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Morning Lookout: PVUSD trustees censure Acosta, Rail Trail draft roadmap and more

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, March 25, and we’re expecting a high of 60 with intermittent clouds.

Late last night, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees issued an official reprimand against its former board president Georgia Acosta — the latest in a series of dramatic events that have dogged PVUSD leadership for the past three months. Meanwhile, a new draft roadmap for another hotly debated topic — the Rail Trail — was released by planners yesterday revealing a large hole in funding for the project.

That’s only the beginning of our big local news day.

Let’s jump right into the headlines:

PVUSD trustees censure former president Acosta, reveal email that expands questions about superintendent saga

PVUSD board president Georgia Acosta leads Sunday's meeting.
PVUSD board president Georgia Acosta leads Sunday’s meeting.
(PVUSD livestream screengrab)

PVUSD rustees censured former board president Georgia Acosta late last night, citing a litany of issues related to the brief firing of the district’s superintendent — including a newly revealed email about what might have happened behind the scenes. The censure, constituting an official reprimand, was part of a 3-page resolution that cited the email and and potential policy violations involving Acosta. Our Nick Ibarra has the latest on the email and everything else from last night’s meeting here.

Rail Trail business plan reveals funding gaps, potential private partnerships. The debate? Status quo

An image of Coradia iLint, a hydrogen fuel cell powered train
An image of Coradia iLint, a hydrogen fuel cell powered train, one of the passenger rail types being explored for the Santa Cruz Branch Line.
(Alstom Coradia iLint)

Transportation planners on Wednesday released a roadmap for Santa Cruz County’s much-debated Rail Trail proposal but acknowledged that significant funding gaps remain for the controversial project.. The draft business plan outlines potential funding sources for a passenger rail line that, if everything falls into place, would see its first passengers in 2035. Read more about the potential funding sources — and what supporters and critics are saying — from our Mallory Pickett and Patrick Riley here.

Local beat

Santa Cruz City Council wrap-up: Highway 1 encampment update, street vending changes, vaccinations & more: Besides the plan to expand the boundaries of Downtown, we have new details on the future of the encampment for the unsheltered at Highways 1 & 9, Beach Street vending changes, a call for more Downtown artwork, and a request for COVID-19 vaccinations of essential workers. Read more from our Isabella Cueto’s reporter’s notebook here.

Community survey, cannabis tax cut, budget: The latest from the Watsonville City Council: Consultants hired by Watsonville leaders to survey residents have revealed that the results show a generational gap in the perception of how residents feel about the work done by the city. Meanwhile, council members also approved a tax cut for the cannabis industry and began a discussion of a two-year budget plan that will be finalized over the next few months. Isa has the latest from Watsonville here.

Happening today

Distemper rising: Get low-cost vaccines and microchip your pets from the animal shelter

Opening night at the ‘new’ Santa Cruz Cinema. Here’s what you need to know

Back-to-school in the pandemic

Santa Cruz County school districts ‘confident’ in full return this fall after distancing guidelines eased: School districts across Santa Cruz County expect to be fully open for in-person instruction in the fall, officials announced Wednesday — so long as the spread of COVID-19 remains low. Read more from Nick here.

California lags behind most states in offering fully in-person instruction, new data show: California is one of the slowest states to invite students back for fully in-person instruction amid the pandemic, data released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education shows. We’ve got the latest from EdSouce here.

GET YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED | School reopenings in Santa Cruz County: When it comes to education post-pandemic, parents, educators and students have endless questions. So Lookout, in partnership with Event Santa Cruz, is giving you a chance to run yours by two top Santa Cruz County Office of Education officials: Superintendent Faris Sabbah and Director of School Safety Jennifer Buesing.

When: 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30
Where: Zoom
Cost: FREE
Register and submit your questions ahead of time here.

#BOLO — Rallies and COVID updates

Rallies: In-home support services (IHSS) and nursing home workers in Santa Cruz will gather today as part of a national day of action. The first IHSS rally will focus on wage increases for workers at 9 a.m. at IHSS Santa Cruz. A second rally will be at 11 a.m. by the workers of Heart & Hands assisted living facility who “are going back to the table to demand respect for workers’ choice to unionize and bargain in good faith.”

Press conference: Santa Cruz County Public Health officials will hold their weekly press conference this afternoon to provide an update on the state of the pandemic and the vaccine. Today’s 2 p.m. press conference comes as we are on track to move to the orange tier of restrictions in less than a week.

Be On the Lookout on our website today for updates on each of these stories.

A compelling read on a horrible tragedy

This week’s killing of 10 people, including the father of a Monterey Bay area journalist, at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store is again shaking a nation grappling with gun violence. Among their comprehensive coverage, our friends at The Colorado Sun — a news organization we’ve learned a lot from in our early days here at Lookout — are now chronicling the effect of the shooting’s aftermath on everyday people, writing in part “in vicarious trauma, people are hurt in a real way by learning of the hurt of others.” It’s a story we hope we’ll never have to write in Santa Cruz County, but one you should read nonetheless here.

Most middle school children in Watsonville have benefited from a visit to the Watsonville Wetlands. It’s a non-profit...

Around the state…

Assemblymember Rob Bonta. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Assemblymember Rob Bonta.
(Anne Wernikoff / CalMatters)

Rob Bonta named California attorney general, would be first Filipino American in role: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday appointed Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta as California attorney general, picking a leading advocate for criminal justice reform who has campaigned to abolish the death penalty and eliminate cash bail for many offenses. If confirmed by the state Legislature, Bonta, a resident of Alameda, will be the first Filipino American to serve as California attorney general, having also set the milestone for the state Assembly when he was elected in 2012. Read more about Bonta from our partners at the LA Times here.

Gov. Newsom and legislators have lots of money to spend, few strings attached: It’s a good kind of problem to have. During the last cataclysmic recession, California’s state government was forced to cleave billions from its budget to close an historic deficit. This year, thanks to a very unequal economic downturn and a tax code that relies on the wealthy, the state is swimming in cash, even during the pandemic. How to spend it all? Read more from our partners at CalMatters here.

Around the county…

Disruptive Santa Cruz bridge seismic project within sight (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville receives large grant for pedestrian highway overpass to PV High (The Pajaronian)

Felton Music Hall and Roaring Camp team up for summer concert series (Good Times)

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