Readers share their thoughts on desalination and the city’s changes to the bike distribution program.

Since Last We Spoke

I have been very disappointed in your recent articles on the city bike distribution program (“Backpedaling.html,” Sept. 12). While it is true I apologized for the tone of an email I sent out, the underlying substance deserves consideration, and neither myself nor the Bike Church collective has retracted those questions and concerns.

After more than four years of collaborating with the city, including 16 events distributing 415 bicycles through various nonprofit organizations, the city ended this program without so much as a letter or phone call of notification. For months we engaged with the SCPD, city council, and city manager but received no sensible explanation.

Meanwhile we learned that the Bike Dojo, a for-profit business whose youth program does not appear to be a non-profit, was recommended by Hilary Bryant, whose husband’s business works “in association with” the Bike Dojo, according to their website. We’ve also heard directly from both Rob and Kim Mylls at the Bike Dojo that they are selling some city bikes to fund their youth program, in violation of city policy.

We are hoping the city reinstates a program open to all city nonprofits, as was the case for years prior to this change.

-Steve Schnaar, Santa Cruz


Secret of Desal

[Re: “Pour Communication.html,” Sept. 12] You’ve run a provocative letter or two lately, so let me pitch you another one:

The City of Santa Cruz wants taxpayers to pay for half of a desalination plant that will mainly benefit Capitola, Soquel, and Aptos.

We the citizens do not know, really, whether personal conservation and gray water reuse would be enough to solve Santa Cruz’s water woes.

We do not know. The city has not told us. The City Council simply says, “Desal is the best answer. Trust us.”

And they want you to take their word. Because Santa Cruz might survive without desal. But the communities east of 41st Avenue would die.

Santa Cruz gets its water mainly from rainfall runoff, but the Soquel Creek Water District relies heavily on ground water: wells. For decades it has taken more water out its aquifers than nature puts back in. And so its water table has sunk to over 80 feet below sea level.

 Eventually the seawater will roll in and most of the wells will begin producing salt water. It’s already started. If it goes on, sooner or later it’s game over for Capitola, Aptos, Soquel. Ask the water district: there is no other source of water.

Except desal. The desal plant will provide the additional water source that the Soquel Creek Water District needs to renew its water table. The process will take ten years and will require extreme conservation measures as well, perhaps forever.

Soquel Creek won’t take a drop of the desalinated water, however; it’ll “give” the entire output of the desal operation to Santa Cruz, and take in exchange some of Santa Cruz’s water from the San Lorenzo River watershed.

But if Santa Cruz decides to meet its water needs through conservation and recycling, Soquel Creek would have to bear the entire cost of a desal operation it probably couldn’t raise the money to pay for. And the aquifers would fill with salt water, and Mid-County east of 41st would wither. Population, real estate prices, the economy, employment, tourism: it would all drop.

And that would hurt a lot of people in Santa Cruz. Our economy does not stop at the city limits. Real estate agents, landscapers, restaurateurs, building contractors, retailers, wealthy people who own large amounts of income and commercial property county-wide: they would all suffer. And so might you.

But they couldn’t tell the voters that. Some of us might be unwilling to pay higher taxes to bail out Aptos and Capitola. Better then just to say “desal is the only choice,” and “trust us.”

Do you?

-Jim Jones


  • Don Lane

    Jim Jones’s letter of Sept. 18 about the “Secret of Desal” is certainly as provocative, as he suggested it would be.  Letters that reveal secrets – even if those secrets are factually incorrect – usually do get folks excited.
    There are many errors in the Jones letter.  Most glaring and most troubling is his assertion that the aquifer that is in danger of destruction by saltwater instrusion belongs solely to the Soquel Creek Water District.  That aquifer is also under the City of Santa Cruz water service area and is an important source of water for City water users, too.  We all need to participate in protecting it.
    Jones also simply makes some stuff up. For instance, it is just incorrect to say the City Council has said “Desal is the best answer. Just trust us.”  The City Council unanimously voted to put the question of desal to the voters in our community… and the Council did that a few months BEFORE the right to vote on desal signature gatherers qualified their measure for the ballot.
    Of course, no provocative letter around here can do without a line like this: “Real estate agents, landscapers, restaurateurs, building contractors, retailers, wealthy people who own large amounts of income and commercial property county-wide: they would all suffer.”  For provocative letters, it is always important to make sure the community “understands” that moneyed interests might get something out of the thing the letter-writer opposes.
    Never mind that, in a major drought, pretty much everyone would suffer and many treasured resources would suffer: your gardens and my yard and my neighbor’s hotel job and everyone’s parks would suffer in Santa Cruz and in mid-county if we have a serious multi-year drought. The suggeston that only mid-county has a problem is dead wrong.
    I have much respect for many of those in the community who question the need for desal. It is an issue that needs careful scrutiny.  But arguments against desal also require similar scrutiny.  It is so important that we get this right—and misleading people will not contribute to that effort.

  • Jim Jones

    I am sorry that Mayor Lane thinks that there are many misleading statements in my letter.  I would like to point out that he made some of his own.

    He says that the council has _not_ said, desal is the answer, just trust us.  But in the Other Weekly last week city water director Bill Kocher came out and said that desal is the only answer the past few city councils has been interested it.  In this context Mayor Lane wants us to trust that council will _give_ us the right to vote.  Safer if we take it, and vote Yes on Measure P. 

    Moreoever, certain city councilmen who won’t be named (Hi, Councilman Rotkin!) have been quoted in the Sentinel as objecting to people who question the city council’s intentions on this issue.  He’s a politician; he should know better.  Unless he’s just blowing smoke.

    All that given, I think it’s safer if the people take the right to vote on desal rather than trust the council to give it to us.

    Mayor Lane also misleads by saying that I claim that Santa Cruz wouldn’t suffer in the case of a drought.  Sure it would.  But Santa Cruz has options; Soquel Creek doesn’t.  Problems for us, catastrophe for them. 

    The point about Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek sharing an aquifer seems important, until you realize that Santa Cruz gets very little of its water from wells (aquifers); it’s mainly surface water.  It’s a very minor part of the supply. But well water is the major part of Soquel Creek’s.

    Finally, as I said in my letter, a waterless mid-county will hurt all of us Including government and government programs (that part was apparently edited out).  Gov’t needs tax revenue to operate. In this sense, gov’t and business are on the same side.  Nothing evil about it.

    But we need all the facts laid out.  Until that, Mayor Lane, you are indeed saying “trust us.

  • Rob Mylls


    Thanks for the free press.  Because of you we had our busiest week to date in terms of donations and children signing up for bikes!  We also got 2 new members from the letter from people searching on Bike Dojo! 

    We are not sure why you are so upset when the bikes are going to children?  I will show you my records of where the bikes went and the pictures of the smiling kids with their new bikes and helmets.

    Thanks again for the free press.  Is there anyway you can get us on TV?

    Rob Mylls
    Bike Dojo

  • Lawrence Tawil

    Gil Stein’s re to T. Meyer’s “On Hold”
    To: letters@santacruz.

    I never read T. Meyer’s ‘On Hold’, yet will confirm that Israel’s number 1 ranking for US aid exceeds that of all Africa combined.  If anything the ‘aid’ does more to forestall Mideast peace by rewarding the Jewish state’s human rights abuses, including misuse of certain WMD’s against civilians.

    Enter one Mr. Gil Stein, renowned local Israelophile and purveyor of misinformation, bent facts and character attacks.  He would have us indebted to them for boosting our GNP in a kind of self-supporting ponzy scheme where American taxpayer dollars aid a foreign military power to enrich corporate weapons manufacturers.  Israel doesn’t NEED U.S. troops, as the powerful Israel lobby (AIPAC, AJC etc) steadily wangles monies from Congress to refresh Israel’s killing machine.  Zionists may indeed share intelligence with us, but they infamously also spy on us with an elaborate network of cross-country agents.  As for our teamwork in fighting global terrorism, that problem would be immensely closer to eradication if only Israel will be honest with itself about equal rights for ‘Israeli Arabs’ (Palestinians) and political and economic freedom for those under military occupation, and be willing to implement it.

    There is no independent sovereign State of Palestine only because the Israelis will not permit it; otherwise, Palestinians could be free to create and grow a private enterprise-borne environment for themselves, now virtually impossible to accomplish under so many repressive occupation measures.  Oslo went sour for a variety of reasons, not least of which is Israel’s stubborn refusal to halt illegal settlement growth – and they know this.

    Ren Tawil
    Scotts Valley