Lights Out Again, Voting On Wheels And More Businesses Reopen In Santa Cruz

Oct 30, 2020

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 10/30/20. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

Communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains started the week off with another Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS). PG&E turned off the power on Sunday morning to customers in 34 counties across Northern and Central California in anticipation of what their meteorologists called the driest humidity levels and the strongest winds of the wildfire season thus far. The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of up to 89 mph in one area east of Sacramento and humidity dropped below 10 percent in many places. Power was restored to almost all customers by Tuesday night.

A screenshot taken on the morning of Monday, October 26, showing communities in Northern and Central California affected by PG&E's latest Public Safety Power Shutoff.
Credit PG&E

These outages are aimed at preventing the ignition of wildfires. One wildfire in our region that we continue to monitor is the Dolan Fire and the small neighboring blaze called the Coleman Fire. As of Thursday, the Dolan Fire remains at 98% containment and 124,924 acres. The Coleman Fire is 93% contained at 574 acres.

The countdown to the ‘end of voting,’ as many are now calling November 3, is now in the single digits. Including today, there are five days left to cast your ballot. Stay tuned to 90.3 KAZU on election night. From 4 p.m. PST we’ll be broadcasting special coverage, anchored by NPR, and our local hosts will keep you updated on the results of races and measures specific to the Central Coast. 

One of those measures is Measure Y in Monterey, which would increase the hotel tax 2% if two-thirds of city residents vote “yes.” The measure aims to make up lost revenue due to the pandemic. But hotel and motel owners say they’re hurting too. Doug McKnight interviewed the mayor of Monterey and the chairman of the Monterey County Hospitality Association. You can listen to the story here.  

Doug McKnight also covered the candidate race for the 29th Assembly District seat. The district includes the entire coastline of the Monterey Bay plus a good portion of southern San Jose. Find out what the two candidates -- four-term incumbent Mark Stone and political newcomer Dr. Shomir Banerjee -- say about the top issues facing residents and how they think California has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Ease of voting has been a big topic nationwide this election cycle. Santa Cruz County is trying to make it simple for voters to make their voice heard with the introduction of the VoteMobile. Erika visited the VoteMobile, which is essentially the elections office on wheels. Her story is slated to air nationally on Weekend ATC. 

Coming up next week, we’ll hear from young voters in our community. They share why they’re voting and what it means to them. Catch the story Monday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.  

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

Q: What COVID-19 safety protocols are in place at my polling place?

A: Poll workers will be wearing PPE and will be sanitizing voting booths between voters. Social distancing will also be practiced. And to avoid crowded lines outside polling locations, some local counties (Santa Cruz and Monterey) are making use of a queuing app that takes your details and notifies you when it's your turn to vote. Voters can also go online to check how long the lines are in their area.  

Q: What if I arrive at a polling place without a mask? 

A: Elections offices are asking voters to wear a mask when they come to vote to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But polling places in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties will offer masks to those who forgot theirs or don’t have one when they arrive. There are also options across the counties for outdoor and distanced voting for those who refuse to wear a mask.   

There has already been a lot of local participation in this election. As of last Saturday, Monterey County Elections had already processed more vote-by-mail ballots than the total number that were received in the March Primary Election. And as of Wednesday, about 101,000 ballots were processed, which represents a 48% turnout so far.

Coronavirus cases are once again surging in Europe, with many countries imposing new restrictions to help control the spread of the virus. (Get this update from NPR’s Up First podcast. Listen from 9:38). Parts of the U.S. are also experiencing an uptick in cases, including California. It was also revealed that top advisors to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for COVID-19. Pence is the head of the White House's coronavirus task force. 

Locally, Santa Cruz County received some positive news Tuesday about the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions. The county moved into the “orange” or “moderate” tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening system. This means smaller amusement parks can open at 25 percent capacity; bars can serve patrons outdoors; and movie theaters can operate indoors with 50 percent capacity. The county’s health officer said the decreased spread of the virus was thanks to the community’s responsiveness to safety protocols but urged everyone not to become complacent. 

San Benito County is in the more restrictive “red” or “substantial” tier. Monterey County remains in the most restrictive “purple” or “widespread” tier. 

COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:

Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Monday evening. Her confirmation by the Senate, 52-48, came about a week before Election Day and 30 days after she was nominated by President Trump to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As this NPR piece put it, “The 48-year-old judge's confirmation solidifies the court's conservative majority, potentially shaping the future of abortion rights and health care law for generations.”

Every year, members of the California State Legislature honor nonprofits in their communities. Those who’ve been spotlighted this year from the Central Coast include “Una Mesa” Food Pantry at Gonzales Community Presbyterian Church, California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. in Salinas and Gathering for Women in Monterey (who is one of KAZU’s many business supporters). Congratulations to these organizations. 

The Point Sur Light Station in Big Sur is one of the haunted places Monterey County says you can visit safely this Halloween.
Credit Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Halloween and Día de los Muertos are this weekend and there are many creative ways to celebrate this holiday (and others) safely during a pandemic. In Monterey County, the visitors bureau recommends a trip to some of the county’s most haunted spots for Halloween activities. There’s the Point Sur Light Station, the Tor House and Hawk Tower in Carmel and Colton Hall in Monterey -- all with very spooky backstories. All can be enjoyed safely from a distance, perhaps even without ever leaving your car.    

Until next week,

The KAZU Team