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Cock Sure

So you think we're too humble to blow our own horn? Ha! For the second straight year in its two-year existence, Metro Santa Cruz received honors from the Peninsula Press Club for journalistic excellence. Competing against daily and weekly newspapers in the 11-county greater Bay Area region stretching from Marin and Sonoma through Monterey, our little rag took second place for Best 1995 Feature Story of a Serious Nature, Weekly or Daily.

The winning piece was "Blood Sport," by staff writer Michael Mechanic, a story about the culture of cockfighting in Santa Cruz County and statewide, and the investigators who pursue breeders of fighting birds. The first-place award went to Meg McConahey of the daily Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. The only other weeklies to take prizes in the competitive "weekly or daily" categories were the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Marin's Pacific Sun.

Log Rolling

Reporters at the bimonthly Cabrillo College Voice were under the impression that Cabrillo College Police officials were being less than forthcoming about making public information public--as will be the wont of their law-enforcement ilk. Any reporter who has covered the cops anywhere is familiar with the frustration of trying to obtain "public" information from the police. Some police bureaucrats employ an arsenal of delays and roadblocks that can stump an enterprising journalist and ultimately make a once-hot news story as dead as last year's classifieds.

In an April 16 open letter to Cabrillo Police Chief John Barker, Voice Editor-in-Chief Peter Finegan called on the campus cops to maintain an open police log. "Voice staff members have frequently been ignored, dismissed or even stood up by campus police officials when trying to obtain news--even after appointments have been made with your office," Finegan wrote. "We believe that writers and editors should be privy to all police activities, not hand-selected briefs which are currently chosen by you from Cabrillo police files."

Chief Barker says he took immediate action on the letter, creating a new press log on April 17. Under the old system, he explains, there was a single log that included such things as names of sex-crime victims, which, by law, cannot be released. Police officials would pick through the log and tell reporters what they could, Barker says. The new log, which members of the public and press are free to peruse, contains everything that can legally be released, Barker says.

Regarding Finegan's letter, Barker says he had not heard any previous complaints, and notes that if he's ever stood up a reporter, it's because he had to go do what police do. "We have five sworn people here," he says. "If something happens, I have to go out on backup."

This Get Your Goat?

Readers may have seen recent local headlines about Santa Cruz Biotechnology owners John and Brenda Stephenson grazing a few hundred goats on their North Coast property. Neighbors are butting heads with the Stephensons because the couple's caprine friends are being used as furry test tubes, living factories for antibodies used in medical research.

Visions of "mad-goat" disease or nuclear nannies may have prompted neighbors David Landino and David Mills into action, but that action was oh-so-'90s--they hired Dynacomm Public Relations to get the word out. Says Dynacomm owner Donna Maurillo, "The neighbor who did hire me realized that he was getting noplace behind the scenes." Spinmeistress Maurillo, who normally handles clients like the Downtown Association, Conference and Visitors Council and Community Housing Corporation, admits that, "I've been in PR almost 20 years and this is a very unusual project. Part of this is the result of the Electronic Age--people are more prone to open the windows and put it in the public eye."

Hey, Manage This

One sometimes thinks the N¯uz column would dry up and blow away were it not for überlandlords Charlotte and Warren Gooden. First, there was the exposé on the code violations, rampant crime and illegal (and overpriced) rentals that the Goodens' tenants were forced to live with at the Ocean Street apartment complex. Next, the property owners had to cough up about $10,000 in fines and repairs after neighbors took them to court.

Well, it seems the Goodens offered some new tenants, Garr and Alma Tavai-Fiatoa, a crack at being the resident managers in exchange for a rent reduction. According to the couple, the Goodens got a bit peeved when their new managers brought a list of tenant and property problems to their attention. Next thing the Tavai-Fiatoas heard (from another tenant, no less), was that they were gonna be out of a job.

Unfortunately, the Goodens might have wanted to study the Tavai-Fiatoas' résumé before they acted so rashly. Seems the couple have been activists involved in homeless and Native American rights since 1980 and have brought a lawsuit--with the help of "King of Torts" Melvin Belli, no less--against a housing project in San Francisco.

Uh, Charlotte--can we give you Dynacomm's phone number?

Road to Ruin

Although the logging plan for Gamecock Canyon, the latest target for harvest-hungry out-of-towners Redwood Empire, has been temporarily put on hold, neighbors of that 900-acre parcel between Mt. Madonna Park and Summit Road are not exactly exhaling with relief. Explains property owner Kathy Dean, "It was delayed for all the wrong reasons. The California Board of Forestry didn't even acknowledge the environmental concerns we had." Those "environmental concerns" being that present logging plans, called "severely flawed" by Santa Cruz County Planning Department resource planner Matt Baldzikowski, not only threaten the watershed that flows to the Pajaro River but also pose a distinct danger to spawning coho salmon in Gamecock Creek.

Admittedly, Dean harbors a NIMBY attitude about the logging (or actually a NOMR--Not On My Road). But she says it's based on previous experience with logging trucks that left a portion of the one-lane dirt road--the only access for her and her neighbors--severely damaged. The problem, says Dean, is getting the rest of the Summit Road residents to wake up and smell the diesel. "Most of them are pretty laid-back up here," she says. So, she and husband Nick Gombos, vice president of the Summit Road Association, are calling a meeting for interested, and potentially affected, neighbors this Saturday at 1pm. For directions to the meeting, call Kathy Dean at 408/848-6754.

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From the April 25-May 1, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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