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Venetian Water Carnival Revival

The road to successfully realizing a grand vision of economic development is not always straight, orderly or even discernible to the casual observer--especially when that road passes through the mind of local visionary and coastal historian RICCARDO GAUDINO. The tall, gravelly voiced Italian delivers his multifaceted pitch to revive the VENETIAN WATER CARNIVAL OF 1905 with all of the precision of a shotgun blast inside a steel sphere--if you stand around and listen long enough, eventually it all hits you.

"We don't need superficial alliances," says Gaudino, "we need people working and raising good beef on the farm. Or if you're vegetarian, you can put in asparagus or artichokes."

Gaudino's scattershot approach began with getting MAYOR MIKE ROTKIN in his corner for press conferences. The first such meeting, back on Oct. 5 on Main Beach, featured UCSC ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DAVID ANTHONY, who arrived on a HONDA WATERCRAFT dressed as KING NEPTUNE--complete with crown, Venetian mask, assorted fishing nets and, of course, a plastic red trident. Apparently unaccustomed to modern machinery, King Neptune promptly fell off the watercraft into the roiling surf and broke his trident. Once he made his way to the beach, Neptune was graciously received by our ever-terrestrial Mayor Rotkin.

"Take what's left of my trident," said Neptune gamely, followed by a formal exchange of greetings and a rather charming photo-op. The conference was supposed to draw attention to the 100-year anniversary of the Venetian Water Carnival, which Gaudino will help commemorate on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 1pm, when MERRY MERMAID and KING TRIDENT will arrive at the Santa Cruz Wharf, then sail around to end in Capitola.

Stripped down to its skivvies, Gaudino's long-range plan is to put together an annual Venetian Water Carnival in which organizations, businesses--and whoever else wants to participate--will enter decorated boats into the contest, which he hopes will draw throngs of tourists in the slow, yet temperate month of October.

"The weather is the story," says Gaudino, "and what's Santa Cruz got for it? Nothing."

Santa Cruz Conference and Visitors Center executive director MAGGIE IVY says that occupancy for hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in October is in the high 50s percent range, down from 71 percent during the peak year of 2000. She considers Gaudino's projection of 100 percent occupancy "unlikely at this point in this economy," but she does acknowledge the potential of events to draw tourists into the area, pointing out that they are often good fundraisers for nonprofits in our area.

In a phone conversation with Nüz, Gaudino expressed some frustration with his efforts to raise money, which were mostly fruitless, but he also tried to express himself positively.

"I'm not slamming anybody, I'm not criticizing anybody," insists Gaudino, "I'm saying we need to work together on a common project or a common goal. We need to be united and not judge the personalities and the names. No prima donnas."

Asked what we do need and how, Gaudino is at once pragmatic, vague and cryptic:

"We need to have a dynamic economic development direction and make October pay," says Gaudino, "because SANTA CLAUS needs money for Christmas."

Wait a minute ... Santa Claus?

"MRS. CLAUS," Gaudino clarifies, "she needs the money."

For more information about the Venetian Water Carnival, visit www.punkblogs.com/santacruz100years/.

And the Winner Is ...

Back in the beginning of September, Nüz reported on the SANTA CRUZ COUNTY CLERK AND ELECTIONS department's public demonstration of a variety of electronic voting systems (Nüz, Sept. 7). At the time, COUNTY CLERK GAIL PELLERIN expressed no enthusiasm for the electronic voting systems, but was required to comply with PROP 41, California's VOTING MODERNIZATION ACT, as well as the federal HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT, which requires that at least one machine in every polling place be accessible to disabled voters. To those ends Pellerin dutifully organized a voting systems task force, a public advisory committee, public demonstrations and informative updates on the county clerk's website (www.votescount.org) in an effort to suss out the best electronic option for Santa Cruz County.

Now, the recommendation for the COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS has been submitted. Pellerin's pick? (Drum roll, please.) A brand new SEQUOIA optical-scan paper ballot system combined with one HAVA-compliant touch-screen machine at each polling site!

Cue confetti. Or not--Perllerin's report is still decidedly unenthusiastic about the federal and state mandates, which she says are way ahead of existing technology. While electronic voting machine manufacturers work out the kinks in their products, federal legislators continue to tweak their mandates.

"The FEDERAL ELECTIONS ASSISTANCE COMMISSION has not published standards for touch-screen voting systems," writes Pellerin in her recommendation, "and there continues to be uncertainty regarding the purpose and use of the [Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail]."

On the state level, Pellerin writes that "the process has been difficult and confusing at times due to the myriad of changes from the secretary of state's office. ... While our new SECRETARY OF STATE BRUCE MC PHERSON has done much to direct efforts to ensure compliance, California is not well prepared for the HAVA mandates."

Pellerin expects federal elections law to change in the near future, which she says is part of the reason she's selected the Sequoia Voting System, which is cheaper than an all-touch-screen voting system (about $2.3 million, compared with the $3.35 million for a full touch-screen system), and for everyone using the optical scan machines, it leaves a verifiable paper trial.

Pellerin says the state and federal government have made $3.4 million available to Santa Cruz County to procure a new voting system, which would cover the costs of deploying and storing the Sequoia Systems. Leftover money would be set aside for a later, presumably darker date--the time when paper-free touch screens take over the world.

Access Granted

Last Friday, the CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION went along with staff recommendations to open public access to Main Beach through a BOARDWALK gate near the trestle bridge. Known simply as "Walkway 6" (Nüz, Aug. 24), the gate was, according to a CC staff report, installed without the proper coastal development permit sometime around 2001.

Back in August of this year, former Mayor CHRISTOPHER KROHN, together with COASTAL ACCESS NOW, said they gathered 167 signatures urging the Coastal Commission to force the SEASIDE COMPANY to open up Walkway 6 for pedestrian access, and to deny the Seaside Company's proposal to expand the gated area in an effort to reduce criminal activity in the area.

At Friday's meeting, the Coastal Commission did in fact deny the Seaside Company's request to expand the gated area, accepting staff's contention that the Seaside Company "did not provide any compelling evidence of significant problems that would be resolved by restricting access through Walkway 6." However, the commission approved the Seaside Company's updated proposal to install 9-foot-wide, two-directional turnstiles, which would accommodate wheelchair access, and generally provide an ingress/egress point for pedestrian use during the Boardwalk's regular operating hours. The turnstiles will be closed when the Boardwalk is.

Coastal Commission district director CHARLES LESTER says the authorization will last for three years, during which time CC staff will look into cursory anecdotes that the gate had "wider historic hours of availability." However, according to the staff report, "No such evidence has been made available since the release of the staff report, nor has staff received any indication that such evidence may exist."

Lester says another reason the commission approved the permit on a temporary basis was to give staff a chance to look into the unfolding litigation between the CITY OF SANTA CRUZ and the Seaside Company in which the latter is suing the former to establish a clear title to the former tidelands that now serve as the Boardwalk's parking lot along the San Lorenzo River.

"The commission was concerned about whether that potential for public trust lands also should be thought about in this case," says Lester, "although according to the Boardwalk, it appears that the specific area of concern in this particular permit is not directly involved in that litigation."

Nonetheless, Lester says the commission wants staff to track the issue to see if anything arises that has implications for the status of the lands in this case.

Planetary Mary

Her real name is MARY DUFFIELD, but to her friends, the white-haired activist manning a table on Pacific Avenue this week is known as PLANETARY MARY, in part because she's been connected to the UNITED NATIONS and its efforts to create planetary peace for--well, forever. Which in the case of the U.N., which was founded at the end of World War II, adds up to 60 years--a factoid Duffield knows by heart, seeing as how she attended the first-ever U.N. conference, which took place in San Francisco, when she was 23 and had just graduated from Berkeley with her husband.

All these years later, Duffield's commitment to the U.N. is such that, although she is in her 80s and there's a bus strike in full swing, none of that has prevented her from getting downtown, even if it means getting a friend to drive her.

"The bus enables me to put my highest powers to the highest use," says Duffield, who supports the bus strike--and hopes y'all come on down to the LINUS PAULING PEACE ART AWARDS, which take place at 2pm, Saturday, Oct. 22, at the MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY at the McPherson Center, 705 Front St., in honor of the 60th U.N. day and to benefit the U.N.'s Program HERO.

Says PAT ARNOLD, current co-president of the United Nations Association in Santa Cruz County, "This auction will concentrate on raising funds to help educate children whose parents have died of AIDS." Call 831.425.7618 for more info.

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From the October 19-26, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

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