Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
May 22nd
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

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival