Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers and Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra.
(Source: city of Santa Cruz; Jimmy Dutra Community Leader Facebook page.)
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Morning Lookout: History-making night in local politics with 2 LGBTQ mayors and more

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, Dec. 9.

We’re waking up to some history-making political developments after covering city council meetings that stretched late into the night in Watsonville and Santa Cruz. Meanwhile, PG&E is in hot water with the county board over its tree-cutting practices in the mountains, and we’re sure no shortage of you are sun-kissed after heading to the beach to experience the enormous swells and take in the unusually warm weather.

Today’s weather will be partly sunny with a high of 65.

We’re watching closely whether county officials will enact Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order earlier than planned and also have published some excellent reports from our content partners, the LA Times and Kaiser Health News, about the latest COVID-19 developments.

With that, let’s dive in:

History Part 1: Santa Cruz’s most diverse council ever takes office — and a state takes notice

Members of Santa Cruz City Council sworn in on Dec. 8, 2020.
Members of Santa Cruz City Council sworn in on Dec. 8, 2020. Top row, from left: Sonja Brunner, Sandy Brown, Donna Meyers. Center: Justin Cummings. Botton Row, from left: Renee Golder, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Martine Watkins
(Images provided by City of Santa Cruz and councilmembers)

The most diverse City Council in Santa Cruz history was sworn in last night. Six of seven members are women, and the majority of members are people of color — a unique mix not only locally but statewide. Our Isabella Cueto not only surveys all council members about their hopes for 2021 in a special report this morning, but she also delves into what this unique group of pols means for Santa Cruz and beyond.

“Women expand a governing body’s agenda, institute transparency and inclusion in proceedings, add depth and perspective to discussions and change the outcome of votes, and generally get things done,” said Susannah Delano, executive director of Close the Gap California, which recruits women to run for the California Legislature as Democrats. This one is well worth your morning cup of coffee. Give it a read here.

History Part 2: New Watsonville, Santa Cruz councils have LGBTQ mayors

In being sworn in Tuesday night, Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra and Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers simultaneously made history as the first openly gay and lesbian leaders of their respective cities. In Watsonville, there were tears of joy. In Santa Cruz, Meyers got right down to business.

Fact of the day: Dutra and Meyers continue a trend nationally. Between June 2019 and June 2020, the number of LGBTQ mayors in the U.S. increased by 35%, according to the Victory Institute, an organization that tracks elections of LGBTQ candidates.

I pitched in covering Watsonville last night. Read my report with Isa here, and please share it with others on social media and through texts and email. If you like what you see, we encourage you to become a founding member, a Lookout Leader, so we can keep working late into the night for you.

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

BirchBark Foundation’s Executive Director, Michelle Frampton, shared how the pandemic and recent wildfires affected...

Mission-critical decision

An historic mission bell in Santa Cruz
An historic mission bell in Santa Cruz on Dec. 8, 2020. Santa Cruz City Council voted Tuesday to remove the bell at Mission Plaza and add more Native perspectives and historical context to the site.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz )

In an acknowledgment of missions’ role in the devastation of indigenous people, Santa Cruz’s last remaining mission bell, located on Soquel Avenue at Dakota Street, will be removed — and officials plan to revamp all former bell sites with educational exhibits designed to put their place in history into context next year. Isa has a lot more here, including the statewide perspective on the issue.

City steps up for businesses . . . and diners

Businesses in Santa Cruz can continue expanded outdoor operations until at least October 2021, whether it’s serving diners at sidewalk tables, selling retail wares in the streets or hosting fitness classes in public squares. The council’s decision to extend outdoor operations ensures that investments made by cash-strapped restaurateurs and small business owners in outdoor infrastructure won’t be curtailed by a turn back to pre-pandemic regulations.

It’s a move happening both countywide — Scotts Valley enacted a similar measure last week — and nationwide, as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the economy. Read Isa’s report here.

No stay-home order just yet

Our county remains one of the few in the Bay Area region that hasn’t enacted California’s stay-at-home order early. A state map shows that regional ICU capacity has decreased from 25.7% to 24.5% since Monday. Per Newsom’s order, the stay-at-home order will be automatically triggered when this number hits 15%, which is projected to occur on or around Dec. 14.

“Santa Cruz County is part of a much larger region, but we do pay attention to what our local hospitals are experiencing,” said county communications manager, Jason Hoppin. Read more of the latest COVID updates from around our county here.

Contact tracing? There’s an app for that

Beginning tomorrow, Californians will have the option to receive smartphone notifications if they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The public app, CA Notify, relies on a tech framework created by Apple and Google that uses Apple and Android phones’ short-range Bluetooth radios to determine when two devices have been near one another for more than 15 minutes. Learn how to download the app here and read about everything you need to know here from our content partner the LA Times.

A vaccine is almost here. What older adults can expect

The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is approaching the finish line with an advisory group to the FDA expected to vote tomorrow on whether to advise the agency to grant emergency-use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S., according to a report by NBC News.

Health officials have said that vulnerable Americans will be the first to receive doses once approval is granted, including seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers. Older adults living at home will need to wait a while longer. Read more about what seniors can expect in the coming weeks from our content partner, Kaiser Health News.

Fire benefit concert a hit!

This Ibanez JS240 signed by Joe Satriani is up for grabs.

A star-studded benefit concert over the weekend sought to help those most impacted by the devastating CZU Lightning Complex fires. And help they did! “Love You Madly,” producer Jon Luini announced yesterday that the live-music streaming event raised more than $76,000, through donations and T-shirt sales after it was viewed more than 62,000 times. Read more about the donations and relive the concert here.

PG&E under fire

Santa Cruz County supervisors are calling for investigations into PG&E’s widespread tree clearing and other work in the wake of the CZU fire, blasting the utility for repeatedly flouting state and local laws and worsening the threat of mudslides. Nancy Macy, chair of the Valley Women’s Club Environmental Committee, told supervisors that PG&E has been misrepresenting its heavy-handed cutting as necessary due to an emergency. “But the emergency was over once they got their power poles back up,” Macy said, “and they kept cutting.” The utility strongly disagrees. Read Nick Ibarra’s report here.

Around the county . . .

Question of the day . . .

A surfer takes on massive swells on Dec. 8, 2020.
A surfer takes on massive swells on Dec. 8, 2020.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Amid the waves crashing on the coast yesterday, it got us to thinking: What’s your favorite Santa Cruz County beach memory? Mark Conley, our deputy managing editor, enlightens us with surfing stories at virtually every morning news meeting. Tell me about your beach memory by emailing me at

That’s it for now. As we publish stories throughout the day, along with bookmarking, one of the easiest ways to stay on top of the latest news is to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor