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[whitespace] Mardi Wormhoudt, Mark Primack
Iraq-ing Their Brains: Incumbent Mardi Wormhoudt and challenger Mark Primack smile even as the gloves come off early in the runoff for county supe.


The M&M Show

Will the war on Iraq decide the battle of the supes?

The question sounds kinda bizarre in a county where the biggest concerns are housing, traffic and water, but with everybody paying attention to Iraq right now, the fact that incumbent Mardi Wormhoudt and challenger Mark Primack have radically different records on this issue could make a big difference with voters.

Consider the facts. Two weeks ago, Councilmember Primack absented himself from council chambers when it came time to vote on an ordinance denouncing U.S.-led military action on Iraq. In his absence, the council passed the resolution in a 6-0 vote, thereby getting national media attention for the second time in a month--the first being for our medical marijuana support, this time as one of the first municipalities to condemn the war. In your face, Berkeley!

Meanwhile, over at the county building, Wormhoudt was executing her own one-two punch, authoring a "No on Iraq"-style resolution that passed in a 3-2 vote.

Last week the fallout began on Public Access TV's Voices From the Village when moderator John Sandidge asked Primack during a live debate with Wormhoudt how he justified walking out of the City Council meeting for the vote on Iraq.

"Nobody told me when I was selected that I was qualified to vote on international policy," replied Primack, noting that he's personally opposed to a war. He said that on the other hand, if he had stayed and voted 'No,' it would have been him and not mayor Chris Krohn on CNN.

But Wormhoudt wasn't about to let Primack off the hook. Dismissing his "we should only concentrate on local business" position as "very simplistic," she said, "The impacts of war are local and personal. People we know ... our kids, our brothers ... will pay for this ... and we will not have services locally while we're spending billions on a war."

While the debate then turned to candidates' top priorities, the war over war on Iraq still wasn't over, as Primack discovered when a caller asked how he would have voted had he been county supe.

When Primack said he would have abstained, the caller replied, "That means you would have killed it ... I'm glad you weren't there." Hardly the kind of message a candidate wants broadcast live a month before an election, but, hey, at least it wasn't CNN.

A Tale of Two Taxes

Despite their differences on voting on Iraq, both Mark and Mardi support the hotel tax, which is variously referred to as Measure T, W, O and Q, depending on whether you're voting in Watsonville, Capitola, the county or Santa Cruz, respectively.

M&M are joined in their support by everyone from Sam Farr, Fred Keeley and John Laird to Emily Reilly, Scott Kennedy, Tim Fitzmaurice and City Council candidates Cynthia Mathews and Mike Rotkin.

Also supporting the tax are Boardwalk owner Charles Canfield, Shadowbrook owner Ted Burke and Darling House proprietors Karen and Darrel Darling, as well as the Democratic Women's Club, the Santa Cruz County Business Council, various chambers of commerce, and last but not least, the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council, a.k.a. the CVC.

But while this broad-based coalition calls this a "tax on tourism that you don't pay," the Green Party-endorsed Thomas Leavitt--the only City Council candidate to actively oppose the hotel tax--calls Measure Q a "corporate tax grab" inspired by fears that Measure P, which seeks to repeal the city's utility tax, will pass and force the city to cut all but essential safety services.

Seaside Company PR man John Robinson, who helped forge the coalition behind the hotel tax, admits that the utility tax's repeal at the county level got the hotel industry thinking "of ways to create accountability, return millions of dollars for resident services, help solve local budget crisis, and support home grown businesses and local jobs."

Hotel tax opponent Gordon Pusser, who's leading the "No on Measure Q" campaign, refutes claims that the measure will free up money for badly needed city services.

"The city is under no obligation to provide any funding," says Pusser, noting that while the city gave the CVC $400,000 this year, the cities of Watsonville, Capitola and Scotts Valley, with a combined population greater than Santa Cruz, provided just $22,225.

"Obviously their citizens had greater priorities," he says .

A city-produced flier about the utility tax states that the average household pays about $5 a week in utility tax, but Pusser, who likes to talk about both taxes as if they were cojoined at the head, notes that the larger the hotel, the more money saved, if the utility tax gets repealed.

"But if the utility tax does get repealed, the CVC would see its funding cut like everyone else, which is why the hotel tax is on the ballot in the first place," Pusser claims.

Robinson says that of the more than 120 hotels and motels in the county, many are small "mom and pop"-style operations, and that the CVC markets local cultural events and small businesses like kayak and bike rentals that otherwise couldn't afford to advertise.

"Measure Q helps the community at large, not just one special interest group. Independent research shows that for every $1 in tourism, promotion funding generates $9 in local tax money," he says.

Both Pusser and Leavitt dismiss Robinson's stats as advocacy figures and ask whether, in face of a crisis with many social services having already lost their funding, a special tax for one industry is justified.

"Should the CVC be funded ahead of other city services?" asks Leavitt, noting that if the utility tax gets repealed, the bulk of services to be cut would come from Parks and Recreation, Public Works and community programs.

Meanwhile, Robinson accuses Pusser in particular of being "a spoiler for selfish reasons," and says he hopes the passage of the hotel tax will lead to a more trusting working relationship between the diverse factions within the community.

Measure Q requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

Davis Fails Driving Test

"An open betrayal of Latinos." That's how Green Party candidate for Governor Peter Miguel Camejo is describing Gray Davis' Sept. 30 veto of a bill that would have granted certain immigrants a driver's license.

Speaking at the Louden Nelson auditorium last week, Camejo said Davis' decision had unleashed a lot of anger in the Latino community and rumors were circulating that Los Angeles-based Democrat Giles Cedillo, who authored the driving license bill (D-46) wasn't going to vote for Davis in the election.

Reached by phone, Cedilla's chief of staff Dan Savage confirmed the rumors, but said Cedillo was not supporting Camejo.

"We've had tons of feedback and it's clear that the Governor made a dramatic miscalculation in vetoing this bill. It wasn't like we didn't tell him, we delivered 300,000 signatures in support of this bill. The last thing Giles wants to be is the Ralph Nader of California, but after this he can neither support not vote for Davis," Savage said.

Asked what he though about Instant Runoff Voting, which Camejo says would solve voters fears that by supporting a Green, the Republican candidate will win, Savage said he didn't know much about it but that 'on the surface it makes absolute sense."

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From the October 9-16, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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