[MetroActive News&Issues]

[ Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

[whitespace] Sign Up in Arms: Disgruntled UCSC staffers are not going to take it anymore.


Chancellor's Picnic

There wasn't enough pizza for the 200 UCSC staff employees attending Staff Depreciation Day in front of McHenry Library on Oct. 18. But it wasn't really pizza they had on their minds. "The University of California has a 19th-century attitude about union organizing," shouted UCSC lecturer and Santa Cruz City Councilmember Mike Rotkin through a megaphone. Ringo Valdez, negotiator for AFSCME, the union that represents the service and skilled craft employees at UC, repeated the phrase "they don't seem to care."

Strike petitions circulated and were signed. The appearance of security guards caused alarm until it became apparent that they were there to participate to the protest. "It has come to the point where the only way people can get what they want is to strike," said Charlie Crummer, a physics lab manager. "We're not just a few loudmouths." The event was attended by technicians, researchers, health care workers, administrative professionals, clerical employees and service and skilled craft employees. Each group has its own contract beef with the university, but all could agree on one thing: insignificant wage increases. After negotiations between UC and the clerical workers' union (CUE) earlier this month, UC agreed to make Veterans Day a paid holiday but failed to commit to using some of its $1.9 billion surplus for wage increases.

"They spend more money hiring people to bust the unions then they would if they just gave us the raises we deserve," said Lisa Mastramico, a field study coordinator in the economics department. Mastramico chronicled last year's Staff Appreciation Day boycott by more than 400

staff members in a short documentary titled The Chancellor's Picnic. This year, the picnic was quietly "postponed," prompting employees to host the "depreciation day" instead.

In a Oct. 16 letter sent out to her "campus colleagues," Greenwood gave her reasons for the picnic's postponement: "1) The Staff Advisory Board chair and others recommend that we consider another time of year for this important celebration" and "2) The East Field is being refurbished, and is unavailable for our gathering this fall."

"Everyone is very concerned about the fact that our employees are wanting to make more money and we all hope for a successful conclusion to the labor negotiations," said UCSC spokesperson Liz Irwin.


Concerned citizens were distressed last week when CalTrans sprayed portions of Highway 1 from the Monterey County line to High Street in Santa Cruz with the herbicide known as Reward.

"We were spraying the ice plant," says Tom Gamblin, CalTrans field supervisor, "because it clogs up gutters, which could cause water to flow into the road and endanger traffic." According to Gamblin, Reward poses no threat to the environment.

Reward's active ingredient is Diquat dibromide, a suspected kidney, skin and sense organ toxicant and neurotoxicant. EPA studies show that Diquat dibromide bioaccumulates in plants, fish and zooplankton.

"Pesticides harm people. Weeds don't," says Marilyn Garret of the Toxic Action Coalition of Monterey Bay. "So many people think that pesticides are the only way to resolve weed or insect issues, but there are safe alternatives that don't involve poisons, like steam, fire and corn gluten."

In a July 26 letter to CalTrans, Santa Cruz Mayor Keith Sugar asked that pesticide and herbicide spraying stop within city limits. CalTrans District Director Jay Walter replied by claiming, "Our most intensive use of herbicides in the city limits of Santa Cruz is in the landscaped areas. To discontinue this would surely leave the Santa Cruz community in a shabby, unappealing, weedy condition."

According to CalTrans, 263 pounds of active pesticide ingredients are used within city limits annually. While CalTrans has met its goal of reducing pesticide/herbicide use by 50 percent by the year 2000, CalTrans district landscape specialist Roy Freer "can't deny" that the reduction has mostly occurred in rural areas. The amount of herbicide use along well-traveled roads, like Highway 1, has stayed the same.

Code Warriors

Under current enforcement statutes, Santa Cruz homeowners renting out unhealthy or dangerous living units can only be forced to make improvements after a lengthy court process. But when Title 4 goes into effect, they won't get off so easy anymore. The new statute, passed by the City Council on Oct. 10, will give the city the right to fine repeat municipal code offenders.

According to Assistant City Planning Director Gene Arner, the change might keep tenants from being forced to suffer substandard living situations for extended periods. "The possibility of a fine is often all that is needed to get people who are slow to comply into compliance," Arner figures.

Arner explains that in recent years some homeowners haven't been taking violation warnings too seriously. "When we get a complaint, people make very temporary fixes," he says. "Technically, they correct the violation, but they're not really bringing the property up to a livable condition."

Mechanic Bicycle Bill, who lives in a pedal-powered home he built himself, doesn't think the city should bother with code enforcement when it comes to housing standards. "[With Title 4] they're going to make trouble," he says. "Santa Cruz already has an intense housing shortage." Bicycle Bill, who has not been able to afford a rental since 1981, argues that increased code enforcement will actually increase homelessness.

At the Oct. 10 meeting, Mayor Keith Sugar suggested that the city study the effect stronger code enforcement would have on low-income individuals renting accessory dwelling units (ADUs). "Illegal accessory dwelling units are the only way a lot of people are able to live here," Sugar said. Councilmember Rotkin argued that excluding ADUs from enforcement would allow unsafe or disruptive units to avoid penalty and might cause neighborhood crowding.

For Rotkin, the solution lies in the fair-parking ordinance, which would allow homeowners to add additional rooms to their homes without adding parking, provided they rent to tenants who don't have cars. "The fair-parking ordinance would allow a lot of illegal units to be legalized," Rotkin said. "We need to reduce space for the automobile and replace it with space for people to live."

[ Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the October 25-November 1, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate