• Cameron Douglas

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    Worms in the spotlight: wiggling their way to better gardening

    by Cameron Douglas

    Banana peels, carrot skins, apple cores, lettuce scraps. A healthy diet can generate a healthy amount of trash. Generations ago, people disposed this refuse in basement incinerators. That practice was identified as a source of air pollution. Then came the in-sink garbage disposal machine. That can be a source of water pollution and a cause of plumbing problems. Of course, a lot of food scrap goes to the garbage dump to be placed in landfills — along with plastic and other non-biodegradable materials.

    IMG_0023Recently, the focus on what to do with trash has shifted to a different approach called worm composting, or vermicomposting, where nature is simply allowed to take its course. It’s actually a very old method. Many families are processing food waste right at home via worm composting, a very earthy practice that has come back into vogue.
    In essence, worms are housed in dirt-filled bins where they digest garbage. Their castings blend with the dirt to produce a potent soil that plants love. Fruits and vegetables grown in this rich soil are consumed, and the scraps go back to compost.
    There are countless resources for advice on vermicomposting, but it comes down to a few basic steps:

    1. Make or obtain a suitable worm bin.
    2. Build your ecosystem. This is where you select the best worms for your purpose, and then mimic what happens in nature.
    3. Maintain and harvest compost. This takes patience as the first batch comes slowly, but it gets easier after that.

    Do’s and don’ts
    While worms will digest meat scraps, meat is generally blamed for noxious compost odors, and most composters avoid putting meat in the mix. Bread and other grains are fine, along with tea leaves, coffee grounds and eggshells. It’s always good to process your scraps into smaller pieces before mixing them in with the worm bedding.
    There are some strict “don’ts” in the art of worm composting, mostly having to do with things that are harmful to the worms or difficult for them to digest. Prohibited items are:

    • Excess citrus. No more than 1/5 the total worm food.
    • Meats or fish.
    • Fats or excessively oily scraps.
    • Dairy products (rinsed egg shells are OK).
    • Cat or dog feces.
    • Twigs or branches.

    IMG_0031Getting set up
    Worm composting bins are for sale through many resources such as Wal-Mart and available for order through Amazon. There are indoor composters, outdoor composters, and all-around composters, ranging in price from $29 to $200. Compost bins can also be built at home. Many prefer wood for its ability to absorb excess moisture, which, in turn, protects the worms. However, the worms will eventually eat the wood. The advice is to never use chemically treated wood. Rubber lasts just about forever and is a great material for compost bins. Some people fashion them out of stacks of old tires. Galvanized metal is good. Plastic will crack but can be used in a pinch.

    IMG_0034Of course, the worms are important. Simply digging up anonymous earthworms from the yard is not recommended. Several varieties of worms are bred and sold commercially for vermicomposting. The most common is the red wiggler, Eisenia fetida. These have a healthy appetite, reproduce quickly and can eat more than half their body weight each day.
    Eisenia hortensis, also known as European night crawlers, make a good second choice. They don’t reproduce as fast as red wigglers, but can digest cardboard. Night crawlers seem a little heartier, and make good bait for fishing when full grown. A pound of worms is a good start, and that will usually number 1,000 individuals.
    It is important to prevent these special worms from escaping into the wild, where, as an invasive species, they can upset the balance of hardwood forests by consuming too much leaf litter too quickly.
    The worms themselves can be purchased online. For that matter, the finished compost can be ordered for those who desire the benefit without the work. A simple Google search under “worm composting” turns up an impressive 1,000,000+ results.
    Ambitious composters are brewing special “compost tea” that serves as a powerful fuel for plant growth. Compost tea is regarded by many as a better alternative to chemicals and fertilizers.

    Ten things you may not know about earthworms
    Depending on soil quality, there are between 250,000 and 1.75 million worms present per acre of land. The more worms, the higher the soil quality.

    1. Worms can process up to ten pounds of organic material per worm per year.
    2. Charles Darwin noted the ability of worms to bury things — even buildings — into the ground as they soften and turn the soil.
    3. Earthworms are hermaphrodites (possessing both male and female sex organs). When two worms mate, both produce new worms.
    4. Earthworms can survive the loss of a body segment, and some can even become two worms if the damage is not too great.
    5. Earthworms not only work tirelessly throughout their lives cultivating and fertilizing soil for plants, but are also an important part of the food chain. They are a staple for birds, beetles, bears, and many others.
    6. South African earthworms grow to an average of six feet long, with some as long as 22 feet.
    7. Earthworms breathe through their skin, which is why they will surface if the ground is soaked after a rain.
    8. Earthworms have no eyes but can sense light, which they need to avoid.
    9. Fossil evidence shows earthworms have been around for at least half a billion years, surviving the mass extinction 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs.


    Send comments and suggestions for future Green Pages to: cameron@cedarstreettimes.com/

    Squirrel power: busy rodents have undeniable appeal

    by Cameron Douglas

    standing squirrel CMYKThey’re cute, lively and downright entertaining: chattering between each other, scampering across tree branches, darting along the ground, and occasionally testing your reflexes behind the wheel. Squirrels are the quintessential lovable rodent, endearing themselves to humans with just a twitch of their tails.

    Squirrels are part of the family Sciuridae, a large group that includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. The earliest squirrels go back to the Eocene Period, and are most closely related to the mountain beaver and dormouse. More than 200 species of squirrels live in every continent on Earth with the exceptions of Australia and Antarctica.

    The word “squirrel” was first specified in 1327. It came from the Anglo-Norman esquirel from the Old French escurel. Going farther back, the Latin word sciurus was borrowed from the ancient Greek sciouros, meaning “shadow-tailed,” a reference to the specie’s characteristic appendage.

    Ground and tree squirrels are diurnal, while most flying squirrels are nocturnal. Ground squirrels are social while tree squirrels are more the loner type, interacting mostly with mates. The eastern gray squirrel is one of few mammals that can descend a tree head first. They do this by turning the rear paws to face backward — the same as raccoons do. All squirrels have claws that are well suited to climbing and clinging to branches. The tail acts as a rudder to hold course or swerve as needed.
    Tree squirrels typically live in the hollows of trees, or in nests they construct of leaves, twigs and grass that are laid into the crooks of tree branches. The occupants may remain in their homes for several days during cold weather.
    Squirrels breed once or twice a year, birthing from two to eight offspring. Babies are born naked, toothless and blind. The mother will generally care for them, weaning after six to ten weeks. A squirrel lives five to ten years. Most urban squirrels never see their first birthday, due to their inexperience and poor judgment regarding the speed of oncoming automobiles. Nevertheless, squirrel populations are robust.

    Squirrels are unable to digest cellulose. Because of this, they mostly depend on a diet of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Nuts are of course a favorite squirrel snack. In temperate zones, springtime is difficult for squirrels because buried nuts begin to sprout and therefore are not available for eating, while new food sources aren’t ready yet. During these times, squirrels may depend on the buds of trees. Their diet also includes seeds, conifer cones, fruit, fungi, and some green vegetation. Faced with hunger, squirrels will consume meat from various sources.
    The thirteen-lined ground squirrel will actually hunt. In the 1920’s, a researcher named Bailey observed a thirteen-lined squirrel preying on a chicken. Others have been seen consuming freshly killed snakes. Birds, lizards and smaller rodents are occasionally at risk from a marauding squirrel.
    Squirrels themselves are prey to a wide variety of predators, with little in the way of defenses other than flight. Groups of ground squirrels sometimes warn each other of danger with a whistling call.
    Like other rodents, squirrels have four front teeth that never stop growing. This works well because squirrels never stop gnawing on things. Their chisel-shaped front teeth can cut into the shells of nuts. Holding the nut in its front paws, the squirrel either gnaws the nut or, keeping its jaws still, twirls the nut against its teeth.

    Any wild animal can carry infectious diseases. Last July, part of the Table Mountain campground in the Angeles National Forest closed after a squirrel that had been trapped tested positive for the plague (usually referred to as bubonic plague). There were no reports of human infection. Human cases of the plague are rare and treatable with antibiotics.

    Here at home, Pacific Grove Animal Control Officer Liz Conti-Yeo reports some of our local squirrels have had mild diseases in the past such as mange, but the population currently appears healthy.
    Squirrels face another danger that has a subsequent impact on human existence — they can cause electrical power outages. It happens when a hapless squirrel touches an energized component, such as the cylindrical transformer at the top of a pole, and a grounded piece of equipment. The ensuing squirrel flambé can knock out power for a few seconds or several hours. Electrical grids are usually able to handle a brief short-circuit like this if the poor creature is thrown clear. If not, then it’s lights out. Last April in Tampa, a “squirrelectrocution” cut service to 700 people. Jon Mooallem, a New York Times columnist, has tracked these events and counts 24 such instances since Memorial Day. Fifteen hundred people went without power in Mason City, Iowa; another 1500 lost electricity in Roanoke, Virginia. Also 5,000 customers in Clackamas County, Oregon. And a total of 10,000 Kentuckians in two instances just a few days apart. Mooallem adds that in 1987 a squirrel shut down the NASDAQ for 82 minutes.
    As with any wild animal, if you observe a squirrel in distress, contact the SPCA or your local animal control officer.
    Send comments or suggestions for future Green Pages to: cameron@cedarstreettimes.com/

    Giving back: Local entrepreneur shares his good fortune

    by Cameron Douglas

    mandoCMYKMidday on a Sunday: Rich chords from a Spanish guitar resound inside a modest restaurant on Fountain Avenue in Pacific Grove. Dancers are dressed in traditional flamenco garb: ladies in bright, flowing dresses, men wearing black. Performers chat with restaurant guests and explain the dances’ histories and meanings. There’s a warm, relaxed feeling in the room as people enjoy each other’s company. It’s one of many ways Mando’s Mexican Restaurant serves the community.

    Mando’s is nearing a three-year anniversary, having opened in September 2010. The owner, Armando Cruz, comes from humble beginnings. Born in Barcelona, Cruz grew up in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He came to California and picked grapes in the fields near Fresno. The tremendous heat of California’s Central Valley took him by surprise. “I wanted to go back [to Oaxaca],” Cruz says, “but I had no more money.” Read more…»

    Otters to the Rescue

    by Cameron Douglas

    otters hold handsCMYKNearly driven to extinction in the early twentieth century, sea otters are not only enjoying healthier numbers but are also on a sort of instinctive crusade to help save the planet. A recent study has shown otters to be a crucial link in the chain of balance that occurs in estuaries.

    Citing research by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the BBC reported last month that re-introduction of sea otters to the estuary at Elkhorn Slough (near Moss Landing) apparently has had a positive effect on marine vegetation, specifically sea grass. A group of scientists studied the increase and decline of sea grass at Elkhorn over the past 50 years. The only reason they could find for the recent recovery of sea grass at the slough is the presence of sea otters, which were recently re-introduced to the area.

    Sea grass suffers from agricultural runoff that gets into the seabed, mostly nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Algae that goes unchecked grows to excess in this environment. The sea grass that does grow is deprived of sunlight when the algae starts growing on the leaves of the sea grass. Nature has a balance with tiny invertebrates that eat the algae. Just one problem: crabs feed on those invertebrates. If there are no invertebrates to consume the algae then the sea grass dies back.

    The researchers suggested this is where sea otters come to the rescue. Otters eat the crabs, freeing the invertebrates to do their job on the algae, and so the sea grass can thrive.

    It’s a complex chain of events; so to make sure, the researchers did comparison studies at similar estuaries with and without sea otters, and backed that up with lab and field experiments, which included blocking otters’ access to areas where sea grass was growing. The results confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis.

    Sea grass is regarded as the “canary in the coal mine” in terms of predicting levels of adverse nutrients in the water. Sea grass serves other purposes. It acts as a nursery habitat for many species of fish, while it also uses CO2 from the air and water, potentially helping with climate change. In addition, sea grass helps protect the stability of the shoreline much the same as coral and kelp.

    Since otters were re-introduced to Elkhorn a year ago, the sea grass there has recovered considerably. Brent Hughes, lead author of the study, states that Elkhorn has a heavy load of pollution coming into it — more than most systems in world — “yet you can still get this healthy, thriving habitat, and it’s all because of the sea otters…it’s almost like these sea otters are fighting the effects of poor water quality.”

    Hughes hopes that coastal managers can benefit from this research and better understand the broader effects of sea otters.

    Things you otter know…

    Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are native marine mammals of the northern and eastern Pacific Ocean. Unlike other marine mammals, the otter’s primary insulation comes from its exceptionally thick coat of fur (up to 150,000 strands of hair per cubic centimeter), the densest in the entire animal kingdom. They are the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals. Otters can walk on land, but it’s a rare sight and they generally stick to the water.

    Sea otters like to cruise near the shoreline, diving to the sea floor for food. A sea otter uses rocks to dislodge prey and open shells, making it one of few mammal species that use tools. It can be difficult to think of these furry, pixie-faced critters as predators, but technically they are. Otters prey mostly on sea urchins, mollusks, crustaceans and some species of fish. An otter must consume an estimated 25 to 38 percent of its own body weight each day to burn enough calories to offset body heat loss from the cold Pacific water. Otters have large kidneys that can process fresh water from salt water, allowing the otter to drink directly from the ocean.

    seagrass-scarTheir educated pallet sometimes leads them into occasional conflict with humans when the otter steals a tasty catch. It gets worse when groups of otters are attracted to fisheries and fishing boats. However, gunshots and conflicts with fisheries make up only a tiny percentage of sea otter deaths, most of which are caused by shark bites, starvation, diseases, and the leading cause of otter deaths, worms.

    The sea otter population is estimated to have been between 150,000-300,000 before they were hunted for their fur from 1741 to 1911. At that point there were only 1,000-2,000 individuals left, living in a fraction of the wide range they once occupied. An international ban on hunting, along with conservation efforts and reintroduction helped the population to recover and occupy about two thirds of their original range. This is considered an important success in marine conservation; however, otter numbers have declined again in the Aleutian Islands and California. Sea otters are still classified an endangered species.

    Rockin’ raccoons

    by Cameron Douglas

    They leave their calling card in almost any neighborhood: overturned garbage cans, ripped-open trash bags, and shredded food on the ground. These are sure signs that raccoons have paid a visit, and it’s rarely a surprise. Raccoons are as common as ants in this country. These furry, masked bandits are as American as apple pie, inhabiting all 48 states in the continental U.S. Read more…»

    Environmental legislation brings unity, protection of seashores

    By Cameron Douglas

    Lawmakers in both major political parties acted unanimously to give the planet a nice Christmas gift – continued protection of our oceans and beaches from harmful trash and debris. The legislation is chiefly the work of Representative Sam Farr of the 17th California Congressional District, who obtained bipartisan agreement in both the House and Senate to continue funding for this critical issue.

    Farr’s contribution is a revised version of an existing bill called the Marine Debris Act. In a nutshell, the Marine Debris Act funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, which addresses the adverse effects of ocean trash. The original Marine Debris Act “sunsetted” in 2010. Farr’s revision amended the original bill to do away with any sunset, clearing the way for permanent funding. It is considered a low-cost program at $10 million maximum per year. The expenses for 2013 are projected to be larger in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but there is relief funding to help with that.

    The reasons for such legislation are obvious. By now, most of us have seen images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a swirling mass of plastic refuse and other trash in the North Pacific Gyre. Its size is difficult to measure, but estimates run between 270,000 and 5,800,000 square miles.

    The most significant part of the revised Marine Debris Act is an expanded definition of marine debris. Previously, that only included trash that originates out at sea. It will now include all trash that ends up in the ocean, including that which originates on land. “It’s the first time anything land-originated is considered marine debris,” said Adam Russell, Farr’s press secretary. “This allows NOAA to look at the entire problem.”

    Farr submitted his bill as stand-alone legislation to be part of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act (HR 2838), a larger piece of legislation that was already conferenced. Both the House and Senate agreed on Farr’s new language, and inserted it in the new CGMTA. This required only one vote in each legislative body instead of multiple votes.

    “From the tsunami that impacted Japan last year to Hurricane Sandy that struck the east coast, we have seen a noticeable increase in the amount of debris in our oceans,” Congressman Farr stated in a press release. “These disasters only highlight the problem. Every year, 14 billion pounds of trash are added to our oceans…This act allows for the continued funding of a program that protects this vital resource and ensures its long-term health.”

    Marine debris carries a high cost. Statistics from Farr’s office show that each year, $250 million of marketable lobster is lost to derelict fishing gear. On the other side of that, a survey in one Oregon port showed that 58 percent of local fishermen had experienced equipment damage due to marine debris, with an average repair cost of $2,725 per boat. In Alaska, aerial monitoring of the local debris field from the Japanese tsunami cost $200,000.

    Meanwhile, marine debris clean-up costs vary. Los Angeles spends $18 million a year in efforts to keep trash from reaching the ocean. In one summer, Orange County filled ten garbage trucks each week from a six-mile stretch of beach at a cost of $350,000.

    Farr, a Democrat, worked closely with Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), paving the way for bipartisan support. Farr also gained cooperation and support from many organizations including Surfriders, Ocean Champions, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Covanta Energy.

    “If we are going to provide sound stewardship of the world’s largest trust, then we must fully understand the nature of the problem,” said Farr. “As our society has grown more dependent on disposable items, the oceans have become a dumping ground for our waste. Trash that endangers the health of our oceans does not differentiate whether it arrived in the ocean from a boat or not. We must begin to understand that choices we make here on land have impact on our oceans as well.”

    President Obama signed Farr’s Marine Debris Act, and the entire Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, into law on Friday, December 21, 2012.

    For more information and ways you can help, visit NOAA’s Marine Debris Program web page: marinedebris.noaa.gov/ Click on “Marine Debris 101”





    Congressman Farr addresses attendees of the “Hands Across the Sand” demonstration against ocean oil drilling on June 26, 2010 at Carmel Beach. Photo from Cedar Street Times archives.


    Alaska debris

    Fishing debris on the Alaskan shoreline. Photo courtesy Bob King and Alaska Sea Grant.


    Sheriff named in lawsuit following son’s arrest

    By Cameron Douglas

    Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller and undersheriff Max Houser were named by an officer in their own narcotics unit in a civil lawsuit filed in Superior Court on July 1. The suit focuses on alleged improper actions by Houser and Miller prior to the arrest of Miller’s son Jacob on narcotics charges. As of Wednesday, July 6, Miller stated in a news conference that he has not yet seen or received a copy of the lawsuit. The suit states the court may rule in favor of the plaintiff unless the defendants, Miller and Houser, respond within 30 days.
    The plaintiff in the suit is Detective Sergeant Archie Warren of the sheriff’s office. Warren’s attorney is Christopher W. Miller of Mastagni, Holstedt & Amick Miller & Johnsen in Sacramento.
    The suit’s First Cause of Action is listed as Obstruction of Justice; Conspiracy. There, the suit claims that Houser learned of the imminent search of the younger Miller’s living quarters prior to the team’s arrival and informed the sheriff, who in turn alerted his wife. This, claims the suit, compromised the officers’ security as the arrived to serve a search warrant. Read more…»

    Japan Relief: Folding up and reaching out

    By Cameron DouglasMaking cranes for earthquake, tsunami relief

    Pacific Grove’s Stacey Jacobs couldn’t sleep. The website designer and mother of three pored over the news from Japan following the Mar. 11 earthquake, and wondered how she might someday answer one simple question from her grandchildren: “When it happened, what did you do for Japan?”

    She thought of folding one-dollar bills and sending those to the stricken country, but realized the logistical problems of sending currency. So she turned her thoughts to the Red Cross, which has promised 91 cents out of every dollar taken in to benefit Japan will go to Japan.

    Then she remembered her daughter had received a Christmas gift of a folding origami kit, and an idea took shape. She did the math and figured out if 1,000 schools sent in $1,000 each, a million dollars could be raised.

    How to do it? Read more…»

    Pushing all the wrong buttons

    By Cameron Douglas, Guest Snarker

    The huge copy machine sits near the front door of our newspaper office; a device of imposing physical size that could have been R2-D2’s bodyguard. We’ll call him MAX-1000. A proud machine that can make copies 87 different ways.
    I just have no idea how to make him do it. All my attempts to interact with MAX-1000 end with desperate pleas to my editor for assistance. After all, it’s her machine. The two of them go way back. I think they rode together in a holy crusade against the country of Xeroxia. She brought the mighty machine into the office to fill a need in the community, nobly making copies for anyone walking in the door for a tiny fee. I forget how much.
    It’s not that I don’t want to understand MAX-1000. There just isn’t time. In the busy world of journalism, it’s all we can do to maintain cordial relationships with our desktop computers, which, on occasion, plot with MAX-1000 in the dead of night to commit joint rebellions the next day.
    So when the demure lady walked in the other day asking how she could make copies, I panicked. Her Editorness was out of the office and it would be up to me. OK, I reasoned, I’m a grown man, there are buttons I can push, eventually something’s gotta happen. Unfortunately, the only buttons I pushed belonged to the demure lady.

    “How does it work with the copy machine?” she asked.
    “How many copies do you need?” The question drew a blank stare. So I elaborated: “One, ten, a hundred?”
    “Oh, I don’t need that many,” she replied. “Why, does it make a difference?” 
    It didn’t seem to be going well. I decided if I stood closer, we could communicate better. Big mistake. She recoiled as if King Kong were reaching his massive hand out to grab her up like Faye Wray. My efforts to be in command of the situation had gone awry. Was I being pushy? Was it my intensity, racing the clock against deadline? Was it MAX-1000’s forbidding stature? Or did she have something to hide in that shopping bag full of papers?
    “How much are the copies?” the lady asked.

    I didn’t know; so I did a song-and-dance, hoping MAX-1000’s long-time friend would return and save the day. “It depends,” I said. “Why don’t you show me what you have and we’ll figure it out.”  
    “Oh, never mind,” she snapped. She slammed the bag shut and started for the door. I got the feeling she didn’t want me to see the contents of the bag. My reporter’s mind wondered just exactly what she might be toting around in there. Secret plans to overthrow Pacific Grove? Torrid letters from some deliciously illicit love affair? Her life’s collection of grocery lists? 
    On her way out, she called over her shoulder, “You’re a little condescending, you know.”
    Condescending? My feelings were hurt. I thought I was at least overbearing. 
    MAX-1000 just sneered at me.

    Lighthouse restoration progress: ‘Stop the leaks!’

    By Cameron Douglas

    Working with the Pacific Grove Heritage Society, a small group of dedicated craftsmen are determined to complete a large restoration project on the Point Pinos Lighthouse. First lit in 1855, Point Pinos is the oldest continuously-operating lighthouse on the west coast, and retains its original Fresnel lens.

    The years have not been kind to our lighthouse, which suffered damage to its tower in the great earthquake of 1906. Besides standing in the path of on-shore northwesterly winds — anyone who’s stood out at Asilomar on a stormy day knows what that’s like — Point Pinos has not had the best of care in recent years. Read more…»

    Church celebrates 100 years with an organ concert: Organ installed in 1916

    By Cameron Douglas

    Technically, the Mayflower Church has been around in different forms and denominations for 119 years; but on Nov. 14 it will celebrate 100 years in its current building. The massive brick-faced structure on the corner of 14th and Central went up after a fire destroyed the original wooden church in 1910.

    These are just some of the organ’s 1,200 pipes. Some are made from redwood.

    These are just some of the organ’s 1,200 pipes. Some are made from redwood.

    Known today as the Mayflower Presbyterian Church, it stands as solid as ever. On Sunday, Nov. 14, a centennial celebration will include social gatherings, a Sunday service and a free organ concert featuring several area church organists.

    The church’s elegant pipe organ is something of a local celebrity in itself; standing as the oldest, intact, originally installed pipe organ in Monterey County. The California Organ Company built the original organ, installed at Mayflower in 1916. That organ was later “married” to another organ built by Murray Harris. Some specs on the organ: “Romantic-Symphonic” design; 1,200 pipes (for now); Two percussion stops; 20 ranks (for now)

    Organist Tom DeLay reports more pipes will soon be added and the organ’s rating will increase to 32 ranks, or ranges. The instruments it can mimic include trumpet, oboe, clarinet and “every shape and size of flute you can imagine,” says DeLay.

    Where: Mayflower Presbyterian Church, 141 14th St., PG

    When: Sunday, Nov. 14 starting at 9 am. Services at 10:15. Organ concert at 2 pm. Everyone is welcome.

    We are a society of slow learners

    Christopher Veloz, the 19 year-old accused of hosting a party where minors were served alcohol (against a Pacific Grove city ordinance), has pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge and, in an agreement among the defense attorney, the City’s attorney and the judge was sentenced to six months in county jail, suspended for one year provided Veloz submits proof he has finished 40 hours of community service by Jan. 7. The case will likely be reviewed in September and Veloz may seek to have the suspended sentence lifted and the misdemeanor conviction converted to an infraction.

    This is not even a slap on the wrist. It’s more akin to a disapproving glance. Read more…»

    The resignation: Cort and Council under fire

    By Marge Ann Jameson and Cameron Douglas

    Stunning his constituents – and most of the rest of the Monterey Peninsula — Mayor Dan Cort has offered to resign in the face of what appears to be a narrowly based recall effort on the part of some disgruntled citizens.

    Many in Pacific Grove awakened Tuesday morning, August 4, to the mayor’s email, which stated that he himself had received an email from David Dilworth threatening that if Cort did not resign by 11:45 a.m. that morning, Dilworth would go forward with a recall campaign. Cort stated that he believes it was an attempt to keep him from voting on the Police Officer Association contract on the council agenda for the August 5, 2009 meeting. Read more…»

    March 01 2013

    Tom Pollacci To Stand Trial

    Judge Russell Scott has ordered Thomas Ronald Pollacci to stand trial in Monterey County Superior Court on charges of forcible rape, rape of an unconscious person and sex with a person incapable of giving consent. On March 3 of this year, a warrant was issued for Pollacci, who turned himself in to Seaside police. He was released on $300,000 bail.

    The preliminary hearing took place on the afternoon of July 10, eight days after Pollacci’s 50th birthday. Prosecutor Christina Johnson brought testimony from investigators and officers who served with the Pacific Grove Police Department at the time of the incident, which began to unfold in the early morning hours of April 21, 2008. Read more…»

    PUC conducts hearings on water plans

    By Joe Fabeets

    The California Public Utilities Commission held four public hearings this week – two in Monterey and two in Seaside – with the purpose of gathering public input to help select the best plan for solving the Peninsula’s water shortages. The last of the hearings took place at the Oldemeyer Center with nearly 100 people in attendance.

    Representatives of California-American Water and the Marina Coast Water District greeted the audience. “California-American Water’s objective in this process is to secure a new, reliable source of supply that’s sensitive to the environment and reasonably priced for the customers,” according to Cal-Am Vice President of Operations Tom Binowski. Read more…»

    Green Building Starts at Home: Max Perelman’s, to be exact

    By Cameron Douglas

    At a time that many see as a financial downturn, there are also many who see nothing but opportunity for long-term growth through a commitment to the environment. Green building, graywater irrigation, storm water reclamation, improved forest management, lower carbon footprint, solar power, wind power and incentives for green industry are terms we are going to hear more and more. On the Monterey Peninsula, a grass-roots movement is pushing for our area to lead the way in sustainable living. One of those dedicated individuals lives in Pacific Grove. His name is Max Perelman.

    For a young man, Max Perelman has a long list of titles: LEED-accredited professional; MBA; graduate student; member of the Pacific Grove Planning Commission; president of American Environmental & Agricultural, Inc.; husband and dad. Read more…»

    Safety & sidewalks: Traffic and Safety Commission tackles pedestrian safety

    By Cameron Douglas

    To stop or not to stop? That is the question many drivers seem to ask themselves at the intersection of Gibson and Fountain. Currently, those traveling on Fountain are required to stop: those traveling on Gibson are not. But they want to – most of the time. This and other safety concerns crossed the agenda of the Traffic Safety Commission on July 14. Read more…»

    Traffic Commission will tackle pedestrian safety in school zones

    By Cameron Douglas

    At the recent Traffic Safety Commission meeting, Commissioner Winston Elstob expressed concern about the safety of children dropped off in front of Robert Down School. He witnessed incidents where parents pulled up alongside parked cars and allowed their kids to get out on the traffic side of the vehicle. “Why do parents do that?” said Elstob. “We used to have traffic wardens. I don’t know why they can’t do that again.” He also noted that many cars made U-turns in front of the school, but PG Police Chief Engles said that U-turns are legal in a residential area if they commence from the lane nearest the center of the roadway. Read more…»

    PG Library Board: Coping with cuts

    By Cameron Douglas

    It’s final: On May 20, City Council approved a library budget of $610,389. This includes a General Fund appropriation of $401,025; $65,000 in program revenues; $70,000 for books and materials from the Book and Trust Funds; $50,000 from Friends of the Library and $23,000 from the Building Fund. The Friends have also agreed to donate another $8,000 to the part-time library staff budget. Read more…»

    Pollacci Jailed for Violation of Release; then freed

    Big Sur State Park: June Update

    By Cameron Douglas and Darci D’Anna

    With reports coming in of deeper budget cuts and possible state park closures, there’s a lot of concern about local revenue in the Big Sur village. Many are wondering what the summer will bring in the way of camping and tourism. This week, Cedar Street Times visited Big Sur to talk with locals and officials.

    Teresa Bradford, owner of the Heart Beat Gallery at River Inn, suggested there might be ways to keep park maintenance happening if regular park workers are laid off. Bradford pointed out that California has an untapped labor resource in the prison system. “Put the low-risk inmates to work,” she said. “We’re already paying their living expenses.” Read more…»

    PGHS Class of ’09 Valedictorian: Jeehee Cho

    By Cameron Douglas

    In the summer before her seventh grade, Jeehee Cho moved from Pleasant Grove, Utah, to Pacific Grove, California. Since then, her academic and athletic achievements have accelerated to the honor of class Valedictorian for 2009. Jeehee took time out from her busy schedule to stop in and chat with Cedar Street Times.cho

    CST: What motivates you?

    CHO: Education is a big part of the Korean culture. My dad came to the U.S. to go to graduate school at Brigham Young University, and decided to stay because there are so many educational opportunities in this country. He wanted his children to have that. Education has been a really big part of our family. My parents have always supported me through it. They’ve never pressured me. They just told me to do my best. Going off to college, I take that same idea. I want to gain a better understanding of everything that’s going on. I want to have enough education to educate my children as well.

    CST: Are you thinking of home schooling at some point? Read more…»

    City Council Reviews Fire Hazard Zone Ordinance


    By Cameron Douglas

    VHFHSZ. What is it? Some new-fangled television signal? No. It sounds ominous, but Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone is the California Department of Fire’s designation for areas where certain factors – thick, flammable vegetation, hilly terrain and abundant housing – could result in many homes being destroyed in a fire. Read more…»

    Meet Molly Speacht: PGHS Salutatorian

    By Cameron Douglas

    When the Pacific Grove High School Class of 2009 holds its Commencement, the Salutatorian will be Molly Speacht. (For those who don’t know her, it’s pronounced “Speck.”) Salutatorian is an academic achievement akin to winning a silver medal at the Olympics – no small accomplishment. It’s the latest in a string of successes for Molly, who served as Princess Amethyst in the 2007 Feast of Lanterns Royal Court. Cedar Street Times managed to catch up with Molly and her very busy mom, Lisa Maddalena, of the Pacific Grove Library. Read more…»

    Heritage House Awards 2009

    (pictured award-winning home on Lobos)

    By Cameron Douglas and Darci D’Anna

    More than 60 residents, council members, architects and guests enjoyed the annual awards presentation of the Pacific Grove Heritage Society at the PG Natural History Museum on May 8. Donna Stewart, Maryanne Spradling and Steve Honegger presented awards and thanks to homeowners, architects, builders and others for their hard work. Read more…»

    Flashing crosswalk in the works: traffic commission

    By Cameron Douglas

    At its May 12 meeting, the Pacific Grove Traffic Safety Commission heard Public Works Director Celia Perez-Martinez update the installation of a flashing crosswalk on Sunset Avenue near the high school. That project is waiting for one piece of equipment that is three weeks away. “The electrical work that’s been able to be done so far has been done,” said Martinez. Read more…»

    Low on water

    By Joe Fabeets

    Winter is over and the results are in. If this year’s precipitation were a homework assignment, the student would be getting a C minus. According to the California Department of Water Resources website, 2008-09 is the third consecutive dry year for the state, with below average precipitation and runoff beginning in the fall of 2006. The current drought is rated “severe,” which means communities without adequate water supplies may have to enact mandatory conservation practices. The next stage would be a full-scale, “extreme” red alert. Read more…»

    PG City tree ordinance review continues

    By Cameron Douglas  and Bruce Cowan

    Members of the city’s Beautification and Natural Resources Committee and the general public are waiting for a single, definitive version of Pacific Grove’s controversial tree replacement ordinance. Mayor Cort asked the committee to review the ordinance after recent brou-ha’s regarding the law’s specific provisions and penalties for non-compliance. Read more…»

    PG Family portrait: The Sweigerts

    By Cameron Douglas

    Readers of this newspaper may recall a poem that appeared in our April 24 issue as part of our Young Writer’s feature. The poem, penned by PGHS student Julia Sweigert, was titled, “Ellen.” The words carried such a strong feeling that we wanted to learn more about Ellen and her family. The Sweigerts – Jan, David, Joshua, Ellen and Julia – generously agreed to an interview. Their house sits on a hill in what could be called, “Pagrovia Heights.” Here is the Sweigert family, starting with Mom.   Read more…»

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