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Model Is Us

Wanted: youthful models. Over 15 months need not apply.

According to a press release, Cabrillo College has bragging rights to a new first: Santa Cruz County's only "infant/toddler model training program."

"It's for stars, it's for the most beautiful babies in Santa Cruz," jokes Cathy Summa-Ford, marketing director at Cabrillo.

Well, not exactly. Summa-Ford admits the headline on the press release was a bit ... misleading. So don't expect Cabrillo's youngest protégés to pop up on Friends, or to grace the pages of Vogue anytime soon. It's the program, she confesses, not the rug-rats, that is a model.

"Other child-care centers will use Cabrillo's program as a model for how our instructors and infants interact," Summa-Ford says.

Thanks to a $200,000 state grant, along with a $100,000 donation from the Lucile and David Packard Foundation, the college's early childhood development facilities will receive a complete remodel, including a new observation area for training staff in infant/toddler care giving, and a new classroom for infants age 6 months to 15 months.

The program focuses on interaction between child and caregiver, offering up to 50 free hours of training to area caregivers and day-care centers.

Child-care center director Lenore Kenny says the college's grant-recipient status reflects Cabrillo's high-quality child-care instructors and its child-care philosophy, which she describes as "respect for the individual child and respect for family home values and culture."

"We don't just enroll a child, we enroll a family," Kenny continues. "We have children who have been here since they were one year old. They are five now [and too old for the program], and I've had numerous parents in my office crying because they don't want to leave."

Temper tantrums, however, are frowned upon.

The Public Pulse

For anyone stuck in traffic while looking for an affordable place to live, the result of a new survey commissioned by the Santa Cruz City Council will come as no surprise. People's perceptions of the quality of life in the city has declined dramatically in the last two years.

The poll, by Gene Bregman & Associates of San Francisco, asked city residents to rank a wide variety of issues, including transportation, housing and city services, as well as the popularity of recent proposals such as a downtown plaza.

Forty-one percent of city residents said that over the last two or three years Santa Cruz has become a worse place to live, as opposed to 36 percent who said life has improved. The same question asked in 1998 revealed 25 percent who thought the quality of life in the city had declined, versus 47 percent who said it had improved.

While traffic congestion remained important in people's minds, the high cost of housing, not surveyed in 1998, this year came in in a statistical tie with traffic. Ninety-five percent said traffic congestion was a very or somewhat serious problem, while 92 percent said the cost of housing was very or somewhat serious. The margin of error is five percent.

The decline in the quality of life, Bregman says, "is a direct correlation to the housing and traffic problems. Those two have worsened significantly in people's perceptions in the last two years."

Two other hot-button city issues yielded opposite results.

There was a distinct lack of support for a downtown plaza, with only 42 percent favoring such a proposal while 51 percent opposed it. On the other hand, some form of rent control was favored by 63 percent, although practical support for rent control tends to be highly sensitive to the details of a proposed ordinance.

Seedy Engineering

Do you know where your veggies came from? In today's genetically-altered world, with insect gene codes popping up in potatoes and tomatoes swimming with flounder DNA, it's hard to be too careful.

Several innovative farmers want to change that. Some 50 seed companies across the U.S. are doing their darndest to keep seeds safe, pledging that they will "not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants."

Genetically engineered seeds haven't been tested enough, say Safe-Seed Initiative supporters. Further research and testing are must-dos before unleashing genetically altered foods on the American public.

"We wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately people and communities," reads the initiative, signed by companies from California to Vermont.

Several local growers and sellers say while it may be one small step for Santa Cruz, it's one giant leap for mankind.

"We already avoid genetically engineered foods, but I think this will have a definite effect on the mass market," says Gene Dickinson, general manager of Mission Street's Food Bin.

The safe-seed sellers have Aptos Natural Foods' stamp of approval, says owner Bryan Smith. The organic food store sells garden-variety seed packets from New Mexico-based Seeds of Change, one of the seed companies that has signed the initiative.

"We've beginning to see the tide turning against GMOs [genetically modified organisms]," Smith says. "It's an important start, and these companies are taking a step in the right direction."

Political Boomerang

In politics, the law of unintended consequences often rules. In the case of the proposed consolidated bus facility on the Westside known as Metrobase, forces pushing for the facility, mostly unions and public-transit advocates, may have given fresh impetus to an issue which they and their progressive allies generally oppose: neighborhood elections.

In a six-to-one vote last week, the Santa Cruz City Council paved the way for eventual project approval by allowing the relocation of a drainage ditch on the 20-acre parcel at 2200 Delaware Ave. As a result, at least one Westside resident has decided that the system is broken, and that district elections are the best way to fix it.

Four days after the council vote, landscape contractor Richard Anderson, a 31-year city resident, went to Neighborhoods 2000, organizers of the petition drive to place district elections on the November ballot, and picked up two petition forms. He gathered 40 signatures, filling both forms, in two days.

"The council is stacked against us," Anderson says. "We're blocked out of the process, nobody represents us. We're out of the loop when it comes to politics in Santa Cruz."

Neighborhoods 2000 organizers face an April 21 deadline to gather 5,025 signatures. Organizers say they are about two-thirds of the way to their goal.

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From the March 22-29, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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