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Morning Lookout: New law stops CEQA lawsuits blocking needle programs, who is running for County supervisor

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, October 6 and it will be cloudy with a high of 68.

Legislation signed into law this week will make it so environmental regulations to block free needle programs — possibly impacting one lawsuit blocking a program in Santa Cruz. In local politics, the race to replace Third District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty is heating up with two current Santa Cruz Assemblymembers throwing their hats in the ring. And many Pacific Avenue businesses hope outdoor dining and traffic closures instituted during the pandemic are here to stay. But not everyone agrees.

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New law, signed at critical time for Santa Cruz, will stop CEQA lawsuits blocking needle exchange

The Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County gives away free syringes in nine sizes.
(Rachel Bluth / Kaiser Health News)

Opponents of free needle programs in California are using environmental regulations to shut them down. This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will end that strategy. The new law comes at a critical moment for a program in Santa Cruz. A final court ruling that could determine the fate of the program is expected within days. Read more here.

Santa Cruz’s population is using about the same amount of water in 2021 as in 1981, despite growing by about 30,000...

Race for District 3 Supervisor heats up as Cummings joins Kalantari-Johnson in announcing candidacy

Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Justin Cummings

After Third District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty announced he will step back from the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in 2022, the race is on for the seat he’s held since 2014. Two current Santa Cruz city councilmembers — Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Justin Cummings — have announced their intent to run for the position. Our Grace Stetson has what each plans to bring to the role.

‘Standard-bearers’ Newel and Hall feted with courage award at NYC gala

Gail Newel (left) and Mimi Hall.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Last night, PEN America honored Santa Cruz’s Dr. Gail Newel and Mimi Hall for their courage in speaking openly about death threats they received during the COVID-19 pandemic, all while attempting to protect the community. “In a sea of denialism and pushback against credible science, Mimi Hall and Gail Newel are standard-bearers for everyone who’s on the side of responsible public health messaging.” Read more from Lookout contributor Hanna Merzbach here.

REVISIT THIS STORY: ‘We’re coming for you’: For public health officials in Santa Cruz County, a year of threats and menace (Kaiser Health News)

California is shaking off the worst of the Delta variant surge

Shoppers at Los Cerritos Shopping Center, an indoor mall in Cerritos, on Tuesday, September 27, 2021.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by half from the summer peak, as California continues to steadily, if slowly, shake off the worst of the Delta surge. California reached its summer peak in hospitalizations on the last day of August, when 8,353 people with confirmed COVID-19 were in the state’s hospitals. As of Monday, there were 4,467 people hospitalized. Read more about the current state of the pandemic in California here.

One loophole remains in student COVID-19 vaccination mandate

Ezuma Ekomo Ble, a senior at Milpitas High School, receives her COVID-19 vaccine

California’s recently issued COVID-19 vaccination mandate allows students and staff to opt out for religious or ideological reasons. While a small minority are expected to leave their schools over this mandate, a key lawmaker says he may push legislation to eliminate the personal belief exemption. Read more here.

Learn more about the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) and how to support and connect with this center for...

Newsom approves laws to revamp California’s unemployment benefits system

Gov. Gavin Newsom presents the nation's largest rent relief program as Part of the $100 Billion California Comeback Plan.

Faced with criticism from many Californians thrown out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday gave his approval to a package of bills aimed at reducing delays and fraud in the state’s beleaguered unemployment benefits system. The legislation was signed less than a month after a failed recall attempt in which those seeking to remove Newsom from office cited problems including long waits for unemployment benefits. Read more about the revamp here.

Most Pacific Avenue businesses hoping outdoor dining, road closure will become permanent

A man stands at an intersection on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Though the Santa Cruz City Council approved outdoor dining through the end of 2022, many businesses are hoping the pandemic-inspired venues can be made permanent. But it’s not unanimous, as others are raising concerns about safety and traffic flow. Read more from Lookout contributor Max Chun here.

UC workforce churn: Why a quarter of lecturers don’t return each year

David Walters stands for a portrait at Encino Park in Encino on March 23, 2021.

The UC workforce has a churn problem. About a quarter of the more than 6,000 lecturers at the University of California don’t return annually. Relatively low pay and little job stability are some of the reasons why, a CalMatters analysis shows. If lecturers strike, more than a third of classes will be canceled. Read more here.

Around the county...

SLV baseball program to retire MLB pitcher Tyler Gilbert’s jersey Saturday (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville Prep moves into downtown Gottschalks building (The Pajaronian)

Why Capitola’s Women on Waves is more than just a surf contest (Good Times)

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Lookout Santa Cruz

What started as a simple partnership to provide financial literacy training to Diamond Tech Institute students has...