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What Price Paradise?

That's the question posed by The Boomtown Chronicles, an hour-long radio documentary from award-winning producer RACHEL ANNE GOODMAN about what the county's housing crisis is doing to our community.

Goodman describes the show, which will be broadcast Monday, Jan. 24, on KUSP-FM (88.9), as "a snapshot of how we're doing." She says Santa Cruz is not unique in its situation--just unique in how extreme the situation has become.

With the median price of a home hitting $639,000 and prices rising 26 percent last year, Goodman notes that a couple each need to earn $21.50 an hour to afford the average mortgage here.

All of which makes for great, "tell me abouddit!" listening, as Goodman pieces together the transition from $50 rents a few decades ago to million-dollar cottages today, and how this staggering leap has found some people living in chicken coops and worse just to survive.

Featuring interviews with fifth generation rancher DIANA COOLEY, author JAMES HOUSTON, historian J.S. HOLLIDAY, Salinas Mayor ANNA CABALLERO, U.S. Rep. SAM FARR, house hunter JUAN MENDOZA, PAUL JOHNSON of the CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL, JANE BARR of the MID-PENINSULA HOUSING CORP., and community advocate SABINO LOPEZ, not to mention Realtors and surfers, the show has already been picked up by stations in Chicago and Seattle, perhaps in an effort to learn from what we're going through.

Either way, The Boomtown Chronicles captures the heat on the street here, in ways Nüz could definitely identify with. Take the guy who says, "If you can find a house for under 400,000, it's going to be a shack," and James Houston, saying of the Keep Santa Cruz Weird bumper sticker, "There's something dangerous about that, but at the same time, it's kind of wonderful." Or Goodman asking, "How can you be a street artist with a $3,000 mortgage?"

So what to do when the average rent is $1,800? Goodman concludes that affordable housing, first-time home buyer programs, self-help housing, deed restrictions and intergovernmental cooperation help, but do not address what she calls "the elephant in the room," namely PROP. 13.

The Boomtown Chronicles airs Jan. 24 at 6pm on KUSP, and Feb. 10 at 10pm on KAZU-FM (90.3).

Nader Hotbed

RALPH NADER--the man Democrats blame for giving us the BUSH presidency in 2000, is at the Rio Theater 7pm, Jan. 24. "We never got here during the campaign, yet Santa Cruz was one of the most supportive towns in the country," explains Nader.

The activist-turned-candidate, who ran as an independent last year, hopes funds raised at his talk will help defray expenses incurred in his 2004 presidential bid, costs which Nader says include fighting "21 phony lawsuits filed by Democrats around the country to keep us off the ballots."

Noting that he won nine out of 12 of those battles, Nader says, "We're winding down our election campaign to ramp up the antiwar, anti-occupation movement."

In Ralph's opinion, the antiwar movement made a "serious mistake" by taking 2004 off to unite in an ANYONE BUT BUSH campaign.

"The 'least worst' mind-set is dominant, but that way you give up all your leverage," says Nader. He believes this show of unity left Sen. JOHN KERRY believing he could "move towards Bush" on Iraq.

Nader also blames the Democrats for the almost complete silence that followed the IRAQ SURVEY GROUP's acknowledgment last week that SADDAM HUSSEIN destroyed any WMDs and ended Iraq's nuclear program after the PERSIAN GULF WAR in 1991.

"Little fuss is being made because the Democrats were complicit, and voted heavily for the war," claims Nader. Nader sees the race for chair of the DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE chair as "a good test" of where the party is now.

"If the Democrats reject HOWARD DEAN, as they likely will, then it'll be business as usual," says Ralph.

While he's not saying which political umbrella he'll be running under next, he believes the GREEN PARTY's future lies in local candidates.

"The exclusionary power of the two parties is extraordinary at national level, but there were 2.5 million electoral seats at local level, many of which went uncontested."


Holding signs that claimed the SANTA CRUZ AIDS PROJECT is "Unfair to Workers," "Unaccountable to the Community" and "No Valera Latinos," a dozen people demonstrated outside SCAP's Cooper Street office last Friday.

Former SCAP employee LORALYN SOLOMON said she was picketing "because SCAP's board fired the whole education and prevention team without cause and without interviewing them," a move she found "insulting," she said, especially since the state has replicated in nine counties the SCAP drop-in model that a freshly fired TIMOTHY MARONI developed and put into practice here in Santa Cruz County.

Solomon also claimed that SCAP staffers were told the firings were due to budget restraints," adding that "supposedly executive director CHRISTOPHER SMITH is hiring two friends from the Arizona AIDS project, which is where he worked before."

Meanwhile, a beanie-wearing Maroni, holding a sign that said "SCAP RIP 19852004," claimed that "90 percent of the words coming out of the mouths of SCAP leaders are patently false, including the statistic that 63 percent of the budget has been cut. In reality, only one contract has been cut that much."

Gesturing at SCAP's office (which sits on the first floor above Metro Santa Cruz's Cooper Street office), Maroni said, "No one in there has proven anything, while we have our years of dedication and service to the community to stand by."

When Nüz ventured upstairs into said office to hear SCAP's side of the story, a receptionist told us that Smith was "out sick," while incoming board vice chair REBECCA HANSON said, "No comment."

All of which means, Nüz supposes, that we must attend SCAP's Jan. 20 board meeting, 6:30pm, First Floor, 113 Cooper St., to find out more of what's going on.

Hot Dates

Even as Condi Rice is being confirmed as the 66th secretary of state, despite all those nagging questions about WMDs and Iraq, don't forget to reclaim our democracy, Thursday, Jan. 20. That's when You the People will be sworn in as Collective U.S. President Pro-Tem at a 4:305:45pm rally at the county courthouse, 701 Ocean St., followed by a march to the Collateral Damage Sculpture/Town Clock Park to mourn the victims of war and call for an end to the Iraq Occupation. Participants are asked to "wear white and bring drums, noisemakers, flowers, a flashlight." Jan. 20 is also NOT ONE DAMN DIME DAY, a 24-hour boycott to oppose what's happening in Iraq.

And please remember "An Evening of Gospel Music," Friday, Jan. 21, 7pm, courtesy of the local NAACP in honor of MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., at Garfield Park Church, 111 Errett Circle on Santa Cruz's West Side, and the annual MLK Jr. Banquet and Dance, Saturday, Jan. 22, 6pm, at the Holy Cross Hall, 170 High St. Call 831.429.2266 for more details.

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From the January 19-26, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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