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Nuz to Us

[whitespace] A look back through Nuz-colored glasses at the people, pols and plots that stirred and shook Santa Cruz in 1998

Edited by John Yewell


THIS IS THE TIME of year most of us stop to reflect on the past and resolve to improve ourselves in the future. How can we become better people? What can we do to foster a better world? How can we bring about healing, and help make Santa Cruz the hate-free city that the Santa Cruz Action Network would have it be?

Well, we're having none of that here at Nuz. We're gonna gloat.

Some stories broken by Nuz in 1998 include Fred Keeley's rise in the Assembly leadership, the controversy over a Justice Department grant to the Neighbors of Lower Ocean, early rumblings of Art Danner's judicial appointment, the purported "practice session" conducted by SCAN before the election, early news of a United Farmworkers lawsuit that has uncovered more than $70,000 in agribusiness contributions to anti-UFW organizing, and the departure from the company of Odwalla co-founder Greg Steltenpohl. If you include other news features of this paper, the list stretches to the horizon.

Nevertheless, Nuz resolves to be kinder to the Sentinel in 1999--as long as it stops stealing our stories.

Suffice it to say that reading Nuz more regularly in 1999 could help one in becoming a better person. Well, anyway, it couldn't hurt. The following is a collection of the hottest and weirdest Nuz of 1998--some of it so bizarre it just couldn't be made up. Well, actually, one item is made up, but you'll guess which one.


Puddle Jumpers
(Jan. 21)

When planning a little relaxing getaway this winter, you may want to cross Lake Barson off that list. This humble body of water, which stands fermenting in Lower Ocean's own backyard, boasts a bacteria count 27 times higher than the maximum determined safe for human contact.

Problem is, the area near Jessie and Barson streets was once a thriving salt marsh. Urban planners once believed urban development could change all that, but Mother Nature herself seems to be taking action to preserve the marsh.

Before the city began draining the enormous puddle last Thursday, it had grown into a 50-foot pool, 2 feet deep. According to concerned resident Eli Rothman, many neighborhood kids were splashing around in contaminated water, nicknamed Lake Barson by local residents.

The city frantically pumped 1.2 million gallons from the puddle last Thursday. But within hours of the big suck, Lake Barson was making a comeback. Dan Whatley of the city's Public Works Department believes enlarging the storm drain will solve the annual flooding problem. But environmentalists hope for a plan that promotes restoration of the ecosystem and drainage at the same time.

NOLO Contentious
(Jan. 28)

A $15,000 grant that the Resource Center for Nonviolence recently received from the U.S. Department of Justice seems to have twisted the knickers of a fair amount of folks, representing groups like the Santa Cruz Action Network (SCAN), Neighbors of Lower Ocean (NOLO) and even the Resource Center itself.

The grant, meant to allow the Center to continue its Neighborhood Safety Program, is making waves both because of the Resource Center's collaborator in this effort--the Santa Cruz Police Department--and for what some say was a sleight-of-hand on the part of its applicant, Resource Center staff member Erik Larsen.

Members of NOLO say that Larsen misrepresented himself as executive director of the group when he applied for the grant. The problem, they say, is that NOLO hasn't even met for the last year or two, and further, never elected him--or anyone--executive director.

"A media committee was formed," says Bruce Engelhart, an early NOLO steering committee member, "but [Erik Larsen] did end runs around us to respond to media, so NOLO dissolved for lack of something to do."

Lisa Geiszler, a founding member of NOLO, adds that feelings about police are "complicated" in a neighborhood with such a large Latino population.

"If they're applying and getting a grant that's going to be bringing extra police to my neighborhood," says Geiszler, "then we need a meeting."

A recent letter to Leslie Lapp, chair of the Resource Center's Steering Committee, from Bernice Belton representing SCAN's Steering Committee, also wonders about the Resource Center cuddling up with the boys in blue.

"I wonder if the RCNV's pursuit of police money is somehow a tepid endorsement of the direction our community should go in regarding police activity," Belton wrote.

Adds longtime Resource Center staff member Doug Rand, "As fundraising coordinator, I had deep concerns about the independence of the Resource Center and its integrity about accepting money from the police department."

Rand says that his organization waited until he was out of the picture to make the decision about the grant.

"After I blocked consensus on two meetings," says Rand, "they voted to wait until I went on sabbatical to accept the grant."

Larsen says he understands the concerns of some of those neighbors. However, he adds, "This grant isn't about bringing in cops with billy clubs, it's about finding an alternative to suppression and incarceration, and working with the community for solutions."

Larsen is convinced that NOLO fizzled out because of their unwillingness to keep it running.

"At a certain point people have to take some responsibility for organizing," says Larsen. "One person can't keep a neighborhood organization going."

Larsen did apply for the grant as executive director for NOLO (the grant was later awarded to the Resource Center), but says, "I have never represented myself as chief executive of NOLO ... most of my work has been with Latino neighbors who were never included in the NOLO meetings."

And, for those who see Larsen's efforts as so much grist for the political mill, the fair-haired boy puts the kibosh on one popular rumor: Erik Larsen is not running for City Council--at least this year.

The Air Out There
(Feb. 4)

Just when you thought it was safe to exhale, the Breatharian Institute of America has--take a deep breath--returned to Santa Cruz. More than 30 years ago, local boy Wiley C. Brooks proposed the theory that man (and woman) could live on air alone. No steaks, no tofu, no coffee, no fried chicken--just an apéritif of air, followed by a hearty entrée of air with between-meal snacks of ... air!

Brooks was the living and breathing embodiment of "Breatharianism," as it came to be known, pushing his low-cost, low-cal diet from Venice Beach to San Francisco throughout the '60s and '70s. People came from near and far to attend his seminars and workshops so they, too, might learn the true meaning of "inhaling your food."

But Brooks' career just about suffocated when a Santa Cruz newspaper printed the explosive discovery that he'd been seen slinking out of a 7-Eleven with Slurpee in hand.

It appears you can't squeeze the life out of this guy, though. Following a tip that Brooks filed business papers for his institute, as well as Breatharian Books and Breatharian Energy Products, we thought we'd call up our old friend and chew the fat--er, molecules--to get caught up on his dietary notions.

"I've been out of contact for a long time," admits the missing airess. "But it's too hard to express such seemingly complicated ideas." Indeed. According to Brooks, most people labor under the misconception that food provides energy. It actually sucks out energy, it turns out. We only need fresh air and sunshine to thrive: "I discovered this years ago in the mountains," Brooks says.

That Slurpee incident was merely a misunderstanding of Breatharianism, notes our large-lunged friend. "The problem is when I left the mountain I started getting sick," he says. "The only way a Breatharian can live in a toxic environment is to eat."

Brooks has also added bio-magnetic energy to his repertoire, offering a magnetic belt for $129. "When you wear this belt, you won't have to eat," he says. Hmm, sounds better than Jenny Craig to us. Anyone who would like to learn how to put on the feedbag and chow down some H20 can reach the Breatharian Institute at 454-9702.

In a PIG's Eye
(March 11)

In a stunning victory for corporate homogenization, the beloved iconoclasts at KPIG radio station have been given marching orders by New Wave Broadcasting: Drop the kooky programming and start cranking out that classic rock. Sunday morning talk-show host Travus T. Hipp also got the ol' heave-ho, putting an end to one of the funniest and weirdest gabfests on the air.

According to insiders, DJ Ellie Mae arrived at work early Sunday morning to find a pie chart representing the new program format expected from DJs. A big slice was set aside for six "familiar rock hits" each hour.

Ever since it rose from the ashes of KFAT, the little radio station-that-could won its rabidly loyal listeners by letting its DJs practice creative, freeform programming. The weather, the mood, the politics of the day determined what record hit the turntable--not some bean counter in New Jersey.

Asked about the change, New Wave's local honcho, Will Douglas, said, "I think 'format change' is too strong a word to use. We're making an adjustment in evolution.

"We're trying to take advantage of the new competitive situation in the Monterey/Santa Cruz area because KUFX [a classic-rock station better known as K-Fox] is gone," the spinmeister added. Does this mean that KPIG will be filling the vacuum for desperate aficionados of cheesy classic rock?

"We don't want KPIG to be cheesy classic rock," huffs Douglas. "We just want them to play less country."

Besides, he points out, the pigsty is just ducky with the new direction.

Well, maybe not. Manager "Laura Ellen" Hopper, who has survived several regimes, says, "I'm not that happy with the change, but I'm trying to work out a solution."

With a future chock-full of Rick Springfield and Phil Collins looming on the horizon, the DJs are expressing their feelings--as usual--through music. Dallas Dobro kicked off his Sunday morning show with the Mothers of Invention's "Plastic People" and Randy Newman's "It's Money That Matters."

Zip Drive
(April 1)

Glacier-quick post office lines were said to be at fault when a Santa Cruz woman gave birth while trying to mail some packages. Heather Ryan, 34, hand delivered a healthy nine-pound infant in the package line at the main post office at 11:45am Wednesday morning, April 1. The baby was named Isaiah 95062, after his mother's maiden ZIP code. Ms. Ryan was neither married nor pregnant when she got in the P.O. line last June.

She met the father, Harvey Westerberg, in early July. They were married by a postal official last August. Mr. Westerberg was unable to talk with Nuz because he was almost at the head of the line and feared losing his place.

A U.S. Postal Service official explained the increased wait in Santa Cruz post offices is due to an accidental switch to caffeinated coffee in the employee break room. The caffeinated coffee disrupted routine by keeping the postal clerks awake during business hours.

Service will return to normal, said the official, after the installment of a new computerized letter-sorting system later this year. The computerized system is capable of making more than 12,000 errors per second, thus eliminating the need to make the errors manually.

What's the Poop?
(April 15)

Aaaahhhh, the bucolic majesty of the North Coast: crashing waves, rolling hillsides and--oh yeah--a stratospheric fecal coliform count in waterways that intersect the Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. goat ranch. According to Santa Cruz County water quality specialist Steven Peters, two seasonal streams known as the Lorenzi and Edwards riparian corridors were found after heavy rains to have levels of the fecal coliform at "around 20,000 colonies per 100 mls."

The acceptable level of the bacteria for safe body contact is no more than 200, notes Peters. Although the numbers dropped when Peters retested during a dry spell, the two waterways still registered the highest count of 10 samplings throughout the county. Because both streams are in close proximity to the 1,600 goats found on the ranch of SC Biotech owners John and Brenda Stephenson--the Edwards corridor cuts right through the goat pens--the source seems to be sportin' hooves and horns.

"It could be old farmland or old fertilizer," says Peters of why the count is so high, "but it looks like it points to the goat farm."

The Lorenzi eventually trickles into an irrigation pond on the west side of Highway 1, allowing one's imagination to ponder the real meaning of Brussels sprouts with "secret sauce."

Contacted by phone, John Stephenson said that he was not aware that there were waterways through his property, or of any high coliform counts. "I've not talked to the county," says Stephenson. "Usually the county makes us aware if there's a concern."

Peters says the Stephensons have not been contacted, but both the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and the county Planning Department have been notified and an investigation is pending.

Sitting Ducks
(May 20)

Nuz recently received an outraged letter from concerned San Lorenzo park patron Lynore Lamb, titled "Death at the Duck Pond," recounting a tale of a peaceful stroll through the park gone awry. Seems Lamb witnessed a sea gull viciously mauling one of the duck pond's beloved baby ducklings. The determined gull, though shooed away by horrified onlookers, swooped down once again and "flew back and forth with it" before devouring it as an afternoon snack.

Since then Lamb has watched in horror as, one by one, ducklings are picked off at the quaint family pond.

"These sea gulls around here are flesh hungry," writes Lamb. "Something should be done immediately, since more ducklings are going to suffer the same fate of being eaten alive."

"They all pretty much go the way of the gulls in these parts," says San Lorenzo Park maintenance worker Tom Bleecher, a tinge of resignation in his voice. "I usually carry stones with me to scare the gulls. But ducklings disappear every year at this time."

Six-year park veteran Bleecher laments, "People get into feeding the ducks bread, which attracts the gulls. I think those ducklings look a lot like big chunks of bread to hungry gulls. Every spring it just rips my heart out."

Bleecher dispenses more hard-won wisdom: "It's hard to see the food chain in action, especially because baby ducks are so cute I hate to see the 'flying rats' get 'em. But there's a lot of wildlife out here, and everything is kinda eating everything else."

Are the gulls of Santa Cruz that much more flesh hungry than in other areas? Maybe our feathered friends have taken inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Or perhaps they've developed a hankering for duck meat and are simply fulfilling a food quest.

"Not really. Gulls are opportunists," says field biologist Brian Latta of UCSC's Predatory Bird Research Center. "They're just doing what they do. They prey on whatever is available at the moment."

Still, not everybody is sold on the cold-hearted Darwinism of urban ecology. Lamb says adamantly, "If my two kids had seen the attack on that poor duckling, I would have already gotten a lawyer."

Overwhelming Confusion
(July 29)

In the wake of the passage of software developer Ron Unz's Proposition 227, the initiative's author suddenly finds himself in an overwhelming dispute with a crucial supporter.

This week Riverside Unified School District officials proposed that kindergartners and first-graders be taught 60 percent in English and 40 percent in Spanish. Calling it "simply illegal," Unz slammed their interpretation of his initiative, which states: "The language of instruction used by the teaching personnel is overwhelmingly the English language."

But he may want to confer on the definition of "overwhelming" with his advocate, Gov. Pete Wilson. Last week, Wilson praised the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to uphold Prop. 227, supported by 61 percent of voters, saying, "I am pleased that the court has upheld the will of an overwhelming majority of Californians who voted to end the state's failed bilingual education program."

According to sources in the district, some teachers in the Pajaro Valley schools have also suggested recently following the governor's definition and Riverside's lead.

Bazar Suit
(Aug. 5)

Assistant District Attorney Patty Bazar filed a sexual discrimination suit Tuesday against the County of Santa Cruz. Bazar's suit alleges that gender bias was behind the decision of the district attorney's office to remove her from the Sexual Assault Unit in October of 1997, and that this amounted to a demotion. Nuz obtained a draft copy of the lawsuit, which outlines a series of complaints, including attempts to "humiliate her, punish her and retaliate against her for informally and formally opposing the gender bias exhibited."

The lawsuit alleges that in one incident, at a Santa Cruz County Bar Association Annual Dinner, a skit prepared by other assistant DAs lampooned Bazar and her complaints and that her job evaluator, Jon Hopkins, was aware of it ahead of time.

Asked for a comment, Bazar says, "I'm sorry it came to this, but I believe in integrity, honesty and ethics and I wish most of my office did, too." She also adds that she recently got a tattoo with the filing date intertwined.

"In some sort of ritual way I wanted to memorialize this date," says the newly inked barrister.

District Attorney Art Danner did not return calls for comment by press time.

Hot Off the Press
(Aug. 5)

Not all is rosy at the Daily Planet. After only eight months on the job, Pajaro Valley bureau reporter Larry O'Hanlon has taken a hike, but not without a blistering goodbye to new city editor Richard Cole.

"Your leadership style is a failure," says O'Hanlon's email, copied to dang near everyone on Church Street. "Now you have begun to attack those among the reporters who openly question what they believe to be unreasonable demands and/or questionable editorial decisions."

Ouch! So we dropped a dime and got the scorned editor on the horn.

"That was his parting shot," says Cole, a longtime news hound who worked for the Associated Press the last couple of decades. "I didn't think I'd been here long enough to make enemies."

In addition, business reporter Steve Perez turned in his walking papers Monday. Sources in the newsroom say morale is low.

Asked if these were isolated incidents or reflected a deeper discontent among the rank and file, Cole responds, "Some people don't respond well to a manager that expects them to be responsive, especially after having worked in a chaotic environment for years."

The resignations come on the heels of a recent downsizing by the Sentinel's grandparent company, Dow Jones, which owns Ottoway News Service, which owns the Sentinel.

Flower Empowered
(Aug. 12)

From the looks of today's fashion mags, the modeling world has experienced a hostile takeover by strung-out waifs still cat-walking off last week's celery stick.

But not in kinder, gentler Soquel Village. Nestled among Soquel's 100 or so antique shops blooms Daisy Inner Beauty and Modeling Workshop, Santa Cruz's spiritually inclined answer to the world of high fashion.

The six-week workshops are presented by Self-Esteem for Teens and Desiree Philips, a former model, actress and dancer. Philips, an Aptos native, has been doing the workshops for over 10 years. But her brightly colored banner--an "inside out studio ... a place to discover yourself"--has drawn the attention of several Nuzites still hoping for supermodel stardom.

Philips' workshops, marketed for the sensitive '90s, offer teens a chance to "discover the world of fashion, make-up and modeling while learning the value of inner beauty, confidence, self-esteem and health."

"It's not a modeling school," Philips insists. "Our workshops are really about self-acceptance." She also explains that the inner beauty workshops teach important life skills like eye-contact and confident posturing.

The dainty window display features smiling, attractive teens from the spring '98 series and testimonies from satisfied, self-aware customers like Teresa. "Now I don't worry about how pale I am or how big my arms are," she writes, still aware of Barbie-inspired beauty standards. "I'm me and that's most important."

The enlightened teen continues, "The most helpful thing I've learned is that in this world, there are three shapes of people." (For those not in the modeling know, it's apples, pears and string beans.)

Teens who can borrow about $350 from the ol' piggy bank can build self-esteem and integrity through proper poise while learning the straight facts about the modeling world. The workshops are 95 percent girls--though Philips says when she taught in Milpitas the workshops were 50-50.

Hate Crimes
(Aug. 12)

Doncha just hate it when sap-happy liberals make your town a laughingstock? Well, we hate to point it out, but our favorite gang of do-gooders, Santa Cruz Action Network, has done it again.

Surveying their members to determine the "most important issues facing Santa Cruz," SCAN included "making Santa Cruz a hate-free city."

Nuz pondered how to do this. The easiest way would be to kill all the haters. Perhaps earnest SCAN-ers could move the negative feelers into "re-education camps," and force-feed a steady diet of Yanni, Kenny G. and Mr. Rogers until they got happy. Or killed themselves.

"It's really symbolic," says SCAN co-chair Bernice Belton.

Memo to self: get the symbolic issue, "make Santa Cruz a moron-free city," on next year's survey.

Stroke Job
(Aug. 26)

Great art takes time to create. Just ask DaVinci, Rembrandt--and Eric Hawkey.

Hawkey would be the artiste behind the unfinished mural on the south wall of Andy's Auto Supply on lower Pacific Avenue. Rumored to have been started about the time dessert was served up at the Last Supper, the penciled-in picture of antique cars sits month after month awaiting completion.

Two years ago, the Redevelopment Agency granted funds for downtown businesses to spruce up as part of its Facade Improvement Program. Car-parts store owner Mike Mekis explains that it took the city about a year to get on the ball, then along came El Niño. But now the sun is out, birds are singing. ...

"I've been too busy with my other businesses," Hawkey sniffs.

Skweeze me? Isn't the mural, like, a job, man?

Hawkey explains that he canceled other work for three months in order to do the mural, but Redevelopment caused the delay. Now, he says, he's too busy.

Since he agreed to do this mural for $3,800, doesn't the artist feel any of those old-fashioned ethical dilemmas, like responsibility? He says he'll finish it ... soon. But for the moment, Hawkey says, "All I'm worried about is survival and myself."

Besides, the Santa Cruz Michelangelo decided he seriously underbid the job.

"I'm a perfectionist," he muses. "The wall was originally cinder block, and I stuccoed it. I spent five weekends just photographing autos. If this was a private client, I would charge $15,000 to $20,000."

Balderdash, says Redevelopment Agency director Ceil Cirillo. "I've told Mike to give me a time when [Eric] is going to complete this or we will terminate this [contract]." That's bureaucracy-speak for "This ain't the Sistine Chapel, so get off your buns, artboy."

Be Prepared!
(Sept. 2)

It's this sort of wink-and-nod politics that makes people cynical.

On Aug. 22, three Santa Cruz City Council candidates and about 15 progressive leaders--including Santa Cruz Action Network co-chair Skip Spitzer--got together for a "candidate practice session" in preparation for a candidate endorsement forum on Aug. 26 sponsored by SCAN, the Service Employees International Union Local 415 and the Santa Cruz County Central Labor Council.

To the surprise of no one, those same three candidates--Christopher Krohn, Keith Sugar and Timothy Fitzmaurice--were later endorsed at the forum.

Sugar wouldn't reveal who organized the practice session, although Spitzer says he was invited by the Krohn campaign. No one has alleged that the fix was in before Aug. 26, but the appearance of Spitzer and others coaching the eventual winners--and none of the other five council candidates--just days before the endorsement gives the impression of favoritism.

"We were the three progressive candidates," Krohn explains, suggesting the three felt they had the inside track on the endorsement anyway. "If there's some insinuation that these guys gave answers, I would totally reject that."

The candidates insist that none of the questions asked at the practice session came up at the forum.

"We were getting together to practice, and none of the questions that were asked [at the practice session] were asked at [the forum]," Sugar says. "This has nothing to do with some kind of inside dealing between us and the groups."

In trying to explain his own decision to attend the practice session, Spitzer says he insisted at the time that he was not there "in any sort of official capacity." When asked whether he ever felt it might have at least given the impression of a conflict of interest, Spitzer replied:

"What crossed my mind was it was important for me to play a role that did not create any undo advantage based on my involvement with SCAN. Nobody tried to ask me anything inappropriate, so it was easy to do this the right way.

"Concerning the appearance of impropriety, the only way that would happen is for someone to make a completely baseless, politically motivated attack and that didn't cross my mind."

Horsefeathers
(Sept. 23)

The 28th District's Assemblymember, San Benito rancher Peter Frusetta, knows about stalls.

During the June primary, Frusetta, the self-proclaimed "Cowboy in the Capitol," refused to debate challenger Alan Styles, saying that the Salinas mayor's campaign literature insulted his beloved horse, Billy. But even after Styles apologized to Billy in south Santa Cruz and Monterey County newspapers, the assemblymember still says naaay to a one-on-one debate.

"We've never seen an apology. He kind of mocked the seriousness of this issue," says Frusetta campaign manager Jeannie Glass. According to Glass, this isn't about Bill, it's about Styles' "hit campaign," including the use of a news report that was corrected the next day. "The assemblyman is all for talking about the issues, and he plans on attending all the candidates forums. The bottom line here is we don't want to engage in that kind of mudslinging," she says.

Perhaps. Or could it be that Frusetta is a little spooked by the possibility of a serious challenger for his place at the trough for the first time since he was elected in 1994?

"Frankly, I think it's a stall tactic," Styles deadpans. He denies waging a hit campaign and says he meant no disrespect to Billy when he urged voters that "it's time to stop horsing around in Sacramento."

Piñata Politics
(Oct. 7)

It isn't every election year that a school board candidate begins his election statements with the words "Yadda, yadda, yadda; schools piñata." But Harold Shaw, who is running for the Aptos seat (Area 1) on the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, isn't your average smooth-talking politician.

Shaw, 51, lived in Watsonville for 41 years before moving to Aptos in 1994. He says he moved because of the crime.

"There are lots of illegals, welfare fraud, heroin all over the place ... and bars on almost every corner," Shaw says. "Watsonville is doomed. [There's a] foreign race coming across the border ... the Joses and Marias with their campesinos mentality."

A member of the Reform Party, Shaw sits on its National Committee on Immigration. Much of his platform is derived from his immigration politics, and what he perceives as a "Mexican invasion."

"Just as the Santa Cruz City Council is taken over by progressives, Watsonville is taken over by Catholics, Latinos, and people intermarried to Mexicans," he says. Shaw believes teachers have been quiet about this because their "union funds are invested in Mexican sweat shops."

Not surprisingly, Shaw opposes government services for undocumented workers.

"If you are an illegal alien, I'm sorry, but you are not qualified for schooling and medical care," Shaw says.

Both Shaw and his opponent, Evelyn Volpa, favor creating a separate Aptos Unified School District. Shaw is also on the record opposing Measure E, the district's $67.5 million school bond on the ballot.

"The illegals are flooding into the schools," Shaw insists. "You can't ask Americans to pay for them."

If Shaw wins, he will sit on the board of a school district made up of more than 70 percent Chicano and Latino students.

Wake Up, Maggi
(Oct. 14)

It's hard not to get swept up in the anguish following KNTV NewsChannel 11's heart-wrenching attempts to keep from being sold. The San Jose-based television station's on-air pitches and Web site plea to its viewers by news anchor Maggi Scura (www.newschannel11.com/save.shtml), paint a picture of a capricious and heartless Federal Communications Commission forcing the benevolent and kindly Granite Broadcasting Corporation to part with its favorite child.

We managed to wipe the tears away long enough to find out exactly what was going on and were shocked--shocked!--to discover a different picture.

Granite has owned KNTV since the early '90s. Then, last July, the company purchased the San Francisco-based KOFY-20. Because the two stations' markets overlap, the FCC granted the sale on one condition--that Granite sell one of those stations within nine months. Since Granite just plunked down $173 million for KOFY (now renamed KBWB-20), it doesn't take a brain surgeon--or news anchor--to figure out who's headed for the selling block.

Since the FCC made it clear that one station has to go before it approved Granite's purchase of KOFY, why the weeping and gnashing of teeth now?

"Granite doesn't think it's a logical thing to do," says KNTV's general manager, Jerry Giesler, of Granite's being asked to sell a station.

"The FCC gave us a nine-month waiver, because it's against current FCC policy for one company to own two stations in one market," explains Granite veep of finance Larry Wills from Granite's New York headquarters. But his company was hoping they could massage Congress to squeeze a permanent waiver out of the notoriously intractable FCC.

So, let's get this straight: KNTV and its employees were the stakes when ol' Granite rolled the dice, right?

"There was a risk," admits Mr. Wills, "but we went ahead with the purchase anyway."

So, back to Ms. Scura's online letter, which reads in part: "The FCC has issued an order which may force Granite Broadcasting to sell KNTV. ... this is a very serious situation because the South Bay region has only one television station in the business of providing the people of our county with the local information they need in their everyday lives."

When contacted, Scura admits that she did not write the letter.

"But I'm concerned that whatever I put my name on is the truth," says the anchor. "Credibility is my one stock in trade."

Next time, station execs might want to read the fine print before asking their viewers to become pawns in a corporate shell game.

Where's Your Sign?
(Oct. 28)

Jerry Kaufman is not a man who minces words.

"What are you rotten stinking bastards doing?" he screamed as he hurtled himself across Almar Street hobbling on his cane. "You're the lowest bums I ever laid eyes on."

From inside Aldos Restaurant last Saturday evening with his partner, Elaine Herman, Kaufman says he had spotted council members Michael Rotkin and Scott Kennedy tearing down campaign signs belonging to Timothy Fitzmaurice, Keith Sugar and Christopher Krohn--the Santa Cruz Action Network (SCAN) slate of City Council candidates--and replacing them with a sign for rival Linda Steinau.

Kaufman, who supports the SCAN slate, swung a verbal left hook at Rotkin. "You give socialism a bad name," he said to the leftist UCSC lecturer. He followed with a jab at Kennedy, who is a staff member at the Resource Center for Nonviolence. "You're about as nonviolent as Mussolini," Kaufman barked, "you disgusting fat galoots."

Then, for emphasis, Kaufman took his cane and whacked to pieces the just-installed Steinau sign.

Rotkin tried to calm Kaufman down, to no avail.

"Jerry was out of control," Rotkin says.

Kennedy and Rotkin say they were on the property with the permission of the owner, Louis Rittenhouse (who confirms this), and were acting on his instructions in removing signs--although a sign for candidate Pat Clark, who is supported by Kennedy but not Rittenhouse, was not removed.

Kaufman says he saw Kennedy throw a Fitzmaurice sign into the street, and produces a tire-marked sign to back up his story. Kennedy denies this. In fact, Rotkin says, they delivered the three removed signs to nearby Democratic Party headquarters on Swift Street. But longtime Democratic Party activist and high school teacher Ed Porter, who was in the office when Kennedy and Rotkin arrived, says he saw no signs delivered.

Both Steinau and candidate Jane Walton say the SCAN supporters are the ones playing dirty.

"I had to replace several today up on Broadway," she says. "That's part of the deal" of running for office, she says.

Walton says SCAN candidates routinely violate municipal posting restrictions and trespass on private property.

Welcome to this year's election week sign wars.

You Be the Judge
(Nov. 4)

Every time the rumor has popped up that District Attorney Arthur Danner III was sniffing around for a judgeship, he's been quick to dispel such talk. Last January he told Metro Santa Cruz: "At this point, being judge is not what I want to do. I want to be district attorney."

Asked in July about coveting the bench vacated by judge Robert Atack--Danner admits to having once applied for the job--the DA again pooh-poohed the rumors.

"I'm at a point where I'm doing the things I want to do," he said. "This judgeship rumor pops its head up every so often."

So we were shocked--shocked!--to learn that a number of local attorneys recently received forms from the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (known as the "Jenny" commission) asking them to evaluate an applicant for Atack's bench. The applicant? You guessed it--Art Danner.

Danner says that when the cheeses in Sacto came begging him to put his name in the hat, the DA told them--for the umpteenth time--how much he loved his present job.

"They pointed out that opportunities like this don't come along all the time," said the blushing barrister. "When it became that direct, I needed to really reconsider everything."

The JNE Commission has 90 days to send a recommendation to Gov. Pete Wilson. But the muscle behind the JNE Commission is the California Bar Association, which Wilson cut off at the knees in a fiscal fight earlier this year. With the guv a lame duck, he has plenty of reasons to do as he damn well pleases.

Does this mean that the JNE evaluation process is window dressing?

"[Wilson] probably isn't going to pay much attention to it," Danner admits.

Keeley Rising
(Nov. 11)

Sources in Sacramento have told Metro Santa Cruz that local Assemblyman Fred Keeley is being groomed to succeed current Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-45, L.A.) when the speaker is term-limited out of office after the 2000 election. Keeley is the favorite to be the next speaker pro tem, the No. 2 leadership post in the Assembly, replacing Sheila Kuehl (D-41, Encino). Kuehl, who is in her third term, would give up her leadership post to become chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Villaraigosa will not make an official announcement on leadership jobs until sometime next month.

Keeley is currently Democratic Caucus chair, the No. 4 leadership position in the majority. Keeley would leapfrog the No. 3 Democrat, Keven Shelley of San Francisco, because Shelley is rumored to be interested in running for Congress in 2000.

The same sources told Metro Santa Cruz that Keeley is also being considered for two other important positions: chair of the powerful Budget Committee, and a cabinet post as secretary of the Resources Agency, the state's top environment post. The prospect of becoming speaker in two years would make the speaker pro tem position this year the more attractive option--if Keeley is given a choice.

Keeley's ascension to the speaker's chair would depend on the Democrats' holding the majority in the Assembly in the next election. Keeley would be in his third term, which under California's term limit law would be his last. The era of term limits has made such meteoric rises not only possible but necessary, as lawmakers are forced to exit the political stage after only three terms.

Keeley had no comment on the possible appointments, except to note that Speaker Villaraigosa has been "extraordinarily kind" to him in the Assembly.

Od Man Out
(Dec. 9)

Last week's big news in the Odwalla juice coolers was Rootie-Fruitie, a new blend of fresh-squeezed carrot and mango juices.

On a quieter note, a going-away party was held for the company's founder and board chair, Greg A. Steltenpohl.

Steltenpohl stepped down in mid-November after almost 20 years as chief visionary and leader of Odwalla Inc. Odwalla, named after a musical piece by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, was founded in September 1980 by Steltenpohl, Gerry Percy and Bonnie Bassett. The longtime friends started the business to help fund musical presentations for local schools and cultural events.

From the company's incorporation in December 1985 until 1995, Steltenpohl served as chair of the board and chief executive officer. He remained chair until his resignation.

According to Jerilyn Pelikan, the "voice" of Odwalla, Steltenpohl is moving on to other things.

"We're sorry to lose him, he's a phenomenal person and an inspiration for us," Pelikan says. "He's one of the biggest reasons we've been able to grow while retaining our environmentally conscious focus. But he has new frontiers to forge." The reason for the departure smacked of sanitized corporate-speak: Steltenpohl, she says, wants to spend more time with his family and pursue other interests. Steltenpohl was unavailable for comment.

D. Stephen C. Williamson, who has served as Odwalla's CEO since 1996, has been named board chair. A director of Avenal Land & Oil Company, a private investment company, Williamson has served as Odwalla co-chief executive officer and chief financial officer. He was president of the company from 1992 through 1995.

Odwalla has been publicly owned since December 1993, with its stock traded on NASDAQ. Despite reports of profits plummeting after 1996's devastating outbreak of E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized apple juice, Pelikan reports that the company is now stronger than ever.

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From the January 7-13, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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