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NUZ: Otter Slam Dunks, Santa Cruz Budget Battles

Hoop dreams bred in the Monterey Bay

Sea otter populations are exploding off the coast of California, and they show no signs of slowing down.

Well … no signs other than the great white shark bites that a bunch of these fuzzy marine mammals have been dying from. According to a new study from a team of Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers, the sharks aren’t actually trying to eat otters. It’s more incidental. As a headline for New Scientist put it, “Sea otters are bouncing back—and into the jaws of great white sharks.” Thankfully, great whites don’t typically swallow the otters, but the sharks don’t have to gobble them down in order to fatally wound the little guys. “Kelp! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” the otters can be heard yelling from the shore.

Believe it or not, the shark news isn’t the only local finding on sea otter deaths lately. Just last week, veterinarians at the Monterey Bay Aquarium identified the cause of death for famous otter Gidget. The 10-year-old died of a parasite that she may have gotten from the poop of a bird flying overhead, or from something she ate.

One otter that’s alive and well, and just beginning her sure-to-be equally prestigious aquarium career, is 5-year-old Juno, who was rescued from the Monterey Bay area once upon a time and now lives at Portland’s Oregon Zoo. There, Juno’s grabbing headlines because she knows how to dunk a basketball. The trick, which took Juno two months to learn, could prevent her from developing elbow arthritis as she ages. Also, she looks so very cute when she dunks the ball into her plastic hoop, which has a Trail Blazers logo stuck to the backboard.

The Blazers logo is good news in and of itself. After all, those poor Portland basketball fans need someone to root for right now.

MOVING THE NEEDLE

Two weekends ago, Santa Cruz Councilmember Drew Glover posted an update on Facebook against a purple background: “Happy Mother’s Day! I just got notified that my landlord is selling the property. Anyone have a room for rent in Santa Cruz?” The Santa Cruz City Council has historically been dominated by homeowners, but right now, at least three of its members are renters.

CASH REGISTER

When the Santa Cruz City Council isn’t arguing about how much time to give public commenters or having its meetings shut down by Hitler-heiling activists, it does try to actually get things done.

And getting stuff done has mostly been the vibe during the city’s budget discussions. However, the council has so far found it easier to look for stuff to put back into the budget than to actually cut things, which would normally be the point when you’re facing a $3.2 million deficit like one the city has on its plate right now. The deficits are only projected to grow over the next few years, if they go unaddressed.

Of course, any cuts to services would feel deep and painful at this point. But if the city waits for the next recession to start slashing, the cuts will likely feel a heck of a lot worse.

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