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Photo by Carlie Statsky
Books Not Bombs: Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent Mike Watkins hopes to see a time soon when education, elections and the environment are honored.

The Good, the Bad And the Gnarly

As they take off on 2008, 14 community leaders reveal their hopes and fears for the coming year

Ken Cole
Executive Director, Homeless Services Center

At the Homeless Services Center we experience the ups and downs of life along with the homeless individuals and families we help each day. We often see people struggling to find hope in the midst of dire circumstances while also bravely facing the fear of failure.

Our hope for 2008 is that, as a community, we better recognize that homelessness doesn't equal hopelessness. For example, over the past year 94 percent of the families that completed our program at the Rowland and Pat Rebele Family Shelter found permanent or long-term housing. We hope that both the public and people experiencing homelessness begin to see that success is not as elusive as it can seem. We need to recognize and celebrate the success of our efforts.

Our fear for 2008 is that because of the "mortgage mess" and the resulting downturn in the local real estate market, the cost of renting homes and apartments in Santa Cruz may increase. Any increase in the already too high cost of housing will hurt the individuals and families who are fighting their way out of homelessness. The cost of housing is the single greatest cause of homelessness in our community.

Nane Alejandrez

One of my worst fears would be that the administration doesn't change in 2008 and the war continues. Whenever there's a war going on, it affects the whole community and it affects resources for things that could be done here at home. We're spending billions on the war and yet we still have poverty in America, we still have poverty in Santa Cruz and people sleeping in the streets. We have a serious problem with our veterans coming back and not being treated s they should. They talk a good game in terms of getting you in, but once you come back wounded they dismiss you—it's your problem. They're facing alcoholism, drugs—everything we Vietnam veterans faced.The best is that we're here another day and we give thanks for that and bringing the community together, that violence can be prevented and we can make this community better for all of us. I think '08 might bring some people together. At least I'm hoping for it.

Valerie Corral

Our greatest hope is that we be able to contribute to creating more peace on our planet and reducing suffering in people who are ill and facing death. WAMM isn't just about pot. It's about living and dying and facing that with integrity. You can't buy that with all the money in the world. That's something we all gain over our lifetimes. Maybe you don't have it as a kid, but it's something we gain. Personally, I think my greatest fear would be to lose hope and replace it with fear. We live in a world that's uncertain and is a mix of joy and sorrow, and I think our vision is to keep our eyes on the hopefulness and the joy, spread it around and keep sharing, encourage sharing with one another. I have a new word for America: it's "Amore-ica." We don't need as much as we have! We could all do with a little bit less and a little more sharing.

Since the raid, our financial support has declined. The federal government has really made it difficult for Mike and me personally. But what happens in the heart of a revolutionary when the government tries to wear you down is it's fuel. It fuels our hearts, it fuels our work. It's a great journey, one that's inspired us to be even more revolutionary.

Sam Farr

The best-case scenario for 2008 is easy: a Democrat elected to the White House and a true majority of 60 Democrats in the Senate, enough to overcome this year's obstructionist Republicans. Voters handed Democrats a mandate last November, but the GOP discovered plenty of ways to circumvent the will of the people.Democrats still enjoyed some victories in 2007, from a clean energy bill to a minimum wage increase to the largest funding increase for veterans ever. But we failed to end the war in Iraq, and that failure overshadows our accomplishments. My No. 1 priority next year, as it was this year, is to get our soldiers out of Iraq and convince the president to focus on our problems at home. I don't dwell on the worst-case scenario, which would include a return to GOP leadership, an expansion of war in the Middle East and more neglect of our domestic programs. I don't dwell on it because it won't happen with Democrats in control.

Kaitilin Gaffney

Surf's Up: Bay communities step up the progress on improving water quality so we can all enjoy clean waves.Eat Locally: Santa Cruz residents choose to feast on wild, sustainably caught seafood like Dungeness crab, squid and local salmon, foregoing imported shrimp, parasite-ridden farmed salmon and depleted rockfish.

Pack Your Trash: Cities and counties around the Monterey Bay follow the lead set by the city of Capitola and control single-use plastics and other debris that pollute our beaches and wreak havoc on ocean wildlife, turning instead to reusable and biodegradable products.

Rock the Reserves: The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary builds on the state of California's 2007 success in establishing a landmark network of marine protected areas by extending these ocean refuges to protect vulnerable offshore habitats and species. Get on Board: The thousands of Santa Cruz citizens already volunteering as marine education docents, picking up trash on the beach or caring for injured marine wildlife are joined by their friends, neighbors and co-workers in the year to come.Vote Blue: Ocean-friendly candidates sail into office in 2008 and set a visionary agenda for a sustainable future.

Randall Grahm

It is paradoxical that in the time of the greatest fear (and make no mistake, we do appear to be in a sort of permanent Bummer of a Birthmark, Hal state of affairs vis--vis humankind on Planet Earth) there are some spontaneous signs of hope. So, biggest fears: rapid ecological collapse—disappearance of honey bees and frogs, ubiquity of antibiotic-resistant opportunistic bugs and a political "emergency" maybe next October, resulting in the indeterminate suspension of presidential elections. As far as glimmerings of hope: While one can hope for the rapid deployment of a light-weight, long-lasting, powerful car battery or the initiation of plans to build high speed rail linkages in these United States, what is truly needed is an absolute bona fide transformational miracle, one that is capable of changing people not for a few moments or for a few weeks, but for the rest of their lives. If I could use words to describe the nature of this miracle, it would not be quite so miraculous, would it?

Rev. Deborah L. Johnson

America promises liberty and justice for all, seeds of promise that have never been planted in fertile soil. My greatest aspiration is that we cultivate our consciousness so that these seeds of promise gestate in our hearts and minds, grow roots, and blossom into a bountiful harvest that is shared and reseeded throughout the world. I urge us all to conceive of life as a living ecosystem and strive to create sustainable environments everywhere including education, politics, health care, business, cultural endeavors, the ecology and our homes.

I have numerous concerns, but choose not to live in the cancer of fear. I believe Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." We have fears, but the most important thing is not to be fear. Jesus often warned, "Be not afraid." Audre Lorde captures my sentiment best: "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." I use my strength in the service of my vision, a world that is environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just. Pain pushes until vision pulls. What is your vision and is your strength planted there?

Kelly V. Kaay

Surfing magazine unleashed some grisly facts in its second annual green issue: 2048 is the year by which "all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse" (Science, November 2006). Three million tons is the weight of plastic in the North Central Pacific Gyre. One million gallons of water is how much a single gallon of motor oil can contaminate.

Stats like these spurred Tom Jones to paddle the entire length of the California Coast to raise awareness. Meanwhile, Surfrider Santa Cruz launched its education campaign and revamped its water testing/storm drain stenciling programs. While Tom Jones staved off white sharks, we rallied our members to contact the Capitola City Council in support of a Styrofoam take-out container ban. Together, we flooded their offices with hundreds of calls and emails. The ban passed.

This month, a similar ban will be considered by the City and County of Santa Cruz. So we are optimistic that 2008 will bring positive changes. It won't be without its challenges, but we plan to keep the momentum going. And we invite you to be a part of it. For more on restaurants using biodegradable take-out containers and/or how to support the Santa Cruz ban, visit

Laura Kasa

My greatest hopes for the environment on a local, regional and international level in 2008: Santa Cruz County and City adopt polystyrene bans. Central California develops a better oil spill response system so wildlife will not suffer in the future. Democrats win the White House and agree to participate in the updated version of the Kyoto Protocol.

My biggest fears for the environment on a local, regional and international level in 2008: Volunteers find over 40,000 pounds of debris left on Santa Cruz beaches to be cleaned up on July 5. Otter counts along the Central Coast are lower than last year. We discover that we (humans) have caused the extinction of another species.

Fred Keeley

It would be neither an original thought nor a keen insight to observe that 2008 could be a year of tremendous success or failure for the world. The continued conflagration that is the Middle East, the too-little-too-late actions by the current federal administration relative to climate change, the mounting weight of evidence that perhaps the world is near a "feedback loop'" in terms of climate change that could prevent any set of solutions from being able to save the planet, the dawning realization in the United States that our economy is largely based on credit—much of which is now unavailable, or available but badly structured for many consumers—all lead to a vision of despair.

Alternatively, the climate change debate is settled, and the solutions are at hand. The world recognizes that dramatic leadership is essential to the survival of the planet, and leaders are being called upon and urged to move faster and with more vigor. Capital is moving from carbon-based fuels to alternatives at a somewhat increased pace. In some quarters, diplomacy is slowly being restored to its rightful place as the first, second and third resort of civilized nations to produce peaceful and prosperous outcomes. The curious aspect of all of this is the role of the individual voter in the United States. I will spare the reader the sophistry of stating the obvious relative to the power of voting; and, instead, will suggest that it is the relative infrequency of individuals exercising their franchise that catches my attention. In California, about half of the people who can register to vote, do. We nearly do collective back-flips when there is more than 50 percent voter turnout at an election. In sum, that means that about 12.5 percent of the folks who can register and vote end up making the policy decisions for the rest. When adding in the fact that income tracks voter turnout, it is little wonder that voter-adopted policy tends to favor those who vote, and undermine the interests of those who do not.

My hope is that 2008 will mark a dramatic change in our civic lives and responsibilities. I hope that 2008 is the year that we in the United States recapture and renew the notion that we have individual civic responsibility, and that the president was wrong after 9/11 when he suggested that citizenship and consumerism are two sides of the same coin. They are not. Citizenship is the making of individual contributions to our community, with no expectation of individual gain. In other words, I hope that 2008 will be the year of revitalized citizenship and civic participation that will let us change and save the planet. Come on, join in, it will be great!

John Laird

Looking into the crystal ball for 2008, I see the possibility of the election of a president who will not see foreign invasions as the first step in foreign policy, who actually wants American children to have health insurance, who would believe that gay men and women shouldn't be fired from their jobs for being gay, who doesn't take the oil companies position on attacking greenhouse gas emissions and who can correctly pronounce the word nuclear.In California, I see us actually putting the state budget on a pay-as-you-go basis without reducing health care, raising student fees or cutting environmental protection, and hope for the passage of Proposition 93—which will allow my continued service in the Assembly, so I can personally be involved as Budget Chair in bringing long-term stability to our state government. And I see the voters approving health-care reform on the state ballot in November.

If I was asked to offer a worst-case scenario for 2008, I couldn't do it because I think that nationally we are already in it—and for the collective mental health of the nation, I won't suggest to others that it could get worse.

Ray Newkirk

Being in the renewable energy industry I see two sides of this issue. One makes me fearful, one makes me hopeful, but this issue is not all I'm concerned with.I fear the current political climate will continue to refuse redirecting petroleum subsidies to renewable energies, ratify the Kyoto Protocol, stop their misguided push to construct more "nukular pawr" plants and impeach the Kennebunkport Kowboy (I'll bet he can't spell bovine) and his mean old Uncle Icky Dicky.

I also fear that the petrol pimp-influenced IRS will continue to make us blend poison petroleum into our nontoxic biodiesel to qualify for tax credits.

I'm afraid of the secret sauce being aerially sprayed on my friends, loved ones, pets and gardens. I'm afraid that Rush Limbaugh will continue to be on more stations than Amy Goodman!I'm hopeful that our GREEN Energy Revolution with its headquarters here in Santa Cruz will topple the evil empire!!! Farmers growing mustard oil for biodiesel, solar powered biofuel processors, well researched dedicated citizens fighting the spray, local radio stations bringing us real news and Metro Santa ruz asking my opinion all give me hope that we will thrive.

Gary Patton

I am a "local boy" when it comes to politics, but even I am starting to pin my hopes on the November 2008 election. Most people take for granted that governmental leaders speak for the public—and reflect the truth of who we are as a people, or as a "community." Our current president has, through word and deed, made it seem that the people of the United States agree to the repellent policies of global environmental degradation and unconstrained militarism that have been advanced relentlessly by this administration. Are Americans (as others are) really coming to accept that murder and torture are our defining national commitment? I am hoping that the presidential election in November will be a clear repudiation of what most assume to be the "reality" of where we are as a nation. Just a new president won't do it. This election must repudiate current practices and postures in a definitive way, so that everyone "gets it," both here and around the world. As for "fears," I think we may have lost our chance on global warming, and that civilizations, everywhere, are poised to collapse.

Michael Watkins

The year 2008 will usher in an entirely new era. An era when we, as a society, fully fund education—not prisons and war. An era in which we have open and honest elections—not ones that leave many questions unanswered. An era in which we view one another and the environment as compatriots—not adversaries. An era in which we view the state and federal debt as the next generation's burden that it really is and only elect officials who can solve problems—not create them. An era in which we will awaken from our political slumber and advocate for the demise of laws that undermine the integrity of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And just as we cannot forget Sept. 11, we will not forget the haunting images of Hurricane Katrina victims or Darfur. We will bury opportunistic euphemisms and polarizing terminology like "Compassionate Conservatism," "Trickle Down," "The Terrorists," "The Immigrants" "and Welfare to Work" and replace them with an honest dialogue on issues of social justice and equity.

Furthermore, it is my hope that we will come to understand and honor the valuable contributions of teachers. Teachers inspire, give hope, spark interests and even console our children, yet their worth is often overlooked. 2008 will be a watershed era of change. Let us not let this opportunity slip away.

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