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By Eric Johnson
Published Nov 13, 2023

Image credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Fighting & Working for Democracy

I write this as Veterans Day weekend draws to a close, and I want to call your attention to a vets’ organization that is doing important work. The nonprofit We the Veterans and Military Families has set the following goal as its mission: “Strengthening our democracy and ensuring misinformation and polarization don’t continue to tear at the fabric of our union.”

This group of former members of the armed forces, and their spouses and children, have been working in recent years to dispel the false myth that those who serve in the military tend toward extremist views—a myth that grew in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at our nation’s Capitol. They point to a study that shows support for extremist ideologies among veterans is far lower than what is found in representative surveys of the general public.

We the Veterans, which recruits vets to serve as local poll workers, is passionately committed to democracy, and stands ready to defend every American’s right to vote, as its leadership noted in a recent op-ed: “Generations of American servicemen and women, supported by their families at home, have shed their blood on foreign battlefields to defend that fundamental right.”

Learn more about We the Veterans here. I applaud them for their continued service.

A Lot of Politics Is Local

On a visit to Santa Cruz a couple Saturdays ago, I got to participate in a great American democratic tradition—a political fundraiser. This one took place at the home of Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley, and was held on behalf of Robert Rivas (D–Hollister), the speaker of the California Assembly.

I realize that most Californians have not had the opportunity to attend such an event, and that may account for the prevalence of the mistaken view that elected officials are by and large corrupt. Over a career of covering local electeds, I have come to believe that most of the people who choose a life of public service are some of our best.

The individuals who took turns speaking on Fred and Barbara’s porch, addressing a smallish crowd of small-money donors in their front yard, proved that point.

Rivas himself is proud to have been raised by farmworkers, and has been working to help his community since first being elected to the local city council when he was in his twenties. As I have noted here previously, he leads what he accurately refers to as “an assembly that is the most diverse in California’s history, and among the most diverse legislative bodies in the world.”

Fred also introduced two recently elected assembly members, Dawn Addis and Gail Pellerin. Addis is a former longtime schoolteacher, who now represents a district that spans a big chunk of the California coast. Pellerin served as Santa Cruz County Clerk for 27 years—as you may know from recent news out of Georgia and elsewhere, the county clerk is the person responsible for guaranteeing that every citizen’s vote is counted.

Speaking of democracy: Election season 2024 is now officially underway, and my colleague Sharan Street here presents some highlights of what is to come.

One Citizen, One Vote

Voters have many decisions to weigh before March 5.
A year from now we’ll be choosing the next U.S. president. But there are many important decisions to be made before then. Now’s the time to start getting ready for the March 5 primary.

Building Democracy in the Golden State

If you feel in your bones that California is among the most democratic states in the nation, you are correct. I speak here not of the Democratic Party, but of what we wonks call “small ‘d’ democratic” politics—a system that ensures that we are a self-governing state. In this excerpt from our upcoming book, How California Works, Jon Vankin briefly explains how that happy fact came to be.

People Power! What Is Democracy, and How Does It Work in California?

Translated from the Greek, “Democracy” means “people power.” How much power do the people have in California?
Democracy is a 2,500-year-old system of government still looked on today as the best system, because under a democratic system, the people govern themselves. But is that all there is to it? What is democracy? And how does it work in California?

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Museum of Art and History logo Museum of Art and History

Back in the mid-1980s, the Santa Cruz Historical Society and the Art Museum of Santa Cruz County came together to build a museum for art and history at the site of the former county jail.

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Press Banner logo City of Scotts Valley Fills Two Key Vacancies

A couple years back, Scotts Valley was struggling to attract new staff. Now, with two key hires—Building Official Nelson Alfaro and Public Works Director Bret Swain—the city has filled 93% of its roster.

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Good Times logo A Quest for Justice

Glenn Schaller, whose grassroots work touched nearly every aspect of local progressive politics for the past four decades throughout California, died Oct. 30 in his Santa Cruz home.

San Lorenzo Valley Post logo Brian Frus Appointed Interim General Manager at SLV Water District

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This is a tale of two radio stations that were voices for the Santa Cruz community, burned to the ground by ambition and a changing media landscape, and how the charred bones were reborn to rise over Santa Cruz like …

KSQD logo United Against Hate Week Offers Free Programs Around Santa Cruz County

On Talk of the Bay, host Suki Wessling speaks with participants in United Against Hate Week, taking place Nov. 12-20.

The Pajaronian logo Second Harvest Kicks Off Holiday Food Drive

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Recent Local News

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• Santa Cruz Judges Face No Opposition in Primary

No contenders have filed to run against four sitting judges whose terms expire in 2024. The incumbents are Syda Cogliati, Jordan Sheinbaum, Katherine Hansen, and Leila Sayar—three of whom were appointed to their current terms.

(11/13/2023) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• The Shapers: Ceil Cirillo’s Get-It-Done Talents and People Skills

In the first installment in a new series, Wallace Baine focuses on Ceil Cirillo, a driving force behind rebuilding downtown Santa Cruz after the earthquake who also championed the Tannery Arts Center.

(11/12/2023) → Read the full Lookout Local report

• Kresge Renewal Phase I Unveiled, Construction Continues

Beyond the whirring of power tools and sprawling construction of Old Kresge, new residence halls and academic centers stand among the redwoods. These are the buildings that have sprouted out of the first phase of the Kresge Renewal project.

(11/10/2023) → City on a Hill

• Hartnell Instructors Demand Better Working Conditions

Hartnell College Faculty Association members organized a rally at the Main Campus on Oct. 25 to protest against working conditions for part-time teachers and to ask administrators for improvements.

(11/09/2023) → Voices of Monterey Bay

• Driver’s Guide to Santa Cruz County Road Delays to Come

Three major east-west arteries—Murray Street, Highway 1 and Soquel Drive—will all see major road work and potential closures over the next few years, which could make an already crowded commute even more time-consuming.

(11/08/2023) → Read the full Lookout Local report

• Community Perspectives Polled About West Cliff

The city of Santa Cruz and partnering consultant Farallon Strategies held a virtual public meeting to further gauge the community’s feelings about West Cliff Drive’s role in the city in the next 50 years.

(11/08/2023) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• Local Skateboarding Legend Judi Oyama Is Still Competing Strong … at 64

A fixture on the Santa Cruz County skating scene since the 1970s, Judi Oyama is heading to the 2024 World Skate Games in Rome and is also in the spotlight in a new documentary about the lasting influence of Northern California’s pioneering skateboarders.

(11/08/2023) → Read the full Lookout Local report

• Cheech and Chong Debut a Vodka With Santa Cruz Soul

The vodka—shaped like a water pipe and inspired in part by the movie “Up in Smoke”—is being made in partnership with Scotts Valley spirits house UBlendIt.

(11/07/2023) → Edible Monterey Bay

• Sheriff Jim Hart Makes Decision on District 5 County Supervisor Race

Those watching the race to replace retiring Supervisor Bruce McPherson wondered whether Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart would run. Instead, Hart has endorsed Monica Martinez, giving the nonprofit CEO a leg up over fellow candidates Christopher Bradford and Theresa Bond.

(11/07/2023) → Read the full Lookout Local report

• Capitola Housing Element Readied for Final Approval

Capitola leaders are expected to cap off a year-long effort to update the city’s housing element before the state-mandated deadline in December.

(11/06/2023) → Santa Cruz Sentinel
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Recent Statewide News

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• It's About to Get Easier for California College Students to Study in Their Own Language

Assembly Bill 1096, taking effect Jan. 1, will let community colleges in the state provide courses in non-English languages, regardless if a student is also taking ESL. Previously, a student had to sign up for the latter to qualify for the former.

(11/13/2023) → KQED

• Barbara Lee’s Lagging Senate Bid Doesn’t Equal Another House Term

Longtime Rep. Barbara Lee trails fellow representative Katie Porter and former Rep. Adam Schiff in their race for U.S. Senate. Lee still expressed determination to not seek a 14th term in the House, saying she’s running for Senate.

(11/13/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• Community College Enrollment Rebounding Post-Pandemic, and Students Over 50 Are a Big Reason Why

California’s community colleges are seeing enrollment gains for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Older students—those over 50—are some of the first to return.

(11/12/2023) → CalMatters

• Tree Climbers Are Helping Replant California’s Forests

More than 1.5 million acres of forest have been burned or scarred in California. Climbers go high in trees to grab pine cones that could help in reforestation.

(11/09/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• A California Ranch Gets Nearly as Much Water as the Arizona City of Scottsdale

The Elmore Desert Ranch gets 22.5 billion gallons of water from the Colorado River, almost as much as is cleared for Scottsdale, Ariz. And that’s just a fraction of the 386.5 billion gallons from the river going to 19 other families in Imperial Valley.

(11/09/2023) → ProPublica

• That Wasn’t Aurora Borealis in the California Skies, But Something Else Unusual

A photographer captured a Stable Aurora Red, or SAR arc light display, on Nov. 5 in California. These displays are generally imperceptible to the human eye.

(11/08/2023) → SFGate

• UCLA Report: Young California Workers Face Challenges

A new report by the UCLA Labor Center finds that young workers in California face a variety of challenges. These include pay barely above minimum wage, discrimination, and high rents.

(11/08/2023) → LAist

• California’s Young Workers Are Essential to the Economy. Why are They Stuck in Low Wage Jobs?

Young people are stuck earning low wages, working long hours—often while going to school—and often without benefits or work protections. Their hardships may hamper the state’s economy for years to come, researchers say.

(11/08/2023) → CalMatters

• Capitol Gets its First Monument to California’s Indigenous Population

A statue of Miwok elder William J. Franklin has been installed on California State Capitol grounds. The monument replaces a statue of Father Junípero Serra, which protestors toppled in 2020.

(11/07/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• Nearly One-Third of California Prisons Provide Inadequate Medical Care

An evaluation of 34 adult prisons in California by the Office of the Inspector General found that 11 provided inadequate medical care and 23 provided adequate care. None were deemed proficient, the top designation.

(11/07/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• UC Irvine-Led Science Team Shows How to Eat Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

In a study published in Nature Sustainability, scientists assessed the potential for wide-scale synthetic production of dietary fats. The raw materials are the same as those used by plants: hydrogen in water and carbon dioxide in the air.

(11/06/2023) → YubaNet

• A Proposed Development Might Threaten California’s Oldest Tree

A shrubby Palmer oak tree in Riverside County is around 13,000 years old, making it California’s oldest tree and one of the longest-lived organisms on earth. Some people are concerned that a proposed development could threaten the tree.

(11/06/2023) → Los Angeles Times
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Government Announcements

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Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (11/13/2023)
11/13/2023 - Renovated Willowbrook County Park Playground Opens
Image of Santa Cruz County Office of Education seal. Santa Cruz County Office of Education   (11/10/2023)
United Against Hate
Dear community member,  Next week is United Against Hate Week, a call for seven days of action against acts of hatred and implicit bias of all kinds. The Santa Cruz County Board of Education likewise adopted a resolution recognizing United Against Hate Week at its October meeting, which can be read here. As we have in [...] The post United Against Hate appeared first on Santa Cruz County Office Of Education.
Image of City of Watsonville seal. City of Watsonville   (11/09/2023)
Preparing Central Coast residents for natural disasters & emergencies
Image of Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission seal. Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission   (11/09/2023)
Preliminary Staff Recommendations for 2023 Consolidated Grant Program Announced
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is pleased to announce the preliminary staff recommendations for the 2023 Consolidated Grants program. The RTC received 22 applications requesting over $95 million, however only $61.3 million is available in funding. The RTC staff developed preliminary recommendations based on a number of evaluation criteria, including project readiness,... [Read More]
Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (11/09/2023)
11/9/2023 - Preparing Central Coast Residents for Natural Disasters & Emergencies
Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (11/09/2023)
11/9/2023 - Press Advisory: Willowbrook County Park Ribbon Cutting
Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (11/09/2023)
11/9/2023 - Public Invited to Meeting on Rail Trail Draft EIR
Image of County of Santa Cruz seal. County of Santa Cruz   (11/08/2023)
11/8/2023 - County Highlights Veterens' Issues by Joining Operation Green Light, Illuminating County Building
Image of City of Santa Cruz seal. City of Santa Cruz   (11/07/2023)
Oversized Vehicle Ordinance (OVO) Enforcement Starts on December 4, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 7, 2023 Contact: Erika Smart, Communications Manager, (831) 420-5016, Siouxsie Oki, Community Relations Specialist, (831) 420-5059, SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Oversized...
Image of City of Scotts Valley seal. City of Scotts Valley   (11/07/2023)
Scotts Valley is Blessed with Community Volunteers
The City of Scotts Valley is lucky to have many generous individuals and organizations supporting the City so that more services and amenities are available to the community.
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Upcoming Government Meetings

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Event sponsor logo City of Santa Cruz / Sister Cities Committee
Monday November 13 2023   7:00 PM
Event sponsor logo County of Santa Cruz / County Board of Supervisors Meeting
Tuesday November 14 2023   9:00 AM
Event sponsor logo City of Santa Cruz / City Council
Tuesday November 14 2023   3:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Watsonville / City Council Meeting
Tuesday November 14 2023   4:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Capitola / Art and Cultural Commission Meeting
Tuesday November 14 2023   6:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Santa Cruz / Zoning Administrator
Wednesday November 15 2023   10:00 AM
Event sponsor logo City of Capitola / Commission on the Environment Meeting
Wednesday November 15 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Santa Cruz / Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday November 15 2023   7:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Santa Cruz / Planning Commission
Thursday November 16 2023   7:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Capitola / Capitola City Council Regular Meeting
Tuesday November 21 2023   7:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Capitola / Capitola City Council Regular Meeting
Thursday November 23 2023   7:00 PM