june 20-26, 2024 montereycountynow.com LOCAL & INDEPENDENT the bridges to big sur 10 | singing billie holiday’s story 27 | a new era for IndyCar 36 State regulators are trying to rein them in, but local hospitals point to challenges. p. 16 By Pam Marino and Sara Rubin Health care costs in Monterey County are among the highest in California.

2 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY june 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com June 20-26, 2024 • ISSUE #1873 • Established in 1988 Steve Zmak (Canon F5 Mark III) A fun day at the annual ImageMakers Founders Day Celebration at Point Lobos on Monday, June 10. ImageMakers is photography club that’s been active on the Monterey Peninsula since 1996 and has more than 60 local fine art photographer members. Monterey County photo of the week Send Etc. submissions to etcphoto@montereycountynow.com; please include caption and camera info. On the cover: Monterey County’s three largest hospitals— Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Natividad and Salinas Valley Health—are some of the most expensive in California. Meanwhile, a new state board is attempting to reign in hospital spending for all of California. Cover design: Karen Loutzenheiser etc. Copyright © 2024 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: $300 yearly, prepaid. 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.montereycountynow. com. Audited by CVC. Founder & CEO Bradley Zeve bradley@montereycountynow.com (x103) Publisher Erik Cushman erik@montereycountynow.com (x125) Editorial editor Sara Rubin sara@montereycountynow.com (x120) associate editor Erik Chalhoub ec@montereycountynow.com (x135) features editor Dave Faries dfaries@montereycountynow.com (x110) Staff Writer Celia Jiménez celia@montereycountynow.com (x145) Staff Writer Pam Marino pam@montereycountynow.com (x106) Staff Writer Agata Pope¸da (x138) aga@montereycountynow.com Staff Writer David Schmalz david@montereycountynow.com (x104) Staff photographer Daniel Dreifuss daniel@montereycountynow.com (x102) Digital PRODUCER Sloan Campi sloan@montereycountynow.com (x105) contributors Nik Blaskovich, Rob Brezsny, Michael Dadula, Robert Daniels, Tonia Eaton, Jesse Herwitz, Jacqueline Weixel, Paul Wilner Cartoons Rob Rogers, Tom Tomorrow Production Art Director/Production Manager Karen Loutzenheiser karen@montereycountynow.com (x108) Graphic Designer Kevin Jewell kevinj@montereycountynow.com (x114) Graphic Designer Alexis Estrada alexis@montereycountynow.com (x114) Graphic Designer Lani Headley lani@montereycountynow.com (x114) SALES senior Sales Executive Diane Glim diane@montereycountynow.com (x124) Senior Sales Executive George Kassal george@montereycountynow.com (x122) Senior Sales Executive Keith Bruecker keith@montereycountynow.com (x118) Classifieds business development director Keely Richter keely@montereycountynow.com (x123) Digital Director of Digital Media Kevin Smith kevin@montereycountynow.com (x119) Distribution Distribution AT Arts Co. atartsco@gmail.com Distribution Control Harry Neal Business/Front Office Office Manager Linda Maceira linda@montereycountynow.com (x101) Bookkeeping Rochelle Trawick rochelle@montereycountynow.com 668 Williams Ave., Seaside, CA 93955 831-394-5656, (FAX) 831-394-2909 www.montereycountynow.com We’d love to hear from you. Send us your tips at tipline.montereycountynow.com. now [nou] adverb at the present time or moment Monterey County Now Local news, arts and entertainment, food and drink, calendar and daily newsletter. Subcribe to the newsletter: www.montereycountynow.com/subscribe Find us online: www.montereycountynow.com

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4 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com THE BUZZ FREE SPEECH In 2023, the number of daily newspapers across the United States stood at 1,213, a drop by nearly 260 since 2005, according to the Medill Local News Initiative, a program of Northwestern University. The numbers for non-daily papers are even more dire: 4,792 in 2023, compared to 7,419 in 2005. Partisan actors on both sides of the political spectrum are eagerly exploiting the decline of reliable print publications, and according to NewsGuard, there are at least 1,265 websites determined to either be backed by dark money or purposefully masquerading as local news sites, outpacing the number of daily newspapers. The report found that nearly half of those sites are targeted to swing states, such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and others, designed to influence elections. A majority of the sites are backed by conservative network Metric Media, according to the report, while others are funded by billionaires with a progressive perspective. Good: Graduations are always a time of celebration, but Rancho Cielo had even more to celebrate on Friday, June 14, when the nonprofit graduated 73 students from its educational and vocational training programs, the largest number in its 24-year history. Over 50 percent of the graduates are already registered at local community colleges or have secured jobs. Twelve graduates of the Drummond Culinary Academy are entering the first internship program of its kind that involves eight weeks of a paid internship at one of six Monterey County restaurants, including Bernardus, Quail Lodge and the Sardine Factory. The internships include guaranteed employment at the end of the eight weeks. Over 400 people attended the outdoor ceremony on campus in the Salinas foothills, joined by Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig, Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto and other officials. GREAT: Great news for kids who attend Alisal Union School District in Salinas: The district has increased mental health services for its students. When the district didn’t renew a counseling contract with Monterey County Behavioral Health, it instead expanded its contract with its other contractor, Effective School Solutions. ESS therapists will double from six to 12. AUSD will keep its special ed services contract with the County. “We’re increasing the number of therapists by 45 percent,” says Superintendent Jim Koenig. AUSD approved a three-year contract, beginning the upcoming school year, for $2.2 million; these funds are part of the $4.7 million the district received from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Grant. Now all of AUSD’s schools will have a therapist on campus. Services include individual and family therapy, professional development for parents and staff, and general academic services for students. GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK THE WEEKLY TALLY The average amount received in aid per household through the second phase of the Pajaro Disaster Assistance Program. A total of 341 households were eligible for the phase, which provides funds to repair damages caused by the March 2023 flood in Pajaro and replace personal property that was destroyed. The first phase, which provided grocery gift cards, netted 757 applications, 688 of which were eligible for assistance. Source: County of Monterey $6,500 QUOTE OF THE WEEK “If you’re scared to try Korean food, try deep-fried chicken first.” -Max Hong, owner of Bada Korean Kitchen in Seaside, speaking about how to ease into the world of Korean cuisine (see story, page 34). https://calkids.org More than $30 Million for Monterey County Kids! You can connect your CalKIDS and Scholarshare 529 accounts! Over eligible children in Monterey County 64,000 OUR KIDS HAVE A FUTURE WORTH SAVING FOR. CLAIM YOUR CHILD'S SAVINGS ACCOUNT TODAY!

www.montereycountynow.com JUNE 20-26, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 5 For your growing family’s expected (and unexpected) healthcare needs Salinas Valley Health has the only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Monterey County providing minimally invasive interventions to help critically ill babies with premature lung disease breathe easier. Their affiliation with Stanford Medicine Children’s Health offers the skilled expertise of Stanford neonatologists, along with access to state-of-the-art facilities and technology, meaning more families can receive quality healthcare for their babies while staying close to home. Salinas Valley Health Medical Center | 450 East Romie Lane, Salinas | 831-757-DOCS | SalinasValleyHealth.com/nicu Robert Castro, MD, Salinas Valley Health NICU Director Neonatologist, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health

6 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com 831 Salinas high schools have a robust Japanese program, which some may not expect in a majority-Latino community. History, however, will tell otherwise: There is a prominent Japanese American community in the area; many are descendants from the Japanese immigrants who came to the area in the 19th century and worked in sugar beet fields, later placed with lettuce, strawberries and other crops. But that doesn’t explain the reason Japanese is present in Salinas’ classrooms. Tei Yajima Dacus, a Japanese immigrant, started the program in Monterey County over 30 years ago at Alisal High School when there were hardly any such programs across the state. Yajima Dacus is Ann Jordan’s mother. Ann and her husband, Peter Jordan, both retired foreign-language teachers in Japanese and French, respectively, formed the Wasshoi Foundation in 2018 after retirement. The foundation provides opportunities for low-income students to travel abroad and immerse themselves in a new culture and speak the language they’ve learned in the classroom. The Jordans organized trips abroad when they were teachers. “I always felt bad about having kids who were really talented students, but didn’t have the resources to join them on the trip,” Peter Jordan says. “Wasshoi” means to carry peace or harmony, as well as cooperation and community effort. It is a chant people use at festivals while they carry a portable mikoshi shrine through the streets. Ann Jordan says they created the organization to support the students’ objectives and dreams and bring others to collaborate in their own wasshoi. “Together, we’re carrying them on our shoulders,” she says. The program is open to high school students from Salinas Union High School District and Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District, where the Jordans taught. The scholarships focus on students who have studied at least two years of Japanese and are currently enrolled in an advanced course on the language, are involved in their community and face financial hardship. The small foundation normally sends one student per year, but this time, thanks to a donation and accumulated money during the pandemic, two students will travel to Japan for two weeks over the summer. Wasshoi partnered with New Perspectives Japan, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that organizes Japanese immersion programs. This year’s recipients are two recent graduates from SUHSD: Cynthia Gonzalez-Leon from Everett Alvarez High School and Joanna Moreno-Vides from Rancho San Juan High School. Gonzalez-Leon’s interest in Japanese started when she grabbed a Japanese manga book at the library. This trip will be special for Gonzalez-Leon because it will be the first time she travels abroad. “I’m really thankful for the Wasshoi program for just opening a door to a new opportunity that I’ve been wanting to do ever since I was little,” she says. Gonzalez-Leon is eager to talk to locals and learn about their culture. One stop she won’t miss is Animate, Japan’s most popular anime retailer. Moreno-Vides’ introduction to Japanese started because her older brother Wilbert Rivas-Vides was taking Japanese classes. “He’d always show me his assignments and I’d be like, ‘Oh, my God, like, that’s so cool. You’re learning a third language,’” she says. This is the first time Moreno-Vides will travel out of the country without family members. She wants to visit Nara, which was once the capital of Japan. Moreno-Vides says she’s been juggling her upcoming college orientation and preparing for the trip—seeking recommendations on TikTok for what necessities she will need in Japan, and asking questions to fellow students who have been in Japan before. Both Salinas students will spend two weeks in Japan, traveling with other students from Washington. To learn more about the Wasshoi Foundation, visit wasshoi.foundation. Cultural Immersion Salinas students are ready to explore Japan, thanks to the support of a local nonprofit. By Celia Jiménez Cynthia Gonzalez-Leon (from right) and Joanna Moreno-Vides are the recipients of the Wasshoi Foundation’s travel grants and will head to Japan this summer. Peter and Ann Jordan (at left) founded the organization to help students travel abroad. “Together, we’re carrying them on our shoulders.” TALES FROM THE AREA CODE DANIEL DREIFUSS “At Santa Cruz County Bank I know exactly who to call when I need answers. The Bank makes decisions at a local level – the same way I do. The Treasury Management team walked us through the efficiencies of online and mobile banking and the security of having positive pay protection – all of which keep our bookkeeper very happy!”

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8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY June 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com news Yet again, the City of Seaside finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit over its attempts to develop the former Fort Ord, just over a week after City Council finalized an $850,000 settlement with Sacramento-based developer Paul Petrovich regarding his attempt to develop the so-called “Main Gate” property north of Lightfighter Drive and east of Highway 1. On June 14, nonprofits Center for Biological Diversity and Landwatch Monterey County sued the City over its approval of an environmental impact report for a general plan update on May 16. The general plan lays out a future vision for development through 2040. It’s not like the council wasn’t warned—both organizations sent letters to the city on May 15, alleging deficiencies in the environmental review of the plan update. Both number more than 40 pages. Landwatch’s letter lays out several root causes of their claims. Seaside East, a 635-acre parcel east of Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard is replete with many protected plant species. Its development would rely on water from the Marina Coast Water District, which has a water supply portfolio that is of questionable sustainability—much of it comes from the Deep Aquifer, which is ancient water that is essentially being mined and not replenished. The allegations in the lawsuit include inconsistencies within the plan, the impact on water supply, habitat and the failure to fully describe the plan and evaluate alternatives. The lawsuit asks that the City Council’s approval of the EIR be set aside, and to impose an injunction on any projects that would rely upon it unless the city amends the plan. City Attorney Sheri Damon could not be reached for comment before the Weekly’s deadline. Plan B Land use watchdogs sue the City of Seaside over its 2040 general plan. By David Schmalz There are some regular chants at Monterey Bay F.C. games, like “Let’s go Union,” and a call-and-response of “MB!” returned by “FC!” The crowd, including many regulars, sometimes chant together, at times led by Superfan Dan, who rallies the enthusiasm. Crowd participation is not all cheery—it regularly includes heckling the opposing team, part of the culture of soccer. But there is another chant that has become typical at the stadium that has left some fans wondering if they should attend the games: P___, a derogatory term used in Mexico to refer to gay men, similar to f____, an anti-gay slur in English. Pride Night on Saturday, June 8 went sour for several MBFC fans when they heard the hateful chant. One of them is Monica Lopez, who is queer, and their wife Noemi Mejia. “It really made me feel uncomfortable and it’s really making me consider if I want to renew, if I want to be a season ticket holder next year,” Lopez says. Merideth Canham-Nelson says she left the match after hearing it for the second time, and reported the chanting. “It’s been going on for the last three years,” Canham-Nelson adds. (That’s the entire existence of this relatively new pro soccer team.) Canham-Nelson and her husband have reported the chanting several times and feel little has been done to solve the issue. “I just want it to be a safe environment for everybody,” she says. The United Soccer League code of conduct and MBFC’s supporter season guidelines both condemn the use of derogatory language. USL’s sanctions include warnings, removal from games or arrest. MBFC President Mike DiGiulio notes the club’s code of conduct is posted at different locations in the stadium and is read during every match. DiGiulio says they are doing what they can to address the issue, which is generated by a small number of people, not a large group. This includes meeting with supporters in May to discuss it, and reminding fans about the code of conduct at every game. “Monterey Bay F.C. does not stand for derogatory chants. We never will. We never have and we’ll continue to follow the guidance of all the soccer federations and do the right thing,” DiGiulio says. “We strive for equality, unity and inclusivity,” DiGiulio adds. Consequences for clubs where derogatory language is used range from stopping a game and fines and matches without fans. On the international field, a men’s CONCAFAF Nations League game (USA vs. Mexico) was stopped because fans chanted the same antigay slur. In 2022, FIFA fined the Mexican national soccer team and they played two World Cup qualifying games without fans; the Mexican Football Federation received a fine of about $110,000. Canham-Nelson says she wants the hateful chants to stop. “The primary way for this to happen is for MBFC to take action against those who are doing it,” she adds. Toward the end of the game on June 8, a group of people received warnings and two were eventually escorted out of the stadium. Cardinale Stadium seats up to 6,000 fans. A small group has repeatedly chanted a homophobic slur in Spanish, prompting disciplinary action from management. Own Goal Derogatory chants at Cardinale Stadium turn Pride Night sour for fans of Monterey Bay F.C. By Celia Jiménez Seaside East, a 635-acre slice of land on the former Fort Ord, is a maritime chaparral habitat filled with protected species. The prospect of developing it has invited litigation. “I just want it to be a safe environment for everyone.” Daniel Dreifuss david schmalz

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10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY June 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Highway 1 in Big Sur is among the most beautiful roads on Earth. Most images of it—aside from disaster photos—contain one common element: a bridge. The 1930s-era bridges along Highway 1 have become the artery’s defining feature, but as their concrete railings have deteriorated over time and now require replacement, just how that plays out has become a hot-button topic. Among the railings in need of replacement, Garrapata Creek Bridge is the first that’s come into the focus of Caltrans. The agency’s recommendations, based on standards adopted in 2016, have run afoul of the Monterey County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors—it’s been deemed that they harm the views. In March 2023, the Planning Commission denied Caltrans’ application for a permit to replace and redesign the railings; Caltrans appealed to the Board of Supervisors, who in turn voted in December to uphold the “intent” of the Planning Commission’s decision—Caltrans was tasked with developing a more refined proposal. Caltrans submitted a supplemental application with a range of aesthetic options. It’s slated to return to the board for a vote on Tuesday, June 25. The board also voted to create a working group to review Caltrans’ proposed design alternatives; the group included three Caltrans employees and four county residents or employees. In a ranked voting poll, it went 4-3, with the county representatives wanting to keep it the same. A county report characterizes the supervisors’ decision as wanting to protect “one of the few celebrated man-made features along Highway 1 in Big Sur Critical Viewshed,” and notes “the precedent-setting nature of this decision, which may impact the consideration of the other historic bridge rail replacements in the Big Sur corridor.” Pete Hendrix, Caltrans District 5 traffic chief, says if the supervisors deny the appeal, Caltrans is likely to add barriers to take the bridge to one lane for three to 10 years. From Ragged Point to Monastery Beach, he adds, there have been 24 fatalities in vehicular accidents over the past decade. Martha Diehl, a county planning commissioner who lives near the Garrapata Creek Bridge, has been a leading advocate for keeping the current aesthetic, and thinks Caltrans needs to change its approach to the design—safety matters, but so do looks. “We’ve all got to help them get out of that box,” she says. Though right now, Caltrans is not budging. Election season in Carmel is off and running, after not one, but two challengers have declared they’re seeking to unseat incumbent Mayor Dave Potter, who is running for a fourth twoyear term in November. “Experience counts,” Potter says. Councilmember Jeff Baron and the leader of the all-volunteer group Carmel Cares, Dale Byrne, suggest that experience hasn’t translated into solving the key problems that have been challenging the city for years. “I’m a little frustrated with how slowly things happen,” says Baron, who was elected to his first term in 2018, the same year Potter first became mayor. “We’re headed in the right direction but I don’t think we’re going at the right speed.” One example is the Carmel Police Station, which has continued to deteriorate over many years as city leaders have disagreed over renovations, costs and, more recently, whether to tear it down and start over, either at its current location on Junipero Street or at nearby Vista Lobos Park. Potter and Byrne say they want to remodel at the current location. For Baron, focusing on remodeling as the only option isn’t the best use of time—looking at details and costs for a few options and making an informed decision is better, he says. Byrne, a retired CEO, doesn’t have elected experience, but over the last four years he and other Carmel Cares volunteers have completed hundreds of improvement projects around the village, working in partnership with city staff. He’s running for mayor, as opposed to council, because he says he’ll be in a better position to set the council’s agenda and work with administrators to tackle issues. “I’m creative, I listen and I get things done,” Byrne says. Potter says he wants to continue the work he began as mayor, bringing the community together through listening and conversations. He points to success at getting residents and the business community to work as partners, rather than adversaries. Third Rail Officials at odds about how to fix a bridge while preserving iconic Big Sur. By David Schmalz news Let’s Talk Budget The Monterey County Board of Supervisors holds a public meeting to consider adopting its $2 billion budget for the next fiscal year. 9am Thursday, June 20. County of Monterey Government Center, 168 W. Alisal St., first floor, Salinas; virtually via Zoom. Free. 755-5066, countyofmonterey.gov. At Your Fingertips The Seaside Family and Community Support Program’s annual Community Resource Fair, in partnership with the Seaside Police and Fire departments, is a chance for residents to learn about services to enhance health, wellness and safety. The event also features free entertainment, food and giveaways. Noon-4pm Saturday, June 22. Laguna Grande Park, 1249 Canyon Del Rey Blvd., Seaside. Free. 899-6852, fcsprogram@ci.seaside.ca.us. Education in Focus The Monterey Peninsula College Governing Board of Trustees meets to discuss college business and accept public comment. 4pm Wednesday, June 26. MPC Library & Technology Center, Sam Karas Room, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. Free. 646-4000, mpc.edu. Next Top Cop Salinas City Manager Rene Mendez seeks feedback from residents on what experience or leadership qualities the city’s next police chief should have. Share your thoughts on who should take the helm of the police department in the largest city in Monterey County. Survey ends Sunday, June 30 at 11:59pm. tinyurl.com/ SalinasLeadership. Report from Base The U.S. Navy released a Final Environmental Assessment for its Naval Innovation Center, a 289,916-square-foot building proposed on the Naval Postgraduate School campus in Monterey. The report found the project would not have a significant environmental impact. The report is available at the Monterey Public Library, 625 Pacific St.; Pacific Grove Public Library, 550 Central Ave.; Seaside Branch Library, 550 Harcourt Ave.; and NICMontereyEA.com. Citizenship Preparation The Salinas Public Library holds virtual citizenship classes for adults studying to take the United States citizenship interview in English. Practice interviews can be scheduled upon request. 6-7pm Thursdays. Virtual. Free. 758-7916, salinaspubliclibrary.org. Triple Play The Carmel mayoral race heats up early with two candidates challenging the incumbent. By Pam Marino Caltrans officials say replacing the barrier railings on the 1931 Garrapata Creek Bridge as they appear today is not a viable option given modern safety standards. e-mail: toolbox@montereycountynow.com TOOLBOX If they deny the appeal, Caltrans is likely to add barriers. Daniel Dreifuss

www.montereycountynow.com june 20-26, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 11 If you think about it, Monterey County is a microcosm of California. It features some of the state’s major environmental features: ocean, mountains and fertile soils. The combination contributes to the state’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism. And like California, the county attracts people from all over the world to live and work, as well as create and dream. One group called Regenerative California did think about it, and is launching a pilot program to create a new statewide economy, starting in Monterey County. The nonprofit’s team is charged with creating smaller pilot projects to demonstrate locally that a regenerative economy—one that regenerates the Earth’s finite assets rather than extract and discard as if infinite—is the pathway to a healthier future for the planet and its inhabitants. It’s not a new concept—the idea of a regenerative economy has been talked about since the 1970s, when some economists rightly predicted that old economic ways would lead to a collapse. “We can all agree that there are more natural disasters, more fires, more droughts,” says Kristin Coates, Regenerative California’s CEO. The Monterey County pilot program came about after the state’s tourism bureau, Visit California, hired the UK-based JLL, a global real estate and investment company, to create 10-year sustainable travel strategies for each of the state’s 12 regions. The fledgling Regenerative California was in turn hired to look at sustainable tourism on the Central Coast. The group is exploring the interplay between all the county’s main economic drivers, its governments and organizations and how they can work together to solve challenges, like the lack of housing as one example, and ultimately create a new economy. “How do we get out of our silos?” is one of the questions they’re asking, Coates says. There are groups working toward similar goals, but they often do it on their own. The group is focusing on four industries: agriculture, tourism, construction and the “Blue Economy,” referring to sustainable uses of ocean resources. Last year they spoke to over 100 people from all parts of the local economy, asking what participants saw as challenges and needs. Themes like housing, health, education, energy, water and transportation were common. From there the group zeroed in on several potential pilot projects in the areas of affordable housing, kelp restoration, better food access, transitioning small farms to regenerative agriculture and building public awareness. At 7pm Saturday, June 22, the group is hosting a free screening of the 2023 documentary Common Ground about pioneers of the regenerative agriculture movement, followed by a discussion with members of the ag industry, including Braga Fresh in Soledad. The event takes place at the SandBox, 440 Ortiz Ave., Sand City. “We want to get conversations started,” Coates says, adding it’s not to villainize those pursuing traditional methods, but asking the community to consider transitioning to an economy that creates healthy soils, food and environment. Next-Gen Monterey County serves as a pilot toward creating a new economy for California. By Pam Marino Soledad-based Braga Fresh employs regenerative agriculture, using techniques to sequester carbon and improve soil quality. Encouraging the technique is one focus of Regenerative California. NEWS “We want to get conversations started.” BRAGA FRESH

12 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY June 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Battle Lines Thank you for the follow-up on this (“Pacific Grove City Council majority rejects removal of a controversial commissioner,” posted June 6). It was concerning to me that Mike Gibbs had eight minutes of allotted time to speak and never made a sincere apology. More concerning is that our City Council allowed Gibbs to get away with harassing other members of the community. City Council needs to hold themselves and the members of the public that serve on boards, commissions, committees and task forces to a higher standard. Please stop bullying people. Mary Walker | Pacific Grove Our so-called moderate councilmembers clutched their pearls about the maturity and civility of recent discourse. By essentially victim-blaming the harassed parties, the council (once again) endorsed bullying and bigotry through their unwillingness to hold Gibbs accountable and their blatant disregard for the rowdy group of radicals in the chambers. The council seemed shocked that tensions had grown so high and appeared to blame those persecuted. We should expect nothing less from Luke Coletti and Debby Beck. But shame on Nick Smith and Lori McDonnell for insinuating that some sort of kumbaya compromise is even possible and, even worse, that those being targeted by hate in this community should bend over and take it. Through their cozying and coddling of xenophobes, racists and homophobes, this council (including the mayor) has created this beast. The citizens of Pacific Grove deserve a council that will open their eyes, call out the cringeworthy, disgusting and dangerous behaviors of extremists, and advocate for the tormented humans in this community with the same empathy and passion that they advocate for the shoreline, seals, butterflies and trees. John Motherhead | Pacific Grove No Place for Hate On page 4 you applaud free speech for a Sacramento high school newspaper which states, “Hitler’s got some good ideas” (“The Buzz,” June 13-19) On page 13 you applaud the mayor of Carmel shutting down the free speech rights of someone who announces that they are a Nazi (“It’s 2024, and yet—people are still identifying as Nazis,” June 13-19). Please reconcile your article on page 13 with your article on page 4. Because I cannot reconcile the two. Glen Grossman | Pacific Grove We are in big trouble, locally, nationally, worldwide. There is no more time for denial. They are the same Nazis and Confederates we defeated in the past. They have united and they are well armed. Kelita Smith | Carmel rights and wrongs A class-action lawsuit is not the path to a solution. Only the lawyers will come out ahead (“As issues of racism persist in Salinas schools, parents consider a civil rights lawsuit,” June 13-19). Bob Roach | Salinas The fact that our schools cannot seem to remedy these racist issues is unconscionable. We don’t need a study group—we need action. Trish Triumpho Sullivan | Salinas For Rent Short-term rentals cause more harm than good for communities (“After years of delay, County finally prepares to regulate short-term rentals,” June 6-12). The idea that they somehow are going to bring in tax dollars, employ more people and allow folks to remain in their home ignores the myriad of problems caused. Especially if the entity does not enforce the regulations that are on the books, which is what Monterey County has done for over 10 years. Any research of late will show that more and more areas are moving to limit and/or remove STRs from their communities. The County has allowed them to continue due to their waffling ideas! Even when presented with evidence of problems, they plead not enough staff! The will is not there which means that neighborhoods suffer and elected officials dither. Ken Wright | Big Sur Welp! Another McNews story with so little detail it borders on pointless. What are some of the new restrictions? What restrictions are only for commercial rentals and only for hosted ones? Anything??? Searching for some actual facts, it looks like I need to go to the Monterey Herald or the Carmel Pine Cone. As usual. Stephen Moorer | Monterey Fire Worked This tyranny over fireworks is amazing (“Seaside Police is preparing itself for the onslaught of illegal fireworks,” posted June 14). While there are no organized fireworks in most areas of Monterey County, what are we supposed to do to celebrate the independence of our country? Marilyn Galli | Carmel Art Works This is great all around (“Inspired by an epic piece of art, Seaside rethinks how it does code enforcement,” June 13-19). Is it gimmicky? Yes, but we need some fresh ideas about how to solve basic problems. Maybe an administrative role like this suits [Seaside Police Chief and Interim City Manager Nick Borges] better than his police work?! By all accounts, seems to be a pretty good police officer also. Johnson Chung | Seaside Seeing the Future In Greek mythology, Cassandra was blessed with the gift of accurate prophecy, but cursed by the fact she was never to be believed. Thus, her warnings about the Trojan horse went unheeded, and Troy was destroyed. Trump has a Cassandra-like quality, only his predictions are about what he will do in the future, rather than what others will do (“Donald Trump was convicted because of democracy—not in spite of it, despite what he claims,” June 6-12). Sadly, his statements about future retribution and other horrendous policies are seen by many as mere bluster, and not as indications of his real intentions. I believe him, and I don’t want American democracy pillaged like Troy. Wake up America, before it’s too late. Glenn Nolte | Carmel Valley Letters • CommentsOPINION Submit letters to the editor to letters@montereycountynow.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.montereycountynow.com June 20-26, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 There is a new sheriff in town, and she has a vision to clean up the Monterey County Jail. By “new,” I am referring to Sheriff Tina Nieto, elected in 2022. She ran partly on a campaign platform of promising to correct problems— including deadly problems—in the jail. She quickly learned they are harder to correct than they might first appear. “This has been a difficult couple years. We’ve gone through our crises,” Nieto said on May 29 in the Monterey County Board of Supervisors chambers. A sea of staffers wearing wide-brimmed sheriff’s hats sat behind her as Nieto and Undersheriff Keith Boyd made their pitch to the supervisors for additional funding in the 2024-25 fiscal year. (The board is set to approve a budget on Thursday, June 20.) “To run a sheriff’s office, it takes more than good intentions,” Nieto said. “Good intentions are great, but it takes action. My people behind me will do the work. It takes your part”—that you is the five supervisors, who hold the purse strings—“as part of that team, to ensure we get the financial support to do the things we need to do to get the safest community we can.” A safe community includes many dimensions, not just the jail, but the jail has long been top of mind. The sheriff’s office is unusual in that beyond providing deputies in the field, responding to reports of crime, it is also tasked with running a carceral facility—and since the state prison system underwent a massive overcrowding reduction effort, the county jail has had to operate more like a prison (more felonies than misdemeanors, and longer stays). In 2013, incarcerated people in the jail filed a class-action lawsuit over conditions. Two years later, the plaintiffs settled with the County of Monterey and its healthcare contractor in the jail, Wellpath. Last year, a federal judge ruled that issues in the jail remained unresolved and the County and Wellpath were violating the settlement. That brings us to the present, and Nieto’s pitch to the Board of Supervisors. They are asking for more funding in hopes of staffing up sufficiently so they can comply with the terms. “It’s the humane thing to do for our incarcerated population, and it also is a budgetary issue, to save us money in the long term if we don’t come into compliance,” Nieto said. The Sheriff’s Office has already received a recommended bump in funds from county administrators, who suggest allocating $162.8 million, up from $155 million. Nieto and Boyd were asking on May 29 for $2.7 million more, covering 23 positions—of those, 21 are related to the Corrections Bureau. Under Nieto’s leadership, the Corrections Bureau has already expanded its compliance division from one person to a team with a commander and two sergeants (one reassigned from the jail). They’re asking for another sergeant and two civilian positions (an analyst and office assistant) to track conditions and compliance. They are also asking for four new deputy positions to work in blocks where incarcerated people are housed, and four in the intake area. I wanted to get the lay of the land on how this might make a difference for health and safety, and on June 17, Boyd—along with Capt. Rebecca Smith and Chief Deputy Garrett Sanders— guided me on a tour. (This is the first time the jail has been open to members of the press for at least nine years; the preceding Steve Bernal administration was a black box.) In the intake area at about 12:30pm, a woman is in the process of being booked. A Probation officer (from the arresting agency) stands by as a jail deputy pats her down. She then goes through a body scanner to look for contraband, before entering a medical exam room with a Wellpath nurse, the deputy still standing by. “This is a very high-risk area,” Boyd says. “We want to move people either out of the jail or into a housing unit.” There are four deputies assigned here, but that means if there’s an issue, deputies get called away from elsewhere in the jail—there is nobody to backfill. The budget amount requested would cover a fifth deputy in the intake area on each shift. The bare minimum expectation we should all have for people who are incarcerated is that they can expect to survive. If $2.7 million can change that, it’s well worth it. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@montereycountynow.com. Jail Break The sheriff asks for more county funds, with hope of finally fixing the jail. By Sara Rubin Slow Track…Squid plans to ooze over to the Laguna Seca Recreation Area this weekend to watch some IndyCar action on the racetrack (see story, p. 36). The cars might be fast, but the transition of this county-owned facility to new management is not. In July 2023, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors enthusiastically voted for a new agreement, approving a contract with nonprofit Friends of Laguna Seca to run the track for up to 55 years, if certain conditions were met. But Friends missed the first set of conditions, which were originally expected to take effect before the contract would kick in on Jan. 1, 2024. The deadline was extended to July 1, which is getting closer and still—the concessionaire has yet to show the $6 million required for the transition to take effect. “We still have faith they’re going to come through, we just don’t know at this time if the July 1 date is going to be hit,” says County Parks Chief Bryan Flores. “It’s still kind of a wait-and-see. Now it’s just waiting on the money.” Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at the track, and the transition is on hold. (Not) All Aboard…Squid was surprised to receive a perfectly pleasant press release on June 11 from Monterey-Salinas Transit, announcing new board leadership, with Mary Ann Carbone as chair and Lorraine Worthy as vice-chair. “The announcement was made at MST’s monthly Board of Directors meeting on June 10,” the press release said. Squid would use a phrase more like “internecine battle” than “announcement” to describe the conversation on June 10. Outgoing chair Anna Velazquez had convened a subcommittee with Worthy and Kim Shirley to recommend nominees. While convention would have had them recommend simply moving Carbone from the vice chair role into the chair position, they voiced concern about what her dual role as Sand City mayor would mean for the future of MST’s SURF! Busway project—what if conflicts meant she would have to recuse? Instead, they nominated Jeff Baron of Carmel for the chairperson position for two years. “I was just blown away at how you tried to justify that. I just feel it’s very disrespectful,” said Mike LeBarre, who instead supported the CarboneWorthy team. Luis Alejo piled on to tell the nominating committee, “I not only find it disrespectful to try to snub her. I also think it’s discriminatory,” citing her Indigenous heritage. (No mention of the fact that Baron is gay, but Squid is not here for the oppression olympics, just the political antics.) The board eventually voted 7-5 to appoint Carbone as chair. Ed Smith attempted a kumbaya moment (“the spirit is we are a team”) but the bus had already left the station. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “It’s the humane thing to do.” Send Squid a tip: squid@montereycountynow.com

14 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Hold Your Fire The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down bump stock ban means more people will die. By Elie Mystal FORUM We live in this most violently gun-addicted industrialized nation on Earth for one reason: Republicans control our Supreme Court. The gun violence that rages throughout our country does not happen because we play violent video games or watch violent movies. It doesn’t happen because of racial strife, poverty and inequality. It happens because the Republican operatives on the court simply won’t allow us to protect ourselves from violence; because they would rather watch children die than risk Congress or the president laying a finger on the National Rifle Association or Ruger or any arms dealer who makes their living selling death. The latest comes in the form of Garland v. Cargill. In a 6-3 ruling on June 14, divided along partisan lines, the conservative majority overturned a 2017 ban on “bump stocks” that was enacted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) during the Trump administration. In 2017, a mass shooter killed 60 people and injured over 400 when he fired on a crowd at a Las Vegas music festival. He was able to kill and injure so many people because he turned his semiautomatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon—functionally, a machine gun—with a bump stock. A bump stock is a mechanical device, affixed to the butt of a gun, that captures the recoil from firing a weapon and cycles that kinetic energy back into the shooter’s trigger finger. The shooter fires a bullet, the weapon “bumps” against their shoulder, and that action produces an additional bullet, and so on. By using bump stocks, the shooter was able to fire over 1,000 bullets in 10 minutes in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas music festival massacre is the deadliest mass shooting ever carried out by a single gunman in U.S. history. One reason it is still the deadliest—despite the fact that it happened seven years ago and this country endures a mass shooting nearly every day, including 225 in 2024, so far—is likely because, after the shooting, the Trump administration banned bump stocks. Machine guns and enhancements that turn guns into machine guns have been banned in this country since 1934, thanks to the National Firearms Act. ATF classified bump stocks as one of those attachments that makes a gun a machine gun, and took it off the market. Gun store owner Michael Cargill sued the ATF over the ban. The justices came up with a grammatical way to determine whether bump stocks fall under the umbrella of the National Firearms Act ban on machine guns and enhancements, instead of a rational one; they pretended the legal issue hinged on whether bump stocks could be determined to work by means of a single “function” of the trigger or by means of a single “pull” of the trigger. The decision is a death sentence. In a just world, the Supreme Court justices who joined this opinion should have to bury the victims of the next mass shooter who uses a bump stock to murder an entire schoolhouse, house of worship, dance club or music festival. Elie Mystal is the justice correspondent for The Nation, where this story first appeared. OPINION The shooter was able to fire 1,000 bullets in 10 minutes. GET FREE MULCH For additional eligibility requirements and to receive your voucher for FREE natural mulch, visit montereywaterinfo.org/mulch-madness. FREE MULCH FOR YOUR GARDEN California American Water (CAW) and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) are sponsoring a free mulch giveaway.* We are offering: • A voucher for five (5) FREE bags of prebagged natural mulch OR two (2) FREE cubic yards of natural mulch. • A 25% discount on natural mulch purchased beyond the first five bags/ two cubic yards of mulch. *Supplies are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. WHY MULCH? Mulch helps soil retain moisture and reduces water use by up to 25%. It also impedes weed growth and improves the health of your soil. ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS • Must be a CAW water service customer or a resident living within MPWMD’s jurisdiction. • For personal use only; not for resale. Dr. Brynie Kaplan Dau, MS, DVM Compassionate Care with exCeptional mediCine. 1023 Austin Avenue, Pacific Grove • 831-318-0306 www.pacificgroveanimalhospital.com VOTED MONTEREY COUNTY’S BEST VETERINARIAN THREE YEARS IN A ROW! ’23 ’22 ’21 SURGERY DERMATOLOGY FELINE & CANINE MEDICINE PET BOARDING PREVENTATIVE CARE REGENERATIVE MEDICINE PRP (PLATELET-RICH PLASMA) LASER THERAPY EXOTICS AND MUCH MORE


16 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY june 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Hospitals in Monterey County are some of the most expensive in the state. Why? By Pam Marino and Sara Rubin Sticker Shock Clementina Gonzalez, a hotel housekeeper from Marina, stood in a Sacramento conference room on May 23, 2023, before a committee of physicians, policymakers and industry experts. She spoke in Spanish, her daughter by her side serving as translator. “Good afternoon. My name is Clementina Gonzalez and I made a three-hour trip here to tell you about my experience with a very expensive hospital in Monterey County,” she said, detailing how 10 years earlier she was hospitalized at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula for a blood ailment requiring transfusions and other procedures. “With even the health insurance that I had, I had to pay over $10,000. And I don’t have that,” Gonzalez said. She and her family tried their best to repay the debt on time, but it went to collections, ruining her credit. Worse, the illness came back, landing Gonzalez back at CHOMP, facing more bills she couldn’t pay. “My family and I are very stressed and depressed and had to cut back on other needs just to pay these bills back,” she said, then added: “Please do what you can to help people just like me.” The floodgates were opened. For the first time, workers like Gonzalez had a powerful public platform before a regulatory board willing to hear their long-held grievances about the high cost of health care in Monterey County. Their stories included exorbitant hospital bills they couldn’t pay, along with shrinking paychecks due to ever-increasing health insurance premiums. In the months following Gonzalez’s remarks, more workers either made the trip to Sacramento or appeared online to testify remotely, mostly from unions representing employees from hospitality, agriculture and education. They were flocking to the newly formed Health Care Affordability Board, part of the Office of Health Care Affordability, created by the California Legislature in 2022. The OHCA board, led by the secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, Daniel Dreifuss Salinas Valley Health (above) has consistently received A ratings for hospital safety in recent years from the Leapfrog Group, a national health care watchdog. CHOMP received a B in 2023 and spring 2024, down from A’s in 2022. Natividad, with a B last fall and this spring, had a C in spring 2023 and a B twice in 2022. It previously scored A’s 2021.