Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Feb 01st
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

 

Throwing It All Away

Everybody’s for recycling, right? So why are we all doing it wrong? Our reporter gets down and dirty to uncover 10 secrets that will finally make the recycling process make sense

 

Aquarius Calling, Humanity Rising

Aquarius (11th sign after Aries) is the sign of service—serving one another, building community. Aquarius is fixed air, stabilizing new ideas in the world. When new ideas reach the masses the ideas become ideals within the hearts and minds of humanity. Air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) are mental. They think, ponder, study, research, gather and distribute information. For air signs, education and learning, communicating, writing, being social, tending to money, participating in groups and creating sustainable communities are most important. One of the present messages Aquarius is putting forth to the New Group of World Servers is the creation of the New Education (thus thinking) for humanity—one based not on commodities (banking/corporate values) but on virtues. Humanity and Aquarius Aquarius is the sign of humanity itself. We are now at the beginnings of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Humanity (rising). The “rising” is the Aquarian vision of equality, unity, the distribution and sharing of all resources and of individual (Leo) creative gifts for the purpose of humanity’s (Aquarius) uplifting. This is the message in the Solar Festival of Aquarius (at the full moon) on Tuesday, Feb. 3. We join in these visions by reciting the World Prayer of Direction, the Great Invocation.Tuesday’s solar festival follows Monday’s Groundhog Day, or Imbolc (ancient Celtic fire festival) the halfway mark between winter solstice and spring Equinox). The New Group of World Servers (NGWS) during these two days are preparing for the upcoming Three Spring Solar Festivals: 1. Aries Resurrection/Easter Festival (April); 2. Taurus Buddha/Wesak Festival (May); and 3. Gemini’s Festival of Humanity (June). Aquarius and the new and full moons together are the primary astrological influences behind all of humanity’s endeavors. The NGWS are to teach these things, calling and uplifting humanity. Join us everyone. (301)

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Job Insecurity

Woman fights for her job in thoughtful, life-sized ‘Two Days One Night’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Jeffrey’s Restaurant

Why quick and friendly service matters at a local diner.

 

If you didn't live in Santa Cruz, where would you be living?

I would live in Kauai because the water is warmer, and I just love it there. Maureen Niehaus, Santa Cruz, Dental Assistant

 

Clos LaChance Wines

Pinot Noir 2012

 

Striking Gold

A taste of Soquel Vineyards’ five gold medal-winning Pinots