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The Monterey Herald has not given me a voice in its recent editions. I am the obvious one to respond to its criticism regarding Public Water Now’s activities, and hospitality industustry executive John Narigi’s criticisms (twice). But I have been denied that voice.

Following a Herald piece critical of the current effort to put Cal Am Water under public ownership, and similar arguments from Narigi, I submitted a response late last week. So far, it has not been published. Either the Herald editorial team has completely committed to one side, or it has taken a dim view of dialogue, or it is inept.

Regardless I am deeply disappointed in the Herald’s editorial view regarding its broader community of ratepayers, residents, voters, and the basic local economic life around water.

The Herald’s editorial of Oct. 6 called the new effort to buy Cal Am a distraction from the process of getting a new water supply.

First of all, ownership and supply are two very separate and distinct issues. Neither hinges on the other. Supply is short term. Ownership is long term. Whatever develops with supply will have to be incorporated into the ownership proceedings.

Second, call it a distraction. Call it a ground squirrel. Call it whatever. But those who call it anything cannot deny this fact: Cal Am is a monopoly using Peninsula water as a cash cow. The real question is not about distraction. It is who is the ostrich refusing to see the obvious.

The Herald is not the only one playing ‘ostrich’. The next day, Oct. 7, a paid commentary by the Coalition of Peninsula Businesses argued for a larger desalination plant and claimed that “most recent local water savings has (sic) come from initiatives undertaken by commercial businesses.” Somehow residential conservation was overlooked, which did not endear the coalition to many local ratepayers.

On Monday, Oct. 16, the Mayors’ Water Authority meets with the Peninsula Water Management District at 5:30 p.m. the district office. The mayors voted 4 – 2 to not discuss the community opinion of Cal Am.

During the Measure O campaign in 2014, Cal Am and the others expressed confidence that a new supply was close at hand. But here we are four years later, and still Cal Am flounders. Other supply projects have caught and passed Cal Am’s desal plan.

The foursome must spend a lot of time talking to themselves. Because they seem deaf to ratepayer complaints. Do they care? Ratepayers have been vociferous. Who is listening?

Public Water Now is the largest ratepayer advocate community organization on the Peninsula. Others are WRAMP (Water Ratepayers Association for Monterey Peninsula), previously called WaterPlus; and a new group, Citizens for Just Water, representing residential interests in the Marina area. All three participate in CPUC proceedings. All three hear from ratepayers and residents all the time, and the messages have been simple and clear – Cal Am is too costly, is arrogant in its approach to water, hides behind CPUC rulings, has a history of failure, and is no longer welcome.

Back to the starting point. Where is the distraction? The Herald, the business coalition and the mayors’ authority Business Coalition, Mayors Authority, all do not seem distracted. They seem focused. But they have not been successful. So are they actually distracted? Or is there another motivation?

My perspective is that all four want a distraction. They want a scapegoat. They want to have something to blame if Cal Am flat out fails. They want to be able to say that the community has “again” not marched to the “leadership” powers that be. They need an excuse to explain to the state water board why the cease-and-desist order regarding Carmel River water needs another modification, or why Cal Am cannot get it right, or why “they” cannot get it right.

Here is the obvious. Ratepayers are upset. Ratepayers have been gouged. Ratepayers and residents are reacting. It is time for a change. It is time for Cal Am to leave town. It is time for public ownership. Since the ostrich ‘leadership’ will not lead, ratepayers will.

In summary, ratepayers are being hammered. Monopoly water is too expensive and wrong. Public water is more affordable and right.

Riley

Look for a public water petition and sign. You will be doing the entire region and the future a big favor.

George T. Riley is managing director of Public Water Now, which is circulating petitions supporting local public ownership of Cal Am, a privately held international company.

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This has nothing to do with the topic. It is here just to get your attention.

A timely reminder. A new and important source of news and commentary for the Central Coast launched today. It is Voices of Monterey Bay, founded by some of the strongest journalists to ever prowl the region.

Though you’ll still have the Partisan to kick around a little while longer, I have signed on with Voices as a contributing writer, partly because Voices is a much more vigorous effort at filling in the larger and larger gaps in local journalism.

So check out Voices, sign up for email alerts and open up your checkbook to support it. It is a non-profit and your contributions are tax deductible and at least for now, your money will be matched by foundation money. Consider it in investment in your community.

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Adios Monterey Bay Partisan. Viva Voices of Monterey Bay

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NEW WEBSITE HOPES TO PROVIDE MONTEREY BAY AREA WITH THE NEWS COVERAGE IT DESERVES

I was surprised when I realized  the Monterey Bay Partisan was born more than three years ago. Time truly does condense as we grow into our crotchety years. It seems more like three months.

Either way, the Partisan is nearing its last fight and its last typo. But, and it is a big but, there is cause for celebration because the Partisan’s impending fadeout is precipitated by the advent of something bigger and better. It’s a new online news source for the region and it is called Voices of Monterey Bay.

In a soft opening, the web site has been operating for a few days now and the full kickoff is coming soon. You’ll want to read about the details at the Voices site but here’s the Readers’ Digest version. It is the brainchild of former Monterey County Weekly Editor Mary Duan, former Monterey Herald reporter Julie Reynolds Martinez and Joe Livernois, who preceded me as editor of the Herald. I’ll be coming on board as a contributing writer, specializing in investigative efforts, and other journalists will be signing on as well.

The people behind Voices of Monterey Bay are thinking big – much bigger than us Partisan types ever did. It’s a non-profit with charitable status, which means your absolutely critical donations will be tax deductible. A morsel of seed money is in hand but look for plenty of opportunities to help create a budget solid enough to support some solid full-time journalism with a focus on identifying and solving problems. Voices has aligned itself with a Southern California nonprofit that nurtures fledgling news operation and it is seeking financial help from various foundations – and from you. To the greatest extent possible, the Voices report will be bilingual.

This is happening for the same reason I started the Partisan back in 2014 – to supplement the shrinking news report from other sources. Don’t get me started about what isn’t covered in the Herald anymore. The Weekly is fast becoming the dominant source of print news locally and, one can hope, it will continue to grow into that role.

I am proud of a few things we did at the Partisan. I’m very proud of the number of community contributions to the report and those many wonderful essays on politics and dachsunds by Larry Parsons. I think we have done a halfway decent job covering politics, environmental issues and the antics of Cal Am. We kicked a few butts that needed kicking. We plan to maintain an archive after we stop adding content in the coming weeks.

The Partisan proprietor, preparing to sign off

None of this would have been possible without the able and patient contributions of our techmeister, Paul Skolnick, a retired TV journalist who worked without compensation or recognition. Back when I was a newsroom manager, I was smart enough to hire folks smarter than me. I accomplished the same thing by coaxing Skolnick and Parsons to come aboard.

We had several pieces that helped readers interpret the mess that is Peninsula water politics, and we published numerous contributed commentaries that cleared up misunderstandings about inclusionary housing, land use, transportation issues and other topics. Regular contributors included Bill Hood, Jim Toy, Jane Haines, George Riley, Joe Livernois, Bill McCrone, Glenn Robinson and Celeste Akkad, all writing about important topics.

Our biggest financial backer has been winemaker Tony Dann, who has already agreed to help get Voices launched. Other significant contributors included Gillian Taylor, Jane Haines, Michael Stamp, Dan and Jeanne Turner, Larry Parrish, Bill Leone, Lou Panetta and others too numerous to name. I also loved all those $10 checks that wound up in my mailbox. Thank you all.

I hope we have occasionally enlightened and entertained. I am exceedingly grateful for your support and I urge you now to transfer it to Voices of Monterey Bay.

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Why is Jimmy Panetta criminalizing free speech?

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Editor’s note: This piece was written by Glenn E. Robinson and John Walton. A shortened version appeared in the Monterey Herald.

Why is our local congressman, Jimmy Panetta, sponsoring a bill that would restrict free speech in America?  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is unequivocal in its opposition to HR 1697 and its Senate sister bill S 720: “the legislation would be antithetical to free speech protections enshrined in the First Amendment” and “punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.”

The free speech that Representative Panetta, D-Carmel, seeks to chill surrounds support for any economic boycott of Israel or its illegal settlements in the West Bank.  Put another way, this legislation would make it illegal to support exactly the kind of non-violent economic pressure that successfully put an end to Apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.

Does this infringement on free speech rights impact you?  Yes. You would not be legally allowed to call for and act upon a boycott of products made in the hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.  Or as the ACLU clearly concluded, the legislation would “bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel.”  The criminal penalties for violating this law are a fine of up to $1 million dollars and 20 years in prison.

It is not just the ACLU that has raised red flags. The premier scholarly association for the study of the Middle East, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), has also come out strongly against this bill, calling it a “grave threat to academic freedom” that would have a “chilling effect on the free and open exchange of opinions and perspectives.”

J Street, a liberal Israel lobbying group, has similarly expressed its concern that this legislation would “actually harm U.S. and Israeli interests by extending U.S. legal protections to illegal West Bank settlements that undermine the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”  The legislation would “erase the legal distinction between Israel and the settlements and place the settlements, in effect, under U.S. protection.”

As analyses of this bill have surfaced, support for it has weakened.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has withdrawn her co-sponsorship of the Senate version, and other representatives have indicated similar discomfort.  Trying to stem the tide of potential defectors, the primary Israel lobbying group in Washington, AIPAC, immediately targeted Gillibrand, trying to pressure her to reverse course.  She has held firm so far.

Panetta and other representatives have made two spurious arguments in defense of this legislation. First, they have tried to downplay its importance as just a technical correction to legislation passed in 1945 and 1979 that does not have any free speech implications.  This is the Ostrich approach, simply denying the obvious infringement on protected speech.  Second is the Red Herring: strongly denouncing “BDS.” The “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement is a specific attempt by Palestinian civil society to put economic pressure on Israel (bdsmovement.net).  BDS has had only marginal impact to date, despite the sometimes over-heated rhetoric surrounding it.  The marginality of BDS certainly cannot justify putting the First Amendment at risk, so what is really behind this legislation?

There are two main drivers behind this legislation: preventing any kind of two-state solution by normalizing illegal Israeli settlements, and preventing a repeat in the US of what has begun to happen in Europe.  AIPAC, which wrote Mr. Panetta’s legislation, reflects the hardline policies of Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party.  Netanyahu and the Likud have worked tirelessly to defeat any hope of a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the creation of a Palestinian state in the territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war and occupied for the past 50 years.  The steady expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been the primary vehicle for negating the emergence of a Palestinian state.  Again last week Mr. Netanyahu made clear that there will never be an evacuation of settlements on his watch, when he visited the settlement of Barkan: “We are here to stay, forever.  We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

Mr. Panetta’s legislation seeks to normalize the colonization of the West Bank by chilling free speech calling for sanctions against this very settlement drive.  Supporters of a two-state solution – as we are – must both oppose this legislation and support legitimate and non-violent pressure on Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian lands.

The second real driver of this legislation is AIPAC’s attempt to pre-empt in the United States exactly what is happening in the European Union.  Both EU member states individually and the EU as a whole have taken steps to economically highlight the border between Israel and the occupied West Bank.  The EU has mandated that Israel not label products that are made in settlements as “made in Israel,” making it easier for consumers to boycott settlement products — and affirm their support for real peace.  AIPAC, and Mr. Netanyahu, do not want Americans to have that same choice.

Ironically, Mr. Panetta’s legislation goes well beyond what Israel’s own anti-sanctions law allows.  In Israel, vocal and peaceful calls to boycott Israel and Israeli settlements are still protected speech.

No one, not Panetta nor his AIPAC allies, can explain what good will come of this bill. Representative Panetta would do well to drop his co-sponsorship of HR 1697, reaffirm his support for the First Amendment, and truly support social justice in Israel and Palestine by encouraging – not criminalizing – free speech in support of peace.

Glenn E. Robinson is affiliated with the Center for Middle East Studies at UC Berkeley and lives in Pebble Beach. John Walton is research professor of sociology at UC Davis and lives in Carmel Valley.

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The latest search for a water supply to replace most of the water now taken from the Carmel River aquifer began five years ago. Because there is so much history and confusing information, this report is intended to provide up to date facts and figures.

CalAm’s plan is to produce 6.4 million gallons per day (mgd) or 7,170 acre feet per year (afy) of water by desalinating brackish water pumped from slant wells drilled on the Cemex sand plant in Marina.  A test well has indicated that the brackish water will be 8 to 10% fresh water. The future water supply plan also includes 3.1 mgd or 3,500 afy of recycled water that will be produced by advanced technologies that remove all contaminants including most of the dissolved salts and will render it cleaner than almost all of the municipal waters served in the country.

The recycled water project, known as PureWaterMonterey (PWM), is now under construction.   It is being produced under an agreement between Monterey One Water (M1W), formally known at the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. The recycled water will be injected into the ground and withdrawn later for use.

At the hearing for the recycling project’s draft environmental impact report a number of questions were raised about the desal project that are now being reviewed by the lead agency, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). A draft final decision on the project is expected next spring with the final go/no-go decision expected next summer.

Here is a quick overview of a few of the major questions and here is the latest Monterey Herald article on the water recycling plan and various scenarios.

WOULD THE DESAL PLANT’S SLANT WELLS HARM THE SALINAS VALLEY AQUIFER? Cal Am says no and says it has studies to backup that position. The slant wells will remove almost 20 mgd of water, which will depress the water table near the wells. Of the well water, 1 to 2 mgd would be fresh water. To avoid the legal ban on exporting Salina Valley groundwater from the basin, Cal Am has agreed to sell an equivalent volume of the costly desalinated water to the Castroville Community Services District at a heavily discounted price.

Marina Coast Water District (Marina Coast) says it will be harmed by the wells and that selling the water to Castroville will not mitigate the damage to its wells. Marina Coast also says that it has studies that back up that position. The slant well extractions might accelerate seawater intrusion and damage other existing public and private well water users.

DOES CAL AM HAVE WATER RIGHTS? Cal Am doesn’t seem to have water rights for this extraction of groundwater. However, the company’s position is that the brackish water is too salty to be usable for municipal or agricultural use, so it is not really groundwater subject to water rights. Critics point out that project will take 1 to 2 mgd per day of fresh water out of the seriously overdrafted Salinas Valley ground water basin to replenish the brackish supply. Does the high level of salinity make a water right unnecessary? How long will it take to get a final decision on this question?

WHAT IF THE CAL AM PROJECT FAILS? The desal questions may take time and costly litigation to resolve. But, there is an alternative water supply that can be considered. The Pure Water Monterey (PWM) recycling project that is already underway can be expanded by taking advantage of currently uncommitted wastewater. By expanding the PWM project, these flows can be added to the supplies processed by the ultra-high-quality treatment system and stored temporarily underground.   An additional increment can be added by the lining of ponds that receive storm runoff from Salinas and adding more food processing wash water. The source water allocations for the proposed expansion have already been agreed to in concept by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. The recycled water uses no groundwater, has no direct ocean intake and the resulting cost will be less than the cost of desalinated sea water.

HOW MUCH WATER IS REALLY NEEDED? As a result of all the conservation efforts, Cal Am’s total production in 2016 was 9,600 acre feet. Pure Water Monterey has defined expansion scenarios based on incremental development of water sources and storage capacities. The ongoing project will produce 3,500 afy, which when added to the baseline supplies without desal will produce 9,044 afy.

If the equipment is run “full throttle” (Scenario A), it will be able to produce about 9,700 afy. But this is not a sound long-term strategy. Building the proposed expansion (Scenario B) will bring the total to 11,300 afy, which should meet the demand for several years. Scenario B is a practical project. The timing will be tight but, if started very soon, it should be operational within the time frame dictated by the state regulators. A reasonable long-term system capacity would be 12,000 to 12,500 afy, which could be met by an additional expansion (Scenario C). This expansion will be dependent on source water that is yet to be secured and will be more expensive and vulnerable to drought cutbacks. If Scenario C is ultimately developed, the recycled water option will have reached a practicable limit and other options will need to be considered for future supplies.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? The state Public Utilities Commission will be dealing with these issues over the next few months and will reach a final decision on the slant well desal project next summer.   If the EIR is accepted and all disputes settled with Salinas Valley interests, Cal Am will probably proceed to obtain the remaining state and other permits and only the Scenario A (the ongoing PWM recycling project, running full out) will be needed. If opponents to the project are not satisfied with the CPUC decision, the final decision may be made in court.

If state regulators reject the CalAm project, or if the project becomes bogged down with lawsuits, or if the regulators required that all available recyclable water must be reused before brackish water can be extracted, the expanded PWM Scenario B can be built and the desalted seawater will not be needed for several years.

Getting past the crisis will allow time to develop options. Desal that depends on pumping ground water in the Salinas valley is a highly risky approach due to water rights, legal challenges and unforeseeable changes to water regulations and water tables, and should be avoided. A supplementary source other than recycled water will be smaller and would provide valuable redundancy. Fortunately, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District has been investigating other approaches such as increased storage of winter river flows and possible smaller desalination options.

For more on the CalAm project, see: https://www.watersupplyproject.org/faq For PureWaterMonterey, see http://purewatermonterey.org      For the DEIR: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/Environment/info/esa/mpwsp/deir/CalAm_MPWSP_DEIR.pdf

Roger Dolan is a retired water and wastewater engineer and utility manager who lives in Carmel Valley

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Public Water Now Launches H2O Petition Drive at Rally

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(Photo by Wes White)

More than 100 enthusiastic supporters showed up Saturday afternoon for the Public Water Now kickoff rally at Laguna Grande Park in Seaside. The event marked the beginning of the PWN petition drive to put a new measure, dubbed H2O, on the 2018 ballot. “We collected our first 100 signatures and we’re off to a great start!” said PWN director, George Riley.

The Dave Holodiloff Band provided a great blue grass background. The atmosphere was upbeat and determined. Supporters wore T-shirts that read PUBLIC WATER NOW…or NEVER!

PWN’s goal is public ownership of the Peninsula’s water system. The petition reads: “The purpose of this Measure is to ensure the long-term sustainability, adequacy, reliability, cost-effectiveness and quality of water service within the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) area, to lower the cost of service to ratepayers, to promote and practice sustainable water management measures, and to establish public ownership of water system assets.”

The ballot measure, if passed, would direct the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to pursue a buyout of Cal Am if financially feasible. According to Riley, “We’ve looked at the numbers and we believe it’s feasible.” MPWMD’s general manager would be required within nine months to submit a plan to implement the new policy.

If Cal Am refuses to sell, the Water Management District has the authority to use eminent domain.

The Monterey Peninsula has the most expensive water in the country according to national nonprofit, Food & Water Watch. In the past two years, ratepayers have experienced a 68 percent increase in water costs. After widely promoting conservation, Cal Am charged ratepayers $40 million for water they didn’t use to make up for lost corporate profits.

Efforts to take the Peninsula’s water system public go back to the 1930s. “None have succeeded,” said Riley addressing the crowd, “but I’m calling this measure a game-changer.”

In 2014, Measure O was outspent 20 to 1 by Cal Am’s $2.5 million, but lost by only 10 points. Riley said the new measure has a much better chance of passing next fall because the political landscape has changed dramatically. During the Measure O campaign, all of the Monterey Peninsula’s mayors opposed it, as did 5th District Supervisor Dave Potter and former Rep. Sam Farr.

Many of those political leaders that opposed Measure O are now gone and have been replaced by those who support public ownership. A number of them were present in support at Saturday’s rally.

“We know we’re going to face Cal Am’s money again,” Riley said.

But he pointed out that voters had been on the side of local control in the vote on Measure Z, which defeated Big Oil. “We want local control over Cal Am,” he said. “I think Big Water will lose this time.”

A new PWN flyer points out that $19 million in Cal Am’s corporate profits and taxes leave our community annually. “Do you like sending your money to American Water in New Jersey (Cal Am’s parent company) or would you rather see it stay home?” Riley asked. “Corporate water is wrong and public water is right.”

Achieving community ownership of our water will take a community sized effort. The question Riley posed to the crowd was, “Do we want to rent our water forever or buy it and own it? It’s only going to work if we do the work. We can do this!” Felton, Ojai and Missoula, Montana have all succeeded in efforts to take back their water from corporate ownership.

To be placed on the ballot, the Measure will need 6,200 signatures from voters in the Monterey Peninsula water district, which includes Monterey, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks and Sand City. “We’re shooting for 10,000 signatures,” Riley concluded.

Short sessions to train people how to collect Measure H2O signatures will begin Monday at 1:30 and 7:00pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church 490 Aquajito Road in Carmel. Everyone who wants to help is welcome to attend the training. Other training times are scheduled here.

You can join Public Water Now here.

Melodie Chrislock, the communications director for Public Water Now, can be reached at MWChrislock@redshift.com.

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Get ready to rumble.

Public Water Now is kicking off its effort to take Cal Am Water public with a rally set for 1 p.m. Saturday Oct. 7 at Seaside’s Laguna Grande Park. Expect a news conference with Public Water Now founder George Riley and others along with a bit of entertainment, food trucks, etc.

The group is starting a petition drive to create a November 2018 ballot measure that would force a public takeover of the Peninsula’s water purveyor for reasons that include constantly rising water rates that have made the water here the most expensive in the United States.

Public Water Now attempted a similar measure in 2014 that was defeated by a blitz of deceptive advertising by Cal Am. There’s no reason to expect anything less this time around but organizers believe ratepayers have become fed up with Cal Am’s pricing and its propaganda.

Said Riley, “Skyrocketing water bills have people all over the Peninsula fed up with Cal Am. According to Food & Water Watch, we have the most expensive water in the country. Ratepayers have experienced a 68-percent increase in the cost of water over the last two years and there are more increases scheduled. It really bothers people that we’ve conserved water only to have Cal Am charge us $40 million for the water that we didn’t use to make up for lost profits.”

Riley said goal is to collect as many as 8,000 signatures, considerably more than the 6,200 needed to place the measure on the ballot.

The petition calls for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to adopt a policy of owning the water system and to acquire it if its determined to be “economically feasible.” The water management district would be required within nine months to initiate a plan to acquire and manage all the water facilities in the district boundaries. The result likely would be court hearings to establish the value of the system that Cal Am insists is not for sale.

The unpopularity of the water district, stemming from disagreement over its role, is certain to be used against the Public Water Now campaign, but the group is likely to emphasize that the agency is led by publicly elected board that voters can change.

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I recently caused a commotion in the Monterey Herald’s letters section. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, the Herald printed a letter from Michael Baer of Monterey expressing his disappointment with the Mayors’ Water Authority, specifically their apparent inability to bring Cal Am’s ever-increasing water bills under control. So far so good.

Then in regard to Cal Am’s proposed desalination plant, Baer complained that the Water Authority could “not even be bothered to seriously consider a plan B, just in case this project goes the way of all previous Cal Am new water supply projects: failure.” This is where I saw a problem. Two, actually, but I chose to respond to only one.

The one I ignored was the alleged lack of a “plan B.” The Water Authority designated the project called Deep Water Desal as a backup plan. They directed the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to help develop the project on a parallel track with Cal Am’s project in case the latter fails to materialize. Baer may not have known this because it has not been given much attention in the local press beyond an initial announcement a couple years ago.

But I felt his other claim deserved some attention, as it has become popular in recent years to blame Cal Am for every previous project failure regardless of the cause or who was actually in charge. So I wrote the following letter, which was published in the Herald on Aug. 31s.

Cal Am not to blame for past failures

Michael Baer’s Aug. 29 letter made reference to the “failure” of “all previous Cal Am new water supply projects.” Let’s get the history straight. Cal Am has been the lead agency on only one water project, the current desalination plan. Earlier projects that failed were overseen by public agencies, not Cal Am.

The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District was in charge of two viable projects, a desalination plant in Sand City and a new Los Padres dam on the Carmel River. Taxpayer advocates and environmental groups convinced voters that these projects were too expensive, environmentally damaging, and growth inducing so they were killed at the ballot box.

More recently Marina Coast Water District was the lead agency for the Regional Desalination Project. It involved three public agencies (none of which represented Peninsula ratepayers), each designated to operate separate components of a single desalination plant which would sell water to Cal Am. A conflict of interest problem brought the whole thing crashing down.

Cal Am took the reins only after it became clear that the public process was unable to deliver a water supply project. And while this may not be saying much, Cal Am has made more progress than any public agency ever did.

James B. Toy, Seaside

The very next day the Herald published a letter from Jan Shriner, a board member of the Marina Coast Water District. She didn’t mention my letter specifically, but it was clear she didn’t care for my choice of words as her first two sentences made clear:

Cal Am is not a ‘lead agency’ of any project they propose. Cal Am can’t be the lead agency because they are the project proponent and a corporation.”

Evidently Shriner believes the term “agency” only applies to governmental organizations. Perhaps that is the case in her world of bureaucratic legalese, but my dictionary defines the word more broadly as “an organization, company, or bureau that provides a particular service,” so I believe I used the word correctly when I applied it to Cal Am. If I had said Cal Am was “in charge of” instead of the “lead agency on” only one project I might have avoided this little kerfuffle. Live and learn.

The remainder of her first paragraph said: “Cal Am was a partner in the Regional Desalination Project (RDP) along with Marina Coast Water District and the Monterey County Water Resource Agency (MCWRA). Cal Am pulled out of the project (and sued MCWD) reportedly because a MCWRA director was accused of conflict of interest. The former MCWRA director pled no contest to the charges.”

This seems to confirm my original assessment, but her choice of words spins the story more in Marina Coast’s favor. I suspect this was the motivation behind her letter as Marina Coast has been on the losing side of litigation with Cal Am in cases relating to both the failed RDP and Cal Am’s current project.

But she did make one valid point. In my last paragraph I said “the public process was unable to deliver a water supply project.” Shriner corrected me by pointing to the completion of a small desalination plant in Sand City and a project called Aquifer Storage and Recovery, which she said are both under the authority of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. A pending recycled water project called Pure Water Monterey is a joint effort involving three public agencies. Those projects had crossed my mind when I wrote my original letter, but even when combined they don’t come close to fulfilling the need. However, they do help so for accuracy I should have said “the public agencies were unable to deliver a complete water supply solution.”

Moving along, on Sept. 2 and 3 two more letters appeared. The first was from Chuck Cech of Monterey, followed by Bill Hood, a part-time resident of Carmel. Both began with a brief reference to my letter indicating they didn’t like it. Then they changed the subject by asking me a series of long-winded questions about Cal Am’s handling of ratepayer money, which, of course, had nothing to do with the subject of my original letter except for inclusion of the water company’s name.

Along with their similar formatting, both letters seemed to imply that my unwillingness to blame Cal Am for the failure of three projects not under the company’s direct control somehow meant that I approve of everything Cal Am has ever done. The absurdity of that should be self-evident. And anyone who has read my previous writings about local water issues knows that at various times I have been both supportive and critical of Cal Am depending on the situation. I don’t know Chuck Cech, and he may never have heard of me, so he can be excused for not knowing that. Bill Hood, on the other hand, has no excuses. He and I have had several online discussions on this topic, including private e-mails and public comments on the pages of the Monterey Bay Partisan. He knows where I stand and it’s not where his very public letter placed me.

Since their two attack letters deviated so far from the subject of mine, I feel no obligation to answer their questions. But what the heck. I have nothing better to do right now, so I’ll give them a go.

Cech began with a note of gratitude: “Mr. Toy thank you for telling us Cal Am was not the lead agency on the three failed projects. However, Cal Am was a partner in each of these projects. They spent millions of dollars on each of these projects.”

It goes without saying that Cal Am was a partner since they would deliver any water produced by these projects. I assumed that was self-evident so I saw no need to deplete my 200-word allocation to explain that in my letter.

Then he launched his inquisition with this: “Every one of these projects failed. Does Cal Am have difficulty working with others, when it comes to controlling water delivery and cost on the Monterey Peninsula?”

Well, let’s see. I don’t recall any reports of strife between Cal Am and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, and the company seems to have a pretty cozy relationship with the Peninsula Mayors’ Water Authority (some say they’re too cozy). So, no, they don’t seem to have difficulty working with those agencies. As for Cal Am and Marina Coast, it’s no secret that their relationship has been strained since the collapse of the RDP program. Is Cal Am to blame? Maybe, but Marina Coast doesn’t have a particularly good reputation for cooperation. Two years ago then-Congressman Sam Farr suggested that Marina Coast should be disbanded because “they just haven’t conducted themselves in a very professional way. They’ve been fighting everybody else, and they’ve been sort of selfish and arrogant.” So there’s that to consider.

Cech continued….and continued:

Did Cal Am conduct the necessary due diligence investigation of all aspects of these projects before agreeing to join them? Since Cal Am was not the lead agency on any of these failed projects, why did they spend a total of $34 million on them, without turning one shovel of dirt? Why is Cal Am not responsible for their cost of these projects? Why are ratepayers now paying $34 million to Cal Am plus interest for these failed projects?”

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. Why don’t you ask Cal Am? While you’re at it, ask their lapdogs at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Hood had a similar line of questioning, but he opened by impugning my recollection of past events: “Mr. Toy relies upon his version of history to claim that Cal Am is not at fault with respect to the present condition of water supply efforts.”

Stop right there, Bill. It looks like you’re accusing me of making up alternative facts, Conway style. I take that very seriously because my reputation is at stake. If you are going to announce to the entire Peninsula that I have fabricated my own “version of history” contrary to actual history you need to explain your reasoning. If I have said anything that is untrue then by all means correct me (as Jan Shriner did). I’ll take my lumps, learn from it, and strive to do better next time. But please don’t suggest in public that I’m spreading misinformation then blow past the accusation by saying nothing more than…

I do not agree with him, but even if I did, I would ask Mr. Toy these questions:”

And just like Cech , you abruptly change the subject. I call this diversionary tactic “debate and switch.”

Now to answer your question: “Yes, a fact-based opinion as to whether or not Cal Am is the villain in the Peninsula water scenario is necessary (and, frankly, is already on the record). But, why are you avoiding the ‘elephant in the room’ by ignoring the more immediate and concerning issue that has resulted from the historical and ongoing Cal Am/CPUC/local political support process that has created the highest cost of water in the country?

I’m not avoiding the subject. In my blog and in the comments section of the Monterey Bay Partisan I have used the word “unethical” to describe Cal Am’s recent retroactive rate increase. But I didn’t mention it in my letter because…

a.) Water rates were not the subject of my letter.

b.) The Herald’s 200-word limit prevented me from going off on a tangent about water rates.

c.) The subject of Cal Am’s high rates is discussed almost daily in the Herald’s letters section and frequently in the Monterey Bay Partisan. At this point there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said a dozen times already

Next question:  “Even if you were right and I was wrong, doesn’t all of this tell you that something is amiss and has to be corrected?”

Yes.

Do you really believe that the nation’s highest water costs are the result from other factors at play not related to Cal Am, et al?”

The question is a little confusing. Do Peninsula voters, the Water Management District, and the state water board’s cease and desist order qualify as “other factors” or do they get lumped in with “et al”? If they are other factors then my answer is yes. If they fall under et al then, no.

Either way, are you satisfied with the current situation, and, if so, why?”

I’m not at all satisfied. In an earlier commentary here I likened our situation to a “freakin’ nuthouse.” As the years have passed there’s been more and more bickering and less and less cooperation among everyone involved.

Making matters worse, Cal Am squandered a lot of goodwill by imposing their retroactive rate increase on top of rate increases to build their desal plant. And whoever was the genius that guaranteed Cal Am a certain amount of profit from every capital investment, including unproductive ones, should be run out of town in a westerly direction. But when it comes to building a water supply project Cal Am strikes me as the only adult in the room. The company is under a lot of pressure to succeed, and they’re doing their darnedest, yet a lot of people seem determined to block their every move. I tell you again, local water politics is a freakin’ nuthouse!

The really frustrating part is that it was ridiculously easy to avoid the current situation, but we collectively chose not to. Had voters approved the local water district’s plans for a dam and desal plant combo in the 1990s, the mess we’re in now would never have happened. The state would likely never have imposed a cease and desist order on Cal Am pumping. Cal Am would never have gotten into a costly failed deal with Marina Coast, nor would the company be sinking buckets of capital into their own desal plant to be paid for with our water bills.

But Peninsula voters were led astray by various activist groups claiming that better, faster, and cheaper projects could be had if we just listened to them and ignored the advice of the bureaucrats. But their promises were empty. They never had a plan. In the last quarter century the names of the activists have changed, but their message is the same. They’re still promising better, faster, cheaper water if we just listen to them. Unlike the majority of voters I didn’t believe them then, and I certainly don’t believe them now.

So here’s where I stand. I don’t care if the water company is public or private. I don’t care if our new water supply involves a dam, a desal plant, water hyacinths, or icebergs towed in from Alaska. I don’t care if a desal plant is fed by slant wells, open ocean intakes, or a bucket brigade. I don’t care whose toes get stepped on, whose feelings get hurt, or whose ideology gets squashed. At this point I don’t even care how much it is going to cost. I just want it done!

James Toy lives in Seaside and is a regular contributor to the Partisan. This first appeared on one of his blogsMr. Toy’s Mental Notes.

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Richard Hajas of Ojai gives some tips to Peninsula folks about how to take over a water utility

Corrected Ojai takeover figure below

 

Public Water Now Holds Forum on the Feasibility of a Cal Am Buyout

PWN’s guest speaker, Richard Hajas, spoke from experience Monday night. Former general manager of the Casitas Municipal Water District in Ventura County, he was the key author of the feasibility study for the community of Ojai in its recent successful buyout of the private Golden State water system.

Hajas worked as a volunteer with Ojai Flow, the citizens group seeking to municipalize Ojai’s water system. He did the feasibility study pro bono. “Our Feasibility Study was our bible—it had all the facts we needed to argue for local public control,” he told the audience.

To determine if such a takeover is affordable to ratepayers, Hajas explained that the rate base is critical to the cost estimate. A reasonable estimate must also include the fair market value of the system, the costs of a 30-year bond to cover the purchase, the legal costs, and the costs of getting the public agency prepared to take over the operation.

Why did Ojai want public ownership of their water? Hajas said, “The cost of water from the private provider was the big problem. Our costs were more than twice as much as our neighbors and Golden State Water was taking $6 million a year out of our small community.”

The Monterey Peninsula has the most expensive water in the country. The audience could definitely relate to Ojai’s motivation! Although Ojai has a much smaller water system than the Monterey Peninsula, the community successfully fought the corporate Goliath’s legal onslaught and publicity campaign and won public ownership.

Hajas cautioned that the current private water owner will do everything possible to discourage the public from such an undertaking. “Water is a very profitable business,” he said, “and the private owner will definitely not go away quietly.”

It took seven years and cost a total of $60 million for Ojai to buy out Golden State Water. When it came to a public vote Hajas felt confident in the outcome. (Article originally said, incorrectly, that the total was $44 million.)

“I’m a numbers guy. Voters approved the process to purchase the Golden State water delivery system with an 87% majority.”

Under public ownership long-term savings for small usage customers is project to amount to hundreds of dollars per year and much more for larger customers. For the Ojai community of 5,000 to 6,000 people, the total savings over the first 10 years could reach $25.8 million.

Asked if it was worth it, Hajas said, “Yes, because it will cut the annual cost increase to ratepayers in half, from 8% per year to 4%, over a 20-year period, saving many millions of dollars. And I stress the importance of looking at such a project over the long term. It’s long-term savings. My kids and grandkids will see the greater benefit”.

George Riley, director of Pubic Water Now, ended the meeting saying, “PWN wants to make the public aware of the problems and costs related to private water systems. Their motivation is profit, they’re answerable to their shareholders, not us. It easy to see why 87% of the water systems in the U.S. are publicly owned and operated for the good of the communities they serve. I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but more water rate increases are coming from Cal-Am. We need to take action!”

Public Water Now will begin collecting signatures in October to qualify municipalization of our water system for a vote on the November 2018 ballot.

Melodie Chrislock, the communications director for Public Water Now, can be reached at MWChrislock@redshift.com

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Warren Church, who served on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors from 1965 to 1977, a tumultuous time in the county’s history, died Saturday, Sept. 2, at the age of 87, his family announced.

Mr. Church chose to use the California End of Life Option due to terminal illness. The California End of Life Option Act is a statute that allows certain terminally ill adults to request and obtain a prescription for medication to end their lives in a peaceful manner. The law was adopted in June 2016.

His final wish was to spread the word that this choice is available to California residents who are at the end of life and meet the criteria.

A celebration of his life is being planned and a date will be announced soon.

Mr. Church, known as the father of the Monterey County parks system, never missed a board meeting in his 12 years as a Monterey County District 1 supervisor.

He helped turn the tide against Humble Oil’s bid to establish a major refinery in the Moss Landing area in the mid-1960s, by requiring strict environmental regulations regarding such facilities. The project would have kick-started a 3,800-acre industrial complex in Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough that included a nuclear power plant. The board of supervisors voted 3-2 to approve Humble Oil’s facility, but because of the regulations that the board passed to regulate air quality and other factors, Humble Oil decided to build its facility in Benicia instead.

The development of the proposed industrial complex would have irreversibly changed the look and feel of Monterey County. Much of the Monterey Bay’s marine environment, now protected by state and federal law, would have been decimated, and tourism and agriculture would have been greatly diminished.

Mr. Church’s tenure on the board coincided with a period of great change for Monterey County which was instrumental in creating the county that exists today. There was intense pressure to change the character of rural North Monterey County to a densely developed area, which Mr. Church challenged successfully by establishing rural residential zoning in 1972, and growth guidelines for the entire county in 1976 to protect rural areas and the county’s less-urban character.

Mr. Church also sought to preserve the area’s natural beauty by promoting a county parks system, which began with Royal Oaks Park in 1966, which he named, and later was the inspiration for naming the North County community of Royal Oaks.

EARLY YEARS

Born on Oct. 19, 1929 in the Elkhorn area of North Monterey County, just days before the stock market crash that set off the Great Depression, Mr. Church lived in the county all his life. After graduating from King City High School in 1947, he attended Hartnell College in Salinas and then Cal Poly State College in San Luis Obispo. He was drafted in 1951 and sent to Korea with the U.S. Army 987th Artillery Division. There, he was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

Mr. Church returned and continued his studies at Cal Poly, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in 1962. He went on to get a master’s degree and a teaching credential, and taught in Monterey County schools. In 1974, he received the Honored Alumni Award from the university’s alumni association.

In 1959, Mr. Church established Church Christmas Tree Farm on Hidden Valley Road, which is one of the state’s oldest Christmas tree farms in continuous operation.

Mr. Church also helped found American Legion Post 593 in Prunedale; and wrote several books, including “The Overburdened Ark” on population control, and others on the history of North Monterey County.

A LIFE IN POLITICS

In 1964, Mr. Church ran for District 1 Supervisor as one of six candidates. He made the runoff, and then was elected, handily beating incumbent Chester Deaver, who had served three terms on the board. At the time, the position was a part-time one, and came with a typewriter and $300 a month for incidental expenses. Mr. Church was the last supervisor to keep his office at his home and use his personal phone for county business, and never sought reimbursement for either from the county.

Mr. Church was a firm supporter of the Monterey County Free Library System, working to provide four of the five libraries in his district with new and expanded facilities and services during his tenure. He helped create the Monterey County Parks Department, which took over recreational management of Nacimiento and San Antonio reservoirs.

Other accomplishments included creating the Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program, initiating the county’s first family planning program, expanding the sheriff’s patrol and litter control, and initiation and support of health and social services programs that included drug and alcohol rehabilitation, formation of the Women’s Commission in 1974 and upgrading of Natividad Medical Center.

He also worked on numerous local and regional boards throughout his life. Gov. Edmund G. Brown appointed him to the California Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Redwood Road and Trail Committee, and the State Local Applications Advisory Board. Mr. Church served on the National Association of Counties, the state and Monterey County Democratic Central Committees, San Felipe Water Importation Committee, and the Tri-County Coastline Committee.

In addition, he served on a variety of governmental bodies for Monterey County, including the Welfare Commission, the planning committee for the Water Resources Agency, Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Sanctuary Committee, Pajaro River Watershed Flood Protection Authority Board, and many others.

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Regarding the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Aug. 25 editorial, “Last-minute water tax can’t be justified however worthy the cause”: Unsafe drinking water is a Third World problem that cannot be tolerated in California. It is long past time that the Legislature produced a sustainable solution that will ensure a basic right to water that is clean and safe.

Such a solution is at hand. It is a bipartisan plan supported by environmental groups such as Clean Water Action, health groups such as the American Heart Association, and farm groups including the California Rice Commission and the Western Growers Association.

Senate Bill 623 creates a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund designed to provide emergency relief and a sustainable long-term solution by funding water treatment facilities that these small water systems cannot possible afford on their own. Funding would come from two sources.

Because in many cases the source of contamination is a high concentration of nitrates, an unavoidable byproduct of farming operations, the agricultural community is stepping up to support a fee to cover nitrate-related costs. It is a statewide problem, so the funding structure also includes a statewide solution — a modest fee not to exceed $1 a month on the water bills for residents and businesses.

A recent poll showed that two-thirds of Californians — alarmed by the plight of those without access to a safe water supply — support this approach.

The fact that a million Californians cannot use water from their taps to mix baby formula, make iced tea, brush their teeth or simply to straight-up quench their thirsts ought to be unacceptable.

It is a problem we are morally compelled to solve, and a sensible solution is at hand.

Sen. Bill Monning is a Democratic state senator representing Carmel. Contributing to this piece was Tim Johnson. president and CEO of the California Rice Commission.

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UPDATE: IN COMMENT SECTION BELOW, STEELHEAD ASSOCIATION’S FRANK EMERSON RESPONDS AND SAYS, WELL, YES, WE HAVE RECEIVED A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY FROM CAL AM.

The Monterey Herald’s most recent editorial on the important subject of water might have been compelling if its premise had been correct. Ironically, the errant editorial began with a lecture strongly and wrongly insinuating that backers of a public takeover of Cam Am Water play fast and loose with the facts.

The focus of the piece Thursday’s was that “some public water advocates have expressed the view” that the Carmel River Steelhead Association supports Cal Am’s deeply troubled desalination project because the organization has received money for its noble work protecting the fish in the endangered river.

(I would include a link to the editorial but as far as I can tell it is not been posted to the web.)

The Herald doesn’t get specific about the source of the supposed payments to the association, but the editorial seems to be saying that those unnamed “public water advocates” have alleged that the association gets money from Cal Am. The Herald doesn’t identify or quote any of the public water advocates who purportedly have accused the association of having been bought off. I could be wrong, but I believe there were no names or quotations in the article because nobody has made such an accusation, at least not in any type of public forum.

Several years ago, I asked one of the association’s most active leaders, Frank Emerson, if the group was getting any money from Cal Am. I raised the question largely because Emerson has defended Cal Am so strongly and has been so vigorous in his criticism of Cal Am’s critics. He said Cal Am hadn’t provided a penny. I believed him then and I believe him now. I disagree with Emerson’s view of Cal Am. He seems to forget that its record of overpumping the Carmel River and its neglect of the San Clemente Dam were key reasons that the steelhead are in danger in the first place. I disagree with his opinion but I don’t question his honesty.

The issue of a public takeover will be on the ballot late next year. The last time the issue was on a public ballot, Cal Am fended off the effort through an exceptionally well funded and deceptive advertising blitz. If the Herald wants to play any useful role in the next election, here’s hoping it plays it straighter than it did this week.

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I am a Monterey-based artist writing to share news that I believe would be of interest to Partisan readers. Six years ago when I was living in Ohio, I formed an anti-bullying organization with my childhood art teacher called the You Will Rise Project. It uses the arts to empower young people to speak out about bullying. I was bullied terribly as a child, and with the guidance of a caring mentor, art helped me cope. Today more than one in every five students report being bullied, and bullying victims are between two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people.

In partnership with Open Ground Studios, we are bringing this project to Monterey with a community art installation celebrating diversity on Sept. 8 and an Art Against Bullying workshop series in October that is free for high school students. This project is transformative for young people who get involved. Applications for the workshop are due by Sept. 14 and can be found at artagainstbullying.com. Thank you!

The You Will Rise Project created a large installation at Cornell University made out of Post-It Notes, on which students wrote both positive and negative labels that they had been called. The result formed a series of portraits of students, which remained on display at Cornell. A similar project using puzzle pieces will be unveiled Sept. 8 at Open Ground Studios.

FALL 2017 PROGRAM SERIES & RELATED EVENTS
Pieced Together: Community Art Installation
Visiting Artist Mentors & Activists from Columbus Ohio
Face to Face Exhibition of Paintings by Paul Richmond
You Will Rise: Art Against Bullying Workshops
Sundays in October 1 – 22, 12-3
Pop-Up Exhibition: Art Against Bullying
October 29, 1-3pm

ART ACTIVISM COMES TO MONTEREY
Open Ground Studios and the You Will Rise Project join forces.

SERIES DESCRIPTIONS
Pieced Together is a collaborative community art installation in conjunction with the You Will Rise Project. Artists Paul Richmond, Aaron Anderson and Denese Sanders are creating a massive mural out of puzzle pieces that will form the faces of 3 diverse members of the community. We are inviting people from all over the community (at outreach events such as Seaside Community Fair and West End Celebration and invitations around town to share the project) to decorate a puzzle piece in a way that represents something unique about themselves. We’ll be working Monday, Sept. 4 – Thursday, Sept. 7 on the installation at Open Ground Studios and the community is invited to participate. The mural is part of Paul Richmond’s solo exhibition called Face to Face and will be unveiled at the artist reception Friday evening Sept. 8th from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Face to Face: An Exhibition of Paintings by Paul Richmond. Paul’s work is an investigation of identity, mythology, and human nature. Reality and abstraction compete within the figurative foundation of each piece to make the subjects’ inner struggles more tangible. He often draws upon personal history to approach universal themes. The expressive application of pigment reduces the literalness of the depiction, engaging with an exploration of color, form, shape, and pattern as windows into the psyche. By deconstructing and rebuilding the figure, his goal is to invite understandings that reach beyond the immediate surface and reveal the complexity of the individual.

You Will Rise: Art Against Bullying Workshops

You Will Rise Project is an organization founded in 2011 that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through the language, visual, and performing arts. During the month of October, we are inviting teens (grades 9-12) to participate in free workshops where they will work with professional artists and mentors to create raw, uncensored works about their experiences with bullying. The resulting collection, including collaborative installation pieces and individual creations, will be presented in a multi-media pop up exhibit at Open Ground Studios that is open to the public.

Visiting Artists from Ohio: Artists/mentors Aaron Anderson and Angela Wilson, and You Will Rise co-founder Linda Regula will be making their way to Monterey in support of launching the You Will Rise Project on the West Coast. Aaron is one of the Directors of the You Will Rise Project, and is a talented graphic designer and fine artist. Angela is the Operations Manager, and is an instructional designer and fine artist. Linda Regula is a fine artist, teacher, gallery owner, museum curator, and published author. She was Paul’s childhood art instructor, and their relationship, dating back to 1984, was the basis for creating You Will Rise. Linda and Paul were both bullied as kids. Linda attributes her experience of being bullied to the fact that she was “poor, skinny, motherless, and very shy.” Paul was bullied because he is gay. They both believe that these hardships served as powerful motivation to make choices that ultimately enriched their lives — and their art. We are planning opportunities in and around the Peninsula where these arts activists will be able to share their stories, their work and their passion to stand up against bullying.

TIMELINE & DATES

August 10 – August 27, Launch Pieced Together: Facebook live video, Seaside Community Fair, Youth Arts Collective, Boys & Girls Club, West End Celebration

Sept. 4-7: Pieced Together Installation at OGS with artists Paul Richmond, Denese Sanders and visiting artist Aaron Anderson
Installation participation open to the public: Monday Sept. 4 12:00-5:00, Tuesday Sept. 5. 2:00 – 7:00, Wednesday 12:00 – 5:00, Thursday 12:00-4:00

Sept. 8, 5:30-7:30, FACE to FACE opening reception and unveiling of Pieced Together

Sept. 23 & 24: Artist Open Studio Tour at Open Ground Studios – additional opportunities for community participation with Pieced Together installation, plus live painting demonstration by Paul Richmond

Oct. 1 – 22: Sundays 12:00-3:00 Art Against Bullying Workshops. Up to 15 participants, and 5 local and visiting artist mentors on-site.

Oct. 29: Sunday 1:00-3:00 Pop-Up Exhibition – Art Against Bullying

SPONSORS – This program is made possible in part by a grant from the Arts Council of Monterey County, the You Will Rise Project, Open Ground Studios and Paul Richmond. We are seeking additional sponsors to support and build this program on the West Coast. Those interested can contact Open Ground Studios to get involved.

ABOUT THE VENUE At Open Ground Studios we believe art plays a profound role in our human experience. As adults we are often consumed by the pace and responsibilities of our lives, while our creative spirits wait patiently to be revived.
We believe emerging and professional artists thrive in a collaborative and supportive community, where freedom for innovation, growth, and camaraderie is limitless. It is our responsibility as a society to invest in the arts to preserve and strengthen this aspect of our community and of ourselves. At Open Ground Studios we specialize in maintaining space for the exploration of visual art that inspires transformation.

Open Ground Studios is located in Seaside in a 2000SF space that that houses a gallery, communal studio space, coworking, a printmaking studio, and a frame room. OGS serves teens, adults, artists and creative explorers. We promote community entrée into creative productivity by hosting workshops, open studio time, classes, social events, and exhibition space.

For More Information:
Paul Richmond, Artist and You Will Rise Project co-founder
Tel: 614-306-0488
Email: paulrichmondstudio@gmail.com
Website: artagainstbullying.com
Instagram: @youwillriseproject
Facebook: facebook.com/youwillriseproject

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The following is a letter to me from Rep. Jimmy Panetta in response to my correspondence to him about the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. Following his letter is my response:

Dear Ms. Akkad,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697) and allowing me to clarify my position as a co-sponsor of this bill.

I share your strong commitment to civil rights, including the First Amendment right to free speech. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, however, does not restrict the right of U.S. citizens to free speech, but rather is a narrowly targeted bill that would exercise Congress’s authority to regulate international commercial activity.

In 1977, Congress amended the Export Administration Act to prohibit U.S. persons from complying with unauthorized boycotts by a foreign government. This law, upheld by the courts, was enacted in response to the Arab League boycott initiated after Israel’s independence. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would extend this existing prohibition on U.S. companies from cooperating with foreign government boycotts of Israel to boycotts by international government organizations, such as the United Nations.

The legislation was introduced in response to U.N. Human Rights Council and other international government organization initiatives to economically isolate Israel while ignoring the atrocious human rights practices of some of the world’s worst regimes. The bill does not regulate non-governmental organizations, nor does it prohibit Americans from expressing their political points of view, including speaking in support of boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) efforts, engaging in boycott activities or otherwise voicing criticism of Israel. Furthermore, the legislation neither compels companies to conduct business with Israel, nor punishes them for refusing to do business with Israel for political or economic reasons.

Again, I share your commitment to the constitutionally protected right to free speech. As the bill moves through the legislative process, I will keep your views in mind and support any effort to further clarify that the bill does not infringe on the right to freedom of speech.

I appreciate knowing of your concerns and encourage you to continue to be in touch via my website, signing up for my e-newsletter, following me on Facebook or Twitter, or calling my office.  It is an honor to serve you and the central coast of California in the United States Congress.

Sincerely,

JIMMY PANETTA
Member of Congress

 

Mr response:

To refresh your memory, I had tried to offer Mr. Panetta some background about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, given his support of HR 1697; had pointed out how such a bill would run counter to our Constitution; and then specifically asked him why, given his district’s composition, he would choose to be part of such a bill in the first place.  Since Mr. Panetta did not respond my points, I remain curious about his motives.

With the luxury retirement offers, I attended a meeting our congressman had with the Monterey chapter of Veterans for Peace on Friday, Aug. 18 . He was there to address topics of interest to that group, which included their concern over his co-sponsorship of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. Explaining his rationale, Mr. Panetta began by giving us his understanding that it “focuses on the Export Administration Act of 1977” that was created, in part, “to prevent people from participating in the Arab boycott of Israel back at that time.”

He continued by stating, “Arabs were boycotting Israel just because they did not like Israel. You know the reasons why. Back in 1977 this law was created … What the law says is that it prevents people from participating in an unsanctioned boycott of a foreign government.”

For emphasis he repeated his explanation, and said, “It prevents participation in a boycott by a foreign government.” He stated that the act went through the courts, was challenged and found constitutional. It is current law.

Then, in further explaining what he calls a narrowly focused bill, he said HR 1697 amends that act by adding international government organizations, “and that’s it.” He said, “So what the law would say is that it prevents participation in an unsanctioned boycott by a foreign government and international government organizations. That’s all it does. So, if you’re for BDS (Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions) against Israel, you can speak out. You can do your own boycott, divestment, sanctions. Companies by themselves can do their own BDS. It does not prevent anybody, and please correct me if I’m wrong, it does not prevent anybody from doing their own boycott, divestment, sanctions of Israel.”

He further stated, “It also depends upon how you feel about BDS. I am against BDS, Bernie Sanders is against BDS. I just got back from a trip to Israel where every single person I talked to over there, from people in Israeli leadership to people in Palestinian leadership — the Palestinian minister of finance — I had a one-on-one conversation with him and I straight out asked, ‘How do you feel about BDS?’. He said, ’Of course I’m against it. It hurts us.’ I spoke to people in the labor movement. They were against it. And I made sure because I wanted to see if there was anybody who supports BDS. Not one person supports BDS.”

He concluded by stating that before the bill goes to the House for a vote, “The authors should clarify the bill to let people understand that it doesn’t go against/infringe free speech. The second thing is if it comes to a vote as is, I will be inclined to introduce an amendment to the bill to clarify that bill.”

I believe Mr. Panetta hasn’t done all of the research he spoke of at that Friday. On a minor point, the Export Administration Act was introduced in March of 1979 and enacted into law by Jimmy Carter in September 1979. So, some of his terminology and dates are incorrect. In addition, unless my reading of the current bill HR 1697 from the government’s website is completely wrong, the bill, like the Senate’s version, still contains these words:

The bill prohibits any U.S. person engaged interstate or foreign commerce from supporting:

  • any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States and that is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation, or
  • any boycott fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or any request by any international governmental organization to impose such a boycott.

Unless “U.S. Person” does not refer to you and me and to any U.S. company, I believe Mr. Panetta’s letter is inaccurate.  What he said to his audience Aug. 18 also seems to be inaccurate. “U.S .Persons” do appear to be prohibited from a boycott, divestment or sanction of certain Israeli policies. Perhaps Mr. Panetta should read the actual bill before the House. Again.

The trip he referred to was for freshmen members of Congress, along with Steny Hoyer and Kevin McCarthy, and took place in early August. It was paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Of course he met with those people! They’re the only people he either had time to meet or was allowed to meet on the whirlwind trip. His reference to the Palestinian finance minister is laughable because Salam Fayyad at this point has very little support or credibility among Palestinians and remains a relevant voice only for Israel and its allies. Like many of the other members of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Fayyad has worked hard to keep the Palestinian economy dependent on Israel while promoting a small economic elite in the West Bank. Of course Mr. Fayyad would reject any support of the BDS movement!

Mr. Panetta could have spoken with people in the region who would let him know that BDS is not anti-Semitic but rather is against Israeli occupation of Palestine. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, it is non-violent in nature and simply aimed at giving Palestinians the same rights as the rest of humanity.

There seems no logic to his firm rejection of BDS nor does he seem to understand the obviously complicated issues surrounding the Palestinian/Israeli impasse. Mr. Panetta’s focus on HR 1697 is its potential constitutional problem. It’s an important one, but it’s not the only problem with this amendment to a segment of the original unfortunate law.

In his Q&A session, Mr. Panetta said that if the authors of the amendment do not clarify it to ensure that it does not infringe on free speech, he will do just that. Given the wording of the existing bill, Mr. Panetta would have to rewrite a significant portion with very little apparent chance of it being approved. His statement also conflicts with what he said earlier in his discussion, that the House Rules Committee under GOP majority rule controls all amendments to House bills. He and Barbara Lee sit on the Rules Committee. So he saw exactly how her amendment to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) adopted after Sept. 11, 2001 was “plucked right out” of the Appropriations bill before it was sent to the House floor for a vote.

Mr. Panetta acknowledged that his amendment to cut off all funding for any executive order that would open up our coast to oil drilling received the same fate. So, what assurance does he think he has in offering any successful amendment to this or any bill? It’s easy for him to offer an amendment, especially in the environment on Capitol Hill. It appears far harder for him to be straight with his constituents.

I do not believe Mr. Panetta has devoted enough time to any investigation prior to offering his support for HR 1697. Perhaps it’s because he’s new to Capitol Hill or because he doesn’t have adequate advisers or time managers. That was clearly obvious on Friday when he mentioned that he had not had time to read the 10 questions the veterans had sent him prior to the meeting. His time with the veterans was also limited because his aide rushed him to his next gathering even though they had arrived late to this one. I left frustrated and assume others felt the same.

It also makes me wonder why a freshman member of Congress from an ag/tourist district feels the need to support this bill.

Akkad lives in Carmel and maintains close ties to the Middle East. Panetta, a Democrat,  represents the Central Coast in Congress.

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A Peninsula water solution without desal?

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For those of you who missed it, the Monterey County Weekly had an important piece this week raising the possibility that the Pure Water recycling project could be enlarged enough to eliminate the need for Cal Am’s tremendously expensive desalination plant. Here it is.

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