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Tune In to Drop In: A new HIV drop-in center in Watsonville, based on a Santa Cruz model (above), hopes to stem the tide of the disease in the Latino community.


Drop-In Goes South

While the number of AIDS cases among whites has dropped in recent years, among youth and minorities--especially Latinos--it's another story. The rate of HIV and Hepatitis C cases among the U.S. Latino population has increased rapidly in recent years, and half of all new HIV infections are in people under age 30.

To help stem the tide, South County and its large Latino population may finally be getting a needed shot in the arm.

The Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Project, the Homeless Persons' Health Project and the Santa Cruz AIDS Project plan to open a new HIV-prevention drop-in center in Watsonville Oct. 15. The site is one of nine statewide and will be modeled on a similar center in Santa Cruz.

According to SCNEP Executive Director Heather Meschery, the Santa Cruz drop-in center is unique in its ability to reach young people who might otherwise fall through the cracks. "We've reached the highest-risk kids," she says.

Timothy Maroni, the Harm Reduction Services Team leader for the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, says almost 15 percent of the AIDS cases in Santa Cruz County are in South County. "Until now there has been a lack of services in that area," he says. Currently the only HIV-prevention program in there is a weekly needle exchange in Watsonville.

Watsonville Needle Exchange Program coordinator Victor Garcia said the new centerwill be similar to the one in Santa Cruz. It will provide testing, condoms, HIV/AIDS prevention information and needle exchange. But Garcia points out that the South County center will have more youth-oriented programs. "We are looking forward to establishing programs as we see participants' needs surface," he says.

Still CUEless

After months of bargaining, the University of California has proposed a 4 percent increase in clerical employees' salaries. But only for some.

Clerical employees who currently make under $35,000 annually would receive the 4 percent increase beginning October. Employees making more than that would only see a 2.5 percent pay raise.

"They are trying to divide the clerical employees," says Elinor Levine, president of the Coalition of University Employees, which represents 18,000 UC clerical workers. "They have the money to fully fund an 11 percent raise for all clerical employees over two years.

"Essentially, they have proposed a two-tier wage system," Levine adds. "And we're not interested in that kind of thing." According to Levine, the average clerical salary is less than $2,000 a month.

During a July bargaining session, CUE offered a 6 percent increase for last academic year and a 5 percent increase for October 2000. UC officials will offer a counter proposal at the upcoming Aug. 2­3 bargaining session.

An independent study commissioned by UC shows that employee salaries at every campus lag far below industry standards for comparable job titles and responsibilities--on average by 21 percent. At UC­Santa Cruz, however, university employees make 31 percent less than their non-UC counterparts.

"I think that people are getting really angry about this," Levine says. "I'm hoping that if we keep the pressure up the university will make a reasonable wage offer soon."

UC spokesperson Brad Hayward says the university hopes to reach an agreement with the clerical workers soon, "but it takes both parties to reach an agreement.

"We absolutely share the goal of improving compensation for clerical workers, but there are challenges we have in addressing those, so it may take more time than some would like. We don't believe that we can address the full challenge--the 21 percent figure--in one fell swoop, but we do hope the additional funding in the state budget will help us make some gains."

Gov. Davis' latest budget includes an increase of $19 million beyond what UC had originally requested for increases in staff compensation--which translates into an additional 1.5 percent wage increase.

CUE reps have been bargaining with UC for clerical workers' first signed contract since August 1998.

Failing Grades

In the hubbub over whether to upgrade Capitola's traffic standard from level D to level C, it's instructive to take a look at how we got to this point.

Opponents of the upgrade claim it's just an attempt to hinder a proposed shopping center expansion on Bay Avenue. The project, brought to you by Redtree Properties (the same folks who brought Borders to downtown Santa Cruz), is currently tied up in court.

"The impetus [behind the traffic proposal] is to try to restrict development on Bay Avenue," says Redtree frontman Mick Routh. "Whether it will do that is another matter." A statement mailed to city residents and signed by Routh and other former mayors calls the traffic plan a "serious attack on Capitola's financial stability."

Proponents, such as local activist Barbara Graves, say that Capitolans are simply fed up with clogged streets, and that Routh's assertions about the impact on the city's finances is based on an outdated expansionist economic model.

There's little doubt that the higher standard would create a new roadblock for the Redtree project. But while proponents deny there's a hidden anti-Redtree motive, Routh and Co. are whistling past a different graveyard.

In November 1992, the Capitola City Council (of which Routh was then a member) changed the zoning of the Bay Avenue commercial district from Local Shopping to Regional Shopping, substantially raising the value of the prospective shopping center property and inviting large-scale development.

Two months later, the council lowered the traffic standard citywide from C to D. Routh says this was required by the county's congestion-management plan, but the effect was to clear the way for the high-volume traffic that would accompany a regional shopping center. Meanwhile, Graves and Co. claim that the congestion-management plan didn't require a citywide reduction in traffic standards, and that only one intersection on Bay Avenue was in question.

Within two years of the zoning and traffic changes, Redtree purchased the Bay Avenue property and embarked on its development project, hiring Routh as a consultant after he left the council to help sell it to a skeptical public.

The city Planning Commission will consider the traffic service change at its Aug. 3 meeting, while the Capitola City Council will vote on the matter Aug. 10.

The county's congestion management plan is no longer in force.

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From the July 26-August 2, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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