnic
Sunday, Aug 15, 2-4pm. The Buckeye Picnic Area is the first picnic area across from the baseball diamond at Harvey West Park .

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.

McCARTNEY 3, 2, 1. (HULU SERIES). If you have ever enjoyed anything by The Beatles you’ll love this perfectly produced 6 episodes of interviews with Paul McCartney by music producer Rick Rubin. (95RT) How the Beatles began, how they created some of their greatest hits. Their business and fun times, their influences such as The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Little Richard. McCartney’s very nice, unaffected and friendly. Watch it and be ready to sing along. 

SCHMIGADOON ! (APPLE TV+ SERIES). Alan Cumming is fun to watch in this parody of the 1940’s musicals. Numerous ensemble dance numbers all “inspired” by Oklahoma, South Pacific, and the greatest MGM spectaculars. Watch it just for fun, there’s no comparison to the originals and no depth to the plot of two people in love on a hiking trip being trapped in this musical kingdom. (88RT) 

PEARL. (PRIME VIDEO.SINGLE). (57RT). Anthony LaPaglia plays the mysterious father that has to take care of his newly found 15 year old daughter. Her mother was shot by her boyfriend so she has to give up a way of life and also take charge of her grandmother who drinks too much. It’ll keep your attention, not the greatest acting but it still works.

MANDALORIAN. (DISNEY +) SERIES. It’s been nominated for an Emmy series award so I watched three episodes to see what the fuss is/was about. (8.8 IMDB) It’s Star Wars carried far beyond the original intent. We see the new Yoda baby who we learn is not the same as old Yoda in later/newer Star Wars sagas. It’s full of great effects, middling plot lines and centers on the ongoing mission of the Mandalorian to find the best place for baby Yoda. If you need escape and loved Star Wars go for it, by all means.

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (69RT). It isn’t promoted as a comedy but it’s a semi funny parody of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and Pulp Fiction. Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino are librarians who run a gun filled library. But it’s really a mother and daughter saga with Mom teaching the daughter how to be a surviving hit woman for top gangsters. The acting is stylized, dramatic and odd. Go warned if you rent this one.

LAST SUMMER. (NETFLIX SINGLE). This film takes place in 1997 and in Bodrum which is in Turkey. Bodrum is a well to do beach town, more expensive than Santa Cruz. Teen age love in all its cuteness, wildness, jealousies, and of course sex are the topics for almost two hours. I’ll spoil the ending by saying that there isn’t one!!! But it’s a diverting flick to waste your time on.

HASEEN DILLRUBA. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (50RT). A very Indian production complete with Bollywood songs and dances and silliness. There’s a wife who is suspected of murdering her husband. The police are convinced and it drags on dealing with the problems of arranged, traditional Indian marriages. The husband was a jerk as we watch, but then come an ending which will knock you off your sofa. All in all watch it IF you like movies from India. 

THE PARISIAN AGENCY / L’AGENCE. (NETFLIX.SERIES). “Exclusive Properties”. An unusual genuine French reality style drama/comedy!! It about a French family with four sons plus father and mother and they have formed a real estate business for wealthy Parisians. They tour through some of the mostly costly homes and apartments in Paris. Plus the drama of family life makes this thoughtful, intelligent and restful to watch

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.  

SILVER SKATES. (NETFLIX SINGLE). This is a zillion ruble Russian production that is great fun to watch. No violence, no blood, just a costumed fantasy taking place in 1900 Moscow. It’s a fairy tale and a genuine break from all the brutal movies we produce and watch here in the states. The skating is wonderful and the story of a poor boy meeting and wooing the daughter of a rich power father is traditional and fun to watch for a change. Only 40RT, but what do they know?

XTREME. (NETFLIX SINGLE). The opposite from Silver Skates…this mess is violent, bloody, and pointless. It happens in Barcelona and when there’s a lead character who is as evil, ruthless, judo savvy, and talented…you have wasted even more of your time. Find any other movie to watch.

SOMOS. (NETFLIX SERIES).This is a confusing series that contains stories about a teen age girl football player, a handicapped boy, prostitutes and more all happening in the Mexican border town Allende around the year 2011. The movie tries to make real the lives of the hundreds of locals killed by a cartel that ruled that part of Mexico. It lacks depth and we are left with almost a documentary of this true story. Don’t tell anyone I sent you to it.

HOW TO BE A TYRANT. (NETFLIX SERIES). Narrated by Peter Dinklage this documentary series shows how evil dictators throughout history have used the same tactics to win and maintain control. Such demons as Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong and everybody but TRUMP are carefully explained. You’ll compare TRUMP tactics about every ten seconds while watching this “how to” lesson book. It’s a bit too cutesy to be classic but it’ll surprise you when you realize where the USA is headed with TRUMP being able to do what he is still doing. Watch it and take notes.

SUMMER OF SOUL. (HULU). (99RT) is such a great documentary and reminder, that I want to be sure folks view it as soon as possible. It’s a fast-moving and very well done record of the little-known 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that took place in the Marcus Garvey Park over a period of six weeks. It stars Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Max Roach, The 5th Dimension, Stevie Wonder and my ages-old favorites The Edwin Hawkins Singers. Over 300,000 people attended the concerts. It’s a great and positive view of our early history that we either ignored or never knew about. View it and then go dancing!!

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (NETFLIX SERIES). (100RT)This brilliant and suspenseful documentary deals with a murder of a well-known French woman in a little far off town in remote Ireland. It happened in 1996, the Irish police/Gardi are involved from the beginning. The main and really the only suspect is a news correspondent and what is shocking is that the case isn’t solved yet! Accusations, confessions, suspicions, fly everywhere but the courts in France and Ireland can’t work together so the main suspect is still free and selling books about the case on the streets. A well worth your while way to wonder about the Irish Police. 

PRIME TIME. (NETFLIX SINGLE). It’s a Polish film about a wild-near crazed 20 year old kid in 1999 on New Year’s Eve/ Millennium night who bursts into a TV studio demanding to be put on the air to get his message out. The studio goes crazy, cops deal with him, (56RT) he takes hostages and it drags on bit by bit. The kid has a troubled past which is obvious but the ending and his message to the world will leave you guessing. Mildly approved. 

 THE LITTLE THINGS. (HBO SINGLE). Denzel Washington returns to the screens along with Rami Malek and Jared Leno in this cop versus cop versus a maybe criminal drama. Denzel is a cop in Bakersfield who gets sent to LA in 1990 where he has to deal with fellow cop Malek who is solving, chasing, shadowing, and beating a very suspicious, devious local jerk. (6.3 IMDB). Washington has to live with a sad and mysterious past that haunts him while he works to solve this serial murder case. Not a great film but Denzel does make it worth watching…at least up to the ending, which is nearly a cop-out.

THE TURN OUT. (PRIME VIDEO SINGLE). A very depressing but effective view of the sex lives of teenagers and truck drivers…especially in West Virginia. There’s a mix of religion, AA, and the main character is called “Crowbar”. This is a very real issue and more help is needed to change their worlds and their opportunities. No fun, but illuminating.

THE TOMMOROW WAR. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE). (53RT). A science fiction fantasy starring Chris Pratt that has time travelers coming back to us from 2051 to help us change our future. The problem with 2051 is that monsters/10 foot lizards have pretty much taken earth over and they can only be stopped by a vial of special fluid. I recommend it if you like what you’ve read. It’s escapist, suspenseful, excellent special effects….go for it, with that proviso.

NO SUDDEN MOVE. (HBO MAX SINGLE). A very classy new film directed by Steven Soderbergh (88RT) starring Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Hamm, Kieran Culkin, Ray Liotta and more. It’s about Detroit and secrets between auto manufacturers and is mostly true according to the closing credits. It is involved, well thought out, exciting, perfectly acted according to the Soderbergh style. Watch it ASAP and enjoy all the deep moments.

AWAKE. (NETFLIX SINGLE)  If you haven’t been terrified (or bored) by the covid pandemic this movie won’t help. (27RT). It’s actually a science fiction drama where something happens that causes almost all earthly electricity go shut down. Then it turns out that no one can sleep anymore. They go crazy, wear masks, and try various ridiculous tricks to remain sane. You’ll have the same problem only in how to stay awake during this mess…avoid it.

SAFER AT HOME. (HULU SINGLE) only (7RT) so far but I predict that this one could catch on. Some friends get together on at least four Zoom cameras and celebrate the Covid pandemic by taking Ecstasy pills. The characters aren’t that well developed, and their actions aren’t too credible but just the filming with different cameras from unusual vantage points makes some interesting possibilities even when it’s set in the year 2022. 

THE ICE ROAD. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (44RT) Liam Neeson takes on the super dangerous job of driving trucks on ice roads that can and do collapse into the freezing lakes in Northern Canada. So does Laurence Fishburne but he’s killed off very quickly in the race to get lifesaving equipment to miners trapped underground. It’s hokey, typical, even boring and amounts to just another action thriller that goes no place.

 GONE GIRL. (Prime Video Single) (87RT). Rosamund Pike never had it better than her role in this dissection of what’s behind or hidden in a marriage. Ben Affleck is her husband and Neil Patrick Harris is an ex who has never given her up. She disappears and the husband gets the blame. Whodunit is the theme and the ending will surprise many viewers Go for it.

POSSESSIONS. (HBO MAX SERIES). A very traditional Jewish wedding in Israel and just at the moment the beautiful French bride slices the wedding cake, the lights go out and the husband is bloody and dead. She’s helped in proving her innocence by a cross-eyed official from the French Consulate General’s office, which makes it all the more mysterious. After three episodes I’m still curious and watching.

KATLA. (NETFLIX SERIES) A volcano erupts in Vik, Iceland and strangers and family members who disappeared return covered with black ashes. How or why have they survived or did they survive? Great Iceland photography, fine acting, very original plot and views of Iceland’s volcano territory you probably have never seen. Go for it. (100RT)

FALSE POSITIVE. (HULU SINGLE) Pierce Brosnan goes against his James bond type character and is a pregnancy doctor/ fertility specialist. He supervises/controls one woman’s pregnancy and has a secret relationship with her husband. It’s controlling, creepy, and will keep you guessing about the truth until the end which was very disappointing. (52RT)

HOTEL COPPELIA. (HBO MAX SINGLE). There’s a civil war in The Dominican Republic in 1965. The hotel is really a brothel and the “girls” are strung out in many, many ways. The locals are fighting the war’s battles but the American troops take over and everything gets challenged, including loyalties. Odd plot gaps, not the greatest acting ever but watch it anyways.

PHYSICAL. (APPLE SERIES) Rose Byrne plays a 1980’s housewife with some very bad dreams. It’s a comedy, and so there’s a few laughs as she faces food binges, a miserable husband, some strange fitness classes and has trouble with reality.(63RT). What it really exposes is our obsessions with body weight, mental problems, even political residue. I don’t watch many comedies but definitely offers some funny moments, and some serious introspection. 

RUN. (HULU SINGLE). (88RT) You’ll experience a mother like no other in this internal horror story. A teen-aged daughter who can’t walk, has diabetes, paralysis and more, finally realizes that her mother is not what she believed she was. This terrifying story reaches a climax a bit later than you’d think, but it’s still worth watching.

SECURITY. (NETFLIX SINGLE) In an Italian beachside small town much like Santa Cruz, a young girl accuses a man of power and political holdings of rape. She has a father who is, or was, a pedophile. Complex, involving, and well directed, it’s a wakeup call to think about our own security including our CCTV cameras and iPhones.

LUPE. (HBO MAX SINGLE). A serious movie centered around and focusing on a transgendered young boxer from Cuba who comes to NYC looking for his sister. Much nudity, some odd moments of joking, all centered on a transgendered world. He thinks his sister may be prostituting herself, and he finds support from a prostitute friend of hers. Not the greatest film ever, but it’ll give you a chance to think about that transgendered world.

LUPIN. (NETFLIX SERIES). I critiqued this first series episodes a few months ago, and now that the New Yorker wrote such a laudatory piece about Omar Sy’s starring role I’ve watched many more episodes….and they’ll all good. A neatly-twisted robbery plot of Marie Antoinette’s necklace from the Louvre, there’s revenge, politics (French politics) and many, many Louvre scenes. The plot is complex enough to keep you glued to your viewing device for the two seasons so far. What is outstanding is that the acting is excellent and believable. Omar Sy is the “new” Black star, and has everyone talking about him and his fabulous acting style. This is one of the finest detective shows I’ve ever seen….don’t miss it. 

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July 17

GENDER AND PERSONAL PRONOUNS
In certain circles it is now commonplace to add one’s chosen pronouns after one’s name.  Or to say what pronouns one uses when speaking to a group. For example I might write or say Gillian (she/her/hers) or Gillian (he/him/his) or Gillian (they/ their) plus a variety of alternatives such as ze/hir, xe/xem, hy/hym, co/cos. 

This inclusion of pronouns is an effort to support transgender people to have their   gender respected in a world that is often cruel to those who don’t conform to the expected gender norms. And to acknowledge those who don’t identify with the gender binary of male or female. As such it is fully supportable. However, the contradictions of using gendered pronouns to escape a gender binary have not been fully explored and those who have questions or opinions are targeted for hostility and if well-known, cancelled. Such was the case with author JK Rowling.

This intolerance to even discuss the issue is troubling. Recently someone posted an article on Facebook titled Gender is Not a Spectrum by a professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick in the UK. I read it and found it incisive and an important contribution to what should be able to be discussed. One follower said she would not read it but knew it would be awful or words to that effect. You can read it here.

I first encountered the practice of adding pronouns after one’s name at an environmental conference a number of years ago. It struck me at the time as rather strange but having worked in gender issues for years I soon figured it out. Later in a small group and going around to introduce our selves plus pronouns I said why I was not adding pronouns. My explanation went something like this: “I’m no stranger to gender issues having worked in rape prevention education for 30 years. I hope for a world where gender is not used to subjugate half the human race.  We are not there yet. For me to stress that I’m female by adding female pronouns just invites those who disrespect females to dismiss what I’m saying. ” The response was: “get with the program.” I understood right away that this was not an easy terrain on which to have a conversation.  Sure, I could play with it and use male pronouns or “they” but that misses and proves the point. 

Rigid, hierarchical binary gender roles first appear centuries ago with patriarchy and private property. Control of female sexuality was crucial for upper class males to ensure that their property would be passed down to the rightful male heir. No bastard babies wanted and no females included. Myth and religion as well as socially and legally enforced gender roles normalized these practices. It wasn’t until 1971 in the USA that a woman could open her own check account.

Collective, matriarchal cultures had more fluid gender roles. Androgyny or gender fluidity is an ancient practice and pre-dates Christianity in Siberia and Central and SE Asia. In Indigenous or Native American cultures, over 150 tribes had alternative gender roles for males and over 70 tribes, alternative ones for females. No stigma attached. All this changed with patriarchal European conquest, which introduced rigid, hierarchical gender roles enforced by violence including rape.

Rape and violence in intimate relationships are still largely committed by males against females even with the inclusion of violence against transgender people, same-gender violence and female on male violence. To limit gender to an identity issue destroys our ability to better understand male violence in general and male violence against women in particular. To replace the term “women” with “people with uteruses”, to argue against “women-only” safe places in a world where male violence against women is rampant is to prematurely bury gender before understanding its impact. It took decades of resistance to acknowledge the centuries of male violence against women, particularly in war. We still avoid naming the subject when we talk about “violence against women.”

A recent, local, sad case brought this issue to the fore for me. As reported in the Good Times (July 14-20) Rachel “Elias” Maisenheimer was murdered by their ex-partner who turned himself in and confessed to the crime.  The murder was committed after he had violated numerous restraining orders obtained by Maisenheimer and had been released on his own recognizance awaiting trial for inflicting corporal injury on Maisenheimer. When sentenced to 88 days in jail for the assault charges, the judge suspended the remainder of the sentence and released him with 36 months’ probation and a new restraining order on June 25th. He murdered Maisenheimer on June 28th.  Despite the legal requirement to alert victims in such circumstances, no such warning was given by SCPD to Maisenheimer. Maybe they were hard to locate, living in an RV.

The “they” in this case is Maisenheimer who chose to use that pronoun. I’ve respected that choice and used it here. However it confuses what was clearly a crime committed by a male against a female. That erasing of gender is furthered by the co-executive director of the local non-profit Monarch Services, who is quoted as saying: “Every case and situation is unique and has a variety of circumstances.”  Yes, except for the common thread that the overwhelming majority of gendered violence involves males as perpetrators and females as victims.

If we bury gender before unraveling and transforming its impacts, we run the risk of allowing it to fester but without a name. It should be possible to both respect gender non-conformity and acknowledge male violence. In the current climate, even that conversation is cancelled.    

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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July 19

LOOKING BACK AT THE FISCAL YEAR.
Gary Patton: “Everybody who had sort of assumed there was nothing that could be done, decided, wait, maybe if we got involved in local politics, we could change the way things are happening.” 

End of the Fiscal Year

Well, I’m a bit late. The “fiscal year,” for most municipalities across the country, ended June 30th. That’s why in June there are usually slews of retirements, or mad-capped spending sprees by individual departments if there is money left in its own budget. It must be spent by the June 30th deadline. The Santa Cruz City Council “goes dark” in July as many of its careerist employees are fond of saying. In other words, the end of the fiscal year heralds in a month-long break away from council for the city staff. They do not have to put up with council requests, speeches, or haranguing for a whole month, and there are no city council meetings during the month of July either. In this column, I look back at the fiscal year of columns and try and pull out the salient issues that have not been confronted, discarded, or still waiting for Godot to take them up. This is Part I, as I was only able to get through November of last year. Remember November? Seems so long ago.

From Fiscal Year July 2020

“Defund the Police”

“Defund the police” means reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality. That’s it. It’s that simple. Defund does not mean abolish policing. And, even some who say abolish, do not necessarily mean to do away with law enforcement altogether. Rather, they want to see the rotten trees of policing chopped down and fresh roots replanted anew. (by Rashawn Ray, Brookings Fellow, What does defund the police mean, and does it have merit?“Reducing prison and police budgets is a critical vector in the fight against structural racism because those systems perpetuate discrimination while diverting funds from the things people actually need to thrive.”(David Segal and Astra Taylor)  Police Budgets, Austerity, and Tax Cuts for the Rich Are Colliding in Democratic States and Cities

Update: Where is the “defund” movement at today in Santa Cruz? There was NO community refund in the city of Santa Cruz. In fact, the FY(fiscal year) 2022 budget increase by more than a million dollars over the FY 2021. Nowhere in PD’s budget is there a line for mental health counseling or homeless relief funds, or a Cahoots-style physical and mental health program. We have not passed the police refund-defund test bequeathed to all of America from the Black Lives Matter movement. We had a chance. A black Santa Cruz mayor knelt along with a white police chief and that image rippled across the country and so far, the city of Santa Cruz has gained little in terms of changing PD culture. Maybe next year? Watch Trevor Noah interview some of the leaders in the “defund the police” national conversation

City Attorney Tony Condotti stated last year: “To the extent that a parking district generates revenue in excess of what’s required in order to provide and maintain parking facilities that are in existence, and to the extent the City Council makes a policy determination that those revenues are not needed to improve or increase parking facilities with the use of the revenues, then under the Parking District law of the State of California, you are able to put those funds into the General Fund.” That’s right, the parking fund is part of the city’s general fund. And where are we at now? The city council 5-2 majority has doubled-down on moving the library and building it next to, or inside, a five-story parking garage. More general fund good money after bad. While we cannot house our homeless residents (witness the withdrawal of the “done deal” purchase of the Seaborg property to house a 24/7 navigation center on Coral Street), we now stand prepared to figure out how to house automobiles at $75k per space?

Update: We can still use the parking fund to build affordable housing on Lot 7 (behind Chianti’s restaurant), keep the library where it is, and preserve the heritage trees on Lot 4 as pillars of a downtown central park. This struggle continues.

Jimmy Panetta voted for the National Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 6395, on Tuesday, July 21st [2021]. 

Update: As I write this, the National Defense Authorization Bill, or War Budget, is set to be debate this week in Washington. For 2022, the bill provides funding of $705.939 billion, a modest 1.4 percent increase over the current budget for 2021. It is likely our Congress member again give his yes vote to this year’s increase in the military budget.

From Fiscal Year 2020 September

What’s on the Table?

  • 190 West Cliff. It will contain 89 condos and two levels of underground parking, which will be dug into the west cliff of Santa Cruz. It will be a development that will shadow neighbors living in the mobile home park next door. It squeaked by on a 4-3 city council vote and was vehemently opposed by several neighbors in the area. The neighbors’ pleas now wait for a Coastal Commission decision on the project. Status: Approved.
  • 908 Ocean Street. The project will combine 20 parcels along Ocean Street between Water and Marianne’s Ice Cream in order to build 408 “small ownership units.” Is this the largest housing project ever undertaken in Santa Cruz? I think so. The Planning Department web site says the city’s Planning Commission will meet this Thursday, Sept. 17 at 7pm, but this project is not on their current agenda.
  • 1930 Ocean Street Extension. Originally 40 units, but scaled back to 32-unit “residential condominium project.” The property sits across from the Santa Cruz Memorial Cemetery. Status: Approved, but as I understand may be facing a law suit by neighbors.
  • 428 to 508 Front Street (along the San Lorenzo River). This is proposed to be a “seven-story, mixed -use building with 175 residential condos.” Funny thing is the developer is proposing building 20 units of affordable housing, but the current city inclusionary ordinance calls for 20% of the units to be affordable, which is a total of 35. What gives? Status: Plans submitted.
  • 101 Felix Street. Cyprus Point Apartments’ out of town owners seek to expand the 240-unit mistake at the end of Felix Street. The management is arguably one of the most egregious in town and the owners want add 100 more units to a riparian corridor. This project was turned down at the last city council meeting, but I have heard the Planning Director, Lee Butler, desperately wishes to bring it back to council and get it approved. So neighbors, please stay vigilant on this one. Status: Not out of the water yet.
  • 530 Front Street. This project will be “170 residential condominiums (to be made available as rental apartments) with frontage on Front Street, Soquel Avenue, and the San Lorenzo River levee…” Status: Plans submitted.

Update: Now add a hotel to the SC Community Credit Union site at Front and Laurel…and, a behemoth 200plus studio-only complex at 130 Center Street. Santa Cruz is more For Sale than ever!

From Fiscal Year November 2020

City Council MONEY Trail
Developer and real estate interests are funding at least three local candidates in the lead up to the Nov. 3rd election. It’s an election that actually began on Oct. 5th when locals began receiving their official mail-in ballots. It is clear that real estate interests are trying to buy another city council. The overwhelming amount of money put up by the real estate industry and certain individual realtors for three candidates, is clear. There are three candidates that the realtors are seeking to not just influence, but to buy as was seen during the rent control and recall campaigns. It’s not just speculation on my part about where the realtor’s money is, but the three candidates even trumpet on all their mailings and web site the support of a pro-real estate Political Action Committee (PAC), Santa Cruz Together.  It is no surprise that developer and real estate interests are NOT supporting Sandy Brown, Kayla Kumar, and Kelsey Hill, but labor unions are and the donations are lopsided with hundreds of dollars coming from labor, but thousands from the multiple properties-owning class. Labor’s efforts are dwarfed by the large donations Santa Cruz Together, and the candidates themselves, have received from real estate interests. These entities, they often hide behind LLC’s, are investing money into candidates in whom and they will expect a return. Remember, while many of these folks have maxed out the $400 individual limit per candidate, there are no limits on what they can donate to the SC Together PAC…and donate they are…From SCT’s 460 form it looks like “total expenditures made” was $78,108 this calendar year. Here is a list of what just a few of these donors (not to mention, but not listed, are donors from San Jose, Oregon, San Mateo, and San Francisco) have given this year:

  • Ken Carlson, realtor, $2,250
  • Peter Cook, Lighthouse Realty, $2,500.
  • Richard Moe of Soquel, developer and realtor, $4,000
  • Robert Williams at 134 McCormick St. is a property manager, $1,500
  • Hallie Richmond, real estate agent, Live Oak, donated $2,501 on Sept. 23, 2020.
  • Kenneth Rilling property owner of Prunedale, $800.
  • Alan Ramadan, of Scotts Valley, who brings together “entrepreneurship and venture capital,” $2,500.
  • Doug Ley of Redtree Properties (His Front Street properties up for city permitting) (Karl Rice president of Boardwalk is also on this board.), $1,000.

Update: Yes, the real estate and developer class bought the election, bought themselves a compliant city council, and are proceeding to pillage Surf City and trample on any sort of good will there was in the Santa Cruz electorate for the dire need of affordable housing.

“Abolishing ICE isn’t a radical thing to do, it’s a humane thing to do.” (July 31, 2020)

Update: Well, ICE still has a federal budget. Congress could “abolish” that budget if it had the cajones, but muddle on it likely will.

The rallies and marches have diminished, but the mood to “defund” and produce a “community refund” continues in a more tactical and strategic approach by local community groups.

(Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 16 years. Krohn was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. That term ended when the development empire struck back with luxury condo developer money combined with the real estate industry’s largesse. They paid to recall Krohn and Drew Glover from the Santa Cruz city council in 2019.

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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July 19

THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF A DISASTEROUS AND OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT PROJECT

Last week’s loss of over 100,000 gallons of water when Soquel Creek Water District’s construction accident on California Street was the third time such a needless waste of water has happened during construction of the Modified PureWater Soquel Project!  This information is according to residents who live on California Street and have been adversely affected. [Article in the Sentinel]

How can this happen if the construction crew is experienced in such work and the City has clearly marked where the existing water lines are?  Needless wasting water in a drought is unthinkable, and will make it difficult for the City to adhere to the Governor’s mandated 15% water use reductions.

Write Soquel Creek Water District Board and demand accountability.  Is Soquel Creek Water District going to pay the City for this wasted water?

Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors bod@soquelcreekwater.org   

SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT HAS NO FISH & WILDLIFE DEPT. PERMITS FOR RIPARIAN WORK FOR PUREWATER SOQUEL PROJECT
According to State Fish & Wildlife staff, as of last week Soquel Creek Water District has not even applied for any permits necessary for the Modified PureWater Soquel Projects’ many riparian crossings: 

 “To date CDFW has not received a permit application (notification per FGC 1602) for work related to this project. If work may require a CDFW permit such as riparian vegetation removal, it would be at the risk of the entity conducting the work if the permit process is not followed. My understanding is CDFW staff provided this information verbally to the project representatives via past phone communication.”

The Project Mitigation Monitoring & Reporting Plan must address the mitigations necessary for minimizing the adverse impacts to the potential 18 stream crossings identified, including the San Lorenzo River.  See pages 33-34 of the Project EIR 

In compliance with Mitigation 4.1.1, the District must work with CDFW to address the adverse impacts to riparian areas, but the District does not seem willing to do this.  Furthermore, the EIR completely fails to address the operational impacts of this Project, and included no new mitigations to address the potential adverse and significant impacts brought about by the many Project modifications.

Call the Regional CDFW Office and demand that Soquel Creek Water District follow the law and consult with that agency regarding the significant and adverse impacts of the Modified PureWater Soquel Project.

(707) 428-2002

SANTA CRUZ CITY WATER RATES WILL GO UP AGAIN SOON
City of Santa Cruz water customers are in for a huge average 10.8% rate hike in their water rates again, continuing annually for five years, all based on a “Reliability Benefit”, the need to show ample revenues to support investor confidence in the $300 million bond sales funding capital improvements projects, including two new intertie connections with the Modified PureWater Soquel treated sewage water supply.   The average water bill will be about double what it is now by the end of the rate increases spanning 2022-2027.

Because the rate increases are tied to the bond sale and construction projects, the actual amount of rate increase Financial Plan will fluctuate wildly over the five-year period: 6.9% increase in 2023, 15.6% increase in 2024, 18.3% increase in 2025, 3.5% increase in 2026, and 9.6% increase in 2027, but the average increase over the five-year increase period would be 10.8%.

(See page 71)

Will you have a chance to vote on this?  Not really.  The Commission accepted the Raftelis rate consultant’s recommendations that a Prop. 218 procedure be instituted, which means that 50% + 1 of the City’s property owners representing the 98,000 people served would have to file a PROTEST AGAINST the five-year annual rate increases, in order to stop it or cause the action to go to general ballot approval.

Last week’s City Water Commission meeting included a lengthy presentation and discussion about how to raise rates for all City water customers with the focus on creating a reliable revenue level to support investor confidence in the City’s Bond sale that will finance capital improvements.  The presentation by Raftelis Rate Consultants (the same crafty group who, in 2019, slipped the five-year annual rate increases by the Soquel Creek Water District customers without them realizing what was really happening) offered a palette of options for the Commission to consider.  The recommendations were based on responses of a hand-picked single-family residential customer panel that included no landlords(see item #5)

Take a look at the graph on page 91 (Item #6).The options for rate increase methods included a lump-sum billing on annual property tax payments, fixed rate fees across the board for all customers regardless of amount of water used, and maintaining the existing four-tiered volumetric use fees.  

The Commission rejected the more legally-defensible flat fee/unit of water because those customers who use very little water would suffer significant billing increases. The option to include a large sum on property tax bills was favored by many on the Commission, but they were later dissuaded because landlords would likely have legitimate reason to raise tenant rents to accommodate the financial burden.  

Ultimately, the Commission voted to recommend the four-tiered rate model for approval by the City Council.  That issue will likely come to the Council in August or September…moving on the fast track to support the Bond sales.  Raftelis rate consultant will develop a slick report and five-year rate increase schedule for a Prop. 218 procedure that may or may not clearly let rate payers know the purpose of and calculations supporting the rate increases, as is required by the California Constitution Articles XIIIC and XIIID.

Changes in financial revenues include removing the Inside vs. Outside City limits surcharges, thanks to former Commissioner Linda Wilshusen’s good work.  Rates for agricultural customers on the north coast were not available for the presentation.

It is interesting that Tom Burns, former Santa Cruz Planning Director and now consultant to the Modified PureWater Soquel Project, is now serving on the City Water Commission…but refuses to recuse himself so far when issues regarding that Project relationship with the City come up.

SANTA CRUZ CITY WATER RIGHTS PROJECT PUBLIC COMMENT ENDS NEXT WEEK

You have until next Monday, July 26, to comment on the EIR addressing how the City of Santa Cruz can expand where the water from existing water rights to the San Lorenzo River and Loch Lomond Reservoir can be sent. [LINK HERE]

All comments must be in writing, and this site includes useful tips on how to submit them.

This is important because it would allow the City to share water with Soquel Creek Water District and the City of Scotts Valley when the water is plentiful, allowing those jurisdictions to reduce pumping and let groundwater levels rise naturally.  It could also allow the city to store water in the aquifers of those jurisdictions, potentially improving groundwater levels without the need to use high-energy and technology-dependent processes to inject heavily chemically-treated sewage water that likely would still contain pharmaceuticals and hormones into the aquifer.

Now, doesn’t that just make sense???  

Why is there no purple pipe for recycled water irrigation use outside the Pajaro Valley?  Raftelis rate consultant’s report to the City Water Commission that since 2016, City water use for irrigation has increased while domestic consumption has decreased, due to stellar conservation practices.  So, why not use recycled water for irrigation, rather than contaminate the aquifer, and allow the City to sell potable water to other areas instead?

Here is more useful information to help you regarding the Water Rights Place of Use EIR:

Santa Cruz Water Rights Project | City of Santa Cruz

GOVERNOR NEWSOM DECLARES DROUGHT STATE OF EMERGENCY ALLOWING BROAD STATE REACH AFFECTING WATER SUPPLIES

The Governor declared a Drought State of Emergency in California on April 21 with a five-page Proclamation. Take a look at what it allows

Item #6 is of interest locally:

  1. To increase resilience of our water systems during drought conditions, the Water Board shall
  1. Use its authority, provide technical assistance, and where feasible provide financial assistance, to support regular reporting of drinking water supply well levels and reservoir water levels where the Water Board determines that there is risk of supply failure because of lowering groundwater levels or reservoir levels that may fall below public water system intakes.
  1. Prioritize the permitting of public water systems that anticipate the need to activate additional supply wells where water quality is a concern and treatment installation needs to proceed to relieve a system’s potential supply concerns. 
  1. Provide annual water demand data, information on water right priority, and other communications on water availability on its website. 
  1. Identify watersheds where current diversion data is insufficient to evaluate supply impacts caused by dry conditions, and take actions to ensure prompt submittal of missing data in those watersheds. 

Does this mean that the State can insist on certain projects being built, such as the PureWater Soquel Project disaster, or the interties that would send that treated sewage water to other jurisdictions, and thereby allowing Soquel Creek Water District to make other jurisdictions help pay for the expensive Modified Project?  

Does it mean that the State will force Soquel Creek Water District, the largest pumper in the MidCounty area but with Junior Water Rights to significantly reduce their pumping with a possible moratorium? Junior Water Rights allow the District to sell only the excess water available in the area after the Primary/Senior Water Rights holders demands are met.

Write Ms. Eileen Sobeck, Executive Director for the State Water Resources Control Board and ask: Eileen Sobeck eileen.sobeck@waterboards.ca.gov 

ALL PROPERTY SALES IN HIGH AND VERY HIGH FIRE RISK ZONES NOW REQUIRE FIRE DEFENSIBLE SPACE DOCUMENTATION

On and after July 1, 2021 when you sell property that is located in a high or very high fire hazard severity zone, you’ll need documentation of a compliant Defensible Space Inspection.  

This now includes properties in the Local Responsibility Areas (LRA), not just the State Responsibility Areas (SRA).  According to CAL FIRE staff at Felton, their inspections in the SRA are free, but the wait is long.  The new law requires that the seller either produce this Inspection document, or simply disclose the fire severity level and status of fire defensible space when listing their property for sale, and the buyer MUST obtain and file the Inspection document within six months after purchasing the property.

Here is a link to the CAL FIRE site for information: Welcome to Wildfire Hazard Real Estate Disclosure

The Fire Risk Assessment Plan (FRAP) for the State of California was initially done in 2003, with an update in 2017.  It is supposed to be updated every seven years, but no one seems to have information about whether this year’s required update is happening or not.  Here is a link to that map.  FHSZ Viewer

You can to locate your property by clicking on the binocular icon on the side, and entering your address.  

Here is a link to the self-survey to help you determine what work to do for improved fire defensible space and home hardening:  ArcGIS Survey123

AND QUICKLY…..

1) Public Comment Open re: CAL TRANS storm water permit and water quality

Wouldn’t it be great to have storm water recharge stations in the freeway interchanges that would allow that water to be cleaned naturally in the soils and help recharge aquifers?

2) UCSC Urban Gardens Ecology teams are out surveying the status of native pollinators in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County this summer.  https://www.urbangardenecology.com/There are over 1600 species of native bees in California Beyond the honey bee: Learn more about California native bees

While the greatest majority of them are solitary ground dwellers, you can encourage those who nest in wood to visit your garden by building a native bee house.  Here is information about that

WRITE ONE LETTER.  MAKE ONE CALL.  ATTEND A ZOOM MEETING IN YOUR PAJAMAS.  MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK AND JUST DO SOMETHING.

Cheers, Becky 

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

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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July 17

#198 / The Biggest Threat To America

Nicholas Kristof, pictured above, is an opinion writer for The New York Times. He places himself on the “progressive” side of the political spectrum. 

On Thursday, June 24, 2021, Kristof wrote a column about the “biggest threat to America.” Kristof identifies that “biggest threat” as “America itself,” and specifically America’s “creeping mediocrity.” 

America is not back. In terms of our well-being at home and competitiveness abroad, the blunt truth is that America is lagging. In some respects, we are sliding toward mediocrity.

Greeks have higher high school graduation rates. Chileans live longer. Fifteen-year-olds in Russia, Poland, Latvia and many other countries are better at math than their American counterparts — perhaps a metric for where nations will stand in a generation or two.

As for reading, one-fifth of American 15-year-olds can’t read at the level expected of a 10-year-old. How are those millions of Americans going to compete in a globalized economy? As I see it, the greatest threat to America’s future is less a surging China or a rogue Russia than it is our underperformance at home.

We Americans repeat the mantra that “we’re No. 1” even though the latest Social Progress Index, a measure of health, safety and well-being around the world, ranked the United States No. 28. Even worse, the United States was one of only three countries, out of 163, that went backward in well-being over the last decade.

Another assessment this month, the I.M.D. World Competitiveness Ranking 2021, put the United States No. 10 out of 64 economies. A similar forward-looking study from the World Bank ranks the United States No. 35 out of 174 countries.

So it’s great that we again have a president respected by the world. But we are not “back,” and we must face the reality that our greatest vulnerability is not what other countries do to us but what we have done to ourselves. The United States cannot achieve its potential when so many Americans are falling short of theirs.

In his comments in his June 24th column, Kristof is focused on the “American Dream,” which he identifies as “upward mobility,” and which is what Kristof says brought his refugee father to the United States in 1952. If “upward mobility” means an ability to consume more, each year, than the year before – and that is how many would define it – this kind of “dream” might turn out to be more like a nightmare, given the realities of the global warming crisis that we want to ignore, but ultimately can’t ignore. More pertinent, I think, is the following observation from Kristof: 

“America’s chronic failure to turn its economic strength into social progress is a huge drag on American influence,” said Michael Green, chief executive of the group that publishes the Social Progress Index. “Europeans may envy America’s corporate dynamism but can comfort themselves that they are doing a much better job on a host of social outcomes, from education to health to the environment (emphasis added). 

Rather than MORE (more things, more money, and more of everything, always), “social progress” ought really to be the measure of our success. Living better with less. That, really, should be the new form of the “American Dream.” 

Kristof places his commentary in the context of an international competition: How is the United States doing vis a vis other nations in the world. We may not be “Number 1,” as Kristof notes, but he implies that we ought to be.  

Well, if “social progress” is the measure of our “American Dream,” I have to agree that it would be nice to have our country be a world leader in achieving that. For my part, though, I think that the international “competition” framework isn’t the correct one to measure success. I like the very last line of Kristof’s column:

To truly bring America back, we should worry less about what others do and more about what we do to ourselves. 

And what we “do to ourselves” needs changing. 

Big Time!

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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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

    Pandemic Times

“These so-called bleak times are necessary to go through in order to get to a much, much better place.” 
~David Lynch  

“Fear not, get your shot.”
~Abhijit Naskar 

“We want change, change not from body or mind of mine but from this pandemic rulers.”
~ipi (human_bot)

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Here’s a new stand up comedian who just debuted on Colbert 🙂 Enjoy!


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Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
Direct phone: 831 423-2468
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