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Aug 28th
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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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Town Hall

Why Two Way?

Why Two Way?

The Downtown Association has asked city council to consider changing traffic patterns on three blocks of Pacific Avenue and two feeder streets to allow for a less convoluted and more welcoming navigation to and around downtown.

With a plethora of downtown issues to focus on, a struggling national economy and increased vacancies, why would this be a priority, especially now as we enter into the busiest retail season of the year?

Earlier this year, the City of Santa Cruz engaged the services of Robert Gibbs, a well-known retail consultant, to assess the city’s economic centers and make recommendations as to how to increase the retail capacity, thereby strengthening the local economy.

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Local News

Cannabis Crackdown

Cannabis Crackdown

Local medical marijuana dispensaries face an uncertain future in face of government shutdowns

In the spring of 2009, a neighborhood of sick people with cancer, neurological degenerative disease, and chronic pain joined to form the Santa Cruz Mountain Naturals Medical Cannabis Collective and Medicinal Herb Co-op (SCMN). After an Aptos building owner invited the collective to open a dispensary in his building on Soquel Drive seven months ago, this medical cannabis community grew to treat more than 1,500 patients.

“There were a number of sick people going through really serious problems that had been using marijuana as a relief for decades,” says Colin Disheroon, founding member of SCMN. “They were already doing this with doctors’ recommendations, but they were afraid. We began as a group to pool our resources and start providing medicine with intention, together. That is what this whole movement is based on—collectives.”

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Local News

Anything But Sluggish

Anything But Sluggish

UC Santa Cruz’s Research Review Day highlights notable developments

From identifying the amino acids that cause cancer in specific cells to influencing city designs through video games, there is no problem too small or too large for UC Santa Cruz faculty to tackle. They showcased examples of how they are shaping the future from their labs in the forest at Baskin School of Engineering’s Research Review Day on Thursday, Oct. 20.

“The mission of a research university is to engage in cutting-edge research ... and impact society through production of technology,” says associate professor of computer science Michael Mateas, who also leads the school’s Center for Games and Playable Media research group. His work in computer game design was among that highlighted at Research Review Day.

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Town Hall

Town Hall with Assemblymember Bill Monning

Town Hall with Assemblymember Bill Monning

You recently had a consumer assistance bill dealing with healthcare signed by the governor. What did this bill do?

My Assembly Bill (AB) 922 will enable California consumers to more easily access information and assistance about their health plan eligibility.

Federal healthcare reform will expand healthcare coverage to more than four million Californians and AB 922 will streamline the confusing and burdensome number of agencies that currently exist to assist consumers by making the Office of Patient Advocate (OPA) a one-stop-shop for that assistance. The bill will also ensure that Californians get clear and understandable consumer information and assistance by strengthening current programs, and OPA will catalog and direct complaints about healthcare coverage, as well as create a clear internal chain of command for the Administration with regard to health care coverage.  

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The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual