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Jul 31st
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Technically Speaking

Technically Speaking

Four SmartMeter questions answered

Since their mass installation across California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)’s SmartMeters have received much attention from media and a skeptical public. Ten million SmartMeters are slated for installment by the end of 2011. Until recently, the roll out of these new wireless utility meters left many technical questions about their wireless technology unanswered.

At a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) meeting on Sept. 14, entitled “SmartMeter Opt-Out Workshop,” questions about the wireless meters were raised in front of a CPUC judge. On Oct.18, the CPUC ruled that PG&E—along with a list of other relevant utilities companies—must release a public “clarification” with answers to CPUC’s specific technological questions about SmartMeters.

 

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Local News

‘No Way’ to Two-Way?

‘No Way’ to Two-Way?

The fast-tracked traffic plan for Pacific Avenue comes to a halt

As November began, a proposal to make most of Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz a two-way street was speeding through votes of approval. But, by the end of the first week of the month, support for the idea had come to an abrupt stop.

The Downtown Association (DTA) and several city council members advocated for the proposal, which would have opened up the portion of Pacific between Cathcart and Church streets to two-way traffic by Dec. 2, as a way to increase downtown spending in time for the holiday shopping season. This expectation stemmed from a recommendation made by Michigan-based retail consultants Gibbs Planning Group, which reported that shifting to two-way traffic could increase sales by 30 percent because of increased visibility of storefronts.

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Environment

The Desal Divide

The Desal Divide

The debate continues ...

What started as a public Water Study Session on Nov. 1 shifted into a continuation of the longstanding debate over building a desalination facility on the shores of Santa Cruz.

“It felt like for the first time in a long time there was actually a civil discussion that was focused on the issues,” says Bill Kocher, Santa Cruz Water Department director. “It was great.”

But not all participants came away as satisfied.

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Town Hall

Town Hall with Congressman Sam Farr

Town Hall with Congressman Sam Farr

You recently signed a letter, along with six other congressional representatives, to President Barack Obama questioning the federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. What was your message for the president? What do you hope he will do in this regard?

Our message is simple: President Obama has the opportunity and authority to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule II or III drug administratively, or he can support the adoption of legislation that would change federal stature to achieve the same goal.

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Environment

The Plot Thickens

The Plot Thickens

Some unhappy SmartMeter recipients take matters into their own hands

If there is one indisputable fact about Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)’s SmartMeters, it’s that the rollout of the new technology, which began in mid-2010, hasn’t gone smoothly—especially in Santa Cruz.

In response to mounting opposition to the wireless meters—alleged health effects are chief among the concerns—the utility provider implemented a delay list in April, soon after submitting a proposal for a SmartMeter opt-out plan to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Assemblymember Bill Monning (27th District) advocated for the opt-out plan and interim delay list with PG&E and the CPUC based on complaints he was hearing from constituents. “Although I feel the verdict is still out on whether these meters pose a threat to human health, I believe if people feel strongly [that] they do not want to have one on their homes, they should be offered an alternative,” he says.

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Environment

The Plastic Influence

The Plastic Influence

New state textbooks contain pro-plastic bag phrasing

California schools officials edited the new Education & the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags in textbooks and teachers’ guides. This followed pressure from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an interest group representing U.S. chemical companies, including the plastics industry.

Santa Cruz City Schools is among the 19 districts that have implemented the new EEI curriculum, according to California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA). Cal/EPA, in tandem with the Department of Education, is tasked with overseeing the EEI curriculum.

“What ended up getting into textbooks was a section on the advantage of plastic shopping bags,” says David Gamburd, who works with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) on the UC Santa Cruz campus to educate students about the harmful environmental impacts of plastics.

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Town Hall

Town Hall with Supervisor Greg Caput

Town Hall with Supervisor Greg Caput

There is never a dull day in local politics nor a day that goes by that I am not thankful and thrilled to be the South County representative on the Board of Supervisors. In addition to staying closely attentive to all happenings with the Pájaro River and its upcoming Bench Excavation, there are a number of projects that my office is working on. The two that I would like to highlight today relate to my stance on the county’s involvement in the Secure Communities program and my initiative to set a county-wide goal of planting 25,000 trees in Santa Cruz County.

Secure Communities is a federal program administered by the Department of Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division. The program was announced to the public in 2009 and advertised as an effective way to deport serious and violent criminal immigrants. Under the program, when someone is arrested for a crime, their fingerprints are scanned and sent to ICE. Upon finding a match in their system, which usually means that the person in question has been previously caught crossing the border, ICE then submits a detainer request in which the individual in question is detained for a 48-hour period.

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Local News

Reading Ahead

Reading AheadWebExclusive: Office of Education addresses literacy gap in children

Forty-six percent of Californian third graders are reading above or at standardized proficiency levels, according to the 2010-2011 STAR testing results. That number is even lower—40 percent—in Santa Cruz County, but there has been a steady push to work towards raising those percentages.

Most recently, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, along with more than 150 other U.S. communities, has signaled their intent to apply for the 2012 All America City Awards, which is offered by the National Civic League. By doing so the county has agreed to work towards addressing child literacy by focusing on ways to improve three key areas: school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.

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Local News

Taking The Lead

Taking The LeadCounty embraces criminal justice reform

Born with a cleft palate, all Mike Biscovich wanted when he was young was to belong. But instead, his youth was filled with humiliation as students laughed at his deformity; and later with solitude, as they shunned him. It was a lonely time, that was, until he discovered drugs.

In drugs he found an escape, a form of comfort, a place to be. And as he immersed himself in that life, the more he says he came to believe he didn’t need other people. It became a vicious circle that would pit him against the world, throw him into a life of petty crime and eventually land him five jaunts in state prison.

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Local News

Eye on the Occupiers

Eye on the Occupiers

How does Occupy Santa Cruz fit into the global movement for democracy?

Ed Frey, an attorney in Santa Cruz, has been unhappy with the political process and decisions of policymakers in the United States for decades—particularly the lack of a voice given to everyday people. He is not alone. On Sept. 17, the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City’s financial district erupted, and Frey found a vehicle for his cause. He participated on day one of the movement in San Francisco’s branch-off protest, Occupy San Francisco. When Occupy Santa Cruz (OSC) developed, Frey immediately joined the effort.

“I do not think it’s a policy change—no bill or piece of legislation—that we need,” says Frey. “We need a process change.” Frey thinks people should demand full access to facts, and that officeholders should be directly accountable to the people they represent.

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Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Jailbreak with Reality

‘The Stanford Prison Experiment’ revisits one of the most notorious studies of all time
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Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover