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12 competing for three spots on Santa Cruz City Council

...
12 competing for three spots on Santa Cruz City Council

<www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/4381157.htm>

Sun, Oct. 27, 2002
By Ken McLaughlin
Mercury News

A socialist/gun-rights activist who once spent time in jail for slugging
a cop. A former Haight-Ashbury hippie fighting the heroin trade and
anti-Americanism. A management consultant who launched his
campaign by filing a lawsuit aimed at keeping two veteran
politicians off the ballot.
Those are three of the 12 candidates contending for a coveted spot
on the Santa Cruz City Council, whose meetings twice a month are
often the best show on local cable.
Political soothsayers say that the names of the victors are a
foregone conclusion. After all, only three seats are open. And three
former mayors with strong name recognition and solid political
bases are running against nine other candidates struggling to break
out of the pack.
But members of that pack predict surprises are in store as Santa
Cruz voters register their disgust with the council at the ballot box.
“I’m so dissatisfied with the council’s lack of action on important
issues and their waste of time on trivia,” said Aldo Giacchino, 65,
who unsuccessfully went to court to challenge the right of
ex-mayors Mike Rotkin and Cynthia Mathews to appear on the
ballot.
The only incumbent in the race is Tim Fitzmaurice, elected in 1998.
Mayor Christopher Krohn and Keith Sugarthe two council
members who ran on Fitzmaurice’s slate to sink a sweeping
development plan aimed at revitalizing the seedy boardwalk area
are not seeking re-election.
Rotkin, the town’s first socialist mayor, has already served on the
council for 18 years, beginning in 1979. Both he and Mathews, who
served an eight-year term that ended in 2000, are generally seen
as “pragmatic progressives,” inspired by visions of utopia but also
grounded in the belief that capitalism is the engine that provides
the taxes that fund social programs and other city services.
As of the last reporting period, ending Oct. 19, Mathews and Rotkin
were the biggest fundraisers, raising $27,438 and $21,815,
respectively. But some of that money will go toward paying the legal
bills from the Giacchino lawsuit.
The next biggest fundraiser was Giacchino, who raised $12,733 as
of Oct. 19, followed by Fitzmaurice at $8,011.
Eight other candidates, from the left and right, are emphasizing the
need to sweep out the old and bring in the new.
“We need a regime change in Santa Cruz,” said Thomas Leavitt, a
high-tech entrepreneur who was the only candidate to win an
endorsement from the left-leaning Green Party.
Leavitt, 30, has called for ending citywide bans on overnight
camping and sleeping outside, labeling the laws “anti-homeless
and inhumane.” He’s also called for trimming the police
department’s funding, which he dubs the “military budget.”
He’s joined by Steve Argue, an unabashed socialist who was
convicted of assault in 1999 for punching a Santa Cruz police officer
in the nose during an anti-war demonstration. He spent seven
months in county jail after telling the judge he would do it again
because he was defending a woman and her child against police
brutality.
Along with Leavitt, Argue opposes new downtown ordinances
aimed at reducing aggressive panhandling, calling them
“repressive.” He’s also called for the council to institute tough
rent-control laws.
Argue, 33, a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, is
endorsed by the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
One candidate, Jeromy McMillan, 24, did not return repeated phone
calls.
The other six candidates generally present themselves as
moderates who would like to see their city’s wild and wacky image
expunged.
Longtime Santa Cruz resident Connie (Hansen) Thomasser, a
38-year-old software saleswoman, said she represents city
residents who feel the council too often listens to a “select group .
. . the most vocal minority.”
Giacchino, who agrees with that viewpoint, filed his lawsuit in
August, claiming Rotkin and Mathews left the council on Nov. 28,
2000, and weren’t entitled to run again because of a 1948 city
ordinance requiring they wait “two years” before running again.
But a Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge sided with the former
mayors, calling Giacchino’s argument “flimsy.”
Asked what he considered council “trivia,” Giacchino pointed to the
council’s recent war over a proposed “peace park,” now
considered dead, and “the interminable discussion of downtown
ordinances when all you needed was to enforce the old
ordinances.”
Other candidates say Santa Cruz is gaining a silly reputation by
trying so hard to garner national “firsts”the first to watch
medicinal-marijuana activists pass out pot on the steps of City Hall,
the first to oppose a war with Iraq.
Phil Baer, 60, a self-described “former hippie/radical,” calls the
council unpatriotic and demands it crack down on the heroin trade,
particularly in his Beach Flats neighborhood.
“Everything to the right of the far left is not present in the political
dialogue in Santa Cruz,” said Baer, a carpenter and sculptor.
“Everything is driven by ideological conclusions. There happen to
be some illegal aliens in this dirty little heroin business. But no, you
can’t question that.”
Greg Lopez, a 43-year-old construction manager, said “the politics
of Santa Cruz have been slanted in progressive ways, and it’s time
to restore some balance.”
When human resources analyst Karen Woblesky, 40, told people
she was considering a run for office, “They told me that anyone on
the city council is an idiot, and anyone who wants to be on the
council is an idiot.”
But Woblesky decided to run anyway, pledging to bring in
neighborhood and business groups “that have been on the
sidelines.”
Retired engineer David Eselius, 63, says the “political system of
incumbents who call themselves progressive has become
incestuous.”
But the backers of “establishment” candidates such as
Fitzmaurice, Rotkin and Mathews say that recent councils have
worked extensively with neighborhood and business groups.
Rotkin, 57, pledges to push to revive a plan for a hotel-conference
center downtown that will provide taxes and “union jobs for
Latinos in a low-income area.” Rotkin, a community studies
instructor at the University of California-Santa Cruz, also says he
wants to try to heal the rift among progressives.
Mathews, 60, agrees, but suggests that the rift has been
exaggerated. “I think when you look at the community as a whole,
there are widely shared valuesa commitment to social justice,
concern for the environment and a desire to nurture a local
economy,” said Mathews, public affairs director for the local Planned
Parenthood.
Fitzmaurice, a 53-year-old UC-Santa Cruz writing instructor, says
he’s proud of having helped add dozens of affordable and senior
housing units and leading the charge on the city’s “living-wage”
ordinance.
He says he showed his independence when he, the only Green
Party member on the council, voted in July for the new downtown
ordinances.
“People who serve in this government try very hard,” Fitzmaurice
said. “And there’s not a whole lot of reward.”
---------
Contact Ken McLaughlin at kmclaughlin (at) sjmercury.com or (831)
423-3115

 
 


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Comments

The Merc Still Can't Get It Right

Here is an earlier unpublished letter to the Mercury News regarding a repeated mis-statement of fact found in this article.

Dear Editor,

In the Mercury News article "Santa Cruz Groups Pick candidates" by Ken McLaughlin it is falsely stated that the City Council imposed "tough new ordinances on aggressive panhandling and harassment of women and gay people downtown."

There is in fact nothing in these new ordinances that targets stopping the harassment of women or gays. Nothing.
Nor do the new laws prohibit aggressive panhandling, although there already is a law prohibiting such activity.

The laws do however prohibit blowing bubbles and playing hackysack downtown and in other parts of the City. In addition the new laws make playing music and any other performance for donations, along with political tabling with donation cans, and panhandling in any manner (including with a silent sign) illegal in most of the downtown area as well as in some other parts of the City.

Not only do these laws not protect women and gays, they will be used by the police against any woman or gay that the police choose to deem in violation of these new laws. In fact the laws were drafted, not out of concern for these groups, but out of concern for a few downtown merchants who complain that certain groups of people that they consider riff-raff scare away their customers.

Ken Mclaughlin did correctly quote me in saying the new ordinances were "passed for selective enforcement against the poor, activists, and street musicians." Opposing these new laws are an important part of my campaign for City Council.

Steve Argue,
Santa Cruz
 

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