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When All Else Fails

Former Assemblymember John Laird and current Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee may have officially announced their candidacies and are preparing for a shotgun-wedding-style campaign for recently confirmed Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado's 15th District Senate seat—but hoooooold your horses, cowboys! A lawsuit filed last week is trying to delay the June 22 special election and names one of the counties in the district, Monterey, as a defendant. The document says the special election ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month would put Monterey County in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs will argue that the special election needs federal approval from the Justice Department and that the dates set—a June 22 primary and an Aug. 17 runoff—do not allow enough time for the county to prepare. "They're required to get the pre-clearing, and they haven't gotten it and they need to get it," says Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld, a San Francisco–based lawyer for the plaintiffs. The California Democratic Party is reportedly backing the suit.

The complaint also says the election ought to take place in November, placing it on the ballot with higher profile, national contests, something Democrats had hoped Schwarzenegger would do on his own. The general consensus seems to be that a November election with a higher turnout would play out better for a Democratic candidate—in this case, John Laird. So they were necessarily incensed when Schwarzenegger stamped out those hopes hours after Maldonado's confirmation, issuing the executive order for the June primary.

Laird responded to the news by writing a letter to Blakeslee, asking him to temporarily put the competition aside and join forces in asking the governor to delay the election. "Because Monterey County is a Voting Rights Act county, there are serious issues about whether minority voters are being disproportionately disenfranchised because of the special election date," Laird wrote. "Enough is enough. We will be spending millions of dollars that our counties desperately need on an election at the same time essential services are being cut." The suit was filed in U.S. District Court and has already been assigned to Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose.

—Jessica Lussenhop

Sorry, Italy—Not!

When the Amgen Tour of California was rescheduled for May, many thought it might lose big-name riders to the Giro d'Italia, a Grand Tour event taking place simultaneously May 8–30. But when deciding between the races, most of cycling's legends opted for the Golden State. The Giro has some great cycling talent, but it doesn't have Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, George Hincapie, Fabian Cancellara or Tom Boonen—because we do. Stage 3 of the big race starts in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 18, and ends in Santa Cruz at the Boardwalk. Maybe it was the promise of a post-race cooldown on the Logger's Revenge that lured them away from the Tuscan countryside.

—Gabe Meline

Check on Tuesday, May 18, for coverage of the AMGEN STAGE 3 finish at the Boardwalk.

Future Framer Of America

She may be a young activist dealing with some of today's most pressing issues, but Erica Williams is setting her sights on the future—midcentury, to be exact. By that time, the Census Bureau predicts that racial minorities will make up most of the United States' population, with no one group holding an overwhelming racial majority. As the Center for American Progress' new deputy director for Progress 2050 (as in the year 2050), Williams is taking steps to ensure that progressive policy reflects this forecasted diversity.

Before her work with Progress 2050, Williams was in charge of another branch of the Center for American Progress. This was Campus Progress, an outreach program for students. During that time, she says, "I worked with young people around the country to help them engage in the political process and raise awareness about issues like college affordability, climate change and affirmative action." The same segment of the population that she interacted with through Campus Progress will be her subject (and likely, much of her audience) when she arrives at UC–Santa Cruz to deliver a lecture on "The New Youth Movement: Changing U.S. Politics and Advancing Social Justice."

This event is part of the Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community's annual spring speaker series. The CJTC, a progressive research center at UCSC, has for the past decade hosted guest lectures on a variety of topics like environmental justice, green jobs and the racial wealth gap, providing the public with a chance to learn from leading activists. In the words of the center's director, Heather Bullock, "Much of our research is conducted ... with the aim of making a difference in people's lives by providing information and analysis for action. Our spring speakers embody these ideals."

—Sean Conwell

ERICA WILLIAMS speaks on Wednesday, May 12, at 7pm at the College 9/10 Multipurpose Room, UCSC. Free.; 831.459.5743.

Pretty Pathway

It was a big old-fashioned Santa Cruz–style lovefest last Friday morning at the ribbon-cutting for the new segment of bike path leading to the Tannery Arts Center from downtown. The sun was shining, the bicycle-powered blender was blending, the Derby Girls were preening and the politicians were politicking, which in this case meant explaining how much the thing cost ($1.1 million), who paid for it ($400,000 came from state Props. 40 and 50, $400,000 from the redevelopment agency and $300,000 from the city's none-too-popular traffic impact fee) and whom to thank (former mayor and Tannery champion Emily Reilly, Assemblymember Bill Monning, Redevelopment director Bonnie Lipscomb and city government, as represented by Mayor Mike Rotkin and Councilmember Lynn Robinson).

A lot of hoopla for a ribbon of asphalt. But then, the Highway 1 underpass has many charms, chief among them that it spares pedestrians and cyclists the horror of crossing the county's busiest intersection (River Street and Highway 1) should they wish to travel from the Tannery or Harvey West to downtown, or vice versa. Now walkers, joggers and cyclists can cruise, easy as you please, from downtown to the Tannery along the levee bike path without so much as a middle finger from an impatient motorist. And the stretch of path from the underpass to the far end of the Tannery is a charming walk on the wild side, a brush with nature just 10 minutes from downtown.

Tannery folks are also hoping it becomes a cultural thoroughfare. Once the next phase of the development is complete and the Performing Arts Center goes in, the path could become a route for concertgoers taking the quick walk from downtown eateries and apartments to the new venue.

To Tannery resident Cheryle Winn, a practitioner of the quilting arts, the occasion held significance beyond greater convenience. "We're so excited to have this, because it really feels like for the first time we're part of the community," she said. "This has bridged us, and now we can welcome the community to us."

It was all so pleasant that we hated to contemplate the unbidden thought that came next, which is: how long before this gorgeous little piece of infrastructure becomes an expressway for the drug-addled and the furtive? Casting our eyes upward, we looked for lights. While lamps stood at regular intervals along the far end of the trail behind the Tannery, the stretch from the Riverfront Plaza to the underpass was illuminated by a lone, insufficient streetlight. We asked Rotkin, who was poised on his bicycle sporting helmet and reflective anklestrap, about it. "More lights are coming," he assured. "By next week."

It's good to know they're on top of it. We're thinking they'll need to be.

—Traci Hukill

Oil and Water

The vulnerability of the oil-blooming waters of the Gulf of Mexico—where some 5,000 barrels a day are gushing into the sea from a broken wellhead—resonates deeply with residents of the Central Coast. Monterey Bay, one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, shares striking similarities with the Gulf. Tourists craving ocean sports and marine life flock to its shores. A prime difference, however, is that there is no oil drilling off the Central Coast, and there won't be soon: following the Deepwater Horizon debacle, Gov. Schwarzenegger backed off a plan to authorize oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara. And the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is off-limits no matter what the governator says.

But a different petroleum product plagues our waters: plastic pollution. Save Our Shores executive director Laura Kasa says that 151,699 plastic pieces and 18,296 plastic bags have been collected through the group's local beach and river cleanups since 2007. After a countywide plastic bag ban goes into effect, she predicts these numbers will decrease, just as the quantity of styrofoam on beaches declined sharply after it was banned in 2007 and 2008. Sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to oil and plastic floating on the ocean's surface, as they often mistake plastic bags for their favorite food, jellyfish—a mistake that is often fatal.

And now turtles are facing a new threat. Last week, CNN documented the first sea turtle caught in the growing oil slick in the Gulf. Davenport-based marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols identified the turtle as an endangered loggerhead that had come to the surface to breath, and was struggling to do so in water laden with globules of oil.

"From the time they are babies, sea turtles gravitate towards floating algae and kelp," says Nichols. "An oil slick is not something they are used to, and they don't move away from it; they may actually move into it."

—Maria Grusauskas

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