Blog Archives

June 22 – 28, 2022

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Taxing empty Homes tax, reading BrattonOnline on your phone, streamers, Live Here Now. GREENSITE…on Downtown Expansion hearing. KROHN…will be back July 4th. STEINBRUNER…County and Hospital buy out, water rights, water conservation, fire protection, no more gas cars? HAYES…Wind. PATTON…Cancel that Graduation? MATLOCK…Looney lies and conspiracy theories continued. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. WEBMISTRESS PICK OF THE WEEK: about manipulative language …QUOTES…”SUMMER”

...

GOING UP FRONT STREET TO SUNSHINE VILLA 1910. Beach Hill in all its glory days. Note the two way “traffic” passing on the way up.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE June 20

TAXING SANTA CRUZ EMPTY HOMES. Santa Cruz Local “printed” an excellent summary of the empty home tax that we voters will probably be seeing on our November ballots. Go here to read all of it…

It states…” Santa Cruz city voters are likely to see a question on the November ballot on whether to add a tax on homeowners who leave homes vacant for most of the year. The potential tax has two aims: to incentivize owners to rent or live in vacant homes, and to raise money for affordable housing projects for lower-income residents who struggle with the region’s rising rents and lack of housing.

The city of Santa Cruz has about 24,000 housing units, according to the 2020 census. Cyndi Dawson estimated the city has “over 1,000, probably closer to 2,000 empty homes.”

  • From 2015 to 2020, Census Bureau surveys suggest that 1,806 homes in the city of Santa Cruz were vacant. That roughly 7.5% vacancy rate includes second homes, some homes under construction and about 582 homes used “seasonally or for recreation.”
  • In the 2020 census, about 9.5% of homes in the city of Santa Cruz were considered vacant. However, travel restrictions and online education at UC Santa Cruz may have skewed rental and vacancy rates in Santa Cruz in 2020, some empty-home tax opponents have said.
  • In 2021, the California Dept. of Finance found a 9% vacancy rate for the city of Santa Cruz. It used state data to refine and update Census information.

Dawson said that taxing those homes could generate millions of dollars for affordable housing efforts. But opponents are skeptical that the tax will be an effective response to the city’s housing shortage. 

EMPTY HOME TAX CONTINUED. The local organization of Democratic Socialists of America Santa Cruz Chapter (DSA) sent this notice to members….and it makes sense!

Empty Home Tax update and call for action: TELL THE CITY COUNCIL TO ADOPT EMPTY HOME TAX NOW! The community-driven Empty Home Tax turned in over 6000 signatures from residents that want to create an annual funding source to create affordable housing. The Council must either adopt the ordinance at their June 28th meeting or call for an election. We need to turn up at the meeting and let the City Council know that they can and should adopt the Empty Home Tax NOW. We don’t need to wait for the November election. Every second we delay puts creating more affordable housing further out in the future. We need to flood the council member’s inboxes and need your help. Go to this link and send an email to the all the council members with one click. (PLEASE share link widely). The link includes an email template to send as is or modify with your personal story, suggested talking points also included. Many thanks! 

READING “BRATTON ONLINE” ON YOUR iPhone. We’ve had some questions recently about reading BrattonOnline on iPhones. After looking into that problem and asking an Apple employee (daughter Hillary Bratton) how to reply, she had a very logical and somewhat surprising comment, “Seems that those folks don’t realize that by turning your phone sideways or horizontally, it enlarges the screen and you can adjust the font size to an easy-to-read level.”

I’ve been doing that since we started, and even with my aging eyes it’s easy to view. Try flipping your phone and let us know if that solves the problem….thanks! [Webmistress note: This works with Android phones as well, just make sure you have screen rotation enabled.]

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. 

GOOD LUCK TO YOU LEO GRANDE. (HULU MOVIE) (7.1IMDB) Emma Thompson bares it all many times in this “comedy” about a 63 year old woman whose husband died two years before and then decides to hire a handsome 30 year old sex worker. It’s a deep, many sided take on women’s sexuality and aging. Definitely worth everyone’s time to see and feel our repressed beliefs not just on sex but on communicating.

BRIAN AND CHARLES. (Del Mar Theatre) (7.2IMDB). This is billed as a comedy from Wales near England’s west shore. It’s a looney, hard to understand that Welsh dialect, movie about a lonely guy who creates a 7 foot robot named Charles out of washing machine parts. They become friends and have dozens of scenes with area locals and work hard to get laughs. It was dull, dry and impossible to enjoy at any level. 

KEEP SWEET: PRAY AND OBEY. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.4 IMDB) A documentary focusing on the old and also present practices of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints branch of the Mormon church. They believe in the plural marriages of old men (like in their 80’s marrying several teen age and younger girls and raising their children. It exists in Arizona, Utah and Texas. It centers on Warren Jeffs the leader of the FLDS and how he rose to power. Sickening, shocking and another example of inequality against women. Definitely worth watching and learning from.  

SPIDERHEAD. (NETFLIX MOVIE) Chris Hemsworth is the heavy lead in this flimsy sci- fi flop of a movie. He’s the secret owner of a pharmaceutical company who forces drugs on and into special prisoners in a remote and confined prison. Miles Teller is the victim who works hard to escape the drugs and Hemsworth’s control. Poor script, bad acting, and zero plausibility make this a very forgettable movie. 

NO TIME TO DIE. (PRIME MOVIE) (7.3 IMDB). It’s been 60 years since Sean Connery played James Bond in Dr. No. And there have been 25 Bond films. Daniel Craig has played Bond in 5 films, and now that No Time To Die is streaming and has lost more than 100 million dollars at the box office he states that he won’t be doing any more Bond films. That’s a good thing ….for sure he’s no Sean Connery. This movie has almost no plot and its two hours and 45 minutes long. It really doesn’t spoil things by revealing that James Bond dies at the end.

BEN & JODY. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.4 IMDB). It takes place in Jakarta/Indonesia and deals with illegal loggers who kill and rob locals of their coffee producing land. According to the critics there have been two other earlier episodes to this story. It’s terribly corny, hammy acting and some of the worst faked fight scenes ever filmed. Do not watch.

SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, 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.  

A CHIARA. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.1 IMDB)  An absolutely brilliant Cannes Film Fest Award winner that is one of the finest films I’ve seen in six months. A 15 year old girl in Calabria which is “in the toe of the Italian Boot” has a special heartwarming relationship with her father. This story is so heartwarming and sensitive I don’t want to give away the plot. It’s filmed and directed in such a creative way you’ll be stunned and completely absorbed. 

THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN. (HULU MOVIE). (7.0 IMDB) Based on a true story this man agrees to have a noted artist tattoo a VISA on his back so that he can travel to another country to see his girlfriend. The tattoo is a work of art and he gets paid heavily to go sit in museums and display his back. He’s a Syrian refugee and Visas are part of his life. It’s curious, weird, and was filmed in Tunisia. Go for it, it’s rare and unusual.

JURASSIC PARK DOMINION. (Del Mar Theatre) (6.0 IMDB) No they don’t go back to the old Jurassic Park but all the dinosaurs you’ve ever read about all are alive and devastating our earth. Laura Dern, Chris Pratt, Sam Neil, and good old and sneaky Jeff Goldblum are back. It’s an absolute mess of killing, eating, chases and its 2 ½ hours long. Because the dinos must face our terrible modern lifestyles and inventions we end up rooting more for them than the poorly characterized humans. Don’t go.

INTIMACY/ INTIMIDAD. (NETFLIX SERIES) (6.4 IMDB).  A Spanish series centering on four women and their hopes, dreams and the prejudice they face coming from so many directions. There’s a video sex tape that gets leaked, a murder that goes unsolved, campaign for Mayor and a sneaky lawyer. Worth some of your time, and not a monument to cinema by any means.

DNA.(NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.9 IMDB) The old Algerian grandfather dies and the entire film focuses on how the family deals with his previous stay at the old folks home, then his funeral, his casket, and even deeper diggings into family differences. It’s not fun to watch and will have you plotting how you want your passing to be handled

AMSTERDAM. (HBO MAX SERIES) (7.2 IMDB) Billed as a comedy but hardly a laugh it’s about a couple who adopt a stray dog named Amsterdam in the historic part of Mexico City. I didn’t find any funny scenes, no jokes, and a bit more than pleasant to watch. I only could take two episodes. There’s another new Amsterdam movie streaming now with Anya Taylor-Joy which I can’t stream yet.

IRMA VEP.(HBO MAX SERIES) (7.4 IMDB). Alicia Vikander is totally absorbing and believable in her title role. It’s a remake of an earlier version all about and American young woman going to France to remake a silent film focusing on vampires. It has fine, delicate moments of comedy and some deeper connections that will play out in later episodes.

THE THAW. (HBO MAX SERIES). (6.7 IMDB). A Polish movie which usually means great details, fine filming, and good effects, and this one sure qualifies. A woman detective with many, many memories of her own works against most of her fellow police to solve. A woman drowned and was murdered and she also had just given birth so the task is to find the newborn baby before it too dies. Well worth watching. 

WITHOUT SAYING GOODBYE. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.7 IMDB) Also known as Backpackers for some reason. It’s a Peruvian movie in Spanish about a rich developer who comes to a beautiful beach town just like Santa Cruz and wants to build a seven story hotel and demolish an historical few buildings just to make a buck…just like Santa Cruz. He falls in love with a beautiful local woman and it’s all about will she convince him and his rich powerful father to give up their plans. The ending is sappy but there’s a fine tour of Machu Pichu. Chalk it up as cute, traditional, and pleasant and don’t cancel anything important to watch it. 

HEARTBEAT. (NETFLIX MOVIE)  An Indonesian movie about a new doctor coming to a village and the many disappearances that happen. Turns out he’s a genuine sicko/psycho who collects hearts from live patients and keeps them alive in jars in his room. He seems cool friendly and handsome. It’s corny, predictable and has a lot of excellent traditional dancing. You’ll appreciate Alfred Hitchcock much more after being led through this predictable mess. 

GODSPEED. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.6 IMDB). This Turkish movie focuses on war and the terrible and deep cost in human lives. It’s about a guy with a prosthetic leg AND PTSD! He and a buddy rob a house and do off balance actions over and over. Poor acting, lousy photography, miserable script make this a flop.

...

SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS. Present their rescheduled concert “Gabriel Fauré and His Circle of Influence, Part II”. Playing those dates will be the Nisene Ensemble. The Nisene Ensemble are: Cynthia Baehr-Williams, Concert Director and Violin, Chad Kaltinger, Viola, Kristin Garbeff, Cello and Kumi Uyeda on Piano. The dates are Sat, Jul 9, 7:30 PM, and Sun. Jul 10, 3PM.at the Christ Lutheran Church • Aptos, CA. Go here for tickets and details…

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!! 

39th ANNUAL MUSICAL SAW FESTIVAL. The 39th  Annual Musical Saw Festival will be on Sunday August 14 from 10:00 am to 5pm at Roaring Camp in Felton. The world’s greatest saw players come out of the woodwork to join other acoustic musicians in a variety of musical performances. You’ll hear bluegrass, country, folk, gospel, blues, classical, and even show tunes (believe it or not, no heavy metal) throughout the day. Festivities start at 10:00 AM, with spontaneous acoustic jams throughout the day. There’s a Saw-Off competition from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and a Chorus of the Saws at 3:45 PM, with up to 50 saw players trying to play in unison. And for those who want to learn how to play music that really has some teeth in it, there’s a free Musical Saw Workshop at 4:00 PM. The entire event is free, and fun for the whole family. For more information, check out www.sawplayers.org , or  www.roaringcamp.com . Held by the International Musical Saw Association. 

...

 

June 20

THE FUTURE OF SANTA CRUZ: WHO DECIDES?

What you are viewing above is a schematic of the new extended downtown as envisioned by staff and consultants and given the green light by the city council majority at its June 14th meeting to move forward for environmental review and design. For scale, the lower buildings on the far right include the 8-story new building under construction at Laurel, Pacific, and Front Streets in the Downtown. The tallest buildings depicted above, in the extended downtown are 20 stories, or 220 feet, tall enough to block the views of those who live on Beach Hill and double the height of the Dream Inn. The final vote was to lower the maximum heights to 175 feet or 17 stories with the rest at 150 feet or 15 stories. For a quick scale comparison, the Double Shot ride at the Boardwalk is 125 feet.

The main driver of this project with its unprecedented heights is the Santa Cruz Warriors. As explained by staff, to fund a new stadium, the Warriors will develop the high-rise apartments plus retail and use the profits to build a new stadium. The Santa Cruz Warriors are very popular as evidenced by the parade of past Mayors and past council members who called in to express their unwavering support for the G team and by extension, for the project. 

A total of 1600 units of housing will be crammed into this 29-acre site. For anyone who has swallowed the line that “we need more housing” this jaw-dropping departure from the community’s preference for preserving the character and scale of Santa Cruz is probably acceptable. However, we haven’t yet seen what an 8- story complex will look and feel like until the project at Laurel, Pacific, and Front is completed. The tallest building downtown, apart from the historic El Palomar is 6 stories at 1010 Pacific. Incidentally, when that project was before council in 2004 for approval, the developers assured council it was workforce housing for teachers, police, and firefighters. That didn’t happen. It is largely student housing.

For those who end their thinking at the “we need more housing” mantra, or who like to say that we are in this “dire” situation because we haven’t built any housing, please study the table below. You will see that since 2015, there has been a total of 1,177 units of housing built in the city of Santa Cruz and we have doubled the number of Above Moderate- Income level units required under the Regional Housing Numbers Allocation (RHNA). The only income category not exceeded is Very Low Income and that category is expected to be reached before the end of the cycle. That the next RHNA cycle involves over 5 times the number of required housing units at 3800 as compared with 700 this last cycle could and should have generated vigorous opposition and appeal as is being done by other cities. 

It appears our city staff and city council majority are gung- ho to build baby build. That the Santa Cruz Warriors will need profits from the new housing and retail to build their much larger stadium suggests that it will be a battle to enforce even the minimum of below market rate housing in the final project. Council member Justin Cummings with support from council member Sandy Brown tried to incorporate a 25% “affordable” level into the motion. This was unsupported by the other five council members.

It seems the only people being considered by senior Planning staff are those who do not yet live in Santa Cruz: those who would like a second home by the sea, those seeking speculation property or those in the market for a party venue for events at the Stadium. This unconcern for current residents was evidenced by the lack of notice for the project’s hearing given to Beach Hill residents and lack of notice in Spanish to the low-income Spanish-speaking residents in the nearby neighborhood who will be displaced by the new high rises. The fact that state law requires them to be relocated may check a certain box in Planning but how would you feel if you got a notice saying you will be relocated from a place you have called home for decades?  

The team of consultants, senior planners, enthusiastic council members and business interests have a different feel for Santa Cruz than I have, and I suspect many of you have.  A senior planner described excitedly that these 20 story buildings will finally give Santa Cruz a skyline, something it currently lacks. I was champing at the bit waiting on the phone line for a chance to speak and when it was my turn I retorted, “Santa Cruz has a skyline. It is the beautiful cliffs, trees and sunsets.”

The future of Santa Cruz depends on whether urban high-rise skylines, light shows, “activating” the river, commercial expansion, and displacement of Spanish speaking working families with wealthy newcomers will predominate. Right now, we are playing catch up. There is time but not if we sit this one out.

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.

...

June 20

Chris will be back July 4th.

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

...
June 20

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPES WANTS TO GO $20 MILLION IN DEBT TO FUND HOSPITAL BUY-OUT?

The Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal at a June 28 Special Board meeting to approve the County to go $20 million in debt to fund the gap needed to buy the Watsonville Hospital.  At a time when the economy is beginning to turn downward, the County Administrative Officer is ramping up County debt??

Here is the argument CAO Carlos Palacios is making to the Board:

 Setting a public hearing regarding the financing is requested for June 28, 2022 in accordance with Section 6586 of the California Government Code.

Background/Analysis

Time is of the essence for funding the purchase of the Hospital. The deadline for purchase has been set by the bankruptcy court as August 31, 2022. The County anticipates that the State Legislature may provide up to $20 million to fund a portion of the purchase price, as part of the 2022-2023 State Budget. However, if granted, this funding is not anticipated to be disbursed by the State in time to meet the court-mandated deadline for the purchase. The County is therefore proposing to provide interim funding to the Hospital by August 31, 2022, which will then be reimbursed when the grant is received from the State.

Schedule a public hearing for June 28, 2022, to consider the approval of the grant anticipation notes by the Santa Cruz County Capital Financing Authority (Authority) in order to provide interim financing for the Pajaro Valley Health Care District i

Can the County taxpayers afford this huge gambling debt?

Write the Board with your thoughts: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors boardofsupervisors@santacruzcounty.us

LAW MAKERS MAY BUY OUT FARMERS SENIOR WATER RIGHTS FOR CONSERVATION

What if the fertile Central Valley farmers sold the state government all water rights that enable them to grow food for the nation and export, effectively relinquishing their ability to farm?  That is a $1.5 billion- plan now under legislative discussion, brought about by the State budget’s $100 billion current budget surplus, and the strong desire to curtail expensive water law suits.

California Lawmakers Consider Buying Out Farmers To Save Water

Will California Buy Out Farmers to Save Water? Lawmakers Mull the Possibility

The legislature is discussing the option of either buying the farm land directly, thereby controlling the water rights, or simply purchasing the water rights from the farmers.  Water rights in California is an interesting issue that merits taking time to read and understand:

California Water Rights – A Breakdown Of The State’s Water Rights System

Wouldn’t it be better to spend the $1.5 billion taxpayer money to provide water-saving procedures and recycled irrigation water for farmers, especially small farmers, and to support groundwater recharge projects, especially in areas that are seeing subsidence?

I found it shocking that the average cost/acre for irrigation water is $7,500.  Why is it so expensive?  That is comparable to the costs of highly-energy-dependent recycled and desalination water supplies quoted at the City of Santa Cruz Water Commission recently.

Do you think the State government would support farming if it owned the farmland or senior water rights to the farmland?   Is this a good way to spend $1.5 billion in taxpayer money?    I don’t.

 What are your thoughts?  Please let your State elected representatives know:

  Senator John Laird

  Assemblyman Mark Stone   

CITY OF SANTA CRUZ IS EXEMPT FROM STATE WATER CONSERVATION MANDATES

It was refreshing to learn that the State Water Resources Control Board agreed that the City of Santa Cruz is not mandated to follow strict State water conservation mandates because customers are already using less water per-capita than is mandated.  

Finally, a State agency understood that “one size does not fit all”, and recognized the City of Santa Cruz water customers using 45 gallons/person is already lower than the newly-mandated 55 gallons/person, and that the Loch Lomond primary source is not in emergency status by being nearly 90% full.

California exempts Santa Cruz from emergency water use restrictions

I think, however, that it would have been wise for the announcement to continue to urge all Santa Cruz County residents to practice water conservation. Even though the State website claims Santa Cruz County per capita water use averages 54 gallons, the site also states: 

Factors that affect Per Capita Water Use

It is not appropriate to use Residential Gallons Per Capita Day (R-GPCD) water use data for comparisons across water suppliers, unless all relevant factors are accounted for.

Here is a link to those factors: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/docs/factors.pdf

Think about how much more water you and your family might use if you lived where the summer temperatures are over 100 degrees daily.

PAYING FOR WATER IN CALIFORNIA

As water becomes more expensive across the board in California, how will people on fixed incomes afford it?  How might the State invest in water infrastructure to help lessen the cost of water service?

Here is an interesting analysis of that issue.  Although a bit dated (2014), the information is worth reading.

“The overall funding gap …is on the order of $2 billion to $3 billion annually: $30 million to $160 million to provide safe drinking water in small, disadvantaged rural communities; $800 million to $1 billion for floods; $500 million to $800 million for stormwater management; $400 million to $700 million for http://www.ppic.org/main/home.asp Paying for Water in California 3 ecosystem support for endangered species; and $200 million to $300 million for integrated water management. Although filling this gap may seem daunting—particularly to cash-strapped program managers—it is not large relative to the sums California is already spending on water services. In other words, this is a fixable problem. “

“Proposition 218’s rigid requirement that fees must be specifically linked to the services for each property jeopardizes the implementation of conservation-oriented programs and the development of nontraditional sources of water supply. This requirement also limits water utilities’ ability to provide “lifeline” discounts to low-income households, an important equity-oriented feature of most energy billing systems.”

[Paying for Water in California (pdf)]

RATES GOING UP FOR SANTA CRUZ COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION BUT WITH VIRTUALLY NO PUBLIC NOTICE

It really pays to read the Legal Ads in the Classified section of the newspapers.  That is how I learned about a public hearing on June 28 divulging that if you live in the rural areas of the County not served by municipal fire departments, you likely are paying into County Service Area (CSA) 48 for County Fire Department emergency response.  

CSA 48 property owners will see an increase from $83.81/fire flow unit to $86.49/fire flow unit, and each structure is somehow assessed TWO fire flow units. 

CSA 48 property owners will also see an increase in the additional Special Benefit Assessment tax (added on in 2020) to increase from $151.24 per single family residence to $156.08.

 The County Board of Supervisors will review the increases at a public hearing on June 28.

There is NO notice of this public hearing on the County Fire Dept. website.

None of this even acknowledges the potentially illegal Special Benefit Assessment that County Fire Dept. added, despite Government Code Section 50078.2(b):

A benefit assessment shall not be levied for wildland or watershed fire suppression on land located in a state responsibility area as defined in Section 4102 of the Public Resources Code.

All of CSA 48 is in the State Responsibility Area (see yellow areas on this map):

ArcGIS Web Application

It also ignores the fact that the Board of Supervisors lied to the voters in 2018 with Ballot Initiative Measure G, imposing a new half-cent sales tax to pay for “fire” response, among other “critical unmet needs”….yet the Board has allocated ZERO dollars from this money pot to fund “fire”.

AND, the Board of Supervisors continually starves fire funding of any State Prop. 172 monies, a statewide permanent half-cent sales tax earmarked for emergency response.  California Proposition 172, Sales Tax Increase (1993)

Last year, none of the $20+ million the County received went to fund fire protection.

You can verify this in the proposed 2022-2023 County Fire Budget…$0 from General Fund contributions

Please let the Board of Supervisors know your thoughts about this:

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors  boardofsupervisors@santacruzcounty.us

WADE THROUGH THE PROPOSED COUNTY BUDGET DURING HEARINGS THIS WEEK

Follow the money.  Where is the County spending your tax dollars?

Take a moment to look

How come the CAO budget is increasing 13% at a time when other departments are seeing only a 3% CIP increase?  Carlos Palacios is the highest-paid County employee, with a salary + benefits of $427,308.64 in 2020 (when many lost their jobs due to COVID)

Here is the Budget summary

Expenditures

The Proposed Budget expenditure decrease of $19,870,980 results primarily from the one-time increase in 2021-22 of contributions and transfers of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding as well as financings to support the CZU Lightning Complex Fire response and debris removal. In addition, there is an increase in Intra-Fund Transfers In of $2,532,722 for increased County reimbursements and estimated budget to actual savings.

Revenues

The Proposed Budget revenue decrease of $11,467,729 is impacted by the reduction for 2022-23 from the one-time ARPA funding received in the 2021-22 budget ($26.5 million). The total tax growth in 2022-23 is projected to be $14,726,165 over the 2021-22 budget, led by the return to a pre-pandemic sales tax projection level.

For the 2021-22 sales tax projections, they were heavily influenced downward in the spring of 2021 by the ongoing negative economic impacts from the Pandemic. For 2022-23, sales tax is projected to return to its pre-pandemic base and exceed the 2021-22 budget by $5,527,878 or 27.8%, albeit with some modest reductions in growth due to concerns of an economic slowdown.

Property taxes are anticipated to increase by 5.6% or $3,822,370, as the 2021-22 projection was reduced from the risk of the CZU Lightning Complex Fires reducing assessed valuations.

Anticipated increases in Transient Occupancy Tax of $4,606,914 or 49.6% over the 2021-22 projection are due to the same pandemic influenced compressed prior year projections.

Although a smaller revenue stream, Cannabis Business Tax revenue is trending down due to market changes, resulting in a decrease of $1,526,380 or 28.4%. Deed Transfer Tax is expected to grow $1,030,157 or 36.2% over 2021-22 also due to compressed prior year projections.

Sales tax is one of the best early indicators of changes in economic spending, and the County Administrative Office will be closely monitored as there are considerable signs pointing to an economic slowdown, that could occur in the next 12 to 18 months.

Financial Impact

The General County Revenues Proposed Budget with supplemental requests includes ($3,945,761) in expenditures, $178,814,037 in revenues and provide $182,759,798 towards other departmental General Fund contributions, reflecting a total increase in available contributions of $8,403,251 from the 2021-22 Adopted Budget.

Take time to participate in the County Budget hearings this week, with the final budget hearing on Tuesday, June 28

NO MORE GAS-POWERED CAR SALES IN CALIFORNIA BY 2035?

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is expected to finalize a new rule by the end of this year that will require by 2035 that 100% of all new cars and light-duty trucks sold in the state to be electric.  Imagine that impact.  By 2026, it would require 35% of all new vehicle sales be electric.  Right now, 16% of all new car sales are voluntarily electric. 

The CARB held the first of two hearings on June 9 to receive public comment on the proposed Advanced Clean Cars II regulation. 

Unlike Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-79-20 that also sets a goal of 100% electric vehicle sale by 2035, the CARB regulations would be binding and have regulatory legal weight that would impose enforcement actions on auto sales businesses in the state.

According to the CARB analysis, a total transition to electric cars would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California by 50% by 2040, because transportation is the largest contributor.

Here is a link to an article published in the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) newsletter.

Here is a link to the CARB site, where you can find more information about the propose Rule.

Note that the second public hearing will be in August.

WRITE ONE LETTER.  MAKE ONE CALL.  SIT IN ON THE COUNTY HYBRID BUDGET HEARINGS AS MUCH AS YOU ARE ABLE.
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

...
June 19

Wind

This is an invitation to appreciate the role of wind more deeply, more often. Stepping outside, we feel the wind on our cheeks, sniff a scent from far away on the air and adjust to the temperature of the breeze. A gust ruffles our hair, makes trees noisily rustle, blows leaves scattering downwind. Along its trajectory, wind is doing so much for our world, and we hardly appreciate it. But we can appreciate that change is in the air. 

Year-by-year California’s coastal wind is getting stronger. Climate change is increasing the heat on land and the ocean is slower to warm – the temperature differential makes for stronger wind.  How will stronger wind change the world around us?

Critters of the Wind

Many animal friends around here depend on wind.

For instance, wind is crucial in creating certain types of bird habitat. Marbled murrelets are creatures of wind: tops of trees must get broken off (probably by wind, maybe by lightning) to make a redwood or Douglas fir create thicker side branches where this rare seabird can nest. Wind also makes sand dunes, and the foredunes are the favorite place for snowy plover nesting.

Condors and turkey vultures wouldn’t be around if there weren’t the right types of breezes to hold them aloft as they soar long distances in search of food. The wealth of marine mammals in the Monterey Bay is due to wind-driven oceanic upwelling of nutrients that drives a rich food chain. Migrating spiders, birds, and termites all take advantage of wind to get where they want to go. And, sometimes wind drives migrating birds off course, making it possible to study birds from far away without traveling. 

Change is in the Air

Wind carries news. Some of us recall the dense rain of charbroiled leaves carried by the headwind of the 2020 fires: that news sure had an impact on those of us nearby. Sometimes you can smell or see smoke from far away fires. City folk are happy when a fresh breeze carries away air pollution and change their habits when there is a ‘spare the air’ day declared around the Bay Area. That air pollution goes ‘away’ – downwind. In each case – with fire or urban air pollution – particulates eventually fall out of the wind somewhere, spreading chemicals, toxins, and nutrients: bad news!

(Come to think of it, doesn’t it seem like too long since we were alerted to likely pathways of nuclear fallout from the more likely areas to be targeted by nuclear bombs? Too much of a drag to think about that…too bad of news!)

Wind-borne nutrients due to air pollution are depositing into ecosystems around our area, providing unwelcome fertilizer creating more weedy grasslands, greater plant productivity, and higher fire danger. No doubt that wildfire smoke and ash is also contributing to these problems. 

Wind Transported Soil

Certain soils are classified as “eolian” in origin, meaning that they were carried by the wind. Large areas of the central USA are sandy soils blown around due to periodic drought – think largescale repeats of the early 1900 “Dustbowl” repeated over the last many hundreds of years. There are also eolian soils near Santa Cruz. For instance, much of Fort Ord is ancient eolian sand dunes, now home to a plethora of species that specialize on just that habitat. But, blowing soil is still happening in an expedited way due to our management. 

Pick a windy day and you can watch tons of soil blowing “away” off bare soiled agricultural fields, even on publicly owned, State Park land of the North Coast. What soil doesn’t wash away from the bare soil in the winter gets a chance at airborne migration in the spring before planting.  Soon, there will be no topsoil to support plant life! The unvegetated Sahara Desert routinely drops soil downwind onto North America…these dust clouds cause problems for airplanes, covid-like symptoms in humans, and pollution problems in Caribbean coral reefs.

Fire Wind

Wind blows fire and fire makes wind. One of the main ingredients for wildfire is wind. Many of us are more alert to wind, on edge even, due to our history with fire. In Southern California, the Santa Ana wind blows from the south and east pushing hot air, creating the most dangerous wildfire conditions. Here, strong wind from the north has traditionally carried the biggest fires.

Once a wildfire starts moving, it creates its own wind. During the 2020 fire, I was momentarily relieved to feel a cool wind at my back as I watched the fire slowly approach my home. The wind was blowing towards the fire! It felt moist and cool, coming in from the ocean. I felt so lucky, so relieved. Then, the spot fires behind me got going and the wind shifted…a wall of flames came roaring at me. Fire sucks. Fire sucks air massively, creating its own wind patterns depending on where the flames are spreading. 

During the previous fire, in 2009, someone reported seeing flaming tornadoes spreading the fire from one chaparral-covered ridge to the next across the North Coast.

Wind Driven Fog

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the gentle fog-laden breezes of the summer do much to cool and moisten our landscape. Redwood trees and rooftops drip, drip, drip in the early morning. For firephobes, the fog is most welcome. For plants, even more so: many coastal plant species require those moist breezes to make it through the dry summer. The architecture of redwood needles is perfect for capturing the moisture out of foggy breezes.

Wind vs. Tree

The wind rocks trees. They sway back and forth magnificently in the highest winds. It is amazing more trees don’t fall. But, fall they do, and when they fall they open up a gap in the forest canopy. That gap portends much. 

A forest gap allows sunlight into the understory and a place for smaller plants and new trees to establish. The trees around that gap grew depending on the tree there to help shelter neighbors from the wind….the wind has more purchase now, and the gap might grow. More trees slow the wind, slowing the drying forces of wind, and maintaining moisture longer into our dry season. A hole in the forest canopy causes more heat and dryness…

The Future

I hope you will more appreciate the present wind, and the future of wind, around the Central Coast. I’m sure we will be working together to steward a world sheltered from increasingly damaging wind, to protect soil from blowing away, and to better prepare for fire wind. Meanwhile, I invite you to notice the quality of the wind on your cheeks…and to wonder what is being carried by that breeze.

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

...

June 20

#171 / Cancel That Graduation

A story from yesterday’s newspaper (6/19) pretty much floored me. Since I am teaching, nowadays, at the University of California campus located in Santa Cruz, I know just how much UCSC students (and their families) look forward to graduation day. The same thing is true, of course, at other UC campuses, including the UC campus located in Davis, California. 

What I learned from that article in the Sunday, June 19, 2022, edition of The Mercury News was that this year’s graduation ceremonies at UC Davis were simply cancelled, right in the middle of the proceedings. Students were dressed in their robes. Parents and friends had come from all over the state. The ceremonies were being conducted outdoors, and “excessive heat…sickened dozens of people… There were 35 heat-related medical calls and seven people were hospitalized.”

As people started keeling over from the heat, the administration simply pulled the plug on the ceremonies. They just stopped them, right in the middle. This may well have been a reasonable and responsible course of action, considering what was happening. Heat shock can become heat death, after all. The students may not have been able to “walk the stage,” as the expression goes, but at least their parents and grandparents survived the non-ceremony. 

What was so shocking to me was how vividly this truncated graduation ceremony makes clear the realities of global warming. We can no longer take anything for granted. What we have assumed is a world we can rely on is not a world we can rely on, anymore – not even for something so traditional as a college graduation ceremony. 

Another story in the paper reported on massive damage at Yellowstone National Park, caused by flooding. About one billion dollars will be needed to repair the damage. This, too, like the story of birds falling out of the sky in Kuwait, killed by heat, is a consequence of global warming. 

A student entering college during the coming Fall Quarter would normally expect to be graduating four years later. 

If we want that student to graduate (if we want the world we have relied upon to continue to exist) we can’t wait another four years to start making changes in what we do. 

BIG changes!

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

...

June 20

 LOONY LIES AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES CONTINUED

Even though the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 coup attempt in our Capitol has released a massive amount of recorded testimony, with personal interviews and videos, and has provided live-televised questioning of individuals connected to the Trump Crime Syndicate‘s thrust to overthrow an election outcome, that undercurrent still roils the waters to take down our democracy. Those implicated by the committee have their excuses, reasoning for their actions, with finger-pointing and lashing criticisms of the House panel, but most are silently ‘lawyering-up’ to prepare for possible court action. Even Peter Navarro’s indignant, hostile attack on the legitimacy of the investigation, has led him to hire a defense attorney, even though initially, he belligerently claimed he could defend himself. Trump attorney, John Eastman (credits for Juris Doctor Degree, Trump University, defunct, class of ’10) who in his videoed testimony took the Fifth Amendment about 100 times to avoid self-incrimination, only invited a deeper examination of his flawed plan to have VP Pence disrupt the Electoral College results. No word on whether or not Rudy Giuliani has accepted Eastman’s plea for aid in future court appearances. 

Last week, Benedict Donald released a twelve-page ‘defense’ of sorts, still claiming election fraud prevented his 2020 election victory, and that he had a ‘right‘ to pursue any means necessary to prove his ‘landslide’ defeat of Biden. Looks like he’s getting a bit fearful, however, and well he should, with some former staff reporting that he initially admitted his defeat, and John Eastman‘s half-hearted admission to him that their tactics were unlawful, but ‘let’s do it anyway.‘ So, with the Trumpmeister‘s continued insistence about election flaws, his co-conspirators, fellow-travelers and other swamp denizens, slowly but surely, move the former Republican party toward the unreality of Strength in Ignorance is Power. 

In recently held primaries, Trump-endorsed candidates have had notable successes, as well as some rejections, pointing to the divisions and confusion within the electorate, as the party elite refuse to confront their leader’s lies, allowing him to evade personal responsibility. Consequently, the insurrectionists are still on the prowl to continue their efforts. The planners are only emboldened; the J6 ‘failure’ was only a practice session; and the hesitation and timidity of the courts, law enforcement, and ordinary citizens to demand accountability only provide cover and a way forward for the undercurrent to overwhelm our democracy. Perhaps the word ‘cover’ is misleading, because we know by their words and actions that the coup is still the goal. The MAGAts in Congress have shrewdly been building their strength, recruiting radicals in their districts, followed by endorsements and campaign support, sometimes campaigning against their own associates. 

A recent Time Magazine article by Molly Ball, has Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene crowing about how much power they have over House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. They both feel that his kowtowing to them punctuates his desire and need for their support if he is to take Nancy Pelosi’s spot as Speaker in the event of a Republican victory after the mid-term elections. Greene states that his success will be through her and her allies, while Gaetz feels McCarthy has become more responsive to the far-right contingent of the party as it shows its muscle. Humorist Dave Barry calls the duo, “Trump’s inner circle of trusted wack jobs,” an apt description since the two regularly appear on each other’s podcasts; indeed, Greene calls it “torching the news cycle,” as they spew their outrageous theories, praise white nationalists, and in general show their looniness with lies and conspiracy concepts, unnerving many in their party.

The J6 Committee was planning to eventually turn results of their investigations over to the Department of Justice, but DOJ has asked for much to be submitted sooner rather than later, to aid them in their own efforts at examining the Capitol riot…an encouraging sign that their slow, meticulous trek toward justice may soon bear fruit. Constitutional expert and attorney, Lawrence Tribe, had previously expressed his skepticism about Trump being charged and prosecuted, but with the Committee’s revelations and DOJ raising its head, he now thinks AG Garland will pursue prosecution of the former president. Questions remain about the end result of any court action against Trump, an action which would be history-making, and possibly earth-shaking in light of the fanatical intensity of the far-right. The chances of bloodshed loom large, with some raising the specter of a civil war. Comparisons have been made between the Insurrection and Nixon‘s Watergate, but with the tenor of the times, says one pundit, “this makes Watergate look like the Brady Bunch.” Prosecuting a former president and his henchmen would be an extraordinary step, but an important one to restore our faith in the rule of law. 

Despite the recent showing of testimonies of former AG Bill Barr and daughter Ivanka Trump, many supporters of former president Trump believe he has it right about the ‘Big Steal.’ Bill Barr is accused of accepting bribes from Dominion Voting Systems to uphold the integrity of their voting machines, even though that rumor has been dispelled…he received payment from power and heat provider, Dominion Energy, for services rendered. Ivanka supposedly is taking orders from Daddy, who advised her to testify before the Committee, just to “mess with their heads.” And, besides, it’s all just a Hollywood production, not real, using stand-ins for the actual people…Ivanka looks so different it must be CGI! Syracuse University professor, Jennifer Stromer-Galley calls this phenomenon, “cognitive dissonance” – if you are a Trump-believer and Bill and Ivanka are saying ‘alternate truths’, it leaves a crack in your belief system that must be filled. Bill Barr has a pretty good idea of how we can fill those cracks! Just bring plenty of shovels…we’ll have to double-team Ginni Thomas!

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

...

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

“SUMMER”

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
~John Steinbeck 

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
~Henry James 

“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”  
~Aristotle

...

I am fascinated with language and what we do with it. Check this video out, these 5 phrases aren’t all ones I necessarily would have thought of as manipulative, per se.


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
...

Posted in Weekly Articles | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.