September is Coastal Cleanup Month, and we are celebrating with a special focus on sustainability in this issue of the Topanga New Times. Look for information on recycling, an interview with the filmmakers of the new documentary Kiss the Ground, and TNT’s guide to local non profit organizations.

Fall is here! The autumnal equinox officially occurred on September 22, at 6:30 a.m. The forecast calls for a dry and windy autumn, and a long and anxious fire season, but we are one step closer to winter rains. The promise of cooler weather couldn’t come soon enough for the smoke-and-ash-smothered West Coast. Catastrophic fires continue to burn throughout the Western U.S., and fire risk remains high, but nighttime temperatures in the 50s and the return of the onshore flow were a welcome relief for residents of the Santa Monica Mountains and coast this week.

The Bobcat Fire is still burning in the San Gabriel Mountains, and as of this week, has consumed more than a quarter of the area of Angeles National Forest. At more than 109,000 acres, this is one of the biggest wildfires in Los Angeles County history. Full containment isn’t expected until the end of October. Smoke from this and other Southern California fires have had a drastic impact on local air quality, but so far, the Santa Monica Mountains have been spared a major fire disaster. All residents are encouraged to report any sign of smoke and to make sure emergency plans are in place and up-to-date.

After a steady decline during August, the number of COVID-19 cases is up again. Officials say Labor Day weekend activities may be responsible for the spike, but “coronavirus fatigue,” and more people engaging in potentially high risk activities may also be contributing to the increase. Face coverings, hand washing, and social distancing remain imperative.

Los Angeles County was rattled by a 4.6 magnitude earthquake on the night of September 19. Earlier that day, the nation was shaken by a different type of seismic event, the death of Supreme Court Justice and human rights champion Ruth Baden Ginsburg. The celebrated judge’s passing coincided with Rosh Hashanah, the High Holiday that commemorates the Jewish New Year. There is a tradition that a person who dies on this day is a Tzadik, or in the case of a woman, a Tzadeikes, a person of great righteousness.

Ginsburg’s death, followed within the hour by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s assertion that he would start the process to approve President Donald Trump’s replacement before the November 3 Presidential Election, created a tsunami of support for Democratic candidates. The online fundraising organization ActBlue reported that grassroots donors gave $91.4 million to fund Democratic candidates in just the first 28 hours after the news of Ginsburg’s death was announced.

The November 3 election is expected to have a record voter turnout, and Ginsburg’s passing appears to be fueling a new wave of activism in the final leg of a grueling election season.

Look for ballots to arrive by mail in the first week of October. It is critically important to sign the ballot before sending it in or dropping it off. Ballots can be returned by mail, or delivered in person to any Vote by Mail Center drop box in Los Angeles County. Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within 17 days to count. Voters can sign up to track their ballot and verify that it was counted. Learn more at: https://www.lavote.net/home/voting-elections/voting-options/vote-by-mail/how-to-vote-by-mail

Trick or treating and Halloween parties may be on hold this year, but the Topanga Actors Studio has plenty of Halloween spirit. The company will be presenting a dramatic reading of Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, based on the novel by Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley. September 26 and 27 at 7 p.m., https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82294749511

Do you have a favorite Halloween story or photograph? We would love it if you would share it and help TNT celebrate the autumn season! hello@topanganewtimes.com 

Stay safe, be well!