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[whitespace] So What If You Brought Us the President: Sam Farr ponders being denied the Sierra Club endorsement.


Fit of Pique

But what have you done for me lately? That seems to be the question of the day at the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, which has declined to endorse Congressman Sam Farr despite a 100 percent rating in 1998, the latest year available, from the League of Conservation Voters.

Meanwhile, opponent Joe Grossman has been on the warpath, challenging Farr's claims of endorsement--although he doesn't come off looking any better for it.

Grossman found a Farr flier claiming the congressman "has been" endorsed by the Sierra Club--which is grammatically correct anyway, since Farr has, in the past, received the endorsement. Farr campaign coordinator Jennifer Wintrode claimed the flier was outdated--a wimpy excuse this close to the primary.

For his part, Sierra Club spokesperson Lance Monosoff says Farr didn't make the cut this year because he failed to turn in his questionnaire.

But Monosoff declined to explain why the organization didn't endorse Grossman instead, who did turn in a questionnaire, or why it endorsed Assemblyman Fred Keeley, who like Farr got a 100 percent rating in 1998 and also forgot to complete his questionnaire on time. Republican Sen. Bruce McPherson, who did turn in his questionnaire on time, got the group's endorsement, even though his most recent rating from the LCV was worse than Farr's at 67 percent.

So what's really going on here?

Confidential sources tell Nüz that this is nothing more than a good old-fashioned fit of pique, that Farr has apparently not kissed enough green ass lately.

Ventana Chapter member Janie Figan denies this, but she did admit to Nüz that she and other chapter members felt that Farr had not been keeping in touch. Her message to Sam?

"We miss you. Call home."

Unchartered Waters

Authors of the Neighborhood Elections initiative say their proposal will return city government to the neighborhoods, but some progressives smell a rat.

The initiative, sponsored by Santa Cruz Neighborhoods 2000, would divide the city into seven districts, eliminating the current at-large system. Proponents hope to pass it before November, when the terms of council members Mike Rotkin, Cynthia Mathews, Katherine Beiers and Michael Hernandez expire. Only Hernandez is eligible to run again.

"It's the conservative business element in the community using the notion of empowering neighborhoods as a way of marginalizing the university vote because conservatives can't win the election," says one informed source who requested anonymity.

Initiative co-author Rod Quartararo scoffed at such conspiracy theories.

"Hogwash," he says. "This is an attempt to re-enfranchise the neighborhoods--that's the honest-to-God truth."

But first the group has a few hurdles to clear, and they've got to move fast.

To see district voting in the November 2000 election, proponents first need to collect 5,025 signatures by April 21. Organizers originally hoped to have enough signatures by Valentine's Day, far enough before the deadline to convince the council that the popularity of the issue demanded a special election before the August filing deadline for city council candidates.

But signature gathering has slowed. Quartararo says that only about 2,000 voters have signed so far, and the target deadline has been pushed back to the end of February.

And there's another problem, says City Attorney John Barisone. Because it's a charter amendment, "the council is obligated to put it on the [November] ballot, but they are not obligated to put it on a special-election ballot." Even though the measure specifically calls for implementation in the November 2000 election, Barisone adds, it would instead take effect in 2002 if no special election is called and the measure passes this November.

With a special election costing the city $50,000 to $70,000, and given the current council makeup, insiders say it's unlikely the council would approve a special election.

"Most of the council members are not supporters of this initiative, I don't think it's some kind of critical need and I don't see wasting the taxpayers' money for a special election," Rotkin says, adding, "I don't think these districts would result in anything less than a progressive majority on the council."

She'll Have the Crow

If Nüz were to assign a political moniker to the 1990s, the Age of Hypocrisy wouldfit well. When it came to the pot calling the kettle black, you couldn't beat the likes of Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston trumping up a morals charge against Bill Clinton.

Add one more name to that group: Helen Chenowith, a rabid Clinton contra and right-wing "family values" Republican congresswoman from Washington state who in 1998 admitted to an affair during the 1980s with Vern Ravenscroft, a married former state legislator and GOP candidate for governor.

Now Nüz's favorite gang-that-can't-shoot-straight, the Santa Cruz County Republican Party, has invited Chenowith to speak at its annual Lincoln Day Dinner Feb. 11. Chenowith will talk about property rights, drug laws, the Ruby Ridge assault "and other atrocities."

Chenowith gained fame in 1995 for her "endangered salmon bakes," commenting to one reporter that the salmon's endangered status could not be taken seriously "when you can buy a can of salmon off the shelf at Albertson's."

She has also been quoted as saying: "Once you hug a logger, you never go back to trees."

Coast Guards

Gilberto Reyes isn't afraid to get his feet wet, or even a little sandy. The recently appointed bilingual program coordinator for the Sanctuary Steward Certification Program, Reyes is recruiting bilingual speakers to participate in the Sanctuary Steward Certification Course beginning Feb. 22.

The course, offered through Save Our Shores, is a 10-week program that teaches management and policy for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and includes natural and cultural history, tours and a chartered boat trip. The education programs culminate in beach cleanup days. For some kids, the cleanup is their first trip to the ocean, Reyes says.

Stewards travel to schools, churches and community centers, including the Familia Center and the Watsonville Community Center, hosting educational events for kids and adults in Spanish and English.

For more information, call Save Our Shores, 462.9122.

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From the February 9-16, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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