Editing Wally Trabing's column was a perfect challenge for a young editor. I was among those who had the challenge of editing Trabing's "Mostly About People" column -- in my case, starting around 1980 or so.
Trabing turns 90 today -- we share a birthday -- and Wallace Baine has written a great account of the former Sentinel columnist right here.
His copy was at once brilliant and, well, missing in the usual newswriting syntax. That was mostly to the good, but you had to be at your best to catch the inconsistencies. One time he referred to editing a "15 page newspaper in England" and he had to be reminded that newspapers have to have an even number of pages -- 14 or 16.
Then there was my favorite. After months of changing his copy from "laying down" to "lying down," I finally made an effort to explain to him the proper usage rule. He listened, politely, but his irritation got the best of him: "Doesn't anyone get to lay down anymore?"
Papers the size of Santa Cruz don't have daily columnists anymore. In fact, it's rare to find any paper with a daily columnist. Day in, day out, Sentinel readers were treated to Wally's take on Santa Cruz life. Or, sometimes he'd go back to his days in Kingsburg, in the Central Valley, evoking what life was like in the 1930s and '40s in rural California.
But my favorite Trabing story didn't involve his column. He was set to attend a Sunday afternoon concert by big band leader Stan Kenton at the Civic Auditorium. A big crowd showed up -- and so did Kenton and the band. But the concert promoter was nowhere to be found. It turned out the promoter hadn't even booked the hall.
Kenton said he'd go ahead and play if the Civic could be opened. So Trabing ran back to the Sentinel and called people he knew with the city -- and someone came down to open it up and turn on the sound system.
Finally, there was Wally's biggest contribution to Santa Cruz County -- naming Cabrillo College. According to founding college president Bob Swenson, it was Wally who first recommended the name. He wrote that the college should be named after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who visited the waters off California in 1542.
One of the oldest battles around Santa Cruz revolves around the role of business -- and, even more importantly -- business development.
Here's the history. The first big success for environmentalists was the Lighthouse Field battle of the early '60s. Developers wanted to put a convention center down at Lighthouse Field, and the slowly building no-growth movement in Santa Cruz hit its stride. Through a clever mix of protest, legal action and impressive door-to-door lobbying, the environmentalist, no-growth movement in Santa Cruz took off.
Around the same time, the so-called North Coast housing development planned for the area near Western Drive was stopped -- another big no-growth success.
Those moves set in place a no-growth philosophy that has remained in place -- pretty much -- in the 40 years since. An aspect of no-growth has also been a skepticism bordering on suspicion of business interests. The resulting cliche is as follows: business interests ruin the environment and pave over our wonderful natural state -- all for their own greedy interests.
Some examples: greedy business interests want a wider Highway 1; they want more hotel development; they want more housing; they want a rebuilt Dream Inn; they want more water supply (desal); they want a bigger UCSC; they want a convention center and this one, too: they want a bike path across vacant land at Arana Gulch.
Here's the problem: economic growth does a lot of good things. Jobs, tax revenue for local cities and the county, opportunity for all ages and even a relief for the need to commute elsewhere for jobs, goods and services.
And here's another reality not always noticed: the business community has changed over the past 40 years. If you doubt it, just check out this interesting website: the Santa Cruz Business Council. This is an organization that has undergone great change over the past few months.
Once dismissed by some around Santa Cruz as a bunch of whining capitalists, the reformed council has moved mainstream into an organization that is at once interested in economic growth but also quality of life.
The question remains: are the changes in the business community real -- or are they just hiding their greed better? More on that in the next post.
Paul Gratz, an anti-desal activist, read this comment to the task force: "We are all in a new participatory water supply and management era. No longer are public water agencies impervious submarines operating in splendid isolation within water silos."
I think what he means by that is "We don't want no stinkin' desal."
Actually, that's going to be the problem with the upcoming public debate. The two water departments are looking for answers to what seems to be the threat of not enough water in Santa Cruz in the years to come. The opponents really don't care what the facts say. They don't want desalination. End of story.
I can't imagine that the water departments will ever come up a study that will convince the opponents to change their mind.
Shift the scene to California. The same parties are at loggerheads. (I'm tempted to say dunderheads.) The Republicans won't play ball on a budget and the Democrats aren't willing to back off some pet projects.
Then -- zounds! Into the mix steps Gov. Jerry Brown with a bold move that actually might even impress someone like Brooks. He vetoed the Democratic-approved budget plan, saying that it was built on the same false foundation as so many budgets that have preceded it.
Added to all this is last year's Proposition 25, which forbids legislators from being paid if they haven't approved a budget. So they passed a terrible budget, but now, with Brown's veto, no one really knows whether they get paid or not. Interesting issue.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone -- also a coastal commissioner -- has been named vice chair of the state organization. The appointment shows that Stone has considerable clout on the commission.
Here's the press release from his office announcing his appointment:
SUPERVISOR MARK STONE ELECTED VICE CHAIR OF THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION
At the June 15, 2011, meeting of the California Coastal Commission, held in Marina del Rey, California, Mark Stone, Fifth District Supervisor of Santa Cruz County, was elected Vice Chair of the California Coastal Commission, on which he serves and represents the Central Coast.
Mr. Stone was appointed to the California Coastal Commission on August 21, 2009, by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass to represent Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Mateo Counties.
The California Coastal Commission was established by voter initiative in 1972, and later made permanent by the California Coastal Act of 1976. The Commission’s mission is to protect, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally-sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations.
The California Coastal Commission, in partnership with coastal cities and counties, plans and regulates the use of land and water in the Coastal Zone. The Coastal Zone, which was mapped by the State Legislature, covers an area larger than the State of Rhode Island.
Page 2 Supervisor Stone said, “I am honored to be chosen by my colleagues to be a part of the leadership of the California Coastal Commission. It is an important time for the Commission and I appreciate the confidence that the Commissioners have in me.”
Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas commented, “Supervisor Stone has impressed everyone with his calm, clear, incisive, and substantive approach and grasp of issues. He is an excellent choice.”
Assemblymember Bill Monning said, “I am confident that Mark Stone will be a strong leader on the Commission and will continue to work to implement the Coastal Act in a manner that is fair, reasoned, and mindful of how preservation of our precious coastal resources advances our region’s tourism and coastal access for all.”
John Laird, Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, remarked, “Mark consistently demonstrates a deep understanding and intelligent approach to solving issues before the Coastal Commission. His commitment to our coast and ocean is what is needed on the Commission right now. I am very pleased with their choice of Mark Stone for Vice Chair.”
The Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce might think about affixing an asterisk to its title -- as in *"not affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."
The U.S. Chamber is hardly a favorite around Santa Cruz -- with its strong positions firmly to the right of center on issues like regulation, climate change and health care. Local Chamber Executive Director Bill Tysseling has reported any number of complaints that he's received over positions taken by the nationwide chamber. He's even had obscene calls.
The name game isn't just limited to the chamber. Think back to when the national United Way was hit by a scandal over misuse of money. The local chapter of the United Way had no connection to the fraud -- but they still had to go into damage control anyway.
The identity issue for the chamber is coming up again because the local business group has been asked to join in the effort for a Climate Action Compact with other private and public partners in Santa Cruz. In doing so, the chamber will express its support of the following:
-- Set and present a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal for their organization;
--Identify specific inter-institutional cooperative projects that reduce GHG emissions, stimulate investment in the community and foster economic development;
--Present a comprehensive GHG reduction action plan for their organization;
-- Invite others from the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the region to join in the effort.
That's hardly a stance that would be taken by the U.S. Chamber. But if the Santa Cruz Chamber proceeds with the proposal, it just might get the word out that yes, the local chamber is its own animal. But it still might need the asterisk.
A new staff report from George Dondero, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Agency, shows that planning is under way to pick up the slack of AMBAG's work. The Santa Cruz RTC will discuss the matter at its meeting Thursday.
Here's how Dondero carefully addresses the future of AMBAG:
"The depressed economy since 2008 coupled with some challenging ongoing issues between AMBAG and the member agencies have stimulated discussion around how the members can best meet the challenges ahead. The RTC chair has requested staff to provide information regarding available options to fulfill the functions currently performed by AMBAG."
Later in the report, Dondero does a financial analysis of the financial impact on the RTC in a "post-AMBAG scenario."
The RTC report spells out both the mandated functions of AMBAG and some of the historical functions. They include:
1. Implement state housing needs and guidelines. This is a controversial function -- and agencies within Santa Cruz County have often balked at growth guidelines spelled out by AMBAG.
2. Forecast growth in housing, jobs and population.
3. Ensure that road projects with federal funds are in line with federal requirements. Dondero points out that this function is usually handled by local agencies.
4. Coordinating regional transportation plans so that they meet federal clean air standards. Since 2004, the Monterey Bay region has met those standards, so that further coordination is not required under law.
The net impact of Dondero's report calls on the RTC board to consider whether it could take over a portion of AMBAG's jobs in the event that AMBAG is dismantled. Doing so would require coordination with the Transportation Agency of Monterey County.
It's obvious that AMBAG's future is in doubt, and that other agencies around Monterey Bay are already making plans to take over the agency's work.
Santa Cruz City is a finalist for a national project sponsored by an organization called Code for America -- and the goal of it all might be surprising to some local critics. It's an innovative plan to cut red tape for local business. The program is designed to use the power of the Web to solve problems for local cities and towns.
Here's the idea, as spelled out in the project application:
"The city of Santa Cruz is seeking to partner with Code for America out of a shared vision that citizens shouldn’t have to choose between economic development and policies that protect the natural resources, vibrancy, and character of their communities. Together, we hope to use technology to streamline the process."
In a statement outlining the proposal Mayor Ryan Coonerty envisions the project as a computer interface like TurboTax, to help small businesses confused by the complexity. He says: "We’re using technology to make government more efficient, transparent and easier to work with for small business owners.
If the city makes the final cut for funding, Code for America would provide staffing and technology -- as well as training -- to develop the online technology that startups could use.
It's popular to say that the city does little to help local business. There mere act of applying for this fellowship demonstrates otherwise. Now, let's hope that Santa Cruz's application is one of the winners.
It's like clockwork at budget time: non-profits line up at the microphone to plead with a city council or a board of supervisors not to cut back their funding.
That's exactly what happened Tuesday night before the Santa Cruz City Council. Obviously the people representing the non-profits are doing what they need to do -- publicly advocate for their organizations. But what they really need to do is come before the council at other times during the year.
Specifically -- they need to be there when proposals come up that might add to the economic health of the city. That means that they need to advocate for economic growth.
It's well known in Santa Cruz that any proposal for a new business or development anywhere in town brings out protesters and naysayers. And too often, the only supporters for these business interests are the applicants themselves.
Politically, they need more support. And that support ought to come from these same non-profit groups that showed up this week before the City Council. The council can't hand out money it doesn't have -- and economic growth means more tax revenue for the city.
Non-profits can't be missing in action all year and then show up and expect the same money they've always had. If they want city funds -- help to ensure that city revenues are healthy.