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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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Friends, in light of the violence and death wrought in Charlottesville, Va., the failure of the president to denounce the KKK, Nazis, and white supremacist groups is more than outrageous.

His suggestion that there are “fine people, very fine people” within these groups betrays a basic understanding of what these groups stand for and his continued efforts to try to maintain his base of support among these groups. The fact that millions of Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis and that thousands of Americans died fighting to liberate Europe, North Africa, and Russia from the horror of the Nazis seems not to register with the current occupant of the White House.

As the fascist organizations bask in the media attention and the equivocations of the president, they are planning to demonstrate in other cities to provoke violence and to seek attention for their warped, immoral, racist, and violent ideology. It is important NOT to allow police powers or other governmental authorities to suggest that their conduct is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. Their conduct explicitly advocates violence against Jews and people of color including immigrants. Permits should be denied and organizers of these hate groups should be brought to justice as terrorists—that is what they are.

Too many have died to rid the planet of the scourge of those who worship Hitler and now Trump. Let us draw courage and purpose from the courage and sacrifice of HEATHER HEYER who was killed by a terrorist (and the 20 others injured and the two police officers who died) and as part of a conspiracy of groups of terrorists who are pushing their sick and morally bankrupt ideology, looking for media coverage, audiences, and new recruits. Not in San Francisco, not anywhere… Time to build the resistance, time to join arms with all communities to denounce the hate and to promote the protection of ALL people’s inalienable right to life, safety, and equality…. The current occupant of the White House has betrayed his oath of office and should be impeached.

P.S. Last night in San Luis Obispo, 1000 demonstrated in solidarity with the victims of Charlottesville and in opposition to the Unify the Right Movement.

Bill Monning, D-Carmel, represents the Central Coast in the California Senate.

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Superior Court Judge Tom Wills has upheld Monterey County’s approval of the Ferrini Ranch subdivision along the Monterey-Salinas Highway. Disagreeing with LandWatch, the Highway 68 Coalition and others, Wills held on Aug. 3 that Monterey County’s environmental review adequately disclosed and mitigated impacts to water resources, traffic and air pollution.

The project consists of 185 lots with 168 market-rate homes and 17 inclusionary units on the east side of Highway 68 between San Benancio and River Roads. It sits across the highway from the existing Toro Park subdivision, also developed by the Ferrini developers, the Kelton family of Southern California, longtime campaign contributors to several Monterey County supervisors over the years. See previous piece on special treatment afforded the developer.

“To say we are disappointed is an understatement,” said Michael DeLapa, executive director of LandWatch, one of the plaintiffs.
DeLapa said Monterey County’s approval of the venture relied on unsatisfactory measures to mitigate water and traffic issues.

The environmental impact report said the Salinas Valley Water Project would provide a sustainable supply even though it is already in overdraft and is being seriously undermined by seawater intrusion.

While transportation officials say relieving congestion on Highway 68 is their highest priority, the development would add significant traffic to the heavily traveled road. The developer will be required to pay for another traffic signal, or likely a roundabout, and to widen a one-mile stretch of the highway.

DeLapa said LandWatch will consider an appeal.

“We remain undeterred in our strong belief, supported by strong facts, that the county and the court erred, and that Ferrini Ranch is the wrong development in the wrong place.”

You can read the court’s decision here (1.8M PDF file).

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Weigh in on what can be done about the racist right

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Your thoughts: Is the apparent rise of white supremacism a function of politics or pathology? Should it be confronted or ignored?

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Monterey County’s principal traffic agency is on the verge of trying to improve traffic conditions on Highway 68, also known as the Monterey-Salinas Highway, in a roundabout way. Literally.

Thursday night, three transportation officials made a presentation in support of replacing all the traffic lights on Highway 68 between Blanco Road in Salinas and the Monterey Airport with roundabouts, also known as traffic circles. The panelists were Debbie Hale, executive director of the Transportation Agency of Monterey; Grant Leonard, a TAMC planner and the point man on this project; and Rich Deal, traffic engineer for the city of Monterey. Mike DeLapa, executive director of LandWatch, was the moderator. They spoke to a lively group of about 75 residents who braved the humidity and Route 68 rush-hour traffic to attend the meeting at San Benancio Middle School.

While informational, this presentation was basically a hard sell of roundabouts, giving very short shrift to any other options. It may be that roundabouts are safer than traffic lights, as alleged. And it may be that roundabouts will improve the flow of traffic on Highway 68, although crawling along at 20 mph or less through the circles may be more of a slow drip than a flow. But for those of us who were previously force fed traffic lights all along this 15-mile “corridor” (the term used by the planner) because they would make the highway safer, allow a bit of skepticism about this “flavor of the month” safety improvement.

Whatever is decided, the money will come from voter-approved Measure X. Addressing existing congestion on 68 is the No. 1 priority for use of that money. The TAMC board is scheduled to vote on the roundabout plan this month, starting a process of construction design, right-of-way acquisition and environmental review that could take more than three years to complete before actual roadwork could begin.

Deal gave a lengthy description of the roundabout that is just being completed on Holman Highway (Highway 68 west), next to Highway 1 and the entrance to Pebble Beach. As a former designer of freeways, Deal said he much preferred designing a roadway that is environmentally friendly. He showed a diagram of the new roundabout, which includes a bike/pedestrian path over Highway 1, sparing bikers and walkers the nightmare of vying with cars and trucks in the roundabout. When asked why there was only one roundabout on this part of Highway 68, Deal said the money was limited. He said additional roundabouts are being proposed to replace the light at Community Hospital and the light where Highway 68 enters Pacific Grove.

Are there options other than roundabouts? Yes. Highway 68 can remain as is, an option that some in the audience favored. Or there could be a bypass at Corral de Tierra and San Benancio roads, which would allow traffic from these two busy side roads to enter and exit 68 without traffic lights stopping the flow of traffic.

This is an option suggested by Mike Weaver of the Highway 68 Coalition. It has been an option since the Las Palmas development was built. As part of the Highway 68 traffic mitigation for that project 19 years ago, money was given to the county to buy 11-plus acres next to the highway just north of the Corral de Tierra stoplight. This acreage makes the building of the bypass possible – no more land needs to be purchased. However, TAMC’s Leonard said the bypass alone would cost $25 million. In contrast, he put a $50 million pricetag on all the proposed Highway 68 roundabouts.

Another option is “adaptive signals,” that is, making the Highway 68 signals talk to each other, so that the green lights can be synchronized. This would also speed the flow of traffic. However, according to Leonard, this option costs at least $34 million, and it has been apparently rejected because of the cost.

How many roundabouts would be built? The intent is to place them on 68 at Josselyn Canyon Road, Olmstead Road, State Route 218, York, Pasadera, Laureles Grade, Corral de Tierra, San Benancio, “New Torero” and Blanco. Leonard said there may also be a roundabout at the Ragsdale intersection. The “New Torero” designation is for the expected improvements to the Torero intersection, at the Toro Park subdivision, which will be funded by the money from the developers of Ferrini Ranch. Leonard said that because the Ferrini Ranch development has been approved by the Board of Supervisors, and even though it is in litigation, TAMC must factor in the money the developer has to pay to mitigate the development’s traffic impact. TAMC has not played an active role in limiting development along Route 68, despite the fact that fewer vehicles using the road on a daily basis would make the highway safer.

The panelists observed that the roundabouts would not increase the capacity of Highway 68, which they acknowledged is used by far too many vehicles. Its design capacity is 16,000 vehicles per day, and currently it accommodates between 25,000 and 32,000. The primary reason to build roundabouts is that they are expected reduce accidents by keeping traffic moving. One study has shown that travel time on the entire route at peak hours would be reduced by approximately 5 minutes if the roundabouts replace the stoplights.

One person who spoke up is an avid biker who likes to bike “the loop,” the roadway that loops away from the highway San Benancio to Corral de Tierra. He asked how the roundabouts would affect bicyclists, who now can ride on the shoulders of Highway 68. If the roundabouts were built at both San Benancio and Corral, bicyclists would have to navigate the traffic circles while hoping not to get rear-ended by road-raged drivers. The bicyclist suggested a frontage road but the idea was met with a shrug. Clearly, some users of Highway 68 have not been given much consideration in this proposed plan for roundabouts. On the other hand, drivers of 18-wheelers will be happy to learn that their rigs will still be welcome on this scenic highway.

For those who remember when Route 68 was a two-lane road connecting Salinas and Monterey, be advised that TAMC also plans to widen Route 68 to two lanes in each direction between the airport and York Road, as well as between Toro Park and Corral De Tierra. Thus, our scenic highway will become a scenic freeway for the most part, and there will still be a few places for drivers to come roaring up in the right lane to cut in front of you as you enter one of the remaining parts of the two-lane highway. That widening of Route 68 has a price tag of $107 million.

There is a bright spot in all of this. The state has become very interested in protecting wildlife by building corridors for them to safely get over or under highways, so that they can still wander over their entire habitat. We were informed that even if the roundabouts are not built, and even if the widening is not done, the state will help improve the “connectivity” for wildlife at 10 locations along Route 68. The state would help pay for the expansion of drain pipes to make them big enough for deer and other wildlife to get through, so they can go from one side of Route 68 to the other.

According to Hale and Leonard, this plan will be presented to the TAMC board at its August meeting for approval. Once approved, the plan is sent to the state Department of Transportation for its review and comments. But since the money for the roundabouts will be taken from the Measure X taxes, a local source, the state will not be required to give its approval. Once TAMC gives the OK, it can follow the state’s suggestions or not. The public can write comments on TAMC’s website at this time, as well as after the plan comes back to the county after the state’s review.

How many roundabouts would be built at one time? No one knows for sure. Also, no one at TAMC knows how long it would take to build all the projected roundabouts. And no one knows how the construction process itself would hurt traffic flow on an already challenged roadway. The planners expect there would be more traffic on Imjin Road, which also connects Marina to the Salinas Valley.

One wonders what it would take to reduce the carbon footprint on Highway 68 –- to build light rail connecting Salinas and Monterey and to run electric buses for employees, as Silicon Valley employers do. Yes, it would take a lot of money. It would require a bolder view of the future than replacing traffic lights with traffic roundabouts. It would require embracing measures that actually reduce the number of gas-guzzling cars and trucks on Route 68, thereby reducing pollution, improving safety, and eliminating some of the worst road-rage drivers in the county.

My hope is that someday we will return to the San Benancio School and discuss our disappointment with the roundabout plan as we review TAMC’s plans for reducing the vehicles being driven daily on this beleaguered scenic highway.

Ann Hill is a retired lawyer who lives near Highway 68.

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I have been fascinated by elephants ever since I was a small child and my parents rewarded me for good behavior with a wonderful trip to the circus. They were huge and I was so excited to see such a large animal actually do tricks. There were other attractions that day but I couldn’t have ignored the elephants. They were just so damned big and different.

As history tells us, the Romans ignored elephants, only to get trampled by Hannibal. There should have been a lesson there for the ages but local politicians, the California Public Utilities Commission and Cal Am Water have blatantly ignored the elephant in the room of water politics.

“There’s an elephant in the room” is meant to identify a major element of an issue that is ignored or deliberately avoided while the issue is being discussed. During discussions of how the Monterey Peninsula is to come up with a reliable source of reasonably priced water, the invisible pachyderm has been the cost that eventually will be paid by Cal Am customers. Neither our local politicians, the CPUC or Cal Am has been publicly addressing the overall costs of future delivery of water. The total costs are not clear, but among the costs looming for the customers is at least $280 million for the desalination plant Cal Am plans to build and numerous other expenses to be billed later. That’s an elephant that doesn’t get mentioned during the ongoing and long-running debate over the size, design and location of the desal plant.

Instead, the politicians merely praise Cal Am’s progress on the project while the CPUC and Cal Am simply ignore the elephant. Whatever the cost, the CPUC will allow Cal Am to pocket the money from ever higher rates. All the while, the huge animal with a big trunk and big feet fills the room.

Even the best eye doctors could not open the eyes of the politicians. The CPUC and Cal Am, meanwhile, seem to have glasses that digitally erase the elephant’s image. And it will remain that way until the grassroots efforts now in progress restore the vision of the people in charge. Fortunately for the customers, the groups Public Water Now and WRAMP and others have been fighting the high costs and are making headway toward making sure everyone sees the elephant.

The CPUC’s mandate is that it treat ratepayers and utilities equally. But the commissioners don’t get it and our elected officials don’t seem to want to get it. If you, as a ratepayer, don’t want to get trampled even more than you already have, you should join your water activists as they ride the invisible elephants into the center of the public discussion for all to see.  Let the unseeing trio become like the Romans.  Get on board, see what you can do to open some eyes

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