A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words

Hi Jane,

Recently, sad to say,  my life has been more about politicking than birding.  Since I’ve been learning so much about city council candidates in the last month, I thought I’d let you know what they are thinking about the San Lorenzo River . My strategy will be to look at the images they chose for their Pecha Kucha slideshows.

Did you go to the Pecha Kucha event at the Civic Auditorium?  I missed it.  Apparently,  each city council candidate got to show 20 images for 20 seconds ­– each in response to the question “What is Your Vision for Downtown Santa Cruz”. Fortunately, the individual slideshows were posted  online so I could check them out. What an eye-opener that has been, proving once again that a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words.

CHRIS KROHN  is the only one of any of the candidates who chose a photo of the river as a natural resource and not as a scenic backdrop for commercial and recreational development. He was the only candidate to emphasize the protection of the river as a wildlife area.  In his slideshow he chose the following two photos:

Chris Krohn photo for Pecha Kucha presentation September 22,  2016.  “When I served on the council, we led the way in revegetating this urban riparian corridor. ….Santa Cruz has been a leader among small cities in its dedication to maintaining green spaces. As a community that values the joy, peace and restorative qualities of nature in Santa Cruz, we need to continue and even expand our dedication.”
Chris Krohn Pecha Kucha photo, Great Blue Heron on San Lorenzo River.  “I believe in the protection of all urban green spaces (greenbelts, rivers, marshes, urban forest, community and neighborhood parks) and protection of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, its ocean and beaches”

STEVE SCHNAAR  is an ardent biker who  has helped provide bikes to young people and  has helped found a community orchard.  Steve had more slides related to environmental issues than any of the other candidates, though only one related directly to the  protection of  our natural environment.  Of his 20 slides, seven were directly related to promoting green space. He included one photo of a solar heated parking area, three photos of community gardens including the Beach Flats Garden, two photos related to protection for bikers and a photo of the beautiful Red Horse Chestnut heritage tree that was illegally removed to make room for a high-end hotel on Broadway. His emphasis has been on community gardens and alternative transportation.

Steve Schnaar, Pecha Kucha photo, Red Horse Chestnut, a heritage tree, illegally killed on October 14, 2014 to make way for high-end hotel.
Steve Schnaar,  Pecha Kucha photo, with lead gardener of Beach Flats Garden, Don Emilio Martinez Castaneda

DREW GLOVER founded Project Pollinate, an educational and research organization dedicated to informing communities about the interconnectedness of our ecosystem while providing habitats and sanctuary for honeybees, native bees and other pollinators.  His slideshow image shows the space needed to transport the same number of people on bikes, in cars and by bus.

“We believe in minimizing options that create wider roadways and maximizing options that help us divest from fossil fuels and individual vehicles. Our solutions should seek commuter relief and corridor-opening by fully funding the metro, encouraging efficient mass transit and safe cycling routes.”

The Bernie Sanders group in town has endorsed SANDY BROWN as their fourth progressive candidate. Her slideshow was submitted too late for inclusion in the Pecha Kucha event, and, unfortunately her website does not offer much information regarding environmental issues except to say “Let’s make a greener and more livable Santa Cruz.  I hope she will clarify where she stands on environmental issues.

The vision of the following four candidates stands in stark contrast to the vision of the first four.  None  express serious concern about  protecting and enhancing our natural environment.  All support  high-end development.

Very interestingly,  Robert Singleton, J.M. Brown, and Martine Watkins chose photos or drawings of  rivers in other towns that they would like Santa Cruz to emulate. The photos of the rivers in Indiana and Texas show rivers with all wildlife habitat totally destroyed by development, replaced by cement walls. That is their dream. Their dream is my nightmare.


J.M.BROWN’s slideshow says he grew up in Indianapolis and misses the thriving riverfront.   “I miss the restaurants, ball parks, and museums”. Brown has made the San Lorenzo River a centerpiece of his campaign, and writes at length about it on his website.  He is a close friend of Greg Pepping, director of the Coastal Watershed Council, and serves on the Board of that organization. CWC is the group that has pushed hard for recreational boating on the river.   If J.M. Brown is elected, we can expect that he will strongly promote boating on the river, as well as high-density housing and commercial development along the river wherever feasible.

J.M. Brown’s Pecha Kucha photo – the riverfront in the city of Indianapolis where Brown grew up. This is what he would like to see developed in Santa Cruz.  The natural riparian corridor has been destroyed and replaced with cement and lawns.

ROBERT SINGLETON has a similar vision for  the San Lorenzo River, “I really want to see a revitalization of this under-utilizeded resource.   Imagine being able to walk your dog, then get a cup of coffee, then walk right back to the river.” He describes himself as a ‘foodie’ and a ‘beer snob’. He wants to attract young entrepreneurs to the downtown.

Robert Singleton, Pecha Kucha slide, a city in Texas built along a river that he would like Santa Cruz to emulate.
Robert Singleton, Pecha Kucha slide.  This is Singleton’s vision for a  high-end hotel on the San Lorenzo River (see river in background) .

MARTINE WATKINS’ slideshow includes a drawing of an imagined river as a scenic backdrop for a riverside café.  She says on her slideshow, “I don’t think it is unrealistic to envision a vibrant river, a place that is creative, healthy, that’s inviting, that’s involving, a place that we can all come and thrive”.   What do all those other words mean? Martine uses a lot of abstractions that don’t say too much to me.  That concerns me a lot.

Martine Watkins’ vision for the San Lorenzo River.

I don’t see CYNTHIA MATTHEWS as differing too much from the first three.  She does, at least, include photos of the river itself and calls for a ‘healthy riparian habitat, safe bike and pedestrian paths, special activities and inviting future development that links river and downtown.” As the only incumbent whose record we can examine, we know that she has been completely supportive of allowing recreational boating on the river.  She doesn’t specify what kind of development she would ‘invite’.

Cynthia Matthew, Pecha Kucha photos, shown with the Leveelies and a ranger.  

I don’t believe that any of the last four candidates see the river as a precious and fragile ecosystem that supports a rich biodiversity of bird life (122 species)  as well as other plant and animal life. They may not know that the urban part of the river is the 14th top hotspot for birding in the whole County (not just the City). Nor do they show much concern about our community being a part of a planet that is threatened by climate change. Unfortunately, all four seem to be primarily interested in the river as a scenic backdrop for economic and recreational development.  Does this truly reflect the values of those of us who choose to live in such an environmentally rich community and are worried about climate change? I hope not.

I think the voters of Santa Cruz are faced with a clear choice. Will we choose environmental protection or urban development?  Let’s hope that voters come down on the side of environmental responsibility – for the sake of our city and for the sake of our planet.

Wasn’t the rain great! What a visceral relief. I could almost feel the joy of the plants.



One thought on “A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words

  1. Thanks, Barbara. That is a little shocking and helps me to realize that where I see habitat, many other people see “undeveloped land.” Sort of like arriving Europeans seeing this continent as “uninhabited land.” I love the urban river scenes in Paris, San Antonio, and even Capitola…but given the choice I’m with you about keeping the willows and the herons.

Leave a Reply