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Sprouting Like Weeds: The FDA says you have to destroy the village greens in order to save them.


Seedy Rules

It's not easy being green. Environmentally green, that is. Chlorine-colored, on the other hand, is a whole different animal. Or should we say vegetable.

New FDA guidelines require sprout (from the seed, not the Brussels kind) growers to douse their crops in high concentrations of chlorine--approximately one cup chlorine to two cups water. The toxic-chemical bath is part of the FDA's new sprout safety program, detailed in two guidance documents designed "to enhance the safety of sprouts," according to a press release posted to the FDA website.

FDA officials blame the little veggies for more than 1,300 cases of food-borne illness, including salmonella and E. coli, in recent years. To kill the bacteria, the FDA requires all sprout producers and seed suppliers to soak the sprouts in chlorine. The new rules apply to organic growers, too, although organic sprouts have never been implicated in any outbreaks, says Watsonville-based New Natives owner Sandra Ward.

"We're not following the guidelines," Ward says. "It's very toxic [for the consumer]. And for the grower, we would be dumping all this chlorine into the environment--we would be generating 50 to 60, 50-gallon barrels a day."

The sprout laws require investigators to visit sprouting facilities to ensure the new safety measures are in place. For rebel organic growers like Ward, the act of mass vegetable disobedience could shut down the farm.

Aptos Natural Foods owner Bryan Wilson says poisoning organic sprouts is scarier than any bacterial cultivation.

"We've carried local sprouts for over 10 year without any problems or outbreaks," Wilson says. "We've heard a unanimous response, which is 'I want my sprouts naturally, I don't want any chemicals in them.'"

FDA officials did not return Nüz's phone calls.

Off the Hook

Ten months after it began, an investigation of former DA investigator Enrique Martinez into charges of domestic battery appears to be largely at an end, with no charges being filed.

Martinez, who is married, resigned on April 30 last year after it was revealed that an investigation was under way into allegations that he had repeatedly battered two women with whom he had been romantically involved. The case was later turned over to the state attorney general's office.

The end to the investigation came to light in the form of a letter from Deputy Attorney General Tom Blake to Judge Robert Atack. Atack is presiding over the trial of Alejandro Ramirez, who is accused of being the getaway driver in the August 1998 murder of Alejandro Lopez in Watsonville. Martinez developed the evidence used to arrest Ramirez two months before Martinez resigned.

According to a Sentinel story after his resignation, the investigation of Martinez turned up allegations of professional misconduct, including the theft of office supplies and drinking on the job. Defense attorneys subpoenaed the evidence gathered against Martinez in the battery case in the hopes of finding a pattern of behavior by Martinez that could cast doubt on his credibility and bolster Ramirez's claim of innocence.

Blake's letter, dated Jan. 24, says that "this office does not presently contemplate filing criminal charges against Enrique Martinez." It goes on to say that some information was being forwarded to the district attorney of Washoe County, Nev., for "prosecutorial review." Washoe County contains the city of Reno and part of the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Sources speculate that many of the allegations may have exceeded statute-of-limitations rules, but that Martinez may still be vulnerable to prosecution for actions that took place in Nevada with one of the women.

Blake would not expand on the two-sentence letter, saying only that "it speaks for itself."

Those Wacky Repubs

God help us, but we Nüzzites just love those wacky Republicans.

Headed by Dr. Stanley Monteith, the local party has endorsed such notions as the United Nations promoting a "Hitlerian Agenda," but the connection to Hitler apparently doesn't stop there.

A recent fundraising letter sent out under Monteith's signature compares Bill Clinton to Hitler and accuses the Democratic Party of trying to impose socialism on the U.S. Monteith even takes a stand against the direct election of U.S. senators, which until 1911 were appointed by state governors.

Naturally Nüz had to call the good doctor and offer him an opportunity to stick his foot in his mouth, which he did with relish.

He tells Nüz that the "National Socialist Party of Germany is similar to the National Socialist Party of America. We call them Democrats." So all Democrats are Nazis? Nüz asks. Oh no, replies Monteith, only most of the party leadership. The rest are merely brainwashed. As for democracy, Dr. No says no, claiming that the principles of republican government are at stake, and that "democracy leads to authoritarianism."

Dr. Montieth swears he supports the Constitution, he just has a wee problem with a couple of pesky amendments, in particular the 16th (the power to tax income) and the 17th (popular election of senators).

The current Republican Central Committee faces a challenge in the March 7 election from a slate of more-moderate members who oppose this drivel.

Lights, Cameras ...

Last May, Metro Santa Cruz reported on recurring gang intimidation and racism at Chestnut Street's Neary Lagoon Cooperative, following an April gang-related attack that the Sentinel and Neary Lagoon's board of directors had pooh-poohed as an isolated occurrence. In Metro's article, the complex's manager committed to installing security cameras and stepping up patrols. Nüz is happy to report that Neary Lagoon management has made good on its promise.

"We did install nine video cameras, and increase private security patrols and SCPD patrols," says Steve Farmer, the property supervisor for Mercy Services. "Both have almost eliminated loitering. We had a quiet summer, and we're not going to have any more incidents like the one in April."

Farmer says the cooperative is also implementing youth programs to give kids alternatives to gang involvement.

"We're working with the families and with organizations like Kids and Teens Exploring Nature to create more programs for teenagers--summer programs, field trips, teen groups, teen employment, after-school homework help and study halls for elementary kids. We're keeping our fingers crossed, but it seems to be working."

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From the February 2-9, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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