metroactive
News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.

Columns
07.23.08

home | metro santa cruz index | columns | nūz


Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Santa Cruz leaders hope residents will vote for much needed funds for emergency dispatch services, two Live Oak citizens battle gangs through public art, former Santa Cruz mayor Katherine Beiers is throwing her hat in this November's Santa Cruz city council race and Santa Cruz alt-energy guru David Blume proves once again that Californians are searching vigorsouly for a non-petroleum solution to the energy crisis.

Back and Ready For More

Katherine Beiers is not done living life to the fullest. The 75-year-old two-time Santa Cruz mayor has more bounce in her step than most women half her age and now she's ready to give another jolt of vitality to the city's progressive movement. That was the clear message last Thursday as Beiers announced her candidacy for Santa Cruz City Council from the comfort of her spacious Westside back yard. And what has she been doing to prepare for this comeback since leaving the council in 1999?

"I have not sat on a beach chair, nor have I eaten bonbons," she insisted. "I have done a lot. I made a quilt, ran 11 marathons, three 50-mile runs, and cleaned out my entire basement."

Wow. For those keeping track, that's 14 footraces in eight years--eight senior years. Turns out Beiers hasn't just been hanging out at the track either. She has also served on the board of the Cultural Council and the Santa Cruz County Land Trust.

Re-entering city politics proper in this November's race was a tough decision, she says.

"I realized I had the energy and, above all, the interest," says Beiers. "I never stopped paying attention to my city and its goings on. I cannot see a public works project without inquiring as to what it is and how much it is costing."

Beiers got her first taste of local politics when she led the effort to stop a convention center from being built on Lighthouse Field in the '70s. After that battle was won, she took her seat on the City Council in 1989, just months before the Loma Prieta quake. After that, it was "reconstruct, reconstruct, reconstruct," according to Beiers. After the rebuilding was mostly complete, Beiers--who was mayor in 1994 and 1999--was able to shift her focus to "more exciting things," such as organizing the drive to save the railroad trestle by the Dream Inn and sorting out the dizzying logistics of running electrical lines underneath Mission Street.

This time around, her main goal is to bring the voice of the average neighbor back to the General Plan process.

"No matter how many experts you consult on planning theories, there is no experience that can equal listening with an open mind to individuals thinking about their own houses, their own streets and their own neighborhoods," she says. "What I will bring to the General Plan process is a respect for the public hearing process."

A Pro-Life Vote

Pay the cost of a loaf of bread every month, and you might just get your life saved one day. That's the message coming from Santa Cruz leaders aiming to restore a $3.49 monthly fee that has been applied to phone bills in California since 2003 to fund emergency dispatchers. Similar fees levied by Union City and Stockton were challenged in court recently and have both been declared a tax not approved by California voters. In other words, an illegal tax. As a result, counties across the state are holding special elections to restore the surcharge in each respective municipality.

In Santa Cruz, mail-in ballots will be mailed out on July 28 for Measure T, which will restore the phone bill fee. Vice Mayor Cynthia Mathews contends that since the fee was struck down, the city is paying $100,000 a month with money earmarked to pay for other emergency services.

She explains, "We have a consolidated 911 center for the county of Santa Cruz. The city generates about 25 percent of the calls, and so we're obligated to pay about 25 percent of the operating costs."

Santa Cruz voters will have nearly a month to vote on Measure T by mail. Mathews notes that since ballots are being sent out, all votes will be absentee and that ballots must arrive at the Santa Cruz County Building or City Hall Building by Tuesday, Aug. 26. City Hall offices will remain open until 8pm on Aug. 26 to receive ballots.

The Yes on T campaign has lined up endorsements by over 70 Santa Cruz organizations and community figures, including the Police Officers Association, Santa Cruz City Council, Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, Dominican Hospital and elected officials including Mayor Ryan Coonerty and Santa Cruz Councilmember Mike Rotkin. The campaign will be sending out pamphlets to all Santa Cruz residents the same day that ballots are sent to further explain its position.

Mathews contends that the wide array of endorsements underscores the necessity of the surcharge to fund emergency services without taking money and resources from other public services.

"If the measure doesn't pass, this money will come from our general fund, and we'd have to make cuts in our other city services," she says.

"Any cuts to our general fund would inevitably affect other safety costs as well."

"You look at the endorsements, and you see how broad support is for this measure," Mathews says. "I think people understand this is a critical service and we need a source of revenue to cover it."

The Mural Is Mightier Than the Sword

Children coming of age in a Live Oak covered in sloppily scrawled gang tags are getting a fresh view of the area due to the graffiti-busting efforts of Santa Cruz artists Jessica Cooper and John Moore. Fed up with the heavy flow of gang graffiti appearing throughout Live Oak, Cooper and Moore have opted to use their artistic skills as the main weapons in a two-person urban renewal initiative.

Cooper and Moore aren't merely citizens offended by the rampant gang-affiliated tagging cropping up throughout Live Oak and Capitola. Instead, they look at their initiative as a way of presenting to the children of Live Oak--and the gang members themselves--an alternative form of artistic expression. "The intention behind this work is to inspire right brain activity and inspire children to paint instead of do graffiti, to redirect their minds to create something beautiful." Cooper says.

The project is currently funded out-of-pocket--Cooper recently spent $1,500 on a mural--though she and Moore are attempting to work with local business owners and city graffiti removers to consolidate efforts. So far, the feedback has been largely positive, Cooper notes. "We've had an awesome response; people drive by and honk while we're doing it," she says. "The mural at Live Oak Market hasn't been tagged since we restored it; before, it was being tagged every day. Graffiti removal was spending probably $10,000 a year going out every night to remove graffiti, and this mural hasn't been touched in almost a month since we painted over the graffiti."

Given the dicey prospect of covering up gang members' declarations of territory, one might expect Cooper and Moore to do their work during the relative safety of daylight. Which they do, but they don't hesitate to approach the graffiti artists directly. "We've sat out there at 4 in the morning and caught them in the act and told them if that they want to paint, they should paint with us. We've had a good response. There's been no violence, no hatred."

"These kids are artists that want to express themselves," she says. "They don't want to paint over something that's already a creative expression."

In Other Council News

Katherine Beiers won't be alone in this November's race for the Santa Cruz City Council. Current Mayor Ryan Coonerty will have to fight for his seat, as will former labor organizer and current Councilmember Tony Madrigal. Transit activist Ed Porter and former candidate for the 27th Assembly District Emily Reilly will both be taking a bow due to term limits.

So far, there have only been two other new candidates besides Beiers to officially file "intentions to run" with the city clerk's office. Those include former Mayor Don Lane and political newcomer Blas Cabrera.

The deadline to file paperwork is Aug. 8 at 5pm. Those interested in running should drop by 809 Center St., Room 9, and pick up the paperwork. For more information call 831.420.5030. Let the races begin!

Biofuel Rebound

Just because local entrepreneur Ray Newerik had to shutter the Ocean Street Pacific Biodiesel station, don't think that the local biofuel scene is dead in the water. Much to the contrary, it seems to be brimming. Fellow alt-energy entrepreneur David Blume overloaded the phone lines and the server hosting his website last week when he went on the radio show Coast to Coast to talk about his plans for the ethanol revolution.

Blume was chatting with George Noory for three straight hours about his book, his upcoming ethanol station in Santa Cruz and his disgust with oil companies. Within the first hour, the managers of the server that hosted his website had to shut it down due to a bombardment of thousands of simultaneous hits. By the time the third hour came around and it was time for Q&A, the phone lines were overloaded, and those too had to be temporarily shut down due to an overall drag in the neighborhood's network.

"The phone companies and the Internet provider were both worried about this traffic impacting their other customers," reported Blume publicist Tom Harvey.

This little hiccup may have been unfortunate for those looking for more info on Blume's vision for a petroleum-free future, but Harvey sees it as a good thing. Not only did they sell a load of books, they also proved that as gas prices continue to pinch the average consumer, alt-energy isn't fringe anymore.

"I mean, you talk about people wanting to hear this message," says Harvey. "People are looking wherever they can for some sort of answer to the energy crisis, and when someone like David comes along with a rational plan, it really stokes a lot of excitement."


Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

Send a letter to the editor about this story.