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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Tree-sitter responds to Judge Burdick's March 10 ruling, Bill Monning wins grassroots Dem support and medical marijuana cards get really high.

Don't Pooh-Pooh Them

A March 10 ruling by Judge Paul Burdick determined that seven of nine defendants sued by UCSC must stop aiding the tree sitters who took their places four months ago to protest university expansion, but it hasn't had an effect on the arboreal activists--at least not yet. A day after the injunction, David Kliger, UCSC's executive vice chancellor, broadcast an announcement through the university email system saying that "anyone with notice of this order" may be "subject to criminal and/or civil penalties" if they, in so many words, attempted to help the tree sitters.

Meanwhile, little has changed for the activists, who were not named in the suit filed by UCSC because their identities are not known. But they have begun calling the patch of campus slated for development under the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) the "120 Acre Wood," after the 100 Acre Wood in A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh series. They've also reportedly given themselves Pooh-themed names.Owl, one of the activists, agreed to shout comments on the injunction and Kliger's interpretation from his roost above the Science Hill parking lot.

"Like the LRDP, it's isn't worth the paper it's printed on!" Owl said, raising his voice just enough so that he could be heard from his platform.

The university hasn't chosen to do anything about the sitters, despite winning seven out of nine of the lawsuits. Owl says that he and the other sitters haven't had any trouble getting food or other supplies from support on the ground.

UCSC has been preparing for a long campaign as well. Panther Protective Services, the company hired to guard the Science and Engineering Building from the activists, has already been paid a total of $90,000 by the university for services rendered through June 30. This is according to a purchase order made on Nov. 19, 2007, 12 days after the tree sit started.Owl says he has no intention of coming down and that he plans on remaining in the tree until the LRDP, which includes the addition of 5,000 students by 2020, is changed.

"We're waiting for the community to speak up, and the students to speak up, so their voices can be heard in this discussion," said Owl when asked when he was planning on leaving the tree.

Owl scoffed at Kliger's letter, which urged the sitters to "obey the law" and come down on their own, and reiterated what the tree sitters have said since they first put cord to carabiner: that they came up under their own power, and that's how they're going to leave.

A Gain for Monning

The candidates for the District 27 Assembly race have bolted out of the gate and, peering through the binoculars, it looks as if Monterey law professor Bill Monning is opening up a lead. Monning's recent gain in the three-way race came at a March 13 meeting of Democratic Party notables from central committees and clubs in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara counties. The 72 delegates were assembled to recommend an endorsement for the Assembly seat currently held by the soon-to-be-termed-out John Laird.

Of the 72, Monning won 42 votes, with former Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly and Felton water activist Barbara Sprenger taking 12 votes each and six delegates electing not to vote. Local delegates who threw their weight behind Monning include Terry Hancock (who's married to Supervisor Ellen Pirie), Democratic power couple Darrell and Karen Darling, Soquel Creek Water District president Bruce Daniels and vice-chairwoman of Capitola's Commission on the Environment Barbara Graves.

For math buffs, that means Monning corralled 58 percent of the vote, just 12 percentage points short of a guaranteed endorsement. That performance among the grassroots might catch the attention of Democrats in Sacramento trying to suss out the strongest candidate, but Monning says the real boon is what it says about his presence beyond his home turf of the Monterey Peninsula.

"A lot of it is party dynamics, but for me what's significant about Thursday's vote is I was ahead of each of my main opponents by 30 votes, and a lot of those came out of Santa Cruz County," he says.

In order to win the party's official endorsement, Monning now must be approved in a separate caucus of approximately 50 central committee delegates selected from each county in the state. That vote will take place during the hustle and bustle of the California Democratic Convention March 28-30 in San Jose.

Yeah, yeah. What's truly exciting to Nu_z is that Monning has gotten the nod from Dina Ruiz Eastwood. That's right; Dirty Harry's missus is playing Maria Shriver to her Republican hubby's Arnold. Nothing like star power to jazz up a race.

Big Pill to Swallow

Santa Cruz County medical marijuana patients must have almost choked on their medicine after receiving news that the card that proves they need the little green buds for pain relief and appetite enhancement nearly tripled in cost. County residents have been paying $35 for a card issued by county officials since 2003, but now that the state program is as firmly entrenched as the root system of a nonhydroponic cannabis sativa plant, county health officials have decided to match their standards with those of the state. That means the cost of the cards will go up to the state-mandated $101 a year. There is some leeway for Medi-Cal patients, who only have to pay $66 a year for the card.

The cost of these cards leaves Nu_z in a perplexed daze. The Department of Motor Vehicles, a bureaucracy with more filler than the fattest of fatties, only charges $28 for a driver's license, and that lasts five years. Even after hours of head-scratching, it was unclear why the California Department of Public Health charges so much more for a piece of paper than the DMV, a venerable symbol of government inefficiency.

After digging through some government documents, it appears there may in fact be a method to this madness. Readers may recall that back in 1996, voters approved Prop. 215, which allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana as a pain reliever. Problem was, there was no way for law enforcement to discern who was really toking up because of a bad back and who was just toking up, well, because. So in 2003 state lawmakers thought up S.B. 420 (no, we're not kidding). S.B. 420 created the medical marijuana identification system, but it turns out there was a bit of small print that required the system to be completely funded by fees from card recipients. That isn't the case with other government agencies, so the price gap makes some sense.The fee increase was actually implemented statewide in April 2007, but since the county was running its own independent identification program since before the state implemented its version, the county never officially switched over. Guess it's not just stoners who have a tendency to be a bit slow on the uptake.

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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