to Adult Prison Facility
John Peck, California Dept. of Corrections
Conservation Program Head
Pam Erskine, Calif. Youth Authority
John Ferreira, Calif. Dept. of Forestry
Felton Headquarters Chief
Third District Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt
March 9, 2005
7:30 PM BONNY DOON SCHOOL MULTIPURPOSE ROOM
Ice Cream Grade at Pine Flat Road
|Risks for Bonny Doon as CYA Becomes Adult Facility?
On February 15, 2005 Braemoor Drive residents met with representatives from the Calif. Youth Authority (CYA), Calif. Dept. of Corrections (CDC), and Calif. Dept. of Forestry (CDF) to discuss the impending conversion of the minimum security Ben Lomond Camp on Empire Grade from a CYA to a CDC facility. The Braemoor neighborhood is only about a mile from the Camp, and safety and security were the main concerns expressed as the camp population changes from youth to adult inmates. The Camp will continue to be jointly operated with CDF. Due to a declining pool of CYA wards, coupled with state budgetary constraints, a change in the source of inmates is required if Ben Lomond Camp is to remain open. The Ben Lomond Camp, located at 13573 Empire Grade, has provided crews for fire protection, flood control, vegetation management, and other public services mainly in Santa Cruz County since its inception in 1947.
Until three or four years ago, the camp housed five full fire crews. Today, there are 80 inmate firefighter positions budgeted for, but CYA is able to fill only 29 of these positions, not even two complete crews. The impacts on us locally can be felt, for example, in the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve where CDF Chief Bill Ruskin states that fuel reduction measures and control burning havenít happened because there is no fire crew labor to carry it out. This severe understaffing will be eliminated when the conversion is complete. According to Pam Erskine, CYA program manager, the conversion is required because there are only 3,500 CYA wards available, simply not enough to fill the inmate firefighter positions statewide. CYA has already closed five camps throughout the state. According to John Peck, CDC Conservation Program Head, there are 15,000 potentially eligible CDC inmates. This inmate pool is large enough to fill all the positions in the 40 CDC camps statewide.
Who constitutes a CDC eligible inmate? There are concerns that the change in inmate population will bring a more "hardened" and dangerous adult criminal population to the community. To be eligible for the Ben Lomond camp, a CDC inmate must be finishing his prison sentence. The average term for an inmate firefighter is eight months. If they successfully complete their time in the camp, they are then released back into society at large. These inmates have usually committed drug or property crimes, not violent offenses.
Murder, rape, sex crimes, most robberies, and arson are automatic disqualifiers for the camp program. Every inmate is extensively evaluated on a case by case basis by a qualification committee using a point system, which includes any previous offenses in California or other states. While the ages of CDC inmates can overlap with the younger CYA wards, in general CDC inmates are generally older inmates, who often bring additional work skills that increase their effectiveness in the camp program. In contrast, CYA wards are 18 to 25 years old. They may have committed violent crimes, including murder.
In 2003, CYA reported 22 escapes out of 300 wards. All escapees were caught. CDC camps reported 6 escapes out of 4,000 inmates, also all captured. All CDC camps have an emergency escape pursuit plan.
Another concern is visitors to the camp, both because of their potential criminal ties and increased vehicle traffic to the camp. John Peck said the twice a week visiting days seldom had more than 10 visitors. Also, inmates are tested for drugs, with a positive test automatically disqualifying an inmate from continuing residence at the camp. Presently, the conversion from a partially staffed CYA camp to a fully staffed CDC camp is planned for the end of May or early summer. While Ben Lomond CDC Camp is fully budgeted and funded for 2005, it could be cut in future budgets.
The state officials at the Braemoor Drive meeting all expressed a desire for open and complete communication with the community. In order to insure a positive working relationship with the community, each camp has a citizenís advisory committee, in which Bonny Doon residents are encouraged to participate. These state officials will return to Bonny Doon to continue speaking with our community at the March 9 RBDA General Meeting. You may also contact them directly:
- John Peck, CDC, 916-323-8378
Come to the March 9 RBDA General Meeting to hear more about this important topic and its effects on Bonny Doon. An extensive question and answer session will follow their presentation.
UCSCís Long Range Development Program: the Battle Begins
In the last Highlander, we reported on the gathering storm of conflict over the UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz) expansion plan, and on a minor victory which stopped them from preparing a site on Empire Grade as early as January. The many events of January and early February have shown the full power of the University to carry forward with their plans.
The University has prepared a list of the items which they deem important enough to consider in their upcoming EIR (Environmental Impact Report). On Feb. 16 and 18, they hosted meetings for individual citizens or groups to present what they thought should be considered in the EIR. In principle, every single item anyone raised in those meetings or by letter or e-mail before Feb. 28 would have to be adjudicated by the EIR. But thereís a catchčthe University gets to be judge and jury for whether a particular item submitted is "pertinent under the CEQA rules (California Environmental Quality Act)."
At the Feb. 16 meeting we attended, there were 100-plus people in attendance, and many inputs were made. Most were pertinent, passionate, and well-thought-out. The presenters were a wonderful cross-section of Santa Cruz: county and city officials, neighborhood organizations, elderly residents who had generated the original visions for UCSC, students, professors, and Bonny Doon residents who would be most directly affected by the growth.
Many expressed their feelings of affection for the University, but were unanimous in saying that the University should not expand any further, but should busy itself mitigating the lingering effects of the last expansion.
RBDA Chair Ted Benhari presented a long and detailed list of matters to be considered by the EIR, as reported in the last Highlander and January General Meeting. One arresting new item was that in the case of a major fire in Bonny Doon, Empire Grade might be the only escape route, and the University should not consider it as their priority to use this route to evacuate their northern housing development. The RBDA has also submitted a formal letter to the University detailing these requests and concerns. This letter will be posted at the next General Meeting on March 9th. Look for Tedís full presentation somewhere on the RBDA website (to be determined).
Would this outpouring of feeling be enough to change the tide? Out in the departing crowd, we asked Tom Vani, Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services, what he thought of the presentations. "Just about what we expected," he said, with the air of a person who fully expected everything to go ahead without interruption. The University can even promise mitigations of immense order, as several of the speakers had pointed out, and then not do them because of being short of cash.
So is there any course of action over the next two years in which all these legalities play out that could really stop the LRDP? A very proactive group, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion (CLUE) has formed. CLUE consists of all the "right" people (various City and County officers and neighborhood groups, including representatives from the RBDA) with a core of individuals who believe that nothing will stop the LRDP except lawsuits based on pre-existing legislation, and that there already exist violations of such even without the actions anticipated.
CLUE is now in a phase of consultation with lawyers, and looking for fundraising which will be key to fighting a protracted legal battle. No one has won such battles before, but CLUE has been emboldened by the legal win by the Cave Gulch Neighborhood Association late in December, which stopped the immediate UCSC construction. Youíve probably read of similar outbursts by the cities or public in Berkeley and in Davis over their somewhat similar situations. A larger coalition is being considered.
Finally, some of us think that a different approach may be more successful. The Regents of the University had planned to absorb the burgeoning student population with the new campus at Merced, but feel itís too expensive to ramp it up fast enough. Theyíre the ones putting the pressure on existing schools to enlarge, thinking itís a bargain. We feel that if the true cost-accounting is done, including the costs of fixing the collateral damage the expansions are causing in the communities, that the Regents could change their minds and simply pour the funds into UC Merced. Perhaps the lawsuits posed by CLUE would help them do the accounting properly.
The RBDA welcomes feedback from the Bonny Doon community; contact us through the RBDA web site. To get involved with CLUE, contact the organizer, Don Stevens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Berkeley Sues Cal. Regents Over University Expansion
On Feb. 23, just before we went to press, the City of Berkeley filed a lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley and UC regents, seeking to halt its plan to build 2.2 million square feet of office space and other projects. The suit alleges that the Environmental Impact Report for UCBís 2020 Long Range Development Plan is inadequate.
According to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, the suit, if successful, would stop all development under the plan. Bates said at a news conference that UC regentsí approval of UCBís development plan over vociferous opposition from city officials, "is the equivalent of a blank check allowing the university to build whatever and whenever they want.íí The mayor said city officials donít oppose all development at the university, but they think it should address environmental impacts such as traffic congestion and pay its fair share of city services such as police and fire protection, which is basically the same position that Santa Cruz City officials have taken regarding UCSC expansion.
USPS Truck Sighting on Empire Grade
Those of you who have noticed USPS (United States Postal Service) trucks in the neighborhood are correct in assuming that your voice has been heard! USPS has been providing postal assistance to assure more timely mail delivery in Bonny Doon.
At our General RBDA meeting on January 12th, 2005 Chair Don Coyne introduced the topic of poor mail service delivery problems and opened the floor for discussion. Present at the meeting was Jean Karo, a Bonny Doon resident and USPS carrier. Jean announced that she had been placed in charge of overseeing mail delivery for Bonny Doon to try to help improve our service. Jean said that in order to be most effective, she needed to have documented evidence of problems with the mail delivery. She requested that all Bonny Dooners having mail problems keep weekly logs to detail ongoing problems, as well as provide as much detail as possible on past mail problems.
We checked in with Jean to get a progress update for this Highlander USPS Truck Sighting on Empire Grade article. She reports that due to the high volume of documented complaints following the General Meeting (she received over one hundred letters and logs, plus numerous residents tracking time and date mail was delivered on a daily basis), the local post office has provided extra USPS rural route carriers to help our contract route carriers deliver mail in Bonny Doon.
Our voice was heard all the way in Washington, D.C. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo took the time to write a letter to the USPS District Manager on our behalf, sending thanks and copies of this letter to the RBDA Board and other Bonny Doon residents who contacted her with their concerns.
The recent USPS assistance to the contract route carrier is being well documented and the USPS will be reimbursed for their time and effort. Given that cost has been a factor in continuing to use a contract carrier instead of a USPS rural route carrier, collecting this information should be an important addition to our case file.
Hopefully by mid-March data collection will be complete and recommendations will be made to the Contract office in Richmond, California.
Jean reported that the complaints have slowed down, clearly as a result of the local post office assistance. She reports that assistance is being provided four days per week or more, mostly in the form of additional deliveries. Jean is continuing to accept logs and complaints. Please include positive feedback as well; they need to know that weíre being impacted by their efforts. Continue sending your logs to:
Jean KaroJean will be supervising the Bonny Doon area for at least one more month, less time if our problems are resolved sooner.
Congress of the United StatesRBDA Board Election Results
At the RBDA Annual Meeting in January, Executive Board Members Alec Webster and Jodi Frediani were reelected to two-year terms, and Ted Benhari was returned to the board after an absence of two years. Departed from the Board is Robert Thornton, who served during 2004, and made valuable contributions as Recording Secretary.
At a meeting immediately after the Annual Meeting, the Board elected Benhari chairman, replacing Don Coyne, who moved to Recording Secretary. The rest of the Board lineup remained the same: Vice Chair: Jodi Frediani; Highlander Editor, Jane Cavanaugh; Alec Webster, Treasurer; Ben Harmon, Membership Coordinator; Yana Jacobs, Corresponding Secretary.
Don Coyne has served on the Board on several occasions and in various posts, including an earlier stint as Chairman in the 1990s. For the past two years he has done a great job leading the Board as it dealt with various issues, from the Waldorf School expansion, the proposed Transcendental Meditation retreat center, the Santa Cruz City Water Dept. pipeline rerouting, RMCís slashing a road through the Ecological Reserve, the possible landfill on Thayer Rd. and, most recently, UCSCís expansion plans. Don brought energy, commitment and good judgment to these issues, providing a steady hand at the tiller in what at times were turbulent waters. The Board is grateful for his leadership and his continued participation as an important member of your RBDA team.
MARCH 9, 2005 RBDA GENERAL MEETING AGENDA
RBDA EXECUTIVE BOARD ACTIONS - JAN. 12, 2005
RBDA EXECUTIVE BOARD ACTIONS - FEB. 9, 2005
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