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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Unembedded journalist Dahr Jamail makes his third stop at UCSC; Beach Flats gardeners submit a proposal to the city to keep their two-acre slice of paradise.

How Does the Garden Grow?

Though it seemed a few weeks ago that the old Beach Flats Community Garden was going to close, it's starting to look like it might remain open this year if the city and a group of gardeners can come to an agreement on how to turn over managerial duties to a group of volunteers.

The gardeners have already submitted one proposal. Last week the Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department returned it to them for further work and clarification.

At issue is a condition laid out in the original April 1994 lease between the Santa Cruz Seaside Company and the city. That agreement, which allowed the city to use the 2-acre plot as a community garden in exchange for a break on property taxes, requires that at least one program coordinator from Parks and Recreation be on-site in order to supervise the garden and to make sure it ran properly.

This worked for 12 years, until budget cuts reduced the number and hours of employees like Reyna Ruiz, who has managed the park and the Beach Flats Community Center since 2000. Her working hours were reduced to 30 per week in 2006, and she says that she and the other employees of the Beach Flats Community Center are overburdened organizing community events and running social programs.

Thus, with a community vote, they decided to close the garden and move to a smaller (half-acre) plot of land down the street.

The old garden came extremely close to being closed last month when a flier in Spanish declaring the closure of the garden was posted on the garden entrance. The reaction among the gardeners and sympathizers was swift. They organized a meeting with Parks and Recreation, where the gardeners asked what they could do to keep the park open. Carol Scurich, department superintendent, and Ruiz told the gardeners that there was no one left to manage the garden and fulfill the obligation to the Santa Cruz Seaside Company.

Meanwhile, it's planting time, and the new garden space isn't ready for planting, while the old one is. The gardeners, who use the produce from the plots to supplement their diets and in some cases incomes, want to keep both open, the better to serve the community.

Media Dahrling

When everyone else runs away from scenes of carnage, Dahr Jamail runs toward them. The indie journalist, who has covered Iraq, Syria and Lebanon since 2003, has become a darling of the antiwar movement for deciding to become an unembedded reporter in Iraq, one who doesn't rely on U.S. troops for protection and who often harshly criticizes U.S. officials. Jamail is a self-styled independent journalist with little classical training who prides himself on the near-death experiences he has chalked up while scurrying about the rubble of Iraq and Lebanon, often accompanied only by his tape recorder.

Of course, darlings of the antiwar movement are always welcome at UC-Santa Cruz, which will be hosting him for the third time on Tuesday, April 22. During his talk, Jamail will speak about the harrowing situations he's experienced since he decided to take on the journalist role right after the 2003 invasion. He'll also be promoting his new book, Beyond the Green Zone, which tells the story of the invasion and occupation from the perspective of the Iraqi street. Jamail insists his account can be set apart from the litany of books on this devastated country because, well, he's actually been there in the muck of it all. Foreign journalists routinely leave Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone to investigate violence and troop movements, but Jamail insists he is different because he actually stays out there in the street after the violence has passed.

"When journalists don't go out and spend time with Iraqis, it's impossible to write about their experiences," says Jamail. "We see a sanitization of war, instead of what war really looks, smells, tastes and feels like."

Jamail is no longer in Iraq, but he continues to keep in touch with native Iraqis through email. Wherever Jamail ends up next, it's certain it will be bloody, and Jamail will have a strong opinion about who's to blame.

DAHR JAMAIL speaks Tuesday, April 22, at 7pm in dining hall of Cowell College, UCSC. Free.

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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