december 21-27, 2023 montereycountyweekly.com LOCAL & INDEPENDENT winter weather forecast 16 | merry squidmas 21 | flower power 42 | holiday beer cheer 46 Check out the winners of the 101-Word Short Story Contest, those that came close and a few that might raise a curious eyebrow. p. 26 A Tale Wagging 101-Word Short Story Contest 2023 ♥ Shop LOCAL this holiday ♥ season ♥ p. 24

2 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com THE PROBLEM THE SOLUTION

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4 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com

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6 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com december 21-27, 2023 • ISSUE #1846 • Established in 1988 Bob Schroedter (Pixel 6 pro) A pelican takes flight at Carmel River State Beach, where the river is once again flowing to the ocean. Monterey County photo of the week Send Etc. submissions to etcphoto@mcweekly.com; please include caption and camera info. On the cover: The cat raises an eyebrow and taps his cigar. Before leaving the room, he seems to turn his head and say, “One more thing…” Find out more—just a little bit more—about the cat called Columbo in results of the annual 101-Word Short Story Contest. Cover Illustration: By Yunyi Dai etc. Copyright © 2023 by Milestone Communications Inc. 668 Williams Ave., Seaside, California 93955 (telephone 831-394-5656). All rights reserved. Monterey County Weekly, the Best of Monterey County and the Best of Monterey Bay are registered trademarks. No person, without prior permission from the publisher, may take more than one copy of each issue. Additional copies and back issues may be purchased for $1, plus postage. Mailed subscriptions: $120 yearly, pre-paid. The Weekly is an adjudicated newspaper of Monterey County, court decree M21137. The Weekly assumes no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Visit our website at http://www.montereycountyweekly.com. Audited by CVC. Founder & CEO Bradley Zeve bradley@mcweekly.com (x103) Publisher Erik Cushman erik@mcweekly.com (x125) Editorial editor Sara Rubin sara@mcweekly.com (x120) features editor Dave Faries dfaries@mcweekly.com (x110) associate editor Tajha Chappellet-Lanier tajha@mcweekly.com (x135) Staff Writer Celia Jiménez celia@mcweekly.com (x145) Staff Writer Pam Marino pam@mcweekly.com (x106) Staff Writer Agata Pope¸da (x138) aga@mcweekly.com Staff Writer David Schmalz david@mcweekly.com (x104) Staff photographer Daniel Dreifuss daniel@mcweekly.com (x140) MONTEREY COUNTY NOW PRODUCER Sloan Campi sloan@mcweekly.com (x105) contributors Nik Blaskovich, Rob Brezsny, Nic Coury, Tonia Eaton, Jeff Mendelsohn, Jacqueline Weixel, Paul Wilner Cartoons Rob Rogers, Tom Tomorrow Production Art Director/Production Manager Karen Loutzenheiser karen@mcweekly.com (x108) Graphic Designer Kevin Jewell kevinj@mcweekly.com (x114) Graphic Designer Alexis Estrada alexis@mcweekly.com (x114) Graphic Designer Lani Headley lani@mcweekly.com (x114) SALES senior Sales Executive Diane Glim diane@mcweekly.com (x124) Senior Sales Executive George Kassal george@mcweekly.com (x122) Senior Sales Executive Keith Bruecker keith@mcweekly.com (x118) Classifieds business development director Keely Richter keely@mcweekly.com (x123) Digital Director of Digital Media Kevin Smith kevin@mcweekly.com (x119) Distribution Distribution AT Arts Co. atartsco@gmail.com Distribution Control Harry Neal Business/Front Office Office Manager Linda Maceira linda@mcweekly.com (x101) Bookkeeping Rochelle Trawick rochelle@mcweekly.com 668 Williams Ave., Seaside, CA 93955 831-394-5656, (FAX) 831-394-2909 www.montereycountyweekly.com We’d love to hear from you. Send us your tips at tipline.montereycountyweekly.com. The fuTure is up To you To donate: mcgives.com/journalism Democracy depends on independent journalism. Producing that journalism requires new resources. Reader revenue and philanthropy are current models to assist news organizations. Your support is vital.

www.montereycountyweekly.com DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 7 Wishing you the happiest of Holidays and sooo much joy, love, laughter, fun, and abundance in 2024! TWENTY TWENTY FORE! Also a Big Thank You for Voting Us... 831.375.1313 | grillatpointpinos.com Located at the Pacific Grove Golf Links BEST RESTAURANT ON A GOLF COURSE! BEST HUEVOS RANCHEROS!

8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com THE BUZZ FREE SPEECH Overall, 2023 was not a good year for the media industry. The firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that 19,881 jobs have been eliminated from the industry in 2023 year to date. To put that in context, Axios reports that figure is six times higher than the number of industry jobs eliminated in 2022. Companies that slashed their staff toward the end of the year include Condé Nast, The Washington Post, Yahoo News and Vox Media. Other big-name outlets like Businessweek and The Nation recently shrank their production schedules, becoming monthly magazines. Meanwhile, some nonprofit outlets report that their model is succeeding. Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting announced on Dec. 14 they are merging into one “multiplatform” investigative news organization. The Philadelphia Inquirer is the country’s largest newspaper company under nonprofit ownership (in this case, the Lenfest Institute). The Local News Initiative at Northwestern University reports the Inquirer’s staff of over 200 “dwarfs those of metro newsrooms owned by national chains now controlled by investment funds.” Good: The Bob Hoover Academy, run in partnership with the Monterey County Office of Education, offers aviation training for high school students struggling to meet graduation requirements. Not all students learn best in the classroom—some learn in the skies, where they can learn STEM skills in real time and gain practical experience in aeronautics. Good news comes from the California School Boards Association, which awarded MCOE and the nonprofit flight academy the prestigious Golden Bell Award in December. “This program is a bold and brave approach to inspiring youth to undertake what they never imagined they could do,” Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Deneen Guss said in a statement. “Through active collaboration, community support, and a strong desire to succeed, this program is growing and expanding.” GREAT: The California Arts Council is infusing Monterey County with nine grants totaling $394,325 to support arts and culture. Grantees include Sol Treasures in King City; Palenke Arts in Seaside; Urban Arts Collective in Salinas; and Hijos Del Sol in Salinas. Each received $51,000 for general operating support; Alisal Center for the Fine Arts and Monterey County Pops! each got $42,000. The Monterey Museum of Art was awarded $18,475 for impact projects, and the Arts Council for Monterey County received two grants for a combined $88,000. “The California Arts Council has been working diligently to listen to our field, to be responsive to the moment, and to do our best to make our investments strategic and equitable,” Executive Director Jonathan Moscone said in an announcement about $33 million granted statewide in 2023. GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK THE WEEKLY TALLY Amount awarded to the City of Salinas by the U.S. Department of Transportation for Williams Road safety improvements. From 2017-21, there were 74 traffic collisions on Williams Road, 11 of which involved pedestrians. Projects will include installing a roundabout at East Market Street, crosswalks, lighting and new traffic signals. Source: U.S. Department of Transportation $16 million QUOTE OF THE WEEK “If it’s appropriate, we go out and rescue them.” -Marine Mammal Center volunteer Charles Young speaking about a sea lion rescue in Moss Landing on Dec. 13 (see story, mcweekly.com). • Over 100 dealers 21,000 square feet The Largest AnTiques And COLLeCTibLes MALL on the Central Coast ’23 Voted Monterey County's Best Antique Shop 471 WAVE STREET MONTEREY (831) 655-0264 P M canneryrowantiquemall.com Holiday shopping? Come by to find a vintage treasure! Open Daily 11am-6pm sPeCiAL HOLidAY HOuRs CLOSED Christmas & New Year’s Day OPEN 11am -3pm Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve ♦ 3 Card Poker ♠ Century 21st No Bust Black Jack ♣ Texas Hold’em ♥ Baccarat FULL BAR! BLACKJACK BONUS POINTS PAYS UP TO $20,000 SMALL TOWN BIG PAYOUTS! 1-800-Gambler • Gega-003846, Gega-Gega-003703, Gega-000889 Gega-000891 Gega-002838 The Marina Club Casino ensures the safety and security of all guests and team members at all times, while providing exceptional service. 204 Carmel Ave. Marina 831-384-0925 casinomonterey.com ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ Just minutes from Downtown Monterey Where Monterey Comes To Play

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10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY December 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com 831 When Bob Brunson tells a story, he has a habit of interrupting himself to say “long story short,” and that only means a longer detour. This story is about Brunson, and a very long walk. But in his telling, it is about another time and place, and the main character is Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, born in Italy circa 1181, and canonized as Saint Francis in 1228. Long story short (for real), Francis’ search for meaning took him to a ruined chapel in San Damiano, where he reportedly heard a command from Jesus to repair the church. Francis did, and devoted himself to a life of poverty. He went on to establish what is still known today as the Franciscan order. First- and second-order Franciscans are priests, monks and nuns; third-order secular Franciscans include people like Brunson and his wife, Teresa Brunson, who live in a contemporary societal setting but commit to Francis’ principles. But enough about theology—it’s the backstory for an extraordinary undertaking. Brunson dreamed of walking the famed 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain, but had neither the time or the money. “So I thought, I’ll just walk all 21 California missions as a pilgrimage,” he says. (Father Junipero Serra was a first-order Franciscan.) In increments, sometimes a weekend or a week at a time, Brunson would walk a stretch, starting in the south at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and eventually ending, eight years later, at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. He requested permission from late Bishop Richard Garcia to wear a traditional habit, or robe. (“The one I got was polyester and wool, which was terrible because I walked mostly in summer—they do have cotton ones,” Brunson says.) He carried just a small burlap bag with essentials like a toothbrush and clean underwear. And he started walking, and walking. “I wanted to do it as a mendicant, on faith,” Brunson says. “I’m not a very good Christian, by the way, or a very good mendicant.” (“Very good” is a matter of interpretation; Brunson rallied a group of neighbors in 2022 to sponsor a family of Afghan refugees. In his job he supports healing, as the clinical director of Sun Street Centers; his wife is clinical director for Interim, Inc.) In some places, like at Mission San Antonio de Padua in South Monterey County, he stayed in a mission. He might call a friend of a friend and sleep on the couch. And sometimes, he’d bust out the credit card and stay at a hotel. (This is partly what he means by “not a good Christian.”) For a one-week stretch, Brunson parked his car in LA, then returned to find it had been towed. When he spoke to police, then to the towing company—wearing his robe, naturally—they waived all fees. “Junipero Serra is still doing miracles on the Camino,” Brunson says. After completing the 800 miles, Brunson wasn’t satiated—he did go on to spend three weeks walking the Camino de Santiago, joining with other pilgrims from all over the world. (There, he wore secular walking attire, rather than the habit, but kept his simple sandals.) Brunson became one of roughly 80 people counted by the California Mission Walkers group, which reports 2,400 members, many of whom have walked just a portion. Brunson now offers his home in Marina to fellow pilgrims, as indicated by a sticker on his front door. He is pictured in the second edition of the Mission Walkers’ The Hiker’s Guide to California’s 21 Spanish Missions Along El Camino Real. The photo shows Brunson, wearing his habit, at an ATM machine getting cash—a collision of a historic pilgrimage with modern life. And a modern life in all its glory is what animates Brunson’s faith. “Most people think it’s supposed to be good for after you die,” he says. “Religion is supposed to teach you how to live now—life is for the living. Most people walk around like zombies, and they get distracted by their wants and fears, and they never get to live life.” He’s living it up, on his own two feet. On a Mission Moved by faith, Bob Brunson walked 800 miles to visit 21 California missions. By Sara Rubin For a local stretch of his 800-mile, 21-mission walk, Bob Brunson followed Highway 68 east to Salinas, then followed the historic De Anza Trail to San Juan Bautista. “Junipero Serra is still doing miracles on the Camino.” TALeS FrOm THe AreA cODe DANIEL DREIFUSS SHOP. EAT. STAY. LOCAL HAPPY HOLIDAYS we look forward to serving you in the new year! from all of us at MPCC

www.montereycountyweekly.com DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 11 We wish you the best in the year to come. We’re working hard to help complete an affordable and sustainable water supply for the Monterey Peninsula. Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley, Inc. We provide more than just a meal… Nourishing & Nurturing Seniors Since 1972 Donate: montereycountygives.com/mows

12 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com news A beloved 37-yearold, year-round Christmas store, Kris Kringle of Carmel, is closing. This is the store’s last Christmas season, explains owner Carol Montana to each customer in line. She is ready to retire, at the age of 77, and enjoy Christmas herself, she says. The clientele, many of them regulars, seem devastated and quickly buy their last Nutcracker soldier or finally decide on an outlandish gingerbread house. “I’ve bought a lot of things here,” says one customer waiting in line. Montana cheers them up adding there will be even a bigger sale after Christmas, starting on Tuesday, Dec. 26, when customers can stock up on hand-painted ornaments, Santas, snowmen and snow globes, most in the German style of celebration. That’s because Montana and her now-deceased husband Michael decided to open a Christmas store after their honeymoon in Germany. Kris Kringle is a German Santa Claus. “It’s bittersweet because many customers have been shopping with us for a long time,” Montana says. “When my daughter was a child, I was here less.” Since then, she has been at the counter every day. Montana is closing, after considering her now adult daughter as a possible new owner. But that would mean a big move and house selling. Hence, it’s the end of this chapter. “It will make Christmas a little bit less hectic for me,” Montana says. “I always know it’s coming and I’m never quite ready for it.” Montana will be in the store until all of the merchandise is gone, then close up shop. She is not planning to keep any more items for her own collection. “I have a lot at home,” she says. “Well, I might keep one or two little things.” Last Christmas After 37 years of selling Christmas decor year-round, a Carmel institution is closing its doors. By Agata Pop˛eda It seemed like a good idea in 1972 when the California Legislature passed the Mills Act, a voluntary program designed to save crumbling historic buildings from ruin by allowing cities and counties to give tax breaks to property owners with the premise owners would use savings for restoration. It was considered an equitable tradeoff at the time but now, after nearly 52 years and skyrocketing housing prices, it’s feeling far less equitable to some cities. “In the ’70s I don’t think anyone anticipated the property values in California that we have today,” says Brandon Swanson, community planning and development director for Carmel. In a town where the median price of a home last month was $2.25 million, a reduction in property taxes can add up, especially in the case of historic homes that can be valued in the tens of millions. In a report to the Carmel City Council on Nov. 7, Swanson said that for the 2022-2023 year, the city experienced a property tax loss of just over $9,100 on 14 Mills Act properties. The Carmel Unified School District saw a loss of $91,200. Property owners pay 1 percent of assessed value in taxes, which is then divided between agencies with percentages varying from city to city. In Carmel’s case, the city receives 6 percent, the school district 60 percent, and the county, special districts and others receive 1-15 percent. When the city enters into a Mills Act contract with a property owner, the Monterey County Tax Assessor’s Office uses a complex formula to reduce the valuation of a property. In Carmel’s case it has resulted in taxes being lowered from 50-85 percent per qualified property, according to Swanson. With several new Mills Act applications submitted in 2023, the council took a closer look at the program. They voted 5-0 on Dec. 5 in favor of a moratorium to give staff time to review the policy. The council may decide to limit how many contracts to consider in a year, the length of contracts and whether to put a cap on valuation, thereby reducing revenue losses, as other cities have done. The Monterey City Council also passed a temporary moratorium on all Mills Act applications on Nov. 7 by a vote of 4-1. On Dec. 5, councilmembers voted to extend it by 10-and-a-half months to give staff time to review the ordinance. (Councilmember Alan Haffa voted no both times.) When Monterey implemented the Mills Act in 1999, some properties accepted into the program were close to being demolished. Today the properties are in good shape and an asset to the city, which prides itself on its historic resources. The motivation to pause the program now comes partly from seeing an increase in groups purchasing historic homes for a quick investment, says Kim Cole, Monterey’s community development director. The homes are advertised as having low property taxes. Buyers make minor improvements, then sell at a profit. Cole says she’ll investigate how Mills Act homes are being monetized, but there’s also a question of fairness to the community. “When you look at it on an equity basis for a waiver of taxes, what’s fair?” she asks. In Carmel, the council delayed voting on an application by Esperanza Carmel on Dec. 5 for the Clinton Walker house, a Frank Lloyd Wright design, citing equity concerns. It was purchased in March for $22 million. Casa Boronda is the oldest private residence in Monterey, built in 1817. It’s one of 60 properties in the city with Mills Act contracts. It was sold in February for $3.3 million. Fair Question Cities pause a ’70s-era program that gives tax breaks to historic building owners. By Pam Marino Customers will miss Carol Montana (above) and her Christmas store in Carmel. The staff personalized ornaments by hand using a special pen, including names, dates and occasions. The homes are advertised as having low property taxes. Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss

www.montereycountyweekly.com DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 It takes a village to raise a child in a safe and stable home. Resource and Respite Families play an important role in the reunification process between Monterey County’s foster youth and their families. Individuals, couples and families can make a difference. (831) 755-4475 FCSMC.ORG Open your Heart and Home IT TAKES A VILLAGE SUPPORT SUICIDE LOSS SURVIVORS THIS HOLIDAY suicidepreventionservicecc.org mcgives.com/suicideprevention THERE IS HOPE GET CCFCU PRE-APPROVED! Getting Pre-Approved* for an auto loan can make the process of purchasing a new vehicle simple and straight forward. Benefits of Pre-Approval include: •• YEoa us i’el lr kt on odwe chi doewomn uacvhe hyoi cul ec an b or row •• FE il ni md i pnoa tt ee ns tui ar pl cr irseedsi td ius rs iunegs b ne faonrce ihnagn d fi Give us a call at 831-393-3480 to get you into a new vehicle today! *Pre-Approval subject to credit check and other qualifying factors. NMLS ID: 786119

14 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Along some rural Monterey County roads, you can smell trash even before you see it. Bags of household garbage, tires, furniture and kitchen appliances getting dumped on the sides of isolated roads has been a longstanding issue. For decades, the Illegal Dumping and Litter Abatement Task Force—which includes local cities, county departments, waste haulers and community members—has worked to reduce it. They’ve used educational programs, informing residents about vouchers available to dispose of trash properly, and organized quarterly cleanups across the county. Yet still: “We don’t have a shortage of hot spots,” says Maria Ferdin, a supervisor with the Environmental Health Department, noting dark and isolated places are favorites for illegal dumping. In a largely rural county, there are many such places. Illegal dumping is an expensive issue. Over a five-year period from 2017-2022, the County of Monterey spent $1.7 million on roadside cleanups, collecting 1,602,580 pounds of trash. “What else could we have used that money for?” Ferdin wonders. That’s where efforts at prevention come in. County officials are now looking to increasing fines as a deterrent. Current fines for illegal dumping range from $100 to $1,000 per offense. In neighboring San Benito County, fines increased in September from $100-$300 to $2,500 for the first offense, $5,000 for the second and $10,000 for a third offense. Concerned that higher fines there could drive more illegal dumping over the county border, Monterey County is seeking to mirror San Benito’s fines in the near future. Ferdin says it’s too early to tell if illegal dumping near San Benito County has increased, but that it makes sense for counties sharing a border to have the same fine schedule. In February, the Health Department brought the illegal dumping issue to the Monterey Board of Supervisors and proposed funding for a surveillance program, a pilot program in problematic areas and an illegal dumping study at a cost of $120,000—which was scrapped after the flooding in Pajaro. Environmental Health officials are currently working on a draft ordinance and a structure to implement penalties, especially because the Health Department would issue citations— not something typically part of their enforcement powers. Meanwhile, they continue looking for ways to effectively discourage illegal dumping. The proposed ordinance could be back in front of the Board of Supervisors as early as January. Over the years, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District has received calls from parents inquiring about preschool programs in Monterey. Starting on Jan. 4, the district will open a program for kids ages 3-5 in the former Monte Vista School on Soledad Drive “This is the first subsidized program opening in Monterey that is connected to a district,” says Tia Robinson, MPUSD’s coordinator of early childhood education. The trigger to open a preschool center in Monterey was an assessment by Bright Beginnings, an early childhood development initiative of the County, United Way and Monterey County Office of Education. The assessment showed there was great interest in preschool programs in Monterey, especially subsidized programs. According to Bright Beginnings’ findings, the county has enough licensed spaces for just 26 percent of children under 5 years of age. The Monterey location will open two classrooms and will have 48 spots available. “We will expand once we get staffing, and we’re planning to expand to probably lower ages,” Robinson says. California has strict regulations for public preschool, including 35 square feet of indoor space per child, child-size furniture and more. Currently, MPUSD serves fewer than 400 preschool students combined in Marina and Seaside at its child development centers. If the Monterey location is closer to home or work for those families, parents can request transfers to Monterey. The program is state-funded and is open to families at all income levels. Qualifying families pay up to $82 per month. Those who don’t qualify for subsidies will pay $850 per month per child; MPUSD employees will have a discounted rate of $590. Kids enrolled in the program are expected to have a smooth transition to transitional kindergarten and beyond since they will already be in MPUSD’s preschool. Students will learn socio-emotional skills, language development, arts and crafts, and more. Dump Dive County Board of Supervisors will consider big increases to illegal dumping fees. By Celia Jiménez news ’Tis the Season The Food Bank for Monterey County is distributing pozole kits for the holiday season at different locations across the county. Kits include hominy, chilis and vegetables to make your own holiday stew. Pickups take place over two days. Thursday, Dec. 21 from 9-10am at 1122 E. Alisal St., Salinas and at 116 South Belden St., Gonzales; 10-11am at 504 N. 3rd St., King City; noon-1pm on Cattleman Road in San Ardo (for San Ardo and San Lucas residents). On Friday Dec. 22, from 9-10am at 11140 Preston St., Castroville. Free; bring proof of address for your pickup. 5781523, foodbankformontereycounty.org. Dollars and Sense Salinas City Council wants to know residents’ budget priorities. Take a survey, and sign up to receive updates on upcoming budget meetings in advance of the budgeting process for the 2024-25 fiscal year. Visit tinyurl.com/SalinasCaBudget to complete the survey. For more information, call 758-7381. Civic Service The City of Pacific Grove has several open volunteer positions on committees and commissions available, including the Planning Commission, Historic Resources Committee and Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Each body meets at least monthly; appointments will be made on Jan. 17. Deadline to apply is 5pm Thursday, Dec. 21. Applications and forms available at cityofpacificgrove.org or the City Clerk’s office at 300 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. For more information, email cityclerk@cityofpacificgrove.org or call 648-3100. Give to Gives Learn about the missions of 206 local nonprofits, and donate to support their efforts to make Monterey County a place where everyone can thrive. Midnight on Sunday, Dec. 31 is the deadline to donate. $5 minimum donation. 375-9712, montereycountygives. com. Donate online, or send checks to Community Foundation for Monterey County, Attn: MCGives!, 2354 Garden Road, Monterey, 93940. Tax time The Alliance on Aging seeks volunteers for its Tax Counseling for the Elderly program, helping seniors navigate their taxes in 2024. Tax preparation experience is required; additional training provided. Appointments are weekdays from 9am-3pm. Complete a volunteer application at allianceonaging.org. For more information, email rhill@allianceonaging.org or call 655-4242. Start Them Young Citing high demand, MPUSD will launch a preschool program in Monterey in January. By Celia Jiménez The Monterey County Public Works Department built an interactive map showing illegal dumping hot spots across largely rural Monterey County. e-mail: publiccitizen@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “We don’t have a shortage of hot spots.” Courtesy of Monterey County Public Works

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16 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY December 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Back in the winter of 1997, when an El Niño weather dynamic created the conditions for California to be drenched by rainfall, late comedian Chris Farley did a spot on the “Weekend Update” segment of Saturday Night Live that was ostensibly a weather report. He wore a frilly coat, not buttoned up and with no shirt underneath, and an out-of-frame wind machine in the studio blew his hair. “I am El Niño,” Farley said. “All other tropical storms must bow before…El Niño! Yo soy El Niño. For those of you who don’t habla español, El Niño is Spanish for…the Niño!!!” It stands the test of time as 25 seconds of comedy gold. That vignette helped make a lot of people aware of a phenomenon that occurs from time to time in the Pacific Ocean, but perhaps because it was such a wet winter that year, it may have left many people with the impression that El Niño conditions invariably bring more rainfall. That is not true. It increases the likelihood of above-average precipitation, but the dynamics of weather involve a complex interplay of variables where a change in a single one of them can profoundly shift outcomes. Take, for example, the winter of 2015-16, one of the strongest El Niño patterns in a generation, when only a slightly above-average amount of rain fell on the Central Coast. That’s because an ocean warming event off the West Coast at the time, commonly referred to as “the blob,” put a stop to other warm air moving in—it essentially became a wall that blocked off other systems. On Dec. 14, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service published its latest update of the El Niño conditions heading into what are typically the wettest months on the Central Coast, predicting a 54-percent chance of this winter’s El Niño pattern being one of the five strongest since 1950. El Niño conditions occur when the waters in the equatorial Pacific warm to above-average temperatures, and in a system where a lot of variables are in play, it can change weather even further north than the Central Coast. Air has a tendency to move, which is why “pressure” is a word so often used by meteorologists—an area of high atmospheric pressure next to an area of low pressure will transfer air to the latter. “The blob” created high pressure, which was a bulwark against the high pressure created by El Niño eight years ago. Rick Canepa, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Monterey office, explains that the difference of temperatures in places improves the efficiency in shifts in weather systems, and that while there’s nothing firm that can be predicted for the winter to come, that contrast “should be helpful to get extra systems to develop. It only takes about three to five days for a storm system to spin up.” As for how the winter will shake out, it’s all informed speculation about a system with countless variables. “It’s extremely complex,” Canepa says. “It’s what keeps us on our toes here.” Wild Card This winter could be one of the biggest El Niño events in decades, but storms remain hard to predict. By David Schmalz A well-prepared onlooker watches the waves crash in during a storm near Lovers Point in January 2023. NEWS “It only takes three to five days for a storm system to spin up.” DANIEL DREIFUSS

www.montereycountyweekly.com december 21-27, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 17

18 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com MC GIVES The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has been operating since 1883. It’s one of the oldest natural history museums in the U.S.; in 1935, the American Association of Museums called it “the best of its size” in the states. The museum houses one of the oldest collections of the Central California Coast’s flora, fauna and related artifacts, serving as a living field guide of native plants, animals and geology. It is full of stories. Those range from the past—including an army of loving caretakers, starting with Mary E.B. Norton (1832-1917, one of the founders and the first fairy godmother of the museum)—to present times, when the current leadership is looking for new ways to engage with the community and to effortlessly shine for another 140 years. Its mission is “to inspire discovery, wonder and stewardship of our natural world.” According to Director of Collections and Exhibits Chris Green, most of that inspiration and community engagement actually happens outside the museum. The 2022 Monterey County Gives! campaign provided the nonprofit with funds for more community outreach. Since Mohammed doesn’t come to the mountain, the mountain is happy to come to Mohammed—as well as to Mary in Del Rey Oaks or Angela in Salinas. The museum started setting up a tent or table in various schools. Now, they are becoming more ambitious. “We have a fully electric van, our mobile museum,” Green shares. “We can go further, all over the county.” This year for MCGives!, the museum is turning back to its physical footprint, and chose a garden expansion as its Big Idea. The plan is to transform the garden into an upgraded and interactive outdoor learning space. New features will include an amphitheater, an enhanced fossil discovery areas, spaces for community art and murals, a new cultural exhibit, an enhanced native plant garden, as well as an ethnobotany section that will benefit both human visitors and native pollinators, including Pacific Grove’s famous monarch butterflies. The museum is working on its upcoming list of rotating exhibits. One is a jade exhibit of works by marine biologist Don Wobber that will open in late 2024 or early 2025. DANIEL DREIFUSS Tend the Garden The P.G. Museum of Natural History inspires discovery all over, including its own backyard. By Agata Pop˛eda The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is looking to revamp its garden, including plans for an amphitheater. The indoor exhibit space is shown above. How to Donate Go to www.mcgives.com and click the Donate button. Dr. Brynie Kaplan Dau, MS, DVM SURGERY DERMATOLOGY FELINE AND CANINE MEDICINE PREVENTATIVE CARE REGENERATIVE MEDICINE PRP (PLATELET-RICH PLASMA) LASER THERAPY EXOTICS AND MUCH MORE Compassionate Care with exCeptional mediCine. 1023 Austin Avenue, Pacific Grove • 831-318-0306 www.pacificgroveanimalhospital.com Happy Holidays VOTED MONTEREY COUNTY’S BEST VETERINARIAN THREE YEARS IN A ROW! ’23 ’22 ’21

www.montereycountyweekly.com DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 19 Expand services to 6 days a week Provide regular and easy access to basic health and dental care Increase assistance including homelessness prevention Help us grow our capacity to: Currently, guests receive nutritious meals, hot showers, clean clothing, case management, and access to enrichment programs. We aim to treat the whole person to better enable them on their pathway out of homelessness. montereycountygives.com/gathering Healing Hearts: H.E.A.R.T. to Hearth Capacity Campaign gatheringforwomen.org ~ 831-241-6154 #gatheringforwomen GATHERING FOR WOMEN - MONTEREY GFW is expanding our capacity to DO EVEN MORE!

20 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com The Doctor is In Good job Monterey County Weekly! Big Sur Health Clinic is so key to so many! (“The good news is that a news story can inspire someone to take positive action,” posted Dec. 18.) You all do a wonderful job—I so appreciate the Weekly. Elizabeth Murray | Monterey What a great story—I was wondering what was going to happen to Big Sur Health Center and I’m sure many people are breathing a sigh of relief that Dr. Margaret Simon will be taking over beginning Jan. 2. Thanks so much for the follow-up. Diane Rowe | Seaside Truth and Lies In your most recent anonymous hit piece, your reporter writes: “Squid has been waiting to see what unfolds in Pacific Grove City Hall” (“Squid Fry: Inquiring Minds,” Dec. 14-20). However, instead of reviewing City Hall documents, your reporter decided that comments from Facebook are all that “inquiring minds” require. Your reporter willfully misrepresents the facts by claiming the proposed ordinance (Codifying Council’s Inquiry Authority) would bypass the city manager and “codify harassment.” If your reporter had read the agenda report and watched the council video he/she would have known that the proposed ordinance specifically leads to policy that would establish “rules of the road” for submitting inquiry. The agenda report and video for this proposed ordinance are both available online. In the latest beg letter to raise cash for your operation, your publisher claims the Weekly is a bastion of “truth and light” (“All of us vs. the darkness,” sent Dec. 14). How does lying about an elected official and his work support truth and light? The Weekly routinely chooses innuendo and misinformation over truth and light. This week’s Squid column is just the latest example. Finally, “harassment” has a very specific legal meaning and the investigation prompted by Ben Harvey’s claims against me did not sustain “harassment.” You have published at least six articles that erroneously claim “harassment” was sustained. I have requested retractions under separate cover. Luke Coletti | Pacific Grove Notes: Coletti is the P.G. councilmember who introduced the ordinance. The Weekly stands by its reporting and there is nothing to retract. Squid criticizes the “pattern of Coletti emailing employees demanding information.” “Demanding,” really? He’s doing exactly what he should be doing as a City Council member— seeking information and accountability. Yes, councils usually concern themselves with policies, but if the City’s employees are not managed well, then council members have the right—and obligation— to ask hard questions of city staff. The failures of the former P.G. city manager are numerous, among them failed Project Bella, incorrectly worded tax measure, a skate park that benefits few, luxury housing development to the exclusion of affordable housing, and the failure to even come close to the targets of the housing element. Given the history of poor management and lack of oversight, council members should be able to make direct inquiries to city staff. At council meetings I’ve attended, Coletti is the most prepared and familiar with issues and asks the hard questions. I wish all the other members were as diligent. Joe Aki Ouye | Pacific Grove We get it: The Weekly doesn’t like Luke Coletti. We were happy when he was elected and plenty of us are happier still that he’s doing what he said he would do. We didn’t elect the city manager and it’s taken us years to get rid of him. Mary Jane Perryman | Pacific Grove Helping Hands It’s nice to have a safety net such as The Hub (“CSUMB’s basic needs program reveals desperation—and a simple fix,” Dec. 14-20). Being a student is a full-time job and then some. I averaged 60 hours/week with classes and homework when I was a college student. It would be nice to see this type of program operating nationwide. Walter Wagner | Salinas Christmas Crab? It’s a good time to take care of the whales and other creatures (“Fishermen are reeling from closures that threaten the outlook for the local industry,” Dec. 7-13). Fishing has always been fraught with uncertainty. Victoria Banville | via social media Hobby Lobby Thanks for your comprehensive article on the Peninsula’s water history (“Nearly 30 years after Cal Am was ordered to cut back on its pumping of the Carmel River, solutions brought by public agencies might finally end the Peninsula’s water poverty,” Dec. 7-13). Please, however, do not call the hard work of public advocates opposing Cal Am a hobby. Taking on a corporation that’s a subsidy of the biggest water company in America is not a hobby, but consistent and difficult work. Measure J passed due to advocacy, and the expansion of Pure Water Monterey. This was also a big factor in conditional approval of its costly environmentally damaging desal plant. The success of the buyout could finally give this area a legacy gift of an honest public water agency along with sufficient water…no small potatoes! Susan Schiavone | Seaside THANK YOU to David Schmalz for your work at the Weekly. So many of your articles have been very much appreciated for the effort put into them, not the least of which was last week’s water piece [and board game]. I won the game with the non-Cal Am option, which I surely hope is the real result! Doug Rogers | via email Correction A story about developer Shangri-La cited outdated figures for Homekey projects in California (“The developer behind Homekey housing projects is defaulting on bills and loans,” Dec. 14-20). It has created 14,000 homes, not 6,800, and the total awarded for homes built or in progress is $3 billion, not $2 billion. Letters • CommentsOPINION Submit letters to the editor to letters@mcweekly.com. Please keep your letter to 150 words or less; subject to editing for space. Please include your full name, contact information and city you live in.

www.montereycountyweekly.com december 21-27, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 21 If you’d told me 20 years ago that in a professional setting I would be asked to close my eyes and do a breathing exercise, I would have laughed. Or maybe I would have just been confused— there’s a pretty good chance I didn’t even know what a breathing exercise was. By now, I’m accustomed to the notion that focusing on your own breath can strip away distractions and bring you to the present moment. So I was not surprised when Dr. Susan Swick directed me and roughly 150 other people present at the grand opening celebration of Ohana to close our eyes and do a breathing exercise. For Swick, this is not just showmanship—this is fundamental to creating a path toward solving a crisis of mental illness. And what I find so powerful about her ideas is that they involve participation not just from people experiencing mental illness, but all of us. There is a clinical dimension to supporting mental health, of course, but there is also a social dimension. And Ohana is designed to spur that. Ohana is Montage’s new campus in Ryan Ranch, the first behavioral health inpatient facility in Monterey County specifically for youth. The grand opening took place on Nov. 29, and after state licenses were secured, it opened to patients on Friday, Dec. 15, with 109 young patients coming on that first day. The 16 residential beds will not open until 2024—the overwhelming majority of Ohana’s clients are on an outpatient basis. (Expect hiring—of therapists, of nurses— to ramp up as services expand. Swick, the executive director, expects Ohana’s staff size to double to roughly 160 by the end of next year.) Staff writer Pam Marino has reported on Ohana’s campus design, which incorporates architecture that is meant to promote healing and reduce stigma—it’s a beautiful space that feels anything but institutional. That concept of reducing stigma runs throughout Swick’s ideas about mental health. First, I should start by striking my own phrase, mental health. Swick prefers the term mental fitness. The implication that we are healthy or ill is a problematic dichotomy—in reality, all of us, young people especially, will go through hard times. The goal is resilience, and developing the tools and skills to help ourselves, or ask others for help, when we need it. “It is not about chasing happiness,” Swick says. “It’s about how to face a challenge and meet it.” Part of Ohana’s mission is to treat whole families. “It used be, you drop your kid off, they spend an hour in a closed room, then you pick them up and expect a changed child,” Swick says. In reality, a family is part of any child’s mental fitness. So are our friends and our coworkers, and one time, a stranger in the locker room at the gym who felt compelled to share a story of unbearable loneliness with me— people find listeners when they need them, even in awkward places. “Kids don’t always know when to ask for support,” Swick says. “We want to help parents know when to worry, and when—and how—to help kids get help.” The emphasis isn’t on sick or well, but on resilience—the ability to check in with one’s emotional and cognitive state, and to seek the level of intervention needed. I never learned any of this in school. Swick envisions a sweeping, global change that can start here in Monterey on Ohana’s campus. It’s thrilling to hear her lay out her vision, in which a community—starting with educators, pediatricians, parents—learn the tools required for mental fitness, and it becomes part of how we understand health. The need cannot be understated. At least 1 in 4 families in the U.S. are impacted by youth mental health challenges—something twice as common as asthma. Swick reports only 1 in 5 ever get to see a mental health professional. Of course, certain conditions require that—I don’t mean to suggest that we can all become armchair therapists. But we can all become part of the fabric of mental fitness, for ourselves and for our communities (or even strangers in the locker room). This is a crisis of young people especially, with 50 percent of mental illness happening by age 18. But the good news, Swick says, is that mental illness is usually curable, always treatable and can be preventable. And for all of those interventions, it takes a village. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Thinking Ahead Ohana provides needed services—and a way to rethink our mental fitness. By Sara Rubin Merry Squidmas…The holidays are always one of Squid’s favorite times of the year, because people come together and celebrate. One thing they’re celebrating, whether or not they know it, is the return of longer days—Christmas is a made-up birthday party rooted in pagan tradition. Squid also loves this time of year because Squid gets to give and receive gifts. To Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo, who on Dec. 14 touted an endorsement from the Monterey County Deputy Sheriff’s Association in his re-election campaign for District 1: Permission to not run a campaign when no one is opposing him. Wait, that might be a gift for all of us. For the Marina City Council, Squid offers an hourglass, stopwatch and an alarm bell to ring violently any time someone on the dais starts falling in love with the sound of their own voice—the public shouldn’t have to stay up until midnight in order to keep up with city business. For Soledad Mayor Anna Velazquez, Squid gives wishes for good luck—she’s been battling an effort to force her off the council through the thinly disguised veil of a redistricting process. (The city’s voters will weigh in on March 5.) For Salinas City Council, Squid hopes 2024 brings the ability to get along. For Pacific Grove City Councilmember Luke Coletti—who seems not to be content with having run former city manager Ben Harvey out of a job, and who introduced an ordinance to allow councilmembers to pester line-level city staffers for information—Squid gives the gift of a hobby. Maybe he’ll take up dancing—for Pagrovians in general, Squid gifts a little fun; maybe when Pop and Hiss opens, they’ll go out on the town. For California American Water, Squid offers a graceful exit, although Squid fully expects the utility to do anything but. With a pending eminent domain lawsuit by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, Squid instead expects to see the company pay lawyers millions to fight to hold onto its Monterey water system. For members of Congress Zoe Lofgren and Jimmy Panetta, Squid gives the theoretical gift of a functioning legislative body. For the people of Pajaro, Squid gives the decades-awaited levee work that the Army Corps of Engineers has known about since 1966. For those who are in custody at Monterey County Jail, Squid hopes this year brings improvements—are they gifts if they are court-mandated improvements?—that save lives. And for all of us, Squid gives the gift of a Monterey County Sheriff’s Oversight Board, because more transparency and accountability is good for everyone. Squid is lucky that Squid gets 10 stockings, one for each appendage, so even if you want to give Squid a lump of coal, there’s sure to be something sweet in Squid’s own gift pile this year. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “Kids don’t always know when to ask for support.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com

22 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 21-27, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com In the Water Fertilizer nitrate pollution is killing our communities. We must stop this public health crisis now. By Chelsea Tu and Ileana Miranda FORUM When you turn on your tap, is the water safe to drink? Is it safe to cook and shower with? These are questions most Californians don’t think about. However, the 350 residents of the San Jerardo Cooperative have suffered health problems from unsafe water, and worry about it constantly. Thousands more Central Coast residents do not have clean drinking water due to nitrate pollution from agricultural practices. The State must address this ongoing public health crisis now, starting with curbing fertilizer overuse. San Jerardo is a farmworker housing cooperative in the heart of the Salinas Valley. The Salinas River meanders through it, feeding groundwater that is used for farming and drinking, before making its way to Monterey Bay. Within this idyllic scenery lies a dark truth: Much of the water in the Salinas Valley is undrinkable, and the lower Salinas River is not safe for swimming. Forty-two percent of on-farm drinking wells in Monterey County exceed safe consumption levels for nitrate. A 2012 UC Davis study concluded that 96 percent of nitrate groundwater pollution in the Salinas Valley and Tulare Lake Basin comes from farms. Too much nitrate can cause oxygen deprivation in infants, or “blue baby syndrome.” In adults, nitrates can cause thyroid disease and colon cancer. For years, high nitrate levels in the community’s well forced San Jerardo residents to rely on bottled water for drinking and cooking. Through the tireless advocacy of residents and $6 million in public funds, the community drilled a new well. However, nitrate concentrations in that well are now approaching undrinkable levels. The nitrate crisis is widespread and worsening across the Central Coast. Other towns, such as San Lucas, have relied on bottled water for years. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board found that more communities will face undrinkable waters unless growers drastically reduce fertilizer nitrate pollution. Unfortunately, California’s clean water regulator has failed for years to tackle the problem. In its 2021 Agricultural Order, the Central Coast Water Board approved fertilizer limits, the first in California’s history. However, the State Water Board removed these limits, leaving only vague and unenforceable targets. In October, Monterey Waterkeeper, San Jerardo and a coalition of farmworker and fishing groups, filed suit against the State Water Board’s unlawful rollback of nitrate standards. We asked the court to reinstate pollution limits while the case is pending. The lawsuit also demands that the Central Coast Water Board require natural buffers around farms to filter out pollution before it reaches rivers. If we don’t reduce nitrate pollution at the source, even more of our drinking water, rivers and beloved coast will be poisoned. Please join us in protecting our collective health and the environment. Chelsea Tu is executive director of Monterey Waterkeeper. Ileana Miranda is general manager of the San Jerardo housing cooperative in the Salinas Valley. OPINION The nitrate crisis is widespread and worsening. Doors Open 6:30pm; Event 7:15pm $22 Gen. / $16 Seniors & Students Saturday - December 30, 2023 Also Mark Your Calendars for Jan. 6, March 16, & June 29th! UNITARIAN SANCTUARY 490 Aguajito Rd. Carmel Contact Nohlan@SeventhAwakening.net Circle of Light * GONG NIGHT * I N S I G H T * START YOUR YEAR OUT RIGHT * SATURDAY NIGHT Showroom DiSplayS for Sale 70% OFF! Cabinets • Appliances • Hardware Accessories • Decorative Plumbing Visit our showroom Monday-Friday 10am-4pm 1368 S. Main St C, Salinas www.cabinetsandsuch.com P.S. We are NOT going out of business! Inquiries: please email info@cabinetsandsuch.com or call (831) 422-9900