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[whitespace] A Gay Evening in May
Camp Out Canceled: A Gay Evening in May's campy sketches, like this sendup of 'Mommy Dearest' from 1997, annually kicks off area pride celebrations while raising thousands for community nonprofits--but not this year.

Nüz

Not-So-Gay May

It's May, the gayest time of year in Santa Cruz, and where have all the drag queens gone? What lonesome highways have Dykes on Bikes traded for Santa Cruz's Pacific Avenue? Wherever they are, they're not coming for A Gay Evening in May, long the flamboyant kickoff of area lesbian and gay pride celebrations. The cancellation leaves Pride Day, scheduled for June 4, as this town's only large-scale gay and lesbian community celebration.

A big fundraiser for nonprofit groups like the Santa Cruz AIDS Project and the Diversity Center, the lesbian and gay locus, A Gay Evening in May has traditionally run the two nights of the second weekend in May every year since the mid-'80s. But this year it never even got to the planning stage.

Mike Tossy, who directed shows during the early '90s and who remains on the event's board of directors, says that by the end of January this year only one person had signed on to work on the production staff.

"I think the whole No on 22 thing took some people's energy who otherwise would have put it into AGEM," Tossy says. "We looked at it as a board and realized that we need a core of five really hard-working people. That nucleus we need to step forward didn't step forward."

Founded by UC-Santa Cruz campus and community groups in 1985, A Gay Evening in May quickly outgrew dining hall venues, moving to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium in 1987. During its biggest years, the show attracted large crowds, raising tens of thousands. But last year's show, while breaking even on its expenses, didn't generate enough income to make any donations to pet causes.

Planning for the Pride Day parade and festival continues.

Toxic Shock

According to a report being released today by the Toxic Action Coalition of Monterey Bay, pesticide use went from bad to worse in California in the 1990s. Total pesticide use statewide increased by 40 percent between 1991 and 1998, with the use of carcinogenic pesticides going up by 127 percent during the same period.

The "good" news is that total pesticide use in Santa Cruz County went up by just over 10 percent, while use of carcinogenic pesticides in the county actually decreased by 23.5 percent. However, in Monterey County, total use was up by 50 percent, with the use of cancer-causing chemicals up by over 73 percent.

Jim Scott-Behrends, a member of the coalition steering committee and co-chair of Farm Without Harm in Watsonville, says that while things are worse elsewhere, Santa Cruz farmers should work for positive change.

"With the eventual phase-out of methyl bromide, growers are at this point deciding what the alternatives will be," Behrends told Nüz. "As a community we must push for the safe alternatives, such as organic farming."

Contract a Hit

Negotiators for Service Employees International Union Local 415, which represents 450 Santa Cruz city workers, are enthusiastically recommending a yes vote on a tentative contract, reached with the city late last Friday.

"I think our members should be very proud that we brought home this deal," says SEIU Executive Director Cliff Tillman. City Chapter President Jim Bass echoes Tillman's remarks. "Everybody I've talked to is really enthusiastic about it," Bass exults.

The three-year deal includes pay raises of 4.25 percent per year, increased pay for longevity and for workers with bilingual skills, and improvements in health and life insurance and retirement benefits.

The question of a so-called "living wage" was sidestepped. The tentative deal contains no provision for bringing the city's lowest-paid workers under such a wage law should it go into effect during the life of the contract.

But the deal does include a memorandum of understanding under which negotiations will continue over the thorny issue of bringing the city's 650 temporary workers into the collective bargaining process.

Mayor Keith Sugar calls it a "good proposal," saying the city wanted to be fair.

"The union came in asking for over 30 percent in pay raises, so this is scaled way down," Sugar says. "It's anything but giving away the store. At the same time, the city has to be a leader in how it deals with its employees."

Voting on the proposal by SEIU members will continue through 6pm, May 3.

Easy Rider

The latest numbers say only 5.8 percent of Santa Cruz city residents bike to work--that's according to a 1996 report by the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.

But according to unofficial Nüz estimates, 100 percent of Santa Cruzans complain about the traffic and noise associated with "everyone else's" automobiles.

So stop whinin' and ride to work. Join the 13th annual Bike Week, May 14 to 20.

"This year is geared towards hands-on experience," says program director Piet Canin, adding that bike-friendly streets, or a lack thereof, are a common complaint among would-be bicycle commuters. "We want to give people the skills and confidence to ride to work," Canin says.

One confidence-building workshop is the Safe Moves City, a riding course put on by Safe Moves, a Van Nuys-based bike-safety troupe. Other safe-cycling events include a Making Commuting Fun workshop, where cyclists can learn about bike commuting equipment, local routes and the rules of the road. A Bike Buddy program will hook up experienced cycle commuters with inexperienced ones.

For more info call 423.3773 or 423.9569, or check out www.bike2work.com.

Stabbed in the Back

Final exams are approaching UC campuses across the state--and so is a strike.

Yesterday, Academic Student Employee Unions announced that contract negotiations with the UC administration had ended without an agreement after UC negotiators reneged on a settlement.

"We had an agreement with [UC President] Atkinson last week--that's why we are so infuriated," union president Christian Sweeney told Nüz.

Union bargaining team members and UC reps, including Atkinson, met April 25 with State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton and the governor's representative, mediator Marty Morgenstern, and reached an agreement.

"Over the subsequent three days, the university has proceeded to back out of the agreement," says Sweeney, a TA at UC-Berkeley--adding that a strike is the next step. No date has been set.

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