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Letter to the Alarm

Dear Alarm,

Last fall, city council progressives had a failure of nerve and refused to
call for peace in Afghanistan and a restoration of civil liberties in the
United States--as Berkeley had done. They are still silent.
In 2000, Mayor Sugar and then Mayor Fitzmaurice had a similar
failure of nerve in denying the basic civil right to sleep legally to our
houseless community. There is shelter on the floor of churches for less
than 50 out of a population of 1000-2000. In spite of the election of the
supposed “pro-reform” Porter and Reilly which provided a key two votes to
reverse the 3-4 defeat (June 2000) of the “Safe Sleeping Zones”, none of the
“new Progressives” would introduce or publicly support this basic plan.
Even after an aging disabled homeless man was murdered in the vacuum left
by the City’s refusal to provide a site for Camp Paradise (now slated for
eviction from its Aptos Church site), Mayor Krohn and his Council did
nothing. The costly “camping-for-park-restoration” proposal was unusable
from the first.
The police were not only left free to selectively harass homeless
people--sleeping or awake. Worse, they were given a blank check by the City
Council on June 24th to “enforce all laws” downtown.
Cops under Sgt. “Butchie” Baker and his peers are already forcibly subduing
“breadcrumb” terrorists like Norman Friedberg, chalk artists like Tim
Rinker, political activists like Becky Johnson, and long-time musicians like
“Cosmic” Chris.
Before the community can consense on alternative modes of coming together
(such as voluntary guidelines, mediation, more rather than less space
through plaza-like solutions, etc), we must first unite to turn back the war
against the poor on Pacific. Forget the Drug War hype and Sentinel crime
scares. We must expose and resist the regular police practices of
targeting the poor downtown.
Fitzmaurice’s policy of gagging, expelling, and arresting
"indecorous" critics at City Council has been expanded city-wide to target
“the unsightly” leaving backpacks on the sidewalk and high-profile activists
using erasable chalk (never a crime until Ali Baba’s Cafe went after
sleeping ban opponent James Nay in 2000).
The terminally stupid Downtown Ordinances (originally a
Rotkin-Matthews-Kennedy production) are part of the gated community ethic.
Fight back with mass protest, housing takeovers, restoration of public
spaces, and a united “peace abroad/justice at home” movement. Don't let
the bigots and the bureaucrats rest until poor people in Iraq and in Santa
Cruz are allowed to do the same.

Robert Norse

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Weed Out Norse

Let’s not forget that homeless agitator and full-time accomplice of Robert Norse, is Becky Johnson, who is in full support of bull-dozing the homes of Palestinians, the slaughter of civilians, and the continued occupation of Palestine. It is laughable that HUFFists proclaim indignation over the treatment of the poor. We should never forget that Mr. Norse sued the city because his feelings were hurt when he was 86’d from council chambers. A common misconception is that he was arrested for his nazi salute, this is wrong, he was arrested because he refused to leave. Naturally the judge threw out Deep-pockets’ frivolous lawsuit, but the thousands of dollars the city had to spend defending itself could have been better spent helping the poor. We should never forget the excellent work Paul Lee, Page Smith and others have done to actually help the poor and homeless in our community even while having to fight off the Norse nonsense. Anyone truly interested in Homeless Issues ought to read Paul Lee’s book “The Quality Of Mercy Homelessness in Santa Cruz 1985-1992.” In his book on page 39 Lee recalls Norse first appearance in our town:

...During that time we had to cope with the counter-productive tactics of Robert Norse, a self-styled homeless advocate who suddenly appeared one day out of the blue. We had no idea where he came from and what he was up to except that he was going to be trouble, not only to the local authorities, but also to us. He reminded us of the worst vision of a 1960s “outside agitator” type who comes to town to fuss things up. The type that never does anything productive, and never means to do anything productive-but is especially good at making a fuss. For its own sake. An old style agent-provocateur with a t-shirt reading “epater le bourgeoisie”. There were those among us, especially Fred, who came to believe that Robert intended to cause disruption for the benefit of those who wanted our enterprise to fail. Most of us came to believe that he lived off an annuity of some sort and was free to agitate full time. Moreover he got lots of press.

Norse has continued to get press and has been working diligently sowing the seeds of hatred among us. We need to weed out his lies and hatred from our struggle and work with the many positive people in our community.

Less personal attacks, more specifics, please.

"Truthlover" doesn't bother to detail exactly what "lies" he accuses me of. Personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issue, of course, don't get as any closer to any kind of unity. The Sleeping Ban issue was resolved years ago in the minds of Progressive people (ranging from Page Smith and Paul Lee to SCAN to CAB to the Green Party, etc. etc.)

No new arguments are being advanced in this latest wave of criminalizing homeless people--simply attacks against me personally, which ignore the issue.

I don't think Truthlover is really aware of the history of this issue: how it has been fought out in other cities, how it has been thorougly researched by the City Council's own Homeless Issues Task Force. What's standing in the way is naked political power, some loud bigotry, and nervous political expediency. And, of course, lack of organization, time, skill, money and resources on our side.

I really don't think this is an issue on which there is another side that is reasonable: everyone must sleep at night, rich or poor. Santa Cruz has legal space for less than 50 people and has a houseless population of 1000-2000.
I know you enjoy walking by the "Merry Monday" Downtown For All forums at the Cinema 9, shouting "Go Home". Whatever you may think of me, the issue is much broader and deeper and has been continually ignored by the Progressives (and sidelined by well-intentioned philanthropists like Paul Lee and Page Smith).

The Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, Community Action Board, Santa Cruz Action Network, Cal-Pirg, Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Paul Lee, Page Smith--all have come out against the Sleeping Ban. "Truthlover" needs to address these issues before he has any credibility. We need to find ways to generate community power to restore basic human rights in our town.

The Downtown Ordinances have nothing to do with solving problems and everything to do with sanctifying police force to socially cleanse the streets.

Tuesday's City Council meeting will propose a postponement of the "non-commercial display/activity" ordinance until January and a second small change that will allow havingf an open guitar case, an unlabeled spare change cup, and/or an unlabeled donation can on a political table. But even these "patch-up"s will not even postpone police harassment of musicians and political tablers.

Why? The older Downtown Ordinances now on the books criminalize performers and politicos 6' from a building entrance, fence, kiosk, mid-block crosswalk, or vending cart, 4' of a drinking fountain or telephone, 10' of a street corner, or a sidewalk cafe. Previously they weren't enforced in favor of the far-superior voluntary Street Performers Guidelines, but cops unilaterally threw out those guidelines earlier this year in their spring crackdown.

Porter and Reilly really don't know what they're doing. But the street pressure is clarifying the issues and making it clear that the cost of repression will not be inconsiderable.

Now we need to make sure that musicians and activists aren't split off from the broader homeless and street community that has been targeted with the 14' forbidden zones, had their "unattended backpacks" criminalized, been banned from playing hackeysack or any kind of "ball" sports, and told that silently holding up a sign seeking money after dark is a criminal offense all over the City.

SCAN and the other organizations' endorsement tonight of Fitzmaurice is not a good sign, but not really a surprise either. Protest and alternative power gathering must go on until we put together the coalitions we need to move forward into a freer future.

various comments

** Becky and Palestine:
I often wondered, what with her apparent friendship with local Rabbi Chayim Levin, what her take on Palestine was and how that would sit with the general anti-IDF contingent here in town, given their common ground on the sleeping & camping bans. But as she's never (to my knowledge) crossed over and made an appearance at a pro-Palestinian event, I've not had the opportunity to go there.

** Norse and the Nazi salute:
You're splitting hairs, here. Yes technically he was charged with trespassing (am I right?) for failure to leave the council chambers and not for the salute itself, but we all know that this order to leave a public meeting was given solely because of the Nazi salute. Fitzmaurice said so on the video here on the site.

Norse had every right to remain at that public meeting. Arresting him for tresspassing is just an escalation of their reaction to the root cause.

While the Nazi salute can be criticized as unnecessary speech similar to a hearty "Fuck y'all!", I question the right of a public official on public time at a public meeting on public property to ban a silent gesture.

A requirement of orderly conduct at a public meeting is fine - no point in letting it become a vulgarity-strewn shouting match. But a silent gesture? Fitzmaurice's original complaint was only that it was "an insult to the dignity of this body". He needs to get over himself.

Krohn called the salute disruptive - Norse disrupted nothing, and the flow of the meeting didn't stop until Krohn called for a recess so that Norse could be arrested with Public Access TV's cameras off. That's slimy.

Gotta side with Norse on that one. They screwed him, and the courts predictably supported the screw job. Any money the city wasted on defending against the lawsuit, is their bad choice. They should have admitted fault and found dignity in a little humility, not fought the suit.

Though had Norse won, I agree that taking money from the city would be wrong. Krohn wielded his power inappropriately, and should have been held personally responsible. Hiding behind the skirts of "the city", which is really supposed to be just "the public" anyway, is lame. Let every man and woman be held directly and wholly accountable for everything they do, and nothing they don't do. (To that end, Krohn only gave the order - it was Baker and Brandt who enforced it. They should have been sued - but the idea of personal accountability has been forgotten by this society, and would certainly tear apart the bureacracies that have grown fat by avoiding it.)

** Paul Lee on Norse -
Wow, I have that book and never bothered to read it. What a gem of a quote! I lose journalist points for not finding that.

** Norse and unemployment -
I keep hearing this - so what if he lives off a trust fund or stock dividends or whatever. Would you, if you could? How does his financial independence become a valid point of criticism, unless you subscribe to some weird southern Baptist St-John-The-Worker philosophy that the only moral form of self-support is labor?

As long as his money was earned honestly - no slave trading, no non-competative govt contracts, no S&L bailout swindles - if it's his by rights (even if by right of inheritence), get off your working-class high horse and admit you're just jealous. B-)

I admit that his tactics seem conveniently self-glorifying. So he's not a saint - who here is? As a journalist and sysadmin, I readily admit that Im in it for the glory too. So long as I get the job done, why should anyone else care? And even if I fail, my desire for self glorification is not necessarily the reason.

I'll admit as well that his abrasive and combative approach to his opponents may well backfire in many cases. But I understand the approach - it's no better or worse than the foolishly peaceful approach that many others take.

Civility may be more humble, but too often that lack of a strong front backfires as well and you get ignored, lied-to, and walked all over. You can encounter many opponents in this world who respond to nothing less than a threats, hostility, and a show of force.

To take the debate of the effectiveness of Norse's actions any further, Im afraid that a real quantitative analysis of his successes and failures would be necessary, and surely none is available. But without it, we can't honestly judge his effectiveness - only react to his approach based on our own personal preferences.

Life is like an avalanche - no 1 snowflake has any real say in anything. It takes a co-incidence of forces before anything significant ever happens.


Re: Liar's Flyer

Mr. Norse it’s easy pickins as usual. Your challenge to specify the lies in your current publication is almost as easy as pointing them out on the last one. It’s true that your latest flyer is slightly more veiled, but you still can’t resist lying. In your latest flyer under your Fitzmaurice muckraking section, you state that the Dolphin-Lee Project destroyed more housing than it created. I’m sorry but that is a lie. It would have been merely deceptive if you had said units rather than housing, but the fact is the Dolphin-Lee Project houses more people than previously existed. You worked very hard to scare the residents and keep them in run-down living conditions, but luckily were unsuccessful. While we’re on this section, although it is technically not a lie to claim '100s were displaced', all of them were given the opportunity to come back at the same rent as before and if they wanted, they were relocated. They also had the option, as you well know, of taking the $5,400 buy out if they wanted to. Lots of poor single men opted for the $5,400 and were quite pleased by it.

Concerning the yelling, no, I’m not whoever it is that yelled at you to ‘go home’ The yelling at people is one of my biggest objections to you HUFFists. It’s really a shame when HUFFists yell at downtown shoppers. Free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to follow people and yell in their face, no matter how righteous you think your message is. It’s not free speech it’s merely harassment and ultimately defeats your message. The same thing goes with Bernard and his vandalism. It completely discredits and ruins any truthful part of your message.

Van, I remember well the bad old days when troll-busting was rampant and had tacit approval. I remember being picked up by the police, turned over to the Sheriff and being dumped in Felton in the middle of the night for the crime of being broke and having no place to sleep. I remember the days when we really did have a conservative city government and I appreciate all of those who worked so hard using positive energy to make the huge changes we take for granted today. I’ve lived in almost every possible housing configuration in this town. I’ve lived in trucks, vans, buses, shacks, trees, garages and camped in some still secret places. I’ve paid rent to live in converted crawl spaces with dirt floors. I know what it means to be poor here, and no I’m not jealous of Mr. Norse’s riches. Unlike Mr. Norse I know from experience what it’s like to work and pay rent. I know what it feels like to wash dishes, pull weeds, bus tables, and mop floors. It’s completely relevant that Mr. Norse can afford to hire lawyers to harass the city council. He could’ve chosen to donate that money instead. You say there is nothing wrong with his glory grabbing, fine, why not a little glory spending those lawyers fees helping people get their next months rent paid. Why not dare people to match his donations to a rent fund? Whether or not you believe Fitzmaurice should have booted Norse, it is still a huge waste to have sued, it benefits no one, protects no ones rights, and merely shows what a spoiled big baby Norse is. Norse knows nothing and cares nothing about the poor, he props himself up on the backs of the poor to further his hateful crusade. Van, I enjoyed your metaphor: “Life is like an avalanche - no 1 snowflake has any real say in anything. It takes a co-incidence of forces before anything significant ever happens. “ But I don’t think that it’s inconsistent with the Power Of One. Each and every one of us can bring about dramatic changes by letting our heart rule and having the courage to speak out against outrageous injustice. I know in my heart the greatest damage and injustice to our community is not from silly camping laws or ordinances, which are easily skirted anyway, but by the hate-mongers from the entire political spectrum who attack us day in and day out. We are them and we must speak out against the lies and the hate now.

Contrary to Mr. Norse opinion about my knowledge of camping bans, which is irrelevant to his lying anyway, I’m very aware of the history of camping ban laws. And in particular, I’m acutely aware of the history of the Homeless Issues Task Force, their recommendations and more importantly the reason they failed. If they had been more concerned with consensus building, rather than making sure that the task force members themselves were paid a living wage, something might have been accomplished. The original task force group started out well, but because of the change in members of the task force, it became an arrogant group demanding everything and giving nothing. Don Lane was another person who worked very hard for the poor. Why they wouldn’t listen to him is beyond me.

Mr. Norse mentions some excellent groups with proven track records and hopes that by naming them some of their credibility will rub off on him. This is ludicrous. Why do you think that SCAN didn’t endorse Leavitt? The single biggest reason Leavitt didn’t get endorsed was because he wouldn’t reject the destructive tactics of HUFFists. What about CAB? Ask Paul Brindell what he thinks about Norse and his goon squad’s tactics. Naturally there is consensus among these groups about the sleeping ban, but there is also consensus as to Norse’s credibility: zero. It’s about time we stop letting him fill our town with hate. Norse is no better than Rush Limbaugh or any right-wing reactionary. We must resist the rabid lynch mob mentality. We should be very proud of our town and even our sometimes-bumbling city leaders. While I can’t support Rotkin or Mathews due to their refusal to entertain any change in the sleeping ban, I appreciate very much all the work Mathews has done for women’s causes and the many social programs, and living wage Rotkin has supported. Norse’s attack on their character and attempt to make them out to be unfeeling puppets of the police and merchants because they made a few faulty decisions is pathetic and completely absurd

Truth Lover Typically Short on Truth and Love

1. Dolphin-Lee (aka Nueva Vista) is housing only a relative handful of the people that originally lived in the Dolphin, Lee, and Rex Court. Check with Western Service Workers Union, which has had regular contacts with Dolphin-Lee residents. Most were bought or scared out.

And, no, $5400 doesn't buy the kind of cheap housing they previously had. There were hundreds served by the three motels. Hundreds more could have been served if housing had been built on vacant land, instead of following the rigid wasteful plan of the monopoly housing provider Mercy Housing. Fitzmaurice (whom you don't seem to criticize. Did you vote for him at the SCAN forum, "Truthlover"?) was the main booster of this bogus program, which was never brought to the previous residents for their consent before the RDA moved in with its consultants, relocaters, etc.

The called-for "guarantees of relocation and return" were never voted by City Council. This has turned out to be a massive Latino eviction project.

2. By the way, "Truthlover", how about telling us your real name? Or is that a part of the truth you're afraid we won't love? You smear me glibly enough. Why not sign your name to your attacks? Could you be hiding something?

3. You reluctantly repudiate Matthews and Rotkin. How about Fitzmaurice? Hasn't he sold out the Green Party (as has Porter)?

4. I think the depth of your malice and irrelevant personal attacks on me may be a function of your just not liking the issues I raise. If you feel you could raise them better and more effectively, I invite you to do so.

5. No Homeless Issues Task Force members were paid anything; they were all volunteers. City Council insider Don Lane ate up most of the money, though some on the Task Force thought a previously homeless person rather than a City Council cronie should have been hired. Lane did his best to sideline what initiatives the HITF did take, apparently not wanting to offend first Beiers and then Sugar. Brindel, though often positive, also showed himself to be unwilling to stand up on issues there which needed leadership. Your choice of bureaucrat heroes reveals your true political position.

6. All legal counsel I've ever gotten has been pro bono. There are some who believe in challenging the legal bullshit that police, city attorney, and city manager throw in the way of activists and homeless people. You might turn some of your venom on the truly well-paid city shysters who are systematically harassing homeless people as a matter of daily course.

7. You might get a new fact checker. Then, perhaps, you can forward a more accurate recitation of the "lies" in my flyer.

8. Rotkin and Matthews "few faulty decisions" include the the BSOL sell-out, the Pelton St. "Homeless Garden" evictions, youth and river curfews, trying to remove the right to peaceful protest at City Hall through court order (1996), abusive process at City Council (which you may support, if you agree with Fitzmaurice's "arrest 'em if they call us fascists" policy), scab labor support, selling out the firemen with Measure C.
While Mike and Cynthia are congenial enough people (and wouldn't have made it in politics if they hadn't been), it's their policies not their personalities that are in question--as you know.

9. Not sure what kind of "rabid lynchmob mentality" you're afraid of. What bothers me are stand-pat kiss ass characters who play pattycake with the big boys and fly into a tizzy when their heroes are questioned. A brand of untouchable-insiders psuedo-progressivism that lets Rotkin, Matthews, Fitzmaurice, etc. recycle into power while lying about and violating the rights of the poorest people in town, violating their promises to constituents, etc. We need more outspoken truthful criticism, more mass protest, and some support for progressive council candidates.

10. The scent of bullshit becomes unmistakable when reams of criticism are directed against me personally, but ever so few words expended to address either the issues or the facts I write about.

11. What did you say your real name was, "Truth Lover"?



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