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LOCAL Commentary :: Resistance & Tactics

Where is the "Exemption Zone" from City Council Absurdity?

With no public process other than announcing their predetermined results, City Council added two meaningless "exemption zones" from their harsh Downtown Ordinances. A critic replied.
NOTE: In a last minute addition that was not put on the printed agenda or the internet version of it, City Council added an "emergency" provision to spare itself the embarrassment of more jugglers getting arrested.
Daily print media (Dan White of the Sentinel, Ken McLaughlin of the Mercury-News) had blacked out the story of juggler Tom Noddy's arrest and jailing for 13 hours (available here on indymedia).
Hence one paragraph of this speech, as well as its title, is a little outdated by the Council action--would that the rest of it were, as well! Juggling is now legal--but hackeysacking, bouncing a rubber ball on the sidewalk, throwing a beachball to a friend, or blowing a bubble--unless you are a "street bubble performer" is still illegal, so perhaps Santa Cruz Still Has No Balls, to speak of.
The "Exemption Zones" referred to are the only other part of the Downtown Ordinances that Council brought back--in spite of specific promises to reexamine 8 different areas of the laws to see how they were working, to fine tune them, to deal with problems. The "Exemption Zones" are areas where it owuld be legal to play music or politically table without regard to the Move-Along law, or the 10' "forbidden zone" requirement (eliminating 75% of the sidewalk for such use up and down Pacific Avenue).
As mentioned below, the Downtown Commission, a City Council-appointed group, found in August 2002, that exemption zones were unworkable, unwanted by merchants, opposed by performers and political activists, and constitutionally questionable. They took at least 8 hours of hearing time over 4 meetings in August (an unprecedented number of meetings in so short a time) to reach this conclusion.
City Council's response yesterday was to casually dismiss their many hours of work. Said Scott Kennedy, "the Downtown Commission never agreed with the Downtown Ordinances anyway"--and they proceeded to vote in the tiny exemption zones without clarifying what they meant, whether the businesses nearby had any objections to them, whether they met the concerns of any of the performers, etc. It was first and foremost a stark token gesture to show that after six months the Council had done SOMETHING, however small. "One small step," Mayor Reilly squeaked.
The zones themselves are so small (less than 50 square feet by my estimation) that they are irrelevant. But they will make a nice sound byte along with "Council legalizes juggling." Meanwhile Council dismissed any concerns about tablers being hauled off to jail for tabling for 61 minutes and gave revealing testimonials, urging the community to ignore the bad activists and patronize the Pacific Trading Company. I hope to write a longer article on this very telling Council meeting later.
Here's the flyer:

Santa Cruz: Reclaim Your Balls !
Where Is Our Exemption Zone From City Council Absurdity?

The proposed two “exemption zones� near the Bookshop Santa Cruz are the latest figleaf from the City Council. This dainty bit of hypocritical modesty covers up a blank check to the Santa Cruz Police Department and their friends in the Downtown Association and the Redevelopment Agency to sanitize, sterilize,
and gentrify Pacific Avenue by any means necessary.
The double exemption zone would be a token “protest pit�, such as Republican Party bosses set up Fuhrer Bush drives through a large city en route to a military base or a corporate dinner. Performers, panhandlers, and tablers can now all crowd in together in phone booth/fishbowl fashion--an absurd proposition
rejected by the City’s Downtown Commission after an unprecedented four meetings in one month last August.
Santa Cruz is again well on its way to becoming a national laughingstock. World-famous bubble artist Tom Noddy was arrested for juggling on June 26th and held in jail 13 hours. I understand other criminal jugglers are headed for Santa Cruz--the City now world-famous for having made Pacific Avenue--the Downtown With No Balls.
Special merchant interests such as The Pacific Trading Company and Jackson’s Shoes with a selfish, narrow, and bigoted perspective have been given undue weight by this Council. Will this “exemption zone� ban Frisbees, beachballs, and hackeysacks--a criminal offense everywhere else downtown? How about “amateur� bubbleblowing? If a WILPF member chalks “U.S. Out of Iraq--City Council Where’s Your Resolution?� on the sidewalk, will she be taken to jail on complaint from city worker Mia Duquet, like homeless activist Becky Johnson was? Will the zone protect a homeless man and his radio from Officer Pawlak, or the “Free Mumia�
group from having Sgt. Baker shut down their video display? Will the zone protect Matthew Hartsogh from being arrested and dragged to a squad car for having a political literature table in front of the Pacific Trading Company for 61 minutes as balloon clown Mr. Twister smilingly defies the law with the special permission--or
so he tells us--of the Pacific Trading Company and the SCPD?

These exemption zones pander to the illusion of freedom, while Council gives away the sidewalks to a merchant minority, spending $6600 in police department money to destroy seating near the Pacific Trading Company. Are we opposed to the Patriot Act nationally? Then why give police more local power to harass, ID,
warrant check, and humiliate poor people, performers, bicyclists, panhandlers, and political activists?
Who supports exemption zones? The two merchants on the Downtown Commission--but not in front of their stores, of course. We are in a national crisis of war and depression, occupying a foreign nation with nary a peep from this City Council. In Santa Cruz, “Pettifoggery� Ed Porter has pushed through laws that transform Pacific Avenue into what looks like heavily-policed annex of Porter’s high school. Jugglers are arrested, political tables hauled away, musicians vulnerable to police whims of the moment, and young people ever watched by the grotesquely named “Downtown Hospitality� purpleshirts who stroll the mall looking for someone sitting within
14’ of a store, or playing a guitar from one of the few benches left.

The exemption zones are brought to us by City Manager Dick Wilson and his faithful frontman Martin Bernal. As with the “disappearing benches�, the prefabricated Downtown Ordinances, the fencing off of the
New Leaf Planter, and the recent seating destruction near the Pacific Trading Company--it is the City Staff here that is calling the shots: City Police Steve Belcher, City Attorney John Barisone, Redevelopment Boss Ciel
Cirillo, Public Works Czar Matt Ferrell, and a few others--a tight closed circle of highly-paid hired-for-life officials, who are responsible to no one but themselves and who set the agenda for the City Council.

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