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The Buzz 04.08.21

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FREE SPEECH

When a government investigation exonerates an elected official of criminal wrongdoing, you’d think both the government agency that conducted the investigation, as well as the elected official who was the target of it, would be shouting the good news from the rooftops. In the case of the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff Steve Bernal, you’d be thinking wrong. Last June, the DA’s office completed an investigation into whether Bernal committed any crime by using on-the-clock deputies to staff a state conference. While the report exonerated him, it wasn’t until December the DA’s office forwarded the report to County Administrative Officer Charles McKee, who presented it to the Board of Supervisors in closed session. Other than stating the report found no criminal wrongdoing, the DA’s office has refused to release the report, and instead stated that McKee could release it if he chose to. Bernal, meanwhile, refuses to say anything. McKee says the report doesn’t belong to him, that case law prevents him from releasing it. On Easter morning, he denied the Weekly’s California Public Records Act request to see it.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“My motivation was my child, give her a better life, and make my parents proud.” - Viviana Blanco, a nursing student at Hartnell College, on why she chose to enter the medical profession (see 831 story).

GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK

GOOD:

One of the best parts about the reopening of community life is the return of in-person visits to cultural institutions. Over a year ago, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History went virtual with streamed classes and virtual tours for students. This week it’s reopening its doors to visitors in real life beginning Friday, April 9 with limited hours (10am-4pm, Fridays through Mondays). Timed-entry tickets purchased in advance from the museum’s website will limit capacity to 25-percent occupancy, although walk-in visitors will be welcomed if there is room. Masks are required for visitors ages 2 and up. More good news for the museum, which originally opened in 1883, is that after a seven-month stretch without an executive director following a stormy resignation, a new exeuctive director has been hired and will begin this spring. Carla Bitter has 20 years of museum experience.

GREAT:

As the second agricultural season during the Covid-19 pandemic ramps up, there are new resources in place that were not here a year ago to help keep the farmworker community safe. That includes Monterey County’s Virus Integrated Distribution of Aid, or VIDA, funded with $4.9 million approved in December 2020 by the County Board of Supervisors. There are now 110 community health workers deployed from 10 partner organizations doing outreach to the hardest-hit communities about Covid-19 safety and available resources. Since January, they have been reaching 7,000 people a month. Outreach is in English and Spanish and, thanks to Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, also indigenous languages Triqui, Zapoteco and Mixteco. On March 31, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced an additional $1.3 million grant to support this work.

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