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Morning Lookout: PVUSD superintendent reflects on tough week, mail delays in Scotts Valley persist and more

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, Feb. 2. It’s going to be rainy today with a high of 58. It’s also Groundhog Day; more on that in a bit.

We’re waking up to a lot of news not only in Santa Cruz County but throughout the region. In Watsonville, reinstated Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez returned to the helm of the county’s largest school district after a whirlwind week in which her father died . . . before she was fired . . . and then reinstated. Our Nick Ibarra talks to her here.

Locally, we’re co-hosting a big, virtual event with the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce on Friday in which our Chris Fusco and Isabella Cueto will interview the mayors of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Watsonville. Speaking of Scotts Valley, complaints about mail delivery there are back in the spotlight.

Regionally, our content partner Inside Climate News looks at how warming waters are affecting the commercial crab fishing industry that’s so important to the Monterey Bay economy. Meanwhile, in the battle of Highway 1 versus the atmospheric river, the weather event definitely won: the iconic roadway will be shut down in the Big Sur area for months. And by the way, if you drive a Tesla, you might want to check out this Reuters report about a recall issued for 135,000 cars in the U.S. due to touch screen issues.

If we can’t go too far south along the coast, let’s at least go into the news:

‘Lucky that my father raised a strong woman’

Michelle Rodriguez returned to work Monday as PVUSD superintendent after being reinstated Sunday night.
Michelle Rodriguez returned to work Monday as PVUSD superintendent after being reinstated Sunday night.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Michelle Rodriguez’s life turned upside down in the span of two days. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District superintendent lost her father — William Gibson, a career superintendent in whose footsteps she followed — on Tuesday. The next day she lost her job. “It truly was the hardest 36 hours of my life,” Rodriguez said, speaking to Lookout a day after she was reinstated in a dramatic reversal late Sunday night. Read Nick Ibarra’s full interview with her here.

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As Scotts Valley mail woes persist, Rep. Eshoo gets involved again

For the second time in a little more than a month, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo has written U.S. Postal Service leaders asking them to fix mail delivery problems in Scotts Valley after receiving complaints from residents. But the post office says there shouldn’t be any more delays because the holiday season is over. Our Patrick Riley has the latest here.

Meet your four mayors and get in the know

Mayors Brooks (Capitola), Dutra (Watsonville), Timm (Scotts Valley) & Meyers (Santa Cruz)
From clockwise upper left, mayors Yvette Brooks (Capitola), Jimmy Dutra (Watsonville), Derek Timm (Scotts Valley) and Donna Meyers (Santa Cruz) will discuss issues facing their communities during the ‘Four Mayors’ event on Friday, Feb. 5.
(Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerice)

What do our area’s top municipal leaders make of the pandemic, economic recovery, climate change and other issues — and how do those issues affect their constituents and the business community? Capitola Mayor Yvette Brooks, Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra, Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers and Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm will sit down virtually with Lookout and the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce at 1 p.m. on Friday for “a collaborative conversation” on the issues facing their communities. Read more and sign up here.

Regional beat

23 miles of Highway 1 near Big Sur are closed: Landslides triggered by the atmospheric river storm last week have caused damage to about 60 points along Highway 1. What’s the best alternate route and how long will repairs take? Our content partner, the LA Times, has more.

As warming oceans bring tough times to California crab fishers, scientists say diversifying is key: California’s Dungeness crab fishermen have had a rough year. Poor meat quality, endangered whales migrating too close to shore and price disputes with wholesalers kept crab pots on boats for nearly two months. The delays left families without their cherished holiday centerpiece and fisherman without the funds that normally pay their bills the rest of the year. But as rising ocean temperatures threaten to make fishery closures routine, it will be even harder to count on crab for holiday meals — or livelihoods. Read more about the climate change impacts on local fishermen and how scientists say they can survive in this story from our content partner, Inside Climate News.

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COVID 2021 Updates

SPECIAL LOOKOUT REPORT: When, where and how will live music return to Santa Cruz? Santa Cruz’s club owners and music producers are confident our music-crazed city will emerge from the pandemic slump, but when, how, and what it will look like remain open questions. Read Wallace Baine’s look at the big issue here.

Cases continue to decrease, but hospitalizations up over weekend: In yet another sign of progress, the number of people recovering from COVID-19 continues to outpace the number of new cases in Santa Cruz County. The number of hospitalized patients increased over the weekend — but overall the downward trend in hospitalizations continues, health officials are reporting. This progression will be put to the test, however, now that California has lifted the stay-at-home order for all regions and new cases of highly-contagious COVID-19 variants are popping up each day. Our Mallory Pickett has more in COVID TODAY.

California teachers union wants schools in ‘purple’ counties to stay closed for 100 days: The California Teachers Association told Gov. Gavin Newsom in a Jan. 27 letter that the union wants schools in counties in the purple tier — including Santa Cruz County — to remain in distance learning for 100 days so that the state can develop a more aggressive plan to slow the spread of the virus and have all school staff vaccinated. Read more about the union’s demands in this story by EdSource.

Around the area . . .

New historical novel explores Watsonville’s Croatian history (The Pajaronian)

Scotts Valley Water District seeks to consolidate with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District (San Lorenzo Valley Post)

About that groundhog . . .

While our wet winter weather continues today — and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, forecasting six more weeks of winter — the National Weather Service says otherwise for us:

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor