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By Eric Johnson
Published Mar 20, 2023

Tiny Pajaro (center) sits across the river from Watsonville in the strawberry-rich Pajaro Valley. Tiny Pajaro (center) sits across the river from Watsonville in the strawberry-rich Pajaro Valley. Image credit: Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers   Public Sector

Survival and Civic Engagement

Hello and welcome to the first “statewide” issue of The Newsletter from California Local.

For the past year, my colleague Sharan Street has delivered a weekly report to our members who live in Santa Cruz County, where we are headquartered. Today I am subbing, and this issue goes to members and subscribers in the seven other counties where we operate.

If you’re a first-time recipient of The Newsletter, here’s what you're getting:

If you’re thinking “This sounds like a good way to find out what's going on around here”—that makes me happy. 

This week, our lead item—and the story I would rank as most the pressing statewide—is about the flooding of the small Monterey County agricultural town of Pajaro. 

Although I write to you today from my home in Sacramento, I am very familiar with Pajaro, having lived for many years in both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. And still, the depth of the tragic situation there did not hit me in full until I heard a report about the impacts of the Pajaro River flooding by a national correspondent on NPR, who put the story in context. 

KQED reporter Farida Jhabvala Romero pointed out that many of the flood-displaced farmworkers who call Pajaro home are undocumented and not eligible for FEMA funds or unemployment insurance. Later, she noted that these people are the workforce that make possible Monterey County’s $4 billion ag industry. 

The unfairness of this situation is obvious, yet most of us around here don’t think about it until a disaster like this occurs. If you are in a position to help, please visit the storm relief fund of the Monterey County Community Foundation, or the disaster fund of the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation. 


Environmental Injustice in Pajaro

Here's how political boundaries along rivers can undermine public commitments to flood control, and why vulnerable residents and communities remain vulnerable. New levee construction was already set to begin in 2024. Too little too late for too many families.


Behind the Levee Breach

Detail from a photo tweeted by the city of Watsonville warning residents about the impending atmospheric river storm.
On March 10, the Pajaro River flooded the small agricultural town on its banks. Professor Dustin Mulvaney traces the turbulent history of the Central Coast’s second largest watershed.

Here's How to Discover, Connect, and Act Local (and Why)

Inspiration from the senior advisor to the only recent president who cut his political teeth as a bona-fide community organizer.


What Is Civic Engagement?

Valerie Jarrett with the commander in chief in the Blue Room of the White House in 2010.
President Obama’s closest advisor, Valerie Jarrett, created and ran the White House Office of Public Engagement. Because democracy.

There are No Libertarians in the Wake of a Bank Failure

Here's proof that Silicon Valley Bank laid the groundwork for its own collapse by spending $500,000 lobbying against regulations that would have saved it.


Silicon Valley Bank Collapse: the Causes and Bailout

The government has avoided calling its plan to pay off SVB depositors a "bailout." But is it?
SVB lobbied hard for bank deregulation, which may have led to its own failure. And depositors blew past limits on federal insurance, knowing they would lose their cash if the bank went under unless the government saved them. Here’s how the debacle went down.


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