Blog Archives

October 21 – 27, 2020

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Renaming everything, history of wharves & piers, Felix Street victory, UCSC and our water problem. GREENSITE…on erosion of the city’s democratic process. KROHN…fire remains, pumpkin hunting, Christmas tree farms and memories. STEINBRUNER…Drinking sewage water, Soquel Creek Water District, drilling fluid effluent spill, Merriman House to be demolished, goodbye Hal Hyde. PATTON…Humiliation and Politics.  EAGAN…Classic Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover plus his usual take on what’s driving everything today & everyday. QUOTES…”ELECTORAL COLLEGE”

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SANTA CRUZ’S THREE WHARVES/PIERS.  From left to right, you can see the Cowell Wharf, The Railroad wharf and the Boardwalk’s Pleasure pier. Their history and naming and ownership is complicated. Read the opening history below.

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email photo@brattononline.com

DATELINE October 19

HISTORY OF SANTA CRUZ WHARVES/PIERS. Back in June 2012, Frank Perry, Barry Brown, Rick Hyman, and Stanley D. Stevens wrote an excellent history of the many wharves we have here. There’s so much talk and plotting about ruining our Municipal Wharf with high-rise commercial structures that we should all read this history. 

FELIX STREET VICTORY. Our current City Council passed (with a 6-0 vote) to NOT allow some very heavy apartment development on Felix Street, over by the Santa Cruz High football field. It was six to zero because Cynthia Mathews owns property there. Here’s what the Save Neary Lagoon folks wrote.

Environmental and Social Justice Victory!   

Citizens of Santa Cruz have been fighting the rezoning of 101 Felix St. apartment complex on the shores of Laurel Creek & Neary Lagoon wetland. A move by City Council that would add 80 units now could open the door to allow 360 in future. Expanding a badly managed complex, in one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Santa Cruz would exacerbate the existing neighborhood parking nightmare, is bad planning and must be stopped.  

SANDY BROWN- Santa Cruz City Council SHE-RO!   

At the October 13, 2020 City Council meeting, City staff’s incompetence, and underhanded behavior was rampantly on display. Planning Director Lee Butler and City attorney Antony Condotti repeatedly tried to mis-direct City Council into continuing the 101 Felix St project to the Planning Commission after City Council had voted it down on Aug 25th, and against insistence by Council members that they did not wish to do so.  

It was under Council-member Brown’s persistence in questioning the attorney that he finally admitted that the project did not actually have to go to the Planning Commission.  Sandy then skillfully crafted a resolution that sent a clear denial message to the developer and did not move the project on to the next step. 
 
SANDY BROWN STOPPED THE GAME.  Thank goodness for Sandy Brown!  Thank goodness for her clear-seeing, intelligence, and leadership. For our call to preserve the character of our City to be heard, we must re-elect Sandy Brown and her Progressive colleagues to City Council. We cannot afford to lose Sandy’s dedication, diligence, and determination!  She represents us, our community values, and not those of greedy developers. Sandy Brown is running on a progressive slate with intelligent leaders Kayla Kumar and Kelsey Hill. Brown, Hill and Kumar support a more equitable Santa Cruz. They are not in the pockets of developers. PLEASE VOTE: BROWN/ HILL/ KUMAR Empower the City Council’s ability to lead and direct City staff, instead of having City staff lead the City Council in a direction the community does not want! 

UCSC VS. SANTA CRUZ OVER WATER. For decades, UCSC has been insisting that the City of Santa Cruz promised to supply the campus with water. The city has either denied this or never proved it promised any such thing. Now UCSC is suing the city to settle the matter. Here’s a link to the campus view 

One of the many questions that UCSC has never answered is how much water is now available if they dug wells on their campus. Another thing the campus founders were more or less promised — and appeared to have some effect was the promise of genuine college level football…but why go there??? Now here’s a link to Campaign For Sustainable Transportation. Read up on the candidates and issues, we can trust them. Here’s what Good Times wrote on the issue. 

Which Council Members Will Stand Up to UCSC?
On Tuesday attorneys for the University of California Board of Regents filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Cruz. The lawsuit claims that the City is denying water for UCSC expansion into the forest north of campus, in violation of promises the City made in 1962 before UCSC was built. The City’s position is that UCSC should abide by the decision of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) regarding expansion of the campus. California set up LAFCO’s in an attempt to limit urban sprawl. The University claims it is exempt from LAFCO authority. 

UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan allows for expansion to 28,000 students from its current enrollment of 19,000. This expansion would have a major impact on the price of housing, traffic congestion, and water supplies. The City of Santa Cruz does not have authority over UCSC expansion. The only leverage the City has in order to win concessions on housing, traffic and water is bargaining power. The City can refuse to extend water service into the proposed development north of campus. The City could also implement a tax on parking on campus.

The City Council has not always bargained effectively with UCSC on behalf of the interests of the community. In 2011, the Council actually approved a letter to LAFCO opposing a draft LAFCO policy that the City “demonstrate the availability of an adequate, reliable and sustainable water supply” before UCSC expansion could be approved. 

We asked the nine City Council Candidates the following question in order to try to discover their willingness to stand up for the interests of our community regarding UCSC growth: 

“Stanford University has successfully achieved zero increase in peak period vehicle trips to campus since 2001 in spite of a large growth in commuters to campus. Would you support a policy of zero new vehicle trips to UCSC campus, and if necessary enforce the policy through a City tax on parking at UCSC, if that tax revenue were devoted to METRO and alternative commute modes?”

The scorecard below reports the candidates’ responses on this question, as well as the Downtown Parking Garage and other issues. For an explanation of the issues and complete candidate responses click here

For the Campaign for Sustainable Transportation,

Rick Longinotti, Co-chair


GREEN TYPE INDICATES AGREEMENT WITH CAMPAIGN FOR SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION’S POSITION

PROPOSITIONS, MORE ABOUT. Take proposition 23… please? I’ve even read every word in the Official Voter Information Guide, both pro and con, about the dialysis clinics having to have a physician or trained nurse present when anybody is undergoing dialysis. We’ll never know the real reasons we are even being asked to vote on this issue. What do we know about dialysis and the running of those clinics? The Friends Committee on Legislation vote — which I’ve printed here before — says vote NO. Yet Santa Cruzans 4 Bernie says vote YES. Who should we believe? Anyone have any genuine knowledge on Prop. 23 ??? Send it ASAP!

ALL ABOUT RENAMING. San Francisco is going all sorts of crazy about renaming locations and institutions named after founders with faults. In Santa Cruz we have two easy changes: Loudon Nelson Community Center because it’s spelled wrong; also Gharkey Street needs respelling to Gharky, the way Frank Gharky spelled it. Those are givens, but how about Kaiser Permanente, (is that Henry Kaiser or Kaiser Wilhelm?) Dominican, Mission, Swanton, Neary, Lincoln, Mora, Rankin, Wilkes, Hubbard, YOU NAME IT! 

There was a large truck backed up right into the lobby of our downtown Regal 9 one day last week. I suppose that means they are really out of business. The Del Mar remains open but no matinees, only afternoons and nights. They are showing almost the exact same movies as the Cinelux’s in Capitola and Scotts Valley which are open. But most of those movies are so poorly rated and are easily available online that it makes theatre going not quite worthwhile.

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7. This new movie written and directed by Aaron Sorkin is not just superior but important too. The most important role has Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden. Then there’s Sasha Baron Cohen, as Abbie Hoffman, and even a smaller part with Michael Keaton as U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The 7 were defendants being tried for more than six months in Chicago for  causing riots, conspiracy and more at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. It’s a sad and realistic look at our court system, our politics, democracy and police tactics — all of which takes us right up to our present times. Don’t miss it. I’m also proud to tell you that on October 30, 2008, our then State Assemblyman Bill Monning (now Senator) brought Tom Hayden to my KZSC radio program Universal Grapevine. We didn’t talk about his marriage to Jane Fonda, and the movie doesn’t touch it either.   

THE OLD GUARD. Charlize Theron was a big hit in Mad Max: Fury Road, and she plays the same tough, unstoppable warrior in this brutal, violent fantasy. Theron heads a group of four immortals who travel through many centuries looking for a missing time traveler. They go through Morocco, the crusades, a crucifixion, but it’s well done and provides escape from our equally challenging times. 

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. No big name stars in this genuine haunted house movie. It’s based on a Henry James short story, and you’ll some great James lines, like the Turning of the Screw, as the ghosts haunt the manor now located in Northern California!

SOCIAL DISTANCE. Note that this is NOT Social Dilemma  Social Distance is a brand new movie laying out the problems of living in these Covid/Trump times. It’s a series of interviews

with alcoholics, funerals, masks, care givers, baby sitting…you name it. Well done ,but it’s no escape from today…it just makes you think about what’s going on for all of us.

 

LA REVOLUTION. A Netflix original ,this series is very realistically set in France in 1787. Love, torture, voodoo, royalty, castles and all sorts of mischief. Go for it.

YOUNG WALLENDER. Wallender is/was a very popular Swedish series started back in 2008, starring Kenneth Branagh. This new addition takes us back to Kurt Wallender’s beginnings as a police officer in his very first case. Wallender tries to stop a guy from exploding a grenade in a victim’s mouth, if that gives you any idea. I’m betting that this series will remain excellent.

GOOD MORNING VERONICA. Don’t bother with this Netflix mess. Hackneyed, trite, poorly acted, a waste of your time. 

 BORGEN. I started watching this series months ago, it’s one of the finest series I’ve seen. Now the world’s critics and audiences are catching up on it. Here’s what I wrote back on Feb. 5…

Borgen translates as “the castle” in Danish, and I must tell you that I’ve been totally immersed in this three season iTunes saga since my daughter Hillary found and recommended it. It’s the story of a woman who becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark. If you like politics and wonder what a politician’s life is like, forget any American versions and watch this instead. The show started in 2010, and from what I hear it won’t go past the third series. Forget “Veep”, “House of Cards”, “The West Wing” and the rest… Borgen is far superior. I’d give you your money back IF and etc….but it would be too much trouble, and you’ll love it too.Now there’s talk of a fourth episode to be released in 2021 with the original cast and on Netflix.

CALL MY AGENT. There might be a problem in finding this one under that title on Netflix, if so try “Dix Pour Cent”. Billed as a comedy it centers on the lives of the talent agents and stars who work at a famous show biz agency in Paris. Tempers, jokes, love affairs, and much talent all get very mixed and still it’s almost riveting.

OCTOBER FEST: BEER AND BLOOD. Set in Munich, Germany in 1900 this focuses on a plot from a wealthy brewmeister to take over the stalls, stands and profits that another brewmeister has held for decades at the Octoberfest. Families get in fights, daughters fall in love with the wrong people and it’s a major film. Great acting, photography, and effects.  

DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD. A no holds barred documentary by the documentarian/photogrtapher who’s father is dying from Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’m not sure if it’s cruel or empathetic but if you’ve ever had to live and/or care for a relative/ friend with these ailments you know how painful it can be. No laughs, no solutions just a sharing of the negative dread of old age. Go warned.   

THE GLORIAS. This bio-pic of Gloria Steinem is a good one. Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander and two more women/girls play her in this near dream like history of the womens’ movement and her part in it. Julie Taymor directed it and does portray Gloria as her real mini-skirt, long nails gorgeous self. Timothy Hutton is in it too nut he shouldn’t have been. It has much fantasy, dreams, animation and oddly placed moves that obscure the important view of women’s equality fights that Steinman was an integral part of. Bette Midler plays Bella Abzug. Watch it, and don’t snicker at the odd ball parts

EMILY IN PARIS. Lily Collins is Emily. Emily is from Chicago and is sent to Paris as a company rep. The Paris group doesn’t like her and Emily has a rough time adjusting to France. Cute, clever, time consuming, charming, and I imagine the series will be the same.

TEHRAN. It has a 93 on Rotten Tomatoes!! An international spy killer-thrill series. It mixes Iran, Tehran, Jordan, Israel’s internal wars with a young woman’s attempt to steal government high tech secrets. Complex, well acted, and if you can keep up with identities, you can continue forgetting about movie theatres.

THE ARTISTS WIFE. Bruce Dern and Lena Olin take on the heavy lead roles in this painfully, near true story of how parts of the Dolby Sound family dealt with the dementia and Alzheimers of old man Ray Dolby. If you’ve ever had to deal with these age old afflictions you know how deep the pain goes. 

CRIMINAL. This is an unusual series that consists of four different story lines on four different websites. There’s Criminal: United Kingdom, Criminal: Germany, Criminal: Spain and Criminal: France. All episodes were filmed in Spain and center on criminals each being questioned and interviewed in exactly the same interrogating room with a very important two-way mirror separating them from the cops and legal team. I’ve watched almost all of the four series, they are clever, well acted, puzzling in a good way and well worth your time.

ENOLA HOLMES. From a series of new books this is a fable about Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes little sister Enola. Enola spelled backwards is of course Alone. Millie Bobby Brown plays Enola and is super, couldn’t be better. It’s light clever, mildly absorbing and if you’ve nothing else going on….go for it.

THE INVISIBLE MAN. This got an amazing 91 on Rotten Tomatoes and I must admit I’m still remembering the tension, the scares, and surprising talents of Elisabeth Moss in the lead. She’s the ex-girlfriend of an optical genius who invented an invisible suit. It sort of looks like a wetsuit with knobs. So basically, he haunts her. The police don’t believe her so she takes matters into her own hands and fights him, wherever he is supposed to be. It’ll take your mind off all the stuff that’s haunting you nowadays, watch it.

THE VOW. 82 ON Rotten Tomatoes is just about what I’d give this documentary. NXIVM is the name of a self awareness, mindfulness group. It has masters and slaves and even branding women members in private places. It’s a documentary but not your average documentary. If you’ve ever belonged to or have thought about joining one like maybe Scientology don’t miss this partial opening of their secret doors.

LAUNDROMAT. How could a movie directed by Stephen Soderbergh and starring Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas be so bad? Don’t waste your time trying to figure it out. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 41! The plot focus is on tax evasion, off shore investments, insurance rip offs, and is way too complex and silly at the same time.

CHALLENGER: THE FINAL FLIGHT. We’ve never heard much about this 1986 NASA shuttle flight disaster. This is a  four part documentary with J.J. Abrams doing the producing. The NASA flight was done for much needed social approval and a brilliant, pretty, school teacher was included among the astronauts. The Challenger blew up in less than two minutes after it was launched and all the crew perished. The film shows NASA’s faults, details all the worlds  reactions and will teach you some necessary features involved in our space programs.

RATCHED. Named and promoted as a back story to the famed Nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher in Jack Nicolson’s and Ken Kesey’s  “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” book.For some reason the hospital is changed from a military re hab center in Menlo Park where Kesey did time to a spacious retreat in Lucia, which is near Big Sur. Judy Davis, Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon and believe it or not, Sharon Stone are in it. It’s a gruesome movie with such scenes as a doctor hammering an ice pick into a patient’s eye or being given a severed head as a present. The lesbian sub plot is very insensitive, so is the sodomy story…don’t bother.

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME. This is a Netflix thriller set in the town of Knockemstiff, Ohio (a real place). Robert Pattinson (of Twilight fame) plays a knockabout country minister who does bad things to good people. Tom Holland and Bill Skarsgard, and Mia Wasikowska do fine jobs of acting but the plot is predictable, stodgy, and adds nothing to cinema history 

COAST ELITES is HBO’s masterful so called comedy that centers on our very present trials and tribulations caused by Trump, fires, and solitary confinement in our own homes. Bette Midler starts the series of 5 monologues. It’s new, innovative and immensely thought producing. Watch it, think about it. 

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA. This one hour and 20 minute documentary a Netflix original is so important, good, and timely. It focuses on the control the internet has over us now and the inevitable growth it will take as time goes by. The control goes much deeper than your searching for a toaster on Amazon and seeing toasters pop up on the next 20 screens you open. It’s about how Facebook, Twitter, Google, You Tube and many more. Are controlling how long we watch and how often we click on any site, then selling the data from our views to advertisers. They work hard to change our groups of friends to bring people with similar views together politically, religiously and change our lives in the process. My notes while watching say things like…the future an Utopia or oblivion,  causing a civil war, ruining a global economy, prioritizing what keeps us on our screen, election advertising, existential threat, can’t agree on what is truth, assault on democracy and on and on. Do see this documentary and think about it and us and yourself. … 

RAKE. I’m still enthralled with watching RAKE. It’s one of the most consistent brilliant funny, curious, serious, series I’ve ever seen. It’s a Netflix feature from Australia back in 2010. This week Netflix introduced Charlie Kaufmann’s newest movie “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”. You need warnings about Kaufmann’s films. Remember “Being John Malkovich”, “Synecdoche, New York” and especially “Eternal Sunshine of the Eternal Mind”. “I’m Thinking” is one of his impressionistic, dreamlike. Psychological adventure voyages. It’ll stay with you for days after.

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October 19

THE EROSION OF SANTA CRUZ CITY DEMOCRACY.
The continued closure of local schools and the lay-off of low-income service workers, especially the undocumented, top the list of critical Covid-19 impacts, outside of those who have died. We shouldn’t hoist all of the blame on the corona of the virus. Schools in Australia are open; ongoing public funds are allocated to all workers in addition to universal health care, sick leave and unemployment benefits to blunt the worst impacts of the virus. Careful contact tracing, plus strict quarantine policies have kept the infection rate and deaths a fraction of what we are experiencing.  

In the city of Santa Cruz, besides school children and low-income workers, the democratic process is taking a hit and not all can be blamed on Covid-19. All city in-person public meetings, including advisory bodies and city council are terminated, with public participation limited to emails, letters and phone-in during the zoom meetings, which are limited to members of the hearing bodies. By contrast, the county Board of Supervisors is holding in-person meetings with masks and physical distancing requirements in place as well as the option of online access. 

Does this make a difference to the democratic process? I found out last week when I attempted to participate in the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) public hearing on the Wharf Master Plan (WMP) EIR (Environmental Impact Report) on Wednesday, with the Planning Commission (PC) meeting on the same topic the following night.

One can question why city staff would choose the middle of a pandemic with limited public access to bring forward for a decision such a significant, impactful, controversial project that has lingered on the back burner for the past 4 years? The answer is contained in the question. I did request a postponement until the public could participate fully in public meetings but that request went nowhere.

For the Historic Preservation Commission meeting I sat with a phone to my ear for three and a half hours in order to hear the staff presentation, commission deliberation and to speak for three minutes. Maybe my bad for not having a speaker phone. When the clerk called on the public to speak after the hour and a half staff presentation, which the public couldn’t see, her directive to un-mute our phone went to all waiting to speak. It was confusing to know who was up and the brief time limit for each speaker races away like a runaway horse. A simple statement of the last four digits of each person’s phone number would have solved that dilemma but such are the problems with virtual public participation.

I was impressed with the deliberations of some of the HPC members. They didn’t identify themselves for the invisible public listening in so I can’t give individual credit. They addressed the historic value of the Wharf in detail and drafted motions that reflected concern to maintain its identity. Since staff had given them only 4 days to review the Agenda Report and hundreds of pages of documents their understanding of the impact of the WMP was a bit truncated. Nonetheless they unanimously made recommendations to the Planning Commission and City Council to ensure that changes to the Wharf would adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s historical standards, a significant omission in the staff EIR.  Unfortunately, Planning Commissioners at the following night’s public hearing failed to adopt that significant recommendation.

The virtual Planning Commission meeting was better in that the public could see the meeting on Community TV or online. It is worth mentioning that it took 6 years’ effort to get Planning Commission meetings televised and that effort was never supported by the Planning Department, nor a majority of city council until there was a new council majority, at least for a couple of years before the recall. Public comment was again by phone but at least the clerk added the last 4 digits of the phone number of each speaker waiting to speak. Unsurprisingly there were few speakers from the public in contrast to the scores of people weighing in 4 years ago. This process is painful, alienating and only die-hards will stick it out.

The results of the Planning Commission were disappointing. Commissioners Cyndi Dawson and chair Andy Schiffrin tried to get the much-despised 40- foot new building for the south end of the Wharf taken out of the Plan but the vote failed 4-3 with Commissioner Miriam Greenberg joining the other side. Her vision of it as a sort of large boat to give the impression of being at sea was straight out of Disneyworld. With only one day between commission meetings, the lengthy discussion and rationale by the HPC for including a historic architect and adhering to the Secretary’s Standards was given short shrift by the PC. 

It appears to be a pattern that controversial city projects are being shoved through, exploiting the pandemic to limit public participation. With an empty Civic Auditorium, holding in-person city advisory body and council meetings would be feasible. That is against staff self-interest so it won’t happen until and unless we the public demand it. There is still time. The Council public hearing on the Wharf Master Plan EIR is now set for November 10th.  Once the Plan and its EIR are approved there is no going back. Despite the saccharine assurances from planning staff that this is just a guide, a vision and there will be ample opportunities for public input on the particulars, don’t believe it. Overwhelming public input 4 years ago was against the Wharf Master Plan, especially the 40 feet tall new buildings and that was ignored. There is no basis to believe anything will change except continued erosion of the democratic process. 

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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Oct. 21, 2020

Pumpkin Time

The beginning of crisper October days beckoned. The sky, a near-perfect azure, but still there remained a slight smell hanging around, an organic leftover reminder from the recent fire we all wish had only been a Hollywood low-budget disaster film, California Burning perhaps. Is the smell really there, or is it one of those limbic system memories related to emotions? After all, it was the worst set of wildfires in state recorded history. It lingers. But today is a near-perfect day to begin our annual autumnal pumpkin hajj. Around midafternoon we head for the Rodoni pumpkin patch on the northern far edge of town, but oh, the traffic we encounter…shouldn’t we wait until next week?

The Traffic
Going north, getting out of Santa Cruz, is slow-going. Mission Street consists of two long lines of cars until we reached Swift Street where the two lines became one and continue towards Ess Eff. But this congestion will not usurp the natural beauty of the day. We will not be deterred from our pumpkin tourism. Matter of fact, most drivers appear to be close to jolly, no one facing time crunches or looming deadlines. It’s a ’50’s, let’s-go-out-for-a-drive Sunday! A collective decision not to be locked in by any pandemic. We have our masks and we will respect social distances. For only the second time ever, my partner and I head for the Great Pumpkin Patch sans daughters. They are elsewhere, in worrisome locations by the way, places that we could do nothing about but watch the daily numbers on the pandemic maps. One is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where the Hasidim’s positive rates have become part of an epic struggle between the Mayor, the Governor of New York, and a small portion of the Jewish community. The other resides in Illinois, Chicago actually, where the state’s daily rate for positive Covid-19 tests is at an all-time pandemic high this week. Yes, we needed some pumpkin relief, but Highway 1 north is one parking lot after another on this California pastel canvas of autumn day. 

Farther North
First 3-Mile Beach and then 4-Mile Beach before arriving at a packed Rodoni Farm parking lot. In my 20-plus years of making this trek I’ve never seen so many pumpkin aficionados, and their cars, before. Everybody wanted to get out and be a part of this day and no one was in a hurry–parents, kids, young couples, and grandparents, all running, skipping, or just plodding along through The Patch. It was the place to be. 

After making the great pumpkin purchase, we both are thinking about how Pie Ranch and Rancho Siempre Verde had weathered the devastating CZU August Complex fire. We turn right out of The Patch and head north; our destination is a 14-mile drive and the coast scenery is legendary. Past Bonny Doon Beach, Shark Fin Cove, the city of Davenport, and Swanton Berry Farm the numbers of parked vehicles–coronavirus weekend explorers–grow with each mile, clearly we are part of a collective human spigot roaming into areas more conducive to socially distance. 

Beauty and Devastation
The traffic along Highway 1, although dense, we move fluidly past Scott Creek, Rancho Del Oso State Park, and Waddell Beach. We head slightly north of Año Nuevo to see how the fire may have damaged two of our favorite northerly central coast family haunts. We had heard it did not jump the highway to Año Nuevo State Park, but we feared the worst for Pie Ranch and the classic Christmas trees of Rancho Siempre Verde. (I wonder if Trump’s coup plans include extending his wall this far North given the obvious influence Mexico and Spain have on this region?) We are in awe of the marine layer hovering over the great Pacific, wisps of heaven’s gate perhaps, as we cruise past Wilson Gulch. It is when we pass Año Nuevo Creek and Swanton Berry’s U-Pick Coastways Ranch that we begin to see some charred trees and pieces of ashen ground. We cross over the Green Oaks Creek and turn right off the Highway. We’re entering the Pie Ranch lot. The Barn (dance) had survived. The store was open, but a sign read, Sold Out of Pies for today. We continued up a gentle slope away from the main Barn and encountered the fire-damaged remains of eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and coast redwoods. 

The sun is bright, the sky less blue this far north, but what I found astonishing is that embers continue to smolder. Across the creek, on the property of Rancho Siempre Verde, a business owned by UC Berkeley faculty member Jake Kosek and his family, there are hundreds of burnt trees and brush which have been bulldozed into piles on either side of the creek with smoke still emanating out of what looks like tiny smoldering chimneys atop the piles. It isn’t so much eerie as perhaps more a remnant of California’s history with fire. Firefighters, landowners and their friends and families had logged hundreds of hours to save most of the Christmas tree farm and Pie Ranch’s beloved Barn, but farther up these hills, which is the other side of Big Basin Redwoods State Park (and we all are now painfully aware of what occurred there), grey hills, charred trees, and an old barn on the Pie Ranch property all now reside in a picture of end of days’ gloom. A great calamity has occurred here. 

Fire on the Mountain
We cross the creek, walk through a field of trees, usually for sale, they include Douglas Fir, Monterey Pine, Incense Cedar, Arizona Cypress, Swift Silver and a few Sequoias. There’s a field of sunflowers too and it’s in full bloom. It creates a buffer between the blackened ruins above and the Kosek family farm livelihood, which is located closer to Highway 1. We encounter a family member who’s already rebuilding one of the burnt wreath-making tables which our daughters worked over many times during the past decade. We ask if Jake is around. He directs us up a hill, past the melted ropes of a former giant swing, but they’ve installed three more giant swings, post-fire. Jake is sitting under a pop-up awning as we approach. To know Jake before this fire was to encounter a real mensch, always bright-eyed, sure afoot, and one who made tying a tree onto any old SUV an art, performed always with laughter and aplomb. But what we find on this fall Sunday in the California hills, somewhere between the Cascade and Green Oaks Creeks and just east of the Pacific Ocean and down the street from Año Nuevo State Park, is a person hunched to one side, jeans encrusted with ash and mud, and glasses tinted by fire dust. He possesses the same quick smile when he sees us, but it’s a more hesitant one which quickly yields to pursed lips. He emerges from under the awning with slowed gait and a furrowed brow that lends a bewildered aura to this chance meeting. We speak briefly, and he explains that one of the ranch hands had just discovered a major plastic pipe that carried water had been melted. It is the newest emergency among many. It looks like it will be some time before water is restored and the electricity has also been off since the August fire. The usual autumn pumpkin-apple-sunflower business never got off the ground this year. Jake is hopeful for the tree farm business to be in full swing by November, but he’s sure looking exhausted, and a bit shaken as he ambles away toward a truck. 

Addendum
As he climbs into the passenger side of an F-150 I yell, “And how’s your dad?” His dad had been a major force at the farm well into his eighties. Jake opens the door and kind of half-stands up from inside the truck. “Thanks for asking.” He pauses. “He died last Friday.” Jake’s body drops back down into the cab. We wave to each other as the truck pulls away. My partner and I pass a couple who look like they’re trying to preserve what they can of rows of tomatoes and pumpkins ready for harvest. But there will be no harvest here this year. These rows were untouched by the fire because the farm’s bulldozers created a fire line that really worked to preserve this area and the main section of holiday trees. I leave confident that like the fire-pocked landscape, Jake too will survive and later thrive again, but this must hurt, like receiving a gut punch when you weren’t looking.

“People are tired of listening to Fauci and these idiots,” Trump said. When Trump rejects science, downplays the pandemic & relies on right-wing conspiracy theories, we shouldn’t be shocked the virus is surging & we have the highest COVID death rate per capita of major countries. (Oct. 19)
(Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 14 years. He was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college.

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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October 19

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK WATER FROM AN AQUIFER WHEN TREATED SEWAGE WATER HAS BEEN  INJECTED?

Many, many people in the MidCounty area are worried about this issue, relative to the Soquel Creek Water District’s plan known as “Pure” Water Soquel.  Tune in this Thursday, October 22 at 7pm to hear Dr. Karl Maret discuss why he thinks this Project is a well-intentioned but misguided effort.

Zoom meeting access here

WHY DOES SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT KEEP SELLING MORE WATER HOOK-UPS IF THERE IS A GROUNDWATER EMERGENCY?
A couple of weeks ago, the Sentinel published a Guest Commentary by Soquel Creek Water District General Manager, Ron Duncan, responding to a letter to the editor published the same day by Mr. Jerry Rappoport.  I thought it odd that Ron Duncan would know about this letter and be able to have a lengthy article prepared for published release on the same day, responding to the big question about why the District keeps selling more new water service hook-ups if the aquifer is in such bad shape.

This mystery was solved in reading the Correspondence to Soquel Creek Water District’s October 20, 2020 Board agenda. Mr. Rappoport actually never sent his query to the Sentinel.  Ron Duncan did, along with his own self-serving advertisement for the District’s Water Demand Offset program and the expensive PureWater Soquel Project.

Here is what Mr. Rappoport asked the District on September 23:

Customer Service Distribution List Cc: editorial@santacruzsentinel.com 

Subject: OPEN LETTER TO SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT 

Hi,

 It is not my intension to minimize all that’s being done by the water company. My concern has to do with the blind eye regarding the politician’s OKing projects that add water users to an already overly burdened water system. When I was still in industry, management had a mantra that went “If you’re not g\rowing, you’re dying”. Tell that to cancer. This logic applies as well to our 30 trillion dollar national debt, while half the country is still clamoring for open borders. We definitely do have a water issue and the company is doing every darn thing to address it. But, whose responsibility is it to address the obvious overdraft due to too many people being crammed into a locale that cannot support the “intrusion” of people, let alone sea water. 

I’d certainly like someone in authority to respond to my inquiry. I’m not trying to be difficult, but ever since I was a child, questions like this were always ignored. Now that I’m 81, I’m still running into the same sticky issues that were always responded to with “let’s move on”.

 Looking forward to a reasoned response,

 Jerry Rappoport

On September 25, Ron Duncan responded with his explanation of the District’s Water Demand Offset program, which has been in place since 2003.  He completed his response with his announcement: 

“Note that since you posed such an important question (and in a thoughtful manner), I have also submitted an Op/Ed piece (similar to the text above) to the Sentinel in hopes that they will publish your letter to the editor and my Op/Ed response. I feel many other members of our community probably have a similar question as you and would appreciate a better understanding. However, I also wanted to provide you this personalized response. The District’s Board of Directors is also copied on this email.”

(see pages 15-17) The Sentinel quickly obliged, and printed Ron Duncan’s praise of the very controversial PureWater Soquel Project on October 1  

The District staff has been working hard during this election season to sell the public on this expensive and risky Project, a key point of contention among the race for two Board seats whose incumbents have held for 17-20 years.   Aside from the free advertising and promotional stunt in the Sentinel, the District just spent over $12,000 to mail out a 12-page glossy, full-color first-ever “Community Report”, also praising the Project to all customers.  Hmmmmmm…..

I really do appreciate the Sentinel’s Editorial Staff for printing my response to Ron Duncan’s article on October 13:  Guest Commentary | Soquel Creek Water District board failing its customers

click here to continue (link expands, click again to collapse)

HISTORIC MERRIMAN HOUSE TO BE DEMOLISHED…FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Last Wednesday, the County Historic Resources Commission thankfully refused to accept the proposed art that would do little to preserve the historic significance honoring the place where the person whose commitment to fighting fascism impressed  author Ernest Hemmingway, and made him the model of Robert Jordan in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.  

The Commission reviewed plans for historic interpretive panels commemorating the historic Robert Merriman house and ranchette in Live Oak and found them inadequate, but agreed to form an Ad Hoc Committee composed of Commissioners Pearlman and Merriam to work with MidPen Housing and Dientes to develop more accurate and effective interpretation at the site.  (See Item 7A)

The MidPen Housing staff member at the meeting impressed upon the Commissioners that the design for the panels is a Condition of Approval for the Project.  The actual transfer of the property to MidPen from the County Redevelopment Successor Agency cannot move forward as planned in March, 2021 unless the Commission approves the historic interpretive panel design.  Demolition of the historic Merriman House, removal of over 100 trees, and construction of the three-story MidPen Housing and two medical/dental clinics (both two-story) is scheduled to begin in April, 2021.  

Thank you to the County Historic Resources Commissioners who did all they could to preserve the house in vain, but are now holding to effective and accurate historic interpretation that will convey with meaning the importance of Robert Merriman.  

(Read more about the earlier efforts here)

I am disappointed that the County Planning Department and County Supervisor Leopold did not feel this merited special effort to preserve and celebrate such a legendary hero from our County as was Robert Merriman. Please read the excellent letter submitted to the Commission last week by Joe Michalak and Judith Steen  

REMEMBERING OUR LOCAL EDUCATION GIANT. Many thanks to Pajaronian reporter Todd Guild for the tribute to Mr. Hal Hyde upon his passing.  We have all benefited by the efforts of Mr. Hyde, and I wonder why the Sentinel did not honor him upon his passing. Hal Hyde, celebrated veteran, education giant, dies at 97 | The Pajaronian 

MAKE ONE CALL.  WRITE ONE LETTER.  ATTEND A VIRTUAL MEETING.  MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK BY JUST DOING SOMETHING.

Cheers, Becky Steinbruner 831-685-2915

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.

Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com

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October 14
#288 / Is Humiliation The Key To Our Politics?

Thomas L.Friedman, New York Times pundit, suggests that feelings of “humiliation” are playing a huge role in our contemporary politics. In fact, says Friedman, the role that such feelings of humiliation play in our politics is the key to the political success of Donald J. Trump. 

Friedman’s column was carried in the September 9, 2020, edition of The Times. It was titled,Who Can Win America’s Politics of Humiliation?”  I think Friedman’s thesis is worth taking seriously:

It had become … obvious to me that so much of what I’d been doing since I became a journalist in 1978 was reporting or opining about people, leaders, refugees, terrorists and nation-states acting out on their feelings of humiliation and questing for dignity — the two most powerful human emotions. 

I raise this now because the success of Joe Biden’s campaign against Donald Trump may ride on his ability to speak to the sense of humiliation and quest for dignity of many Trump supporters, which Hillary Clinton failed to do. 

It has been obvious ever since Trump first ran for president that many of his core supporters actually hate the people who hate Trump, more than they care about Trump or any particular action he takes, no matter how awful. 

The media feed Trump’s supporters a daily diet of how outrageous this or that Trump action is — but none of it diminishes their support. Because many Trump supporters are not attracted to his policies. They’re attracted to his attitude — his willingness and evident delight in skewering the people they hate and who they feel look down on them. 

Humiliation, in my view, is the most underestimated force in politics and international relations. The poverty of dignity explains so much more behavior than the poverty of money. 

People will absorb hardship, hunger and pain. They will be grateful for jobs, cars and benefits. But if you make people feel humiliated, they will respond with a ferocity unlike any other emotion, or just refuse to lift a finger for you. As Nelson Mandela once observed, “There is nobody more dangerous than one who has been humiliated. 

By contrast, if you show people respect, if you affirm their dignity, it is amazing what they will let you say to them or ask of them. Sometimes it just takes listening to them, but deep listening — not just waiting for them to stop talking. Because listening is the ultimate sign of respect. What you say when you listen speaks more than any words (emphasis added).

If “identity politics” seems to define our current political moment, and this is what I suggested in my blog posting on September 9th (the same day, incidentally, that Friedman’s column appeared), the direct tie of “identity politics” to what Friedman is talking about should be obvious. A “politics of dignity” is the required antidote to “identity politics” and to the “politics of humiliation.”

As I said in my earlier blog posting, the essential “truth” of our human situation is that each one of us, individually, is “unique and precious, defined by no category at all.” Our politics must reflect this. We certainly must not allow our politics to tolerate a systematic tendency to put people in catagories that downrate their value, that humiliate them. The exact opposite, as Friedman so correctly says, is what is required. 

My blog posting on “identity politics” ended with a reference to a Bob Dylan song, “Mother of Muses.” Maybe this blog post should also end with a reference to a Bob Dylan song – “Dignity.” You can hear Dylan sing it by clicking that arrow. 

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

Email Gary at gapatton@mac.com

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

    “ELECTORAL COLLEGE”

“Every citizen’s vote should count in America, not just the votes of partisan insiders in the Electoral College”.   Gene Green 

“In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush, but still lost the election. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Florida gave Bush that pivotal state, and doomed Gore to lose the Electoral College. That odd scenario – where the candidate with the most votes loses – has happened three times in U.S. history”.   Juan Williams

“When dealing with American politics, you try to follow the money, and that’s where it leads you. It doesn’t take you to the Electoral College or to Princeton. It takes you down the darker alleys of American life”.    Roger Morris 


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

Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
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