Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Dec 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Pink is Passé

news_pinkRobert Steffen starts a brand new walk—directly toward a city council seat

Robert Steffen is looking to prove he can talk the talk, not just walk the (very slow) walk. Two years after Steffen, the prominent downtown Santa Cruz character formerly known as “The Pink Umbrella Man,” put away his parasol and pink clothing and ceased walking ever so slowly from one end of Pacific Avenue to the other, he’s announcing a run for Santa Cruz City Council in November.

“There are a lot of local ordinances that I think are completely wrong,” Steffen says. In fact, he hopes to repeal an array of local ordinances, such as those that prohibit panhandlers from being within 14 feet of building entrances, open-air cafés or crosswalks, and 50 feet from any bank or ATM. Steffen calls his political position a “progressive platform very strongly based in humanitarian ideals.”

Mayor Mike Rotkin, whose term comes to an end in January 2011, says he is unfamiliar with the particulars of Steffen's platform, but believes that Steffen is better known for his notorious downtown slow walking routine than anything else. “Of course it's up to the voters,” says Rotkin. “But that by itself is not significant qualifications to be elected to the city council.  At this point, I'm not persuaded that he's a viable candidate.”

“No qualifications?” Steffen responds with a smile, thinking back over his record. “I have a college degree. I know a lot of people around town. I enjoy working with people.

“I don't see why intelligent people shouldn't be able to get together and work out some sort of compromise where needed,” he adds.

The upcoming election might just give Steffen his shot. Three of the seven city council seats will be opening up, including Rotkin's, Councilmember Cynthia Mathews', and Councilmember Lynn Robinson's. Mathews and Rotkin are currently in their second straight term and will be unable to run again until November 2012 due to consecutive term limits. Robinson plans to run again. Community activist and grant writer Steve Pleich will also be running, and Santa Cruz Transportation Commissioner David Terrazas, who ran in November 2008, is strongly considering it.

Steffen says he is relatively well informed about local ordinances but less familiar with other areas of city politics, such as the proposed Arana Gulch bike trail, recently increased alcohol fees, and UC Santa Cruz expansion, on which he had no comment. While he does not much have experience mediating difficult decisions, he says, “I can certainly give it a try.”

In addition, he worries the job might grow dull: “My main concern is that I am going to get too bored sitting in the city council chamber. I'm afraid that it's going to be way boring through those long city council meetings but I'll bring my laptop [to] have something to keep me occupied if it gets too boring.”

If the risk of extreme boredom is so high, why run at all? Steffen is running for city council partly because, in his words, “it's a place to start.”

Curiously, Steffen also made a run for president in 2000. He talks at length about his frustration with human rights violations around the world and loathes the influence that the Evangelical Christian Right wields in American politics. He would also like to see a reversal of Proposition 13, a controversial ballot initiative passed in 1978 that has made it harder for the California government to balance its budget.

Whether locally or internationally, most of Steffen's beliefs are fundamentally about liberty and freedom. He opposes Santa Cruz's “party ordinance,” which issues hefty fees for “unruly gatherings.” Steffen would also like to decriminalize underage drinking in the city. But the central issues for Steffen remain the local ordinances that regulate loitering, panhandling, and street performing. Steffen believes the laws are unpopular, but Mayor Rotkin disagrees.

“I predict he's going to go down in flames on those issues” Rotkin says. “I would say the single biggest issue by at least a factor of 10 or 20 over everything else is people saying 'When are you going to do something about these people making a mess downtown?'”

Steffen, however isn't worried about the “mess.”

“Societies can be a messy place, ” he says. “As long as [people are] not blocking traffic, they should be able to sit on the sidewalk or even up against buildings … Writing laws against them isn't going to make the problem go away. We're talking about people, and we have to address the issues and not hurt the people or try to stifle their voices.”

Robert Norse, a local radio host and homeless advocate, has been a longtime critic of the Santa Cruz City Council and believes, like Steffen, that Santa Cruz’s street performers and homeless persons have been unfairly targeted. Norse says he would “consider supporting anyone who wants to see civil rights restored for poor people in Santa Cruz.” Norse is concerned, however, that without a large fundraising campaign and the backing of several organizations and institutions, Steffen will be unable to run a successful campaign. Norse mused that people “might vote for Robert [Steffen] as a person, but it’s hard to imagine he could ever win the election.

“But I think registering concerns about these issues is really important and raising them in forums is really important, and I’m glad he’s doing that,” he adds.

After years of (slowly) walking silently up and down Pacific Avenue, Steffen has finally raised his voice—now he awaits the fall election to see if anybody will have heard it.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire