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Return of Wonder Wormhoudt

Spring wasn't the only thing bursting out in Santa Cruz last week. The race for THIRD DISTRICT COUNTY SUPE seemed to be in launch mode, judging from the MARDI WORMHOUDT slime campaign the SENILE tried to orchestrate last week, beginning with its March 29 headline, "Coast Hotel backers pin defeat on Wormhoudt." Or maybe it was just a classic case of sour hotel grapes.

Either way, in classic Senile style, the attack backfired. Big time.

"By trying to discredit me, by trying to say, 'You have too much influence," they make me look like Wonder Woman," said a newly-returned-from-New-York-and-still-jetlagged, yet-still-pulling-on-her-Wonder-Woman-tights-and-tiara Wormhoudt.

Asked about Senile allegations of backroom dealing, Wormhoudt said, "I'd hardly call it backroom dealing. I don't have a vote on the council, but I do have opinions. Some of the councilmembers are friends. MIKE ROTKIN and I have been friends for years. So, of course, we talk and, of course, I have opinions. And evidently my opinions weren't strong enough to influence Mike against the project."

In her opinion, the Senile's follow-up headline--"Wormhoudt denies accusations"-- didn't match its own story content.

"And the story was completely disrespectful to the 8,400 people who signed the petitions and the petition gatherers themselves," Wormhoudt observed. "It completely devalued the role of the community in the political process. The vote for the hotel was 43, but whether it was 70, people didn't like the project and they said no in a massive way."

Relishing the irony that attempts to make her look bad actually underscored how powerful/ effective she is, Wormhoudt recalled how one reporter came to her house and asked, "Do you have undue influence?"

"What is too much influence?" Wormhoudt asked. "If I say I have all the power, I look like a vainglorious idiot. If I say I have none, I look like a fool. And why wouldn't I want to try and influence people? Isn't that what politics is about?" she said, noting that she wrote an op-ed in the Senile back in January stating her concerns.

Asked why she thought her "not-for-attribution" email had surfaced now, Wormhoudt summed it up in two words: "Sore losers."

"The project is over. Anyone with a real sense of responsibility to the community would be saying, 'How can we bring it together?' No one disagrees that there's been a bitter divisive fight in the community. The very people who are complaining about my so-called secret influence are the ones who set this up with the hotel owners, then said no when people asked for more time and compromises. When the city is putting $30 million into a project, my God, the city is in a position to do a lot of bargaining. The one meeting I went to that was given by the developers, they seemed to be reasonable people--and they were the ones asked to do this project, so it's disingenuous for councilmembers to say they didn't have any negotiating power."

Zoned Out

At first, Nuz thought a recent article about the PACIFIC COAST COOPERATIVE, a medical marijuana co-op that opened on Pacific Avenue, was a bad April Fool's joke, as it cited "the backing of local government"--a claim which anyone who's tracked the medical marijuana issue in Santa Cruz knows is, from a legal perspective, patently false. Dispensing medical marijuana is not a permitted use in the downtown zone, which is why the CITY PLANNING DEPARTMENT issued a stop notice to the fledgling co-op as soon as they learned of its existence, with planning department officials saying PCC misrepresented itself on its zoning clearance form as a professional office, not a medical marijuana dispensary.

PCC founder MATT HILLIARD said the 2002 medical marijuana giveaway at City Hall gave him the feeling that "Santa Cruz was an area that was accepting of this ... I just thought that because of the fact we were helping patients in area, this would not be frowned upon in such a bad way."

While industry insiders worry that the cavalier co-op will give the whole movement a bad name, PCC staffers remain optimistic, despite being closed down on April 1 by the City. "We're not trying to pick a fight with the council because of a very minor zoning infraction," said another PCC representative. "They should reconsider their zoning and allow this to go forward and help the patients of Santa Cruz."

Who's Your Unembedded Baghdaddy?

Skeptical of the news coming from embedded reporters in Iraq, American journalist DAHR JAMAIL, who will speak at 7pm, April 9, at the Vets Hall, traveled to Baghdad to report on the continuing occupation there. Happily unembedded, Jamail has constructed the majority of his articles (published by the Nation, the Sunday Herald, Islam Online, Inter Press Service and the New Standard), radio reports (for the BBC, Democracy Now and Flashpoints) and blog entries about the conflict through interacting with the people most directly affected by the occupation: Baghdadis. Jamail needs to hide both his nationality and his occupation from the majority of people that he sees each day. "I definitely hide the fact that I am an American. I grow a beard. I do my best to fit in and don't speak English in public. I go around in my translator's beat up car, we leave the hotel at different times each day, we take different routes on the road and make sure that we aren't being followed." Show up with $5$10 at the Vets Hall, or visit www.dahrjamailiraq.com.

SCFF Kickoff

Most people Nüz knows openly pine for a walk along the beach with MAYOR MIKE ROTKIN--his political opponents might especially enjoy a stroll with him along Cowell's beach, the perfect place to pick on him about the Coast Hotel. The SANTA CRUZ FILM FESTIVAL is making that dream a reality, offering said privilege to the highest bidder at its kickoff event at the Attic on April 8 at 7pm. Other auction items include lunch with motorcycle bad boy and film legend progeny CHRISTOPHER COPPOLA, a makeover by JET, a portrait by photographer DINA SCOPPETTONE, a screenwriting sesh with CHERI LOVEDOG and a speakeasy screening with producer CHRISTINE MURRAY--all of which are handy boosts for anyone trying to get a leg up in the film industry. Plus, sneak previews of Film Fest films, and music and entertainment by the Brazilian drum troupe SUCO and DJ OUSMANE will add to the hullabaloo.

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From the April 6-13, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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