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Morning Lookout: Big Rail Trail vote, Bookshop workers vote to unionize, inmate’s family files suit

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, Feb. 4. We’re expecting a beautiful sunny day with a high of 61.

You’ve picked a good morning to be getting this newsletter. This morning, we’re the only news organization in Santa Cruz County previewing the big Rail Trail vote today. We’re the only news organization in the county to have the news that Bookshop Santa Cruz workers unionized, a story that broke late last night. We’re also the first in town to provide a complete picture of how many vaccines have been distributed countywide.

Tomorrow, we’ll be interviewing the mayors of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Watsonville in a special live event.

But there’s still a lot going on today, so let’s get right to it:

Rail Trail #BOLO: Pivotal vote will either cement or derail passenger rail’s future on coastal line

A segment of the old branch rail line in Santa Cruz County.
A segment of the old branch rail line in Santa Cruz County.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Yes, it’s another step in the years-long process of deciding how to use the 32-mile old Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, but it’s a BIG step: Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. today to vote on whether a passenger rail line alongside a recreational trail is the best option for the coastal corridor. Our Mallory Pickett and Patrick Riley, with an assist from our Isabella Cueto, break down what it all means here. There’s a lot to unpack on this issue, so here’s all our previous coverage, too:

Be On the Lookout for coverage throughout the day. Sign up to get our breaking news alerts via text message here or by texting “Breaking” to (831) 298-8906.

Presented by Cabrillo College

The show must go on: the performing arts have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabrillo’s Dance,...

Family of Tamario Smith, inmate who died of ‘excessive water consumption’ at Santa Cruz County Jail sues sheriff, others

Tamario Smith
(Courtesy Felicia Smith)

The family of 21-year-old Tamario Smith, who died at the Santa Cruz County Jail last year, has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart and others, alleging “longstanding and systemic deficiencies” in the jail’s treatment of inmates. The 47-page complaint, filed in federal court in San Jose last month, alleges, among other things, that officials failed to supervise Smith, didn’t provide adequate and necessary medical care and neglected to make sure his cell had working emergency buttons to call for help. Read more from our Patrick Riley here.

Workers at iconic Bookshop Santa Cruz vote to unionize

In the early days of Lookout, one of our most-read stories was how Bookshop Santa Cruz employees — amid a pandemic that’s been hard on all businesses — were seeking to unionize to negotiate better wages, health insurance and more with management of the Santa Cruz mainstay. Two months later, the workers on Wednesday voted in favor of unionization, joining the Communications Workers of America and forming CWA Local 9423. Read more from Wallace Baine on this late-breaking news from last night and see the vote count here.

TOMORROW: Meet your four mayors and get in the know

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. You can sign up for the event here.

Celebrate the MAH’s 25th Anniversary with new exhibitions and events happening throughout Santa Cruz County in 2021.

COVID 2021 Updates

LOOKOUT EXCLUSIVE: State says 30K vaccines given here as 8 Bay Area counties decry dearth of doses: The public health officers of eight Bay Area counties, including Santa Cruz County, say they are receiving only a fraction of the vaccines needed to vaccinate residents age 65 and older. At this pace, it could take weeks to vaccinate everyone in that age group, they say. Meanwhile, a long-awaited vaccination distribution report is in, with the state reporting that more than 30,000 vaccine doses have been distributed throughout Santa Cruz County. To put that in perspective, roughly 118,000 doses would be needed to vaccinate everyone in Phase 1a and over the age of 65 here. Read more from this story that Mallory Pickett and I collaborated on here.

#BOLO: County’s weekly press conference: Santa Cruz County’s Public Health Leadership will have their weekly press conference at 2 p.m. today to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout within the county. Be On the Lookout for our alerts later today with links to the livestream and coverage.

VACCINE WATCH | Strong turnout for Santa Cruz County’s first farmworker vaccination clinic gives officials hope: Dignity Health Dominican Hospital and its partners are teaming up for a two-day mass vaccination clinic for local agricultural workers at Casserly Grange Hall in Watsonville. While public health and hospital officials were concerned that some of the farmworker community distrusted the vaccine and feared the process, a strong turnout yesterday is giving them hope. Read more about the mass inoculation clinic and their efforts here.

Schools can safely move to reopen even if teachers are not all vaccinated, Newsom says: Following the CDC director’s comments yesterday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he believes schools can begin to reopen even if all teachers are not yet vaccinated, provided that proper safety measures and supports are in place — although some teachers’ unions have said vaccinations should be a prerequisite to resuming in-person instruction. Read more from our content partner, the LA times here. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city of San Francisco is suing its own school district to force it to reopen schools.

ANOTHER COVID READ: Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic? Chef Enzo’s patisserie to test Santa Cruzans’ appetite for high-end desserts

Around the county . . .

Capitola city manager talks hiring as four new staffers come on board, three are being recruited (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Police search for UC Santa Cruz student missing since December (KION-TV)

Agencies join forces for Pajaro levee project (The Pajaronian)

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

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