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Taking Bag the Streets

In the April issue of Downtown Connection, the newsletter of the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz police Lt. Patty Sapone shares her views on how merchants might deal with Pacific Avenue panhandlers. In her article, Sapone points out that is not against the law to stand next to panhandlers and ask passersby to not give them money. Picture it now: Neil Coonerty hangin' on the street next to Dave Drifter--maybe even sharing a smoke if Dave kicks down, but certainly not within 10 feet of any business entrance.

But the suggestion that really got us going was Sapone's idea of the yuppies reclaiming the downtown streets (those weren't her exact words, actually). These were: "We need to make our needs clear," Sapone writes. "One thing to consider is using the areas ourselves that the problem people downtown like to use. Why not try a brown-bag lunch at Pacific and Cathcart once in awhile?"

Great idea, Patty. We'll meet you there.

The Coming Prize

Some folks out there might have been disappointed over the last-minute cancellation of Laurie Garrett's scheduled speaking engagement at India Joze last Tuesday, but the UCSC grad and acclaimed author had a good excuse to cancel. She just landed herself a Pulitzer Prize, making her the first UCSC alum ever to win journalism's most prestigious award. She received the prize in the category of explanatory journalism for her Newsday series on the 1995 outbreak of Ebola virus in Zaire. Garrett graduated from UCSC's Merrill College in 1975 with a biology degree, spent eight years as an NPR science reporter, and has been a reporter for Newsday, a New York daily, since 1988. Her recent book, The Coming Plague, which chronicles the state of infectious diseases in the modern world, has received much acclaim.

The author will be back in town this week to discuss her book and, naturally, this latest honor. She will give a free talk at 7:30pm on Friday in UCSC's Classroom Unit 2 and has rescheduled her luncheon at India Joze for this coming Tuesday at noon (call 459-2530 for reservations before Friday at 3pm).

Toxic Avenger

Is rustic Soquel Village going to be the next Love Canal? First there was the environmental brouhaha surrounding the chemicals used by the new tenants in the old Steenstrup candy building. Now, chemist-cum-minister Benet Luchion, spokesperson for Committee for Universal Security, is blowing the whistle on yet another problem in the village. In letters to the SC CountyOffice of Environmental Health, cc'd to the Supes and others, Luchion takes yet another business to task. Seems he took a detailed gander at the boatyard next door to Steenstrup's and saw a site "clearly contaminated with a number of boat-building chemicals, automobile chemicals, paints ..." He includes an excruciating list of the chemicals, including DOT (chemical identification) numbers, manufacturers and amounts. Well, we get the drift.

Contacted by phone, Luchion admits that the Office of Environmental Health has already contacted the boat yard, but the good Reverend is not happy with the progress. "I don't think they've assessed the danger at that boatyard," Luchion says. "They know it was toxic, but they think it is not posing a threat. There's fire-hazardous rubble and hardened chemicals in 55-gallon drums in there."

"We went out and inspected," says Steve Schneider, hazardous materials program manager for Environmental Health. "We did find 55-gallon drums, but the chemicals were solidified. That is not hazardous." Adds the HazMat man, "We discussed with the owner what to do and he immediately did it. The materials that exist out there are not much more than you'd find in your garage or mine."

Rebels Gang Up

Nearly 100 representatives of rebel radio stations from around the state converged on a rented hall in downtown San Jose last weekend for the first-ever conference to discuss the direction of the illegal micropower, or "pirate," radio movement. "Does it look historical?" asked conference organizer, Santa Cruzan Tom Schreiner, looking around at the diverse group, which included people from Mexico, South America and Haiti. Schreiner has helped equip numerous stations from the Central Coast to Chiapas with low-power transmitters of less than 100 watts, for which the Federal Communications Commission has not provided licenses since 1978. For many, this inaccessibility to the airwaves prompted them to break the law by broadcasting illegally.

"I was angry, because I didn't hear 'my voice' on the air," said Walter Dunn, aka Black Rose, a former television producer from Fresno who started one of California's first pirate radio stations in 1984 and has been shut down on numerous occasions by the FCC. "As a black man in Fresno, I wasn't hearing music and commentary that was meaningful to me."

Dunn says he is happy to see a grass-roots movement to take back the airwaves from the corporate system. "It's easier now. They're here in numbers," he said. "We didn't have that kind of support."

Some of those gathered were concerned with inadequate representation of people in their own communities. Watsonville, one man pointed out, is 70 percent Latino, but has no Spanish-language media other than the illegal Radio Watsón (96.1FM).

Several attendees, including well-known Russia scholar and KPFA commentator Bill Mandel, and a former KZYX (Mendocino) newsperson, turned to the illegal micropower movement after being fired from legitimate stations for covering station politics and scandals on the air. One UCSC student said he became disillusioned with campus station KZSC (88.1 FM) after the station's program director pulled a public service announcement because, the student said, it announced a free radio rally.

A portion of Saturday's discussion was dedicated to a April 12 hearing in U.S. District Court in Oakland, in which the FCC will ask the court to permanently bar Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer from the airwaves and shut down his station. The hearing takes place Friday morning at the federal courthouse in Oakland, and free radio proponents have organized a 9am "free speech" rally prior to the hearing.

Locals wishing to carpool to the court building should show up at the parking lot of UCSC's Bay Tree Bookstore or at the corner of Pacific Ave. and Cathcart St. on Friday at 7:30am. Call 425-3226 for more info.

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From the April 11-17, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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