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News :: Labor & Economics : Transportation

Crowd protests at Metro director's home

October 25, 2005

Santa Cruz
Crowd protests at Metro director's home

About 50 union workers from around the area converged on the Encinal Street transit district offices Monday morning for a "militant" picket line to discourage workers belonging to another union from reporting to work.

But Metro General Manager Les White said the protest paled in comparison to one Sunday evening at board member Dene Bustichi's Scotts Valley home. According to police reports, up to 50 people chanted, banged drums and set off firecrackers to protest the bus drivers' strike, in its 29th day today.

"About 9:30 I got a knock on the door; I was actually asleep. The whole family was asleep," Bustichi said Monday. "Two girls at the door handed me some information and said they wanted to talk about the bus strike. I said, 'It's 9:30 at night and I'm standing here in my boxers and I'm going to go back to bed.'"

What Bustichi didn't realize, he said, was that more than 30 students and other protesters were in front of his house. After he shut the door, he said, they yelled, chanted, grabbed things out of his yard, beat on his trailer and took sheet metal from a neighbor's yard.

His children, ages 5 and 12, were so frightened they slept in the same room for the rest of the night, he said.

"The feeling of safety in my house that my children and wife felt is gone right now," an angry Bustichi said.

But UC Santa Cruz graduate student Maia Ramnath, 32, said Bustichi's neighbors are protective.


Most of Sunday night's protesters were members of UCSC's Student and Worker Coalition for Justice, Ramnath said. Some planned to talk to Bustichi while others distributed fliers to his neighbors, focusing on his stance as a Metro board member.

They weren't prepared for the man with a gun, another with a stick or the woman with a garden hose.

"We underestimated the reaction of the neighbors," Ramnath said. "A man came out of the house and started yelling profanities at me," she said, "and said in quite aggressive terms that we needed to get out or beware.

"This other woman came out with a hose and said, 'It looks like a good time to water the lawn,' and started spraying us," Ramnath said. One neighbor pointed a shotgun at protesters, she said.

Police showed up as the protesters were leaving, a department release said. No citations were reported.

In retrospect, Ramnath said, the group should have come earlier and been quieter. "I guess going to the office does seem like a reasonable thing to do," she said.

Bonnie Morr, chairwoman of United Transportation Union Local 23, which represents 145 striking bus drivers, defended the protesters.

"They're students," Morr said. "I was a child of the '60s. We wanted answers. We wanted someone to respond."

Monday morning, a more orderly protest took place on the sidewalk in front of Metro's administrative offices. District officials asked some employees belonging to another union to report to work, and Paul Johnston, secretary and treasurer of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, organized a "militant" picket line to discourage them. The district doesn't need a full staff if buses aren't running, so those employees are being paid to remain on call should Metro need them.

Still, carpenters, grocery workers, Teamsters and others answered Johnston's call.

Bus drivers went on strike Sept. 27, after Metro's board vetoed a state-mediated contract agreement. The strike has stranded about 23,000 riders daily.

The two sides are negotiating a three-year contract. Originally, medical premiums and general leave ­­-- an optional, unpaid month off but with benefits — were two of the biggest issues. Now, drivers are bargaining over health care premiums, cost-of-living wage increases and are asking the district to pay more of their pension costs.

Normally, 37 bus routes run from Davenport to Watsonville, up the San Lorenzo Valley and over to San Jose.

Negotiators are scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon, after the transit board meets in the Santa Cruz City Council chamber at 9 a.m.

Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at

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News :: Civil & Human Rights : Government & Elections : Labor & Economics : Media Organizations in Monterey Bay Area : Peace & War

Today's Legislation, Sponsored by Tom Delay, Protects Life-Long Bush Interest

TITLE="TomWe know why Tom Delay was smiling so broadly for his mugspot. The legislation passed by the house today protecting gun maufacturers from civil liability was a major success for him, and long in coming. Proving the strength of the gun lobby, the "aye" vote included many democrats for an overall 283-144 majority. Bush says he is eager to sign it, and argues it necessary for the survival of the gun industry.

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Commentary :: Arts & Culture

Drive-in theaters refuse to fade away

Hey, look! Our friends from the other side of the lake have taken a shine to the Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In.

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News :: Media Criticism

Networking: E-mail is the 'new telephone'

Technorati force common man into nonverbal communications.

Ten years ago Mark J. Grossman's office was alive with the sound of ringing phones and chatter from account executives placing sales calls. "The prevailing sound today is 'click, click, click,'" said Grossman, who heads Grossman Strategies in Bohemia, N.Y. By Gene Koprowski

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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights : Globalization & Capitalism : Government & Elections : Media Criticism : Peace & War : Police State : Resistance & Tactics

The Troops Don't Support the Constitution

Every U.S. soldier takes an express and solemn oath to "support and defend the Constitution." That oath, however, is a sham because the troops do not support or defend the Constitution. Instead, when it comes to war the troops follow another oath they take - to obey the orders of the president, and they do this without regard to whether such orders violate the Constitution.

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News :: Media Criticism

Wireless World: Industry mum on attacks

Who do most IT professionals call when there has been a breach of security -- an attack by hackers seeking to steal information from mobile phones and personal digital assistants? Is it the FBI or the CIA or the NSA or the Department of Homeland Security?
No, experts told UPI's Wireless World. They generally keep it to themselves, fearful of the repercussions of reporting the incident to authorities. By Gene Koprowski

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Announcement :: Environment & Food

Pajaro Valley to Host Bird Festival

Inaugaral Bird festival coming to Santa Cruz County

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News :: Peace & War

Sentinel Embeds With Lockheed

Sentinel Embeds With Lockheed

Nüz has been called a lot of things in our time, but this September was a first in terms of being deemed too big for our own good.

To be fair, those weren't the exact words Lockheed Martin's communications director Chip Manor used in telling us that Nüz's request to accompany Citizens Concerned About Lockheed Martin (CCALM) on their first-ever visit inside Lockheed Martin's Bonny Doon facility had been denied.

What Manor actually told us was that "the meeting was always intended to be a very small group"--and that only a Sentinel reporter was going to be allowed to attend.

Nüz did try to convince the Sunnyvale-based Manor that denying us access would only feed the paranoia that already exists around Lockheed Martin's secrecy-shrouded ops atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, but Manor remained unswayed.

All of which left us having to rely on the debriefing session that CCALM organized the day after their Sept. 14 Lockheed Martin visit, a debriefing that was based solely on CCALM's list of questions and meeting notes, since Lockheed also refused to let the group tape the meeting--a privilege only accorded the Sentinel reporter.

Also at the CCALM debriefing was the Santa Cruz Weapons Inspection Team (SCWIT), which has been holding monthly vigils outside Lockheed's Bonny Doon plant and voicing concerns about the role of the world's largest weapons manufacturer (yup, that would be Lockheed Martin) in nuclear- and space-based weapons program development nationwide--two activities that may explain why SCWIT was also denied access to the Sept. 14 meeting.

As CCALM's Lynda Marin explained, "Lockheed Martin said they had a problem with the Santa Cruz Weapons Inspection Team, so we came with our questions all environmentally directed."

All of which left Marin feeling frustrated when Lockheed only sent technical and PR reps to the Sept. 14 meeting, reps who thus were unable to address many of CCALM's environmental concerns. That said, CCALM felt the visit wasn't as bad as it could have been. For one thing, the group got insights into the interior design of the Bonny Doon facility, which according to CCALMer Lisa Bunin, is still heavily rooted in the 1950s.

"It was like Atomic Café meets the company town; everything was dull brown. There was fake wood paneling and lots of formica," Bunin recalls. And then there was the fact that the meeting did open up a dialogue, something CCALM has been working toward for over a year.

"We pushed a long time for this, and they decided to respect our request and make a presentation," said Marin.

Still, to date the meeting has not succeeded in calming CCALM's concerns about what happened at the site in the past.

"What happened between 1957 and 1983 was not addressed," said Marin, explaining that when Lockheed opened its 4,000-acre Bonny Doon facility in 1957, it wasn't required to report what chemicals were used and how they were disposed of at the site--a situation that continued for 27 years and spanned the facility's era of peak activity, when there were some 700 employees at the plant.

"So, did they lose their formula for detonators?" joked Bunin at the CCALM debriefing session. "For Lockheed to claim they didn't keep any disposal records before they had to seems absurd on the face of it. But if you use it as a digging-in point, then you can argue that we need test wells all over the place."

Marin agreed. "We'd like Lockheed to take responsibility for dropping test wells on its site--and on the land of any willing neighbors," she said. "And if any neighbors have already tested for perchlorate, we'd like to hear from them."

Rocket Science

For those of you not up on your rocket science, perchlorate and its salts are used in rockets, missiles, fireworks, matches, flares, pyrotechnics, ordnance and explosives--which is why Lockheed officials acknowledge that they've used it at their Bonny Doon plant.

According to the California Department of Health Science, perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland's uptake of iodide and can result in decreased production of thyroid hormones, which are needed for prenatal and postnatal growth and development, as well as for normal metabolism and mental function in adults.

At present, no state or federal drinking water standard exists for perchlorate, but the DHS considers that consumer notification and source removal is necessary, if the chemical is found at levels of 6 parts per billion (or 6 micrograms per liter) and above.

All of which explains why there was a huge outcry when the DHS found perchlorate at levels of up to 29 parts per billion in Riverside County drinking water wells and up to 325 ppb in San Bernadino County drinking water wells--contamination that apparently was in a plume associated with past ops of the Lockheed Propulsion Company in that area.

Reached by phone after the "debriefing session, Lockheed's Chip Manor said he'd do his best to find out whether the Bonny Doon facility has ever tested for perchlorate--and, if so, where the reports are.

Nüz also asked where Lockheed tested, how many samples were collected and how often, and perhaps most importantly, how low a concentration level it was able to see--since it's possible that the detection limits at the time of testing weren't as low as they are today. ...

Manor replied later that day in an email titled, "Perchlorates at Santa Cruz Facility," which contained the following background information:

# There only is anecdotal suggestion, not documentation, that solid rocket motors containing perchlorates were ever tested at SCF [the Santa Cruz facility].

# If such testing occurred, this would have been in the early 1960s, over 40 years ago, and the test quantities would have been infrequent.

# Because of the minimal--if any--number of tests thought to have occurred, there has been no regulatory need to test for perchlorates on the property then or now.

# Perchlorates are used to control "detonation" in an article containing propellant; those articles are chemically balanced to consume 100 percent of materials during the reaction.

# Facilities that test solid rocket motors therefore do not have trace amounts of perchlorates--they are consumed during a test firing.

# Perchlorate traces are more likely to be found at facilities that manufacture and load rocket motors or other devices containing propellants. SCF did not and does not manufacture or load rocket motors containing perchlorates, so no loose powders were handled.

To sum it up, wrote Manor, "The bottom line is that we cannot say with certainty that any test articles containing perchlorates ever were in use at SCF. However, if they were, because of the minimal quantities and the rigid nature of our procedures, environmental testing for perchlorate trace elements at SCF is not warranted."

Full Disclosure

All of which got Nüz thinking that if, as Lockheed claims, perchlorate isn't a concern at the Bonny Doon facility, then no one should be afraid to test for it, n'est-ce pas? (Unless, of course, there's naturally occurring perchlorate in them there hills, in which case, testing would be akin to opening a can of worms.) Plus, perchlorate isn't the only issue here.

In fact, the mystery that continues to surround it and other chemicals, even after a community meeting with Lockheed officials, underscores the importance of full disclosure about pollutant usage and monitoring at the Santa Cruz facility. Meanwhile, Marin says CCALM will continue to seek access to Lockheed's environmental and occupational health records, including any reports of off-site accidents involving Lockheed's trucks. In addition, CCALM is preparing a community health questionnaire, so it can map out any incidents of rare and unusual diseases.

"We're in the process of drawing up questions that are reasonable and useful," says Marin, noting that CCALM hopes to post this list soon at

On top of it all, the Santa Cruz Weapons Inspection Team wants you to know that it is continuing to hold monthly vigils at the gates of Lockheed's Bonny Doon facility, with the next one on Oct. 13.

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