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Independence Day: Part of the surreal scene that ensued when SC dissidents crashed other Fourth parades.

Nüz

When Protests Go Weird

In a stunt echoing Animal House's infamous infiltration of a Founder's Day Parade with an "Eat Me" float, about 40 activists, many of them from the Cruz, infiltrated the Redwood City July 4 parade atop a "Celebrating U.S. World Domination" float that was cleverly entered under the innocuous title of "America Around the World."

"What was weird was the way we were received," says stunt organizer Marlene Winell, who feared her group might get stoned or pelted, since the float featured a giant rotating globe blanketed with McDonald's, U.S.-controlled sweatshops and military bases, not to mention a Cowboy George Bush who spun a roulette wheel as he decided which country to invade next.

"Instead we got cheered, which felt strange, almost hypocritical, in a parade full of Boy Scouts and the military," says Winell. "Following us were several military vehicles with huge mounted guns on top, which was surreal since they might as well have been a part of our float."

Winell, who works as a psychologist, decided to target the parade, "because the American public believes the U.S. is the Global Good Guy--and celebrates this myth each July 4."

The float which also featured Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Rambo, Mickey Mouse, a Coca-Cola parasol, an inflatable giant Hamburger and Profit Man and Greed Girl-- "all things we've given the world while Americanizing it"-- almost didn't make the cut.

"The parade organizer said, 'Something covert is going on here. Either come clean or get out of the parade,' so I checked it out and said we wouldn't carry any signs,'' said Winell, noting that signs and statements of a political, religious or offensive nature were deemed official no-nos.

Winell's reply sufficed to get the float into the parade, where she and other participants later crowned Bush as King of Big Oil, a coronation that drew uncritical applause.

Despite all the cheering, some "Bush 2004" button wearers got upset.

"They called us communists, terrorists and even 'bitch.' They wanted to know where we got our funding. Funding? That would be nice," jokes Winell, who plans to throw a World Domination Party fundraiser this September, so she can make a docudrama of the parade.

"Come as your favorite oppressor. It'll be a gambling night. People can place bets as to who gets invaded next," she says. Call 831.247.9650.

Checks and Balances

Speaking of world domination, Nüz edged a tad closer to its own quest last week when the City Council reaffirmed that juggling is indeed legal (Nüz, June 18 and July 2) downtown, as long as jugglers don't block sidewalks and don't break other city laws.

Apparently said law does not differentiate between professional or amateur jugglers, but Councilmember Mike Rotkin said people who were warned or cited for hackeysack "couldn't say, 'I wasn't playing hackeysack, I was juggling the hackeysacks.'"

All of which makes Nüz wonder which is more hazardous--a badly volleyed hackeysack or a badly juggled pin?

Meanwhile, our quest for global financial domination encountered a major setback when the council unanimously ruled that the fee for check bouncing will increase by 150 percent, from $10 to $25--a hike that got homeless activist and gadfly Robert Norse huffing, to which Rotkin replied, "I wouldn't want to disrespect the poor by saying they're any worse at balancing their check books."

The city was, however, less respectful of state laws, city zoning ordinances and the San Lorenzo river plan, when it voted to block access to the levee by allowing owners of an affordable apartment complex to lock a gate at the end of Kennan Street--a decision that some predict will end in court.

Despite the protest of walkers, cyclists, environmental activists and residents, the council said it was forced to make this "horrible decision" because Santa Cruz Riverfront Associates said it would be less inclined to keep the complex low-income Section 8 housing in five years, if the city didn't play ball right now.

Rick Greenberg, who represents SCRA, claimed the closure will address drug sales, prostitution, illegal dumping, dogs defecating and homeless people sleeping there, while Kaitilin Gaffney of the city's planning commish, which already voted against the gate closure, said the council "should never have put affordability on the negotiating table." Oh yeah, this one's definitely going to court.

Reluctantly Yours

During her lifetime, the late Santa Cruz resident and poet extraordinaire Stormi Chambless advised writers to avoid adverbs.

"Why 'go boldly' when you can 'venture'?" said this advocate of accurate, stand-alone verbs.

Nüz got to wondering what Chambless would have made of the City Council's decision last week to dump an adverb for political reasons.

At issue was whether to include "reluctantly" in an agreement to participate in the Joint Powers Authority, a group which has not yet been formed, but which could end up overseeing Highway 1 widening, if a sales tax measure (which would raise $1 billion for highway widening and other transportation projects) passes in 2004.

"We cannot afford to not be in the JPA if this is something that is gonna be formed, but it would be better if we could persuade the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission not to form it," said Rotkin, who worried that participation in the JPA could incur costs or liabilities, if it were perceived that the JPA was spending public funds to support a yet-to-be-passed measure.

"We don't want the city to defend against a suit that we'd want to join in as plaintiffs," he said, adding that the JPA is being formed to exclude District 3 county Supe Mardi Wormhoudt.

"I don't know why. She's not a disruptive person," said Rotkin of Wormhoudt, whose opposition to highway widening is no secret.

But Councilmembers Scott Kennedy and Mark Primack took umbrage at the idea of "reluctantly" doing anything.

"It's like saying you're half-pregnant. It's not OK to equivocate," said Kennedy, while the pro-widening Primack found it "unprofessional" to vote to reluctantly agree.

"At best, 'reluctantly' is a misplaced adverb," he said. Councilmember Tim Fitzmaurice, on the other hand, said it didn't bother him "if someone is miffed by the inclusion of reluctantly.

"Maybe it will ring a bell with them why," said the Fitz, arguing that pressure to promote widening is already on.

But Primack cautioned against a "spoilsport approach."

"I'm sure the JPA is aware of its legal limitations. And I don't want to pit public transportation against the highway," said Primack. "There's tremendous support for highway widening here, as I learned from walking the precincts when I was running for county supervisor."

While expressing his own continuing reluctance, Rotkin replied to the subsequent dumpage of "reluctantly" (and Fitzmaurice's aside that "now there is no reluctance") by recommending that widening proponents form a citizen advocacy group.

"In the absence of [a citizen advocacy group] comes the reluctance--I can live without that word--to establish a JPA," said Rotkin. "Because if reluctance to the highway exists anywhere, it's in the city. And if reluctance to taxes exists anywhere, it's anywhere but in the city. So if you don't take the citizens in this town seriously, you won't have a majority. Our citizens will support taxes if they think it's good thing."


Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the July 16-23, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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