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An Act Of Kindness. Condor Update. KAZU Wins Another National Murrow Award.

Monterey Police Department
Monterey police officers, dressed in costumes, deliver a special birthday surprise to a six-year-old girl.

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 10/16/20. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

At a time when it seems like America is at war with itself, when virus infections and claims for unemployment are on the rise, and a group of men are charged with plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan, you find a story that renews your faith and restores your hope. It’s a story about an act of kindness and it happened here in the Monterey Bay area. 

The story begins with an urgent plea on Facebook by a mother of a young girl. The mother has lost her job due to COVID-19. The young girl is about to celebrate her 6th birthday and has two loves, fairy princesses and the police. (It makes sense if you know any 6-year-olds.) The Facebook request is for the police to drive-by the little girl’s home on her birthday to celebrate. 

Members of the Monterey Police Department’s Community Action Team see the request and contact the mother to make plans. Officers then visit a department store to buy gifts for the birthday girl. While there, three decide to add costumes to the shopping cart. On the day of the birthday party, the three officers arrive in patrol cars with lights flashing. The doors of the patrol car are barely open when the girl jumps into the arms of one of the officers. 

Parents will need to be particularly creative this Halloween. The state released its guidance for the holiday and Día de los Muertos. The California Department of Public Health strongly discourages trick-or-treating. Here are some other ideas: a home-based candy scavenger hunt, a scary movie night, or a car trip to check out neighborhood Halloween decorations. For Día de los Muertos, health officials suggest placing alters that honor lost loved ones outside or creating virtual altars via email and social media. What ideas do you have?

This week, San Benito County moved down a tierin the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The county is now in the “substantial,” or red, tier, which makes it possible for schools and some businesses to reopen indoors. Included on the list -- dance studios, libraries and restaurants, with modifications of course. Once the county remains in this tier for two weeks, schools can reopen for in-person instruction. 

Santa Cruz County is also in the “substantial” tier and Monterey County is in the more restrictive “widespread” category. Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno announced Wednesday that eight private schools in Monterey County and two public schools have secured waivers for in-person instructions. 

COVID-19 updates as of Friday morning:

The deadline to register to vote is Monday, October 19. If you haven’t registered yet, it doesn’t take long and you can register online. You can also register at your county elections office. Tell your friends, family or even a stranger to register. Meeting the Monday deadline will allow your county election office to mail your ballot in time. If you miss it, you can still register and vote in-person up until November 3. 

Up until November 3, we’re answering election questions:

Q: With news that the California GOP installed unofficial ballot boxes around the state, how do I know what’s official? 

A: First, unofficial ballot boxes have not been reported in Monterey, Santa Cruz or San Benito counties. (But if you spot anything unusual, you should contact your local election office.) Second, voters should only use ballot drop boxes with official county election logos. We’ve created a collage to show you what our local drop boxes look like.  

Credit San Benito County Elections, Erika Mahoney, Doug McKnight, Santa Cruz County Elections Department
A collage of local, official ballot drop boxes. San Benito County (upper left), Monterey County (upper right and bottom left) and Santa Cruz County (bottom right).

Q: Do I have to use a ballot drop box? 

A: No, you can walk your ballot into an election office or mail it back. Remember, no stamp necessary in California if you mail it.

Coming up next week from KAZU News, we hear from the two local candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives. One is the undefeated incumbent Democrat, Congressman Jimmy Panetta. The challenger, Jeff Gorman, is a Republican small business owner running for this seat for the first time. You’ll hear their opinions about the handling of the coronavirus pandemic; what should be done about wildfires in California; and if elected, what their job would be like with Donald Trump or Joe Biden as president. 

After numerous legal battles about the 2020 census, the Supreme Court ruled counting would end early. It concluded Thursday, October 15. If you want to stay informed about future census news, we recommend following NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang, who covers the census. His Twitter account is a treasure trove of information. To see how many people responded in your community, check out this map

PG&E turned off the power in parts of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties Wednesday evening as part of their Public Safety Power Shutoffs to help prevent power lines from sparking fires during periods of high temperatures and wind. Most of the local homes affected had their power back by Friday morning. We’ve kept you up-to-date throughout the process. Around 5,000 customers were affected in the Santa Cruz Mountains and 600 in Big Sur. 

The expected containment for the Dolan Fire is now Saturday. It got pushed back from October 13 to October 17. The fire broke out two months ago and has injured 19 firefighters and destroyed 19 structures. Over 300 personnel are still assigned to the fire. 

Now, an update on the condors impacted by the Dolan Fire. A few weeks ago, KAZU reported on the long-term consequences of wildfire on some of the Central Coast’s environmental jewels. Included in that story were the California Condors that are cared for by the Ventana Wildlife Society. The Dolan Fire was catastrophic for these once almost extinct birds -- two chicks perished and nine free-flying condors remain missing. But this week we received some hopeful news. In mid-November, seven condors raised at the San Diego Zoo Global will be released in San Simeon (just south of Big Sur). The condors will be given names suggested by descendants of indigenous peoples of the Central Coast. They include Pixchi, which refers to the sacred Pico Blanco Mountain in Big Sur and Tich’, which means condor in the Antoniano dialect of the Salinan language. Check out all the names and how to pronounce them correctly here.   

Credit Michael Dickinson
Great Blue Heron perched in Pebble Beach.

Shout out to Michael Dickinson who sent us this photograph. Send us a picture and it could be featured in our newsletter. Email us at Thank you to everyone who filled our inbox with images this week. 

#ICYMI -- Today on the Science Friday Book Club, author and UCSC Professor Catherine Ramirez discussed ‘Burn the Ships,’ by author Alberto Yáñez. Catch the full discussion here.

Finally, we have exciting news to share. KAZU News has won a second National Edward R. Murrow Award. The story, Rescued Sea Otters Return To The Monterey Bay by Krista Almanzan, won for Excellence in Sound. 

Join us in congratulating Krista Almanzan, former KAZU News Director, who has been named a John S. Knight Senior Journalism Fellow. She will focus on her Local Audio Collaboration Initiative to help small local newsrooms produce audio versions of their news stories for wider distribution.

This honor marks the second National Edward R. Murrow Award for KAZU News. In 2018, the story Reality of Possible Separation Sets In For American Children Of Undocumented Parents by Erika Mahoney won for Excellence in Writing. KAZU News has previously won 27 Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. KAZU competes in the Small Market Radio category. 

Until next week,

The KAZU Team

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