Merry-Go-Round…Perhaps because Squid is a sea creature, Squid’s never understood the tradition of Groundhog Day.
And this year’s festivities, on Feb. 2, did little to clarify Squid’s confusion: Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, came out of his hole and saw his shadow, which is meant to predict six more weeks of winter.
Monterey County went on to have balmy weather all weekend, with record highs on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in Salinas (81 and 80 degrees, respectively) and King City (83 and 82 degrees). Meteorology, it would appear, is not Phil’s strong suit.
But Groundhog Day wasn’t at the top of Squid’s mind on Feb. 2; rather, Squid was looking forward to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority board’s special meeting about Eastside Parkway, a controversial proposed roadway that would bisect oak woodlands through the former Fort Ord to connect the Salinas Valley to Seaside.
The road is expected to cost more than $20 million—and is not legally required, despite FORA staff continually describing it that way. Debbie Hale, executive director of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County, points out that the road would only be used by drivers going between Salinas to Seaside.
Squid is among those that travel frequently between the two cities, and the road would certainly save Squid a few minutes on the regular, but Squid senses the real desire to build the road is that it could open up adjacent lands to development, which is at the top some board members' minds.
Yet in two FORA workshops in December about the Eastside Parkway, the vast majority of public comments expressed deep opposition to the road, with the overarching theme being: Why would you spend millions of dollars to cut through an oak woodland to build a road that the public doesn’t seem to want or need?
Fast forward to Feb. 2, when the FORA board was set to hold the special meeting—which had already been rescheduled twice—to approve the official “goals and objectives” of Eastside Parkway, which will inform its ongoing environmental review.
Hale was set to give a presentation about the proposed road at the meeting, and Squid was kinda-sorta hopeful the board might actually listen.
But the listening part seemed doomed from the outset. The published agenda for the meeting specified that the FORA board chair “may” allow new comments from members of the public on the subject.
Attorney Molly Erickson, who represents the advocacy group Keep Fort Ord Wild, sent a letter to the board to say that persnickety “may” flew in the face of California’s open-meetings law, the Brown Act, which allows the public to comment. (FORA’s position was that the public had already had a chance to comment on this road, which has been kicked down the road for quite some time.)
Then Squid’s colleague showed up for the meeting at 3pm on Friday, and checked in with FORA board member Jerry Edelen. FORA meetings often run long—Squid usually plans to miss Friday happy hour on FORA meeting days—and Edelen said the meeting would be over by 4pm latest, because most of the board members were planning to leave to hear U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina—the third-ranking House Democrat—speak at CSU Monterey Bay.
Just after 3pm, as the board members took their seats, chair Ralph Rubio announced that the meeting was canceled—due to concerns over violating the Brown Act. Squid’s not sure whether he took Erickson’s letter to heart or was itching to get to the Clyburn talk or both, but it freed Squid up in time for a Friday afternoon nap.
The meeting had already been rescheduled twice. Now it’s set for Feb. 9. (Squid is waiting to see whether public comment is part of it.)
Squid reached out to Punxsutawney Phil to see what his prediction was about the proposed road’s fate, and Phil said he didn’t think it will ever get built, but qualified that his expertise is not in building roads, nor in predicting the weather.
He excels in burrowing.