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Stand by Me

The sad tale of California's disappearing old-growth redwoods has been told numerous times. But few have chronicled the dirty deeds that took out those ancient giants as clearly asauthor David Harris has in his latest book, The Last Stand. Reached by phone at his home in Mill Valley, Harris explains that his book is a cautionary tale of what happens when "big money comes to a small town surrounded by big trees."

Harris focused his attention on 3,000 acres of old growth redwoods called the Headwaters Forest near Humboldt, outside the small company town of Scotia. That the stand of redwoods had not yet fallen victim to clearcutting was due in large part to being owned by Pacific Lumber Company, one of the few logging companies that practiced selective cutting and sustained growth. That, in fact, was the company's downfall. Virtually free of debt and holding a huge stand of increasingly valuable forest, Pacific Lumber became a juicy takeover target for such environmentally committed characters as junk bond king Michael Milken and his little gang at Drexel Burnham Lambert. Needless to say, the chain saws were revving up before the ink on the contract was dry.

"Hopefully, this book will draw people into the question and let them understand what a serious issue this is," says Harris, who will be reading from The Last Stand Thursday (7:30pm) at Capitola Book Cafe. "I would hope that society begins to make an explicit decision about these trees rather than let it happen by default."

There is little to feel optimistic about, though, admits Harris. Old-growth redwoods used to cover about two million acres from

Big Sur to the Oregon border. Less than 100,000 acres are left now. With the Republican-controlled Congress itching to rip the entrails out of every important environmental decision that has eked through in the last decade or so, the light grows ever dimmer.

If there is a moral to the tale, says Harris, it is to "never assume that local homegrown institutions are destined to stay exactly as they are. Just because the company has been around a long time and entrenched in the local culture, it means nothing." But could it happen here? A small town like Santa Cruz, in the heart of the redwoods and home to beloved and entrenched institution Big Creek Lumber?

Nah, not in a million years.

I Do Recall

They're baaaaack! And just when you thought you'd never again be asked to sign a petition to recall District Attorney Art Danner. Like the Republican-controlled Congress, Bob Lamonica and a handful of other local activists are doing their utmost to eliminate Art from the public agenda. After failing to gather the required number of signatures to put the DA's political future on the primary ballot, the Coalition to Recall Danner, which Lamonica founded, kicks off a new petition drive this week to get on the ballot for the November general election. The small group will need 14,100 valid signatures by July 12, which will require it to gather 17,000 to 18,000 signatures overall, Lamonica says.

Lamonica, who has had some rather public personal gripes with the DA in the past, insists that he and the others are more concerned with larger abuse-of-power issues. Lamonica says he and his compatriots believe Danner abused his power when he signed falsified time cards of a former employee who had been put on administrative leave. Lamonica also cites a past car accident in which Danner was found to be at fault, but only the woman whose car he hit was tested for blood alcohol content.

"We're in the midst of the season to make this become a political issue," says Lamonica. "Once the petitions are out, we'll be able to publicly challenge the candidates about their participation in the public abuse of power."

Puppy Dog's Tails

So, there was the gang (from the City Hall Sleeper's Protest), kickin' it at City Hall in protest of the City Council's ban on sleeping in public, when, all of a sudden, city Councilmember Katherine Beiers walks by on her way to lunch. Beiers neither ignores nor avoids the motley crew that has been the thorn in the city's side, but takes a moment or two to check in with sign holder Chris Brozda.

Hmm, wonders N¯uz, just how do those council folks rate in old-fashioned niceness from a street perspective? From those who don't have much to contribute, campaign-wise, that is. According to Dan Hopkins, another sleep-in protester, it's a gender thing. "She's been a very nice person," says Hopkins of Beiers. Celia Scott gets high marks from Brozda and Hopkins, too, as does Jane Yokoyama. But oh, those boys. The homeless advocates term Scott Kennedy as "very combative." And Hopkins, who's logged a few council meetings, can't help but notice that same old pattern--the girls ask questions and listen, while the boys talk louder and cut them off. Says Hopkins, "We'd rather have all women on the City Council."

Didn't Know It

The wind blows
a napkin
riddled with rot
Across the Capitola Mall
parking lot
as a lonely thief
pilfers yesterday's dough,
meant for bagels,
to the joyous relief
of a hungry rhino

Ahh. Such beauty, but alas and alack, N¯uz isn't eligible to enter the Countywide High School Poetry Competition. Oh, how we begged California Poets in the Schools, which is hosting the third annual contest with help from the Santa Cruz Arts Commission, but guilelessly as the feline quashes the hopes and dreams of the lowly rat, CPS hath upon N¯uz doled the bitter herbs of rejection.

However, if you know any talented high schoolers, tell them about this. It's open to kids attending high schools, group schools and Juvenile Hall. Although the poems are judged by published local poets without knowledge of who wrote them or what school the poet attends, CPS teacher Kim Nelson says 14 of the 35 winning poems last year were by students from court and group home schools. "They do some great work," she says. "They have such intense lives. They have an advantage if they get it on paper."

The top 35 poems will be published in an anthology that will be sold in local book stores and the Youth Opportunities ice cream store. They will also be read publicly at the Santa Cruz Art League in May and selected poets will be asked to read on Patrice Vecchione's poetry show on KUSP radio. The top three poets also get $50, $30 and $20.

Submit up to five poems no longer than two pages each to Poetry Competition, 3614 Porter Gulch Road, Aptos, 95003. The deadline is March 30.

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From the March 7-13, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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