Stay hopeful in midst of tragedies
It used to be that I would write to my state and federal representatives whenever there was a school shooting. Full of shock and outrage, I asked that they support legislation to outlaw assault rifles and require universal background checks. I wrote letters after the Columbine High shooting where 13 students were killed. I wrote letters after the Virginia Tech shooting where 32 students were killed. I wrote after the Oikos University shooting in Oakland when seven students were killed and, of course, I wrote after the Sandy Hook School shooting when, unimaginably, 20 first-graders and six adults were murdered.
Then, the unimaginable began to become imaginable with six gun deaths at UC Santa Barbara, and four at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington state. I thought that this trend couldn’t possibly continue without some kind of modification of gun laws, but then came the horror of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were slaughtered and then, just a month later, in May 2018, a 17-year-old shooter killed 10 more students at Santa Fe High School in Houston. Still, I kept writing letters and contributing money to gun control organizations.
In the first three months of this year alone, there have been two school shootings and 27 deaths. I wish I could say that I am still as shocked and disbelieving as I was after the Columbine shooting 24 years ago, but, tragically, I’m not. I know I’m not alone in becoming callused and numb to these tragedies, to no longer immediately write to my elected representatives. But, last night, after hearing the news about the latest disturbed person allowed to arm themselves and kill innocent school children, I wrote again. I wrote not only to our Californian representatives in Washington but to the potential swing voters in the U.S. Senate. I will also call their offices.
I don’t really have any hope that they will be swayed, that my letters and calls will make any difference at all. Our electoral system is so skewed toward Republican control and Republicans are so controlled by the gun lobby that writing letters asking for serious gun law reform seems like throwing tiny rocks into the Grand Canyon hoping to fill it.
But, I know that I must stay horrified, and outraged—and hopeful. Hope gives us a tiny opening through which we can, eventually, pry open the window of change.
Please stay hopeful. Please write to Congress.
Disheartening rumors over flood assistance
As the citizens in the Pajaro community shovel mud and consign their worldly goods to the garbage dump, the rumors about being ineligible for FEMA/government assistance abound. The rumor being that the number of homes damaged by the flood is not sufficient to qualify for federal assistance. Is this true? How disheartening.
The historical mistreatment of Pajaro
The decades-long historical environmental racism of Pajaro has come to this: Pajaro is now the latest American city to suffer the fate of negligence by a county. Pajaro joins Flint, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi and Charleston, West Virginia as the most mistreated communities for water quality and sewer operation in the USA.
While I am not a lawyer, I am the community college trustee for Pajaro. I have enough knowledge to know that the residents of Pajaro have a good case to pursue a class action lawsuit for overwhelming negligence of Pajaro. This never would have happened in Rio Del Mar or any other mostly white and affluent community in California.
As a retired former teacher of 36 years in California, I am quite familiar with the author John Steinbeck. Steinbeck wrote unsparingly of the racism of the Central Coast. When told of the Salinas City Council’s decision to name the main library after him, he stated that while that was nice, he would rather have his name on a house of ill-repute. This was a major slap at local government. John Steinbeck was right.
At least our college is making available $1,000 grants to our college students who live in Pajaro. I am asserting to our college president (Matt Wetstein) that our community college needs to do the same for our college employees who live in Pajaro.
This tragedy must never happen again.
Hospital CEO’s leadership will be missed
One of the unsung heroes of the effort to save Watsonville Hospital is outgoing CEO Steven Salyer.
While the public was focused on the successful campaigns for emergency legislation, a bankruptcy court bid, and raising the $65 million necessary for the sale, CEO Salyer was an effective behind-the-scenes partner.
As CEO, Salyer made sure there was financial transparency, worked to keep staff members from leaving, helped set up the new board, and, after the transfer, he renegotiated provider agreements to help move the hospital toward the sustainability it is on path to achieving. He has been a true leader.
I am sad that he is leaving. But I have a mother who is on the verge of her 99th birthday, and I understand the tug of family needs that must be his first priority.
I did not want Steven Salyer’s service to end without calling out his amazing role. He will be missed, but the results of his leadership will be appreciated by Pajaro Valley residents for years to come.
State Senator, 17th District
Invest in peace-building
President Biden recently unveiled his budget for next year. Though it proposes an increase in funding for USAID, I feel the increase is inadequate.
Three USAID funds that promote peace building are: The Complex Crises Fund (which responds to emerging conflicts), the Atrocities Prevention Fund (aimed at the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities) and Reconciliation Programs (which facilitate dialogue among people in countries dealing with conflict).
Current levels of funding to USAID seriously limit our ability to make an impact in the world. For example, from 2018-2022, Atrocities Prevention received only $5 million annually, allowing it to support programming in just three to five countries. Investing in peace-building not only prevents human suffering but saves U.S. taxpayer dollars. The Institute for Economics and Peace found that every dollar invested in peace building, “carries a potential $16 reduction in the cost of armed conflict.”
War is not the answer!
Drop the commuter train fantasy
“Only” 57 passengers died in a recent head-on train collision. That was not totally unexpected and would have happened in Santa Cruz County rather than just in Greece if the unsafe compromised single-track “commuter train concept relying upon countless critical timing of sidings” had already been implemented here. No amount of deception from profits-in-their-own pockets train-dependent groups can justify bringing such a known irresponsibility into this county!
While circular systems can get away with a single track when more than one train is added to the equation and yet always have trains traveling endlessly in the same direction, the single track on the Santa Cruz County corridor is laid out in a linear configuration which unfortunately will always have to depend upon critical timing from “sidings” to constantly avoid head-on train collisions. In the real world, opportunists will try to cut every corner possible including squeezing in more and more trains until such a system breaks down. In the meantime, the proper critical timing of “sidings” will forever be a concern.
For years, I have been trying to communicate to not trust such irresponsible rail-dependent groups (especially in their superficial concern to accommodate passengers) and to not ride upon such a compromised train system even if it were free. As an engineer (retired) with a patent for an All-Express Passenger Train System, I am not always anti-train, but I am always pro-commonsense.
There is a well-known law of physics that “no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.” That latest incident in Greece continues the confirmation of this basic law. Certain train groups work endlessly to keep the public from being fully aware of the reality. Look behind the curtain to see what already has happened. Some of this reality involves the fact that the USDOT recorded more than 1,000 train derailments nationwide just last year!
One of the latest incidents in Ohio involved the major derailing of a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals. Unfortunately, our previous president’s administration removed important safety regulations for the transportation of hazardous chemicals via rail that resulted in a major disaster. An obsession for excessive wealth should never be allowed to trump the need for essential health.
Some continue to be deceived into paying out millions upon millions of our taxpayer dollars toward a commuter train fantasy that will inevitably revert to its original intention of only slow-moving (and even parked) freight trains and a twice a day tourist train. Rather than waiting until at least 2035 for a supposed commuter train system that isn’t practical (or even safe), why not do something now? Let’s benefit so many others over so many generations that can extend to way beyond just ourselves. Why are we ripping out so many trees that can improve the quality of life for so many when we should be removing (or at least overriding) some of the requirements for holding onto a questionable use for a track?
Let’s drop the unsafe commuter train fantasy from the equation and focus upon what would genuinely improve quality of life for those within Santa Cruz County now! There are proper alternative transportation means to improve flow on Highway 1 that would be more expeditious, less costly and far safer than any commuter train limited to a compromised single linear track system.