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March 29-April 5, 2006

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Fred Keeley

'Who, me?': Fred Keeley addresses questions about a series of Transportation Funding Task Force workshops he's facilitating this spring.

Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

No Free Lunches

'There's no such thing as a free lunch," so they say. And the adage certainly held true for the running dogs of the press who attended the county's Transportation Funding Task Force's media lunch at Kianti's. No, we didn't have to shell out for the pizza, but we did have to pay attention to county Treasurer Fred Keeley, as he talked about the series of Transportation Funding Task Force workshops that he's facilitating this spring.

To be fair, it's easy to stay on focus when Keeley's in the room, not just because the former assemblymember is a sharp dresser, but because he's also a sharp wit.

"Eighty is the size of the California State Assembly, which was what I presided over as speaker pro-tem," quipped Keeley, dressed in a dapper red tie, white shirt and blue suit. "So, now that the task force has 90-plus members, I'll submit my resignation. Just kidding!"

So, how did we get to having such a gargantuan task force? As Keeley recalled, in 2004, 57 percent of voters rejected the highway-widening Measure J, which would have raised the sales tax by half a cent for 30 years. As a result, the Regional Transportation Committee adopted a resolution to set up a Transportation Funding Task Force.

"My favorite part of the resolution," says Keeley with a laugh, "is the part that says the duration of the Task Force will be 'short term,' as long as it takes to form recommendations."

Committed to keeping the process "open, honest and fair"—something he's optimistic about "because the process is horizontally designed, unlike the vertical and highly hierarchical structure of the RTC"—Keeley noted that the TFTF includes everyone from the Brown Berets to the Surfrider Foundation.

"And they won't be sitting at a dais, but rolling up their sleeves and engaging the community directly through workbooks which address problems and their solutions at the neighborhood, community and regional levels. People will talk around the table—and then Dick Cheney will come in and shoot his gun when it's time to change topic."

Modeled after Action Parajo Valley and Vision Santa Cruz, which formed in the wake of the 1989 earthquake, the TFTF hopes the public will get involved by attending workshops or completing workbooks online —an alternative that should be ready by late April.

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there," said Keeley, in regard to what he sees as the need to identify problems, solutions and funding streams.

"One person said, 'No increase in capacity for automobiles!' That for him was a principle and value. For others, it was the first time they'd been asked to articulate," recalled Keeley of his conversations with TFTF members. "I've been asking everybody for commitment to three principles: Be there in good faith. Be civil. And agree to work towards a principled compromise."

When the workshops are over, Keeley will take two to three months to write a plan that he hopes will be the basis for debate.

"I don't think the process will be successful if after Round One, we just try to just do a summary version, and then say, 'Now let's talk.' Then it devolves into a series of salons," Keeley explained. "And since I'm a man with a past, not a future, I can write it, people can debate it, but at least we'll have a template. Either we'll come up with the perfect intergalactic solution, or something significantly less ambitious, but we will have measurable deliverables, have solved specific set of problems through negotiations and sources, all brokered by the group."

With highway construction happening as the TFTF process starts, Keeley acknowledged this "will challenge the facilitation process and the dimensions of good faith and civility and willingness to make a principled compromise."

Asked if he's a masochist, Keeley said with a tortured laugh, "That's the one who enjoys pain, right?"

TFTF workshops take place in Live Oak, April 26; Felton, May 10; Watsonville, May 20; Aptos, May 25; and Santa Cruz, June 7. Check www.tftaskforce.org or call 831.460.3200.

Boats vs. Otters

What's the only thing worse than hitting your neighbor's dog with your car? Hitting an endangered species with your boat.

Sounds like it ought to be a one-in-a-million shot, but in the past six years, 11 sea otters have been struck and killed by boats at Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing.

In an attempt to curb this tide of slaughter, local Monterey Bay organizations have come together to get the word out on otter safety. Their efforts coincide with the start of recreational salmon fishing season, which kicks off April 1.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of the Sea Otter are expressing concern that the increase in fishing boat traffic may result in further otter fatalities.

According to Jim Curland, marine program associate for Defenders of Wildlife, "People are anxious to get out to open ocean, so they gun it through Elkhorn Slough, not being cautious of surfacing wildlife."

Boaters can lessen the likelihood of striking an otter simply by slowing down as they pass through the slough where the official speed limit is 5 knots (about 4 miles per hour). Moss Landing Harbor Patrol enforces this speed, issuing citations to boaters who exceed the posted limit, and will be extra vigilant this weekend in light of the increased number of boats passing through the slough.

According to Curland, this is not an attack on salmon fisherman, but simply a precautionary measure.

"You've got fisherman coming from all over the country for the beginning of salmon season, which is great," said Curland. "We just want people to be careful and make it a safe weekend."


As told to Sarah Phelan and Leyna Krow


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