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Morning Lookout: Meet the county’s new public defender; downtown coming back to life

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, September 21 and it’s going to be a HOT one with highs in the 90s.

Climate change will be top of mind on the international stage today as President Joe Biden addresses the United Nations. Here at home, firefighters’ frantic efforts appeared to have paid off in saving some of the oldest giants in Sequoia National Park from blazing wildfire.

But first, the county has a new public defender:

Heather Rogers sees natural fit as county’s first public defender: ‘I was immediately drawn to this work’

Heather Rodgers, Santa Cruz County's first public defender.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Heather Rogers, a Santa Cruz native who’s worked in public defense for over 17 years, has been selected as the county’s first official public defender. “Every case is important to the people involved in it, from the families to the witnesses to the community ... every time you pick up a file and meet another person, it’s really important to get everything needed to give that person an exceptional and compassionate defense,” she said. Read more about Rogers from our Grace Stetson here.

‘The energy to adapt quickly’: Some had it, some didn’t as downtown Santa Cruz slowly comes back to life

A vaccination sign hangs in Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz )

Business closures related to the pandemic hit downtown Santa Cruz hard: Approximately 30 retail shops have closed their doors since March 2020. But 15 new businesses have opened, while several others have reopened, moved to the area or are coming soon. Read more from our Neil Strebig and Max Chun here.

Wildfires and climate change

President Joe Biden

Biden to urge action on climate change and the pandemic at U.N. today: President Biden will try to reassure allies that the United States will not turn its back on global commitments during his first speech at the United Nations today as he pushes for more cooperation on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. Read more here.

September 15, 2021: Flames burn through brush on a hillside near the entrance station to Sequoia National Park
Flames burn through brush near the entrance to Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers as the KNP Complex fire threatens the area. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The firefighting strategies that saved some of the world’s largest sequoias: When wildfire raced toward Sequoia National Park’s largest concentration of giant sequoias, officials sprang into action. The frenzied rescue efforts speak to new worries over the fate of California’s towering trees. Many are concerned that the state’s new breed of faster, hotter and larger wildfires could upend the delicate ecological balance that has allowed the giants to thrive for centuries. Read more here.

COVID 2021

Ellie sits in her room with a behavioral therapist during class time in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021.

Students with disabilities across California stuck in limbo: Across the state, after more than a year of distance learning during which students with disabilities fell behind disproportionately, districts have not yet been able to make sufficient accommodations to provide instruction. Meanwhile, the legislators who designed the recently passed independent study laws say this form of remote learning might not be able to accommodate all students’ needs. Read more here.

Rebeka Small, right, hugs Jennifer Galperson before the Yom Kippur service

California has the lowest coronavirus rate in the nation. Here’s what we know: The state has been among the national leaders in lowest case rates for the past week, as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to drop. California’s new case rate per 100,000 people is less than half of neighboring states, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more here.

ANOTHER COVID READ: Is my cloth mask good enough to face the Delta variant? (Kaiser Health News)

Around the county...

Mother charged with attempted murder in crash that plunged into Monterey Bay (KSBW-TV)

Watsonville Airport business files complaint against city to federal agency (The Pajaronian)

As drought worsens, local agencies seek ambitious water solutions (Good Times)

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Lookout Santa Cruz

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