The 2011 Community Assessment Project Report was released in November, examining various quality of life indicators in the county. What stood out to you as areas we excel in, and what struck you as areas we need to most work on?
Public nuisance or radical experiment in direct democracy?
The mood at Occupy Santa Cruz (OSC) General Assembly meetings was angry and defiant early last month, especially after protesters heard eyewitness accounts of the violence in Oakland and Berkeley. But the atmosphere became noticeably calmer and less defensive after the City of Santa Cruz’s injunction to shut down OSC was appealed to federal court on Nov. 15. The decision by U.S. District Judge Howard R. Lloyd whether or not to hear the case, and the arguments relating to federal jurisdiction, principally the First Amendment, is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2012 in San Jose.
The appeal delayed a State Superior Court hearing scheduled for Nov. 16 in the Santa Cruz County Court House, which seem to cool down the militant rhetoric of preparing for an eminent, forcible eviction of the Occupiers of San Lorenzo Park. The appeal to federal court of what Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone described as a “routine public nuisance suit” has also gained the web-based attention of Occupy movements across the country. It is a big question, after all: Does the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly include OSC?
Local Fair Trade boutique celebrates one year, reopens for the holidays
Trade As One, an online Fair Trade sales company based in Santa Cruz, first opened their boutique store on the Westside on “Black Friday” last year. Now, a year later, the boutique store has reopened its doors for the holidays, extending their business hours until the end of the year.
Nathan George, the founder and CEO of Trade As One. started the business with his wife, Catherine George, when the couple moved from England to Santa Cruz five years ago. They’d hoped to tap into the surge of success and growth that Fair Trade was experiencing in Europe at the time. George, who spent 18 years in the software industry prior to opening Trade as One, confesses that it’s “not a surprise that Santa Cruz embraces Fair Trade.”
The realignment of state prisoners to county jails began in october—how does Santa Cruz County’s handling of the shift compare to in other parts of the state?
While I am not familiar with what every county in the state is doing with regard to implementing public safety realignment, I can definitively state that based on what I have seen and heard from community members, Santa Cruz County is doing a good job and should be commended on the innovative open process it has established to administer realignment.
The county has been a pioneer in developing successful community based alternatives to incarceration for non-violent juvenile offenders and is working to duplicate some of these successes with the adult incarcerated population. In addition, local law enforcement has partnered with the County Office of Education to establish the Broad-based Apprehension Suppression Treatment and Alternatives (BASTA) Program. The BASTA Program is a committee of community groups that are working together to develop a curriculum for offenders that includes education as an alternative to incarceration.
Civility goes under as crab season opens
Santa Cruz crab boat captains who break strikes being held by the Half Moon Bay Fisherman's Association (HMBFA) risk having their equipment cut loose at sea and their boats sank, according to some fishermen.
This is what some think happened to skipper Chris Eatinger's vessel, Tonita, on the night of Nov. 12 while it was docked at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. It was three days until crab season opened and a strike was not yet confirmed. Those who suspect foul play say the act was likely in retaliation for Eatinger crabbing during past strikes.
“There was clearly criminal intent,” says Eatinger. “This could cost me more than $50,000 to rewire everything, and I might have to pay fines for oil spilled into the harbor. The worst part is I catch red rock crab, which is a commercially unimportant species.”
Planned Parenthood celebrates 40 years in Santa Cruz
When the first family planning and birth control clinic opened in Brooklyn in 1916, it operated for nine days before its founder, Margaret Sanger, was arrested for breaking laws that prohibited the distribution of contraceptives.
It was one of many controversial actions the early sex educator and Planned Parenthood progenitor took to push for women’s reproductive rights.
“That was a very conscious civil disobedience. She was trying to provide services and change the law,” says Cynthia Mathews, a former Santa Cruz mayor and the first executive director of Planned Parenthood in Santa Cruz. Sanger’s earlier rebellions meant that by the time Mathews and a committee of 15 or so colleagues brought the organization to Santa Cruz in 1971, it was hardly a contentious arrival.
Four SmartMeter questions answered
Since their mass installation across California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)’s SmartMeters have received much attention from media and a skeptical public. Ten million SmartMeters are slated for installment by the end of 2011. Until recently, the roll out of these new wireless utility meters left many technical questions about their wireless technology unanswered.
At a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) meeting on Sept. 14, entitled “SmartMeter Opt-Out Workshop,” questions about the wireless meters were raised in front of a CPUC judge. On Oct.18, the CPUC ruled that PG&E—along with a list of other relevant utilities companies—must release a public “clarification” with answers to CPUC’s specific technological questions about SmartMeters.
The fast-tracked traffic plan for Pacific Avenue comes to a halt
As November began, a proposal to make most of Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz a two-way street was speeding through votes of approval. But, by the end of the first week of the month, support for the idea had come to an abrupt stop.
The Downtown Association (DTA) and several city council members advocated for the proposal, which would have opened up the portion of Pacific between Cathcart and Church streets to two-way traffic by Dec. 2, as a way to increase downtown spending in time for the holiday shopping season. This expectation stemmed from a recommendation made by Michigan-based retail consultants Gibbs Planning Group, which reported that shifting to two-way traffic could increase sales by 30 percent because of increased visibility of storefronts.
The debate continues ...
What started as a public Water Study Session on Nov. 1 shifted into a continuation of the longstanding debate over building a desalination facility on the shores of Santa Cruz.
“It felt like for the first time in a long time there was actually a civil discussion that was focused on the issues,” says Bill Kocher, Santa Cruz Water Department director. “It was great.”
But not all participants came away as satisfied.
You recently signed a letter, along with six other congressional representatives, to President Barack Obama questioning the federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. What was your message for the president? What do you hope he will do in this regard?
Our message is simple: President Obama has the opportunity and authority to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule II or III drug administratively, or he can support the adoption of legislation that would change federal stature to achieve the same goal.