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The Farr Side

Back in the 17th Congressional District to do summer outreach, U.S. Rep. SAM FARR, wearing a nifty heart-sprinkled tie, stopped by the Metro Santa Cruz office to drop off a package of what he jokingly called "propaganda," and to give us the skinny on what's been going on in Washington, D.C., and beyond.

"Partisan divisions have only intensified," reported the Farrster, with "a lackluster economy, rising health-care costs, faltering foreign policy and a lack of movement on energy policy and immigration policy reform" being the key issues--problems he says tie into his focus on the "Three Es"--namely environment, education and the economy.

Asked about the nation's political pulse, Farr says the United States is "more culturally divided than anyone supposed" and that the upcoming election will be about "playing the margins"--a situation he finds tragic given the international importance of this particular election's outcome.

"We've never heard so much anti-American sentiment around the world, but most of it has been directed at the BUSH administration," mused Farr. "The rest of the world know Bush was made president after a questionable election, but if he gets elected with a margin, the world will hate the American people, too."

At the DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION in Boston, Farr noted that people like JESSE JACKSON and AL SHARPTON, who once were at the convention as militant protesters, were now there as delegates.

"The cause on the streets is now in the seats," said Farr, who firmly believes that the 5,000 delegates who came as anti-Bush left as pro-JOHN KERRY.

"Kerry came out as hawkish by design, and he didn't just make it, he hit it out of the park," said Farr.

So, what has our man in Washington been up to during this, the second session of the 108th Congress? According to the information in his "propaganda" packet, Farr took steps to limit the number of U.S. military personnel in COLOMBIA, kept the CAPITOL fence-free, secured millions for local agriculture and introduced landmark legislation to preserve ocean resources. Looking toward the fall, he opposes the FEDERAL MARRIAGE AMENDMENT,
which he says the House will probably consider in September and which would effectively "write discrimination into the constitution," and he supports the END RACIAL PROFILING ACT.

Oh yeah, and he voted for the FREEDOM TO READ amendment, which would have eliminated provisions of the USA-PATRIOT ACT that allow law enforcement to do sweeping searches and seize individual patron records in bookstores and libraries.

Noting that in his district the local governments of Pacific Grove, Salinas, Santa Cruz and Watsonville passed resolutions expressing their concerns with the anti-privacy and anti-liberty portions of the act, Farr says that when time originally ran out on the vote for the FTR amendment, it would have passed by 219-200.

"Unfortunately, the House Republican leadership insisted on keeping the vote open until they could convince enough members to switch their votes, and the amendment failed by a tie vote of 210-210. I voted for the Freedom to Read amendment."

September Project

Speaking of freedom to read, when the Santa Cruz County Public Library system adopted its anti-Patriot Act stance, the overwhelming response from the public "was gratitude and that we were right on," says library director ANNE TURNER, who won Jane magazine's BAD-ASS LOUDMOUTH AWARD 2003 for her trailblazing leadership on that civil liberties issue.

Two years later, the library has report-edly received some flak for participating in THE SEPTEMBER PROJECT--three days of events centered around PATRIOT DAY, which is what Bush renamed Sept. 11 following the terrorist attacks. This flak has been along the lines of letters to the editor, says Turner, "accusing us of sponsoring dirty commie pinko events and questioning our right to engage in political discussions."

Turner's answer to such criticism is suitably bad-ass and loudmouth.

"Partisanship relates to supporting one side only, whereas politics is the way we make decisions in this country," says Turner, who has been protesting all her adult life against racism and war, and for women's rights and people's right to know. "Protesting is one of my rights I want to preserve. And libraries are community gathering places, first and foremost."

The event, convened by THE FRIENDS OF THE SANTA CRUZ PUBLIC LIBRARIES, will partly consist of conversations at many venues across the county--including public libraries, churches, school classrooms, and union and community halls--and will focus on three questions, namely, what's best and worst about our society and what we can do to change things. Each conversation will be facilitated by a volunteer and recorded by a note-taker, with notes compiled online and in a publication registering every single idea generated. There's also a video challenge for local teenagers to go out and create videos, and many libraries will use the Patriot Day theme in story hours for youngsters and in bookmark reading lists for both adults and children. Call Friends of the Library at 831.420.5790 or visit www.fscpl.org.

Night Out

Midway through a second successful summer of bringing the community weekly nights out in August, the all-volunteer SANTA CRUZ NIGHT OUT is asking the SANTA CRUZ DOWNTOWN ASSOCIATION to share financial costs in 2005--and they'd like to get that discussion going now, arguing that SCNO events help the DTA accomplish one of its stated missions, namely bringing customers and local entertainment downtown, particularly on normally slow business nights.

But DTA executive director KEITH HOLTAWAY says his current focus is on planning for Christmas events, and that the DTA will look at SCNO's proposal in the New Year, which is when it does its budget.

Admitting that SCNO has done a good job so far, Holtaway says, "My main concern is how their events would be organized."

Meanwhile, SCNO volunteer JORGE GARCIA recalls that the DTA gave SCNO a lukewarm reception when it started its weekly nights out two years ago--an attitude he believes stemmed from fear that SCNO had a hidden agenda, namely, turning Pacific Avenue into a permanent pedestrian mall.

"Maybe it was SCNO's agenda, or maybe it was a misunderstanding, but now we've said we don't want to close the mall, but just have an event once a week in the summer, and if that's successful, once a week all year," says Garcia, noting that the City Council has been very supportive of SCNO's efforts, but hasn't been able to help much financially because of the budget crisis.

"It would be nice if we could at least pay the performers," says Garcia. "But so far that has not been the case."

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From the August 18-25, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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