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Take That: Josh Muir strikes a blow for alternative transportation and World Car-Free Day.

Park This

When homeowner and cycling advocate Josh Muir looks at the pavement in his front yard, he doesn't see a driveway: he sees a covered-up garden.

Muir decided to jackhammer his driveway this summer, and is inviting over a few friends next Thursday to help him rip it out. The pavement-ripping party is part of an action-packed evening Muir and other activists are planning for Sept. 21 to celebrate World Car-Free Day, an annual event that originated in Europe in the 1970s.

The Santa Cruz celebration starts with Critical Mass at 5pm, when local cyclists will meet at the clock tower to ride through town and reclaim the streets.

Some Critical Mass riders will then head over to Muir's house, while others will attend a 6:30pm party at The Hub for Sustainable Transportation featuring two live bands, food prepared by Hub activists and a discussion of local ideas for more public and human-powered transportation.

Micah Posner, a Critical Mass cyclist and rider for the Ped-Ex delivery service, hopes to revive a proposal, introduced at the City Council last February, that would allow homeowners to add rental space to their homes without having to provide extra parking, as long as the tenant agreed not to own a car. Current law requiring residential off-street parking is based on how many bedrooms a home has.

Muir says he's not out to challenge the current city ordinance; he says he's just trying to make a statement about pavement. "Ripping up a small section of pavement is symbolic of our general dissatisfaction with the current paving practices of our culture," he says.

Muir points out that while some residents of his house own cars, all are bike commuters. A shed at the back of Muir's property holds about a dozen bikes.

Hang On Slough-py

Two upcoming hearings will address environmental protection for areas affected by Duke Energy's proposed expansion of the Moss Landing Power Plant. With other sea-sucking power plants slotted for expansion statewide, decisions reached by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Energy Commission will set important precedents.

The board will meet Friday, Sept. 15 (see Heads Up, page 7), to finalize the environmental mitigation package and issue a discharge permit. An Energy Commission committee hearing on Sept. 21 will be the last opportunity for the public to comment on a commission proposal, released Aug. 29, that recommends allowing Duke Power to pay a $7 million lump sum to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation for environmental mitigation. The payment would be in lieu of a Coastal Commission proposal for stricter government oversight of individual mitigation projects. The board supports the Energy Commission plan, while the California Coastal Commission argues that specific planning and mitigation objectives are needed.

"The Energy Commission's general idea is that it's easier to write a check to a nonprofit then it is to put some bureaucrats in a room and let them argue," says Michael Bowen, a Coastal Commission program analyst. "But we need a balanced decision-making process to achieve the best environmental protection."

The expanded plant will need 850,000 gallons of sea water per minute (it now uses 600,000) to cool its massive generators and boost its 1,090 megawatt capacity to 2,590.

But the intake would trap small fish and larva indigenous to the nearby Elkhorn Slough. With the plant using 28 percent of the slough's volume every day, scientists estimate that 13 percent of all life in the slough will be done for.

"When you start taking biomass out of the system, you're going to have a major impact on the food chain. Those tiny fish and clams in the water provide food to birds and other mammals," Bowen says.

The slough was recently declared a Globally Important Bird Area, a distinction it can add to its status as a National Estuarine Research Reserve and a National Marine Sanctuary. The slough provides habitat for over 700 species of fish, birds and invertebrates, as well as several threatened and endangered species like southern sea otters, snowy plovers and brown pelicans.

The Energy Commission argues that the Coastal Commission's recommendations are cumbersome and would cause mitigation efforts to be delayed.

Mud Bath

Last week's dustup in the race for district attorney between Ron Ruiz and Kate Canlis quickly took on a schizophrenic tone.

The Canlis campaign--with the help of assistant DA Dennis Wong, a longtime Canlis mole inside the DA's office--got caught red-handed concocting the signatures on an Aug. 30 letter condemning Ruiz's handling of a murder case. The signatures of the parents of murder victim Alejandro Lopez appear on the letter, written by the Canlis campaign, but both later signed a statement denying they signed the Canlis letter. Ruiz then publicly announced that Wong was being removed from the case and would face an investigation of his conduct.

Canlis tried to shift the focus of the debate from Wong's professional behavior--he was a prosecutor in the case against the alleged killer, Adrian Melgoza, and Juliana Lopez, Alejandro's mother, was a witness--by criticizing Ruiz for discussing a personnel matter in public.

"I find it wholly political," Canlis told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "that Mr. Ruiz is so free to speak to you about a personnel matter in his own office." Oh really.

But Canlis had no qualms about discussing a personnel matter with the press when it came to defending her previous boss and Ruiz's predecessor, former DA and now judge Art Danner.

In a Metro Santa Cruz story published Jan. 22, 1998, Canlis freely discussed the case of then-assistant DA Patty Bazar, who had filed complaints with the county affirmative action office over allegations of gender discrimination by Michael Bartram, one of Danner's supervisors.

Canlis, who was Danner's chief aide, told Metro Santa Cruz that Bazar "complained about [Bartram] frequently, but it was mostly about his personality. She never, never, never said it was gender-related. If she had, I would have told Danner in the blink of an eye."

Hypocrisy aside, this was not the first time Canlis has exploited crime victims for political purposes.

Last March, just days before the primary election, Canlis sent out a mailer that attempted to blame Ruiz for the death of murder victim Leticia Coronado. The mailer was widely criticized.

"She's happy to use the victims for her benefit, but not really to help them," Tom Brandeberry of the county Victim Services unit was quoted saying in the Sentinel.

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From the September 13-20, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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