The Weekly Tally 01.16.19

WHO’S IN TOWN?

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service might be the only national holiday with its own catchphrase: “A day on, not a day off.” The federal holiday began in 1986, and eight years later Congress officially made it a day to volunteer as a way of honoring King’s commitment to service. The first Day of Service was in 1995. Commemorating King in Monterey County goes back 34 years, with an annual march and speakers in Seaside. One of the speakers, Yvette F. Williams, is a cybersecurity and financial officer for the U.S. Army at the Pentagon. In honor of King’s legacy of service, Williams is providing workshops to local youth-mentoring groups on STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) and financial management skills.

MLK Day march is at noon, Monday, Jan. 20, starting at Noche Buena Street and Broadway, Seaside. Free. djordan@sonic.net.

FREE SPEECH

Before he became a novelist writing under a pen name, Mark Twain was a journalist named Sam Clemens. For a brief period, he wrote for the Mountain Messenger, aka The Mess – it’s California’s oldest weekly newspaper, founded in 1853, and based in Downieville in Sierra County. The paper was set to close as Editor/Publisher Don Russell prepared to retire in January, when a friend, “Saint” Carl Butz, stepped in to buy it and keep publishing. “Serenity reigns and we continue the history of California’s Oldest Weekly Newspapers,” per a Jan. 8 story in The Mess. “We’re not out of the woods yet because all of the financial hardships of running a newspaper still remain and that’s why Saint Carl has earned the title of Saint.” The paper reports that Butz is considering converting to a nonprofit model; currently, the paper’s business model relies on advertising and subscriptions. It’s a rare good-news newspaper story, as the paper notes: “Unfortunately oblivion has been the fate of far too many print newspapers in the past year.”

GOOD WEEK / BAD WEEK

GOOD:

More housing for farmworkers is coming, thanks to a unanimous vote by the Monterey County Planning Commission on Jan. 8 to add 112 beds to the existing 200-bed El Rancho Toro housing project on Hitchcock Road in Salinas. Seven new 2,000-square-foot buildings will house 16 people each. An eighth building for activities and laundry is also planned. Alfred Diaz-Infante of nonprofit affordable housing developer CHISPA spoke in support the project, planned by Salinas Valley grower Chris Bunn. Diaz-Infante pointedout that ag companies are buying up existing housing for farmworkers, in turn displacing other residents. The approval comes with a couple of caveats: If current nearby organic fields are converted to conventional crops, the Agricultural Commissioner would have to be consulted to ensure resident safety; and Bunn must provide a paved sports court.

BAD:

In 1998, California voters passed Prop. 10, a 50-cent tax on tobacco products that funds work to improve education and outcomes for young children ages 0-5. Locally, those funds go to the Monterey County Children and Families Commission – more commonly known as First 5 Monterey County – which last year spent $6.14 million serving 32,632 kids and caregivers supporting programs like child playgroups and parenting workshops. The bad news, delivered Jan. 14 in First 5’s annual report to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, is how underfunded they are. Since Prop. 10 passed, funding has declined by 47 percent: “There has never been enough funding to support needed early childhood services and supports.” The projection is that in 2023, First 5 will have to cut annual spending by $2.5 million, equating to 13,295 fewer people served, or a 40-percent reduction in services.

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