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Trail Mix: Mountain bikers and hikers square off over future trail use in Nisene Marks State Park.


Nisene Notes

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon for a hike. Instead, about 100 nature lovers filled the Soquel High School auditorium last Sunday to put in their two cents about the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park's General Plan.

All state parks are supposed to have General Plans, funds permitting, but until now the 10,000-acre Forest of Nisene Marks has gone without. An anonymous no-strings-attached donation last year enabled the State Department of Parks and Recreation to begin the lengthy process of formalizing guidelines for the park's uses and management. Sunday was the first of three workshops to solicit public input. A full environmental impact report and another public hearing will follow, all of which could take more than a year.

Sandy Lydon, historical consultant for the plan, provided a quick history of the park, which once belonged to Californio Martina Castro. When Castro's cattle started falling off the cliff into the sea, the then-Mexican government gave her another 30,000 acres, which form today's park--and more. Later, a lumber company purchased the land and embarked (with a little help from Southern Pacific Railroad) upon one of the county's largest logging operations. By the turn of the century, a person could take a train all the way from Chicago to the bustling little town of Loma Prieta. In the 1950s, the Marks family, motivated by tales of bubbling crude, bought the land. After finding no oil, they donated it to the state.

At the workshop, public comment centered on Lyme disease, fire danger, parking, motorcycles, reptile protection, wheelchair access and pesticide use. The most contentious issue was whether trails should be open to mountain bikers.

Mike Rominger, a Nisene Marks park ranger, pointed out that there are no rangers permanently assigned to Nisene Marks. "All these ideas are great," he said, "but they can't occur without more staff."

Send written comments to Royston Hanamoto Abbey and Aley, 323 Geary St. #602, San Francisco, CA 94102 or [email protected] before April 11.

Duck and Cover

Nüz was relieved to learn that state Sen. Bruce McPherson has withdrawn SB34, which was looking suspiciously like an attempt to pull one of Prop. 34's few teeth. Readers will, of course, remember Prop. 34, which, critics say, was hurried onto last November's ballot to avoid far-tougher campaign measures. Well, SB34 would have eliminated the Prop. 34 provision that bans fundraising by "lame duck" legislators--i.e., those who are ineligible to seek another term. When McPherson, who falls into this quack-quack category, quietly introduced SB34 this winter, critics cried foul.

Jim Knox, director of California Common Cause, questioned why anyone who was retiring from office would need to raise money from interest groups that have business before the Legislature. Democratic political consultant Richie Ross suggested that McPherson might be looking ahead to a race against Ross' client Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente.

McPherson's reaction? Hurt and outraged disappointment. "To get set up like this is an under-the-table kind of thing and is pretty outrageous and disappointing to me," he told the Sentinel, which recently characterized him as a "Republican with clout."

McPherson's rationale for SB34? "There are office expenses of some types that can't be covered in state budgets."

Nüz feels your pain, Bruce. Our own insatiable appetite for pencils has drawn repeated warnings from management But will you wean yourself from politics come 2004,with the Republicans desperate for every warm, fuzzy candidate they can muster in far-right-hating California? Tell us and we'll lend you a pencil ...

Eminent Domain

Medea Benjamin, former senatorial candidate and co-founder of Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based corporate accountability group, had a two-word solution for the energy crisis: "eminent domain."

Benjamin, who spoke Thursday at Louden Nelson's energy emergency teach-in, denounced Gov. Davis' current bailout strategy as "criminal."

"Public welfare surplus funds that would have gone to pay teachers' salaries, reduce class size and improve transportation services and hospitals are being used to bail out the utilities," said Benjamin.

In light of a recent Global Exchange report that shows that 97 percent of legislators receive campaign contributions from utility companies, Benjamin suggests three easy steps for legislators to prove their independence from the utilities: "Return any contributions received from the utilities ... denounce Gov. Davis' obscene bailout plan ... and call for the immediate takeover of our energy system."

Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Santa Cruz, has agreed not to take contributions in 2001 or until the energy crisis is resolved. But unlike 10 other legislators, he did not return his 2000 contributions, claiming he'd already spent them.

"Medea's request made all the sense in the world," Keeley said. When asked about Benjamin's magical-sounding eminent domain argument, Keeley pointed to Sen. John Burton's bill [SBX1 6] to establish a California Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority.

"A California Energy Authority could build new power plants and become a funder and lender for renewable energy systems," said Keeley, stressing the importance of Californians having a stake in the energy sector, because then they will be able to exercise market power.

"But even under the commandeering scenario of which Medea speaks, the state would have to pay the current owners. For instance, at Moss Landing, the state would have to pay Duke Energy for its power plant and energy contracts," Keeley said.

But Benjamin's point is that eminent domain would allow California to buy the grid at a fair price.

"Under eminent domain, we'd pay $3.2 billion for the grid rather than $10 billion. Davis has the power to seize whatever he deems necessary, but to get elected in this state and then possibly run for president, you need corporate backing, which is the real reason eminent domain is not in the realm of possibility. That's too bad, because it leaves us negotiating from such a position of weakness, when we are dealing with supposedly bankrupt companies," said Benjamin, who hopes Santa Cruz joins the 47 municipalities with their own MUDs. "Santa Cruz should be a model for the state. You have lots of sun, lots of progressives on the council and a mayor with a lot of know-how," she said.

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From the March 14-21, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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