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[whitespace] Mardi Wormhoudt

Mardi Wormhoudt: In Her Own Words

By Mardi Wormhoudt

SANTA CRUZ had its dubious 15 minutes of fame this fall--7.5 minutes for supporting medical marijuana providers after the DEA's shameful raid on the WAMM farm and hospice; and 7.5 minutes because the resolutions the Board of Supervisors and City Council adopted opposing the Bush administration's proposed war on Iraq were the first of their kind in the nation.

Although a strong majority of the people I talk to supported these positions, it is never easy to take a controversial stand--which may be the reason my opponent in this race ducked out instead of voting on the City Council antiwar resolution. Later, apparently recanting, he told a group of students that he had protested the invasion of Cambodia in his own time, and that now it was their responsibility to stop the war.

That just doesn't cut it. For some of us, opposition to unjust wars is not just a youthful indulgence. It is a lifetime commitment. But I'll be honest, I have heard from a few people that it isn't the place of local government to take stands on state and national issues. We all know that local government can overdo it, but some issues are so important, with potential consequences so dire, that it is worth making an exception even if you believe that. In this case, I choose to speak out, to have my voice--and yours--heard.

At a time when so many people feel so helpless to impact state or national politics, showing support for grassroots movements is the very least your local representatives can do. Just imagine if every local government in America took the simple step of passing an antiwar resolution. Mr. Bush might actually have to explain his real reasons for fomenting a terrible war and ignoring the grave concerns of not only our allies, but the United Nations.

A local resolution takes almost no time on a Board of Supervisors agenda, but its effects can reach very far indeed. I was on the City Council in 1985 when the federal government was moving to place offshore oil derricks in the Monterey Bay. It was federal jurisdiction, and if we have thrown up our hands locally, we might be staring at those oil derricks today. What we did instead was adopt legislation which declared that no support services for offshore oil drilling could be located in the city of Santa Cruz. That was the first successful blow to the offshore drilling movement, leading later to a total ban and the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

On the morning of the recent DEA raid, WAMM board members called me for help. I had a choice. I could have said, "Now, the DEA is a federal agency, and you know they are bigger and stronger than we are, and they take precedence," or, I could have called the sheriff, and our federal representatives to help maintain calm, and do what I could to make sure that a bad situation didn't get worse. It was an easy decision. Of course, I've known and worked with Valerie and Mike Corral for nearly a decade, so it was an easy call for me.

Don't mistake me--I believe that the federal government should supersede local elected bodies, and as a local representative I believe in changing bad laws and social policy through legislation. However, when our own government becomes the aggressor against severely ill people, I believe there is a higher ethical obligation to stand with those people.

I ran for office in 1994 on a pledge to protect the Gray Whale Ranch and the spectacular Coast Dairy Lands, comprising over 8000 acres of sensitive coastal habitat. The people of Santa Cruz had for years made it clear that they wanted these areas preserved, but we didn't have the money locally to do it.

Working with state and federal officials, land trusts, private foundations and environmental organizations, I am proud to say that these lands are now protected for the public in perpetuity. This kind of success does not occur without hard work from the community and local representatives with the hands on experience to achieve what others can only promise you.

But don't take my word for it. Ask the folks who have endorsed my candidacy, including almost every union in Santa Cruz County, the People's Democratic Club, the Democratic Women's Club, UCSC Democrats, the Green Party, Vote the Coast, BAYMEC, the GLBT Alliance, Congressmembers Sam Farr and Anna Eschoo, Assemblymember Fred Keeley, County Sheriff Mark Tracy, the Deputy Sheriff's Association, all of my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, and five of the current City Council members, to name a few. I don't know any juicy stories about any of these folks, so I can only guess that their endorsements are based on my record of public service and achievement over the last 16 years.

Meanwhile, my opponent decided to run for the Board of Supervisors after a nanosecond on the City Council, during which he appears to have noticed that there's an affordable housing crisis in this town, and started making noises about it. The total number of extra permanently affordable housing units thanks to my opponent's efforts is exactly zero. And now, he is in effect telling voters that having done what he was elected to do, he's ready to move onward and upward-- but he won't take a stand on a minor question like war.

Let's realize it's not simply through dramatic CNN-coverage-type issues that the federal and state governments impact us locally. Everything from funding for senior services to rail right of way acquisition, involves state or federal money. Should we simply let them dictate what kind of community we will be, or should we press for our vision?

My vision of our community is one of sustainability: where environmental protection and affordable housing are not pitted against each other, but are complementary; where hometown businesses are supported, where seniors, the mentally ill, children and the disables all receive the care they deserve.

My vision for our community is one that is distinctive, not just another San Jose suburb. You'll find no sharper contrast in this election. I believe the Gateway/River Street project and big box store approach to commercial development have been big mistakes, destined to remake Santa Cruz into Anytown, USA.

My opponent, on the other hand, spent so much time advocating for the Borders bookstore to come to our town that you would have thought we were without local booksellers.

If you care about the changing face of Santa Cruz, about medical marijuana, about the war in Iraq, about standing up for what is right, however you define it, it isn't enough to congratulate yourself for having finished this article. You must vote on Nov. 5.

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From the October 30-November 6, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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