Cal-Am is the Monterey Peninsula’s Abusive Boyfriend

October 23, 2018

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It’s not news that Cal-Am will do anything, say anything and spend pretty much any amount to dissuade Monterey Peninsula ratepayers from studying the feasibility of taking over the water system. They made that clear four years ago when they spent about $2.4 million to defeat Measure O.

Oddly, the intensity of Cal-Am’s opposition may be the best reason to believe a public buy-out will be feasible. After all, if it was really as impractical as they say, why would they be so desperate to block any serious study?

In any event, a no-holds-barred, no-expense-spared approach to defeating Measure J was always to be expected from Cal-Am. Yet the blizzard of delirious anti-Measure J flyers Cal-Am’s political consultants are currently fire-hosing into our mailboxes still manages to amaze. It’s as much a show of force as it is an effort to persuade. By now there’s probably a clear-cut somewhere with a plaque honoring Cal-Am’s dedication to preserving jobs in the Forest Products industry.

But what, exactly, is the message Cal-Am is spending so much to promote?

Sifting through the pile, we find glowing descriptions of Cal-Am’s love for the Monterey Peninsula and commitment to its prosperity side by side with deranged threats to go out of their way to financially destroy this same beloved community should its voters not do whatever Cal-Am tells them to. The more you read, the clearer and more familiar the message becomes. It’s something along the lines of, “we love you more than anyone else ever will and want to stay with you forever, but if you even think about breaking up with us we’ll bankrupt you and grind you in the dirt and it will be all your fault for making us do it.”

Now there’s certainly no reason why a private water company couldn’t try to persuade their customers to stay with them by providing high quality service and reasonable prices and, if their customers still wanted to go their own way, there’s certainly no reason they couldn’t simply negotiate a reasonable price and let them go.

Behaving like an abusive boyfriend is a choice and, in this case anyway, apparently a matter of corporate policy.

Ending an abusive relationship is dangerous, and Cal-Am is clearly serious about making a breakup as painful as possible, but staying in an abusive relationship is usually worse.

Are the voters now ready to stand up to Cal-Am? We’ll find out on November 6.

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Agaricus Augustus Alert!

August 31, 2018

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Prince of the City: Agaricus augustus fruiting, uncharacteristically, on a lawn. They are usually found in more natural settings. Eating mushrooms, or anything else, growing in city parks where there is no telling what gets sprayed, is not recommended.

One of the great things about the Central California coast is that it’s the home of Agaricus augustus (aka The Prince), one of the most delectable mushrooms on the planet.

Unlike most of our other choice edibles, which tend to fruit during the rainy season, A. augustus is most often triggered by wet summer fog. A nice payoff for enduring a cold, clammy August.

And fruiting they most certainly are. Even on lawns!

A. augustus often occurs in places where a layer of dirt has been deposited on top of a thick layer of leaves or other vegetation, either naturally, by flood or landslide, or by human activity, such as road or trail construction.

They go bad quickly, so check your patches right away!

As always: this post is not a guide to mushroom identification. As with any mushroom, unless you are very familiar with the characteristics of A. augustus and with the characteristics of the poisonous mushrooms it most closely resembles, you have no business picking it for the table.


Year of Fire

July 31, 2018

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Smokey Sunrise near Redding California

Only nine months ago, winds gusting to 60mph blew the Tubbs Fire across miles of Napa, Lake and Sonoma Counties. The fire effortlessly crossed a well-maintained 100-foot wide firebreak to enter and decimate the upscale Fountaingrove neighborhood, then drove deep into the City of Santa Rosa – eventually destroying about 5% of the housing stock in a city with a population of over 175,000. 22 people were killed and nearly 6,000 structures were destroyed. Santa Rosa alone suffered more than a billion dollars in damage. It was the most destructive, and third deadliest, fire in California history.

At the same time, the nearby Nuns, Atlas, and Redwood Valley fires each ranked, on their own, among the top-twenty most destructive fires in state history. Collectively, these four fires burned over 8,000 structures and killed 40 people.

Just two months later, strong winds blew the Thomas Fire across portions of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties at a rate of advance that sometimes reached an acre per second. The 282,000 acres that eventually burned made it the largest fire in modern state history. Two people were killed and the 1,063 structures destroyed made it the 8thmost destructive fire in state history – the third fire to make the top ten list in a three month period. Damages amounted to more than 2 billion dollars.

This week, fires in Northern California have already burned close to 200,000 acres. The Carr Fire, without aid of significant wind, developed a rotating column that generated what amounted to a fire tornado in suburbs of the City of Redding – a terrifying sight that resulted in an astonishing level of destruction. So far, 1,236 structures, including nearly 900 homes have been confirmed destroyed and 6 bodies, including the bodies of two firefighters, have been recovered. Additional people remain missing. The Carr Fire will rank as at least the 7thmost destructive fire in California history – the 6thfire to rank in the top 20 in the past 10 months.

This is the price we are paying right now, today, for inaction on climate change. The bill will only grow steeper in the days, months and years ahead.


With Restrooms Locked, Big Sur Roadsides Sink Deeper into Squalor

June 25, 2018

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Human waste next to locked restrooms at the Forest Service’s Willow Creek Picnic Area

When ya gotta go, ya gotta go and when ya gotta go in Big Sur, finding an appropriate spot can be difficult – especially when the public is locked out of the few facilities that do exist.

Word is that two or three restrooms on the South Coast, which means pretty much all the public restrooms on the South Coast, have been locked for several weeks now. We don’t know why, but this is the predictable result.

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Meanwhile, illegal campfires, like this one lit directly on top of dry grass, continue to threaten new conflagrations.

Welcome to summer…

(Photos by Branham Rendlen) 


Wildflower of the Week: Dudleya

May 13, 2018

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It will take a bold poacher to snag this Dudleya

If a year ago someone had said that Dudleya poaching was about to become a problem along the California Coast, it would have been difficult to believe. But in an increasingly globalized and irrational world, we should probably not be surprised when the not-so-invisible hand of a distant market suddenly reaches out to rip a random thread from the local web of life.
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FORA Develops Exciting New Plan to Perpetuate Itself

April 1, 2018

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Exploring the post-apocalyptic landscape of the former Ft. Ord

Ever since the Army closed Ft. Ord, in 1994, The Ft. Ord Reuse Authority, or FORA, has been working tirelessly to complete munitions clean-up, redevelop the blighted acres of abandoned barracks, and ensure that the former base meets its potential as an economic driver for the community. Yet, after nearly 25 years, the blight has largely grown worse, the clean-up hasn’t been completed, the agency burns through around 6 million of your tax dollars per year, and some suspect FORA boss, Michael Houlemard, is more interested in prolonging his well over $200,000 per year job than in completing FORA’s mission.

FORA was originally expected to finish its work by 2012. When that didn’t happen, the state legislature extended FORA’s mandate to 2020. By law, FORA must have a plan for transitioning themselves out of existence in place by the end of this year. Yet the thought of bringing such a wonderful agency to a close has proved so difficult to bear that all efforts to devise such a plan have only resulted in plans to ask for yet another extension.

But another task force of FORA insiders is now hard at work and our sources tell us their consultants have finally found a way to allow FORA’s Ft. Ord reuse responsibilities to sunset, while still preserving FORA as a bastion of opaque bureaucracy and inflated salaries. To do this, they have advised FORA to focus on its core competencies.

High-level visioning sessions have revealed that FORA’s greatest expertise is in lack of responsiveness to the public and dismissiveness toward public input, in using questionable unexploded ordnance concerns as an excuse to exclude the public from land slated for development, in threatening trail users with collective punishment, and in jaw-droppingly inappropriate and self-serving gestures – as when Houlemard charged the taxpayers for his ticket when he ran a stop sign.

On the basis of these findings, consultants have advised the task force that FORA should embrace its strengths. Specifically it should transition itself from the Ft. Ord Reuse Authority into the Farcically Officious Rebranding Authority. In this way, imposing ridiculous rules to punish political enemies, acting for personal gain, rather than in the public interest, and continually shifting the purpose of the agency to meet political expediency could itself become the agency’s mission.

A win-win for FORA and aficionados of ossified, self-perpetuating bureaucracy everywhere.


Local Streams Shrug Off Atmospheric River

March 22, 2018

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The rain is still falling out there, but it looks like our multi-day storm is beginning to wind down.
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