Sunday, December 18, 2011

Teens prefer marijuana to alcohol, cocaine, tobacco

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Shearer

NOTE TO READER: The following drug war screed by the editorial board of the Santa Cruz Sentinel fails to report the obvious: area teens PREFER to use marijuana rather than tobacco, alcohol, or cocaine. This is good news. Tobacco is credited with killing 44o,000 Americans each year. Alcoholism (which directly kills 23,199 each year) not only is detrimental to developing brains, but causes addiction, car accidents, and family strife. The fact that cocaine use has dropped in the USA is also good news for us and bad news for South American drug cartels. Likewise, with a healthy marijuana economy right here in California, those cartels are robbed of profits as well. So what is the bad news? This also speaks well of our young people that they can read through the drug war propaganda and reject that which is not true. Marijuana does not cause drivers to get into car accidents and for users to wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened the night before. Yes marijuana is slightly addictive. Less so than coffee or chocolate but more so than anchovies. And they allow students and teachers alike to drink coffee or eat chocolate on campus. And stronger pot is not the danger the writer claims it is. People smoke a lot less of the stronger pot to get the same effect. And when they smoke too much, their brains shut off the marijuana receptors. Too bad our brains don't have similar alcohol receptors.

So why the hypocrisy? Could it be that the SENTINEL is the mouthpiece for the police who have not yet gotten the message: We in Santa Cruz don't want people arrested for possession or use of marijuana. It is said that no jury of 12 in Santa Cruz will convict a person for mere possession or use of marijuana. So why is the SENTINEL so behind the times? With pharmaceutical use way up, the "drug war" has become public policy driving private corporate profits by policing herbal "competition" out of business.

---- Becky Johnson, Editor



As We See It: Confronting teen drug use


The rest of the nation appears to be catching up to Santa Cruz County in one unfortunate aspect: marijuana use among teens.

According to a new government report released this week, one in 15 high school students in the U.S. smokes pot on a near-daily basis.

Near daily.

Not only is that a startling figure, it also reflects what appears to be the highest use since the druggy 1970s, and goes against other substance abuse trends showing use of alcohol, cocaine and even cigarettes declining in the same population.

And here's another way to consider the drug use data: If the numbers are true, then one in 15 high school students is either already addicted or well on the way to becoming addicted to increasingly potent marijuana.

Oh, but pot isn't addicting, runs the counter-argument. And, in purely physiological terms, that might be true, at least not like heroin is addicting.

Psychologically, however, it's all too true.

We bring up Santa Cruz County because marijuana and alcohol use have been significantly higher among high-schoolers in this community than among peers statewide.

In the latest national figures, about 25 percent of high-schoolers reported using marijuana. In Santa Cruz County, however, 30 percent of 11th-graders reported they had used marijuana, compared to 20 percent of 11th-graders statewide. More than 40 percent of local 11th-graders also reported drinking alcohol.

Correspondingly, the acceptance among Santa Cruz County adults of marijuana for recreational use, while declining slightly over the past two years, remains high -- about half of all adults surveyed still find it acceptable. The acceptance rate is higher among white and North County adults than in the primarily Latino South County.

The medical marijuana movement also is prevalent in Santa Cruz County and has burgeoned throughout the state. Federal drug authorities say they believe the uptick in teen pot use is partially due to the increasing prevalence of medical marijuana, which is available in dispensaries regulated in this community by local governments.

According to an inpatient director at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, it's also not uncommon for young adults who enter the center because of substance abuse or addiction issues to show up with medical marijuana cards.

The message in recent years that has gone out to young people is that marijuana is good medicine. And while that's true for some seriously ill people, the prevalence of medical pot cards only drives this point home.

The teen survey also showed that teens are also influenced by their parents. It might seem to many parents that young people don't pay attention to them, but that really isn't true. If parents aren't bothered by their son or daughter smoking pot -- or if they smoke marijuana themselves somewhat regularly -- then guess what? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the teens who were smoking pot even more prevalently 30 years ago are today's parents.

Since there are fewer drug prevention resources available today than just a few years ago with government funding in a free-fall downward, that means parents are the primary adult figures who can speak into their teens' lives about what chronic drug use does to a person's mental, physical and spiritual life.

The question is, do they really believe that's true? Do you?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Occupy Santa Cruz' encampment crushed by SCPD

A homeless woman refuses to leave her home and must be carted away by Santa Cruz police.
Photo courtesy of Dan Coyro, Santa Cruz Sentinel December 8, 2011

December 10, 2011

by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- The last two days of the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment in San Lorenzo Park were marked by confusion, high tempers, and a flurry of activity as bike carts and grim-faced people carried gear, bags, and even furniture out of the park. Some vowed they weren't going anywhere, and 31 tents still remained after the 5PM deadline on December 7th.

The photo of Vice-Chief Steve Clark smirking from behind the glass of the courthouse as he counted down the minutes to coordinating the activities between his force and Scotts Valley Police, Capitola Police, Watsonville Police, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's, State Park Rangers and UCSC police along with First Alarm security agents to crush the camp belied the cruel pleasure he took as he waited for the police onslaught which would ruin the homes of homeless people and curtail their dissent.

Align CenterOfficers in riot gear and an officer with a pepper-ball gun. Dec 8 2011 Photo courtesy of Bradley Stuart

If what the sheriffs and police are doing is so lawful, upright, and reasonable, why do they come like a thief in the night to steal tents, bedding, and to cite people for sleeping? Does their naked use of brutal police power not make a good visual for the citizenry?

Don Lane, and the Santa Cruz City Council all deserve defamation for the entire way they handled this. The FIRST thing they did was to meet in secret, put an item on their closed litigation session agenda as an "emergency" item, and vote to spend tens of thousands of dollars by assigning City Attorney John Barisone (who IS one of the 1%) with the task of filing an injunction against the camp in court---a place where they have had unprecedented success in the past. But then Occupy Santa Cruz filed a motion to move consideration of the injunction to Federal Court.

One of the protesters is arrested for "delaying or obstructing a police officer" and booked into Santa Cruz County Jail under $25,000 bail. Photo by Bradley Stuart Dec 8 2011

No problem. Step in Czarina of Parks & Rec, Dannettee Shoemaker. SHE could file an administrative order to remove "a public nuisance" pre-empting the now-Federal injunction. Except, that under Chapter 4.16 of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code, she needed to first file a notice of abatement, give the parties time to either respond or abate the nuisance, and, also include sections of the code which are being violated. Also required under the City's nuisance abatement code, is to give notice of how the order can be appealed. She did none of these.

Instead, she used the summary portion of the code. Such code is for hazards which, according to the written instructions on use of this "hurry up" form of hazard removal, require that "an imminent threat to life" would exist if the nuisance were allowed to continue unabated.

Except that Dannettee issued the order on November 30th but didn't bother to deliver the first notice until the evening of December 4th. If the threat was so "imminent" why did she take so much time?

When Occupy Santa Cruz again met the City in court (this time in the chambers of Judge Timothy Volkmann) all of these arguments were made. But Volkmann, without really explaining why, rubberstamped Shoemaker's order.

The encampment lasted each night from October 8th until December 7th. At its height, 109 tents were pitched there and on County property. An average of 200 people found shelter, safety, food, medical help, and community there, many who were unhoused. Three porto-potties were ultimately utilized representing 75 people each.

Assuming 2 people per tent, OSC provided an estimated 200 people with shelter for 61 nights or 12,200 shelter-nights in social-service-speak. That's more than the Homeless Services Center will provide at the National Guard Armory all this winter.

Mayor Ryan Coonerty never fails to disappoint. His last act as Mayor was to preside over a massive and costly police operation to crush both dissent and the encampment. He is now responsible for displacing up to 225 people into the bushes, beneath bridges, and behind dumpsters in the downtown area. His police force have seized tents, bedding, food, medicine, personal possessions, along with cooking utensils, tools, electronic equipment, musical instruments, and clothing. Basically anything they couldn't physically carry away was left behind to be ridiculed by Santa Cruz Polices spokesperson, Zach Friend as "Eight tons of garbage."

In the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Mayor Ryan Coonerty said "We just can't have this continued impact on parks, especially when every other group abides by the restrictions on park use. We've tried to balance their protest with the impacts to the park, but now the impacts to the park are significant enough that they need to find another form of protest."

Of course "every other group" is the AIDS BIKE-A-THON which pays the City a large amount of money to use one of our parks for two days, tents a-plenty. THEY also provide porto-potties for the campers. For a group of homeless people to get the permits required would be prohibitively expensive by design. Neither Coonerty nor any other member of the Santa Cruz City Council want a legal campground for homeless people to open anywhere within the City limits.

So the City has bypassed its own legal process to crush a campground which housed 200 people, and seized tents, sleeping bags, and warm clothing from a bunch of homeless people claiming that if they DIDN'T do this, "an imminent threat to life" would exist. When you deprive homeless people of shelter and blankets, are you not CREATING an "imminent threat to life" for those people? I guess we can be thankful they didn't use tear gas and concussion grenades.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Xmas Carols for Anarchists

by Becky Johnson and Robert Norse

I've had a request to reprint the HUFF XMAS SONGBOOK with lyrics MOSTLY by Robert Norse with a few other HUFFies adding some lines. Protesters at Occupy Santa Cruz plan some Xmas Caroling in the days to come, so start practicing!!!


Thanks to Josh Koleszar and Occupy Omaha!

(click HERE to hear it on youtube)

On the first day of protest, the haters said to us
Why don't you just get a job?
On the 2nd day of protest the haters said to us
You dirty hippies, why don't you just get a job?
On the 3rd day of protest, the haters said "What are you saying?"You dirty hippies, why don't you just get a job?
On the 4th day of protest the haters said to us "You're a pain to be here""What are you saying?"You dirty hippies, why don't you just get a job?
On the 5th day of protest the haters said to us "Occupy my ass!""You're a pain to be here""What are you saying?"You dirty hippies, why don't you just get a job?

On the 6th day of protest the haters said to us "Wall Street's not the problem"
On the 7th day of protest the haters said to us "Have you formed a goal yet?"
On the 8th day of protest the haters said to us"Who is in charge here?"
On the 9th day of protest the haters said to us "Pay some fucking taxes!"
On the 10th day of protest the haters said to us " Mooching little whiners"
On the 11th day of protest the haters said to us "Hypocrites with I-phones"
On the 12th day of protest the haters said to us "Just wait till winter."

On the LAST day of protest, the haters said to us "I can't believe it actually worked."


You better not sit, you better not beg,
you better not chalk, or drink from a keg,
Sgt. Harms is coming downtown!

He's making a list, he's checking it twice
poor folks are naughty and rich folks are nice
Sgt Harms is coming downtown!

He knows if you have warrants
He knows who are the bums
He knows if you play hacky-sack
or feed the birds bread crumbs

You better just shop,'cause nothings for free.
You better be white and have an I.D.
Sgt Harms is coming Downtown!

You better not sleep, nor linger too long
nor dare to sit down while singing this song...
Sgt. Harms is coming downtown!

He knows if you're suspicious
Or hanging out while poor,
Don't beg a dime after dark downtown
You'll get tickets by the score!

The benches are gone
Get out of the parks
Don't sit in your car
Be gone after dark
Sgt. Harms is coming Downtown!

God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen

God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen
but not in Santa Cruz!
Mayor Rotkin has a Sleeping Ban
he'll cite you if you snooze
and if you're warm beneath your quilts
your blankets you shall lose
Bad tidings, not comfort or joy,
comfort or joy
Bad tidings NOT comfort or joy

The sidewalks are for business use, so don't delay or sit!
We've friendly cops with ticket books, three hundred bucks a hit.
They'll show up fast in squads of three as fast as you can spit.

Sad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy!
Sad tidings, not comfort of joy.

Yet this was made for all of us and not just for the rich
Watch out for "hosts" who prowl the street all smiling as they snitch.
And if you're mad, then just be glad, you know which way is which.

Mad tidings, not comfort or joy comfort or joy,
Mad tidings not comfort or joy.

In Santa Cruz we often fight for peace throughout the world
Discrimination isn't us, just keep your bedroll furl'd
Progressive politics with anti-poor laws here are swirled

Bad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy
Bad tidings, not comfort or joy


Oh come all ye shoppers
with creditcards and checkbooks
and bank cards and bills and coins and
lay-away accounts
Come and buy new stuff
although you don't need it
Because you must have it
Because you must have it
Because you must have it and
right now!


Away on Vacation leaving homeless outdoors,
Says Mayor Don Lane "No Sleep for the poor"
For thousands of homeless it's a crime just to sleep
the police will harass you in your car on the street

We love all our homeless
they even get mail
but sit, beg, or sleep and they'll wind up in jail
It's Christmas time now, time to buy lots of stuff
Your pain frightens shoppers, so the cops will get tough

(Its time to shop)

Joy to the world
its time to shop
and spend our dough
To buy the little baubles,
the cups, the shirts, the models
Don't waste your coins on the poor
They'll only drink some more
and clutter the windowsills
around your store.

Revenue climbs
as Christmas nears
and cops,
for shops,
make way!
Arrest the poor and homeless,
musicians who are toneless
Don't let the young sit down
Don't need their kind around,
Reprove them, remove them from
our bum-free town!

Spend all your cash!
Ignore the poor.
Perhaps they'll disappear.
They're dirty and they're lazy,
They're leeches and they're crazy.
Remove them from our sight!
Into the deepening night,
This Christmas our streets will
all be Clean and White!

(frozen night)

Silent Night
Frozen night
Vagrants stay
out of sight.
Sleeping's illegal
No shelter's around
Officer Seilly says
"Get out of town!"
For we don't want you
'round here,
For we don't want you
'round here.

Judges convict
homeless each day
for simple acts
like work and play.
Using a bathroom
should not be a crime
But if you ask someone
for a dime,
Then they'll throw you in jail,
then you are thrown into jail.

(with Food Not Bombers)

Pack the Mall
with Food Not Bombers
Fa la la la la la la la la
Serve good food to all the comers
Fa la la la la la la la la
Fight to keep all free food legal
Fa la la la la la la la la
Spare some justice for the feeble
Fa la la la la la la la la

Pack the halls with
citizen fury
Fa la la la la la la la la
Time to get on every jury
Fa la la la la la la la la
For your rights are slipping
Fa la la la la la la la la la
The Mayor's leading us
Fa la la la la la la la la

Pack the mall with
Hopscotch chalkers
Fa la la la la la la la la
Frisbees, bubbles, balls
and hawkers,
Fa la la la la la la la la
Sit, and beg, and even lie down
Fa la la la la la la la la
Break a law to show its
Your town
Fa la la la la la la la la

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chief Vogel's Letter: Reading between the Lines

By Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- The Santa Cruz Police Department has issued a press release written by Chief Kevin Vogel. Unlike smarmy SCPD Spokesman, Zach Friend, Vogel makes no bones about where he stands. However, Vogel may not realize a number of issues that are at play. So to re-educate the Chief (who I think is a good man), I present his statement with my imbedded comments. You can read the statement without comments on the Santa Cruz Police Blog Website found here.


75 River Street - Takeover Has Ended

On late Saturday night, after over 72 hours of difficult negotiations, Occupy Santa Cruz ended their takeover of a vacant bank building at 75 River Street. Our goal was to have a peaceful resolution to this illegal and unproductive action and we were successful in that endeavor. Thankfully, the group was able to show the maturity that had been lacking in the first three days of the takeover.
Police violently tackle a man to the ground near 75 River Street minutes after it was occupied by Autonomous Anonymous Photo courtesy of Bradley Stuart

BECKY: Negotiations were made "difficult" when SCPD publicly named police negotiators as suspects, and when police violently tackled a man to the ground for POSSIBLY trying to move some orange traffic cones and seized his camera and cellphone. Nor did this action end because of police pressure or because the group developed "maturity." It ended because the protesters felt they'd proven their point. They consensed that there was no need to fight tear gas, riot cops, and taser guns if a peaceful, strategic exit could avoid that.

It is our intent to work with the District Attorney's Office to identify those that are responsible and hold them accountable for the trespass. In addition, we will be reviewing the costs associated with the takeover to see if there is any way we can recoup some of the public funds that were spent during the last few days. Clearly, as chief, I would prefer our resources be dedicated to more pressing issues than people that blatantly disregard reason, property rights and common sense.

BECKY: So the only damages were the costs police ran up all by themselves in their mostly ineffective response to the building takeover? Trespassing on an empty property left behind by an absentee landlord. Is that who the SCPD thinks we should be spending limited resources protecting? Apparently so.

I can't make it clearer that no one has a First Amendment right to break into someone's property, commit acts of felony vandalism and ignore the law. Their actions were senseless and childish and diverted our limited resources. In addition, it placed our officers in needless danger; something that I find completely unbelievable.

BECKY: There is no 1st amendment right to enter a boarded up building. No one BROKE in. Police have yet to name what 'vandalism' was committed. And the LAW which Vogel seems so concerned about protects a predatory lender's abandoned property over proper use of a community asset, and uses public money to do so. In this case, the LAW serves the 1% and the enforcers are paid for by the 99%. And calling an action that befuddled, confused, and outstepped the cops "childish" is just name-calling from a poor loser.

We had worked hard to develop a Plan B to protect people and property and were fortunate that we were able to end this through the skilled work of our negotiators.

BECKY: The exit had NOTHING to do with SCPD negotiators, skilled or otherwise. The demonstrators consensed to end the occupation voluntarily and peacefully.

It was difficult, especially given the lack of a central figure in the group to negotiate and their initial greeting of expletives and slurs about police; not exactly the best basis for friendly negotiation.

BECKY: The group picked people to address the press and to liason with the police, so I don't buy that the problem was "who" to talk to. Police were chastised for setting up road blocks and snarling the evening commute and for tackling a protester and seizing his camera.

Within hours, they stopped answering phone calls on the cell phone we provided and continually provided us with unreasonable desires and no time horizon for vacating a space they had no right to be in. The sense of entitlement and disregard for the law is appalling.

BECKY: Wells Fargo's sense of entitlement and disregard for the community of Santa Cruz is appalling. In addition to predatory loans and foreclosures, they had left this perfectly usable building located on prime real estate downtown empty, unused, and taking up space. Furthermore, it is owned by an absentee landlord.

To say the least, it detracts from whatever their initial message was to have such an escalation of action. Some were quoted in media outlets showing their willingness to be arrested and their lack of interest in negotiation. Others were shown harassing the media or police that were there to speak to them. No longer can we trust that their intentions are purely political protest or other reasonably protected First Amendment actions.

BECKY: The actions, though a technical violation of the law, was completely political, a valid protest against Wells Fargo and Bank of America who were located on each side, and a protest against withholding a valuable building from any productive use for over three years with the apparent blessing of police, politicians, and the Downtown Association.

We witnessed anarchists, like those involved in the May Day riots, openly participating in the initial takeover and saw some quoted that were willing to face any sort of police action in order to defend their "right" to illegal takeover of the building.

BECKY: This action had NOTHING whatsoever to do with the May Day riot. The only thing in common is SOME people wore dark clothing, and SOME people wore masks on their faces. In the May Day riot, $100,000 in damage was committed. In 75 River Street, police found a funny smell when they entered.

We cannot thank the community enough for their support during this time and their calls of encouragement of how we handled the takeover. I personally share the frustrations of many that this was a completely unacceptable and over the top way to garner attention to their vague cause. I plan to continue the conversation about these issues with the community in the coming week.

BECKY: Of course the CALLS he is talking about were coming from merchants, property owners, banks, and the Downtown Association. Nor was the cause "vague." Clearly 75 River Street takeover highlighted the blighted nature of the building and showed the slavish response of the SCPD to their masters, the MAJOR property owners (the 1%). Not vague at all, and the SCPD slipped right into it.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.


Kevin Vogel
Chief of Police

Friday, December 2, 2011

75 River Street "Repurposed"

The Shareholders Meeting inside 75 River St. Photo courtesy of Bradley Stuart

by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, CA. --- On Wednesday, a splinter group roughly formed out of Occupy Santa Cruz, occupied a vacant building that years ago housed Coast Commercial Bank. The building at 75 River St. has been sitting empty ever since, providing no services to the public, no jobs for citizens, and no tax revenue to the City. In fact, a forensic accounting will most likely reveal that the empty property is providing a tax write-off to the owner to the tune of the full rent of its last tenant every month.

Furthermore, The City of Santa Cruz has a whole agency to deal with blighted properties, the Redevelopment Agency, which has failed to even address this property.
75 River Street is located directly in the center of our commercial district, sharing a lot line with our downtown post office. The fact that such a building should remain for YEARS without a tenant or business in the center of the community is a testament to the unchecked practices of the 1% (and WELLS FARGO certainly is included in that coddled 1%). Local property owner, Peter Cook laments the taking of “private property” falsely claiming that his property may be next. But unless Cook has property sitting unrented and unused in the middle of our community for years and years, he has nothing to fear.

Add that many in our community would love to rent that building and use it for a business, an organization, or for a community asset, but cannot due to the astronomically high rents charged. Meanwhile, the empty building sits year after year, taking up valuable space, and contributing NOTHING to our community.

Why haven’t our City leaders stepped in earlier and stopped this practice? And is it REALLY the proper use of public safety resources to act as the private security guards for a blighted building that the owners have been allowed to sit fallow for YEARS? These are clear signs that Vice-Mayor Don Lane, the SCPD, and the DTA are really hawkers for continuing to enrich the 1% at the expense of our community by defending the owners of properties like 75 River Street. No private party should be allowed to let their property sit for years at at time, not providing any jobs for our citizens, any tax revenue for the City, or any services for the public. Kudos to the occupiers for pointing out this wrongful policy in action.

If Lane is for real, he'd be promoting a new ordinance to fine such property owners until they get the message that owning property implies responsibility for that property by using it, not moth-balling it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cease activity constituting lodging

This notice was handed to me by Lt. Amy Christie of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office in the predawn hours when 20 sheriff's demanded protesters at Occupy Santa Cruz remove several tents and a dome structure. Photo courtesy of Auntie Imperial November 12, 2011

What if that "activity" which "constitutes lodging" is the same activity a people use when peaceably assembled to seek redress of government grievances?

by Becky Johnson

November 12, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- It is 5:40AM on a Saturday morning, and I have arrived at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse to find a Sheriff's raid in progress. Deputies are loading deflated tents into waiting sheriff's vehicles while sleepy-looking Occupy Santa Cruz protesters carry on a myriad of conversations with a dozen different deputies. Supervised and directed by Lt. Amy Christie, the sheriff's deputies were making videotapes of the area, conversing with the protesters, loading tents into police vehicles, and handing out notices.

"My tent was taken, " one thin, scared young woman told me. I could see her shivering.

"They made me drag my tent to the curb," another man told me as I surveyed a wreck of wet blankets, tarps, personal belongings, and a deflated tent all piled up in the gutter. Another woman pointed to a tent she'd placed on top of her vehicle.

"They told me to take it down, but I refused. I told them 'It's my property and I'm not going to take it down."

" Who is in charge here?" I asked, as a Sheriff's deputy pointed to his commander.
"Lt. Christie is in charge, " he told me.

I found her and immediately began to question exactly what it was she thought she was doing there.

"Is it illegal to camp here? According to the County Camping ordinance, is it illegal? You know it's not."

"What are the elements of 'lodging' that you see here, Lt. Christie?"
" We're done. You're illegally lodging here, " she told me. "I'm going to give you this and ask you to walk away from me." She handed me a piece of paper that had the letterhead for the County of Santa Cruz on it.
"I'm not lodging here," I said. "Yeah, you are," she insisted with robot-like speech.

This was not the first raid on Occupy Santa Cruz but the first one where I was able to witness some the actions of the deputies firsthand. In the raid on November 3rd and 4th, 1 man, Felix Krull, was physically arrested and 3 people were cited. Krull was jailed for five days for not having I. D. and released without charges. On November 5th,Chris Doyon was cited by Sgt. Esther Beckman while 7 others were cited under the now-infamous PC 647 (e) on November 11th.

The section is found under the "Disorderly Conduct" section of the California Penal Code. However, the only people I witnessed "disturbing the peace" in the predawn hours were the sheriff's! No one was arrested or cited, but police did seize two tents as "unclaimed property" as protesters followed them back to the basement of the County Building with chants of "We're the 99% You're the 99%!" I'm not sure that applies to Lt. Amy Christie. SHE may be one of the 1%.
She certainly SERVES the interests of the 1%.

Looking at the new "Lodging" notice, I can see that this version is decidedly different than the last version. Not only has the County letterhead been added, but much of the language appears to specifically apply to Occupy Santa Cruz including outlawing of "domes whether covered or not". Since the doors to the courthouse on the north side of the building have been closed to the public for a decade, the area is, in no way, obstructing or interfering with any of the normal business conducted in the Courthouse or the County Building.

The first line, however is wrong. It says "This property is owned by the County of Santa Cruz." Technically, it is the citizens of Santa Cruz County which collectively "own" Santa Cruz County public property. And the Courthouse itself is owned collectively by the citizenry of the State of California, being State land. Clearly this land is not "owned" by County CEO, Susan Mauriello, however, if HER signature were on the document, along with the date and time of the warning, it MIGHT have some legal sway.

The next difference I noticed was this: "All of these structures must be removed or.... they will be removed for you and stored safely for pick up by the owners." THAT's new!

Perhaps the County Counsel has been reading up on the Kincaid Decision in Fresno where the City was forced to pay the claims of dozens of homeless people who'd had their property confiscated and destroyed by Fresno Police? Or perhaps the Sheriffs have simply become more humane and eschew destroying survival sleeping gear and tents from poor people?

There is just no way on God's Green Earth that PC 647 (e) can be Constitutional. How can a person be ARRESTED and JAILED for not having a motel receipt? It's vague, overbroad, ANND selectively enforced. The notice Amy Christie handed me this morning says "You are being requested to cease activity constituting lodging." Here we go again.

What IS "activity constituting lodging?" DA Sara Dabkowski in January of 2011 said "To 'lodge' somewhere, it's common knowledge. To lodge, live, stay the night, where they don't have permission." Yet on May 4th 2011, Judge John Gallagher told a jury that "to lodge means to settle or live in a place, that may include sleeping." Judge Rebecca Connolly also found PC 647 (e) to be Constitutional. She faced Public Defender Mark Garver who said " if "lodging" can be defined as someone who stands, sits, or publicly assembles in a protest, it can be used to disperse that protest. I am challenging this ordinance on its face as well as as applied."

So "settling in" or "living in a place" is an arrestable crime? Where have we heard that language used before?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Council's behind the scenes machinations typical of the 1%ers

Robert Norse raises his arm in a mock, fascist salute to Mayor Ryan Coonerty for sending police to remove another man for speaking out at a City Council meeting on November 8, 2011. Photo by Alex Darocy

by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- On Thursday, November 10th, City Attorney John Barisone filed an injunction against Occupy Santa Cruz in an ex parte hearing before Judge Timothy Volkmann. No one from OSC attended the closed hearing, due to the court doors being locked.

Nevermind that members of OSC had petitioned both Councilmember Don Lane and Councilmember Tony Madrigal to place an item on the City Council agenda to support Occupy Santa Cruz (or perhaps to set the parameters for OSC). Both indicated that they would consider doing this. They did not follow through, and two city council meetings passed with the only mention of OSC at the oral communications section and raised by members of the public only.

All this changed on Tuesday, November 8th, when the City Council met during its usual closed session where litigation and personnel matters are discussed. While the council is required by the Brown Act to place all items discussed on the City Council agenda, the OSC item was NOT on the agenda. However, once in the meeting, at least 5 city councilmembers voted to place an "emergency" item on the agenda: seeking an injunction against the encampment located in San Lorenzo Park. It strains credulity, that they did not have time to notice the item to deal with the 32 day old encampment.

All of this explains what happened Tuesday a few hours later during the oral communications period when most of those who spoke supported Occupation Santa Cruz. Mayor Ryan Coonerty, who has permanently shortened oral communications from three minutes to two minutes even further shortened the speech of the public to ONE MINUTE each. ("Less speech is better speech"--Ryan Coonerty March 2005)

One of these speakers was Former Mayor Celia Scott who began by questioning City investment funds for those that support enriching the 1%. She was unable to finish her statement, attempted to speak beyond the 1 minute Mayor Coonerty allowed, only to be shut down.

As soon as oral communications had ended, Vice-Mayor Don Lane began a 6 minute speech in which he first apologized to members of the public claiming that councilmembers "can't take actions on items presented in oral communications." Of course he concealed that the council had already voted to "take action" by moving to shut down the camp in court during a secret city council session earlier that day.

Robert Norse, from the audience interjected "Open the bathrooms!" indicating that Lane COULD authorize the opening of the public bathrooms in San Lorenzo Park on a 24 hour basis to serve the 200 or so campers in the park, whether the item was brought up in oral communications or not. Mayor Ryan Coonerty then warned Norse for his interjection, and when a 2nd person repeated "Open the bathrooms!" from the audience, Coonerty directed the FOUR police officers in the Council chambers to find and eject the person who had spoken in violation of their 'rules of decorum.' It was at this point, that Norse stepped forward and gave a "Nazi" salute in reaction to Coonerty's repressive use of police force to suppress speech. Few believed that if the man had shouted "Go Ryan!" the police would have been invoked.

Lane then crossed into giving his own opinions about the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment in San Lorenzo park, remarks that, according to their own process, should have been made by Lane during his ONE MINUTE of oral communications. He offered his "personal reactions" claiming "we do have a city park that is genuinely being damaged."

At this point another man shouted "Liar!" and the council reacted with great offense, head-shaking and tutting about the need for a "civil process."

For his part, City Attorney John Barisone saw another chance to bill the City for ANOTHER questionable injunction. He has filed injunctions in the past against a homeless couple for sleeping around downtown too much and against a HUFF Koffee Klatch at the Mayor's office in a lobbying effort to get the Sleeping Ban on the City Council agenda. Whether he wins or loses these injunctions, HE gets paid.

Lane reported that he 'd been at 3 General Assembly meetings and one committee meeting but "the guy never called me back." Despite these claims, Lane said he had "no idea" how to communicate with OSC, apparently not staying long enough to learn how to get on the stack. He also never learned how to get the key for the porto-potty and reported that when he had visited "it was locked."

"The park is important to the City" and that "the City has no interest in limiting your freedom of speech." He said the City issued a permit so it could "use the park in an appropriate way." He ended with "the park is not being protected at the status quo."

Then Mayor Ryan Coonerty gave his own "personal responses" by addressing the point former Mayor Celia Scott had tried to address calling for the City to examine its own financial holdings in relationship to enriching the 1%. Coonerty, in a self-serving, deflecting comment claimed that their practices were "cutting edge." Then he lectured the members of the public saying that the City "is challenged to balance all of the interests of the different park goers" when one group uses a small portion of the park for its own purposes.

"We don't issue permits to dampen your freedom of speech, we just must make sure we have full access for everyone to these public spaces."

Note that the City which claims their purpose is to "make sure we have full access for everyone to these public spaces" has criminalized BEING in the park after dark, with a dog, and if you smoke, exacting heavy fines for each offense, but allows its own city workers unfettered access to the park 24/7. They water the grass heavily so that even during the day, its not possible to set a blanket on the grass and lie down, even during droughts.

Of course the REAL issue the Mayor and City Council have with the OSC encampment in San Lorenzo Park is that homeless people have apparently, mostly peacefully joined OSC and have swelled its numbers beyond 200 people. Simultaneously, greenbelts and parks are experiencing fewer illegal campers, and OSC seems to be handling both litter removal and public hygiene despite City Manager Martine Bernal's abject refusal to open the public bathroom in the park on a 24 hour basis. Meanwhile, the positive effect on homeless campers who've joined OSC is evident.

"Before OSC, I slept maybe two or three hours each night," a homeless man nicknamed "Purps" told me. "For the last month I've slept ten hours each night."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lockheed Fire smoke considered

The Lockheed Fire as seen from Swift Street and Highway One
Photo courtesy of Rob Knight

Can we justify our persecution of tobacco smokers by claiming justification as a health hazard?

By Becky Johnson
August 7, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- On October 8th, 2009, the City of Santa Cruz' 'Smoking Pollution Control ordinance' went into effect. Pushed by Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty and City Councilmember, Don Lane, the ban outlawed smoking in wide swaths of public and private property throughout the City. The reasons given were for health reasons and because of tobacco litter.

While smoking tobacco and marijuana were explicitly banned, not all forms of air pollution were addressed. In fact, most weren't.

Air pollution in the City of Santa Cruz contains the smoke produced from automobiles, trucks, refrigeration units, industry, home gas heaters, cooking fumes from homes and restaurants, smoke from backyard barbeques, fireplaces, woodstoves, particle burners, candles, incense, outgassing from particle board, new carpeting, paints, lacquers, air fresheners, hairspray, cleaning fluids as well as dust kicked up in the wind. And what about that gas vapor we smell as we fill our gas tanks? In California alone, this totals 15,811 gallons a day or roughly the equivalence of two tanker truckfulls.

The average car driven in Santa Cruz produces 0.849 lbs of carbon emissions per average US passenger vehicle mile driven. Compared to a pack of cigarettes, this is the equivalent air pollution of 13.6 packs of cigarettes per mile. All of this exhaust goes into our atmosphere where everyone breathes it.

Yet only the smoke from individuals burning small amounts of tobacco or cannabis for personal use have been criminalized.

Consider this: The Lockheed fire burned 7,817 acres between Aug 12 - Aug 23 2009 in N. Santa Cruz County. It's origin has been shrouded in mystery but many believe that law enforcement accidentally started it by trying to burn down a remote marijuana garden. The irony of this cannot be overstated.

Mostly forested lands in the Swanton and Big Creek watershed burned. For 11 days smoke filled the county, choking residents and making everyone miserable. According to the EPA standard, (average fuel loading for woodland fires in California) the Lockheed fire generated 18 tons per acre of air pollution.

140,706 TONS of particulate matter were lofted into the sky and various dilutions of smoke drifted the northern half of the county for 11 days, affecting people out of doors and indoors as well.

The City of Santa Cruz has 60,000 people.

Let's say that 20% of them smoke. Let's say they smoke 1 pack a day.

1 pack a day = 30.5 per month = 366 packs per YEAR
366 packs of cigarettes = 22.87 lbs.

So one smoker in one year produces a potential of 22.87 lbs of air pollution. 12,000 smokers in Santa Cruz for 1 year produce a maximum of 274440 lbs or 137.22 tons per year.

Our citizenry were miserable for days by being exposed to the smoke from that ONE fire. Maybe some asthmatics died then. I don't know. But in order to produce the same amount of air pollution the Lockheed fire produced, all the tobacco smokers in the City of Santa Cruz would have to smoke for 1,025 YEARS.

And this was just the smoke from ONE fire.

No, the Santa Cruz Smoking Ban is not about protection from a 'health hazard' or because of tobacco littering. A public education campaign would take care of that. The ban is about banning people who smoke cigarettes from areas where shoppers and tourists congregate. And its about banning poor and homeless people, since police can pick and choose who they decide to issue a citation to. I'd bet dollars to donuts that more poor and homeless people have been warned and cited than tourists or shoppers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Still way too many left out in the cold

Homeless Census documents a rise in newly homeless, vehicularly housed as well as a return to former numbers

by Becky Johnson
August 6, 2011

Santa Cruz, CA. -- The 2011 Homeless Census and Survey for Santa Cruz County is out. The Santa Cruz Sentinel chose to highlight "a 22 percent increase in numbers" from 2009. But since the 2009 census was done in January whereas the 2007 census was done in late March, I didn't believe there ever was a drop in the homeless population.

In 2011, enumerators counted 2,771 homeless individuals in Santa Cruz County in one day. Authors claim that these numbers indicate that during the course of the year, 9041 will experience homelessness in Santa Cruz County. And if anyone thought we were anywhere near having enough shelter for them, the numbers indicate otherwise.

We see an enumeration of all conceivable shelter options available on January 25, 2011 on page 3 of the Executive summary.

378 emergency shelter spaces were identified.
268 transitional shelter spaces

So we have a total of 646 shelter spaces in use for the ENTIRE county leaving an enumerated 2,125 street count shut out of those spaces on that night. And on January 25th, we have our maximum shelter options available. But many of these shelters are only open in winter. So fewer spaces exist eight months of the year. Numerically this works out to shelter for 23% of those counted. But we know that these point-in-time counts are undercounts. Every last one.

And they state so. According to the report, "This count should be considered conservative since it is well known that even with the most thorough methodology, many homeless individuals stay in locations where they cannot be seen or counted by enumeration teams."

Those who were temporarily crashing on a friend's couch were not counted. Those who were living inside of an abandoned structure were not counted. Those who became homeless after January 25th were not counted. Those who were too deep into the woods when the count happened were not counted. In fact, laws like the camping ordinance and the anti-lodging law have the effect of causing homeless people to remain as invisible as possible in order to avoid a citation. So the gap between those without shelter and the number of shelter spaces available is much greater than reported. Past studies have put it at about 6% in summer.

According to the survey of 498 individuals who self-reported that they were homeless, 22% were found to be living in vehicles. 37% were camping out somewhere. Job loss was the highest reason given for becoming homeless (125 respondents). 63% said they had a disabling condition. 28% said they had been homeless for 3 years or more indicating a continued rise in chronic homelessness.

One of the biggest surprises was the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time: 52% of the respondents said they were experiencing homelessness for the very first time, which was a 6% rise from 2009.

24% of the women were victims of domestic violence. 38% said they were experiencing a substance abuse problem. 11% identified themselves as veterans. They also reported that 65% of the population is on some form of government service, with Food Stamps (42%) being the most common form of aid. However 35% reported receiving no government aid at all.

So we know that the number of people experiencing homelessness remains high, that it is disproportionately male (67%), and that most people homeless in Santa Cruz County last had housing in Santa Cruz County (67%).

This information was gleaned from the Executive Summary. When I've read the entire report, I'll post an update.

The executive summary can be viewed online here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Peace Camp 2010 defendant, Art Bishoff sentenced to 47 hours community service

An unknown man sleeps at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse as part of Peace Camp 2010 on August 29, 2010. Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
July 29, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Art Bishoff is doing better these days. Last summer, he was homeless and jobless and sleeping on the streets. Today he is housed (barely) and works 70 -80 hours a week at minimum wage. Last summer he was arrested as part of Peace Camp 2010 to protest Sleeping Bans. Today, he appeared before Judge John Gallagher to be sentenced for "illegal lodging," a misdemeanor offense.

Now two other defendants, Gary Johnson and Ed Frey, had been sentenced on June 10th to 6 months in jail and $50,000 bail when they refused 400 hours of community service and 3 years of probation for Sleeping as part of a protest against Sleeping bans. Both Johnson and Frey are currently out on bail pending appeal when Gallagher reconsidered bail and reduced it to $110. Apparently that was the bail schedule for PC 647 (e) all along.

DA Sara Dabkowski only slightly modified her demands. She asked for 300 hours of community service and 3 years probation. Attorney, and co-defendant, Ed Frey asked for a reduction "Since Mr. Bishoff is already working 70 to 80 hours a week." Gallagher sentenced him to 30 hours of community service and a combination of fees and fines adding up to $170.

"How much do you earn each month?" Gallagher asked in order to assess whether a fee reduction was in order.

"I just earn minimum wage," he replied.

Gallagher then modified the sentence to 47 hours and cleared him of the $170 fee. He charged him with 1 year probation and ordered him to not "Sleep/camp/or lodge in front of City Hall or here in front of the courthouse."

Then Gallagher gave a little speech. To Ed Frey he said, "Your people caused hundreds of hours of law enforcement dollars to be spent and others were impacted by having to view the scene. I don't need to hear any more evidence since I witnessed days and days of trial and testimony." To Mr. Bishoff he said, "I'm sentencing you differentially, Mr. Bishoff, because you were one of the few people in this protest who were not homeless-by-choice."

He praised Art's success in getting both housing and employment, seeming to show that those who violate PC 647 (e) and then somehow justify their lives after the fact to Gallagher are rewarded with a vastly reduced sentence. Gallagher also seemed to say that those who remain homeless are their "by choice" though no evidence or testimony to that effect was even raised at trial.

And are people REALLY homeless by choice? Who would leave a nice comfy home to go live on a sidewalk? All data show that the number one cause of homelessness is lack of money. And the number one reason for lack of money is the gap between the wages paid for employment and the cost of housing. Santa Cruz County has one the highest cost of housing in the country, which is hardly a "choice" homeless people make.

Yet Gallagher used this as an opportunity to lambast those who remain unemployed in an economy with an 11.5% unemployment rate or unhoused in a very high rental market by distinguishing Arthur Bishoff from "the rest."

"Congratulations on your job and on being a working member of the community."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why can't we house the 1% of us who are in need?

A few missed paychecks.

For some families and individuals in Santa Cruz County, that's all that stands between a roof over their heads and an uncertain existence -- a month couch-surfing with friends, maybe a week in the car, then a shelter or camping out in some out-of-the-way spot.

The most recent look at homelessness in Santa Cruz County -- a count and survey conducted by the United Way of Santa Cruz County and the nonprofit research firm Applied Survey Research -- shows that the homeless population in Santa Cruz County has jumped 22 percent in two years. There were an estimated 2,771 individuals without homes in the county in January, according to the homeless census. The tally in 2009, the last time a count was taken, was 2,265.

The major causes, the report concludes, are what you would expect: a sputtering economy in which many people are being jettisoned from once stable jobs coupled with increasing local rents. As homes prices fall, and more people purchase homes to live in, rents on those remaining rentals inch up.

But homelessness is complicated, and attributing it solely to hard economic times does not fully explain what is a vexing community problem. That's part of the value of the census and survey.

It's not just one number -- or one conclusion. The report looks at many things -- the ages of the homeless, where they come from, the benefits they use, the problems that landed them on the street. It offers interesting glimpses into the problem.

Among them:

Numbers can be deceiving. This year's homeless figure is 2,771; the number is based on a count by about 50 volunteers who fanned out countywide to places the homeless are known to gather. But experts then extrapolate those point-in-time numbers and conclude there are actually closer to 9,000 people homeless in the county at any given time.

Addiction plays a role. Sixty-three percent of the roughly 500 people surveyed reported having disabling conditions. The most-cited condition [38 percent] was alcohol and drug abuse, followed by depression and other chronic health problems.

Few would argue the homeless have it hard on the streets, but the numbers are alarming. According to the federal government, the average life expectancy of an American is 78 years. The average life expectancy for someone without permanent housing is between 42 and 52 years.

The majority [65 percent] of those surveyed receive some sort of government assistance, with food stamps overwhelmingly the assistance used most.

Contrary to what you see in the online comments on most any Sentinel story on homelessness, the majority of those on the streets are not out-of-county residents who came to the area to take advantage of local services. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents indicated they were already living here when they became homeless.

Homeless parents are like most all parents, fighting to do right by their kids. Ninety six percent of homeless parents with school-age kids in tow had those kids in school.

Young adults look to be increasingly affected. There were 99 young people without shelter in 2011 compared with 34 in 2009.

There can be a legacy of homelessness. The data showed 23 percent of homeless youth reported at least one parent was or had been homeless.

Homelessness was up in all cities in the county except for Watsonville, which saw a slight decrease from 561 people to 530.

Santa Cruz had the highest number with 1,070, up 169 from 2009. Scotts Valley went from no homeless to 13.

While the jump in homelessness in the past two years is disappointing, homelessness in the county is still down from a count of 3,371 in 2005.

The biannual census is required for the county to receive $1.7 million in federal homeless-assistance funding annually. But another important facet is its ability to change the debate around the local homeless problem.

It reminds people that there are many roads to the street, that it's unfair -- impossible actually -- to stereotype the homeless. They're young, they're old, with kids and without. Maybe they're struggling with addiction or suddenly jobless. Maybe it was just a few missed paychecks

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Song-Crime verdict sustained by Santa Cruz Appeals Court

by Becky Johnson

July 21, 2011

Scene of the Crime: the Free Speech zone underneath Sean Reilly's window on Pacific Ave in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz, owned by Mayor Ryan Coonerty's sister.

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- The only wrinkle is that there were only two judges. Otherwise, all was the same as before. In the Robert Norse/Robert Facer 'Song-Crime' appeal, a Santa Cruz County Superior Court appeals panel sustained their conviction last September for having sung a few songs on Pacific Ave. on January 6th, 2010. And, in a carbon-copy rationalization, they insisted the defendants had sung "for four hours straight" on a public sidewalk in downtown Santa Cruz.

"Commissioner Basket concluded that the length of the protest, the fixed location, an electronic organ, a drum, a guitar over a period of 4 hours constituted unreasonably disturbing noise," Judge Paul Burdick offered as proof of his decision. The problem was, we didn't sing for four hours. In fact, we sang on and off for a little over an hour at an event we had announced in advance would last two hours. Nor did any other witness testify that we sang that long, that we were too loud or too annoying. In fact, Commissioner Basket had to have ruled that the sole witness--the citizen complainant cum "witness" Sean Reilly was the ONLY reliable witness. For seven eye-witnesses testified that no one from our group even got to the location until 1:30PM and that no one even began to sing until 1:45PM.

Baskett must have ruled that the 7 witnesses testimony in court under penalty of perjury was unreliable. For at an appeals hearing, only testimony by the winning party is considered.

However, Baskett did not entirely discount the testimony of the eyewitnesses who claimed to have been in a meeting several blocks away until 12:30PM--one and a half hours AFTER Reilly claimed he heard "the same group singing," at the fixed location.

Baskett used this "evidence" of a prior meeting where we included in our planning, a plan to include music as part of the protest, to convict Robert Facer. For Facer never sang a word on January 6th but was convicted of "unreasonably disturbing noise,"according to Baskett, for engaging in a conspiracy to create an unreasonably disturbing noise when she alleged that we PLANNED to disturb the staff at Bookshop Santa Cruz---a conclusion she made up wholly since no one on either side testified to that claim.

Judge Paul Marigonda concurred with Burdick's preliminary decision but eagerly agreed to certify a further appeal to a higher court--unusual in infraction cases.

Attorney Ed Frey, representing Robert Facer argued that the statute in question needed to satisfy two tests. "Brown established for all political protests, that unless the speech presents a clear and present danger of immediate violence or the protest is intended solely to disturb, that the speech cannot be abridged. Neither of those conditions were met by this protest. So how do you get around the first amendment?"

Burdick explained why his ruling was reasonable. "I believe Brown involved a protest on a University campus," he ventured. "Here, people were occupying space in a commercial business district, and people's conduct could interfere with people coming and going, and since their were apartments upstairs, people attempting to peacefully enjoy their homes."

Ed Frey challenged Burdick's claim. "I don't see anything in here saying it's on a college campus. What if the protest were set up on a vacant lot next to the University? Are you saying that their 1st amendment rights wouldn't apply there?

"Streets and parks have been places where we traditionally peaceably assemble, where we communicate out thoughts, since ancient times. And in this case, the defendants were in the Free Speech Zone on a public sidewalk. If they couldn't practice their 1st amendment rights there, where could they?"

Too bad Judge Ariadne Symons, not present due to a sudden family emergency, wasn't there to tell us we "could sing in a park."

"As for the complaining witness, Ed argued, "Sean Reilly lived at that location for four years. He knew what to expect when he goes home. Are you saying that a single citizen can veto the 1st amendment?"

"One person can make a difference," Judge Paul Marigonda piously retorted.

Sean Reilly takes a break from one of many hearings outside of Commissioner Baskett's court as he testifies against four people for singing. Photo by Becky Johnson

"As to determination of credibility, the trial court judge had to determine was that witness reasonable. There is nothing on the record to say Mr. Reilly's testimony was not reliable."

"Commissioner Baskett heard all the evidence," Judge Paul Marigonda added.

"All your arguments are well taken including details from the conviction of Becky Johnson," Burdick continued. "The court found a person has the right to be free from being disturbed in their home. Courts must do a balancing act and determine if sufficient evidence exists of a violation occurring."

Despite this rule, Ed Frey addressed the defense sworn testimony. "This court seems to be depending in part at least on the length of time the music was played. Every one of the defendants testified they sang an hour and a quarter at most."

"We can't address any facts in dispute, " Burdick apologized.

"But these facts are not in dispute, Frey concluded. "The witness, Sean Reilly testified that he did not look out the window until 2 PM. This is not a fact in dispute. The City has not proven its case and this conviction should be overturned."

Robert Norse, appearing pro per, introduced himself as "a writer and an activist." Norse who is not an attorney addressed the finding that singing is not a necessary component to speech.

"It would seem that the court finds that singing anywhere at any time could be outlawed, and that would tend to disallow singing on all occasions. This ruling affects not only us, but all performers, activists, musicians and the audiences we interact with --and it is the law that is at issue. Which act provides a violation? I didn't know. Ms. Johnson didn't know. And when we asked Officer Schoenfield repeatedly, SHE didn't know or couldn't tell us."

Then Norse addressed the first part of the ordinance. The section which addressed unreasonably disturbing noises between 10PM and 8AM. Norse pointed out that THIS section of the municipal code does address residents and sleeping quarters. So why were the defendants convicted for what might have been a violation of the after 10PM ordinance?

Burdick assured Norse that they 'd already read and considered all written arguments. And that the time had expired. "Does a day sleeper have a reasonable expectation of privacy?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

City's 'Nazi salute' appeal beyond absurd

NOTE TO READER: I wanted to repost Pete Nichols' op-ed when it came out in late June, but other events sidelined me. So here it is, still timely with the Supreme Court supposedly considering whether to listen to the City's appeal of the 14 - 0 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Robert Norse "Nazi" Salute Case. They will issue their decision in September as to which cases they will hear. I want to add that I don't believe I have ever had any contact with Mr. Nichols, and no one from the Norse legal team was contacted prior to this op-ed piece. Apparently, Mr. Nichols was just moved enough by the issue to write and submit this piece. ---Becky Johnson, Ed.

Peter Nichols: City's 'Nazi salute' appeal beyond absurd



Hard to believe, but the city of Santa Cruz is actually appealing its Robert Norse Nazi-salute case to the highest court in the land. There it was, in black and white, "City files Supreme Court appeal" Sentinel, June 10, 2011.

City leaders have already flushed $150,000 down the drain defending a First Amendment lawsuit challenging a mayoral action that was questionable at best. Choosing to spend more money on a highly specialized read: expensive Washington, D.C., attorney in the face of overwhelming doubts the court will even consider the case is throwing good money after bad.

The city argues that Norse's Nazi salute during the March 12, 2002, council meeting was a "hate gesture." The petition declares, "... broad protections of the First Amendment do not extend to hate gestures [that disrupt proceedings] made during a city council meeting." Richard Ruda, the attorney, described the gesture as "insulting and very offensive" and suggested that the offended have the right to evict the offender.

In the context of a governance protest, however, it's a stretch to claim a Nazi salute is a hate gesture and very offensive. Insulting to council members, perhaps, since it suggests that they aren't operating democratically. But that's all in the eye of the beholder, and as a mocking gesture, it warrants full protection.

Fortunately for those of us who weren't present, there's a five-minute video on Google Search: nazi+salute+2002. After one protesting citizen is asked to leave, Mayor Christopher Krohn insists that another person -- expecting to address the council -- sit down, also under threat of removal. As she leaves the podium, Norse can be seen on the sidelines raising his left arm in the direction of the council. A real Nazi salute would have been far more demonstrative with the right arm. It was a silent gesture, lasting about a second and barely noticed. It was Nazi salute light. For the next 10 seconds the meeting continued orderly. The salute was not disruptive.

The disruption began when Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice, who saw the gesture, over-reacted, expressed objection and insisted Norse be removed from the chamber. Mayor Krohn, who hadn't noticed, asked Norse to leave. Norse objected briefly before being led away in handcuffs. That prompted the filing of his First Amendment lawsuit.

It's unknown what happened before the video begins. Since it was taped at the end of a public comments period, Fitzmaurice may have grown tired of the complaints or simply fed up with Norse's persistent criticism. That's not uncommon with elected officials who lack the patience to deal with the cumbersome nature of democracy e.g., having to listen to people complain.

Local governing bodies often deal with disruptions. But skilled facilitators, sensitive to the public's needs, rarely have difficulties keeping order. One thing's clear, however: Had Fitzmaurice simply ignored the gesture, nobody would have given it another thought. And that is what should have happened.

So now, the City Council is asking the likes of Alito, Scalia, Roberts, and Justice Clarence Thomas, of all people, to intervene on their behalf because they couldn't control a meeting in 2002.

This is not a case about hate speech or about out-of-control meetings. It is about free speech, something Santa Cruz -- of all communities -- should strongly support rather than seek to stifle. Furthermore, this council should not perpetuate the folly of previous councils.

Appealing this matter to the Supreme Court is beyond absurd.

Peter Nichols is a Larkin Valley resident whose all-time favorite city is Santa Cruz.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mayor Ryan Coonerty's "Minor technical error"

by Becky Johnson
July 17, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Now it's no secret that I am no fan of Mayor Ryan Coonerty. He personally had me banned for life from Bookshop Santa Cruz, falsely accusing me of

Mayor Ryan Coonerty in photo taken at his part-time cashier's job in his Dad's bookstore 2005.

vandalizing their bathrooms. He's a major supporter of the Sleeping Ban. He's cut oral communications at City Council meetings from three minutes to two minutes, and actually crowed that "Less speech is better speech" for members of the public. Of course, HIS time to pontificate has not been reduced one bit.

He's made huge public parking garages and parking lots into "no trespassing' zones just to drive homeless people into the rain when they took shelter there. He's made it illegal to play a flute too near a statue (MC 5.43.020 section d)
, which has to be one of the most ridiculous, petty, and unconstitutional ordinances passed by the City Council in recent years. And now he's been admonished for ethical violations by the The Fair Political Practices Commission of the State of California for issuing a self-serving mailer at public expense.

Nor does Ryan seem to get it, calling the admonishment for an ethical violation an "honest mistake." City Manager Martine Bernal, also named for the ethical violation was even worse. HE commented that they "may have inadvertantly made a minor technical error." But many citizens thought otherwise.

Former Supervisor, Gary Patton noted the violation on his Facebook Page writing "The mailer is heavy on both boosterism and self-congratulation. Unfortunately, it appears to violate state law, which forbids the use of government funds for the promotion of elected officials." Citizen Gillian Greensite went further and filed a formal complaint. Quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Greensite said ""Apart from the illegality of the mailer, the use of public funds to send out a self-promotional piece at the same time that they are cutting city staff salaries and making budget cuts to social services seems questionable at best." HUFFies called the mailer a "glossy puff piece mailed at taxpayer expense."

Local attorney, Kate Wells wrote "And Ryan Coonerty is teaching law to our best and brightest at UCSC ??? I agree with Greensite, this was a clear violation of the law, not to mention ethics - not even a close call. I, too, find it hard to believe that Coonerty did not recognize such a basic misuse of taxpayer dollars. Either he is ignorant and should be fired from his teaching job or he is unethical and should be removed from the council."

John Cohen, a local resident wrote "The mailer was a political piece which should not have been paid for with taxpayer money. It was meant to present the City of Santa Cruz and Ryan Coonerty -- who was featured on it -- in a favorable light. In short, it was a political advertisement, not educational material. If anything, Ryan Coonerty and the City got off easy. Next time not so easy."

Nor is the statement by the Mayor the only problem with the mailer.

The reportage is highly selective. And it appears to subtly and not so subtly promote his own networking business, NextSpace, in the section titled "New Era for the SENTINEL Building" with language praising the business as "...a now a co-working space, allowing innovators from different fields to mingle and collaborate."

The "Teen Center" piece shamefully rides upon the glam of American Idol local, James Durbin, who used the center before the current council gutted its funding.

The section "Teens Take PRIDE in Santa Cruz" is a puff piece about a single police/youth program that affects an unknown number of teens. It ignores rising rates of violent assault, an unusually high rate for rape, and a growing problem with gang violence.

And It does NOT report that the City has chosen an expensive and unlikely to be successful appeal to the US Supreme Court a 14 - 0 ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It doesn't include any mention that City Hall has been turned into a "no trespassing" zone for the first time in 145 years or that a protester set fire to the City Attorney's office. It doesn't mention the May 1st Riot of 2010 which caused $100,000 in damage.

And it DIDN'T mention any other member of the Santa Cruz City Council, nor was the language approved by the full council. Of course this is not the first time Mayor Ryan Coonerty has mis-used his office for political pandering.

HERE is the portion of the mailer that violated the rules of the Fair Political Practices Commission:

A Breathtaking Year in Santa Cruz


2011 has been a breathtaking year in Santa Cruz. We’ve hosted incredible events: the Giants World Series Trophy tour, our American Idol, James Durbin’s hometown visit, the Sacred Craft Surfboard show downtown and celebrated UCSC’s 45th and Plantronic’s 50th Anniversaries. And we are only half done.

I speak for everyone on the City Council when I say that we would not have it any other way. Our city is extraordinary. Not only are we surrounded by redwoods and waves, but we are a small town with big ambitions — to be a model of environmental awareness; a home to world class teaching and world changing research and a center for businesses, large and small, to innovate and succeed. We are a hub for arts and culture and a place where millions of families visit each year.

In order to ensure that these aspirations are achieved — as well as vital day-to-day services provided — this winter, the City Council developed a strategic plan for the next three years. We committed to these five goals — linked to your left — and 33 ambitious measurable objectives upon which we will report back to the community each and every year. This Annual Report is the initial outline of how we are doing as a city and where we hope to head and how you can be a part of making our community a better place.

To support these goals and objectives, in the coming months the Council will adopt a budget that reduces an $8 million structural deficit while maintaining essential city services. We will develop an ambitious Climate Action Plan that moves us toward sustainability and creates green jobs, advocate that the Coastal Commission approve the Arana Gulch and La Bahia Hotel plans, attract and retain businesses, and continue to focus on public safety challenges.

Please take a moment to read the report linked below in English and in Spanish. Let us know what you think and how you might be able to contribute. It’s going to take all of us collaborating and innovating to succeed. We have done it before, and I have no doubt we will do it again in the imaginative and vibrant way that Santa Cruz does best.

--Mayor Ryan Coonerty


RETURN TO SENDER We recently dinged the city of Santa Cruz for spending $15,000 to send out an annual report touting civic accomplishments, while also setting out the city's vision for the future. The flier came out while the city was asking workers for salary and benefit concessions, and during a week the City Council cut the money going to local nonprofits. The mailer, it turns out, also was illegal. The state agency charged with enforcing California's political ethics law last week admonished the city for the mailer, saying it broke rules governing the use of public funds. The flier included a note authored and signed by the mayor, and state law prohibits government agencies from paying for mass mailings that feature elected officials. Mayor Ryan Coonerty, who conceived the flier, called it "an honest mistake," but it's hard for us to understand how this one ever passed a simple smell test. It also was never run by the city attorney. No fines will be assessed, because the city self-reported the violation, but we expect more due diligence from city leaders.