december 28, 2023-january 3, 2024 montereycountyweekly.com LOCAL & INDEPENDENT salary for city council? 8 | stepping out on stage in salinas 34 | Play with bubbles 40 As 2023 comes to a close, we look back at the highlights (and some lowlights) of what happened in Monterey County. p. 18 Complete First Night Monterey schedule p. 24 The Year in News

2 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 28, 2023-january 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com december 28, 2023-january 3, 2024 • ISSUE #1847 • Established in 1988 Judi H. Clayton (Sony rx10 iv) Powerful waves pounded this coast this week as a winter swell came in from the northwest to locations like Carmel Point. National Weather Service officials forecast waves of up to 30 feet (even “occasionally” 40 feet) on Thursday, Dec. 28. Monterey County photo of the week Send Etc. submissions to etcphoto@mcweekly.com; please include caption and camera info. On the cover: Images that documented important moments in 2023, clockwise from top: the aftermath of flooding in Pajaro; Tahani Lopez, a trans woman from Salinas; Montage’s Ohana campus for youth mental health; Lori Long and her fiance, Mark Contreras; Speaker of the California Assembly Robert Rivas; protesters outside a fundraiser for Ron DeSantis; the Western Flyer in Moss Landing Harbor. Cover Photos: By Daniel Dreifuss 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 28, 2023-JANUARY 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 3

4 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY December 28, 2023-January 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com THE BUZZ FREE SPEECH There were many stories from around the world about struggles and risks to safety, and even life, for journalists in 2023. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker monitors threats to press freedom here in the United States. (The Tracker launched in 2017 and is managed by a coalition of partners including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Committee to Protect Journalists and Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, among others.) According to a summary of 2023, the Tracker reports that at least 12 journalists in the U.S. were arrested or faced dubious charges this year in connection to their work. Among the examples are Hank Sanders in Illinois, who received three citations for “interference/hampering of city employees” in connection to emails and calls for comment on flooding. In addition, at least 30 news organizations were summoned to court and pressured to identify sources or turn over reporting materials. “The criminalization of routine journalism this year shows authorities either do not understand newsgathering practices or, more alarmingly, do and use prosecutions as a cudgel to chill future reporting,” according to the Tracker. Good: Given the way that technology underpins our lives, digital literacy is a key 21st-century skill. And good news for spreading digital literacy in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties comes thanks to a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission’s Communications Division to Salinasbased nonprofit Loaves, Fishes & Computers. The CPUC awarded the organization $139,999 to advance its efforts to improve digital equity in the tri-county region. LFC provides low-cost computers and computer literacy classes to local low-income families and individuals, helping people get not only the hardware they need to stay connected, but also the knowledge necessary to use it effectively. Since 2009, the nonprofit has distributed around 14,000 devices and served 50,000 families and individuals. GREAT: The bad news is the climate is changing. The great news is that California officials are planning ahead with the Climate Resilience Grant program, which on Dec. 21 announced its $21.7 million round of funding to help address a range of climate-related issues such as wildfires and rising sea levels at a regional level. “The aim of this program is to develop new and important ways of governing and responding to climate change,” said Saharnaz Mirzazad of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The Central Coast recipients— Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, cities of Watsonville and Santa Cruz, Regeneración of Pajaro Valley, Ecology Action and CivicWell— received a combined $650,000 to develop plans for climate adaptation and resilience goals for the Monterey Bay area, with an emphasis on underserved and vulnerable communities. GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK THE WEEKLY TALLY Pounds of rainbow trout that was stocked in Lake San Antonio on Dec. 19. California Department of Fish & Wildlife officials plan to stock as much as 30,000 pounds of trout, depending on conditions. It’s the first time the lake has been stocked with trout since 1985. Source: Monterey County Parks 5,000 QUOTE OF THE WEEK “Medical debt has placed a significant burden on households.” -Dr. Steven Packer, CEO of Montage Health, announcing the forgiveness of all medical debt incurred by patients from 20202022. The move impacts 29,000 patient accounts and totals $40 million in patient responsibility (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

www.montereycountyweekly.com DECEMBER 28, 2023-JANUARY 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 5 PATHWAYS TO WELLNESS Resources designed to help you live your best life. Programs include: Events Community Activities Support Groups Yoga Flow Classes Mindful Meditation WELL-BEING ACTIVITIES Free cooking demos and online well-being classes that help build resiliency into your life. For more details and to register, visit MontereyCounty.BlueZonesProject.com/events or scan the QR code. Start your journey to a healthier you today! Scan to learn more. Scan to learn more. New Year’s Wellness Starts Here At Salinas Valley Health, we are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of everyone in our community. JOIN US

6 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY December 28, 2023-January 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com 831 Feeling the wind on my face and the lapping of seawater was an unexpected way to start my Saturday morning. I’m not generally keen to go out on the water, but I was one of 25 people who showed up for an outing with Latino Outdoors Central Coast to paddle kayaks along Elkhorn Slough. Latino Outdoors is a nationwide organization that connects Latinos with nature. It has been around for 10 years as a Latine-led organization focused on outdoor recreation, conservation and environmental education. It now boasts 32 chapters nationwide and more than 200 volunteers. The Central Coast chapter started early this year. Juan Ramirez, who works as a community program manager for the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, says he saw a need to bring bilingual outdoor activities to the area, noting Monterey County has a large Latino community. For his day job, Ramirez works with grade school students and their families, hosting regular nature outings. It wasn’t much of a stretch, he thought, to extend his experience and provide free bilingual tours in his free time. Since February, Ramirez and other volunteers have organized outdoor adventures on a monthly basis. Ramirez says he started the group to build community and leadership through activities like kayaking, climbing, camping and surfing—particularly for first-timers. LO has collaborated with local organizations and businesses including The Wahine Project and Kayak Connection to provide the necessary gear free of charge. Participants learn about native plants, animals and sea creatures. They can also learn new skills, from kayaking to birding. “We provide these opportunities for all of us to see ourselves reflected in nature,” Ramirez says. On this particular Saturday, we are all decked out in beanies, jackets and sweaters to ward off the chill. We each grab a paddle and practice pushing and pulling with our arms to turn left or right before settling into the boats. Several of us were a little anxious because it was our first time kayaking. The fear and hesitancy quickly turned into joy and confidence once we were on the water and moved away from the shore. Briana Vargas Luna, 22, was thrilled about the paddle. “I’m excited about having a new experience with the community,” she says, adding that she feels more motivated when she participates in activities with fellow Latinos. “I feel safer,” she adds. Ramirez says that one goal is “to engage families in outdoor experiences that feel safe and welcoming.” The organization makes sure Latinos are represented in leading, as well as learning. And Ramirez also hopes to inspire environmental stewardship: “You don’t know you have to take care of something unless you’re in a relationship and in love,” he says. Claudia Pineda Tibbs, a volunteer with LO Central Coast and board member of the organization at a national level, says they want to make the outdoor experience more inclusive. “For so long, the narrative has been that Latinos don’t care about the environment,” Pineda Tibbs says. “But when you look at a lot of our city parks, Latinos are there all the time.” Pineda Tibbs says there are numerous places in Monterey County to experience outdoor activities; however, “I didn’t really see myself reflected on the trails and didn’t really see people who looked like me kayaking or tide pooling,” she explains. This was the reason she joined Latino Outdoors. Pineda Tibbs also observes that while Latinos enjoy outdoor activities, their presence isn’t often represented on brands, brochures and marketing campaigns—an absence that can make the outdoors seem out of reach. “[It] almost feels like a luxury,” she says. “When people see us outdoors, they see us as ag workers, or they see us as people who are tending to the fields, and they don’t see us as those who are recreating in outdoor spaces.” LO is seeking to change that, one outdoor experience at a time. For 25 paddlers, it happened in two hours one Saturday on the slough. For information on upcoming events with Latino Outdoors, visit instagram.com/locentralcoast. Adventure Series Latino Outdoors has a new, local chapter that brings novice adventurers closer to nature. By Celia Jiménez For about half of the participants on a Dec. 16 paddle in Elkhorn Slough, it was their first time kayaking. The trip was organized by the new local chapter of Latino Outdoors. “When they see us outdoors, they see us as ag workers.” TaLeS FrOm THe area cODe CELIA JIMÉNEZ

www.montereycountyweekly.com december 28, 2023-January 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 7 693 Lighthouse Ave • Monterey 646-9283 • onthebeachsurfshop.com Kelly Sorensen Owner/Founder and Family 693 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey 831.646.9283 • onthebeachsurfshop.com • ! $ MONTEREY BAY’S LIFESTYLE STORE SINCE 1986 PROUDLY SERVING OUR COMMUNITY FOR 33 YEARS UGG BOOTS • BODYBOARDS • RENTALS • CLOTHING • SH From the Sorensen Family WEAR • SURFBOARDS • SKATEBOARDS • WETSUITS • SANDALS 37 Happy Holidays From Our Family To Yours UGG Boots • BodyBoards • rentals • ClothinG • shoes • snowBoards sUnGlasses • swimwear • sUrfBoards • skateBoards • wetsUits • sandals M P Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley, Inc. We provide more than just a meal… Nourishing & Nurturing Seniors Since 1972 Donate: montereycountygives.com/mows 831.375.9712 | cfmco.org/GiveBack Leverage Your Year-End Gift by December 31, 2023 Each donation to your choice of 206 participating nonprofits receives a partial match. Gifts of stock or IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions are welcome to benefit multiple nonprofits with one gift. montereycountygives.com MCGives! is a project of the CFMC, the Monterey County Weekly and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. Community Foundation for Monterey County inspiring philanthropy strengthening communities We are grateful to our donors and nonprofit partners for helping create healthy, safe, vibrant communities. Your Partner in Philanthropy Donor Advised Funds, Charitable Estate Planning (e.g. CGAs, CRTs), IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions, Scholarships & More

8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 28, 2023-january 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com news Over the past few months, Jennifer Robinson has fielded many questions regarding the anticipated opening date of the Tipsy Putt location on Cannery Row in Monterey. Some even wondered if the unique miniature golf pub would open at all. “It’s been a journey, we just need a little more time,” says the Tipsy Putt public relations director. “But we’ll definitely be opening.” The new concept originally hoped to welcome guests to its Monterey venue in the fall of 2023. Now, Robinson says February of 2024 is the likely target date. Beyond the time consumed by a complete renovation of the former Cannery Row Brewing Company’s 18,800-squarefoot space, there was an unexpected hangup. “It was a real challenge getting signage,” Robinson explains. The root cause was an exception to city signage guidelines that had been granted to CRBC. Working with United Sign Systems, Tipsy Putt proposed eight signs on the building, including replacing the lettering along the building’s roofline. At a Sept. 20 meeting, the city’s Architectural Review Committee determined that the proposal exceeded the allowed square footage of signage and recommended a reduction in both size and number of signs. Tipsy Putt appealed the decision and on Oct. 24, the Monterey Planning Commission struck a compromise, reducing the allowed square footage, but giving USS and Tipsy Putt the option of how it would be distributed. On Nov. 14, the companies returned to the Planning Commission with a proposal of four signs. Commissioners approved the plan unanimously. Sign Time Tipsy Putt targets a February opening for Cannery Row location after signage-related delays. By Dave Faries The cost of rent, groceries and mortgage payments have steadily increased over the past four decades, but there is one figure that has remained stagnant: city council compensation. Since a 1984 rule that last established base compensation levels, many city councils across California have not received increases, with monthly compensation ranging from $300 to $1,000. But that is about the change. In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 329, which allows cities to adjust city council members’ compensation for inflation. As a result, the possibility of increases is being brought before area city councils, including Soledad and Salinas. Currently, Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig earns $9,600 annually ($800 per month), while council members earn $7,200 (or $600 per month). With the adjusted amounts, the mayor and council members would earn $30,600 annually ($2,550 per month is the maximum amount allowed for a city the size of Salinas). This is about a 400-percent increase. “It’s kind of like sticker shock, but imagine if someone didn’t get a raise for 40 years,” Salinas City Councilmember Andrew Sandoval says. When compared with other cities of a similar size, Salinas’ monthly compensation is low. In Sunnyvale the mayor receives $3,884/month while councilmembers earn $2,913. In Hayward, the mayor is paid $3,474, while a councilmember gets $2,081. In Oxnard, the mayor and council each earn $1,701 monthly. In addition to keeping up with inflation, the law is intended to increase the diversity of those willing to run for public office. Councilmembers must attend community meetings, events, follow up on constituent inquiries and more, without staff aiding them in their responsibilities. Craig and Sandoval say fair compensation will remove barriers to running for office, including for parents, part-time workers and low-income workers. Craig notes could mean the ability to pay for a babysitter while attending a meeting. Salinas has had two female mayors to date, Anna Caballero and Craig, while Soledad has had only one, Anna Velazquez. Salinas City Councilmember Anthony Rocha said during a Nov. 14 discussion that it would allow hourly workers like himself to participate in regional boards without losing money for requesting time off from work. Councilmember Steve McShane opposed the increase, saying public service shouldn’t be motivated by money. Residents, meanwhile, spoke for and against the raise. Opponents cited matters they deemed more important, including attracting and retaining police officers and fixing infrastructure. According to the plan before the council, the new compensation package will be the same across the board, although some residents contend the mayor’s compensation should be higher. Craig agreed, suggesting an increase to take effect for the next mayor. The council decided on equal compensation across the board. The vote on the compensation increase will take place on Jan. 9. If approved, the new levels will go into effect 30 days after the vote. Funding for the salary bump will come from the city’s general fund. Mayor Kimbley Craig and Councilmember Andrew Sandoval are in favor of increasing their monthly compensation, aligning with state law that will take effect on Jan. 1. Pay Scale Salinas City Council will address a proposed increase in compensation for council members. By Celia Jiménez After finding a compromise on signage at the Cannery Row location, Tipsy Putt is completing construction of the indoor mini golf layout. “We’re not too far off,” says Tipsy Putt’s Jennifer Robinson. “Imagine if someone didn’t get a raise for 40 years.” Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss


10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY december 28, 2023-january 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Before every plan, there must first come an idea. On Dec. 19, Zane Mortensen from EMC Planning Group, Sand City’s contract planning firm, presented to City Council an idea that’s kicked around for years, but that is now finally getting some legs under it: connecting the approximately 1.5-mile gap of the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail between Canyon Del Rey in Seaside and Playa Avenue in Sand City. As is, those on foot or wheels must navigate that gap by going to Sand Dunes Drive, west of Highway 1, and pass along a path that’s often partially covered in sand. And on Dec. 11, the Monterey Bay Air Resources District awarded Sand City a $250,000 state grant to pay for planning a multiuse trail that would close that gap by running largely along the railroad tracks that are now owned by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County. On Jan. 8, Mortensen will present that plan to the TAMC Rail Policy Committee, the first time it will have come before the agency. There, the committee will potentially give direction to TAMC staff regarding the project going forward. In his report to the committee regarding the plan, TAMC Executive Director Todd Muck summed up the state of affairs to date, after meeting with various Sand City officials over the years. “The consistent message provided to the city is the TAMC board of directors would likely support a multi-use trail…as long as it doesn’t limit future mass transit uses,” he wrote. That’s critically important for the project to be viable: TAMC acquired the rail corridor strip of land through a state grant that restricts the use of the land—TAMC can lease some or all of its land, but it must remain viable as a mass transit corridor, i.e., if a 12-footwide paved trail passes through it, the trail must co-exist with the possibility of the rail tracks once again having trains run along them. Respecting those constraints is central in a report Mortensen will present to the committee on Monday, Jan. 8. In addition to ensuring it doesn’t interfere with any future TAMC rail projects, the potential route will also veer from a portion of the corridor that is currently leased by Graniterock Construction. As initially conceived, going northbound, the trail would leave the rail corridor at Holly Street where riders would enter a bike lane, then hook right onto California Avenue before reconnecting with the corridor south of Tioga Avenue. Almost two years ago Pacific Grove officially said goodbye to the Feast of Lanterns, the town’s troubled faux Chinese pageant, beloved by some residents but deemed racist by others. After members of the Chinese American community and allies came forward to publicly voice their objections to the P.G. City Council in 2022, the FOL board voted to end the pageant once and for all. Now the Monterey Bay Chinese Association wants to build a traditional pavilion and a moon wall in a park to honor the history of Chinese Americans in P.G. It was Chinese immigrants who founded a fishing village in the town in the 1850s, and contributed to the local economy. The village was destroyed by fire in 1906—how it began is disputed, but there is evidence that efforts to save it were sabotaged. Afterward, white officials blocked its rebuilding. MBCA leaders first requested a joint project with the city along Monterey Bay near the village site, but it didn’t make it into the budget. MBCA leaders came back asking to locate the pavilion in a city park financed by their own fundraising. Working with city staff and the P.G. Recreation Board, Elmarie Dyke Park next to Chautauqua Hall was chosen. A moon wall at the entrance to the park was added to the proposal. The estimated cost of construction for both is $120,000- $150,000. The park’s lineage makes the choice potentially awkward, as noted by former mayor Carmelita Garcia at a P.G. City Council meeting on Dec. 20. “We have to keep in mind Elmarie Dyke is associated with the Feast of Lanterns,” Garcia said, referencing Dyke’s revival of the event in 1958. Garcia said she was in favor of the project, but against the proposed location: “It would be somewhat contradictory to put a Chinese pavilion there.” She favored an outdoor space behind the P.G. Museum of Natural History. Councilmembers voiced their overall support for the pavilion and wall, but asked city staff to assess other locations and come back with alternatives. Rail Trail A gap in the Rec Trail might finally get closed—as long as it keeps room for trains. By David Schmalz news Peace of Mind Start the year off with a moment of calm. Learn mindful meditation basics in this virtual program designed to help participants reduce stress. Noon-1pm Friday, Dec. 29 and 4:305:30pm Wednesday, Jan. 3. Via Zoom; register online for log-in information. Free. 759-1890, healthpromotion@ svmh.com, salinasvalleyhealth.com/ events-classes. Bloom and Grow Every Saturday, the Friends of Seaside Parks Association (FOSPA) invites you to volunteer in a Seaside park to clean up, plant, water and improve local parks on a rotating schedule. 10am-noon Saturday, Dec. 30. Beta Park, between Vallejo, Luzern and St. Elmo streets, Seaside. Free. fospa. info@gmail.com, friendsofseasideparks.org. Get Outside Salinas city officials want to hear from the public with ideas for the future of Williams Ranch Park, including what amenities and designs you would like to see in picnic and play areas. Visit tinyurl.com/wrparksurvey to complete the survey. For more information, call 758-7381. Leadership Role The Pacific Grove City Council is in the process of selecting a new city manager. The public is invited to weigh in via a survey on what attributes they would like to see in finalists selected for this position— as well as give their thoughts on the biggest priorities for the city. Survey available online at surveymonkey.com/r/GYB9GCS. Free. More information available at cityofpacificgrove. org. 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. home team About 200 volunteers are needed to help conduct the 2023 point-intime homeless census for Monterey and San Benito counties. The count, coordinated by the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers, takes place from 5-10am on Wednesday, Jan. 31. For more information, email info@chsp. org. Must be at least 18 years old to participate. 883-3080, chsp.org. It’s Complicated Pacific Grove mulls a request to build a pavilion to honor the history of Chinese Americans. By Pam Marino Sand City is floating the idea of a multi-use trail along the rail corridor in that city and neighboring Seaside. Above, the route as it would travel southeast of Home Depot. e-mail: publiccitizen@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “The TAMC board would likely support a multi-use trail.” Courtesy of Sand City

www.montereycountyweekly.com december 28, 2023-January 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 11 In late 2019, a woman landed a job as a substitute custodian for Carmel Unified School District. The work took her from school to school, and she hoped to land a permanent position. In January of 2022, she got a full-time job on the night shift, from 2-11pm, at Carmel Middle School. For two years, according to a lawsuit she filed as Jane Doe in Monterey County Superior Court on Oct. 26, the woman endured sexual advances and comments from two lead custodians, Roel Martinez and Gustavo Alvarado. This included physical touching— Martinez spanking her buttocks while she was bent over sweeping—and comments, such as “Are you in a relationship?” from Alvarado, the lawsuit alleges. Because she hoped to be hired on full-time, she never complained. By February 2022, “she felt unsafe and that she could no longer endure the harassment silently.” So she went to speak to the director of facilities, who promised the issue would be dealt with by HR, the lawsuit states. But two months passed. Instead of a resolution, Jane Doe began to receive negative reports from Alvarado, her supervisor. Eight months later, she was called to meet with the district’s HR director, Craig Chavez. She thought it would be about harassment—instead, she learned she was being terminated. Another lawsuit filed by another Jane Doe on Oct. 4 lays out sexual harassment claims against Martinez. In this case, the woman has worked for over 24 years as a custodian for CUSD. She never made a complaint, but eventually, in 2020, a coworker observed and reported Martinez’s conduct toward Jane Doe. By January 2022, Doe reported the ongoing harassment to Chavez. Martinez was reassigned from the high school to Carmel River Elementary— and eventually, in June 2023, he was paid $100,000 by CUSD and retired. “The common denominator in these cases has been the HR Department’s lack of properly dealing with this,” says James Fitzpatrick, the attorney representing both Jane Does. “When you don’t, it empowers bullies to act inappropriately.” CUSD’s attorneys have denied all allegations in court papers; Martinez and Alvarado could not be located by the Weekly, and their attorneys have not yet filed a response. District officials declined to be interviewed, citing district policy on pending litigation. In a separate case filed on Dec. 11, Fitzpatrick is representing a third Jane Doe, who worked as an administrative assistant at Carmel Valley High School. She claims Principal Tom Parry made repeated sexual comments in 2021, and she told him to stop. She eventually called Chavez to file a complaint; she left a voicemail, and according to the lawsuit, he did not return her call. In 2022, she was transferred to a position in the district office. (Parry was not immediately available to comment.) All three Jane Does are seeking at least $25,000 in court, but Fitzpatrick says that is not the point. “The women feel empowered,” he says. “Finally, they’re being heard. They are hopeful that this subject being out in the open will result in changes.” Silent Treatment Three lawsuits allege a pattern of ignoring sexual harassment against staff at Carmel Unified. By Sara Rubin Jason Remynse became the new president of the board of Carmel Unified School District in December. CUSD faces three sexual harassment lawsuits from current and former employees. NEWS “The women feel empowered. Finally, they’re being heard.” DANIEL DREIFUSS Two Portola Plaza | Monterey, CA 93940 (831) 649-4511 | Portolahotel.com $220 General | $195 Active Military per person Available now through Eventbrite | 21+ event Sunday | december 31 TICKETS STUDIO AT PORTOLA HOTEL & SPA NYE 2024

12 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 28, 2023-JANUARY 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com MC GIVES Six days a week, from Alisal to Pacific Grove, Everyone’s Harvest puts on a farmers market in Monterey County—not just to facilitate the sale of fresh produce, but to show that healthy food is medicine. Everyone’s Harvest turns 21 this year, and Executive Director Hester Parker says one big push for 2024 is making sure the nonprofit’s newest market, which opened in Seaside in June, sticks, unlike the previous Seaside market on Broadway that fizzled out after a year. “That farmers market is not going away,” Parker says of the new Seaside location. “We’re in there for a long haul.” But the Big Idea for Everyone’s Harvest, like every year, is to stay core to its mission of creating a circular community that connects food with people, where people who are on the ground helping to grow fruit and vegetables can take home some of the bounty they help bring to the table. More than half the vendors at the nonprofit’s markets sell organic produce, but what really separates Everyone’s Harvest from other markets is that, through their “Market Match” program, they help people using EBT cards with an up to $30 match for purchases of fresh produce. Parker says the nonprofit’s markets serve about 800 families in Salinas between its Alisal, Natividad and Salinas Valley Health markets. The latter two partner with Everyone’s Harvest in its “FreshRX” program, where doctors “prescribe” fruits and vegetables to patients to improve their health. To date, the nonprofit has facilitated the sale of over $600,000 in produce through the program. It’s also focused on connecting farmers with local customers—about a third of vendors are graduates of Salinasbased nonprofit ALBA (Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association). They’re also expanding their reach: In October, Everyone’s Harvest launched a partnership with North County Recreation and Park District and Blue Zones Monterey County to make fresh produce more accessible to those purchasing it with subsidized incentives. “The majority of patients using Fresh RX are involved in the ag businesses in some way,” Parker says. “It’s a real honor to help these families.” That’s the spirit of Everyone’s Harvest—everyone is invited to the table. DANIEL DREIFUSS Movable Feast Everyone’s Harvest connects fresh food with people, regardless of their income level. By David Schmalz The newest Everyone’s Harvest farmers market, in Laguna Grande Park in Seaside, features vendors of fresh produce along with those offering prepared food. How to Donate Go to www.mcgives.com and click the Donate button.

www.montereycountyweekly.com DECEMBER 28, 2023-JANUARY 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13

14 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY December 28, 2023-January 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Home Build And there goes the taxpayers’ money. And zero accountability (“The developer behind Homekey housing projects is defaulting on bills and loans,” Dec. 14-20). Sheldon D. Bloom | via social media Homekey is a successful part of moving people from the street to the security of having employment, a home and some peace. Don’t let this bad news dim your view of what is being accomplished in our community. John Tilley | Monterey All Aboard So we are going to spend $78 million to see if people will ride the bus from Marina to Sand City (“MST’s SURF! project is advancing, but kinks are still getting smoothed out,” Dec. 14-20). And we are going to build a new, completely separate road west of Highway 1? Since this is an “experiment” how about just putting some trolleys on the existing track and see if anyone shows up? Or, just drive some buses down the existing road? What? Too simple? Makes too much sense. Nah, let’s just blow $78 million, what the hell! Jeff Turner | Seaside SURF! is a classic boondoggle project. The six miles of bus-only lanes only goes from Marina to Seaside and does nothing about Blanco Road and nothing going further south to Monterey. I took these routes and found that MST’s ridership numbers simply don’t bear out. At the height of the commute, there were maybe 20 people on the 21 line. Adding more frequent buses during the height of the commute would do the same as SURF! at a fraction of the cost. They are going to tear up some beautiful coastal habitat for bus lanes that hardly anyone will use. At the last Marina City Council meeting, even the MST representative said the project won’t likely get people out of their cars. Then it won’t reduce congestion on Highway 1 at all! The Department of Transportation’s grant practices of going directly to transportation authorities lets them cook these crazy projects up in a vacuum, and then try to ram them down the public’s throat. Thanks for your writing on the article. We plan to be vocal opponents at the Coastal Commission meeting. Jeff Markham | Marina Story Time It may be time to retire your short story contest when the winning story was a reworked parable probably heard at Thanksgiving from a drunken, right-wing relative (“101-Word Short Story Contest 2023,” Dec. 21-27). Some of the others were far superior. Marilyn Ross | Carmel A slow start to the Christmas weekend. Morning coffee, a chilly but sunny morning. Very pleasant. Enough time to read all of the short story entries. Concise, witty, entertaining, touching, in so many moments. Thanks and appreciation to each of you—the contributors, and the editors. Jim Wilkinson | Salinas Drink it in This column (“Fertilizer nitrate pollution is killing our communities. We must stop this public health crisis now,” Dec. 21-27) answered questions I’ve had since moving to “The Salad Bowl” of the Central Coast. Do I need to be concerned about the quality of our water? Is pollution from the ag industry affecting it? Safe, drinkable water should be everyone’s right. It’s a basic need! I’m glad to read there is a move to regulate against unhealthy levels of nitrates, but that should already be in place. Why did the state change our regional board’s decision? How can we enjoy the wonderful bounty from our lands if it causes our farmworkers long-term health risks? Laura McKenzie | Monterey Rescue Attempt Cutie! Thanks for rescuing her! (“The anatomy of a marine mammal rescue—in this case, an emaciated sea lion,” posted Dec. 19.) Claire Fay | Carmel Dug In In your latest edition of Squid you double down on disinformation by saying I have: “introduced an ordinance to allow councilmembers to pester line-level city staffers for information” (“Squid Fry: Merry Squidmas,” Dec. 21-27). You also removed the links in my previous letter that provided your readers an opportunity to read the ordinance for themselves (“Letters,” Dec. 21-27). Here they are again: Agenda report: tinyurl.com/ Inquiry-AgendaReport Video: tinyurl.com/Inquiry-Video Luke Coletti | Pacific Grove In Flight So sweet! Happy birthday, Pam! (“When family and friends rallied for a Seaside resident’s 80th birthday, everyone noticed,” Dec. 14-20.) Samantha Cabaluna | via social media How fun!! I love it! Carol Verga | via social media Gone Fishing The rainbow trout is reportedly a better game fish with a good fight, compared to cutthroat (“Lake San Antonio gets stocked with rainbow trout for the first time since 1985,” posted Dec. 23). This should provide lots of fun for the kids (and kids at heart), and promote increased usage of the reservoir. Walter Wagner | Salinas Christmas Cookies I wanted to make your pecan logs but didn’t have pecans, so I made walnut logs. They were great—I thank you for your recipe! (“Baking Christmas cookies this week? This family recipe is always a hit,” posted Dec. 20.) Betty Oberacker| Santa Barbara These have been a holiday essential for my family for nearly 60 years. When my daughter was in first grade, she had a wonderful teacher who shared the recipe. The cookies we made were round, and always called “Mrs. Pariss’ cookies.” Over the years, I learned they are also called Russian teacakes, Mexican wedding cakes and probably many more names. They are so super-heavenly-delicious! If everyone could have them for dessert, maybe world peace would happen! Marilyn Brown | via email 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 28, 2023-January 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 15 Before he won a seat on the Pacific Grove City Council in 2020, Luke Coletti was a close observer of city government and an exacting critic. His campaign platform was largely this critical perspective. He gave Ben Harvey, the city manager at the time, a grade of F- for his performance in an interview with the Weekly. When it came time in 2021 to renew Harvey’s contract, Coletti was the lone vote against it. Coletti’s outward criticism of Harvey culminated in July when Harvey resigned in exchange for a $440,000 payout and a provision that he would drop all claims against the city, as staff writer Pam Marino has reported. Harvey filed a claim of workplace mistreatment against Coletti in 2022, and a third-party investigator sustained Harvey’s complaints. That Coletti and Harvey were pitted against each other was unsurprising to anyone observing Pacific Grove city government. But there’s a pattern: At least three other similar claims of workplace harassment have been filed by city staff members against Coletti. Two remain under active investigation. Beyond that, multiple staff members have departed from City Hall. Former housing manager Anastacia Wyatt left for the City of Monterey; former community development director Alyson Hunter left for Marina. In a resignation letter in 2022, Hunter cited “aggressive questioning” as a reason for her departure. Tough questioning is one thing. Workplace bullying is another. And Coletti seems intent on continuing to cross that line. On Dec. 6, he introduced an ordinance codifying councilmembers’ inquiry authority, or their ability to seek information directly from city staff, as expressed in the P.G. city charter. In Coletti’s telling, “We are simply codifying existing law.” But the proposed ordinance has raised eyebrows from the labor relations representative for the Pacific Grove General Employees Association, which has demanded a meet-and-confer with city officials. “This has impacts on working conditions,” says Ryan Heron of UPEC 792. “It strikes me as highly unusual that rank-and-file city employees would report directly to city council members.” But for Coletti, this is the normal course of business. On Dec. 18, he complained to the Weekly and asked us to retract six articles. Our attorney, Roger Myers, wrote back on Dec. 20 notifying Coletti we would do no such thing. Myers added: “Correcting an actual mistake is clearly not your intent, as the Weekly was clearly not mistaken. Rather, your apparent intent is to attempt to do to the Weekly what the city’s investigation found you had done to the former city manager and other city staff: ‘bullying.’ The Weekly will not be intimidated.” We will not, but P.G. staff who are simply trying to run a city surely might be. There can be a fine line between elected officials holding city staff accountable—certainly part of their job expectation—and being meddlesome bullies. In Coletti’s telling, he is doing an excellent job, “probably the best city councilmember there has been in years. The reason is, I ask questions.” How many questions—and how respectfully they are delivered, and how nitpicky or hostile they are—is another matter. (Coletti declined to speak about the complaints against him, because they are confidential personnel matters, but suggests: “Maybe the problem isn’t with the councilmember, maybe the problem is with staff.”) Asking questions is good. Interrogating staff to the point they are disempowered from doing the work the public expects them to do is not. And yet Coletti persists, righteously. There is a real cost to this conduct. With at least four complaints filed against him, there are the third-party investigations, not to mention potential liability for the city. There’s the exodus of capable staff, and Harvey’s $440,000 package. In analyzing the 2022 investigation, a partner with the Renne Public Law Group wrote that P.G. “does not tolerate or condone Mr. Coletti’s behavior.” You might expect Coletti’s fellow council members to take action against this disruptive behavior. Not only have they failed publicly issue a censure or reprimand, but an amended code of conduct remains stalled. If Coletti wants to run City Hall, perhaps he should seek a job there; there are openings. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Bully Pulpit One Pacific Grove councilmember is taking a wrecking ball to City Hall. By Sara Rubin Everything New…Squid is celebrating the new year quietly, with Squid’s trusty bulldog companion Rosco P. Coltrane on the couch, a bowl of shrimp-flavored popcorn and a glass of Prosecco. Attending crowded parties with Covid on the rise is not Squid’s idea of fun—like a bad penny, the virus keeps showing up. Speaking of which, Squid discovered an early pandemic-era dustup in Carmel is still plaguing the city, three-and-a-half years later. It stems from local stained glass artist Theresa Buccola taking offense at an emergency order to close Carmel Beach over Fourth of July weekend in 2020. Buccola, insisting she had a “God-given right to walk in nature,” defied the order, then was arrested and taken to Monterey County Jail. She was charged with “entering a closed disaster area” and possession of tear gas, stemming from the arresting officer confiscating the bear mace she was carrying while exercising her God-given right on one of the safest beaches on the planet. Buccola’s case kept pinging in Monterey County Superior Court until this past July, when the District Attorney moved to dismiss, citing “furtherance of justice.” Squid guesses the time and money wasn’t worth it when there are more serious crimes to chase. Case not closed, however, because Buccola has become a one-woman warrior against Carmel, regularly posting to social media her grievances against the city for supposedly restricting people’s freedoms. In 2022 Buccola filed a federal lawsuit against Carmel, insisting her Fourth Amendment rights were violated. She’s asking for $52 million plus punitive damages, a public apology and a promise that the “tyrannical behavior by public servants in ‘closing’ Carmel Beach will never again befall plaintiff’s neighbors and the peaceful People of Monterey County.” In May, Buccola filed a “writ of prohibition” against a few Monterey County Superior Court judges and the City of Carmel; it was denied by Judge Carrie Panetta. In court papers, Buccola referred to the Superior Court as the “inferior tribunal,” and insisted everyone—from the officers who arrested her to the judges she’s appeared in front of since 2020—did not have jurisdiction. She cites the Founding Fathers and quotes the Bible, arguing God’s law is above all else. In one scene Buccola relayed in a Dec. 8 filing, Buccola said she was arrested for failing to appear in court in 2021. Going full-on colonial-style, she demanded the officer “take her to a magistrate,” but the officer drove right on by the exit to the Monterey courthouse and took her straight to jail in Salinas. Squid’s colleague asked Buccola why after so many years she’s still pressing her case. “Somebody has to hold them accountable to the rule of law,” she says. A jury trial is scheduled for July 10, 2024. It’s so hard to ring in the new when the old insists on sticking around. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “The Weekly will not be intimidated.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com

16 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY DECEMBER 28, 2023-JANUARY 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Seeing the Light Reflections on a divisive time in history from someone who’s been here for over a century. By Elizabeth Martin FORUM It seems that we are going through a period of the “dark night of the soul,” both nationally and globally, as an entire planet. These phases have a way of presenting themselves to us from time to time in history, both personally and collectively. They are always painful, and even more so when only seen from the single perspective of what seems hurtful…as failure, loss, lack, or destruction of values. That is when fear reigns. I can see that I might envisage another perception concerning the reality we are experiencing, especially but not exclusively in the political scene. One in which it is viewed as an opportunity in our continuing evolution. There is a saying that goes something like, “Enlightenment comes in the dark.” Using Trumpism as a metaphor for darkness—with its hatefulness, tribalism, and rejection of the truth— we cannot remain oblivious. We are impelled to react or respond. We have nowhere to hide from it. In the past, so many things and behaviors were kept hidden. It was easier to remain unaware. No longer. Perhaps there will come a time when there isn’t even a rug we can find to sweep the dirt under. Perhaps this is the true “Age of Revelation” where all is revealed. Now seems to be a time we can no longer avoid facing the hard realities of the consequences of our private and collective behavior, and how each of us must give closer attention to how we play our own role. We are in a time when we are forced into finding better answers, better solutions, because this reality, these circumstances are just too intolerable or just are simply not working, or even capable of destroying us. Perhaps our most significant learning as a collective (and individual) comes from what isn’t working well for us, with the result that we have the opportunity for our creative juices to become activated into finding ways for restoring harmony and healing in what could be an ever-expanding inclusivity. That is, at least, a possibility. But first we have to be made aware of how tribal we are, seeing the “other” as the enemy, and how deeply separating and divisive that is, before we can move into more inclusivity. At one time in our history, tribalism was probably comforting, but now it is painfully separative. Maybe this is a phase of human evolution, as our species catches up to our globalized way of living. I try to think of our present time and events as playing out their role in our ever-growing awareness of our commonality. Now as never before we are truly in survival mode, as a collective and for the entire planet. Perhaps it takes that kind of painful realization to motivate us into change. If that is true, then Trumpism is a powerful catalyst in alerting us to the most endangering qualities a collective can face—not only just in a leader, but in a collective itself. Now we know—and it’s up to us to act humanely and positively, instead of succumbing to an ever-darker path. Elizabeth Martin is 103 years old and lives in Pacific Grove, where she is a poet and philosopher. OPINION We are forced into finding better answers. PRESENTED BY