Blog Archives

June 1 – 7, 2022

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Starbucks harassing, Johnny Depp and Santa Cruz, how to vote. GREENSITE… on why she supports Measure D. KROHN…repeat of 2017 column and City manager, city budget. STEINBRUNER… County housing density, Moss Landing Power plant shut down, grand jury report & water, Live Oak Library art. Watsonville Hospital costs. HAYES…will return June 13. PATTON…Murmurations of Starlings. MATLOCK… The right To Duck and Cover shall not be Infringed. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. WEBMISTRESS….shattering glass in slow motion. QUOTES…”SEALS”

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SANTA CRUZ LIGHTHOUSE POINT – PRE LIGHTHOUSE 1959. Lots to look at and look for in this photo. Pre Dream Inn, Pre Lighthouse, early Boardwalk pier, huge Neary Lagoon Park…and much more.                                                  

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE May 30

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STARBUCKS AND SANTA CRUZ ISSUES. If you are a fan of Starbucks be sure to read all of this… It states that “NLRB Alleges Starbucks Harassed and Threatened Unionizing Workers in Santa Cruz. The National Labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint against the company Wednesday, alleging federal labor law violations against pro-union workers”. More than that, it continues… “The NLRB complaint accuses Starbucks of harassing, threatening, coercing, and restraining Santa Cruz employees in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The Starbucks Workers United union previously proposed a settlement related to the alleged infractions, which the company rejected, according to a Starbucks Workers United press release. Joe Thomas, a Starbucks shift lead and organizer for the union at the Ocean Street store, says workers were reprimanded for dress code while wearing a union hat and multiple union buttons, which Starbucks claims is against company policy. The NLRB stated the dress code is against federal law, which protects the right of employees to organize a union and express that support. “The significance of this charge says, ‘You need to get rid of this dress code,’ Thomas says, “and tell workers they have the right to freely organize their workplaces.” 

Three cheers for our local courageous Starbucks employees.

JOHNNY DEPP & SANTA CRUZ. Truthfully I’m not sure if Johnny Depp ever actually was in Santa Cruz but his brother Ron once owned a bookstore here for a short time!! Thanks to the remarkable memory of our former Mayor Katherine Beiers we put together a few links. Ron’s Iranian wife was a librarian at UCSC’s McHenry library she then commuted daily up to the bay area on Highway 17 to continue at a library up there. Ron’s bookstore was out in the 2400 block on Mission Street where the right wing Omei Restaurant and Shen’s Gallery used to be. The internet sez that Ron is/was sales manager at Nhs, Inc. they make Santa Cruz Skateboards. It also stated that he’s in Costa Rica! Not earth shattering news but we’re so full of Depp news lately I wanted to make sure we all knew.

SHORT INFO ON MEASURE D. Several folks sent in this link to a “dirty Little secret”. Jim MacKenzie was the first… “Railbanking has a dirty little secret.”  It contains predictions and conflicts over land holdings, and money, and of course the most important thing is for all of us Democrats to vote. 

HOW TO VOTE…WHO TO VOTE FOR!! Great and near vital reactions to my running this list weekly…many thanks. I mentioned before “As per usual when our ballots arrive there are so many offices and candidates we’ve never heard of and have not the vaguest idea of their background. I’ve asked good, experienced local political friends to give us a list of the best candidates. Take out your sample ballots and vote the following:

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Governor GAVIN NEWSOM
Lieutenant Governor ELENI KOUNALAKIS
Secretary of State SHIRLEY N. WEBER
Controller STEVE GLAZER
Treasurer FIONA MA
Attorney General ROB BONTA
Insurance Commissioner MARC LEVINE
Member, State Board of Equalization District 2 SALLY J. LIEBER
United States Senator ALEX PADILLA
United States Senator Partial Unexpired Term ALEX PADILLA
United States Representative 19th District JIMMY PANETTA
Member of the State Assembly GAIL PELLERIN
Superintendent of Public Instruction TONY THURMOND
County Supervisor, 3rd District JUSTIN CUMMINGS
County Measures
Measure B Yes
Measure C Yes
Measure D No
Measure E No
Measure F No

There were/are a lot of questions, decisions behind the above list. If you know things we never encountered, please tell me/us at bratton@cruzio.com as rapidly as possible. And the main principle, and deciding thing is to be sure to vote. Democrats are traditionally lazy about voting in these off-season times, just go vote!!

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. 

VERDICT. (AMAZON PRIME SERIES). It takes place in Sao Paulo Brazil in 2019. The lead Camila Morgado is a fine actor and she’s a female District attorney dealing with the Brazilian police and the legal system.  Complex plot, good deep peek into the characters and their complex lives. Only one season so far so wait a while…if you have the patience.

THE TIGER RISING. (HULU SERIES).This hammy, silly symbolic attempt at recreating a child’s upbringing stars Queen Latifah and Dennis Quaid. A little boy runs away and discovers a caged tiger a house or two away. More than that the kid makes a friend at school and I turned it off after 32 minutes. Be very aware!!

MEMORIA. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (NO MASKS REQUIRED). Tilda Swinton both executive directed and stared in this baffling mystery. A woman from Scotland goes to Colombia and has dreams/nightmares/hallucinations/ memories that confuse her and us viewers. Deep, beautiful, nearly profound, and even memorable. AND not easy to understand or even get a grip on…but you won’t forget it either!

OLD. (HBO MOVIE). We need to note that this movie was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and we should never watch a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, they have always been terrible. This mess stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Rufus Sewell. It’s the silly horror story about some couples go to an island where they start aging and dying by the minute. The editing, photography, and weird style of acting is beyond watchability. I had to stop viewing even 38 minutes before it ended.!! 

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS. (HULU SERIES). It’s all in Dublin, Ireland and centers on the relationships both family and love type that young adults can develop. One American girl and one Irish local evolve into a complicated friendship that we can all relate to. A third woman who’s a writer enters the picture and further complicates everything. A good movie.

THE GETAWAY KING. A more or less true story of the most famous robber and prison escape artist that took place in Warsaw, Poland’s history. It’s light hearted and even has dancing and music behind all his darting about. Diverting but not great viewing.

SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, or PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.  

DOWNTON ABBEY. (Del Mar Theatre). If you are a fan of the tv series as millions are you’ll note a difference when you see the new movie (#2) on a big screen. It’s now about 1926 and talking movies figure into this new plot. As you can guess there are probably a dozen plots running between all our favorite characters and I don’t want to give any spoilers. Go see it, no masks required at The Del Mar.

THE TIME TRAVELERS WIFE. (HBO MAX SERIES). (7.3 IMDB). This mostly light attempt tells the story of two time travelers and their unavoidable destinies. With only the first episode (of 6) it’s impossible to predict where and how it will end BUT it’s diverting and well-acted…and it won’t keep you up all night.

NOW & THEN. (APPLE SERIES). (5.2 IMDB). Miami Florida high schoolers have a graduation night party at the beach. Something terrible, illegal, murderous, happens and the series deals with how the party goers deal with that tragedy in the next 20 years. Nicely acted, great editing, use of ecstasy, blackmail and heavy emotions. Go for it. Do note Rosie Perez is in it and she’s near perfect…as always.

THE VALET. (HULU MOVIE). (6.7 IMDB). I could only think of Gwyneth Paltrow and Roberto Beginini as the lookalike stars in this attempt at a comedy. Samara Weaving and Eugenio Derbez act as the valet and the famous movie star share the plot trying to force a laugh or two. Maybe it does poke near fun at the differences between a Latino family and the well to do LA fame world but I couldn’t get one laugh out of it. Go warned.

CANDY. (HULU SERIES) (7.4 IMDB). Jessica Biel is back onscreen and she does a fine job as the Texas mother and mainly the housewife who is somehow involved with the axe murder of her female friend and neighbor. Flashbacks and dreams stretch out too long to keep the mystery and tension necessary to make this series great…but Biel’s acting makes it watchable.

THAR. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.1 IMDB)  A mob versus family drama made and filmed in India. Being an Indian film that means heavy on the posing, even hammy, but beautiful.  Mostly it’s about revenge but that’s almost a spoiler. It’ll keep your attention with the absolutely almost extraterrestrial scenery. 

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CABRILHO FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC. Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Celebrates its 60th Anniversary Season and Returns to In-Person Concerts on July 24-August 7. Yes, Cristian Macelaru the music director is returning and will be conducting. The concerts will include three world premiere commissions; the live orchestral premiere of Jake Heggie‘s INTONATIONS: Songs from the Violins of Hope featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Benjamin Beilman; and works commemorating women’s suffrage in America and exploring the recent impact of drought and wildfires in the Western United States. Tickets are on sale now!!

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May 30

WHY I’M VOTING YES ON MEASURE D

I hadn’t planned to write on Measure D until a reader questioned the sincerity of my passion for trees. He assumed I was an opponent of D by association. The BrattonOnline blog is relentless in its attacks on Greenway and in its anti-D position, so he assumed I was of like mind. I’m not. I will be voting for Measure D, and I’d like to explain why. 

I love trains. Even empty unused tracks have a nostalgic appeal. I’ve travelled by 3rd. class train across India in the early 1970s, got on the wrong train with interesting results in Thailand in the same era, explored Myanmar by steamer and train, and always catch the train in Sydney for the two-hour trip to Katoomba whenever I visit my sister in the Blue Mountains. To do so I take a bus for the 20- mile trip from Pittwater to Sydney and Central Station. The bus has a designated lane, and you can catch one from the northern beaches every 15 minutes. At each bus stop there is a sign that spells out clearly when the next bus will arrive at that stop. The buses are on time. They are well-used by young and old from all social and economic classes. 

I spell this out because I’ve observed that our Metro is being cast aside as second cousin to the vision of a bright shiny new train. That, in my view, is a mistake and short-sighted. 

When this issue was gathering steam about 6 years ago, I too supported a combined rail and trail as a given. It just made sense, whether getting motorists off Highway 1 or linking Santa Cruz to regional railways. Then I started looking into the studies of costs and potential ridership. I scanned along the tracks whether at Murray St. just past the San Lorenzo River trestle as in the above photo or points further south, along Park Avenue and even further south in Watsonville along the sloughs. It was quite clear that you could have a train or a trail but not both: not without massive removal of hundreds of mature trees of significant habitat value. That gave me pause for thought. The ease with which others who call themselves environmentalists were willing to destroy some of our densest and biggest trees along the corridor was an eye-opener and unsettling. The justification that the train would get people out of their cars and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions and compensate for the tree removal seemed an unproven assumption. A train may also increase tourism as people arrive in cars to take the tourist train to wine tasting in a newly gentrified Davenport. All speculative. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the trees.

I could have gone with just a train until I read the studies concluding that we do not have the population to support a train. That, and the exorbitant cost to retrofit bridges and get a railway system up and running, put the idea of a viable train more and more in the realm of fantasy.

To gather more information since I was still conflicted, I asked my friends who live in Watsonville and who work in Santa Cruz would they take a train?  Whether they were women who clean houses in North County and who carry their cleaning supplies in the trunks of their cars, or day laborers who have supplies in their pick-up trucks, the answer was… probably not. To be fair, such folks may also not take the bus but maybe a robust car-pooling system might just raise the current 6% who carpool from Watsonville to a better 15% if incentives and coordination were prioritized. 

Then I read more on the Metro. That there are currently 3 express buses that leave Watsonville every morning for a 40- minute ride to Santa Cruz, stopping at Cabrillo with a return trip in the afternoon at a cost of $2. They have a combined ridership of 16 in all 3 buses. That was illuminating. Forget the train! The Metro needs modernizing, publicizing, and promoting and all three are currently lacking funding, resources, and support. A reliable, cheap, clean, wi-fi equipped electric bus system, with clear signage outsmarts a train given the documented constraints of the latter in our specific area. If one wants to connect with a train system in San Jose, or Watsonville, or a possible state-wide train network in the future, a bus is just as good or better than a train to get you there from Santa Cruz, just as it is in Sydney. Currently the bus/train connection timing is off. A person taking a train from SF to San Jose may have to wait an hour for a connecting bus to Santa Cruz. That can easily be changed if the Metro becomes the star rather than second cousin.

Then there’s the issue of the trail. There is no doubt that a combined rail and trail allows for an inferior trail where bicycles, walkers, runners, skateboards, wheelchairs, and one-wheels are confined to one narrower trail. A trail wide enough to separate walkers, wheelchairs, and runners from wheeled vehicles, without the need for retaining walls and without destroying trees is very appealing.  

Finally, I saw up close the details of Segment 7 Phase 2 of the rail trail: the segment from California Street to the Wharf roundabout. This less than a mile (.78 of a mile) length of rail trail has just come in at a cost of $11 million.  Eleven million dollars for under a mile. It involves the destruction of 44 trees, 27 of them heritage trees; the excavation of hundreds of cubic yards of soil to accommodate rail and trail; the erection of a 19 feet tall retaining wall to hold back the banks and the installation of lights and cameras into the Neary Lagoon area. 

Thus, after careful consideration of the facts and the reality on the ground I changed my mind from a rail trail to a trail with enhanced Metro and in support of Measure D to let the voters have the final say.

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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May 30 

Note: A form of this column was published in BrattonOnLine in May of 2017, so there are references to people and events that happened five years ago. But those people and events remind me yet again, the more things change the more they stay the same. I have placed new edits in italics.

Is the System Broken? 

I’ve mentioned here before that we have in Santa Cruz what is known in politics as a “council-manager” form of government, also called a “weak mayor system,” meaning the city manager functions as a CEO and the mayor is appointed by a part-time council majority. This essentially means that the Santa Cruz government is run by overworked elected residents who are in turn willing to rely on technocrats to shepherd councilmembers into making the basic decisions to keep the city running. Real change, the kind many left-leaning locals want, does not come easy within this overly bureaucratic system. 

The System is Broken, Long Live the System

The current (now former) city manager, Martin Bernal, is fond of saying that there are “core functions” that municipal government is responsible for, those being police, fire, water delivery, city parks, and keeping the streets clean. ‘That’s all we can do,’ he often said. But that sentiment is not how the people want their government to function in Santa Cruz. Once upon a time, shortly after the birth of the modern Santa Cruz progressive movement, circa 1978, local government somehow found funds to preserve the Westside Community Health Clinic. Then people organized to keep the doors open at the Garfield Park Library on the Westside. And of course, the Santa Cruz city social services budget was pulled out of the city manager budgetary morass, first by Mike Rotkin and Bruce Van Allen and later by Celia Scott, Katherine Beiers, Tim Fitzmaurice, and yours truly. Funding social services soon became a constant line item in the budget, but always involved mud wrestling the city manager. This all happened because people organized around the needs of the community, beyond the bureaucrat’s limited mindset. The core needs began to include: childcare, addressing the Aids epidemic, homeless services, meals-on-wheels, senior housing, tenant legal services, and theatre in local parks. How do we continue doing this? By taxing those who have means and redistributing it to those who don’t have so much. 

Voters vs. Bureaucrats

The voters of Santa Cruz were tired of hearing that these critical community needs were not “core” services and just not what city government does according to past city managers. ‘That’s what the county does, they do health and human services, the city doesn’t do it,’ past city managers Bernal and Dick Wilson often chided progressive councilmembers. This latter sentiment is a kind of administrative political banter, which Bernal learned at the University of Texas and its stuff Wilson memorized at city manager school at the University of Kansas. They also always pretended not to be political, but often went off to meetings with the Boardwalk honchos and the UCSC chancellor, and any Johnny-come-lately developer, often not informing council of the content of these meetings. Not political? The fact is, the city manager at over $300,000 a year in salary and benefits, is instrumental in shaping city policy alongside the now $40k per year mayor and $25k per year councilmembers. When that $40k mayor sits down to set the agenda at the bi-weekly Department Head meeting, the mayor usually pretends to facilitate a meeting where close to $3 million in salary and benefits are sitting around the table. Often, the city manager has his way when the final agenda is written. (Why we are not voting on a strong elected mayor this June 2022 is likely because the city bureaucracy is still having its way. Instead, Measure E leaves this power imbalanced system entirely intact. If E passes, people in the future might be able to vote the mayor out, but it’s the city manager that needs to be voted out since he will retain much of the financial and police powers of the city.) 

The Impending City Budget Decisions

Late May and June is when the city manager presents the annual budget to the city council. Few members of the public are ever present during these presentations even though the bulk of the spending decisions are made. For starters, the people of Santa Cruz have come to expect our city budget to include funding for the most vulnerable in our community—seniors, the homeless, and children. While we’ve done some pretty good things over the years, the wealth gap between the haves and have nots has grown so large both nationally and locally that much more needs to be asked from the haves, and by the way, it’s time for the city’s core function needs to include and develop a Department of Housing and Homeless Services. It’s time to place under one roof: a) an office that serves tenants, b) a place to assign city employees to the task of developing a real affordable housing plan, and then work with the city council in carrying it out, and finally, c) a homeless and houseless services unit. This department would be responsible for providing and overseeing mental health and addiction services as well, because it’s time. (Yes, I know I’m dreaming, but so was Bernie…)

Power Never Relinquishes Power Without the People Making a Demand

We need to demand more from the council-manager form of government, and if they, myself included, cannot get it done we need to find a local form of governance that meets the current and developing needs of this community. Have we perhaps reached a political crossroads in Santa Cruz? As we near the 60% resident-renter mark in the face of an $805,000 (now $1.4 million) median home price we are testing whether our local democratic system can be relied upon to govern fairly, especially given our community’s history of demanding more, not less, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The conversations I have had lately, and for at least the past three years, are about how many people are sleeping on our streets each night. People care. Their voices express a profound caring and interest in bettering the plight of homeless and houseless individuals. Locals also look to city government to marshal the resources to bear down on this community-wide emergency. Of course, people talk about the Giants, the traffic, UCSC growth, bicycle theft, housing and more housing, but what takes up most of the oxygen in the room these days is the seemingly intractable issue of homelessness. The council should address it, that’s what most people tell me. (Drew Glover led the charge in addressing it beginning in 2018 and after he left the council took a step back, but then was forced to confront the houseless issue during the pandemic with money pouring in from Sacramento.) We are told by our city manager’s office that this city basically reacts to the homeless to the tune of spending over $20 million in fining them, fighting campsites, and fostering policies to move people along, while very little goes towards real prevention. 

Where does the Buck Stop?

The funding buck could stop this week at either the desk of the city manager, or the dais of the city council. Which will it be? The council—Noroyan, Chase, Mathews, Terrazas, Watkins, Brown and Krohn—needs to act boldly when the housing and homeless services budget is discussed and voted upon. If not, the city manager’s office will continue to do what they do: administrate the “move-along-to-get-along” policies of the past decade. (The city manager said the police will begin dismantling the 300-person camp in San Lorenzo Park this July, even though there is only space for 150 in city shelters.) This city council has got to send a clear message that current and past policies to address the homeless crisis are not working. The council needs to act boldly and decisively and spend what it takes to shift the dial. If we are spending $20 million to move the homeless from campsite to campsite, we can spend at least a quarter of that—$5-6 million—to improve our shelter, counseling and medical care services. I believe, as Barack Obama once said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” to adequately and comprehensively address the houseless calamity our city now faces.

(Note: Remember, much of this column was written in May of 2017, five years ago.)

40% of Uvalde’s city budget goes to police. The school district had its own police force. This is what happened. After decades of mass shootings, there is still 0 evidence that police have the ability to stop them from happening. Gun safety and other policies can.


Advocates for affordable housing, a town commons, and saving 10 heritage trees carry out a quiet protest as the city’s Economic Development Director MC’s the library-garage dog and pony show for developers on Lot 4 in downtown Santa Cruz the last week of May 2022.

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

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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May 30

WHAT DOES THE SUSTAINABLE SANTA CRUZ COUNTY PLAN MEAN FOR YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

Last Wednesday, the County Planning Commissioner Rachel Dann expressed her concern that only one member of the public spoke during the first of the four Study Sessions to examine the Draft Santa Cruz County Sustainability Plan and General Plan Updates.  “This is the most important land use change in 40 years, and only one member of the public commented today.”  

She questioned why there would no longer be a required (page 13 C-6).  She asked that there be stricter requirements instead. 

She also asked how the State density bonuses would intersect with the new higher density/acre allowances.  

She noted that new developments could count the entire total site square footage for calculating density allowances, even though not all of the property could be considered as developable (eg, riparian area or overly-steep slope).  This debate roused the attention of County Counsel Mr. Zazueta, who asked for definitions of “gross site area” vs. “net development area”.  Planner Stephanie Hansen seemingly dismissed the potential impact this new allowance that could substantially raise density in the buildable portions of such parcels, saying “We never meet densities that are possible. These are small changes that will not result in massive growth.”    Well….that’s easy for her to say.  

Commissioner Dann then responded “Moving from 20 units/acre to 40 units/acre IS a big change and the public needs to be aware of this.”

The discussion turned then to the new Regional Housing Number Allocation (RHNA) numbers AMBAG just cooked up, requiring the County to build 3 1/2 times the number of units per year as was required by the State in the past.  To that, Ms. Hansen said “Hopefully, we can do that without extending the Urban Service Line.”

Commissioner Dann then responded the photos in the Draft Plan don’t really address what the new ResFlex densities would look like, showing nothing over three stories.

She wanted to know how the Planning Dept. noticed the public hearing?

Good question!  How many people even know what the County is planning to allow in their neighborhoods?

Chair Mr. Gordin had questions about when the Commission might see the newly-zoned ResFlex areas identified?  Staff responded that maybe by the next Study Session on June 8, those “Opportunity Sites” would be known.  

Mr. Gordin commented that the new Floor Area Ratio (FAR) allowed for commercial mixed-use developments was decreased to only 35%, as opposed to existing 50%, and asked why it seemed to be concentrated in one zone.  Again, Planner Ms. Hansen stated “We just don’t see new development attaining maximum density allowed.”  

Again, based on the Aptos Village Project history, what if Swenson swoops in and waves the money under the County’s nose…anything would become possible, and under the new Plan, it would be fine.

The May 25 Planning Commission Study Session was basically a repeat of the first public meeting overview held back in March.  Oddly, those video recorded meetings are no longer available on the Planning Dept. website for reference.  Hmmmm….

I suggest everyone who cares about the quality of life here, and what Santa Cruz County will look like in the future take a moment to read through the Draft Santa Cruz County Sustainability Plan and start submitting comments right away.  Attend the June 8 virtual Planning Commission Public Hearing to learn more about the dense new “Areas of Opportunity” that might be in your backyard.

Get Involved  

BUYING THE WATSONVILLE HOSPITAL…WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE OPERATIONAL COSTS?

One must ask…how will the Hospital be financed and operational, if this big chunk of money suddenly appears?

$16 million in 90 days: What’s needed to close public purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital 

IS A $20 MILLION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT REALLY BEST SWEPT UNDER THE SUPERVISOR’S CONSENT AGENDA?

I was glad the County Board of Supervisors pulled from the Consent Agenda the proposed $20 million Capital Improvement Project to re-do the sewer lines in Live Oak that requires the County go into debt to finance.  This is to allow the Kaiser Medical Project but also to increase the capacity to accommodate the proposed dense infill in the Live Oak area.  

Public Works Director Mr. Machado stated the work will all be done in only two years.  Wow.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD FOR LIVE OAK LIBRARY ANNEX PUBLIC ART

The public’s testimony convinced the County Board of Supervisors that a nine-foot tall rusting art piece celebrating the concrete tetrahedrons at the Harbor was not only ugly, but also did not reflect the character of Live Oak.   Chair Manu Koenig agreed and asked that instead a revolving exterior and interior art exhibit occur, rather than spending $95,000 in Measure S monies for the sculpture proposed.  Supervisor Friend suggested the Arts Commission start over again, with more clear parameters about what was needed.  

Happily, the Board approved doing so.    Good work to the Live Oak residents who spoke out, and their Supervisor actually listened.

FYI…The Board approved $120,000 in Measure S monies for artwork at the new Aptos Library. 

MORE ABOUT SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT USING PUBLIC STREETS FOR CONSTRUCTION STAGING

Recently, I wrote about the mess Soquel Creek Water District’s contractor is making in the Willowbrook neighborhood by using the public street as a construction staging area, when the District has paid Twin Lakes Baptist Church big money for a nearby parcel that sits empty, I recommended people contact Mr. Travis Rieber at County Public Works and inquire why this was being allowed.

Mr. Rieber replied to my inquiry, stating that “the temporary use of side parking” was approved by the County, although provided no documentation about that approval.  He did, however, provide a copy of the 55-page Encroachment Permit and construction location plans (See the attached document at the end of this blog).  Page 4 of the Permit Agreement specifically states:

“11. The County’s right-of-way shall not be used as a staging area. The Permittee and/or Contractor shall make arrangements for a construction staging area that is in conformance with all County land use and zoning regulations; to be verified through the County of Santa Cruz Planning Department.”

I suggest you also contact Mr. Rieber to find out why the County made an exception for Soquel Creek Water District, especially when there is a District-owned vacant lot nearby.  

Travis Rieber travis.rieber@santacruzcounty.us 

Why has Soquel Creek Water District been allowed to use the public street in Willowbrook neighborhoods as a construction staging area when the Encroachment Permit Agreement prohibits it, especially when their ratepayers have paid Twin Lakes Baptist Church $128,000 gifted 50-years of free water for irrigating the Church’s private school athletic fields and waived all Water Demand Offset fees for the Church’s new on-campus housing expansion (to the tune of $55,000/acre foot of new water demand)?

Below is the District’s empty lot…located adjacent to the Willowbrook neighborhood construction zone.  The District ratepayers also are paying Cabrillo College $5,760 annually with an additional $2,200 rent for a construction staging site.  (See Item 7.2 in May 18, 2021 agenda, Attachments 1 and 2)  Hmmmm…. 

SHOULD DRINKING WATER BE SO EXPENSIVE THAT PEOPLE CANNOT AFFORD TO BUY IT?

Water is necessary for life, so if the methods local water agencies, such as Soquel Creek Water District, choose to implement are so expensive that the cost to ratepayers for water is unaffordable…what happens? 

Consider that Soquel Creek Water District’s rates are the highest of any in the MidCounty area.  They approach being one of the highest in the State for the size of the customer base. (See attached water rate comparison at the end of this blog…many thanks to the reader who wishes to remain anonymous for supplying this information).  

Yet, the debt to build the expensive and energy-demanding PureWater Soquel Project continues to climb, with the District frantic to find additional public funds to keep it afloat.  

Think about this.  The District has no method to help people who get behind on their bills, other than a payment plan…or shutting off their water.  Santa Cruz City Water Rates are going to increase exponentially year after next.

What about customers on fixed incomes? 

It appears those ratepayers are not alone in facing extremely high water costs:

How San Diego secured its water supply, at a cost  

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION ABOUT WATER 

The County Grand Jury just released a report, “Our Water Account is Overdrawn”, spotlighting the issue of water supply for the County.  See pages 21-22 to review their findings.  More on this next week, but readers should also be aware that Santa Cruz County LAFCO Director Joe Serrano is working on a comprehensive “Sphere and Service Review” of all water agencies in the County, with a target of public release this August.

Grand Jury Water Report  

MOSS LANDING POWER PLANT WILL SOON BE GONE BUT ICONIC TOWERS WILL STAY

Thanks to my friend, Al, for sending this interesting information along.    Meanwhile, the Central Coast Community Power is still hoping to be 100% renewable energy by 2030, but needs more battery storage due to the glut of solar power generated on the grid that cannot be stored for night-time sales.

Once the source of large-scale pollution, Moss Landing is cleaning up.

A CANDIDATE THAT RECOGNIZES THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY FARMS, HEALTHY SOILS AND POLLINATORS…REINETTE SENUM FOR GOVERNOR

 With so many choices on the ballot for June 7, this one merits consideration.

[Position paper]

[Postition paper – Spanish]

WORLD BEE DAY…NEVER TOO LATE TO HONOR

International Bee Day was May 20, but it is never too late to honor the importance of bees.

World Bee Day 
“In Slovenia, the country responsible for the World Bee Day initiative, beekeeping is a way of life. One out of every 200 people is a beekeeper, most of them amateurs. The Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia says the hobby teaches ‘responsibility, perseverance, modesty, hard work, love of nature and homeland.’ Plus, they get that honey. Now that’s something to buzz about.” 

\MAKE ONE CALL.  WRITE ONE LETTER.  READ ONE CHAPTER OF THE COUNTY’S DRAFT SUSTAINABILITY PLAN AND REGULATORY UPDATE AND SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS.
MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK BY JUST DOING 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. 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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Grey’s on vacation and will return June 13.

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

Email Grey at coastalprairie@aol.com

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 May 24

#144 / Murmurations Of Starlings

  

On April 27, 2022, The New York Times ran an article, in its “The World Through A Lens” series. The article was titled, “Transfixed by the Beauty of Starling Murmurations.” Written by Søren Solkær, the article reported on Solkær’s travels around the world, as he tracked down and photographed these amazing and beautiful natural phenomena. If you are not blocked by a paywall, clicking on that link to The Times’ article should let you see some of these murmurations in video, so you, too, can be transfixed. 

Solkær explains, among other things, why scientists think that starlings engage in these murmurations: first, to help protect the birds from predators, by a “dilution effect.” Second, as a way to help keep the starlings warm in the evenings by recruiting larger roosts. Solkær also commented on something he said was more difficult to explain, which is just how the birds are able to move in such proximity, with their movements so tightly coordinated. 

In connection with that discussion, Solkær reported as follows: 

Studies have found that each starling responds to six or seven of its nearest neighbors, a number that seems to optimize the balance between the cohesion of the group and the effort of the individual.

 

In the world of starlings, in other words, just as in our human and “political” world, it appears that small groups are the key to success – the key to ensuring effective collaboration between “individuals,” and the totality. We are both “individuals,” and part of a much larger whole; we are  “together” in this life. How do we, as individuals, coordinate and work effectively with the group as a whole?

Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, has told us how it works for humans. Søren Solkær has let us know that the same rule works for the starlings!

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has. 

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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May 30

THE RIGHT TO DUCK AND COVER SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED

‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

Who could have predicted back in 1791 that twenty-seven simple words would create such disunity two-hundred years later? Largely ignored throughout most of history, as state militias or National Guard organizations were merged into the national defense apparatus, our Second Amendment to the Constitution was thrust into prominence by lawsuits attacking laws that attempted to regulate gun ownership – the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Modern day Supreme Court decisions altered and redefined our attitudes regarding ‘the Second’, aided by the National Rifle Association and its campaign contributions to sympathetic politicians. 

Consequently, we now have ‘An upwelling, unregulated, surreptitious militia, being necessary to the security of a free State of mind, the right of the people, regardless of age, mental stability, political leanings, religion, racist inclinations, and drug history, to keep and bear Arms, whether small caliber handguns, a plethora of long guns and semi-automatic rifles, rocket launchers, drones, BearCat armored vehicles, or hand grenades, shall not be infringed.’ Thank you, CEO Wayne LaPierre, of the N.R.A. for spewing, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”, or how about, “…a bad guy with an AR-15,…good guy with an AR-15.” How many good guys in white western-style hats were standing around, or fighting off concerned parents, at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week as a gunman (with TWO AR-15s) inside a classroom was blowing away their children? They should be reissued black hats at the very least, and in particular the officers who DID run into the building only to rescue their own children…but perhaps the Justice Department has a better solution. 

The argument that a broadly armed citizenry, could serve as a deterrent to violence, has only resulted in gun-homicide rates being eleven percent higher in permissive-carry states, than in states having stricter laws, with the probability of mass shootings raised by fifty-three percent in states with high gun ownership. Former president Trump, speaking to the assembled N.R.A. faithful on Friday, said we have to arm more citizens for their safety – when numbers of guns in the U.S. already outnumber the population count? So, once again we are observing the new American springtime ritual of student funerals instead of student graduations. ‘American exceptionalism,’-  as British Sky News reporter, Mark Stone, presented it to Senator Ted Cruz, in asking why mass shootings happen “only in America.” Cruz fumbled around as he accused the reporter of having a political agenda, refusing to comment on Stone’s attempt to understand why the senator denies that guns are the problem. “Stop being a propagandist!,” Cruz said, as he retreated from the scene. 

Later, the senator said, “I get tired of all the politicking. It happens every time there is a mass shooting.” Every time, Ted? EVERY TIME? Does that mean you, and every American, has to now accept that these tragic events can be expected, and that we have to deal with the aftermath simply because our entrenched, out-of-control Supreme Court has ruled that innocents must die? With the N.R.A. lobbyists and money pressing upon the GOP heavyweights to ward off the narrowest restrictions on guns, its clout has been diminished monetarily by a legal battle with New York state as the attorney general attempts to put them out of business due to corruption at the highest levels, a la LaPierre’s lavish spending. Last year the N.R.A. attempted to file bankruptcy and move out of the state, but was rebuffed by a judge who said the filing was “not in good faith,” and was mainly to escape regulatory oversight by the state of New York. 

Yet the organization maintains its hold on the GOP through fear, and its promise of rewards. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah tops the senatorial N.R.A. contribution list at $13M+, followed primarily by southern-state senators, with Ted Cruz at number 22 showing ONLY $176,274 in contributions, a figure he can expect to zoom up on the charts after his weekend appearance at the annual N.R.A. conference in Houston. A total of 42 senators appear on Newsweek’s list, the lowest contribution being $13,255 for Kevin Cramer of North Dakota…none of the contacted individuals cared to comment. 

The foreign press was in disbelief that once again a school massacre in America was dominating the headlines, with France’s Le Monde saying, “If there is any American exceptionalism, it is to tolerate the fact that schools in the U.S. are regularly transformed into bloody shooting ranges. America is killing itself, and the Republican Party is looking the other way, ideologically complicit in one tragedy after another.” Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, says the U.S. is facing “a nihilistic drift.” Spain’s El Pais printed, “The U.S. exudes political impotence in the face of a new school massacre.” UK’s Guardian opined the obvious with, “Tighter gun laws in America are much needed but near impossible to achieve…Texas deaths were not unthinkable. Inaction, in the face of them, must be. The Republican grip on the country’s institutions, skewing the executive, the legislature and the judiciary rightward is one reason for the continued violence.” And, the Gulf News, an English-language newspaper published in the UAR asks simply, “How many children must die before America takes action on guns?” 

El Pais goes on to say, “It shouldn’t take emotional speeches, constitutional debates or analyses of mental health problems or drug addiction to know why this atrocity has returned to the country…the bottom line is free access to firearms in the U.S.” How can one be a ‘pro-life anti-abortionist’, while supporting laws that let children be shot in the classroom, elders in grocery stores, the religious in their houses of worship, or concert attendees, or anywhere crowds may gather? It is a glorification of violence and the tools of war that sanction it. The N.R.A. maintains it is a mental health screening problem that must be dealt with, a phrase readily parroted by the group’s advocates; yet, Texas Governor Abbott, in his first news conference after the massacre, said the shooter had no background record of mental health issues – so how, Guv’ner, does your solution then stop another guy like this one? A report on gun violence by the American Psychology Association says that firearm-related homicides by those with mental health issues equate to one-tenth of one per cent of those on record. So, the Texas governor would prefer that you forget his reduction by $210 million this year in the funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, and that his state ranks dead last – numero cincuenta – in access to mental health care. In 2019, a white-nationalist mass shooting in El Paso resulted in twenty deaths, which must have spurred Abbott in June of 2021 to expand gun rights with seven measures, one of which allows Texans to carry a handgun without a background check, training, or a license/permit. Seems a bit off-kilter, huh?

When President Clinton banned assault rifles in 1994, mass shootings dropped by 43%; after Republicans let the ban expire in 2004, shootings increased by 243%. The state of California had an assault weapons ban for over thirty years, but in June a conservative judge struck it down; it was later reinstated by the Ninth Circuit Court. The state currently allows private citizens to sue untraceable ‘ghost gun’ manufacturers, or those who sell assault weapons banned by California, for up to $10,000 in private litigation. The law is bound to be challenged, so let’s see if it stands under the current court atmosphere. Gun violence can be curtailed by restricting access – it’s been proven here, if for only a brief period, but other countries can vouch for its effectiveness. An investigation was launched this week in Sacramento, where a second grader had stashed a pistol with a loaded magazine in a classroom desk, tragedy likely averted when fellow-students alerted staff – access? Nah, nothing to see here, folks!

The Trump and Cruz comedy team performing at the N.R.A. bloodfest called for ‘hardening our schools’ – locked doors, or just one door, bullet proof glass, presence of armed police or trained military veterans, putting weapons into the hands of teachers and administrators – all to defend children who are endangered by the very advocacy and campaign bribes of the N.R.A. itself. Perhaps schools should take on the attributes of San Quentin Prison, with guard towers at the perimeter, razor wire topped walls, and roaming Dobermann Pinschers. That canary yellow Brink’s truck entering the steel gates? That would be the new norm for school buses… with armored car escorts outfitted with mine sweepers to boot. 

Retired Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, in 2018, a year before his death at age 99, remarked after the school massacre in Parkland, FL, that the protesters should, “Demand a repeal of the Second Amendment…a relic of the 18th century.” Of course, no chance of that happening with a required two-thirds majority vote in the houses of Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states to repeal. Walter Shapiro, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and political science lecturer at Yale, writes, “…the hard truth is that the core problem is the Second Amendment itself…America is going to reel from one mass murder to another unless the Second Amendment is repealed or Supreme Court drastically reduces its scope.” Justice Stevens, in his 2014 book, ‘Six Amendments:…’ suggested adding five words to the amendment: ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of the free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.’ 

Sounds halfway rational and acceptable. But until the Republicans, the N.R.A. and the Supreme Court complete their mental screening, just have the kids learn to duck and cover, okay? 

Dale Matlock, a Santa Cruz County resident since 1968, is the former owner of The Print Gallery, a screenprinting establishment. He is an adherent of The George Vermosky school of journalism, and a follower of too many news shows, newspapers, and political publications, and a some-time resident of Moloka’i, Hawaii, U.S.A., serving on the Board of Directors of Kepuhi Beach Resort. Email: cornerspot14@yahoo.com
 

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

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

WEBMISTRESS  

“SEALS”

“Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals”.
~John Steinbeck

“In a pine tree behind me, an eagle waits out the rain, hunched into himself, brooding. Crows squabble, a murder chasing a raven. Seals cruise the lines of fishing nets bobbing in the water, hoping for an easy meal, the tender bellies of salmon”.
~Eden Robinson

“Domestic house cats kill more fish than all the world’s seals put together”.
~Paul Watson

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Smarter every day is a YouTube channel I watch on occasion. A while back, he did a video on Prince Rupert’s Drops, a truly fascinating phenomenon in glass. This is a new video on the same topic, and it’s a little more in depth. Oh, and in slow motion… I love me some slow motion!


COLUMN COMMUNICATIONS. Subscriptions: Subscribe to the Bulletin! You’ll get a weekly email notice the instant the column goes online. (Anywhere from Monday afternoon through Thursday or sometimes as late as Friday!), and the occasional scoop. Always free and confidential. Even I don’t know who subscribes!!
Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
Direct phone: 831 423-2468
All Technical & Web details: Gunilla Leavitt @ godmoma@gmail.com
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