The Weekly Tally 04.29.21

FREE SPEECH

On Oct. 21, 2020, the Pacific Grove City Council approved a $35,000 six-month contract with Cole Pro Media, a firm of “transparency engagement advisors” led by Founder and President Laura Cole. Cole was hired to help the city in the wake of one of its police officers being suspended then brought back after an investigation into decals linked to anti-government and white supremacy organizations. (He was subsequently terminated in January, after a group of residents discovered racist social media posts.) Critics raised concerns that the firm was more about spin than transparency, which Cole forcefully denied. Also in January, thanks to a California Public Records Act request by a resident, Cole’s work product came to light – and it was indeed spin, with a set of talking points for city officials on how to talk to the public and to respond to demands that the officer be fired. The taking points advised Mayor Bill Peake to tell residents – in a polite way – to stop complaining. On April 21, City Manager Ben Harvey told the council that the city and Cole had “through mutual agreement” decided to end the contract early, saving the city $14,500.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I’ve had to practice, really, what I preach.” - Social worker Lynne White Dixon on her own commitment to self-care during the pandemic (see Face to Face story).

GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK

GOOD:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is getting a bigger, better brand-new boat for marine research. The oceanographic research center based in Moss Landing announced last week the construction of the R/V David Packard, which will replace its current vessel Western Flyer after 25 years. At 164 feet long and 42 feet wide, the ship’s size will mirror the impact Packard’s philanthropy has had on the research institute – as in, it would not exist without it. Actual construction of the R/V David Packard, which is expected to cost $50 million, will begin in November in the coastal town of Vigo, Spain and set sail to Moss Landing around May 2023 where MBARI’s team will perform the final outfitting. The ship will host a ship crew of 12 and a research crew of 18 when it becomes fully operational, which MBARI’s estimates will be around fall 2023.

GREAT:

It’s back-to-school season for Salinas Union High School District, which resumed in-person classes at all of its middle schools and high schools on April 27. About 40 percent of students will return to the classrooms twice a week if they choose, or remain in online learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Most classrooms will have 16 students (normal capacity is 30 students per classroom) and desks will be three feet apart and surrounded by clear shields. To avoid overcrowding in hallways, many will be one-way. One challenge will be transportation; the district may make two stops at the same location and hire more bus drivers to bring students (spaced out) to school. Another challenge is social interactions: “We look for these buildings to be energized,” SUHSD Superintendent Dan Burns says. The district is planning to resume regular in-person classes next fall.

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