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[whitespace] Cesar Chavez
Chavez Busters: Who ya gonna call? Pajaro Valley Unified School District! Doo-doo, doo-doo, doodle-loo-doo-doo-doo-doo...I ainšt afraid of no votes!


Giving Cesar the Bird

So we've heard about how, despite intense pressure from activists, as well as Assemblymember Fred Keeley and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District's seven-member board of trustees (only one of whom is Latino) has voted 6-1 against naming Watsonville's new high school after labor hero Cesar Chavez.

Why the rejection? Much of Chavez's work organizing field laborers took place in this valley, thereby pissing off local growers and Anglos, who presumably are still angry about the impact he had 30 years ago, and are evidently still powerful enough to sway the vote--at least for now.

But the real story here may very well turn out to be the long-term fallout from the board's anti-Chavez vote, given that the majority of Watsonville's population is a) Latino, b) ardently pro-Chavez and c) getting more politicized each minute.

And with the groundswell of support for Chavez (4,000 signatures) coming from high-school and college-aged students, politicos and local small businesses, support for a school bond--not to mention the next PVUSD board and Watsonville city council elections--are likely hanging in the Cesar balance.

As one union activist told Nüz, "Chavez's name will come and go, and maybe it will come back with a new board, but one thing's here to stay: the knowledge of how to organize the Latino community. Which is why the PVUSD fought the battle, because they are afraid of the changing face of Watsonville. You could feel the fear and see the old guard sweating. It was in their attitude and body language, it was in the way they took their seats at that meeting and left the Latinos standing."

But maybe the board already has a political escape hatch planned. After flipping Chavez supporters the proverbial bird in the way only the Pajaro board could, they unanimously approved a study to "reorganize the district," a move one board watcher described as, "first the power play, then the white flight."

But power and influence don't necessarily beget class, as illustrated by the Anglo woman whose response to a speaker's comment about the United Farmworkers Union went as follows: "We kicked them out once."

Meanwhile, trustee Dan Hankemeier told the crowd he had originally favored naming the school "Buena Vista" until he discovered this was the name of a famous battle.

"I don't want people to associate a battle with our school," said Hankemeier, who apparently did not object to the school sharing the same name as the local landfill.

Having soundly rejected the wishes of the majority, school board president Carol Roberts boldly told the audience, "It doesn't matter what the name of the school is. What matters is what's in your heart."

When an older Latino man yelled "Bullshit!" and the crowd erupted in boos and chants of "Chavez! Chavez!" Roberts pounded her gavel, and ordered the room cleared, adding as the crowd retreated, "You're just proving our point."

OK ... well, anyway, Cesar E. Chavez Campaign director Jose Sanchez says his cause is soldiering on. "There are two middle schools coming up in the future. We will ask for the same name. And we will continue until we get a school named after him."

In the meantime, Nüz has been leaked excerpts from a list of proposed "noncontroversial names" for other new schools in the area:

Shakira High: Pros: Maybe she'd visit. Cons: May impose unrealistic hair expectations on vulnerable adolescents.

Lech Walesa High: Pros: He's a labor hero, but not from here, so no divisiveness. Cons: Too much time needed to learn to spell his name.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante High: Pros: Would keep the activists happy. Appeals to rap crowd: Busta Rhymes--Busta Mante! Cons: Would have to check into his stock holdings first.

Operation Oedipus Complex?

Ten times more people have signed a petition to have the singer Ashanti taken off the Soul Train awards nominee list than have signed a petition to halt the proposed war with Iraq, news that got one San Francisco resident so disgusted she's started her own petition.

"How appalling that we as a nation care more about who wins a Soul Train award than about understanding why the administration is so set on going to war," wrote this concerned citizen. "We need to collectively speak out--we can't complain if we don't."

Her petition is at www.PetitionOnline.com, which aside from addressing the question du jour, namely "Why Iraq?," also hosts petitions calling for a fair and just foreign policy in the Middle East, and challenges Homeland Security (whose name, Nüz thinks, sounded way better in the original German) for being reactive. All of which makes for some very interesting and disturbing summer reading.

Trés Bushesque

Bubble Man Tom Noddy recently pointed out to us that one major problem regarding the downtown ordinances amendments is that the casual reader (which is almost everybody with no personal stake in the story, Noddy notes) has been lead to understand, in a very Bushesque kinda way, dare we add, that the question downtown was, ... "Do you support or oppose rudeness and violence downtown?"

But if the Downtown Commission's recent meetings are any indication, passing these ordinances won't ease those concerns, but will make life more difficult for our police, street performers and political tablers, not to mention our much maligned panhandlers.

Whether the ensuing ethnic cleansing will truly turn out to be an "unintended consequence" as the city council claims, remains to be seen. But with sidewalk chalkers and tarot-card readers getting ticketed and jailed while gang members brawl freely for hours, something stinks. And it's not Denmark.

The Downtown Commission meets 8:30 am, Aug. 30, city council chambers.

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 August 28-September 4, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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