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.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Dog / Bad Dog

Law SHOULD read: No Dirty Beggar's puppies downtown

NOTE TO READER: In the spring of 2010, an article appeared in the SENTINEL that said that the anti-dog ordinance would soon be history. Indeed, the Downtown Association voted overwhelming to seek a change in the ordinance from City Council, and with only 1 dissenting vote, it seemed a shoe-in. What followed was confusion. Dogs appeared, came and went, with little interference. People talked of a suspension of enforcement. But then others, were cited. Now we find out that the May 1st Riot triggered the delay. Way to go, J. M. Brown of the SENTINEL to blame the DTA, SCPD, and City Council's mixed messages and outright screw-up the 'fault' of those 6 guys who broke windows that night.
And as usual, the City leaders are busy trying to figure out if "nice" "clean" "well-behaved" (housed) dogs can be weaned out from those "dirty" "questionable" (unhoused)mutts who may still have their loins intact. To illustrate this, I've changed every cue phrase in RED. If it's highlighted, it refers to a dog that is housed or a dog that is unhoused. See if you can tell which is which.

----Becky Johnson, Ed.

Every dog may have its day: Santa Cruz City Council to consider whether to allow dogs downtown again on trial basis

By J.M. BROWN -- Santa Cruz Sentinel

Photo: Dogs on Pacific Ave. either unaware

or openly violating the dog ban. Photos by

Dan Coyro of the SENTINEL

SANTA CRUZ - The Jacksons and Kruegers are exactly the kind of customers downtown merchants don't see enough of these days.

Rebekah Jackson and her husband, Archie, came over the hill from San Jose several years ago to visit Santa Cruz with buddies Aimee and Chris Krueger. As the two couples often do on weekend get-aways, they brought their dogs - a 4-year-old Yorkiepoo named Odie and Capo, a 7-year-old German shepherd whose name means "captain" in Italian.

They piled out of their vehicle downtown only to see a sign warning them dogs weren't allowed.

"We just got back in our car and left," Archie Jackson said on a recent Saturday afternoon, while having lunch with his wife and friends at PortaBella, a Mediterranean bistro on Carmel's Ocean Avenue.

In Carmel, dogs are not just allowed downtown, they're embraced with very few reported incidents. Several other regional shopping areas, Capitola Village, Los Gatos, Pacific Grove and Santana Row in San Jose, also welcome dogs.

At the request of merchants who believe they're missing out on a huge market, the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday will consider temporarily overturning a 35-year rule banning pooches on Pacific Avenue. And it's apparent there are more than enough votes to make it happen.

During a three-month trial, licensed and vaccinated dogs would be allowed on Pacific Avenue and several feeder streets during daylight hours as long as they're leashed, attended at all times, cleaned up after and not used in panhandling. If passed, the revised ordinance would go into effect within 30 days and be made permanent after Nov. 30 unless the council changed its mind or tweaked the rules after the test period.

The city must still work out how and where to place waste collection bags downtown and how much that might cost. City officials estimate the cost will be minimal, but dog advocates are already vowing to help.

"I think the economic benefits to our downtown merchants will be most welcome," said Councilman Tony Madrigal, who owns a miniature dachshund named Shortie and is one of three council members proposing the rule change. "My hope is that by allowing dogs on a trial basis, more people will feel welcome to come downtown with their pets, many of whom they consider part of the family."

Although the Santa Cruz Downtown Association board voted unanimously this spring to pursue a change in the city's dog ordinance, not all merchants agree it's a good idea.

Opponents fear some dog handlers won't pick up waste or control their animals. Others worry panhandlers will take on dogs when asking for spare change, a problem authorities have faced when warning people about dogs downtown only to hear dubious claims that the dog is a service animal.

Although he is the owner of three chihuahuas, Rick Tedrow, a salesman at Stephan's Fine Jewelry, is concerned permitting dogs will increase the number of transients who hang out downtown. He doesn't mind well-groomed dogs coming in the store, but overall, he said, "It would not be a great place for dogs."


The city banned dogs on the Pacific Garden Mall in 1976 and side streets several years later after numerous complaints about out-of-control dogs and neglected waste.

But three decades later, amid a consensus that dog owners are generally more responsible now, the Downtown Association board voted in March 2010 to ask the council to loosen the rules.

However, a May 2010 riot that left numerous downtown businesses with broken windows, graffiti-covered walls and other damage, pushed the issue to the back burner. At the time, the city had other big problems to deal with, including a spike in gang-related violence, a mounting budget deficit, and persistent problems with aggressive panhandling and other problems on Pacific Avenue.

Linnaea Holgers James, owner of Artisans Gallery, cast the board's sole dissenting vote on dogs last year. She said there were too many distractions to add another controversial element.

But a year later, after the city has stationed First Alarm security guards downtown, James said the "climate has improved" and she changed her vote. Although she is still concerned dogs could lead to bad behavior at a time when many merchants are still struggling in a bad economy, she believes the numerous restrictions proposed by the city should minimize problems.

Since news of the Downtown Association's push to allow dogs again, the Downtown Management Corp., which oversees the Downtown Host Program, reported a 7 percent increase dog-related contacts made by its hospitality crews - up to 1,922 in 2010 from 1,792 in 2009.

And the Police Department is on track to issue as many dog-related citations this year as last. In 2010, the department issued 77 tickets for people having dogs on Pacific Avenue, and so far this year, they have given out 35.

Yeyen Gunawan, owner of La Vie Pure Food Collective, risks getting tickets by walking Louie, her 3-year-old black yorkie terrier mix, for short stints on Pacific Avenue. She hopes the rules about cleaning up and controlling dogs will work during the trial period, but said, "If it fails, it's back to the people."


Council members say a trial period is key to giving dogs a chance downtown.

Councilwoman Katherine Beiers said a number of constituents raised safety concerns with her when the Downtown Association first looked to change the rules. But this time around, she said only a handful of residents have contacted her.

As a frequent jogger who lives near the dog-popular West Cliff Drive, Beiers is worried about how canines will mix downtown. While she hasn't made up her mind, she appreciates that there is a trial period proposed.

"I've never been excited about having dogs back on Pacific Avenue," she said, adding that, "half of the people don't clean up after their dogs" on West Cliff Drive.

Mayor Ryan Coonerty and Councilwoman Hilary Bryant are in favor of the proposal, having submitted it for consideration along with Madrigal. That leaves Vice Mayor Don Lane and Councilmembers David Terrazas and Lynn Robinson, all of whom have dogs at home.

Councilman David Terrazas plans to support the trial, saying, "Anything we can try to make our downtown visitor-friendly. It gives us a chance to look at the impact of revisiting the rules and having the opportunity to weigh in on things moving forward."

Vice Mayor Don Lane agreed, saying, "It's worth us trying to make this work. There are some details I want to discuss about enforcement, but the general idea is a good one."


There's no exact way to track how dogs affect economic and safety conditions in downtown shopping areas, but anecdotally the experience is positive.

Csaba Ajan, managing partner of PortaBella in Carmel, estimated 20 percent of his business stems from customers accompanied by dogs. They are allowed on the back or front patios, and are often brought water bowls by the wait staff.

Only twice in 16 years does he remember a problem arising - one from a customer complaint, another when a dog urinated.

"Your council needs a canine education," he said with a grin.

His customers, the Jacksons and Kruegers of San Jose, said they would visit Santa Cruz more often if they could bring their dogs. When the friends go wine tasting or seek out the beach, they are apt to take longer trips if the dogs are with them.

"It costs us a lot of money in the long run when we have to find somewhere for boarding," said Rebekah Jackson.

Aimee Krueger, who recently gave birth to twins Noah and Elijah, said she isn't worried about fights or other problems walking her dog in commercial areas.

"You get an idea when the owner has control of the dog," she said. "If there is a problem, I just go to the other side of the street."

Judy Huyck, owner of Chefworks on Santa Cruz's Pacific Avenue, brings her Shetland sheepdogs, Millie and Aleigh, to work everyday and they are often fawned over by customers.

"There are a lot of people who don't shop downtown because they can't bring their dogs," she said. "They go to Los Gatos and Carmel."

But some critics say comparisons with Carmel and Los Gatos are unfair - that as small, upscale towns, they don't face the same amount of transients hanging out and asking for money, sometimes accompanied by dogs.

But San Luis Obispo, which at 45,000 in population is more similarly sized to Santa Cruz, is a college town with a vibe closer to downtown Santa Cruz. San Luis Obispo requires dogs be leashed downtown, but the city hasn't had problems with behavior or waste that might inspire a ban.

"If we ever were to raise that - and no one has brought that up - we think there would be quite an outcry," said Doug Davidson, acting directing of community development. "They have always been allowed."

Susan Marshall of Carmel visited Pacific Avenue with friend Diane Parks of Watsonville last month, but without their dogs. They said their companions, an Australian shepherd named Bodhi and an airedale named Tess, would get too worked up by all the hustle and bustle.

Although Parks said allowing dogs downtown "makes it a more friendly place," she repeated concerns about panhandlers using dogs and was happy to hear the city's proposed restrictions would outlaw it.

Huyck said she doesn't believe allowing dogs on Pacific Avenue will actually attract more transients with dogs.

"I think it's only going to make it more fair," she said.


Melanie Sobel, general manager of Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, said she also supports the city's proposal, as long as dogs are licensed, under control and on leashes.

"The more dogs get socialized, the better behaved they are," she said.

The agency requires all dogs in the county older than 4 months be licensed, vaccinated against rabies, and spayed or neutered. But Sobel said the number of dogs licensed, just under 8,000 in 2010, is only 14 percent of the estimated number of dogs countywide last year, which was 54,010.

Despite the tickets issued, Police Chief Kevin Vogel said officers treat dogs as a low priority in terms of overall downtown safety, saying the rules put police in an awkward position of telling tourists and residents to put their dogs away. He said he doesn't foresee any major problems allowing dogs back.

"The success or failure hinges on dog owners themselves," he said. "It's worth giving it a try."

Whitney Wilde, founder of the social group Woofers and Walkers, agrees dogs won't present a health or safety risk She plans to offer the city 5,000 biodegradable waste collection bags to place downtown if the measure is approved.

"If you think you are going to have all of these wild dogs downtown, you're not," said Wilde, who has a 90-pound Belgian malinois. "It's going to be people who enjoy being with their dog and taking the dog places on a regular basis."

Unattended urine and feces are the biggest worry for Andrea Paradise, manager of Petroglyph. She said she is fine with dogs, but, "If I saw that owners weren't cleaning up after them, I might have a different opinion."



WHAT: Discussion of proposed suspension of downtown dog ban for three-month trial period

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council chamber, 809 Center St.


The Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday will consider temporarily suspending a long-standing ban on dogs on Pacific Avenue and feeder streets with the following provisions:

n The ban will be lifted for a three-month trial period for the downtown area bounded by Water, Laurel, Cedar and Front streets, and including the Town Clock and Scope Park.

n Dogs must be tethered to a leash that is 3 to 5 feet long, and dogs are restricted to one per leash.

n Dogs must be under the control of their owner.

n Dogs may not be left unattended or tied up outside; any dog left unattended may be taken immediately by police or animal services authorities.

n Dogs may not be in the company of more than two other dogs.

n Dogs will be allowed only from sunrise to sunset.

n Dogs must display collar tags demonstrating they have been licensed and vaccinated against rabies as required by the county.

n Panhandling with a dog is not allowed.

n Violation of the rules may result in a citation, and any subsequent violation committed within 48 hours will constitute a misdemeanor.

n Rule change would not affect dog ban in effect on some beaches and the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.

n If approved, the ban will be lifted in 30 days and, unless the council reverses the suspension before Nov. 30, dogs will be permanently allowed.

SOURCE: City of Santa Cruz

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I don't support the Gaza Flotilla

by Becky Johnson

July 7 2011

Photo: Women In Black picket Israel in the Gardens in San Francisco 201

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- On July 4th, I joined a small group of anti-war activists at a busy intersection with signs, flags, and banners. Sherry Conable, Louis Lafortune, and Steve Pleich were there. There were WILPF'ers. There were Raging Grannies. And there were the

Women In Black. As someone who dedicated my life to world peace at age 14, normally I would be donning black garb, wearing a hat with a black veil, and standing somberly with the WIB against those who would turn our children into cannon fodder, but I'm not. For WIB has been imbued with what can only be called anti-semitism and a rabid hatred of Israel.

And on that street corner, several Santa Cruz area residents showed up with signs supporting the Gaza Flotilla, currently chained in a Greek harbor under "house" arrest. I do not support the Flotilla.

A similar flotilla last year ended in violent tragedy when the Israeli government intercepted and boarded the Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, only to be met by a mob of 100 men armed with guns, clubs, knives, slingshots and chains. Some peace activists! Nine persons perished in this action.

If I had planned an action and nine people died, the last thing I'd do is plan a similar action, but, that is exactly what the Free Gaza Movement, organizer Paul Larudee, and Greta Berlin did.

I don't support the Flotilla because the State of Israel has a right to protect itself from the Hamas government of Gaza which is in a state of war against Israel, is planning future attacks against Israeli citizens, and uses weapons smuggled into Gaza directly against innocent civilians.

"If you oppose foreign aid to Israel, why don't you also oppose foreign aid to Egypt?" I asked. No one even knew that Egypt GETS foreign aid!

A member of the U.S. Boat to Gaza campaign was handing out flyers urging people to contact Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, Kim Richter of Overseas American Citizens Services, and the Greek Desk of the U.S. State Dept. to urge the release of Captain Klusmire of 'The Audacity of Hope' currently chained to the dock in a Greek harbor.

A hairy, bearded young man in a tie-dye shirt held a "Free the Gaza Flotilla!" sign.

And me without my "Free Gaza from Hamas!" sign. What could I do? I decided to ask a few questions of these "experts" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What about Hamas? I demanded. "They threw their rival Palestinians off of a roof!"
The young man wasn't really sure who "Hamas" was and he had never heard of one political faction throwing members of another faction off the roof of a building.

"Imagine if one of the Israeli political parties threw members of another party off of a roof? Your people would be shouting from the hilltops about the brutality! Yet when Hamas throws Fatah off a roof, you don't even hear about it."

"You don't support the Flotilla?" an older woman gasped, and eyed me down. "Why not?"

"The last time they did this nine people died. It's a bad action. People shouldn't die because of an anti-war protest. I hold Paul Larudee personally responsible for those deaths."

"The whole action is a provocation. They are provoking the Israeli military to intercede. It's one big photo-op. I call it the 'Ship of Fools.' The woman, obviously heavily invested in the evil of the Israeli government, protested. "But we're just peaceful activists bringing humanitarian aid."

"Those Turkish participants weren't peaceful. They attacked the IDF with clubs and knives."

"I saw the video but I couldn't tell what was happening," the young man ventured.

Photo: A Gaza vegetable market displays its wares, in direct contrast to claims of "starvation."

"And, there is no starvation in Gaza. And there's no 'Seige of Gaza' either. The Egyptian border's been open for months.

"It's had some closures," the woman insisted.

"What about the 'Karine A?' I asked. The young man drew a blank but the older woman winced.
"Google it. It's spelled K-A-R-I-N-E and letter "A". DON'T take my word for it. While Yassir Arafat was supposedly negotiating a peace treaty, he was smuggling in arms on a ship called the "Karine A." That's why there's a sea blockade. Because the Palestinians smuggle in munitions and instantly turn around and use them against Israeli civilians.

"But what about the 22 days of bombing in 2009? Isn't that collective punishment?"he insisted.
"What about the 10,000 rockets shot over the fence in Gaza into behind-the-green-line sovereign Israel at innocent civilians? Isn't THAT collective punishment?" I countered.

"And Gaza isn't 'Occupied'. Israel ceded it to the Palestinian Authority in 2005. You DO remember that don't you? When Israel uprooted 10,000 JEWS and gave the land permanently to the Palestinians. Oh, and they burned down 24 synagogues in ONE DAY too!"

At this, the woman harumphed and walked away.

Photo: A Gaza shul is burned by a mob of Palestinians celebrating the retreating Jewish people of Gaza in September 2005.

But the young man persisted. "But they are OCCUPYING another peoples' land," he insisted.
"How do you figure? Israel took over the land in the 1967 war. You remember, the Six-Day War?"

The man vaguely nodded, but I couldn't be sure he knew what I was talking about. "Well, in 1967, Israel took over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula in what the UN determined to be a defensive war. They COULD have just annexed it directly, but they thought that later on, when cooler heads prevailed, the land would become the Islamic State of Palestine. THAT is how Israel came to OCCUPY the land. They maintained military authority over it, but they didn't annex it."

It looked like a light bulb went on in the young man's head, so I continued.

"Israel then built schools, hospitals, brought electricity to the West Bank, built sewer systems and 6 Universities for the Palestinians. No one has built more housing for the Palestinians than the Israelis themselves." The young man eyed me with great skepticism.

"But the settlements," he protested, "They're illegal."

"How do you figure? Before the land belonged to Israel, it belonged to Great Britain."

"Great Britain!" he protested. "What the hell does Britain have to do with Palestine?"
"Well, they OWNED it. It's history man!

"As long as the settlements don't displace any Palestinian population, they are not illegal. And they were all built on vacant land." I didn't even get to tell him that before Israel conquered the region in 1967 that Egypt had illegally occupied Gaza and that Jordan had illegally occupied the West Bank. But he'd already suffered information overload.

In the end, I parted amicably with the young man. Not so much the older, WIB'er.
It's lonely being right sometimes.