Former editors reflect on 2016

Peter Burke, former Press Banner editor

By Robin Musitelli

In the late 70s into the 80s, when I started as reporter at the Valley Press/Scotts Valley Banner, both valleys were in transition. San Lorenzo Valley was changing from a place of summer cabins, hippies, and characters into a year-round community of young families.

Meanwhile, Scotts Valley was a young town, developing quickly and also transitioning from a rural community into a bedroom community. The big stories in Scotts Valley were about proposed development.

While San Lorenzo Valley was growing its environmental legs and trying to slow growth, Scotts Valley was building homes and shopping centers. Water was a very contentious issue between the two Valleys.

In both valleys, commuting “over the hill” for work became the norm. And both valleys developed excellent schools. San Lorenzo Valley faced its water pollutions problems caused by a high concentration of residential septic tanks while Scotts Valley also began cleanup of groundwater contaminated by industrial chemicals.  

I become editor of the Valley Press in 1990, when Jack Frasier was publisher. Jack ran the Banner while I put the Valley Press to bed every week.

By then, Scotts Valley had largely “built out” and San Lorenzo Valley had put the brakes on development with a variety of environmental restrictions.  Both turned their attention to building new schools and parks.

There’s now a new era of cooperation between water districts in the valleys and throughout the county.  Scotts Valley has pretty much balanced its jobs/housing needs. San Lorenzo Valley faces the issue of traffic congestion and will need to address the needs of the Highway 9 corridor. The San Lorenzo Valley downtowns will also need to address continuing septic issues, which not only limit new businesses, but constrain expansion and rebuilding of burned businesses.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Both valley have always been very interesting, beautiful and distinct. They still are.

Robin Musitelli lives in Brookdale. She was a Valley Press writer, 1980-86, and Valley Press Editor, 1990-92. She is an analyst for Fifth District Supervisor Bruce McPherson

By Jim Reed

In reflecting on the coming year in the wake of the 2016 election, the overarching thought that presents itself, despite how dysfunctional our national civic discourse became, is that the community-mindedness that has always characterized our valleys has shown itself to be stronger than ever.

In an election between the two most unpopular presidential nominees in the history of public opinion sampling, half the country was bound to be bitterly disappointed.  What's worse are recent surveys that show near majorities in both major political parties view the other party's ideas as not just inadequate or mistaken, but dangerous and threatening to the country's well-being.

In contrast, 2016 has shown that our county and communities are made of stuff far nobler than animosity and fear. We came together to pass sorely needed ballot measures to provide essential library and transportation improvements. Both of these successes capped decades of efforts and overcame previous failures.

It's encouraging that our communities validated the importance of local government since a recurring challenge is looming larger in 2017: public employee pension costs.  Changes announced in the CalPERS system in recent days requiring more honest assessments of future liabilities will mean significantly higher costs for already strapped local governments across Santa Cruz County, and more difficult conversations about how to fund these core services that so directly impact our lives every day.

Until then, here’s hoping that the New Year moves you to a renewed sense of appreciation for our little oasis of neighborliness here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Give thanks for your blessings. Let those closest to you know how you love them. Above all, take heart that there’s nothing about the world around us that can’t be made better by the virtues and people that make ours an imperfect but remarkable place that we’re so fortunate to call home.

Jim Reed lives in Scotts Valley. He was Press Banner Editor, 2005-07, and is a City of Scotts Valley City Councilmember, 2007-present. He is chief of staff for San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

By Peter Burke

A few days before Christmas, a huge oak tree fell across my driveway making it impossible to drive in or out until a tree crew arrived to clear the massive logs. We were boxed in for most of the day, which was a good reminder that winter in our valleys is unpredictable at best. On the bright side, we now have next year’s supply of firewood.

I love living in the Santa Cruz Mountains and there have been some recent developments that have piqued my interest.

In Scotts Valley, I think the Scotts Valley Unified School District and its board will closely monitor the spending of bond monies for the reconstruction of Scotts Valley Middle School. A repeat of the lawsuits and costly mistakes that plagued the construction of Scotts Valley High would be a disaster for the district.

As Scotts Valley continues to grow in population, the investment in schools by voters in 2016 will likely be seen as prudent and forward-thinking.

For those who are part of a water district in the valley, the next decade may continue to bring changes. Scotts Valley customers will soon be slammed with a rate hike because customers are using less water, but operating costs don’t go down when less water is sold. The intertie project that now links Scotts Valley and SLV water districts will certainly be used in an emergency, but water sharing and possibly even a regional water district could be the only way to maintain reasonable water rates in our area and maintain supply in dry years.

Finally, I laud the progress on the new Felton Library. My family uses Scotts Valley library regularly and every time I walk in I feel fortunate to be able to visit such a beautiful facility. The Felton Library will certainly be a boon for the community, and I hope ground breaks in 2017.

Happy New Year!

Peter Burke lives just south of Scotts Valley. He was a reporter for the Press Banner, 2007-2009, and Editor, 2009-2014. He is a program manager for Google News.

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