Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Apr 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Politician, Heal Thyself

tom_honig_sIsn’t it funny how elected officials are quick to regulate others but slow to regulate themselves?

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone wants to extend a ban on plastic bags by clamping down on paper bags at local grocery stores. Under his plan retailers would be forced to offer discounts to shoppers who bring in their own reusable shopping bags. Or, perhaps, they’d charge shoppers more to use what he calls “single-use bags.”

Perhaps his idea is a good one, although I’d love to hear from retailers to find out whether the plan would lead to higher prices. But a bigger issue is something more basic: if you want to make change, start with yourself.

Like: Stone should swear off the use of mailers and brochures during his next campaign. County supervisors should urge that county staff cut down on paperwork.   The County Planning Department uses form after form for applicants, and most county offices require a ton of paperwork on a daily basis.

Take a look at the Board of Supervisors’ weekly agenda packet. Sure, these forms and papers probably don’t add up to the number of paper bags at grocery stores, but Stone’s words would carry a lot more clout if he were to start with himself and the county government. Make do with less paper at the county.

Stone says that he wants to enlist the support of other jurisdictions in this paper-bag cutback. What an opportunity he has to enlist their participation in government paperwork as well.

How about a paper-free election next November? After all, when I go to the store I have a choice as to whether to use a paper bag or to bring my own cloth bag. But I don’t have any such choice when these same regulation-happy politicians litter my mailbox with their campaign fliers.

If local leaders want to be truly innovative, they should consider regulating themselves first. That would set them apart.

Take a look at Congress. One little-known perk that elected officials there enjoy is the right to insider trading. That’s right. The same strategy that landed Martha Stewart in jail is actually legal for Congressional members. Alan Ziobrowski, a business professor at Georgia State, analyzed hundreds of personal financial disclosures by members of Congress. The result? They beat the market, significantly. And no law prevents them from using their knowledge about upcoming legislation to buy and sell securities.

That’s not to say that such shenanigans are going on here, but it is worth noting that the special treatment enjoyed by elected officials is causing ever-increasing cynicism about the political process.

There’s a tremendous opportunity here. No one can argue against the goal of cutting down on the use of raw materials. But the regulators could gain a lot of support— and maybe even some raised eyebrows—if for once they started out by changing their own ways first.

Last Tuesday night didn’t seem different from any other Tuesday night in downtown Santa Cruz, although I did run into a few friends strolling downtown wearing “I (heart) Downtown Santa Cruz” buttons. It’s all part of a Take Back Santa Cruz movement that’s sprung up in the wake of recent violence—as well as a general feeling by some that downtown isn’t safe.

Here we go again. The downtown problem is hardly news. It has been an area of concern for the 38 years I’ve been here. Writer Page Stegner even went so far as to write about Pacific Avenue in an Esquire Magazine story back in 1981, under the title “The Limits of Tolerance.”

No one has the solution to various downtown problems; after all, there’s no law against sitting around and being unpleasant.

One thing I have learned: don’t ever write laws in response to news stories. Some of our society’s worst laws have resulted from tragic cases in the news: the kidnap and murder of Polly Klaas led to the unworkable “Three Strikes” law. A horrible case of violence led to various “Megan’s Law” measures that have proved to be more trouble than they’re worth.

The Take Back Santa Cruz movement—you can even find it on Facebook—is a worthy effort by the Downtown Association that makes more sense than any sort of legalistic crackdown.  Crackdowns don’t work. Back in the 1970s, the City Council decided to ban sitting on Pacific Avenue flower boxes—and one lunchtime the police fanned out to give citations. When one of the citations was issued to an assistant district attorney, the crackdown was abandoned.

The challenge is to dilute any problems by trying to attract normal folks to downtown. That’s a strategy worth pursuing.


Contact Tom Honig at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise