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Morning Lookout: Political legacy of the Coonertys, anger over killer’s sentence, stuck in orange

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, April 28, and today, it’ll be sunny with a high of 71.

We’ve got a lot to unpack:

SENTENCED: A years-long saga ended that reverberated in Santa Cruz and beyond ended with Adrian Gonzalez being sentenced in the 2015 rape and murder of 8-year-old Maddy Middleton. But the little girl’s family and friends are outraged over the outcome.

STEPPING DOWN: Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty is announcing he will not seek reelection when his term comes to an end next year. In the wake of the news, our Wallace Baine examines the Coonerty family’s long-armed business and political impact.

STUCK IN ORANGE: Had COVID trends remained steady from last week, today we would be waking up to being in the least-restrictive yellow tier today, allowing businesses to further expand reopening. But, we missed it by a hair.

Here’s more on those headlines and everything else:

The Coonerty family’s political legacy Santa Cruz County amid supervisor shocker

Ryan Coonerty
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Coonerty won’t seek reelection: Santa Cruz County Third District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty — whose district stretches from 7th Avenue in Live Oak up along the North Coast — won’t be seeking reelection for a third term next year. Read more about the bombshell announcement from our Patrick Riley here.

THE HERE & NOW: Building blocks of the Coonerty political dynasty? A bookshop, an earthquake, condoms and Rush Limbaugh: Ryan Coonerty is by no means the only member of his family to have been a mainstay in local politics. In wake of his news, our Wallace Baine talked to his father, Neal, about the “beginning of the era.” He writes:

As news broke that his son would not seek a third term, I called Neal to reflect on his and Ryan’s dual careers. When I reminded him that Ryan’s departure might be the end of the line for Coonertys in elective office, he reminded me, “well, my sister (Sheila Coonerty) is still on the school board,” laughing. “But, look, I’m glad (Ryan) made the decision.”

Read more from our Wallace Baine about the history and impact of the family in Santa Cruz County here.

Over the years, programs at Life Lab have emerged into one of the premier educational resources for gardening in the...

IN HIS OWN WORDS: ‘It’s the right time.’ Read Coonerty’s note to his constituents announcing the news

‘You stole my joy’: Maddy Middleton’s mom, others decry sentence that sets up girl’s killer for release at 25

Madyson Middleton’s mother, Laura Jordan
Madyson Middleton’s mother, Laura Jordan, weeps in court as the girl’s father, Michael Middleton, reads his statement in court on Tuesday
(Shmuel Thaler / Santa Cruz Sentinel (Pool Photographer) )

Maddy Middleton’s mother, Laura Jordan, was among family members who delivered gut-wrenching victim impact statements yesterday in court. “You stole my joy, my ability to laugh sincerely, leaving me with utter and complete hopelessness,” Jordan said to 21-year-old Adrian Gonzalez who was handed down the maximum penalty allowed under juvenile law for sexually assaulting and killing Maddy in 2015. Read more about what transpired in the courtroom — and why Gonzalez will spend only 3.5 more years behind bars here.

‘It’s a joke’: Maddy Middleton’s family, community members decry sentence: While Patrick Riley was inside the courtroom, photojournalist Kevin Painchaud and I were outside, talking to the more than two dozen protesters and community members who had gathered there. Some carried signs blasting the legislation — and the local lawmakers who helped approve it — that prevented Gonzalez from being charged and sentenced as an adult. We also spoke to Maddy’s parents and grandmother. Read what they had to say here.

Local beat

A parking meter near Main Beach in Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz Main Beach parking rates to increase Sunday as city prepares for tourist season: New, higher parking rates will kick in around Santa Cruz’s Main Beach area come Sunday, May 1, according to an ordinance finalized by the city council yesterday. The last time the city council increased meter rates around Main Beach was in August 2019. Read more about what beach-goers will be paying this summer here.

#BOLO: Santa Cruz city officials mull solutions for West Cliff coastal erosion: West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz’s most iconic stretch of land-meets-sea, has not been immune to the effects of climate change — and those impacts are only expected to worsen in coming decades. In preparation, the city has built a 10- to 15-year adaptation plan, which was approved yesterday by city council. Be On the Lookout on our website later today for more on that plan.

#BOLO: Developments on Rail Trail: Last night, Watsonville city leaders approved plans to discuss on Friday a resolution in support of the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission’s business plan for construction of the 32-mile Rail Trail. Be On the Lookout on our website for more details on that story later today.

Santa Cruz is still in the orange tier this morning. Here’s why

Outdoor dining has resumed in Santa Cruz County, and a move to the red tier would allow for limited indoor seating, too.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

After meeting the criteria to move to the state’s least restrictive set of COVID-19 restrictions last week, a small increase in cases has set Santa Cruz County back for at least two more weeks. The county met the criteria for the least restrictive yellow tier last week, and if trends continued, we would have moved into that tier today. Instead, the case rate increased slightly and Santa Cruz missed the threshold by just a hair. Our Mallory Pickett explains more.

#BOLO: Some of you have sent us notes about the New York Times COVID-19 tracker that shows that Santa Cruz County is among a few California counties with highest COVID case rates. Our Mallory Pickett is working to figure out what’s going on. Be On the Lookout on our website later today for her story.

Recall Newsom updates

FILE: California Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom meet with people in an undated photo.
FILE: California Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom meet with people in an undated photo.
(Image from California Governor website)

Facebook, Google, other corporate giants flooded Newsom with record $226 million in charity donations in 2020: Facebook, Google and Blue Shield of California are among the companies that contributed $226 million to government causes on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s behalf last year, an unprecedented level of spending that is raising alarms about the influence large corporations are amassing in Sacramento. State records show that so-called “behested payments” surged in 2020 and the governor’s haul was six times as much as that reported by former Gov. Jerry Brown during his final eight years in office combined. Read more from our partners at the LA Times here.

READ ALSO: Recall 101 | Who wants to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom, how much will it cost — and other recall questions, answered (LA Times)

MORE POLITICAL NEWS: Capitol rioter who posed inside Pelosi’s office is released from D.C. jail (Politico)

Thomas Sage Pedersen dives in deep with Arts Council Santa Cruz County’s Executive Director, Jim Brown, and Deputy...

A little Lookout fun…

Neil Strebig will join the Lookout Santa Cruz news team on May 17.
(Courtesy Neil Strebig)

We’re expanding! Meet Neil, Lookout’s soon-to-arrive business and tech reporter: Neil Strebig is a Pennsylvania journalist who has covered everything from food and e-sports to business and government. He will be joining Lookout Santa Cruz through Report for America, a national program that — like us — aims to fill the void caused by a collapse in local news coverage. Neil, a former chef, will be coming to Santa Cruz from York, Pennsylvania, where he’s worked since 2018. He will start covering business and technology on May 17. Read more about the newest member of our team here.

FREE EVENT: Top chefs to chop it up with Lookout: Join us for ‘Santa Cruz Eats!’ Enough with those carry-out containers! With a full reopening on the horizon in June, Lookout has assembled a trio of top chefs to discuss their survival skills amid the pandemic and, more importantly, their plans for serving people who are hungry for social interaction, ambiance, and, of course, good food and drink. Damani Thomas, owner and chef at Oswald; Brad Briske, co-owner and chef of HOME in Soquel; and Gema Cruz, chef at Gabriella Cafe, will join Lookout for a virtual conversation.

When: 6 p.m. on May 4
Where: Zoom
Cost: FREE
Click here to register for the event.

Around the county …

HSI: Former UCSC student who used app to sell drugs sentenced to prison (KION-TV)

Man faces attempted murder charges in Watsonville shooting (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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