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[whitespace] Taco Bell Sign Fast Food Spread: Taco Bell is focus of 'Fast Food Justice Day in Watsonville.'


Border Run

Bizarre holidays--"Eight-Track Tape Day" (April 11), "International Jugglers Day" (April 18)--are popping up faster than the Easter Bunny, so Nüz was refreshed to see something, er, meatier, appear on our event horizon--"Fast Food Justice Day in Watsonville" (April 14)--declared by longtime Watsonville resident Mike Kostyal. Appalled at the number of fast-food outlets springing up in his town, Kostyal will celebrate with "an informal protest examining the economics, ecology and ethics of the fast-food industry."

Kostyal isn't the only one battling the outbreak of fast-food establishments. Last August, the Watsonville City Council voted unanimously to adopt new restrictions on drive-through joints. While not explicitly targeting fast-food businesses, several councilmembers expressed concern over their proliferation. "I see Freedom as fast-food boulevard," then Mayor Oscar Rios told the Register-Pajaronian.

Kostyal's concern goes beyond aesthetics. "In a typical good lunch hour," he says, "the community can purchase $1,000 worth of food from one restaurant, but the payroll for that hour is 50 bucks."

Laurie Gannon, a spokesperson for Taco Bell, assures Nüz that Taco Bell "complies with all state wage laws." Starting wages at the Watsonville Taco Bell range from $6.50 to $6.75 an hour, depending on experience, says Gannon. Hourly wages at Santa Cruz Taco Bells average 8 cents higher. "That could be because of the level of worker experience or stiffer competition for workers in that area," Gannon explains.

Kostyal has leafleted in front of Taco Bell on Freedom Boulevard during lunch hour for the past six weeks, but he admits Taco Bell isn't the only problem. "I started there, because in Watsonville there are all these great family-owned taquerias people could go to. I can't understand why anybody would go to Taco Bell. ... I guess they're just seduced by advertisements."

The march begins 11:30am at Taco Bell on Green Valley Road and Freedom Boulevard.

Gadfly Quash

Lawyers for the Koffee Klatch 3, who staged an anti-sleeping ordinance sit-in at the mayor's office last December, have subpoenaed Santa Cruz Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice--and he's not happy about it. On April 12 a judge will hear his motion to quash a subpoena--the latest move in a case that began when administrative assistant Anna Brooks filed a temporary restraining order against the Klatchers for harassment.

The Klatchers claim Fitzmaurice orchestrated Brook's restraining order, but Fitzmaurice's motion claims their subpoena amounts to "nothing more than a sham calculated to cause him personal inconvenience and discomfort all of which is to his detriment." The motion also suggests the Klatchers are "inappropriately seeking to use the court as a platform from which they can express their political ideology." (Klatch ringleader Robert Norse habitually dons a bathrobe decorated with stuffed animals in court.)

Norse's shenanigans win him as many enemies as friends. Says David Silva of the Santa Cruz Green Party, "Robert cannot be part of any kind of negotiations because he'll just sabotage them." Instead of rallying the Greens to confront the mayor's alleged anti-Green actions, Norse got himself bashed at the last Green Party meeting. "He had been taking up whole meetings," Silva says. "Our meetings always ended up being all about him." The Green Party meets on April 14 (with outside observers who will report back to the Green assembly) to decide what to do about Norse. "I don't think he's going to be happy with the decision," Silva predicts.

So what is the mayor's plan for the sleeping ban? Fitzmaurice says the city is working on creating year-round shelters and a new transitional housing program, but adds, "There is no intention of putting [the sleeping ordinance] on the agenda until somebody has a program that makes sense and that the community will support."

Paper Chase

Readers of the San Jose Mercury News learned Monday morning that the paper was undergoing a redesign. Another one. (The previous one happened in September.) This time, though, the redesign is largely a cost-cutting move that involves reducing the dimensions of the paper slightly and lumping "focused local coverage" for seven unimportant counties (Santa Cruz, Monterey, Merced, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, San Benito and Sacramento) into a Northern California news section. The new section will take the place of the Coast section. Readers who still keep up with the rapid pace of change at the San Jose daily will remember that last year's redesign knocked out the popular 14-year column by legendary curmudgeon Lee Quarnstrom.

In addition to allowing Santa Cruz readers to keep close tabs on important events in Walnut Creek and the Central Valley, there will be other improvements, according to new president and publisher Joe Natoli. Why, the Merc will now be "easier to read and handle."

Will any Santa Cruz scribes get the boot? A Merc rep said that there would be no staffing changes in the Santa Cruz office. Merc management previously promised no newsroom layoffs. That means they are less likely to get letters like the one that Mark Schlueb, a former staff writer at Knight Ridder's Akron Beacon Journal, sent to CEO Tony Ridder, whom he addressed as Tony "The Axe-Man" Ridder. In a one-page missive, Schlueb calls the media titan a "brainless moron," "dipshit" and many other expletives that wouldn't be fit to print in any Knight Ridder paper.

"[Y]ou're cutting these fine people off at the knees, you asshole," Schlueb writes, using that famous Midwest charm. "How do you expect the dedicated and loyal reporters at the Beacon Journal to keep putting out a quality paper when you're eliminating nearly a quarter of the reporting staff? You faceless corporate hacks take a break from your golf game long enough to scream that circulation must stay up, but then you order arbitrary budget cuts that force the elimination of entire sections from the Sunday paper. ... What kind of witless dolts are you?"

Smash Date

Columbus-smasher James Cosner (Nüz 3/28) plans to talk at a community forum--unless he's in prison himself. Cosner fled court April 2, after hearing that San Jose DA Robert Baker wanted to raise his bail to $70,000. The DA got his $50,000 increase--and a warrant for Cosner's arrest. Says Cosner's lawyer, Larry Hildes, "Given the games the DA's office has played with bail, a video of an alleged confession they won't produce and hate-crime accusations, Cosner is afraid if he turns himself in, he won't get out again to prepare his defense." Says Cosner, "They don't pay you to be a freedom fighter." Cosner appears April 12, 7pm, Vets Hall, 846 Front St., Santa Cruz.

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From the April 11-18, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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