4 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY March 21-27, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com THE BUZZ FREE SPEECH It’s typical for social media companies to collect and store users’ data. ByteDance, the China-based owner of TikTok, is no exception. But U.S. lawmakers have long had the app in their sights due to fears that ByteDance could turn over user information to the Chinese government. On March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 7521, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, which next heads to the Senate. If signed into law, the bill would compel ByteDance to sell the app to an American entity, otherwise it would be banned nationwide. (Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, voted yes on the bill; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, voted no.) A variety of free speech groups including the ACLU, Center for Democracy & Technology and Electronic Frontier Foundation are advocating against the bill. “H.R. 7521 is censorship—plain and simple,” they wrote in a March 6 letter to lawmakers. Instead, EFF and other groups advocate for a more even-handed prohibition on companies from collecting, storing and/or selling user data, regardless of where the company is based, including domestically. Good: As soon as word spread about the prospect of Monterey Peninsula becoming an island ahead of the first major storm of 2023, hotel reservations fell as hard and fast as the rain itself. The island never happened, but tourism in Monterey County took a big hit. The county’s visitors bureau, See Monterey, met the challenge by creating new ways to attract travelers, including creating the Monterey County Artichoke Trail with 40 locations, which received national exposure on the Rachael Ray Show. On March 12, Visit California recognized See Monterey’s efforts with a Poppy Award for “Best Crisis Recovery.” Rob O’Keefe, president and CEO of See Monterey, says it was the combination of the hospitality industry helping the community during the storms and the recovery efforts after that clinched the win. The bureau also won an award for “Best Group Meetings Marketing.” GREAT: The Big Sur Land Trust’s Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement Project (known as Carmel River FREE) is a green infrastructure project intended to mitigate flood risk on the lower Carmel River. It took an another step forward as Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, helped secure $3 million for the project through Congress’ annual budget appropriations process. The project has been in the works for years, and Rachel Saunders, BSLT’s director of conservation, says it will help close the funding gap to reach $52 million, the current estimated cost of the project. Other funding has come from a slew of state agencies, and Saunders says BSLT is still working to secure a $27 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If everything lines up, Saunders says, construction could start in the summer of 2025. GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK THE WEEKLY TALLY The number of meals delivered by Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula to homebound clients and group diners across Monterey County in 2023. A total of 232 volunteers drove more than 187,000 miles to make deliveries throughout the year. Source: Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula 384,000 QUOTE OF THE WEEK “Chowder is the stereotype of the wharf.” -Rick Beidoun of Crab Louie’s Bistro, when asked if “Monterey style” clam chowder is a real thing (see story, mcweekly.com). Two Portola Plaza Monterey, CA 93940 (831) 649-4511 portolahotel.com SUNDAY, MARCH 31 | 10AM-2PM RESERVATIONS & PRICING Join us on Easter Sunday inside the Portola Hotel & Spa for a spectacular Easter brunch celebration! Indulge in a lavish buffet featuring holiday favorites like Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Bake, Wild King Salmon, Maple Glazed Pit Ham, Apple Crisp and so much more. Dine in our newly renovated ballroom while enjoying live music with Dave Conley on piano. Children’s Easter Egg Hunt at 10AM & Noon $89.95 Adults | $74.95 Seniors (over 65) $45.95 Children 12 & under Prices exclude tax and gratuity | 20% Service charge for all parties Reservations are required. To reserve a table, please call (831) 649-7892 or email BrianHein@portolahotel.com.