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[whitespace] Guy with Butterflies Mommy, Why Did God Take Away the Butterflies? Agoya Killeen isn't happy with the way the California Coastal Commission handled their recent decision on monarch territory.


A Wing vs. A Prayer

Conservationists are all aflutter now that the California Coastal Commission has approved 17 additional parking spaces on the Oblates of St. Joseph Church property.

The Oblates' original request for 57 spaces was reducedby the zoning board to 32 , a number still too high for conservationists, who appealed to the CCC, claiming expansion spelled doom for the monarch butterflies that winter in Lighthouse Field.

As a result, two things happened: the CCC delayed its decision on the Oblates--and the Oblates sued the CCC and the state in federal court, citing violations of religious land-use and due process in a "Prayer for Relief."

This April, the Oblates "prayer" was dismissed for "lack of ripeness," meaning the case could be revived, according to St. Joseph's attorney James Sweeney, depending on the CCC's decision--which as we now know went 5-2 in the Oblates' favor.

Oblates neighbor Agoya Killeen, who has been observing monarchs there for more than a decade, wonders, "How could the commissioners fairly vote based on an incomplete study and with a federal lawsuit hanging over their heads?"

Good question. Indeed, the study to which Killeen refers was targeted in a letter that UCSC Emeritus Professor of Biology Dr. Ralph Berger sent the CCC. As Berger notes, instead of a complete report from Dr. Kingston Leong (the entomologist commissioned to study the monarchs at Lighthouse Field), all the CCC got was a letter synopsis.

This synopsis, says Berger, "fails to meet minimal standards regarding the design, methods, data analysis, results and conclusions of a scientific study." Berger also claims that hundreds of monarch visitations previously visible were greatly reduced by the "degraded habitat" on the Oblates property, because the church graded the grass [a morning dew source] and removed flowers [nectar sources].

Meanwhile, Oblates lawyer Eric Grant told the CCC that the Oblates did not grade the property, but merely groomed the field for their annual BBQ--and only removed already dead rosemary bushes.

"Mr. Berger's utter disregard for factual accuracy, revealing his obvious bias against the Oblates, renders his opinions specious at best," Grant wrote.

Either way, it is kind of odd that the CCC would reference an incomplete study that was never intended to address butterflies at the Oblates.

CCC acting district director Charles Lester explained their decision as follows: "Our biologists believe the data supplied was adequate."

If that data (which claims observations of only five or fewer butterflies during nine visits) can be trusted, it seems there are now almost as many attorneys as butterflies flitting round the Oblates on a given day.

Attorney Dennis Kelly, who lives near the Oblates, charges that the parking-lot expansion is part of a phased-project plan to add a meeting hall and a Gateway Junior High School, a plan that would apparently violate CEQA's "cumulative impact" law.

And while Oblates attorney Sweeney calls these charges "ridiculous and unfounded," Sierra Club's California Coastal Program attorney Mark Massara advises the public to "monitor the butterflies on the Oblates property and be alert to any work on the parking lot prior to the Coastal Commission's formal approval of the landscaping plan, which would be illegal, and we will move to stop it."

False and Misleading

The utility tax is NOT illegal. Consolidating not-for-profit services WON'T save the city millions while making the same services available. And Santa Cruzans are NOT legally entitled to essential services.

These are the points the city attorney's office made in a petition to the Superior Court, in which it asks that false and misleading arguments about the city's utility tax be struck from the November ballot literature.

As Assistant City Attorney Tony Condotti explains, the argument that the tax is illegal has been successfully challenged at the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal level, so that the Supreme Court denied it a review.

"Because we're a charter city, Santa Cruz was not obliged to submit the utility tax to a vote," Condotti said.

"Second, if the city cut all its social services, it would save $1.9 million at most, and people could not expect the same services, which include the Boys and Girls Club, the Grey Bears and the Santa Cruz AIDS Project. And third, unless the city budgets for essential services, they won't be provided."

Recently, it's been suggested by right-wing crackpots on KSCO that that the city doesn't care about the police and fire departments because it's challenging the argument that essential services are a legal entitlement.

"Nothing is further from the truth, " says Condotti. "We are saying that there is nothing in the law that mandates these services at any particular level, and that they are established by the city adopting its annual budget."

'Big' News

Nüz was as giddy as a schoolgirl to see The Big Lebowski on the big screen at the Nick last weekend. Damn, was it ever a scene. The shows sold out both nights (by 11:15 on Saturday) and several hundred people had to be turned away. Inside, it was even crazier as a legion of true Lebowski fans hooted and hollered through the Coen brothers' cult masterpiece.

Many Metro Santa Cruz staffers were in attendance--how could we not be, since editor-slash-Lebowski fiend Steve Palopoli has been writing about it, an experience he describes as "like foreplay--fun at the time, but really just a warm-up for the actual event."

Now, Nüz has seen this movie on the big screen before, but never was the experience as satisfying as last weekend. Yeah, clearly, Santa Cruz is home to some of the coolest, most energetic fans of this flick anywhere (the best part was the guys in the front who were getting laughs themselves yelling out the movie's single-word gags like "vagina" and "coitus" in those pregnant pauses before Julianne Moore or Jeff Bridges got to them).

The biggest news though is that the thing was such a hit that the Nick is bringing the Dude back for a second week, with Lebowski showing at midnight again on Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28. Nüz for one will be getting tickets way, way in advance. The regularly scheduled midnight movie, Delicatessen, shows at the same time on a different screen.

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 24-31, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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