BEST

(For reasons that I explained last week, this blog, Felton League, will be discontinued; but there are still a few old articles that can be recycled like this one from last October.)

B-enchlands E-stuary S-tewardship T-eam is the BEST! They remove both trash and invasive exotic (nonnative) plants from the portion of the San Lorenzo River that flows through Santa Cruz and into Monterey Bay. Some team members are residents of the Benchlands Encampment at San Lorenzo Park or nearby neighborhoods. Some are members of the Santa Cruz Downtown Streets Team, which also collects trash elsewhere in Santa Cruz County, including here in Felton. All are volunteers.

BEST was organized in response to concern about the sensitive ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River, and, among other issues, the consequences of habitation by unhoused residents within such ecosystems. Direct involvement of the associated unhoused residents not only utilizes their coordinated volunteer efforts as a primary resource, but also provides them with ecological and environmental insight, which is a collective asset to the local unhoused Community. Others of the local unhoused Community are more likely to respect the sensitivity of the ecosystems in which they reside if they are more aware of how detrimental some of their activity can be to such ecosystems, or if they are aware that others within their particular Community take the initiative to mitigate some of the consequences of potentially detrimental activity.

For a distinctly socially disadvantaged segment of the Community, BEST provides opportunity for social, as well as environmental, contribution and improvement. This is more than socially and personally gratifying. It is healthy!

For the distinctly disadvantaged animal and plant life that inhabits and interacts with the associated ecosystems, but is unable to defend them, BEST does what it can to alleviate various ecological incursion, and promote recovery. So, BEST is not only healthy for the human participants, but is also healthy for the native flora and fauna of the intricate ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River Estuary.

China Town

China Town is not merely one town. It is a designation for particular districts of several Communities throughout the World. Many of such China Town districts were developed to accommodate immigrants from China who were unwelcome to inhabit portions of the same Communities in which they worked. China Town of San Francisco, which is the oldest major China Town in America, originally accommodated immigrants from China as they transitioned from mining and railroad construction to shipping and industrial work within San Francisco.

Such institutionalized discrimination confined development of many China Town districts to regions that were undesirable to others within their respective Communities. The last China Town of Santa Cruz was located within the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River, east of Front Street, mostly between Soquel Avenue and Cooper Street. It developed as a residential neighborhood after a fire destroyed a previous China Town in 1894. For the following half century, it was slowly replaced with more industrial development, until the Christmas Flood of 1955 destroyed the last few remaining residences.

Half a century later, the Benchlands Camp, which is inhabited by many of the unhoused of our Community, developed directly to the northwest of the former China Town, on the opposite side of the same floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. It is just as vulnerable to flooding as the former China Town was, but unlike the former China Town, occupies an area within a public park that is intended to be accessible to everyone of the Community. Very understandably, the Community wants to recover their public park space.

Incidentally, the Benchlands Camp developed as a result of the evacuation of the former Ross Camp to the southwest of the Highway 1 Bridge over the San Lorenzo River. The former Ross Camp was outside of a levee that excluded flooding, on otherwise unused land that is owned by Santa Cruz and California.

Tax Season

Homelessness is expensive. It costs significantly more than twice as much as public education! More specifically, for each beneficiary, the average annual cost of services for or associated with homelessness is about two and a third times as much as the average annual cost of public education for each beneficiary. It is very understandable that so many are concerned about such expenditures of tax revenue.

Homelessness is also relatively rare, however, and therefore substantially less expensive collectively than public education. Because less than half of a percent of the populace is homeless, services for and associated with homelessness in California had been limited to approximately six billion dollars annually. Because approximately fifteen percent of the populace attends public schools, public education in California costs more than ninety five billion dollars annually. Therefore, public education costs almost sixteen times as much as homelessness.

Nonetheless, it is very understandable that a few who are unaffiliated with anyone who is homeless sometimes complain about the major expense of services for and associated with homelessness. What those who complain typically fail to consider is that, not only is the expense of public education much more substantial, but that those who are unaffiliated with anyone who benefits from public education are not exempt from such expense.

We all collectively pay taxes. We all lack control of how tax revenue is allocated. Everyone pays for everything. Those who do not drive cars pay for the maintenance of roadways. Those who disapprove of particular politicians and public servants pay for their salaries. Those who lack children pay for the education of the children of others. Those who live in homes pay for those who do not. It would be too complicated, and for some, prohibitively expensive, to pay only for justified expenses. Otherwise, those who already assume the major expense of raising children would also pay significantly more for their education.

Furthermore, children who benefit from public education generally pay no taxes yet, as almost all of those who are presently homeless have done in the past. As almost all publicly educated children will pay taxes in the future, most homeless people will eventually resume paying taxes as they recover from homelessness. Some homeless people have served in the Military, for a Society that includes a few who now complain about the relatively minor cost of providing important services for them, when they need such services most.

Privilege

Anyone can complain. Almost all of us do at one time or another. Some complain more than others, and a few complain much more than they should.

Conversely, anyone can be grateful. However, more of us complain than express gratitude or appreciation for countless privileges that are easily taken for granted.

Privilege becomes more obvious after observing cultures or lifestyles that lack such privilege. Refugees from Ukraine demonstrate how difficult deprivation of a stable lifestyle is. So do the houseless within our own Community.

This article, ’40+ People Are Sharing the Signs of Privilege That Often Go Unnoticed’ by Dawn Schuster, August 12, 2021, lists several privileges that are commonly taken for granted within almost all of modern American Society. It is difficult to imagine life without some of them. Nonetheless, some within our Community presently survive without several of the most basic of these privilege. These are a few examples:

privacy or abode – Regardless of their effort, the houseless live in public. There is nothing private about it. Some live in remote areas. Some construct rudimentary structures. However, any of such abodes can be violated at any time.

running water – Although water is available to most of the houseless, it is generally inconvenient to access, or is very limited. It is not easily transported to remote locations where many houseless live. The houseless must go to the sources of water to use it, or collect what they can transport.

uninterrupted power supply – Compensation for a lack of utilities in conjunction with an unstable lifestyle is not as easy as it might seem to be. Fuel for heat is expensive and cumbersome to transport for those who lack a vehicle. Because abodes lack insulation, significant volumes of such fuel are necessary. Batteries for lighting are expensive.

food and choices – Although there is generally sufficient food for the locally houseless who can not afford much, choices are rather limited. Without utilities, frozen food can not be stored for long, and cooking may not be possible.

personal transportation – A vehicle is a major expense that most of the houseless can not afford. For those who can afford a vehicle, parking without a garage or designated parking space can be quite difficult.

physical safety – The houseless are the most vulnerable of society. They are outside and exposed to the elements most of the time. While inside, their abodes generally lack the security of conventional homes.

garbage disposal – Although the houseless generate less trash than those who reside in homes, they certainly generate some. Such trash is cumbersome to remove from some of the isolated situations which some of the houseless are compelled to inhabit. Fortunately, some neighbors allow the houseless to use their dumpsters, or procure dumpsters for large encampments of the houseless.

sewage system – Although not much of a problem in smaller Communities, where business owners and even some homeowners can allow the few local unhoused to use their bathrooms, it is a major problem for more significant Communities, in which there are too many housless to accommodate.

washing machines – A washing machine would not be much use without water or electricity anyway. Laundromats are so expensive.

internet – Although available to the houseless who have use for it, the internet is not as readily available as it is for those who reside in homes. Some use it at resource centers. Some rely on libraries. Those who own laptop computers sometimes use Wi-Fi at coffee shoppes or fast food establishments.

fridge – Like a washing machine, a refrigerator is not much use without electricity. This limits the potential for the storage of food.

enough money – This is one of the primary causes of houselesness. Many people with significant resources and income lack sufficient money for rent or a mortgage.

no discrimination – Houseless people are regularly victims of discrimination. It is as if many of those who would have been racist years ago, but can not be so in modern society, discriminate against the unhoused. It is as wrong as any other form of discrimination.

no trauma – Houslessness is traumatic. In conclusion of this seemingly extensive but actually brief list, this should be obvious, and necessitates no additional explanation.

The Unhoused Of The Sacramento Shooting

Melinda Davis is one of six people who were killed in the Sacramento Shooting, shortly after two in the morning of the third of April. Like all of the other victims of this crime, she has her own unique story, as well as a few common characteristics. Everyone is someone’s daughter or son. Everyone is someone’s friend or neighbor. Most are someone’s sister or brother, or wife or husband. In other words, everyone is someone.

Melinda Davis was also unhoused. She was a member of a minor Community that includes less than half a percent (>.5%) of the populace of America, but is now almost seventeen percent (16.7%) of the deceased victims of the shooting. Without a home to be in on that night, she was innately as vulnerable to this sort of random social violence as those who were out being intentionally social.

Tim Langer was likewise there at the time only because he currently lacks a home to be at. However, his presence was fortuitous for four panicked young ladies whom he sheltered from the shooting, within the doorway alcove in which he sleeps. His immediate and selfless response to the dangerous situation was exemplary. Tim Langer, although a member of a Community that is less than half a percent of Society, was the right man for the job.

The unhoused are rare, but are integral components of Society nonetheless. They are generally exposed to more dangerous situations than those who inhabit secure homes, as is demonstrated by the death of Melinda Davis. Within such situations, some are occasionally presented with opportunities for the sort of admirable benevolence that was exhibited by Tim Langer.

The links above provide more information about Melinda Davis and Tim Langer in regard to the Sacramento Shooting. Other articles are in the news.

Kurt Cobain Memorial Park

Aberdeen in Washington is known more for nearby tourist destinations outside of town than for that which is inside of town. It is a convenient source of supplies for exploring and hiking in the Great Outdoors. It is, after all, the Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.

The Kurt Cobain Memorial Park is a unique tourist destination that happens to be within town. It is not for everyone, but appeals to those who appreciate who Kurt Cobain was. Many within our Community do. Some of us have much in common with Kurt Cobain, and can identify with his difficulties prior to his untimely death twenty eight years ago.

These pictures are from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park. They are likely and perhaps fortunately unimportant to many of us. Nonetheless, their significance and relevance is obvious to some.

Neighbors protest the traffic associated with the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, which was not designed for such traffic. Actually, it was not designed to be a Park. Apparently, is is a popular destination for those who appreciate who Kurt Cobain was.
This is a big explanation for such a small Memorial Park.
This plaque features quotes by Kurt Cobain. The roses were fresh.
This plaque is on the backside of the base of the sculpture in the next picture.
Graffiti honoring Kurt Cobain covers most surfaces of the sculptures and infrastructure here, without obscuring inscriptions.
It seems as if something is missing, but the plaque at the base reads, “KURT’S AIR GUITAR”.
The underside of the Young Street Bridge, with the northern bank of the Wishkah River beyond, was the inspiration for ‘Something In The Way’, by Kurt Cobain.
This site under the Young Street Bridge is a component of the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, so is designated as such with this plaque.
Graffiti intended to honor Kurt Cobain is even more prominent under the Young Street Bridge than it is elsewhere within the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park.
What seem to be campsites are excavated into the south bank of the Wishkah River below the Young Street Bridge. Some believe that Kurt Cobain lived here for a time.

Refugees

Ukraine is a topic that I have been avoiding. Friends and colleagues talk and write about it, but likewise seem to be hesitant to get too involved with such discourse. It is a difficult topic, from every perspective. Every topic within the primary topic is unpleasant. Politics are so vague. War is so violent. The potential for escalation is so terrifying. So many people are displaced.

Ukrainian refugees have been fleeing into and through Europe since the beginning of this war. Some have been coming to America. A colleague in Los Angeles has already assisted with temporary settlement of a few refugees who left Ukraine as the current situation began. Some came to Los Angeles intentionally, but not all. Some refugees could possibly relocate locally.

It is gratifying to know that the vast majority of people here will be graciously supportive of refugees if necessary. That is how healthy Society operates. Those of us who lost homes to the CZU Fire are very aware of this.

Furthermore, those who lack domestic situations for any other reason besides the CZU Fire are likewise aware of the gracious generosity of our local Community. It is why so few of us presently remain unhoused here, even while homelessness is such a major problem elsewhere in America.

A refugee is someone who is in need of refuge, likely after deprivation of former habitation. Prior to the current situation in Ukraine, refugees came from a variety of regions, and for a variety of reasons. Many refugees are local.

It is impossible to predict how many from Ukraine will relocated permanently to America, and how many will eventually return to Ukraine. The future or Ukraine remains unknown. We do know that Society here and elsewhere will do what it must to accommodate, and help if necessary.

It Worked For Me

Job interviews necessitate a certain degree of decorum. I was over it. I had left work that I never should have left, and a revered colleague, for what he and I thought was a better opportunity. It was disastrously nothing like it was supposed to be, and left me in no hurry to accept another so-called job. I could have been satisfied with my work as a garden columnist. When I resigned to interviewing for another secondary job, I did not put much effort into the process. Instead of explaining my credentials, expertise and qualifications, I explained what I would NOT do. After my previous experience, I had quite a list to present, and was quite a jerk about doing so. It worked for me.

Within the context of Community discussion of issues regarding homelessness, someone occasionally feels compelled to explain his (or her) experiences, observations or even opinions as if they are universally relevant. For example, an addict in recovery might explain how he (or she) came to recovery after ‘hitting bottom’, and becoming homeless without assistance from those whom he had already exploited. Because it is so relevant and important within his experience, he believes it to be just as relevant and important to others, or even everyone with a few similarities to their respective experience. He believes that since ‘it worked for me’, it must necessarily work for everyone.

Recovery from addiction, although commendable, is irrelevant to those who are not addicted. Most people who are presently homeless here became so as a result of unemployment or income that is insufficient to sustain a mortgage or rent, not because of addiction. Homelessness and addiction are two completely different concerns. Belief that what worked for any individual would necessarily be effective for everyone is both presumptuous and ignorant.

Grumpy Old Men

Felton Covered Bridge has not changed much in the last half century or so. The new roof looks very much like the roof that was replaced. The extensive repair of damage caused by the flood in 1982 is difficult to discern from original materials and technique. A picture that my Pa took of my siblings and I in the southwestern window of the Bridge when I was just a little tyke, and too short to see over the sill, demonstrates that the particular window looks the same now as it did half a century ago. In fact, much of Felton looks somewhat as it did back then, or is at least somewhat recognizable.

Other towns have not been so fortunate, or unfortunate, according to perspective. Some of us perceive change as an asset or improvement. Others perceive it as a loss of original assets. Both perceptions are both variable and accurate; as well as variably accurate. In other words, some change is good, but other change is bad; and we each assess it by our own distinct standards.

My colleague in the Los Angeles region appreciates how Los Angeles and some adjacent towns have developed since we were kids. West Hollywood, which was quite shabby when it incorporated in 1984, has since developed into quite a ritzy community. Watts, which we still remember as a neighborhood to avoid, is now getting to be hip and trendy again, and one of the better regions in which to invest. The skyline of downtown Los Angeles is spectacular, and comparable to older big cities of the East.

Unfortunately, so many of these improvements have made the region less ‘livable’ for those who do not earn more than average income. Those who earn what had been average income can no longer afford to live there. Homelessness has consequently become overly common, as it has in Santa Cruz County.

My colleague, I and the rest of our generation have been around for half a century. That is quite a while. Things change significantly in that much time. There have been many changes that we are displeased with; but there are many that worked out quite nicely. People who are young now will experience the same during their next half century or so.

When I consider what my ancestors, and particularly my colleague’s ancestors, contended with in their first half century, as well as afterward, I realize that I should not complain. They experienced change that I can not comprehend, both good and bad. Although I can remember when less than half a million people lived in San Jose, my great grandparents remembered when San Jose was a relatively small town of about 20,000 residents, and all the unpleasantries associated with such extreme urban development afterward. Although my colleague down South still encounters mild racism on rare occasion, his father, who is of African descent, began his career as an attorney during the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and even as he served as a Judge for Los Angeles County, endured racism and discrimination that younger people can not comprehend. Obviously, earlier generations endured much worse.

Society continues to evolve. Although it is unlikely that homelessness will be remedied any more efficiently than primitive racism has been, the presently extreme rate of homelessness must change. Society can not continue in such disgrace.

Forge Of Empires

“In the browser game Forge of Empires you can build your own city and experience all of history from its perspective – from the stone age on through the centuries. Explore new technologies that ring in a new era. Leave a mark with unique, contemporary buildings and establish a gigantic metropolis that is unparalleled anywhere. Increase your empire with sophisticated strategic campaigns and skilled actions in Forge of Empires. Create your own world: Forge your Empire!”

That certainly sounds compelling. I can think of all sorts of features that I would want to incorporate into a Community if I were to create it. I can think of almost as many features that would not be incorporated. Of course, it is all very unrealistic. No one person can create a city or any other Community. That requires the cooperation of countless others, particularly the members of the particular Community.

More than a million people live in San Jose. Each of those people contribute something to society, whether good, bad or both. They all create their own history, and some of it affects others in society. New technologies are occasionally invented or introduced. New homes and other buildings get constructed, with various architectural styles. Perhaps the same could be accomplished by fewer than a million people; but such tasks are impossible for just a single person.

Each individual is a more substantial component of a less substantial populace. For example, each resident of the main part of Felton is more than .00025% of the populace. That may not seem like much, but it is significantly more than one in a million in San Jose. Therefore, the contributions of each resident are more significant.

Again, that can be good, bad or both. The rules are the same for a smaller town as they are for a large city.

Although I may dislike the architectural style of a new home in the neighborhood, others may like it. Perhaps more like it than dislike it. Is that good, bad or both? Does it matter? The residents of the new home must like it, and, within reason, that is more important in a society that is not created by a single person.

Personally, I dislike homelessness within my Community. I want everyone to be accommodated within some sort of domestic situation. Most of the homeless likely need only affordable accommodation. I suspect that most people in any Community also dislike homelessness, but are unable to do much about it. Community is no video game.