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Morning Lookout: Watsonville votes out Washington, Santa Cruz City grapples with dried up revenue and more

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, Feb. 10. Enjoy your mostly sunny day with a high of 59 because tomorrow, the National Weather Service is forecasting all-day rain that will stick around through Friday morning.

Our Isabella Cueto stayed up late last night to cover the fate of the George Washington statue in Watsonville City Plaza after digesting a dire financial report from the Santa Cruz City Council in the afternoon. As is the case around the country, Santa Cruz County is grappling with when — and how — to get teachers vaccinated to ease fears about school reopenings, and our Nick Ibarra and Patrick Riley report that significant progress is being made here. Also, JUST IN from the county, the Santa Cruz County Workforce Development Board has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to fund the employment of workers who are unemployed or underemployed due to the CZU Lightning complex fires. #BOLO for that story on our website later today. In state politics, President Joe Biden is trying to come to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s rescue.

We’ve got two excellent pandemic-related resources for you to browse this morning: Where to get a vaccine (when it’s your turn) in Santa Cruz County and this one-stop shop with answers to all of your ‘Ask Lookout’ questions that we’ve been able to answer to date.

LAST DAY: You’ve been a valuable part of our news community, and we want to thank you with a special discount to become a Lookout member. Starting tomorrow, we’ll start limiting the number of free articles non-members can read, and we want to make sure you don’t miss out. Rest assured, my Morning Lookout and all our other newsletters and text alerts will still be free.

To get a 10% discount — our best offer on membership — use this link and enter the code THANKS where you see “Have a discount code?” The offer is good through midnight.

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#BOLO: Be On the Lookout for an announcement today about another FREE virtual Lookout event, this one focused on the “People in the Pandemic” series that’s part of our COVID 2021 initiative.

Now to the headlines:

Bye, George (sort of): Watsonville to move Washington bust from City Plaza

A bust of George Washington in the Watsonville City Plaza in February 2021.
A bust of George Washington in the Watsonville City Plaza. On Feb. 9, 2021, the city council voted on what to do with the statue after calls in 2020 for the bust — considered by some a symbol of white supremacy — to be removed.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

A bust of founding father and slave owner George Washington will be moved from Watsonville City Plaza and into the Watsonville Public Library, where it will have a bilingual plaque with a more comprehensive history of who Washington was, the city council decided 5-2 shortly before midnight on Tuesday. The council’s action comes amid a wave of similarly heated debates sweeping the country about what to do with statues of historical figures, especially ones who owned slaves. Read more from our Isabella Cueto’s here — and #BOLO for updates this morning.

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Santa Cruz once got $2.6 million a year in festival admissions tax. Now, it’s on pace to get less than $100,000

COVID ECONOMY WATCH: Santa Cruz is bracing for a stormy financial future as a result of the pandemic, which has dried up several of the city’s major sources of revenue. Before the pandemic, the city collected millions each year from an admissions tax on festivals, movie theaters, museums and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park, among other attractions. But as of midway through its 2020-2021 fiscal year, the city had only received $37,000 from that tax. Amid the turmoil, some of Santa Cruz’s expenses have gone up, too. Learn more in Isa’s report.

Biden comes to Newsom’s aid

Biden opposes effort to recall Newsom, White House says: With efforts to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom ramping up, President Joe Biden is now weighing in. The White House said yesterday that Biden “clearly opposes” the ongoing recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom, adding to a growing chorus of Democrats voicing support for California’s governor in recent days. Read more from our content partner the LA Times here.

Biden’s public support of his fellow Democrat comes after two public opinion polls found that Newsom’s job approval rating among California voters has declined sharply, driven largely by discontent over the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And if you’re still confused about the whole effort, here’s a great explainer from our content partner CalMatters.

MORE: As state attorney general job morphs post-Trump, who will be Newsom’s pick? (CalMatters)

COVID 2021 Updates

We rank ninth. Can you believe it? Santa Cruz County ranks ninth-highest in California in terms of per capita vaccine distribution, with 14,608 doses administered per 100,000 residents, according to a slide displayed at a Santa Cruz City Council meeting yesterday. While that is positive, there’s still a long way to go, as only about 11.5% of Santa Cruz County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 2% have also received a second dose. Read more latest updates in our COVID Today blog here.

EXCLUSIVE: Kindergarten teacher vaccinations set table for more formal school plan: The bulk of Santa Cruz County’s kindergarten teachers were expected to receive the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by the end of yesterday, laying the key groundwork for a wider return to in-person learning. As health officials are prioritizing people who are 65 and up, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education is turning to private health networks to get teachers vaccinated. Read more about how inoculations are being conducted for teachers here — and what that might mean for school reopening.

RELATED: A look at teacher vaccination around the state: Much is being determined by location, luck (CalMatters)

Where to get a vaccine (when it’s your turn) in Santa Cruz County: The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been confusing and frustrating for many, as state and local public health officials send mixed, often-changing messages. In an effort to provide Santa Cruz County residents more clarity, county officials on Tuesday provided a breakdown of all the places a person might go to get vaccinated. We have that laid out for you in guide form here.

ANOTHER READ: As mass-vaccination site launches at Levi’s Stadium, Newsom decries lack of supply (LA Times)

BE IN THE KNOW: You can keep track of all daily vaccine and COVID-19 news in our expanded COVID 2021 section and to stay on top of things as they happen, sign up for my colleague Mark’s COVID-19 newsletter and text alerts here or just text “Covid” to (831) 508-7524.

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Around the county . . .

Santa Cruz man to stand trial in county analyst’s death (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Arte del Corazón brings open-air exhibits to Watsonville (The Pajaronian)

Central Fire appoints new chief, finalizes merger with Aptos/La Selva (Good Times)

A little nonsense . . .

Also, while I live and work here now, I still keep up with Texas news every now and then. If you want a laugh, a poor, tech-unsavvy Texas lawyer broke the internet yesterday when he got stuck in Zoom kitten filter hell. Worth a look if you want a chuckle with your cheerios.

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.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

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