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Snow Blower: Utahn Andrea Perkins plots a frosty protest against corporate exploitation of the Olympics.

Nüz

Inflamed Snow Balls

As torch-bearing community heroes (each given the option of buying a torch for $335) carried the Olympic Flame through Santa Cruz, a cheering crowd waved them on with flags--many of which resembled unfurled condensation-frosted Coca Cola cans.

One spectator confessed he first thought the flags stated "I's A Slave"--a misread he put down to "subliminal messaging." Closer inspection revealed that the flag, which actually read "I Saw the Flame," was made in China and had the Coca-Cola logo artfully superimposed onto the Olympic Flame motif.

Meanwhile, Nüz's spies in Utah, the state "Where Ideas Connect," report that Utahns were rubbed the wrong way when Salt Lake Olympic Committee president Mitt Romney issued a press release suggesting they construct snowmen in their front yards during the Games. It would be cute, Romney suggested, to add small, plastic flags from various nations. Perhaps the snowmen could hold them.

Salt Lake resident and former Metro Santa Cruz reporter Andrea Perkins--ringleader of Utahns for Olympic Reform , a group dedicated to raising awareness of an Olympic Charter stipulation that says countries at war cannot host the Games--reacted to Romney's scheme by urging people to construct snow penises instead.

When asked how building penises in front yards will draw awareness to the Olympic Charter stipulation, Perkins said, "This particular project is more about corporate exploitation."

Perkins believes the best thing about the Olympics will be the protests. Groups have been applying for "demonstration permits" for months, and though the Mormon Church refuses to allow any "First Amendment activities" on church-owned property (80 percent of downtown Salt Lake City) over 100 permits have been granted.

A dozen groups plan to voice their views on animal and gay rights, polygamy, poverty and homelessness, as well as the corporatization of the games. Philadelphia-based Kensington Welfare Rights Union organizer Betty Macri says her group will orchestrate a march of 30,000 homeless people from all over the country.

"The march will take place during the opening ceremonies," says Macri. "An obscene amount of money is spent on the opening ceremonies alone."

As for the snow penises, "they'll definitely be up by opening ceremonies," says Perkins, who is renting her house out for $1,200 dollars a night (the landlord gets a percentage) during the games and going to Costa Rica instead. "If it ever snows," she adds.

Snail's Revenge?

They probably should have given Jim Kent his Ph.D. when he helped map out the first draft of the human genome ("They Dream of Genes," April 18, 2001). But thanks to a fire that gutted the fourth floor of UCSC's Sinsheimer Laboratories Jan. 11, Kent still doesn't have his doctorate.

"I had the slides all ready, really I did," said Kent, whose scheduled dissertation defense had to be postponed on account of the fire, but who otherwise suffered no losses.

Manuel Ares, chairman of the Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology Department, was less fortunate. The fire destroyed the labs he supervised, wiping out 14 years of gene research, before spreading to the lab of Jane Silverthorne, program director of the National Science Foundation's Plant Genome Research Program.

UCSC Fire Chief Charles Hernandez confirmed that the building, which cost $23 million to construct, had no sprinkler system, since it was built in 1987 before fire codes mandated such systems.

Initial damage is estimated "in the millions," but university spokesperson Jim Burns says people are "cautiously optimistic that not as much work has been destroyed as feared."

Meanwhile, rumors are flying that the fire may have been an act of anti-genetic engineering sabotage. The damaged building was named after former UCSC chancellor Robert Sinsheimer, who convened the visionary meeting that led to the human genome being mapped; and Silverthorne's lab conducted research that, anti-GE activists claim, mainly benefits ag-biotech giants.

But Burns says arson has already been ruled out, though the state fire marshall won't release his report for two weeks.

"Everything is pointing toward it being an accidental fire that started in the lab of Manuel Ares," Burns says.

Coincidentally, the North American Animal Liberation Front, which lists direct actions taken for animal liberation, earth liberation and against genetically modified organism research and genetic engineering, sent Nüz details of its 2001 annual report, citing 137 direct illegal actions--14 against GMO/GE. Targets hit include 10 fur stores, one circus animal trainer and five research labs, with damaged property including 150 windows/glass doors, one yacht--with four fires set. Animals rescued include 3,000 mink, 200 horses, 2 hermit crabs--and one snail, whose current whereabouts were unknown at the time of going to press.

Sanctuary Risks

During a recent negative tide, Nüz walked the shoreline from Cowell's Beach to Steamer Lane, an area usually the preserve of surfers, kayakers and the occasional sea lion. Peering into barnacle-encrusted rock pools, Nüz ogled brightly hued starfish, sea anemones and sea urchin, exquisite examples of fragile treasures at the ocean's edge.

So, it came as a shock to learn that the area between the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and Lighthouse Point (think Steamer Lane) isn't actually protected by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary at present.

Kaitlin Gaffney of the Ocean Conservancy says she learned of this omission several months ago after working on sanctuary issues for more than two years. After talking to various folk involved in city issues at the time, including John Laird, Gary Patton, Katherine Beiers and Dan Haifley, Gaffney concluded that the omission was "an unintended consequence."

All four harbors on the Central Coast (Pillar Point, Santa Cruz, Moss Landing and Monterey) were deliberately excluded from the sanctuary, Gaffney says, "because of the industrial nature of harbor operations and the lack of pristine resources to protect within harbors."

Boundaries were set using the Coast Guard's COLREG lines, pre-existing maritime boundaries that extend to Lighthouse Point. According to Gaffney the boundary issue was raised years ago, "with the desire of bringing the area into the Sanctuary," at which time councilmembers were told the best time to change the boundary and bring it into the sanctuary would be during its management plan review process. Which, Gaffney says, is happening now.

"It's ironic that half of the shoreline of the City of Santa Cruz, the entity that deserves enormous credit for the establishment of the Sanctuary in 1992, is not included at this time," she says.

What are the implications of being included in the sanctuary?

"The sanctuary bans jet skis and ocean discharges, the Sanctuary Trail will run along the Main Beach, and there's been some discussion of a sanctuary visitor center on the wharf," Gaffney noted. "It would certainly be more appropriate if the wharf were actually in the sanctuary."

Karin Strasser Kauffman, a former Monterey County supe who served seven years on the Sanctuary Advisory Council, thinks a Sanctuary Center in Santa Cruz is a good idea, since it helps to have local government involvement. But she thinks the city should do some serious soul-searching about the pros and cons of joining the Sanctuary, since the area in question is heavily used by the public.

"All stakeholders--surfers, divers, kayakers, fishermen, farmers, tourists and business people--should have input in the decision-making process," she says, warning that inclusion means another layer of bureaucracy, though extra federal regulation wasn't the intention when the sanctuary was established. "A broad coalition of governmental agencies and citizen's groups, including then-congressman Leon Panetta, fought to protect offshore fishing, water quality and marine life, but we were told the sanctuary, which is federally protected, would work with the Coast Guard, the Department of Fish and Game and local government to ensure input from private citizens and the public at large, and streamline permits. Instead, another layer of permitting was added."

Kauffman claims that SAC's founding principles have been increasingly eroded, with councilmembers being censored for communicating with Congress.

"Over time, the Council has been regulated to an internal consultation stop, rather than being encouraged to actively initiate work programs and address key interests as identified by the local communities," she says.

Asked if sanctuary inclusion could have undesired consequences, Kauffman says it's unpredictable what the feds will do.

"In the first year of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, they proposed initiating user fees, a proposal we fought very hard against and beat down. You never know what wild ideas will come out of Washington, which is why it's so important for locals to get involved. Fishermen, divers, surfers--these people have been good environmental stewards. Don't assume the public is the enemy."

The Santa Cruz City Council plans to discuss the matter Feb. 12. Call 420.5030.

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From the January 23-30, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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