Bratton…Musical Saw Festival happening now! Movie critiques. Greensite…on the Coastal Commission hearing for 190 West Cliff. Schendledecker…Santa Cruz Together’s politics. Steinbruner… Sewage Water, water commissioner mtg., Branciforte Fire District, Happy valley politics. Hayes…July’s flower. Patton…Genius, self-government. Matlock…underprivileged unitary crusaders in a small town. Eagan… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. Webmistress…menopause pick of the week. Quotes “Marathons”
DATELINE July 24
SANTA CRUZ…THE MUSICAL SAW CITY.
The statue of Musical Saw player Tom Scribner in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz on Pacific draws questions beyond belief. I’ll try to fill in some blanks. Tom was a far left political wood worker and played the saw on Pacific for many years. Never for handouts just for fun. Marghe McMahon was a student at UCSC taking Doyle Foreman’s bronze sculpture class. She made the statue of Tom and needed some funding to pay for the materials. A bunch of us helped her by staging the first ever Musical Saw Festival (see photo). Because Tom was so politically left the then Republican Santa Cruz City Council would only allow the stature to be placed in SCOPE PARK near the Town Clock, so very few folks would see it. Time and pressure got Neal Coonerty owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz to move the statue to its present location.
So this weekend Saturday and Sunday Musical Saw players from all over the world will come and perform in this 44th year of the festival. Present day organizers sent this…
Street Saw jam in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz. Saturday – July 29th – 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
1520 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
Note: We may need to move the street jam to the corner of Pacific Avenue and Front Street. Please look for us there if we are not in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz.
Saturday – July 29th. – 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Roaring Camp in Felton, California
Potluck and jam in the outer parking lot.
Sunday – July 30th, 2023
Roaring Camp, Felton, California
Bret Harte Hall in Roaring Camp
10:00 – The Public Knew Sense
11:00 – Musical Saw Contest
11:50 – Wildcat Canyon – featuring Dilly
12:30 – The Blacklock Family Band
1:00 – Cindy Webster
1:30 – Lou Mannick & Sam Yodice
2:00 – Rodney’s Bubble Machine
2:30 – Two Bar Three featuring Thomas Spearance (Mr. Hedge)
3:00 – The Golden State Worriers featuring Rowena Southard
3:30 – Presentation of Awards
3:40 – First Place Winner of Musical Saw Contest
4:00 – CHORUS OF SAWS (ALL Sawplayers welcome)
4:30 – Sawyer’s Farewell
I search and critique a variety of movies only from those that are newly released. Choosing from the thousands of classics and older releases would take way too long. And be sure to tune in to those very newest movie reviews live on KZSC 88.1 fm every Friday from about 8:10 – 8:30 am. on the Bushwhackers Breakfast Club program hosted by Dangerous Dan Orange.
BARBIE. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.6 IMDB) This lush, lavish so called comedy looks like a zillion dollar advertisement from the Mattel company to sell even more Barbies by re making her image (and Ken’s) into a more contemporary multi sexual/ non sexual image. It broke all known box office records on opening day. It’s foolish, extravagant, and meaningless.
OPPENHEIMER. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (8.8 IMDB). Reviews are all over the place on this one. It’s an excellent dramatized biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer who more or less invented the atomic bomb. He was by all accounts a conflicted man and dreamer. Watch his odd mannerisms and his humanitarian conflicts. Its 3 hours long and full of very deep humane decisions. Cillian Murphy does a great job as Oppenheimer. And you’ll be quite surprised by Robert Downey Jr. and his very straight negative role. Don’t miss it.
HUNTERS. (PRIME SERIES) (7.2 IMDB). Quite a cast including Al Pacino, Carol Kane, and Lena Olin. It tells the stories of Jews who are searching for the Nazis who have escaped Hitler’s Germany and from Austria in 1972. It’s painful, well done and puzzling especially when they suspect that Adolph Hitler is alive and well.
DAHAAD. (PRIME SERIES) (7.6 IMDB). Strange suicides which may be murders, happen in this Indian film. A woman officer who has to deal with much sexual harassment plus the remnants of the caste system is the focal point. It’s almost embarrassing to watch and realize just how relevant and demeaning it still is in India and surrounding all of us today.
JUVENILE JUSTICE. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.9 IMDB). This legal court room drama focuses on a woman judge who doesn’t like children law breakers. She does her own investigating and causes all sorts of hell for doing it. It’s from South Korea and is tense, fine acting, and forces you to re-consider your opinion of our own legal system.
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, Max, or 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.
MOVE TO HEAVEN. (NETFLIX SERIES) (8.5 IMDB). A movie from South Korea that will bring tears to anyone who has had to face a death in the family. Two trauma cleaners (funeral helpers) face fear and try to deal with Asperger’s syndrome. Father and son are close in a genuine feel good heart breaking way. See it when you’re in a good mood.
MR CAR AND THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (4.4 IMDB). For all former (I’m one) and present members of DeMolay (junior Masons) this is a curious mix of the history of Jacques DeMolay and the background of the Knights Templar. This Polish movie tries to link some genuine history and an historian on the trail of truth with fable and it’s a boring mess.
CELEBRITY. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.5 IMDB) . I was reminded of Gwyneth Paltrow and her celebrity world of fashions, make-up and the struggle for publicity and fame. This film takes place in Seoul Korea and the “influencer” society. It’s flat, self-centered, and out of this world (the one we live in).
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (8.1 IMDB). Ethan Hunt also known to the real world as Tom Cruise says he does his own stunts in this awful waste of time movie. I’m predicting that we’ll learn later that the script was written by L.Ron Hubbard and yes Scientology does have a church here in Santa Cruz…go here to see what they’re up to now https://www.scientology.org/l-ron-hubbard/ . Yes L. Ron H. died in 1986. This Mission Implausible (7th in the series) is overloaded with CGI effects, insane acting and a huge disappointment to Mission Impossible fans. Don’t go and stop any friends or relatives from going.
THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH. (PRIME SERIES) (7.2 IMDB). And there are plenty of Roaches, smokeable ones in this so labeled “comedy” After being in prison for 16 years this woman succeeds and miserably fails at finding a decent life. Accidents, and foolish decisions lead her down some very dark paths including some cannibalism, Watch at your own peril.
After three and a half years of waiting, the four appeals of the 190 West Cliff Drive project were voted down seven to three by the California Coastal Commission at its July 12th meeting. The local media covered the outcome, so this is probably not news. However, some of the details may be of interest to those who follow the shenanigans of developers and planning departments and in this case, the CA Coastal Commission.
Full disclosure: I submitted one of the four separate appeals. Mine was a fact-based argument to save as many of the onsite heritage trees as possible. The effort barely rated a mention in the Commission staff report and was summarily dismissed. My follow up letter for the hearing re-stating that the city was yet again failing to follow its Heritage Tree Resolution which mandates that a heritage tree can be removed only “if a project design cannot be altered to accommodate the tree” was ignored. So much for trees.
One of the other appeals focused on the impact to Clear View Court mobile home park, situated directly behind what will be a massive mixed-use project, sharing a common back fence. The appeal cited equity and social justice issues which the Coastal Commission has recently centered in its deliberations. The residents of CVC are predominantly low-income, elderly, some with disabilities. Another appeal focused on the projected height of fifty- seven feet for parts of the project. (The site is zoned for thirty- six feet). This extra height exceeds even that allowed under a density bonus and will be achieved by adding stair towers with overhead trellises and private enclosed decks; essentially making it five stories. Clear View Court homes are all one-story.
Any appeal to the CA Coastal Commission (CCC) must pass the initial hurdle of a finding of substantial issue by majority vote of the commissioners. It helps if the staff report also finds that the appeal contains substantial issues. If there is a substantial issue finding, then the project review is taken over by the CCC and eventually comes back to the CCC as a de novo hearing with a thorough examination of environmental issues and project alternatives presented to the CCC for deliberation.
You might recall that in 2014 the La Bahia project was appealed to the CCC. They found substantial issues raised in the appeal. Despite howls from the Seaside Company and verbal attacks on the CCC by pro-development members of the community, the final project was far better in scale and design in response to community concerns than was the original project. (Many wanted this iconic 1926 historic building renovated but that was not on the development agenda.)
After a wait of over three years for the Dream Inn 190 West Cliff project appeals to be heard, hopes were dashed when the CCC staff report was finally released a week before the scheduled hearing with a finding of no substantial issues in any appeal. Missing from the record and staff report was the lengthy appellant submission citing equity and social justice issues. When that omission was brought to staff’s attention as soon as the appellant spotted it, it was added. Staff then wrote a hasty, last-minute rebuttal finding no significant issues with equity and social justice.
While the project height is twenty feet taller than that allowed under the Local Coastal Program (LCP) staff claimed it is set further back from Clear View Court than an LCP-conforming project, so the impact is the same. Hmm…I think looking at a next-door fifty- seven- foot building from my one- story kitchen window is substantially different than looking at a thirty-six-foot building even if the former is a few yards further away and the shadow is roughly the same.
So, equity and social justice issues for the existing sixty- eight low- income CVC homes were swept aside while the inclusion of eight very-low- income units in a largely luxury development was extolled. Significant impacts of luxury housing on raising the Area Median Income, raising inclusionary rent levels, and displacing existing very-low- income residents are routinely rendered invisible, and this project was no exception. Because the city keeps no data on which demographic eventually occupies low and very-low-income units, we have no idea whether it is students, out of towners or local low- income workers who are benefitting.
It is worth noting that the Coastal Act trumps state-imposed density bonuses. That means extra height sought under a density bonus does not have to be accepted by the CCC as it does by local city councils. The basis for an appeal is to find inconsistencies between a project and the Local Coastal Program, in this case at the least, heights. (I found LCP inconsistencies with heritage trees but as noted before, who cares about trees). If there are inconsistencies, a finding of substantial issue is triggered or, more correctly, used to be triggered. In 2019, the city of Santa Cruz Planning staff presented an LCP amendment to the CCC that was accepted. The amendment allows for LCP inconsistencies if there are no resulting impacts to coastal resources. Ask yourself…in whose interests was this amendment crafted and approved? Neighbors or developers? In this case, the clear beneficiaries are Tyson Sales of Ensemble Investments, owners of the Dream Inn. As for coastal resource impacts, none was found by staff. I can think of a few: perhaps blocking the view of the mountains from the coast as seen from Bay and West Cliff? Perhaps excavating twenty- nine feet for a two-story underground garage and potentially altering underground springs? Perhaps bringing significant commercial activity towards West Cliff Drive? None will be studied since the vote was for a finding of no substantial issues. Commissioner Cummings tried for a motion for a de novo hearing and got a second to his motion and one other vote but that was all. The last- minute submission of a letter from Mayor Keeley of unqualified, enthusiastic support for the project probably helped the developers and hurt the neighbors. The initial council vote for the project was 4-3 so it wasn’t a slam dunk.
At the end of the hearing, Coastal Commission Chair Brownsey enthused, “We look forward to seeing this wonderful development!” Tell that to the low-income residents of the now ironically named, Clear View Court.
|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.
ANTI-DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: THE DIVISIVE POLITICS OF SANTA CRUZ TOGETHER
As we head into the looong 2024 election season, I want to turn the spotlight on the local PAC Santa Cruz Together. This is the first in a series of columns looking at their campaigns over the past five years, which I argue are fundamentally anti-democratic and premised on a logic of buying elections that is corrupting governmental politics at large these days. I also ask how those of us who believe in the public ownership of our democratic processes and the representational integrity of our communities in local politics can fight back.
Even in the Democratic Party, democratic politics is meant to be about transparency and fairness, where one person equals one vote. But that’s the exact opposite of Santa Cruz Together’s (SCT) agenda. This local PAC—or political action committee–that is privately funded, is dedicated to advancing the interests of property owners and the real estate industry, but hypocritically poses as good democratic citizens of our community. While they do have dozens of local contributors, and claim to represent the Santa Cruz community’s “togetherness,” in reality most of their support comes from the real estate industry. They basically buy politics to support their narrow class interests, at the expense of the majority of the working poor, barely middle class, renters and students, and the precariously housed and unhoused. It’s a little like Citizen’s United, which is neither by or for the people, and certainly hasn’t united the electorate.
SCT funds, endorses, and buys publicity supporting candidates (including Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Renee Golder, Martine Watkins, Sonja Brunner, Scott Newsome, and Fred Keeley), who in turn support the economic base of their funders—largely the real estate industry, developers, big business, and a chunk of the gentrifying class of upper-class homeowners. The group buys publicity for their supported candidates and ballot initiatives, effectively reducing politics to a naked expression of economic power.
In recent years, they’ve opposed Measure M (rent control) and Measure N (the Empty Home Tax), effectively contributing to our city becoming the most unaffordable city in the US, spearheaded the recall campaign of progressive city councilors, and supported candidates for local political office who back their pro-real-estate agenda. As a result of a system that enables this anti-democratic political corruption, city policy tends to express the interests of elite economic power, rather than that of the democratic majoritarian will.
Of course, this phenomenon is also happening nationally, where millionaires and billionaires financially back the policy that supports their material interests—reducing taxes on the rich, deregulation of industry, and funding the police and military, while vetoing popular policies like social welfare, universal reproductive rights, Medicare for all, campaign finance reform, labor protections for workers, the abolition of student debt, and meaningful climate action. With the passage of campaign finance deregulation (with the paradoxically titled Citizens’ United organization supported by the Supreme Court in 2010), and the awarding of free speech rights to corporations, politics in the US is basically a free-for-all expression of private interests buying the world they want and imposing it on the rest of us.
Of course, given the US’s founding in conditions of Indigenous genocide, transatlantic slavery, and patriarchy, with democratic freedoms limited largely to private-property-owning white men, the current system of representative democracy—including in Santa Cruz—is basically the continuation of the country’s anti-democratic origins that favor private wealth and property above all else.
The situation ultimately results in minority rule—that of the ruling class. With millions in dark money in politics, the ruling class is able to overturn the will of the majority, with enormous sums spent on manipulative publicity, fake push polls meant to trick voters with disinformation, conservative campaigns spun as populist, rightwing political infrastructure, obnoxiously sized billboards and yard-signs, and nonstop bot-driven social media propaganda. These initiatives are abetted by gerrymandered districts and voter disenfranchisement.
Santa Cruz mirrors this national situation, with its own unfair political financing advanced by groups like Santa Cruz Together. As a political action committee formed to defeat rent control in 2018, SCT is basically an organization created to direct private funds toward exerting political influence, going against fair, democratic practice. In 2019 they funneled money into a new PAC called Santa Cruz United in order to recall progressive city councilors Chris Krohn and Drew Glover (at the same time accusing anti-recall folks of being divisive). Currently, the FPPC is investigating Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson’s 2022 campaign for violating campaign finance rules by participating in a private event to fundraise for her District 3 supervisor run while she was present (candidates and PACs cannot associate in this explicit manner, even while we all know that such financial and political connections exist).
And as documented above, SCT is funded by real-estate money, supporting the economic interests of landlords and property developers who are attempting to maximize their profits, at the expense of affordable, working-class housing, rent control, and progressive taxation. Their campaign against the Empty Home Tax, for instance, spread disinformation (e.g. that the initiative overestimated empty homes; that the tax would be invasive, that it would criminalize homeowners). These kinds of comments appeared on platforms like Nextdoor.com, in effect a commercial anti-social media outlet for property owners—their often aggressive rhetoric constituting an expression of their basic contempt for public, democratic governance.
On the other hand, SCT supports the criminalization of the unhoused via such cruel measures as the Camping Standards and Services Ordinance, the Oversized Vehicle Ordinance, and the over-funding of policing. But plentiful research shows that criminalization and policing are no solution to the structural causes of poverty, substance use disorder, mental health crises, and houselessness; they only seek to sweep away their visible existence and often make matters worse.
But whatever one thinks about these policies, the crucial point remains: that SCT’s practice of buying political office and city policy is fundamentally anti-democratic. It seeks to replace a system of fair and equal representative government (even if the US has never exactly achieved that ambition) with one that is ruled by the wealthy. If we are to win a world of justice, fairness, and equality, then the minority rule of property owners, speculative real estate investors, and the financialization of housing by the rich must be stopped. This must begin by abolishing the fraudulent, anti-democratic real-estate fronts like Santa Cruz Together and rebuilding the basis of free and fair elections (through, for instance, adopting clear campaign finance rules).
In spite of the SCT-funded defeats of several grassroots ballot initiatives in the past 5 years, the left in Santa Cruz has had some smaller but still significant wins: The coalitional Tenant Organizing Committee recently helped reinstate rent stabilization for Cabrillo Mobile Home Estate Parks in Capitola. Santa Cruz Cares successfully mobilized to get conditions placed on the OVO—organizing the community to appeal to the Coastal Commission, which finally came to its senses and declared OVO to have “substantial issues” that are problematic, specifically targeting a frontline community.
These wins should be celebrated, but there’s more work to be done. To advance the cause of justice, equality, and fairness, we must continue to organize in our workplaces, our neighborhoods and communities, and in our political institutions.
Stay tuned for more columns unearthing Santa Cruz Together’s anti-democratic politics and highlighting truly grassroots efforts to prioritize People over Profits!
|Joy Schendledecker is an artist, parent, and community organizer. She lives on the Westside of Santa Cruz with her husband, two teens, mother in law, and cats. She was a city of Santa Cruz mayoral candidate in 2022. You can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLEASE COMMENT ON STATE RULE CHANGES TO ALLOW TREATED SEWAGE WATER GO DIRECTLY TO YOUR TAP
Here we go…the State will hold a public hearing on September 7 to take public comment on allowing treated sewage water to be in your tap water directly from the treatment plant. Known as “Direct Potable Re-Use” or DPR, this will allow municipalities to sell the water directly, despite unknown long-term health impacts of low-dose chronic ingestions of endocrine disruptors and other pharmaceuticals that cannot be removed by the existing treatment processes and are not regulated.
More on this next week.
SANTA CRUZ CITY WATER COMMISSION MEETING WAS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR PUBLIC TO PARTICIPATE
Last Monday (7/17) many people likely were prohibited from participating in the Santa Cruz City Water Commission meeting because it was made nearly impossible to do so. The meeting was in an unorthodox location, not noticed, and the door to the actual meeting room was locked.
These meetings have been in-person only, so I waited in the parking lot at the City Council chambers, where the Commission has been meeting. No other vehicles arrived. I looked at the display boards adjacent to the City Council Chambers, but there was NO Notice of the meeting. I contacted a friend who checked the internet website information…it seemed it was a Zoom only meeting, so I drove home. I looked up the Zoom access information on my home computer and saw the meeting had been changed to a hybrid format at the last minute. I called in, but was not admitted to the meeting after waiting 15 minutes.. I hung up, sent an email to Director Menard and Commissioners Engfer and Ryan. and called again. This time, I could hear Commissioners talking but had no idea where in the agenda they were working. When public comment time arrived, I simply asked “where on the agenda are you?” and was informed the Commission was reviewing the new Intertie Project as part of the Santa Cruz City Water Rights Project.
I had missed all presentations and Commissioner discussions. Ms. Menard informed me the meeting was recorded. That was good news.
In listening to the last shred of discussion and vote by Commissioners, I learned that on August 8, the City Council meeting will include presentation and approval of this new Intertie Project between City and Scotts Valley.
I also learned that many Commissioners have resigned, leaving the Commission dangerously close to not being able to have a quorum.
I learned the Intertie Project had not received a formally noticed public hearing or a public comment period because the Water Dept. chose to use the faster method of an Addendum, rather than a Subsequent EIR, and all that pesky environmental analysis and public participation was not required.
Commissioner Engfer wanted to know why there was no mitigation stated for the significant number of trees that will be removed? Staff said that will get worked out. “I’m not sure what kind of motion we should make here” said Engfer, referencing an apparent earlier comment from Commissioner Tom Burns. Quickly, Burns moved to approve the Staff Recommendations to accept the Addendum.
Take a look at the map on page 13.
This will connect the Cities of Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz for sharing surface water supplies in non-emergency as well as emergency times.
The Proposed Intertie-1 Project evaluated in the Santa Cruz Water Rights Project EIR, referred to therein as the City/SVWD intertie, included interconnection of the City’s water supply system to the SVWD’s system through installation of approximately 8,000 linear feet of new 12-inch-diameter intertie piping from Sims Road in the south, along La Madrona Drive to the north to the City of Scotts Valley where a new pump station would be constructed (see Figure 1). A generalized location for the pump station was provided, but the precise location, facility footprint, and equipment characteristics and sizing were not known at the time. Given typical pump stations in Santa Cruz County, this pump station was expected to be a single-story building with an outdoor paved area surrounded by security fencing and low-wattage, shielded outdoor security lighting directed onto the site. Once constructed, the City could deliver water to the SLVWD through the City/SVWD intertie, and the SVWD could then convey the water to the SLVWD through the SVWD’s existing interconnection with the SLVWD. Interconnection of the SVWD and the SLVWD systems (referred to as Intertie2 or IT2) was constructed in 2016 and permitted for
emergency use as part of the Scotts Valley Multi-Agency Regional Intertie Project. Additional approvals would be required to use the existing intertie between the SVWD and the SLVWD systems for non-emergency use.
The anticipated duration of project construction is 16 months, spanning from approximately March 2024 to July 2025.
While WSAC recommendations considered only delivering surface water to SqCWD and SVWD, current conceptual-level planning considers delivering surface water to San Lorenzo Valley Water District and Central Water District as well.
The Project has been modified: (see page 12)
The Proposed Intertie-1 Project, as modified, is 20% longer than the previously evaluated project, consisting of approximately 9,600 linear feet of 12-inch-diameter bi-directional intertie pipeline and a pump station between the City and SVWD distribution systems. The intertie pipeline would facilitate transfers of water supply from the City to the SVWD during wet seasons, and from SVWD to the City during dry seasons or drought years. The pipeline would run from the City’s Pasatiempo tanks at the southern extent of the project area along Firehouse Lane to Sims Road, and then north along La Madrona Drive to the City of Scotts Valley where the new pump station would be constructed in a similar, but more specific location. The Proposed Intertie-1 Project would also include installation of appurtenances that are required for pipeline operation, monitoring, and maintenance, including line valves, air release valves, isolation valves, sample stations, and hydrants. Figure 2 shows the modified alignment, pipeline appurtenances, pump station location, and worst-case disturbance buffers.
The pump station would consist of a single-story, approximately 800-square-foot building that would contain three 40- horsepower pumps and their associated VFDs and related electrical equipment and piping.
The connection between the City and SVWD distribution systems would be provided via pumped flow from the City to the SVWD, and gravity flow from the SVWD to the City
The pumps would be used to provide water to the SVWD distribution system and the SVWD’s Sequoia tank with City water. When SVWD is providing water to the City, the pump station bypass line would operate while the pumps are off, and the SVWD’s Sequoia tank would primarily fill the City’s Pasatiempo tanks. An 8-inch-diameter polyvinyl chloride (PVC) connection to the sanitary sewer in La Madrona Drive would be installed for purposes of flushing sample test water or pipeline potable water during startup and shutdown of the pump station. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) electrical service for the pump station would be provided by installation of a new utility pole near the pump station or by installation of approximately 500 feet of new underground conduit and cable along La Madrona Drive. The pump station would include provisions for connection of a portable backup power generator to provide system operation during power outages—a new feature of the pump station not previously evaluated.
Operational agreement terms would include uses for emergency and non-emergency use between the City and SVWD. The operational agreement is expected to include specifications for the duration of the agreement;
On Firehouse Lane, the City would acquire a 20-foot-wide permanent easement on the parcel along the northern portion (APN 067-202-66), and the City would purchase or otherwise acquire the parcel that comprises the southern portion of Firehouse Lane (APN 067-202-60). On the SVFD property at 6000 La Madrona Drive (APN 021-141-20), the SVWD would acquire an approximately 30,800-square-foot temporary easement for construction staging and 11,000-square-foot permanent easement for the pump station and affiliated appurtenances.
With all the development that all jurisdictions in the County are being required to do by the State’s Mighty Big Stick, will there be enough water, even with the regional sharing? Attend the Santa Cruz City Council meeting on August 8 and ask.
Also,…next month’s 7pm Santa Cruz City Water Commission meeting on August 21 will again be in an unorthodox place: the Downtown Library upstairs Community Meeting room, whose access is prohibited when the library closes at 6pm. “People need to arrive early or on time so they don’t get locked out” reminded Ms. Menard. Hmmmm….it would be nice if the meetings were properly noticed so members of the public can even find out where the meeting is being held, wouldn’t it?
Write the Commission and the Santa Cruz City Council with your thoughts on this as well the Intertie Project.
SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT GIFTS FREE WATER FOR 50 YEARS TO TWIN LAKES BAPTIST CHURCH
Part of the sweet deal Soquel Creek Water District has with Twin Lakes Baptist Church is gifting the Church FREE water to irrigate the new athletic field for 50 years. The Church just completed the new sod lawn last week. Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to gift that water to Cabrillo Community College, a public agency with large athletic fields just across the road?
One of the three new wells where the District plans to pressure-inject treated sewage water into the aquifer is located on land the District leased from the Church. That well has been seemingly plagued with problems, and has had to be rehabilitated already…maybe again now, for the second time since it was constructed in 2019.
What an expensive fiasco, especially when one considers the independent report by Haley & Aldrich that was commissioned by Cabrillo College to ensure the injected recycled water would not negatively affect the College’s three private wells. The analysis determined that harm was unlikely, due to the gradient flow of the groundwater relative to the College’s wells. However, the expert report questioned the wisdom of Soquel Creek Water District for positioning the injection well close to one of their production wells and a handful of private wells “downstream”. The expert called the placement of the Project’s three injection wells “curious”.
Contact me if you would like to see that Report. I obtained it in a Public Records Act request with Cabrillo College. You should also be able to find it on the Soquel Creek Water District website under “Correspondence” for the next Board meeting; I gave the Board a copy at their meeting last Tuesday to review and consider. By the way, here is a link to Director Bruce Daniels’ letter of resignation
APPLY TO SERVE PRIVATE WATER OWNERS & CUSTOMERS IN THE MIDCOUNTY AREA
Are you a private well owner or get your water from one? How about a small water system, mutual or other non-municipal water system in the County? If you answered YES, you need to get involved in the management policy related to your water supply. Apply by 5pm Monday, August 14, to serve on the MidCounty Groundwater Agency Board where there are two vacancies for Well Owner Representatives open.
“The MGA is responsible for groundwater management in the Mid-County Groundwater Basin in the communities of Soquel, Aptos, Capitola, Live Oak, and La Selva Beach.
To be eligible, an applicant must own, operate, or be served by an individual well, small water system, mutual, or other non-municipal water system within the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin. The time commitment is approximately 4 hours per month, including evenings. The position is unpaid.
An ideal candidate will have a demonstrated ability to work with others in a collaborative setting. They will have the means and motivation to communicate with the community they are representing. They will have knowledge and experience that will benefit the MGA and the implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.
The application is available at www.midcountygroundwater.org.
BRANCIFORTE PROPERTY OWNERS REJECTED EXPENSIVE ASSESSMENT BURDEN
It was standing room only last Thursday (7/20) when the Branciforte Fire District Board met at Happy Valley School for a final public hearing to call for any remaining Special Benefit Assessment ballots before tallying began by the Election Dept. staff waiting there to begin. Many people again voiced disagreement that they alone should have to pay to staff the Branciforte Fire Station when Scotts Valley Fire annexes their District, taking control of all the engines, the newly-remodeled fire station, property tax monies, and the Special fees the property owners voted to tax themselves in 2016 (Measure T) to pay for new equipment, and facilities needed. One man said it would more than double his property taxes, and he actually lives close to the existing Scotts Valley Fire boundary.
I asked if the Board planned to send a courier to the fire station, where the voters were instructed to send or deposit their ballots, just in case some people dropped them off after all the staff had left to set up at the School for the meeting? Their answer initially was NO, “it’s up to people to read the directions on the ballot and come here” said Board President Larry Pageler, but when residents protested, he grudgingly acquiesced. A firefighter returned with five ballots in hand from the day’s mail. One man came into the room minutes after the hearing had closed and asked to deposit his ballot. “NO”, the hearing was closed and tabulation was under way.
I was grateful for the team of four Election Dept. staff, directed by Elections Manager Ms. Tricia Webber, coming to the School to do the tabulation. The Fire District Board had initially told residents the ballots would be tallied by the SCI Consultants who had developed the method for how much everyone’s Special Benefit Assessment would be, and boasted of a 94% success rate in getting such measures passed. In observing the Elections Dept. staff working, I was impressed with their thoroughness and focus on accountability and transparency.
In the end, a total of 434 ballots were returned (of 750 parcels potentially receiving assessments) with 379 NO votes, and 53 YES votes and TWO ballots that were invalid because there was no vote indicated.
These were Prop. 218 weighted votes, with the votes of those property owners assessed the most having proportionally more weight given to their votes. The weighted NO vote was 875,554.23, with the weighted YES vote being 103,393.05, and the weighted vote of the two invalid ballots was 1868.87.
Most of the people who attended were very happy to see the assessment struck down.
The wonderful Elections Dept. staff, including Manager Ms. Tricia Webber (in orange) opened and sorted the ballots.
Sorting out problems with the SCI Consultant software “black box” and weighted vote tabulation.
Ms. Webber read the Statement of the Vote with Branciforte Fire District Board President Mr. Larry Pageler looking on as the news officially announced the incredibly expensive Special Benefit Assessment failed.
BUT DISTURBING DECISIONS HARMING HAPPY VALLEY RESIDENTS ENSUED
Although Scotts Valley Fire staff has never said directly that failure of that whopping assessment would cause them to close the Branciforte Fire Station, LAFCO Director Joe Serrano, who is pushing the annexation forward full throttle, has, and the Board has obediently repeated the narrative.
So it made no sense that the Branciforte Fire Board moved forward Thursday to purchase a new Type 6 fire engine that they confirmed will be housed in Scotts Valley. They insisted they had to spend the money because it is from a $500,000 gift of the Barnes Family to the Branciforte Fire District for the benefit of Happy Valley residents.
Also very disturbing was the Board’s rejecting a public member’s request that the Board not move forward with the annexation with Scotts Valley fire without a condition that Scotts Valley Fire Board transition to district-based elections upon completion of the annexation. “NO!” said Director Marilyn Kuksht. “That would break the deal with Scotts Valley, and we would be back to ground zero in the annexation process.”
She feels it is more important to shove the deal forward at the expense of fair representation for the people she represents? The Plan for Service the Board rubberstamped last month meekly acquiesced to handing over all assets and tax monies to Scotts Valley, and only having an “Advisory Committee” that would meet twice a year to make recommendations about how all that money and resources would be used, but with no obligation at all by Scotts Valley to abide by anything requested.
Keep your eye on this.
HAPPY VALLEY RESIDENTS WILL HAVE NO EFFECTIVE VOICE AFTER ANNEXATION WITH SCOTTS VALLEY IS COMPLETE
The LAFCO Staff Report for the August 2 public hearing is shocking because it states that after the annexation is complete, the existing Scotts Valley Fire District Board will be in charge of deciding how all assets and monies from the dissolved Branciforte Fire District will be used. More than that, the Scotts Valley Fire Board, NOT the people of Happy Valley, will decide who will serve on the Advisory Commission from the dissolved Branciforte Fire District area to make toothless recommendations a once or twice a year.
Do the people in Happy Valley know this? NO.
It was extremely disturbing that the Branciforte Fire Board completely failed to alert the room full of residents that on August 2, the LAFCO will meet and consider approving a Resolution that would finalize the annexation of the two Districts. Approval of that Resolution will set the clock ticking for the people of Branciforte Fire District to protest the annexation. Many in the room last Thursday wondered why this annexation is necessary, saying they are happy with the level of service that a hybrid paid / volunteer staff arrangement has provided for many, many years.
So why didn’t their Chief or the Board even announce it during their Ad Hoc Committee report during the meeting to a room full of constituents? “We haven’t really met because we’ve been pretty focused on the Special Benefit Assessment ballots.” was all that Chief Nate Lackey stated. When I announced the August 2 LAFCO meeting and impending resolution, the Board seemed nonplussed.
Yikes. The people of Branciforte need to know about this important August 2 LAFCO meeting and state their opinions. Their own Board has failed them.
Please share this information with anyone you know in the Happy Valley area
(see page 8 and 9 of the 16-page Staff Report);
The Scotts Valley Fire Protection District (post-reorganization) will include all the territory currently within the boundaries of SVFPD and all the territory currently within the boundaries of BFPD. The newly reorganized District will be governed by a 5-member Board of Directors, elected at large from the entire district. The SVFPD Board of Directors, as composed at the time the reorganization is deemed complete, will continue to serve until their individual terms expire, at which time the seats will stand for election. Any registered voter within the reorganized district boundaries (both SVFPD and the former BFPD area) may file and run for an open seat on the Board. To avoid conflict with the California Voting Rights Act, SVFPD may consider transitioning to a system of elections by district in the foreseeable future following additional analysis.
Branciforte Oversight & Representation
The SVFPD Board of Directors will establish a Service Zone encompassing the territory of the former Branciforte Fire Protection District, in accordance with Health and Safety Code Section 13950. The purpose of the Service Zone is to provide the community with accountability for the use of taxes, assessments, or fees collected solely within the Service Zone (Health and Safety Code Section 13955). Further, the SVFPD Board of Directors will adopt a policy forming the Branciforte Advisory Commission and will also appoint members of the Branciforte community to said Commission in accordance with Health and Safety Code Section 13956. The purpose of the Advisory Commission will be to review the finances, operations, and projects that directly benefit and/or affect the Branciforte community. The formation of the Branciforte Advisory Commission will be made as soon as practical after the recordation of the reorganization. Following the reorganization, the SVFPD will continue to be managed by the incumbent SVFPD Fire Chief, along with their staff and officers.
SCOTTS VALLEY FIRE DISTRICT BOARD PLACING BOND ISSUE ON THIS NOVEMBER’S BALLOT TO FUND NEW FIRE STATION
If you live in Scotts Valley, a new proposed bond tax measure is coming your way to help finance a $22 million new fire station. The Board approved the bond’s necessity at their July 12 meeting (see page 13, with the Ballot Initiative on page 21).
The following is the abbreviated form of the bond measure:
FIRE PROTECTION AND SAFETY BOND MEASURE.
To construct a new strategically located fire operations facility, command center and repair/replace outdated stations, to be fully operational during a disaster, and seismically safe and accessible, thereby maintaining essential safety services including medical emergency lifesaving services, improved 911 response, wildfire protection and disaster response, shall the Scotts Valley Fire
Protection District levy approximately $27.50 per $100,000 of assessed value to repay general obligation bonds through maturity?
The estimated total cost of the Project to be paid from General Obligation Bond proceeds is $22,240,000.
The maximum rate of interest to be paid on the General Obligation Bonds will not exceed 12% per annum.
The tax imposed by this Fire Safety Bond Measure is an ad valorem tax levied upon taxable real property in the District. The tax will be used to pay the principal and interest on the General Obligation Bonds.
The location will be on La Madrona, near the Hilton Hotel, and will potentially partner with the Santa Cruz City Water Intertie Project.
IS CALFIRE’S RELIANCE ON AI FOR FIRE SUPPRESSION TACTICALS WISE?
Many thanks to a friend for sending this information, describing CAL FIRE’S increasing reliance on models generated by AI to make decisions about how to use resources available when there are large fires. Will this make responders and fire bosses by giving them orders reliant on screens and data, rather than paying attention to what is happening in real time and consulting with those having local knowledge?
Consider what happened here in the CZU Fire, as reported in the July 2023 San Lorenzo Valley Post (page 10) in an article about an art exhibit “Light on Water” “Veteran Firefighter Shanna Kuempel Celebrates Fine Art Exhibit” by Julie Hoorn.
The article explains how Kuempel, a Battalion Chief with Santa Clara County Fire Protection District at the time and a 30-year veteran of the fire service, was fighting a fire in southern California when she received news that her family home on Summit Drive in Bonny Doon had burned in the CZU Fire. She was released from her strike team to return home.
“She came back up to join those who had stayed behind to fight the fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “They were planning to do a burnout operation on all of Smith Grade” she said, “which would have taken occupied homes; people who had either not evacuated yet or had chosen not to leave. We wondered why are they doing this at this point? The decisions being made weren’t practical decisions. We had a discussion with CalFire about it, and we got in trouble for it.”
They stayed for days taking 12-hour shifts protecting a 300 acre ranch with tractors, rakes, and makeshift tools. Even though she was off duty and there were other Santa Clara County firefighters behind Cal Fire lines, Shanna was demoted for her actions. Still she insists, “They weren’t protecting houses, so people went back. I think every house that was saved up there was probably saved by a civilian.” Shanna arbitrated her demotion and was eventually reinstated to her original role. “So many things good and bad have prompted me toward my art,” she said. “I took on the State of California. It was a David and Goliath situation. If they hadn’t come after me, I probably would have retired to help my Mom rebuild. But I’m not going to let this happen to me. It’s not ethical. It’s the difference between right and wrong. We have an oath to protect life and property, and it happened on that mountain. It was my purpose in life at that moment, that stoicism.”
So, were the CalFire Chiefs issuing orders at the CZU Fire paying attention to models when they ordered the “Stay Behind” crews to leave, stating there were “high winds predicted tonight”? Those who chose to remain behind the lines and continue to save their neighborhoods monitored the winds…which never materialized.
CalFire has refused to do an After Action Review to analyze what went right and what didn’t…critical information to improve planning for the future. Wouldn’t that be good information to feed into the AI data banks for modeling fire behavior and response tactics? Why is CalFire so resistant?
NEW COUNTY FIRE DEPT. BATTALION CHIEF SHOULD HAVE COME FROM VOLUNTEER RANKS
The original idea to hire a Santa Cruz County Fire Dept. Battalion Chief to improve the Volunteer trainings and involvement in planning for future emergency response in their Communities originated with the Volunteer Captains. They were hopeful that those who applied would come from their ranks, many of whom are seasoned Volunteers who worked to protect their neighbors in the 2020 CZU Fire even though ordered by CAL FIRE officials to leave.
However, at last week’s County Fire Dept. Advisory Commission (FDAC) meeting, County Fire/CAL FIRE Chief Nate Armstrong announced that CAL FIRE Chief Sam Filson was selected. Somehow, it seems like another money grab by CAL FIRE, and another failure to respect the Volunteers and their expertise brought about by many years of responding in their Communities as true public servants.
After the meeting, I congratulated Chief Filson, and asked if he would please make sure an After Action Review for the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire happened right away with County Fire Dept. Volunteers? He quickly made a note and said he will look into it.
CAL FIRE has refused to conduct such critical analysis that is a standard practice to help better plan for future emergency response. Write Santa Cruz County Chief Sam Filson and request County Fire Dept. conduct an After Action Review of the CZU Fire immediately.
Sam Filson email@example.com (nope, not a County government e-mail address).
YET ANOTHER TAX COMING YOUR WAY, THANKS TO THE SANTA CRUZ COUNTY LAND TRUST
The Santa Cruz County FireSafe Council met last Thursday and heard a presentation by the Santa Cruz County Land Trust, letting them know there will be a tax on the November 2024 ballot to bring in money, either as a sales tax or parcel tax, to help fund the Land Trust’s vegetation management on the thousands of acres of land the agency has purchased. Does that seem fair to you?
Keep your eyes open for this one. There are millions of dollars in State grants already funded by tax payers for this purpose. Can the property owners hanging on in what is now the most expensive place to live in the Country handle yet another gouge?
TAKE BACK YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON LIMITING BUILDING HEIGHT AND INCREASING AFFORDABLE HOUSING!
Housing for People organizer Ms. Keresha Durham will be the Guest on this Friday’s (July 28) “Community Matters” program at 1pm.
Listen and call in! santacruzvoice.com
Front Street development from across the San Lorenzo River last week.
Preparing for another tall building to create a canyon of buildings in downtown Santa Cruz.
Just last week, this announcement came out:
The City of Santa Cruz has revised the HCD (California Department of Housing and Community Development) Submittal Draft (6th Cycle) Housing Element that was originally submitted to HCD in May 2023, based on preliminary comments from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The Revised HCD Submittal Public Review Draft (6th Cycle) Housing Element is available for review by the public on the Housing Element webpage.
The City is accepting public comment on these updates through Tuesday, July 25th, 2023. Comments can be made by emailing me directly.
City of Santa Cruz | Planning and Community Development
809 Center Street, Room 101, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Main: 831-420-5110 | Direct: 831-420-5247
WRITE ONE LETTER. MAKE ONE CALL. ATTEND A PUBLIC MEETING AND ASK QUESTIONS THAT HOLD OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE.
JUST DO ONE THING THIS WEEK, AND MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
Summer is on, and I’m naming coastal tarplant (Deinandra corymbosa) the flower-of-the-month. Each month so far in 2023, I’ve provided readers with one of the quintessential native flowers that might best symbolize that month. Coastal tarplant, like many tarplants, is in full bloom right now. Like most of the others I’ve named, it is not easy to find. Let me describe this plant for you and hope that you will be curious enough to seek it out.
You’re looking for little sunflowers. The flower heads are bright yellow. Like horticultural sunflowers, they have two types of flowers in each flower head: ray and disc flowers. The disc flowers have tiny petals that you don’t notice unless you look closely. The ray flowers, the ones that line the outside of the flower head, have a long petal, and it has three lobes. Those ray flowers collectively make the flower head look like a single flower with petals, but really they heads of many flowers.
The plants can get tall, but mostly you’ll probably encounter them as short-statured…less than 8″ tall. And, they are normally very branched. The leaves are narrow with many lobes- they look almost pinnate.
Coastal tarplant smells like roofing tar. I like the smell of many other tarplants, and some folks say that they like the smell of this one, but blech! Straight up roofing tar. So, this plant makes double sense being called ‘tarplant’ – like other tarplants, it is very sticky. Tarplants mostly blossom in summer. The tar, aka ‘resin’ helps the plants not dry out in the baking sun. If you visit the Sierra Nevada foothills this time of year, the smell that accompanies the loud cricket song is a sweet, piney, tarplant. The Central Valley used to smell like that, but now it mostly smells like pesticides thanks to the too many humans that somehow think it’s okay to eat food that isn’t certified organic.
Coastal tarplant likes coastal prairie. Like many coastal prairie wildflowers, this species can remain dormant in the ‘seedbank’ for many years. I have carefully studied spots for ten years when coastal tarplant was definitely not there. But, then someone will scrape or otherwise disturb the soil and the next spring the species is abundant in those disturbed areas. So, when thinking about this species’ habitat, think not only about coastal prairie but also about some kind of disturbance that makes for bare soil, which is where it wants to germinate.
Like so many grassland species, many of the past occurrences noted in herbaria have been destroyed by development. For instance, John Hunter Thomas’ 1961 collection alongside the ‘bog at Camp Evers’ in Scotts Valley. A lot of interesting plants were in that bog, long since destroyed by poorly planned development- as is a too dominant theme of Scotts Valley’s legacy. Scotts Valley’s grasslands were once much more extensive and full of interesting plants. A few iNaturalist loggers have noted coastal tarplant still growing in the Glenwood Preserve in Scotts Valley- that property the result of a hard-fought battle to stop a golf course and subdivision (thanks CNPS and Friends of Glenwood!).
In 1953, J. H. Thomas collected the species at the “Hilton Airport” near Boulder Creek; this is now a golf course, obliterating the coastal prairie that once was there. Other early botanists collected the species in Capitola (1935) and in Corralitos (1896), both sites probably no longer contain habitat.
Where You Might Find It
It would be worth checking out other places that are still intact to see if the species is still there. R. Morgan filed an herbarium specimen from the end of Meder Street, part of the City of Santa Cruz’ Moore Creek Greenbelt. Is the management right this year for the coastal tarplant to thrive? iNaturalist folks have seen it there as of late! V. Hesse collected the species in the grasslands that were partially paved and developed for the ‘Woods Cove’ housing development; next door, this unique coastal prairie has been pummeled by horses and firefighters at the Graham Hill Showgrounds. Lots of good plants were once in those meadows, which have been very poorly stewarded for many years, despite supposed mitigation requirements by the County.
According to CalFlora, my favorite native plant website, some folks have seen the plant along the bluff trail at Año Nuevo.
Now, Go and Find It!
It is your job, now, to go and find this plant. If you find it, enter your observation into iNaturalist. Or, at least let me know! In seeking this plant out, you will undoubtedly find other interesting things. And, you might learn a bit about our coastal prairie grasslands. The easiest place to find the species would be at Glenwood Preserve, but the sightings on iNaturalist would suggest it is probably past flowering…photographers like to show it off in May there. So, head to the bluffs at Año Nuevo and see if you can find it…lots of good stuff grows and flowers along that near-ocean trail.
An Aside – NCMAWG
Few things sound as boring as the “North Coast Facilities and Management Plan Working Group” (NCMAWG – yawn!). But, few groups are as important to anyone who cares about Nature on the North Coast. When many of us complained loudly about the Monument Campaign, those spearheading it said ‘Don’t worry, we promise we’ll convene a collaborative working group to address any overcrowding concerns.’ They said, ‘It will be a lot like the Big Sur Interagency Task Force.’ Well, that Big Sur group at least welcomes the public, and lets them know when and where they are meeting. And listens to them. The NCMAWG is rumored to be about to meet, on July 31st. Betting that they spend all their time on the ‘Facilities’ part of their name…and never get around to management – humans do like to build things!
For more information…the only information I can find…check out the Friends of the North Coast website.
Grey Hayes is a fervent speaker for all things wild, and his occupations have included land stewardship with UC Natural Reserves, large-scale monitoring and strategic planning with The Nature Conservancy, professional education with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and teaching undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz. Visit his website at: www.greyhayes.net
Email Grey at firstname.lastname@example.org
On June 16, 2023, The New York Times published an opinion editorial by Deborah Pearlstein, who is a Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy. Pearlstein’s op-ed was titled, “Leaving Trump’s Fate to 12 Ordinary Citizens Is Genius.” Given the fact that The Times maintains a paywall, non-subscribers might not be able to read what Pearlstein has to say. Therefore, I am reprinting her statement, below, for those who find that the link doesn’t work.
Perhaps before you read what Pearlstein has to say, let me tell you what I have to say: We do, in fact, in the United States of America, entrust our government to “ordinary citizens.” In every way, “ordinary citizens” are supposed to be in charge. That means YOU (and me, too, of course). Try to picture Uncle Sam, pointing his finger your way:
Uncle Sam, the personification of American government, “Wants You!”
Self-government” is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” to quote Abraham Lincoln, probably our greatest president. That “by” the people part is the most important. A government “by” the people is what our government is supposed to be all about.
Are we nervous about what that jury will do if (or when) our former president goes on trial? Of course we are! If “we, the people” are the government, let’s admit that we can make mistakes. Think about that election of 2016. Any mistakes there? How about slavery? What about the War in Vietnam, or the War in Iraq? Sure enough, that trial in Florida, trusting those twelve jurors, could result in another mistake.
What do you do when you make a mistake? You try to recover, as best you can, right? That’s what I do. That’s what we all need to do.
As we deal with the manifold and multiple mistakes that “we, the people” have made in the course of our long history, let’s not allow our fear about making even more mistakes to paralyze us. Winston Churchill was not an American, and “democracy” is not exactly the same thing as “self-government,” which is the phrase I like to use to describe how we do government in the United States. Still, Churchill was definitely speaking the language of self-government in this pronouncement:
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time….
A failure to maintain our self-confidence in our own ability to govern ourselves is one of the things that is profoundly affecting our ability to deal with the challenges we face today. We do face challenges – big challenges. Dealing with a renegade former president is only one of those challenges.
Let’s not lose faith in ourselves, alright? But let’s start taking that “self-government” thing more seriously. What that “self-government” phrase means is that WE (meaning each one of us) are supposed to be directly engaged, in some way, with how we govern ourselves. We are not supposed to be waiting around for someone else to deal with the problems. We are not supposed to think “self-government” means that we get to elect the people, who hire the people, who run our lives for us.
What should we think about our system of self-government – at least as initially conceptualized? Pearlstein seems to have hit it pretty close to the mark, the way I see it.
Leaving Trump’s Fate to 12 Ordinary Citizens Is Genius
June 14, 2023
By Deborah Pearlstein
Professor Pearlstein teaches at the Cardozo School of Law and is the co-director of its Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy.
Among the criminal charges the former president of the United States now faces, the most extraordinary are 31 counts of violating the Espionage Act, a century-old law prohibiting the unlawful retention of “information relating to the national defense.” Barring a guilty plea — the more common resolution in a case as strong as this — those charges will most likely eventually go before a jury.
In one sense, the indictment of Donald Trump on charges of violating the Espionage Act is just like the other cases the government has brought since the act’s adoption during World War I. The statute does not simply prohibit the retention of any document marked “classified.” It requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the information contained in the documents could, if disclosed, pose a threat to U.S. national security.
Whether the documents do pose such a threat is what the courts call a question of fact — meaning that as the case goes forward, this significant question of national security will rest squarely in the hands of a dozen ordinary Florida citizens. If the government doesn’t persuade them, Mr. Trump will be found not guilty.
It is hard to imagine a case that places more pressure on the functioning of the jury — or that more dramatically illustrates its unique value. The case against Mr. Trump does not just put a question of national security in the hands of the jury. It puts in its hands a case that is unprecedented, involving a former — and perhaps future — leader of the nation. The security policy stakes are high. The political stakes may be higher.
The jury system’s constitutional authority makes it, at its best, an essential check on government overreach. In a case like this, its democratic legitimacy also gives it a better chance than any other governing institution to render a judgment that can withstand the political firestorm ahead.
Leaving such a consequential judgment up to ordinary citizens may seem jarring in a political culture accustomed to assuming national security is best reserved to the most expert, most secretive corridors of military and intelligence agencies in and around Washington. Jury trials are, after all, the opposite of this. Neither juries nor judges — especially in courts outside Washington — are known for their national security expertise. And like any jurors, those in Mr. Trump’s case will bring with them their own partisan political views that might shape their interpretation of evidence. Jury decision-making is never without risk, and rarely more so than it will be here.
Jury trials are also necessarily public. The Constitution gives every defendant the right to confront the evidence against him, and for juries to have any basis for deciding the case, they generally have to see that evidence as well. This creates obvious problems when the key evidence against the defendant involves documents that the government argues should never see the light of day.
The indictment unsealed on Friday lists government records describing American nuclear and other weapons capabilities, “potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack,” and U.S. plans for potential response to a foreign attack. This information goes to the heart of the nation’s ability to defend itself. They are documents of the very highest sensitivity.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, courts became especially adept at protecting sensitive information even while sharing access to it with the defense and the jury. The Classified Information Procedures Act proved an invaluable tool, for example, in the prosecutions stemming from the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, in which classified information, including from foreign intelligence services, was central. With the court’s approval, prosecutors presented redacted documents, drew up summaries and relied on protective orders to ensure terrorism trials did not compromise sources and methods. Juries still found enough information to assess the charges, and in many of those cases, they voted to convict.
But negotiating those accommodations, which must happen before the trial, can take time — time that in this case brings us ever closer to the 2024 election in which the defendant is now a leading candidate.
If the judge says no to compromises like summarizing key documents, the prosecution might decide that some are simply too complex or too sensitive to put at issue in the case. Of course, the more sensitive the document in Mr. Trump’s possession, the more it might tend to show that his actions put the country at risk. But the government may have to make that choice, and quickly, if it hopes to bring the case to resolution before the defendant has the chance to be elected president and appoint his own attorney general again. The jury would then be left to reach its verdict without access to what might be the government’s strongest evidence.
Despite all the challenges, the framers of the Constitution never doubted that national security crimes belonged in front of juries. The original national security crime, treason, is the only offense expressly defined in the Constitution itself, and it has involved juries in deciding, among other things, issues as complex as whether a defendant engaged in conduct that counts as giving “aid and comfort” to our enemies.
Indeed, the framers saw the jury’s role as essential. The British government had used national security charges to silence its political opponents throughout the Colonies. In this nation’s new democracy, citizen juries would stand as an essential bulwark against that kind of abuse.
Mr. Trump has not been charged with treason. But all prosecutions of this kind carry special dangers of government overreach. Ordinary citizens remain the most democratically legitimate way of stopping it in its tracks.
That fact gives the jury in this case a uniquely authoritative voice. Mr. Trump’s supporters argue vociferously that the prosecution of a current presidential candidate by an administration of the opposing party could be motivated only by politics and revenge. However unjustified, these beliefs matter. They matter because the justice system cannot function unless most Americans view it as a legitimate arbiter of social disputes.
Nothing that the current president or attorney general can say will resolve such doubts. For seeing justice done and for preserving the public’s democratic faith, the citizens of Florida are the best chance we’ve got.
Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at www.gapatton.net
Email Gary at email@example.com
UNDERPRIVILEGED UNITARY CRUSADERS IN A SMALL TOWN
Country singer and Donald J. Trump advocate, Jason Aldean, has had a tough time recently, as he tries to explain away the backlash his current music video and song lyrics have stirred up. The Macon, Georgia native released the politically charged song in May, but with the hostile warnings in the lyrics and the video footage being performed on the steps of a Tennessee courthouse, the site of a historic lynching, his song ‘Try That In A Small Town,’ has accusers calling it a racist dog whistle. Aldean maintains it has nothing to do with race, but the usual suspects have come to his defense…Ron DeSantis for one. Country Music Television pulled the video from its rotation because of its troubling imagery, which Aldean defends using because, “There isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage.” It has been pointed out that some of the footage is gathered from around the globe. His explanation that the song is wholesome, referring to the community where he grew up, where neighbors were taken care of, regardless of differences of background or belief. His right-wing views were voiced in an interview, “When you got kids and you’re kind of seeing the future for them, it’s pretty scary. So, I think for me, just seeing that, just how everything has been the last couple of years has been pretty wild. A lot of things that I don’t agree with, and sometimes it’s kind of hard for me to sit back and not say anything.” And in the end, Jason, you didn’t really say anything worthwhile!
The Former Guy couldn’t have said it any better, Jason…whatever it is you said! John Ware writes on Quora that he used a chatbot program to analyze Trump’s vocabulary based on 200 speeches and press conferences, using none of his books because he didn’t write any of them anyway, being notorious for his non-writing skills. Even many of his Truth Social posts are ghost-written, with his own POSTS BEING EASILY IDENTIFIABLE. Ware says the average American adult can assimilate 25K to 35K words, though most people don’t use that many words in conversation or writing even though there is familiarity, but adequately incorporating around 10K words. Chatbot tallied only about 1,975 words in Trump’s speeches, with the ‘go-to’ words being adverbs and adjectives. The average American 5-year old uses 2,200 to 3,500 words in their conversations!
And, perhaps a limited vocabulary is all The Don will need as he and his base attempt to overhaul the federal government toward dictatorial powers for the future President Trump. This has been a longstanding GOP plan, and Trump has alluded to such a scenario many times, revealing his admiration for global dictators quite blatantly. Steve Bannon rants, “This is a crusade! This is a Holy War against the Deep State! Donald Trump is our instrument for retribution!” Political advisor, John McEntee, who served in the Trump Administration, says, “Our current executive branch was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies. There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It’s not enough to get the personnel right. What’s necessary is a complete system overhaul.” Former Office of Management and Budget head, Russell Vought, goes further, “What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them.” Can they make it any clearer that the federal government will be in complete control of one person (and his 1,975 words)? High on The Base’s list is the ability to impound Congress‘ appropriated funds, returning the money to the treasury – which would require changing a 1974 policy responding to President Nixon’s executive overreach. Trump wants more control over independent federal agencies, such as the FCC, the Federal Reserve, and in particular Civil Service for placing his loyalists. The FBI will become his ‘instrument for retribution’ to persecute his political enemies.
Former Attorney General William Barr has long been an advocate of increased presidential power, formerly being AG for a less radical President George H.W. Bush. Barr has long promoted the idea of the ‘unitary executive,’ also favored by the George W. Bush administration, where power lies with the president to make all executive branch decisions including hiring, firing and whether or not to initiate or end a criminal prosecution. Hmm…smell a rat? If Trump can somehow move this forward, elected or not, the next Republican president will gladly accept this gift of fewer checks and balances and continue to push it to the next level to consolidate one man control. Justice Antonin Scalia, another proponent of the theory, believed that Article II of the Constitution gives the president authority to control all executive action with the first line stating, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States.” Scalia asserted, “This does not mean SOME of the executive power, but ALL of the executive power.”
Robert Reich warns, “Make no mistake: the ‘unitary executive’ theory is thinly disguised justification for authoritarianism. If implemented, it would be a major step for the anti-democracy movement.” Reich worked in the Justice Department under AG Edward Levi to implement the 1974 policy which counteracted Nixon’s use of Justice to go after his political enemies. The new guidelines, which never actually made it into law, allowed a president to set broad policies for the department, but barred a president from involvement in specific criminal case decisions absent extraordinary circumstances, especially one with foreign policy ramifications. Should Trump be elected, at least five Supreme Court justices would have to approve; and it should be noted that in June, three justices suggested use of the ‘unitary executive’ theory to invalidate whistleblowers’ lawsuits because the president didn’t appoint them. Cue the scary music…
Robert Harrington writes on The Palmer Report that there is no insurrection charge against Trump in Prosecutor Jack Smith’s target letter to The Former Guy. It doesn’t mean that charge will be ignored, only that there is no mention, with no law requiring it, nor even requiring a target letter. Harrington is hoping that charge is made, that Trump is found guilty, making him automatically ineligible from holding any public office for the rest of his life per the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution. Section 3 says, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil for military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.” Whoa! Who threw in the loophole? We can only hope that with the makeup of the Congress that never comes to pass, but The Base is salivating over that final line. We need to encourage secretaries of state, who oversee the administration of elections at the state level, to follow the law and keep Trump off the ballot should that charge, and conviction, come to pass.
Aldous J. Pennyfarthing reports that MyPillow CEO, and quasi-cognizant pornstache mannequin, Mike Lindell, is still pursuing his truth about rigged electronic voting machines. Rather than any Chinese Communist infiltration, at this point he’s only proven that Chinese weevils have infiltrated his brain, and to celebrate his steadfastness he is having a garage sale. Aldous says, “Lindell has listed more than 850 pieces of surplus MyPillow equipment on K-Bid’s online auction site for people who are on flush #14 of Donald Trump’s comprehensive 15-Flush, life-ruining regimen. Why? Because Lindell bet big on Trump, which is a little like putting your life savings on ‘cerulean 85’ at the roulette table. But hey – at least he’s got a purpose.” It has been reported that Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Slumberland Furniture will no longer sell his products as a result of his false election claims. In a phone interview, Lindell said, “It was a massive, massive cancellation. We lost $100M from attacks by the box stores, the shopping networks, the shopping channels, all of them did cancel culture on us.” Aldous J. encourages us to check out his industrial sewing machines, a forklift, or a half-spent tube of lavender-and-knockwurst-scented mustache pomade on K-Bid.
Gotta hand it to him for persistence, however! Election results are still wrong and he is hosting yet another event, a Kookchella, next month with suggestions for new election methods. Aldous reveals, “Taking one’s pillows off the shelves for his attempt to destroy American democracy doesn’t really qualify as an ‘attack.’ Walmart eventually stopped carrying Pol Pot pies and Frosted Mussolini Wheats, too. Because it’s the responsible thing to do.” MyPillow is now relying on direct sales through TV commercials, emails, radio spots and direct mail. Due to this change, they are also subleasing some of the manufacturing space. Spin on, Mikey! Aldous J. points out, “There’s still hope for MyPillow despite the potentially apocalyptic defamation lawsuits from Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic that hang over his head like the Arby’s Roast Beef Slicer of Damocles. Guess open fascism isn’t the can’t-miss business model it used to be. Go figure.”
And can it be? Will Ginni Thomas, wife and pillow-talker to Justice Clarence Thomas finally get her day in court? Newsweek magazine reports there are calls for Virginia Thomas to face investigation for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election results after 16 Republicans were charged in Michigan over a ‘false elector’ plot. She has been under scrutiny over her actions in the wake of the election, including sending messages to Trump Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, urging him to help overturn the election results, describing Joe Biden’s fair victory as the ‘greatest heist of our history.’ She is alleged to have sent emails to dozens of Arizona election officials and lawmakers claiming it was their ‘Constitutional duty’ to install ‘clean slate of electors’ who would be willing to declare Trump the winner in the Grand Canyon State in 2020. Thomas is said to have told the lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure” and falsely claimed the responsibility to choose electors was “yours and yours alone.” No comments so far from Ginni or the Judge…no one knows their whereabouts. Only Harlan Crow knows ‘where in the world are the Thomases?’
Even after the GOP’s House Freedom Caucus grew tired of her antics and ousted her from its ranks a couple of weeks ago, Marjorie Taylor Greene felt the need to further lower herself with more of her fifth-grade-level stunts by showing sexually explicit photos of Hunter Biden during a congressional hearing last week. Faces of those involved in the sex acts were obscured, but Biden’s face was visible. Those attending the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing which featured testimony from two IRS whistleblowers who allege that prosecutors slow-walked the investigation into President Biden’s son, were treated to Greene’s posters gleaned from the younger Biden’s laptop hard drive that Republicans have been flaunting for months now. “Before we begin, I would like to let the committee and everyone watching at home know that parental discretion is advised,” Greene warned prior to her first question. Immediately, Jamie Raskin, top Democrat on the panel asked Chairman James Comer, “Should we be displaying this?” Greene claimed that Hunter had improperly charged payments from his company to prostitutes, unconfirmed by IRS whistleblower Joseph Ziegler, though he believed some deductions were for escorts, and one payment for a ‘golf membership’ actually went to a ‘sex club.’
The following day, Raskin argued that Greene had violated House Rules. “Yesterday they took us to a new low when Marjorie Taylor Greene decided for completely gratuitous reasons to show purported pornographic scenes of Hunter Biden. I mean, if that is not a violation of rules of decorum of the House, then we don’t have rules of decorum in the House,” he said. “And if those images were in a book, the Republicans would be voting to ban them. Instead, they decided to display them to the whole country in the House of Representatives.”
As might be expected, Hunter’s lawyer, Abbe David Lowell, filed an ethics complaint against Greene, requesting a review of her actions by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), as being “abhorrent behavior that blatantly violates House Ethics rules and standards of misconduct. If the OCE takes its responsibilities seriously, it will promptly and decisively condemn Ms. Greene for her latest actions.” Lowell added, “Now more than ever, the House has a duty to make loud and clear that it does not endorse, condone, or agree with her outrageous, undignified conduct and brazen violations of the standards of official conduct that do not reflect creditably on the House of Representatives. Rather than evaluate the credibility of the IRS agents’ testimony or review our tax laws, Mr. Greene sought to use the power of her office to generate some clicks online, fundraise, and provide sensationalist clips for Fox News at the expense of harassing and embarrassing Mr. Biden, a private citizen.” According to Lowell, MTG then sent out fundraising emails to her constituents, which included a link to the video she presented to the House, likely in violation of federal law.
The OCE is a nonpartisan, independent entity established by the House, for reviewing allegations of misconduct involving lawmakers, officers and House staff, referring matters to the Ethics Committee if warranted. No comment was forthcoming from the OCE, and Greene was silent as well, as she attempts to finish reading the complete works of Jimmy Swaggart in her off-time. During the session, Greene asked questions regarding the Mann Act, which criminalizes the transport of women across state lines for prostitution, in order to further sensationalize her presentation to the committee.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis‘ glorification of the benefits of slavery which is slated for the curricula of the state’s school children, is given a satirical appraisal by The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz: “An unskilled Florida man said that he deeply regrets having missed out on the opportunity to be a slave. The man said his ‘lack of access to enslavement’ had made his acquisition of essential skills ‘impossible.’ He argued that being barred from servitude was a form of ‘white underprivilege.’ and that Caucasians who suffer from a resulting skills deficit deserve reparations.” In reality, might we expect that to be the next GOP refrain?
Dale Matlock, a Santa Cruz County resident since 1968, is the former owner of The Print Gallery, a screenprinting establishment. He is an adherent of The George Vermosky school of journalism, and a follower of too many news shows, newspapers, and political publications, and a some-time resident of Moloka’i, Hawaii, U.S.A., serving on the Board of Directors of Kepuhi Beach Resort. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.
EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at TimEagan.com you will find his most recent Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog.
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon”.
“Running for office is similar to being a trial lawyer in a very long trial. It requires adrenaline and stamina; it requires being in shape mentally and emotionally. It’s a marathon”.
“Life is a marathon and you have to pace yourself. I believe that slow and steady wins the race, so in that way, I’ve been training for a marathon my whole life”.
“Just give her chocolate and wine, let her be” – this does a good job of describing, if not explaining, menopause…
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