Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cynthia Mathews: Scrooge for the Season 2010

Cynthia Mathews speaks at a community forum on behalf of public safety with Chief Howard Skerry looking on.

by Becky Johnson
December 23, 2010

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Cynthia Mathews, former member of the Santa Cruz City Council and former Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz is considered liberal and progressive. Yet she strongly supports anti-homeless legislation such as the Sleeping Ban (MC 6.36.010 section a) and initiated the "Move-Along" Law (MC 5.43.020 section two) which criminalizes political tables and street musicians after only 1 hour on a public sidewalk. Now she is going after the Calvary Episcopal Ministry, known locally as the Little Red Church, for reaching out to homeless people and youth with food, coffee, and spiritual assembly.

Mathews wrote a letter on City letterhead stationery April 5, 2010, and accused the church of allowing "the on-going presence of known criminals and drug dealers on church property." She attached her "evidence": a record of service calls from the Santa Cruz Police Department documenting "nearly 100 calls in just over one year" which she claimed is "utterly disproportional to other locations in the City." But is it?

Against over 85,000 annual 'calls for service' documented by the police, do 100 'calls for service" over a period of more than a year truly indicate serious problems or simply document calls by nearby NIMBY businesses and neighbors? And considering the record collected is for 532 Center St, aren't all calls for the across the street Farmers Market and the Drum Circle included in this total?

Nowhere in the letter does Mathews reveal that she owns the house across the street. Nowhere does she reveal her general disgust at the presence of homeless people and her own attempts to drive them from both private property and public spaces.

In a Santa Cruz Sentinel article dated June 7, 2009, church attendance is reported to have dropped over the controversy. However, Audrey Nickel, a member of the Calvary congregation reports that as inaccurate. "

"I’ve been a parishioner at Calvary for 11 years. I’m at the 10:30 service

Cynthia Mathews owns and rents the former home of Hollywood actress, Zazu Pitts on Lincoln St.
approximately 50 weeks out of the year. My husband, as a lay Eucharistic minister, is one of the people who is responsible for keeping track of the number of people in the pews. And I can tell you that our average Sunday attendance is UP since Fr. Joel came to us."

Kevin McArgel also defends Father Joel Miller from the disgruntled members of the congregation who are complaining.

"I've met these “accusers” who have brought these ridiculous charges upon him and can say they are just that: RIDICULOUS. These very few individuals expect some kind of environment of very traditional behavior on behalf of those who come for guidance whether or not its some kind of simple compassion or just some sustenance like a little food."

Cynthia Mathews, who works closely with the Downtown Association, police, and the Downtown Management Corporation, laments Calvary's homeless outreach services claiming they indicate " ..a lack of buy-in by Church leadership to the collaborative problem-solving effort" which for Mathews means, fewer services, fewer hours when homeless people or street kids are allowed on the property, and trespass charges for those who remain on church property.

Father Joel Miller, Rector, Calvary Episcopal Church, Santa Cruz, Ca. Photo courtesy of Metro Santa Cruz

Father Joel defended his mission by referring to New Testament texts.

"In the gospel we’re told that Jesus sits down to eat with sinners and tax collectors. The worst people!” says Miller in a soft and nasal voice as he saunters between the well-worn pews. “So what we see is that Jesus loves people, he loves his neighbors, includes them and embraces them. That’s what we try to do here."

Local news reports paint Fr. Joel as going it alone with his ministry to the poor and homeless. But that is contradicted by former vestry member, Scott Galloway. He reports that Ronee Curry, a volunteer who had been managing a Monday Night Coffee House at the Elm Street Mission had been asked to relocate. Ronee approached Fr. Joel Miller of Calvary Episcopal Church, and Fr. Miller invited her to address the Calvary Vestry with her request to relocate her Monday Night “Coffee House” ministry to Calvary. Fr. Miller supported Ronee’s proposal, but the vote of the Vestry in favor of bringing Ronee and her program to Calvary was nearly unanimous. "

By June of 2009, Father Joel had already capitulated to pressure from Mathews and the City to allow police on the property to enforce 'no trespassing' laws effectively ending the use of the property as a place where young and homeless people could be.

Yet, this was not enough for Mathews.

Zazu Pitts home on Lincoln St. directly across the street from Calvary Episcopal Church

Cynthia Mathews and Ryan Coonerty are heavily associated with the Downtown Association, where along with Ryan's wife, Emily Bernard, they are behind an effort to install old parking meters to collect spare change that would fund middle-class case managers for houseless people. Ryan himself pushed for legal protections for "statues" earlier which would make it a crime for REAL homeless people to beg within 14' of these special "charity" meters.

Coonerty and Bernard's 'Penguins' have already been fully implemented, and stand banning homeless people from sitting or begging within 14' of them in any direction. It's part of Ryan's Downtown beautification by promoting sculptures displayed on public property.

Ryan Coonerty and Emily Bernard in SENTINEL wedding photo published Jan 31, 2010.

On June 5, 2010, Cynthia Mathews wrote her now-infamous Grinchish-Scroogian letter. Failing to acknowledge her own personal involvement on behalf of her own property values directly across the street, her intervention on behalf of her tenant, Rachel Daso, or that she was giving a one-sided account, Mathews sunk to a new low in promoting her anti-homeless agenda. Was the letter prompted by any City Council action? One wonders.

Mathews letter was largely responsible for Calvary Rector Joel Miller being admonished by his Diocese in a rare hearing known as 'Presentment' . He has hired a lawyer and is currently appealing that decision.

Ronee Curry
, in order to take pressure off of Father Joel, took to performing her ministry in the streets by handing out food, socks, and handknit "beanies" to homeless people in front of Borders Books, but gained negative notice from current Mayor Ryan Coonerty.

"My feeling is that what they're doing is neither helpful nor compassionate. Instead of encouraging panhandlers and drifters to seek a better life, [they're] helping them subsist in misery," said Ryan Coonerty. Ryan's wife, Emily Bernard is the President of the Downtown Association, and an owner of Dell Williams Jewelry.

Several parishioners rallied to support Fr. Joel.

"Another inaccuracy is the implication that the Episcopal Church as a body brought the charges against Fr. Joel, " Parishioner, Audrey Nickels claims. "Rather, a small group of parishioners, in a highly unorthodox move, got a lawyer and brought charges against him in an ecclesiastical court."

UPDATE JANUARY 19 2011: Voices from the Village has done a show which first aired on January 9th 2011 on Community Television of Santa Cruz County, on this topic. Host, Louis LaFortune interviews Father Joel Miller, Scott Galloway, member of the Calvary Church vestry, Richard Enriques, a formerly homeless man who was helped by Calvary, and Don Lane, currently Vice-Mayor of the Santa Cruz City Council and longtime member of the Board of Directors of the Homeless Services Center. Video of the program can be viewed here.

"Sculp Tour comes to Santa Cruz" Dec 4, 2008_Lauren Foliart, City on a Hill Press
"Calvary Episcopal seeks balance between serving the homeless and serving congregation"--Genevieve Bookwalter June 7 2009
"Downtown raises ire of City Officials"--Genevieve Bookwalter Dec 22 2009
"Controversial Santa Cruz Priest charged by Church" --Curtis Alexander Sept 14 2010 -- Santa Cruz News
"Bathrobespierre's Broadsides: Civil Rights for the Poor" Free Radio Santa Cruz, Dec 5, 2010
Interview of Ronee Curry by Robert Norse
Auntie Imperial's News & Blog Reviews

Executive Summary: Homeless Deaths in Santa Cruz County 2010

The following is the executive summary of the report on homeless deaths in Santa Cruz County, California. 30 of those who died were homeless at the time of their death. 15 were longtime homeless people who had achieved housing prior to their deaths, for a total of 45 individuals who lost their life while homeless or after experiencing homelessness. For the first time, some of the deaths (4) were attributed to hypothermia. Twenty of those who died while homeless within the city limits of Santa Cruz. Thanks to Matt Nathanson of the HPHP for this documentation. ---Becky Johnson, Editor

2010 Annual Report on Homeless Deaths

Summary of available data on homeless deaths in Santa Cruz County

For the period December 21, 2009 – December 20, 2010

Santa Cruz County Homeless Persons’ Health Project (HPHP)

A program of the County Health Services Agency, Division of Public Health


In keeping with a tradition established in 1999, once again this year on December 21st homeless individuals, community and family members, and homeless service providers will come together to honor the lives of those who died while homeless this year. The 2010 Annual Report on Homeless Deaths and our local homeless memorial event represent our community’s twelfth year of collecting data and reporting on homeless deaths across the county.

How data on homeless deaths are collected:

Throughout the year, a public health nurse at HPHP maintains a log of deaths occurring among homeless people in Santa Cruz County. The log includes information on confirmed deaths of HPHP clients, as well as confirmed reports of deaths received from other homeless service organizations, medical providers, and friends or family members of those who have died. The log also includes death certificate data compiled by the County Office of Vital Statistics, and data obtained from the County Public Administrator’s office.

The data available from this process most likely under-represent the number of homeless deaths in the county. Housing status at the time of death is neither well documented nor always easily determined. Also, information on likely factors leading to death is imprecise, and is often unknown at the time of death. For the sake of summarizing the information, we have assigned a single primary contributing factor to each death, but in many cases, there are multiple significant factors that have contributed to an individual’s death.

For this reason the data provided in this summary should not be interpreted as a definitive accounting of deaths among the homeless population in our county. Instead, this reflects our best effort at this time to collect and analyze accurate data on homeless deaths in a way that is meaningful to homeless service providers, to friends and family of those who have died, and to people who are housed and homeless in the community at large.

Discussion of 2010 Homeless Deaths:

The total number of deaths reported this year is 30. The total number of homeless deaths reported in 2009 was 47, and the average number of deaths per year over the preceding nine years (2001-2009) was 34. The average age at death for 2010 was 52. This compares to an average age of 49 at death in Santa Cruz County for homeless individuals during the previous nine-year period. The average age of death for all Americans is 78 and this means that homeless people in our community die nearly 30 years earlier than might otherwise be expected.

Major categories of death for homeless individuals this year included heart and lung disease, both acute and chronic (27%), cancer (17%), hypothermia (13%), acute overdose (10%), GI bleeding (10%), trauma (7%), infection (7%) and trauma (7%). We estimate that alcohol and/or other drug addiction was a primary or contributing factor in at least 18 of the 30 (60%) deaths reported this year.

Homelessness causes, complicates and exacerbates serious health problems and it leads to the premature deaths of thousands of people in our communities across our nation every year. This fact is well documented. Research in the U.S. has shown that homeless persons have up to a threefold increase in mortality when compared to the general population, (Hibbs1994). Studies document an average age of death among homeless populations that ranges from 42 to 52 years, while average life expectancy for most Americans is almost 80 (O’Connell, 2005).

About the Memorial:

Our purpose in preparing and distributing this report at this time of year is two-fold; first to honor and mark the passing of all those who were homeless and died in our community during the last year, and second, to document and increase awareness of the serious negative impact of homelessness on the lives of our fellow community members.

Our memorial service includes a reading of the names of the thirty people who were homeless at death and are reflected in our annual report. The names of formerly homeless individuals who were housed at the time of death will also be read. We continue our tradition of creating and displaying homeless memorial flags with the names, ages and year of death for each homeless or previously homeless person who has died since December 21, 1998. This year that twelve-year total will exceed 440 people.

Nearly all of the people who died were personally known to one of us at HPHP or to one of our colleagues at homeless service organizations throughout the county. We are saddened by their deaths. Each person will be missed. We hope that this information will serve to honor the memory of each person, to guide us in our ongoing efforts to improve the health and quality of life for all who experience homelessness, and to recommit ourselves as a community to ending homelessness in Santa Cruz County.


DECEMBER 21, 2009 - DECEMBER 20. 2010



Male: 24

Female: 6

3) AGE:

under 21 0

21-30 1

31-40 2

41-50 7

51-60 10

61-70 8

over 70 2

average age at death 52

4) RACE:

White: 26

Hispanic 2

Black: 2


Outside/Vehicle/storage Area: 12 Santa Cruz 20

Hospital: 11 Watsonville 7

Nursing Facility 4 San Lorenzo Valley 2

Temporary Residence/Motel 3 North County 1



- hypothermia/exposure + intoxication 4

- overdose 3

- GI Bleed 3

- cardiac arrhythmia/heart attack 3

- wound infection 1


- Cancer 5

- cardiopulmonary illnesses 5

- liver/kidney disease 2

- sepsis 1


- suicide 1

- drowning 1


In Memorium: Names of those who died homeless in Santa Cruz County 2010

(names compiled by the Homeless Peoples Health Project, Santa Cruz, Ca.)

Price 48
David Scott Scotty Stewart 44
Diaz 77
Hudson 61
Romero 62
Avery 58
Packebush 51
Louis Matthew
Tarantino Jr. 63
Abreu 58
Jessie Tillie Wiseman 54
Hickman 52
Selditz 49
McAfee 69
Barclay 56
Chioloero 50
Matthews 57
Barker 46
Cruz 69
Robenalt 49
Auble 61
Fuller 47
Kinman 52

First Name Other Name Last Name Age

Forsyth 27
Cook 59
DiVerde 34
Randolph Randy Greenwald 62
Abraham Abe Kelly 40
Enarson 79
Fleming 59
Dolezal 64
Danford 77
Farkas 40
Rocha 59
Hauser 53
Lopez 60
Belyea 53
Greene 62
Pamela Spires Lee 49
Wall 62
Garcia 44
Vasseur 26
Kampsnider 47
Goodwin 48

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Camping Ban Newsmaker of 2010

NOTE TO READER: The SENTINEL refuses to name ED Frey, founder of Peace Camp 2010, or Chris Doyon, or Robert Norse for their valiant in-your-face protest against the Sleeping Ban as a "Newsmaker." No. The SENTINEL names the "Camping Ban" as "the Newsmaker" of 2010. Clearly in an attempt to keep any of the proponents from getting too much publicity. I think that COLLETTE CONNOLLY and GARY JOHNSON are the TRUE newsmakers of 2010 with their ferocious and tenacious resolve to protest the critical lack of legal sleeping areas in Santa Cruz juxtaposed against an inhumane law which criminalizes the innocent and life-sustaining act of Sleeping. Peace Camp 2010 never sought to eliminate the entire camping ordinance. Only the portions that make sleeping at night a crime, and make using a blanket to keep warm a crime. The SENTINEL notes, as if it were a good thing, the strange and expensive civil injunction achieved against a homeless couple for sleeping out of doors downtown too much. With the money spent on City lawyers, the couple could have had a first, last, and security deposit on an apartment paid along with 2 years rent. Instead, we have the city's "victory" against the couple who are still homeless and still must sleep at night illegally.--- Becky Johnson, Editor

July 10, 2010, Peace Camp 2010 gradually increases its numbers as the word on the street gets out.
Photo by Becky Johnson

2010 Newsmakers: Santa Cruz camping ban kept homelessness in headlines throughout the year

Click photo to enlarge
Homeless activists staged a sleep-in on the courthouse steps that... (Dan Coyro/Sentinel File)

SANTA CRUZ -- This summer, the city successfully won an injunction against a musician who had been cited more than 20 times for violating a ban on overnight camping.

Authorities also made more than 20 arrests and issued 100-plus citations in July and August in connection with a protest against the ban that began on the county courthouse lawn and moved to City Hall, dubbed Peace Camp 2010 by the demonstrators.

The year also saw the City Council increase its three-strikes law against violators of city code, a move meant to put more muscle behind laws against camping, loitering downtown and aggressive panhandling. The new rule allows the city to seek misdemeanor charges against people who fail to respond to three or more citations in six months.

All of these steps demonstrated that homelessness, specifically the city's camping ordinance, was a controversial newsmaker in 2010, just as it has been in many years past. And just as in years past, the line between illegal behavior on the part of some transients was blurred with the over-arching, ever-present problem of homelessness, which continues to frustrate city officials and nonprofit workers advocating for the homeless.

But some advocates, like those who organized the summer protest, say it's wrong to create laws that effectively make it illegal not to have shelter or to beg for financial help on the street. As attorney Ed Frey, an organizer of the protest who is now defending the citations of participants in court, said last week: Campers just "need a place to sleep."

Councilwoman Katherine Beiers, a member of the Homeless Services Center's board, said the years-long struggle over the camping ban has been frustrating, but she believes the city should focus its efforts now on simply providing more shelter.

The Homeless Services Center has just 46 beds available on a 30-day rotating basis for emergency shelter. The River Street Shelter has 32 beds set aside for the same purpose, but 60 percent are held for referrals from the county's mental health agency.

"Nobody can get stable and move on if every night they have to figure out a place to sleep," Beiers said. "That's where the energy and money has to go."

Beiers and other advocates acknowledge there is a lot of work to be done to change the public's perception about the ties between homelessness and drug dealing, camping and other problems. In the spring, the Homeless Services Center came under fire from critics who believed the program lacked security and effectiveness, but new director Monica Martinez has been hailed for making a number of changes to better the center's security and relationship with the community.

But Miguel DeLeon, the homeless musician, and the protest provided fodder for those who have long argued that the city's generous social services funding has made it a magnet for transients. In August, a judge issued a permanent injunction against DeLeon, ordering him not to sleep outside after 11 p.m. The protest started July 5 when people began sleeping overnight on the courthouse lawn.

More than a month later, as frustration over the unsightly camp mounted among judges and other court workers, sheriff's deputies began making arrests and issuing citations. When demonstrators moved to the City Hall courtyard, they were met with more citations and arrests by police before the protest effectively ended in late August.

However, the demonstration appeared to have had some effect. Several weeks later, the council voted to dismiss citations for camping if a homeless person was on a shelter wait list when the ticket was issued. Robert Norse, an advocate for the homeless, called the change "a minor step forward" but added, "It does no good to say you are on a waiting list because you still have to sleep outside."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Victory for the 1st Amendment in Nazi Salute case

Robert Norse in SENTINEL photo by Schmuel Thayer

by Becky Johnson
December 18, 2010

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- As a HUFF member since 1996, and an eye-witness to Robert Norse's arrest in both 2002 and 2004, I am hardly unbiased. On the other hand, I have been able to consider this case from a totality of details that neither the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Norse's attorneys, David Beauvais and Kate Wells, or any single witness other than Norse himself, has been privy to.

I have heard every kind of argument and smear-job made against Norse. That he is a trust-fund "baby," that he only wants to get his name in the papers, that he hurts "the homeless" more than he helps them. And that this case doesn't really advance the rights of homeless people. Etcetera, ad nauseum, and who really cares what some people think? What is the truth?

First let me share some of my personal perspective. I was with Robert Norse when he first gave a stiff-armed "salute" to then-mayor Tim Fitzmaurice prior to 2002. Fitzmaurice stopped the meeting. Denounced Norse publicly. Ordered him to leave the chambers (he complied). And announced that all future "Nazi" salutes would be disallowed.

Fitzmaurice had lost a case in 2001 against Norse, myself, and Bernard Klitzner, when he attempted to place a temporary restraining order banishing the three of us from his office when we staged a daily Koffee Klatch outside his office in a

Tim Fitzmaurice in 2005 photo by Becky Johnson

lobbying effort to put the Sleeping Ban on the City Council agenda as an item for discussion. Fitzmaurice refused. The TRO was disposed of by Judge Samuel Stevens in June of 2001, but the
order kept the three of us away from one city council meeting and from the mayor's office for 5 months, effectively side-lining us. Klitzner had a lien on his house for the cost of transcripts the Barisone's had insisted on, despite "winning" his case. Norse was forced to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket. Fortunately for me, since I was a welfare mother at the time, I was not charged for court costs. Still, it was clear that Fitzmaurice harbored a grudge against us for making him testify and for ultimately winning the case.

When Fitzmaurice ordered Norse to leave the chambers, he complied, but the incident didn't sit well with him. It was the Golden Porto-Pottie Incident all over again. In that case, Norse and I had spray-painted a bedside commode with gold paint, decorated it with ribbons, and put a sign on it: Golden Porto-Potty Award to Mayor Katherine Beiers for her 1:15AM defection from a plan to set up safe zones where homeless people could legally sleep at night, complete with dumpsters and porto-potties. Norse was prevented by the Sgt. at Arms from bringing the "award" into the meeting at all, much less, being able to present Katherine Beiers the award during oral communications. Here, he was sure his 1st amendment rights had been truncated.

Now Fitzmaurice had declared in advance which 1st amendment rights no longer existed in the City Council chambers in Santa Cruz. Norse vowed that if the same situation ever happened again, he would act differently.

Norse, HUFF, and I were attempting to get physical evidence of oppression against members of the public who were excluded from meetings or had their rights to freedom of speech trampled in some way at the meetings. It had happened to both of us previously and it had happened to other HUFF members, such as the schackled detention of James Nay, and the violent assault on David Silva by Sgt. Andy Craine. I took to bringing a videocamera to city council meetings so I could record what occurred as it happened and not be dependent on the official audio and videotaped recordings of the meeting. On March 12th, 2002 Mayor Christopher Krohn was mayor.

Norse and I had met with Krohn previously, shortly after he become mayor. We met inside the old, Jahva House coffee-shop on Union St. in December of 2001.

Krohn had appeared hostile to me. Demanded to know if Norse was planning on running for city council himself. We had discussed problems we were having with the oral communications period of the city council meetings. Krohn wasn't listening. We left the meeting disappointed that we had supported his candidacy in the first place.

Mayor Christopher Krohn oversees a marijuana give-away

on the steps of City Hall in September of 2002

He obviously wasn't going to carry our issues during his term as mayor.

On March 12th, Mayor Krohn announced that oral communications was about to begin. Norse had hoped to speak at oral communications but he despaired when we arrived to see a large group of people there, eager to speak about the Doug Rand Peace Park. With that many people choosing to speak, he would have little chance to speak at all, since he had spoken at the previous city council meeting. It is yet another unconstitutional "rule" at the Santa Cruz City Council that if you have spoken at the previous meeting during oral communications, you must defer to any person (even if you've waited 29 minutes and some guy walks in 1 minute before the comment period ends) who did not speak at the previous meeting. There is no logical reason for this rule. Clearly citizens who are more informed and involved will speak more often. The council can, at its wish, extend oral communications to accommodate any extra speakers, so there can be no claim that a frequent speaker will supplant a less frequent speaker. But that rule has lasted over a decade now.

Krohn asked for a show of hands. A forest of hands went up, including the hand of Susan Zeman. Then Krohn announced (much to my dismay) that he was shortening oral communications from 3 minutes to 2 minutes "so everyone will get a chance to speak." Michael Tomasi, Robert Norse, and Susan Zeman all stood in line, awaiting their turn to speak.

When Robert Norse approached the podium, Krohn ordered him to wait, claiming he'd spoken at the previous meeting. Norse returned to side of the chambers without comment. Then Michael Tomasi approached the podium, only to likewise be turned away. But Tomasi didn't appreciate at all having waited 30 minutes to speak and loudly objected. I saw the commotion and turned my videocamera on just in time to see him shouting loudly "I'll see you on the streets, pal!" as he exited the doorway. I was still filming when Susan Zeman was ordered away from the podium and threatened with expulsion.

Zeman, an anti-war activist had come to speak about the Doug Rand Peace Park. She felt that since Krohn had counted her hand just prior to oral communications, and she had NOT spoken at the previous meeting, that SHE would be the last speaker. She was dumbfounded by his treatment.

As she was forced to leave the podium, Norse lifted his left hand briefly in Krohn's direction indicating he found Krohn's behavior to be heavy-handed. He told me later he had given "a fascist salute" to show his displeasure. The rest you can see on the tape of what happened next.

Current Mayor Ryan Coonerty in a 2005 photo taken

at his cashier job at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Current Mayor Ryan Coonerty was quoted in the Sentinel on December 16th, that Norse was "properly removed from the meeting" not because of the Nazi salute, but "because of the overall disturbance he caused."

"There is a pattern of disruptive behavior that is at issue here," Coonerty said. "And we hope the court in San Jose will recognize that we can't have a functioning democratic processes when you have somebody who is constantly disrupting the meeting.

Apparently Ryan Coonerty doesn't mind adding slander to the list of charges Norse can make against the City. Norse not only doesn't "constantly disrupt meetings" but, despite attending 100's of meetings, he has never been convicted for disrupting any meeting in Santa Cruz. Notwithstanding efforts by several mayors and councilmembers to paint him as "a disruptor." Norse went to City Council and repeatedly asked that the minutes of the meeting accurately reflect what had actually happened at a previous meeting. 99% of the time, the council ignored his request and allowed the minutes to reflect a very biased view of what had actually occurred.

Mayor Scott Kennedy was quoted in the Fish Wrap Live that Norse had been convicted of disrupting a city council meeting. Kennedy was forced to print a retraction.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has put a chill into the spine of the Santa Cruz City Council should they dare flatten the 1st amendment rights of members of the public attending their meetings. Chief Justice, Alex Kozinski used the strongest language possible when he said "Councilmember Fitzmaurice clearly wants Norse expelled because the "Nazi salute" is "against the dignity of this body and the decorum of this body" and not because of any disruption. But unlike der Fuhrer, government officials in America occasionally must tolerate offensive or irritating speech. "

While this decision, 11 - 0, doesn't give the City much hope on appeal, it is not the end of the case. Norse has only won the right to go to court and have a trial on the facts. He may have to go back into the same courtroom of Judge Ronald Whyte and seek a fair trial from a judge who has granted two summary motions for dismissal against him already. Not an inviting scenario.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

9th Circuit Court reverses itself in Nazi Salute case

SENTINEL photo by Schmuel Thaler with the following caption "(Sleeping Ban opponent Robert Norse has been targeting Bookshop Santa Cruz in his protests)" possibly a reference to Norse's recent conviction for singing a song on a busy sidewalk near Bookshop Santa Cruz. Norse was convicted of "unreasonably disturbing noise" and was fined $250.

NOTE TO READER: As the videographer of the snippet of the City Council meeting where Robert Norse issued his "Nazi" salute, I know a thing or two about what else happened at that meeting. And unlike the statement issued by Mayor Ryan Coonerty in today's SENTINEL, Norse in no way orchestrated a disruption of the meeting. Nor can Norse be held accountable for the reactions and over-reactions of offended City Councilmembers. The City Attorney's office recently claimed they'd spent $114,000.00 defending Christopher Krohn, Tim Fitzmaurice, and Scott Kennedy from Norse's lawsuit. And that was BEFORE City Attorney George Kovacevich went to Southern California to have his hat handed to him on a platter by the en banc panel of the 9th Circuit Court. After over eight years, the court has ruled that Norse can have his day in court after all. ---Becky Johnson, Editor

Appellate panel rules Norse suit can go forward: Lower court will have to reconsider Nazi salute case

SANTA CRUZ -- An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday unanimously agreed a trial judge should reconsider Robert Norse's free-speech lawsuit against the city of Santa Cruz.

Norse, a longtime City Council agitator and advocate for the rights of homeless people, claims his free speech protections were violated when he was ejected from a City Council meeting in 2002 after raising a Nazi salute. Norse was arrested for disrupting the meeting and refusing to leave, although the charges were later dropped.

Norse said he abhors the Nazis' views and only used the gesture to protest then-Mayor Christopher Krohn cutting off a speaker critical of the council. The city, which has spent more than $100,000 fighting Norse, has since argued the salute was part of an organized attempt to disrupt the meeting.

After watching a five-minute clip of the salute and arrest, a federal trial judge dismissed Norse's suit in 2007, and a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld that decision. But a rare en banc panel of the appeals court agreed to rehear the case in June and reinstated Norse's suit Wednesday.

The ruling said U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose should have heard more evidence after giving Norse's lawyers just two days to prepare for a hearing that would have determined whether the case would go forward. The en banc panel's ruling indicated that city officials kicked Norse out because they disliked his views.

However, the en banc panel dismissed the arresting officer, Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, from the suit against city officials. The ruling said Baker followed proper procedures when Krohn complained Norse was disrupting the meeting and refused orders to leave.

The city's current mayor, Ryan Coonerty, said Norse was properly removed from the meeting not because of the Nazi salute, but because of the overall disturbance he caused.

"There is a pattern of disruptive behavior that is at issue here," Coonerty said. "And we hope the court in San Jose will recognize that we can't have a functioning democratic processes when you have somebody who is constantly disrupting the meeting."

Norse was pleased with the ruling, saying, "Any reasonable person looking at the video cannot conclude there was a disruption. There is an arrogance on behalf of the council in their determination to intimidate their critics. It's not about the Nazi salute. It's about the public's ability to engage in ordinary free speech behavior."

Norse, who lives in Felton and Santa Cruz, still frequently attends council meetings, calling for a repeal of the overnight camping ban and measures taken by the council in recent years against aggressive panhandling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"It's Very Scientific"

NOTE TO READER: I'm glad to feature yet another excellent article by my friend, Chris Snowdon of London, England who wrote the book on the anti-smokers movement. Fear-mongering like Surgeon General Regina Benjamin is engaging in under the illusion of being scientific must be reigned in. Snowdon is the man to do it. --- Becky Johnson, Editor

by Chris Snowdon

December 10, 2010
article published online at:

London, England -- It was a mark of the crankiness of Victorian-era anti-cigarette campaigners that they claimed cigarettes caused instantaneous death (see Chapter 2, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist). And it was partly because the public became weary of such obvious scare stories that they found it difficult to believe the real truth—several decades later—that chronic smoking could cause fatal diseases in middle- and old-age.

But everything comes full circle and the latest comments from the new Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, seem designed to take us back at least 100 years. Her predecessor was a tough act to follow. Scientifically illiterate statements like "There is no significant scientific evidence that suggests smokeless tobacco is a safer alternative to cigarettes" and "There is no safe level of secondhand smoke" set new standards of quackery at the Surgeon General's office. But the new incumbent looks up to the job, and when you have an obese Surgeon General serving a president who smokes, all bets are off.

The latest headline claim—breathing a puff of secondhand smoke can kill you instantly—is really just a variation of Carmona's "no safe level" rhetoric. It takes the theoretical possibility that someone at death's door who is critically, terminally ill with heart disease could be finished off by smoking a cigarette, and then extends it to suggest that healthy people are being killed in the street from breathing secondhand smoke.

Benjamin has done nothing to distinguish between these very different situations. Indeed, she has gone out of her way to add to the confusion. This is very clear from her recent interview with Ed Baxter on KGO Radio. Baxter gives her every opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding but Benjamin just keeps piling it up. The transcript is below, and requires little further comment, but I recommend listening to the audio to get a measure of the woman. She doesn't exactly ooze authority. (Listen here - starts at 17.00). My thanks to Becky Johnson for helping with the transcript.

EB: Well, this may be, there have been a lot of warnings about cigarette smoking, but this may be the scariest I've seen. So we really wanted to get it straight from the person who did the study and the survey so we went straight to the top. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin is on the KGO live line. Thank you for joining us.

RB: Thank you for having me.

EB: If I'm reading this correctly, you're saying your next cigarette could be your last. That's a dramatic way of putting it: "The next cigarette could be your last." This is a report coming straight out of the Surgeon General's office. Cigarette smoking can cause instantaneous shut down of systems, is that true?

RB: It can certainly cause a heart attack and death, that's true. This report is the 30th Surgeon General's report on tobacco. The previous reports have focused on what diseases are caused by tobacco. But this particular report focuses on how tobacco smoke really damages every organ in your body. One of the things we know is that if you inhale cigarette smoke or inhale passive, second-hand smoke you might have an underlying cardiac disease like heart disease and didn't even know it. When you inhale it, those chemicals, they can irritate the blood vessels, irritate that lining, causing immediate damage. And also cause your blood to be thicker and clot quicker so that can cause an immediate heart attack. So just that one cigarette can cause a heart attack.

JLJ: So even just second hand smoke? Just a whiff of the smoke?

RB: That's correct. We know that cigarettes today have over 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds. And inhaling those chemicals causes immediate damage to your blood vessels.

EB: And this, of course, would be more severe or traumatic to somebody who has a chronic condition, who has been smoking for a while....

RB: No, it's anyone! Most people who have heart disease, for example, don't even know they have heart disease because they never had any symptoms.

EB: So anyone just walking on a street, a first cigarette or just second hand smoke?
This could be caused by hypertension or any underlining disease, correct?

RB: Any underlying disease or people who may appear to be very healthy and just didn't know it! And also people who are healthy, it affects them as well. It affects your blood vessels and can damage your DNA. We find that people who, particularly women who have reproductive problems, because the DNA is affected by the chemicals in the tobacco. We didn't even know these chemicals existed. We didn't even know that there were 7,000 different chemicals and chemical compounds so these things are new. It's very scientific, but how these chemicals affect your body. Every organ in your body.

EB: We know it causes cancer. It may lead to heart disease. People are talking about chronic diseases. We're talking about instantaneous—and I just want to make sure we're understanding this correctly—instantaneous... your next cigarette or breathing someone's secondhand smoke could cause, basically, an acute episode that could lead to instant death.

RB: That's correct. The other thing is that these cigarettes today are more addicting. The nicotine, the chemical compounds that we now have the science behind—and this report tries to explain how it becomes much more addicting.