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CENTRAL COAST COMEBACK – A more digital union

Central Coast Comeback Government (1)

(KION) - California is slowly starting to reopen again, and mask sightings are not the only changes in our Central Coast Comeback. What will government functions look in the coming months and after the COVID-19 Pandemic ends?

In Santa Cruz County, the Board of Supervisors' chambers is still open, but there is minimal seating due to social distancing. To keep people involved while the shelter in place order is in effect, the county started live-streaming the supervisors' meetings on Facebook. KION is told this has been much more popular than streaming on the county website. This is why Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin says even when the pandemic ends, they are going to continue showing the meetings on Facebook.

"(People) are expressing themselves, both good and bad, about certain items before the Board. But I think that is actually good for democracy, so more people are following what their local government is actually doing," Hopping said.

Monterey County has also starting live-streaming their Board meetings on Facebook, and like Santa Cruz, say this has been a success. They haven't made a decision yet, but say they are considering keeping this practice even after they return to the chambers.

We The People have now formed a more digital Union.

Trips to the California Department of Motor Vehicles are also less essential now. While driver tests are still required in person, when all DMV locations finally open, you'll need them for fewer functions. The DMV Virtual Office was set up after California's stay at home order went into effect, and will remain available online moving forward. People can submit for a duplicate driver license, along with other functions that require DMV employee assistance and checks, like:

  • Vehicle Registration Renewal
  • Title Transfer
  • Duplicate Title
  • Temporary DL Extension
  • Submit Medical Examination Report
  • Vehicle Salesperson Renewal/Reinstatement

Court proceedings largely shut down, in person, once the shelter in place orders went into effect. At the Monterey County Jail, inmates are taken to a small cell-like room with a computer for virtual hearings. The Monterey County Sheriff's Office tells KION this largely won't continue once the shelter in place order is gone, but they might keep this virtual method for arraignments.

The virtual proceedings require more staff because you need law enforcement in the cell and in the courtroom, however you no longer need to physically transport the inmate between the jail and the courthouse.

The experience is also different at the Santa Cruz County Probation Department. Much of their work has gone digital as the practice physical distancing. While people are still showing up to the office for meetings, they are limiting how many are there at a time. There has also been fewer home visits. Instead, they have transitioned to remote checks in and virtual classes. Santa Cruz County Probation Chief Fernando Giraldo says the speed of the remote work has not only worked well, but helped get through an intake backlog.

"That's something we can just continue. Instead of having them do office visits, we'll just remote check-ins with some of those lower level folks that are not a public safety risk," Giraldo said.

It is all but certain the 2020 Presidential Election is going to be between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. However, how you vote in California could change. Many people have also started to favor mail-in ballots, but an executive order from Governor Gavin Newsom means that all registered voters will automatically get one.

In Santa Cruz, they are exploring additional social distancing voting options - like more ballot drop-off locations and even drive thru voting. Still, they will have a few standing in-person voting locations open around the county.

"We want to make sure anyone who has a language need or disability or other need has the option for them to come in person if they need to," county clerk Gail Pellerin said.

You can't just walk up to the clerk's office anymore. They are "no appointment, no service" now. Whether it is passports or marriage licenses, you need to plan ahead - and this could continue moving forward. An online appointment system for Santa Cruz County is also in the works.

"You can't quarantine love," Pellerin said. "You can't cancel an election."

The City of Santa Cruz is back to enforcing their parking meters once again. The physical meters will still be there after the pandemic, but they still recommend that people use the hands free ParkMobile system.

So much of our new normal and Central Coast Comeback is unknown. Anything decided now could also change with new COVID-19 developments.

California News / Central Coast Comeback / Coronavirus / Monterey County / News / Salinas / Santa Cruz / Santa Cruz County

Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.


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