The cool fall air and drizzly damp mornings have finally arrived — chilly mornings that signal the end of the craziest, most stressful summer since the great Lockheed fires of 2009. This summer felt like being transported back to 1960’s Viet Nam, with tactical scout planes controlling firefighters and police on the ground, and helicopters and Boride bombers in the air. Millions of dollars went up in smoke fighting scores of suspicious fires in the Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Felton and Ben Lomond areas.
Now that things have cooled off a bit, it’s safe to thank our local and state firefighters, police, park rangers and men and women of the California Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection for getting us through a very difficult summer. These people literally shielded us all from an insane onslaught of wildfires. Had it not been for their swift, professional and dedicated response, any one of those blazes could have wiped out entire communities. I would also like to congratulate the local TV and print media outlets for their more objective style of reporting during our fire season — a media term I dislike.
I must also report the troubling relationship between suspicious fires, and the increase and geographic spread of the homeless in Santa Cruz County. Although I feel real sympathy for those who are impoverished because of situations truly beyond their control, it still begs the question: do we really want to increase the population in the San Lorenzo Valley? (For example, the October 25 Press Banner article, “Homeless talk of their experience living in Felton.”)
Many residents living in the City of Santa Cruz now refer to their existing situation as a homeless apocalypse — a product of the City’s misguided political leadership. It’s a well-intentioned social experiment that is breaking bad. Santa Cruz has become a mecca for disenfranchised people from across the entire west coast. A place to come and enjoy free medical and welfare (“CruzCare”), food stamps and the needle exchange. When local people talk about providing a permanent zone for homeless in Felton, I am stunned.
The San Lorenzo Valley should not be held accountable for a problem designed, created and implemented by the government of the City of Santa Cruz. We don’t need this burden in SLV and we should not let Santa Cruz off the hook for their poorly thought-out policies. Let the City of Santa Cruz set up a permanent campsite for the homeless population — there’s a big field across from Lighthouse Point. The city hands out CruzCare, food stamps and needles, might as well give everyone an ocean view too.
I am praying for a wet, warm winter to make it easier on everyone now, and in the future. I only hope that the local TV and print media don’t wish away our rain.
- Mike Degregorio is a Ben Lomond resident.