Plus Letters to the Editor
This is not the original Editor's Note I wrote for publication this week, which went to press early Tuesday afternoon. That note found me pondering the state of our culture after watching a frenzied Academy Awards telecast that, to me, was void of class. Except for when the women appeared, many of which—Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Hudson, Adele, Norah Jones—reminded us, that in an attention-hungry culture, less is more, grace is good and dignity still exists. (It's interesting to note that we rarely get reminded of that whenever we see a Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Even the cast of The Avengers didn't evoke that, try as they might, when they hit the Oscar stage Sunday.)
Which brings us to the issue at hand: Once again Santa Cruz has been riddled if not rattled by violence. This week the city mourns the deaths of Detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker—a 28-year-veteran on the force—and Detective Elizabeth Butler, who has been on the force for 10 years. They are the first officers in the history of the city to be killed in the line of duty. Late Tuesday evening, during a press conference, police Chief Kevin Vogel said, "Our department is in mourning. This is a horrific day."
If you are reading this then, chances are, you already know what unfolded on the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 26. A deadly confrontation took place at 3 p.m. at a house on the 800 block of North Branciforte Avenue in Santa Cruz. Baker and Butler were investigating (in plain clothes) a possible domestic violence. The suspect—I will go by way of Anderson Cooper and, for now, refrain from mentioning his name here—shot the officers. They were later found dead outside of the house. What happened next smacks of something you might find in the movies. Santa Cruz police set up a perimeter and, working with other agencies, secured the North Branciforte Avenue area, which is highly residential with a middle school down the block. They found the suspect nearby on Doyle Street (near Whole Foods) about a half-hour later. Gunshots ensued—many of them. The suspect was shot dead.
I have a friend and a colleague that lives on Doyle Street. She was at the police station until 12:30 a.m. that night giving a report. Apparently, she and several others with her in her apartment heard gunshots outside. She called 911. Not long after, my friend opened the door and began to carefully investigate. She encountered police who immediately told her to get back inside and lock the doors. She did. A moment later, she spotted a man running down the walkway. His dead body was still covered with a tarp on the driveway when she returned from the police station late that night.
Many citizens were affected deeply by the murder of Shannon Collins in May of 2012. Since I have been in Santa Cruz, I would say that that one incident profoundly affected the community. Santa Cruz rallied together, hoping to raise the level of awareness about local violence; hoping to heal. Just this last month, an odd string of increased crime once again found Santa Cruz, including a recent break-in where the homeowners actually fought back with the thief.
In the coming days and weeks, many of us will hear: "We must do something about violence and crime in Santa Cruz. Enough!"
I am not a lawmaker. I am not on the city council. And many readers aren't either. But I can use what is in front of me today to make some positive difference. Today, writing this is what I can do. Tomorrow, perhaps something else. We do not live in a bubble. If we are to be a real community, if we are to stand together and explore options and solutions (and even healing) we must use what we have in front of us today to do just that so that, collectively, we galvanize our broader vision of Santa Cruz … and not just settle for what we have, but to push for what we need.
I found it absolutely mesmerizing to hear the acceptance speech of Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio, who took home an Oscar for his work on the film. He dedicated the award to Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who was the inspiration behind the film. In his acceptance speech, Terrio said that "Tony, using nothing but his creativity and his intelligence, got six people out of a very bad situation … I want to dedicate this him, and the people all over the world who use creativity and intelligence to solve problems non-violently."
Santa Cruz is a creative community. No doubt it strives for something similar. In the coming weeks, as city leaders connect more with locals within the community, we may see how some of that unfolds. In the meantime, rather than blindly saying, "the police aren't doing enough"—if this week doesn't change your opinion even slightly, then … it may be best to a) honor those who serve the community and b) work together with them. For now—for today—many good thoughts are being sent to the families of Baker and Butler.
Continue to send us your letters and we will keep this conversation in motion.
Be well. Be safe. Onward …
A Meatless Earth Day?
Again, I demand that all meat-cooking, meat-eating and meat consumption at the annual Earth Day Festival in Santa Cruz, California be immediately terminated. Meat-eating is not an appropriate venue for an Earth Day Festival.
Vegan/vegetarianism is a central core pillar of Earth Day or any other green/environmental festival celebrated anywhere in the U.S. or throughout the world. Earth Day represents the traditional promotion of alternative, green, sustainable and ecologically appropriate values and means of living. The promulgation and consumption of a meat-based diet (however "natural") is completely antithetical to this theme. In fact, nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gases responsible for global warming come from livestock. Read “Diet for a Hot Planet” by Anna Lappe. It’s time to feed people, not livestock! Over half of the people on our planet are malnourished because of our overconsumptive meat-based diet here in America.
Allowing so-called "natural food" establishments and others to cook, sell and consume meat at our annual Earth Day Festival makes a complete hypocritical mockery of what an Earth Day celebration traditionally represents in our society. Willingly, or per force, this rich, arrogant, decadent, overconsumptive meat-eating and SUV, gas-guzzling lifestyle will be decisively terminated in the very near future—of this fact there is absolutely no question. Best to make the transition softly and voluntarily and learn to build an ecologically based green community here locally first so as to ease the transition.
I personally have identified "meat-eating" as the central/core problem and impediment in our culture that is preventing us from evolving into a truly environmentally sustainable and survivable green society. In fact, I have written a chapter on the issue in my online book, “Saving The Planet.”
So, let’s end the meat-eating at our annual Earth Day Festival, it does not belong here. Because this has been an ongoing conflict with this city and its organizers over the years, I again publically call for your firing and dismissal as coordinators of our annual Earth Day Festival here in Santa Cruz. It’s time the City of Santa Cruz hire a team that is both competent and in tune with the real green/eco-values of our beautiful community.
Foundation Makes an Impact
The Santa Cruz Education Foundation, which works to ensure that each of the 7,000 students at its 10 campuses—from kindergarten through high school— receive outstanding educational experiences, recently reminded us of its longstanding collaboration with Shadowbrook Restaurant. Save the date: When you dine at the Shadowbook on Tuesday, March 12 (5-10 p.m.), the SCEFoundation will receive 30 percent from the bill. Mention SCEF. Learn more at theeddy.sceducation.org.
Behold: The Santa Cruz Music Festival
“I don't find thin girls attractive; be happy and healthy. I've never had a problem with the way I look. I'd rather have lunch with my friends than go to a gym.”
On ‘Abbott Sqaure’ ...
By definition a public space belongs to everyone, not just business-friendly shoppers. Local leaders seem to want a sanitized version of the American public square. However, public spaces are meant for the community, everyone, to gather in and to utilize.
Public spaces germinated the antiwar, free speech, civil rights, women's rights, disability rights, and now poverty rights movements. It seems like civic leader wants to privatize all the public commons, making them subservient to business interests.
We are interested in creating a thriving space for everyone in Abbott Square. We are talking with the Homeless Services Center, the Community Counseling Center, and many others to develop a plan that makes the square a source of creativity, activity, and inspiration for diverse members of our community. I wish this article had focused on the incredible creative ideas for Abbott Square—from children, police, activists, artists—and the potential they speak to for all of us.
We are working hard to make this process as open as possible. If you or anyone wants to participate, please call me.
Executive Director, MAH
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