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[whitespace] Caroline Reich Rock of Ages: She Rocks! director Caroline Reich leads the way for young women taking on new challenges.


Rock On!

After a successful first year, She Rocks! is revving up for another season. Last year, participants in the program for young women learned how to write grant proposals, design a budget and organize a large event in addition to attending workshops on physical and verbal self-defense, self-esteem, body image, human rights and social justice. Oh yeah--they also went rock climbing.

The free after-school program for girls between the ages of 14 and 17 was funded by grants from the Walnut Avenue Women's Center and the San Francisco Women's Foundation. This year, She Rocks! was one of seven out of 150 programs to be awarded a four-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will enable it to expand into the school system with what will be called the Young Women's Leadership Alliance. This program will work on issues specific to schools, with activities for students plus additional training for teachers. Director Caroline Reich is also gearing up for a parallel program for boys.

"This year the girls will be learning even more job skills stuff," says Reich. "She Rocks! is about building conscious leadership."

"It's a very beneficial program," adds Liana Bryer, a high school student and She Rocks! youth adviser. "It helped me gain self-confidence. It also taught me great, marketable job skills."

As during the last school year, She Rocks! will organize a Cycles of Respect Teen Women's Day, to take place March 9, 2001. Some 380 girls attended last year. One popular workshop was called "Deconstructing Barbie," in which participants got to "decorate" a Barbie doll in any way they saw fit.

She Rocks! will meet every Tuesday from 3:30 to 5:30pm between October 17 and March 13 at the Walnut Avenue Women's Center. For more information, call 469.0330.


This is how absurd the race for DA has become--and how careless the local daily has gotten in covering it.

Did you know that your district attorney, Ron Ruiz, was sexually attracted to a woman who sexually abused her foster child, and for that reason he couldn't possibly prosecute her?

It's not true, of course, but that's what Santa Cruz resident Michaela Bennett wrote in a letter to the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel--which, incredibly, printed it.

The wild accusation stems from an Aug. 14, 1999, Sentinel story in which Ruiz told reporter May Wong that accused child molester Laurie Flower would probably only get probation for her actions because a genuine "attraction" (Sentinel's quotes) existed between her and the 13-year-old boy.

The comment ran without context, and quickly got twisted by Ruiz's opponents to mean that he excused her actions on that account. What Ruiz meant, and what the Sentinel did not explain in the article, is that the feelings between the two complicated prosecution because the victim was reluctant to testify. This is often the case, whether the victim is a boy or a girl, say prosecutors.

There was a lawyer involved in the affair who expressed a sexual attraction to Flower--and even acted on it--but it wasn't Ruiz. It was Flower's own attorney, Peter Chang, whom Ruiz later prosecuted for actions Chang took during his involvement in Flower's defense. (Chang himself ran for DA and lost earlier this year in the primary.)

Bennett writes that Ruiz "proclaimed in the Sentinel that because he was sexually attracted to sexual predator Flowers [sic], he couldn't possibly prosecute Flowers for sexually abusing a child in her foster care." How hard would this have been to verify? The Chang/Flower case was only the hottest political scandal of the year.

Newspapers are responsible for the factual accuracy of their letters pages, but so far there has been no explanation in the Sentinel for how the demonstrably false Bennett malarkey made it into print. Can't they fact-check in their own archives?

By the way, Bennett doesn't stop there: "I'm outraged by Ron Ruiz's bizarre, unprofessional, pro-criminal, anti-crime-victim statements," she writes. Bennett also encourages Ruiz's wife to dump him based on his supposed public indiscretion. In a town that routinely takes personal invective in politics to new heights, this sets a record.

By the way, Flower is currently serving a year in jail for the crime, with a lengthy suspended sentence hanging over her if she violates probation--including any contact with the young man--when she gets out.

The 800-Pound Coyote

County officials are counting the minutes before tonight's planning commission meeting tonight at San Jose City Hall on Cisco Systems' planned Coyote Valley development. Unfortunately, when it comes time to testify they may only be allowed to count to two.

Normal rules for planning commission hearings allow two minutes per speaker, but the PC is considering a rule that would limit not just individuals, but whole agencies, to two minutes.

Monterey Bay area government leaders were already angered when they were given a mere four business days, between Sept. 14 and 19, to comment on the final environmental impact report for the development.

County Board of Supervisors President Mardi Wormhoudt is outraged at the stifling of debate. "It's outrageous. It's a huge project with major impacts, and the legitimate concerns of the surrounding communities are being brushed off."

The Cisco plan would bring 20,000 new workers to south San Jose. The EIR asserts that 80 percent of them would migrate to the housing north of the "campus," but Wormhoudt & Co. point out that those figures rely on 20-year-old census information, and that the EIR routinely ignores potential impact on regional housing and transportation.

With support jobs and family members, Wormhoudt believes as many as 150,000 new residents would result, overwhelming housing stock and creating irresistible development pressures on Monterey Bay area communities.

"It would change the whole economy of the area," Wormhoudt says. "These are not jobs people in the [Pajaro] Valley are going to fill. You have a population in Watsonville that is underemployed, people like farmworkers, then you have 20,000 new jobs that create a housing demand that will price farmworkers out of the market."

The meeting is tonight, Sept. 27, at 6pm at San Jose City Hall, 801 N. First St., in the second-floor council chambers. A second hearing will be held in the same location Oct. 5 at 7pm. For more information go to: http://www.ci.san-jose.ca.us/planning/sjplan/Cisco.htm.

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From the September 27-October 4, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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