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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

Five-and-a-Half Feet of Firecracker: Dennis Kucinich laid out his 10-point plan last weekend in Santa Cruz.


Point Man

Though we've written about him plenty, Nüz had never seen Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich up-close-and-personal until last weekend, when we attended a fundraiser for the man opponents call "Dennis the Menace."

We soon saw why. The man may stand only 5 feet 6 inches, but his political platform represents death to inequality and injustice both at home and abroad, which may explain why the Menace always dresses like a funeral director.

Kucinich's 10-point agenda includes universal health care, full Social Security benefits at age 65, withdrawal from NAFTA and WTO, repeal of the Patriot Act, restoration of civil rights, privacy and a woman's full right to choose, balance between workers and corporations, guaranteed quality education, a renewed commitment to peace and diplomacy, restored rural communities and family farms, and environmental renewal and clean energy.

Since Kucinich already has a cool wrestling-type name attached to him, Nüz was kind of hoping his presidential-primary rival "Mean" Joe Lieberman would show up in the middle of the event and battle it out with him, WWF-style, for the future of the Democratic party. No dice. Doesn't anyone care about political showmanship anymore?

When Anna Met Arnie

Meanwhile, the California Democratic Congressional Delegation has highlighted the 10 top issues it believes Governor-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger should raise with President-Select George Bush, ASAP.

Top of the list is the matter of the missing energy rebates, which at $9 billion represent about half of the state's estimated budget deficit.

Local Congressmember Anna Eshoo, one of only three Dems who got to present the list to Arnie during his recent two-day visit to Washington, D.C., told Nüz that while she didn't get to read the full list of questions, she did get to speak to him on the issue of refunds.

And as she points out, it's a misnomer that a governor can cancel any energy contracts.

"Only the FERC can," Eshoo said. "With $9 billion on the table, I urged him to lead on the issue of pressuring the FERC to see to it that Californians get refunded."

As for Arnie's response, Anna recalls that "he nodded, he listened. It remains to be seen what he does."

Water Supe

Nüz noted with interest that water advocate Tod Landis has entered the race for District 5 supe, a seat that Jeff Almquist vacated last month, after Gov. Gray Davis appointed him to a judgeship.

Landis says he's throwing his hat into the ring with fellow candidates Denese Matthes, Sharon Barbour, Scotts Valley Councilwoman Stephany Aguilar and Scotts Valley Mayor Randy Johnson because he feels "strongly about water issues and the need to protect the public from corporate abuse."

And with Almquist's aide Scott Millar having just resigned, Landis may be the only candidate who's been tracking exactly how multinational conglomerate RWE came to swallow up Felton's water virtually unchallenged last year.

As Landis explains, corporations such as telephone, electricity and cable companies have to notify counties when ownership or rate structures change, but when RWE paid $7.6 billion to buy American Water Works (the company that owns Cal-Am, which currently provides water to Felton), that notice ended up in the garbage--instead of on the county counsel's desk.

Given Landis' water credentials, how come he's not likely to be appointed to the seat for the interim year by Davis? The answer seems to lie in party affiliation, given that Landis once was a Democrat but then switched to the Green Party.

As it happens, it's looking like Davis will appoint fellow Democrat and Scotts Valley-based lawyer Mark Stone to the post, a move that could give Stone an edge in the March primary--or not, depending on how Stone would handles issues like Felton's water.

Still, if Davis is too busy fighting fires to make that appointment, the decision could fall to Arnie instead, in which case insiders are betting that Johnson would be first pick.

Either way, with the new supe not assuming the reins until November 2004, Landis hopes to get all the candidates to agree to form an assessment district, so the Board of Supes can move on with getting a measure on the March ballot. The cutoff date to do so is Dec. 5.

Meanwhile, Landis can be seen in the flesh at a Nov. 13 meeting called by citizen activist Susan Kipping, who hoped a bond to raise money to buy the system would be done by now.

"But it hasn't, which is why I'm calling a town meeting to put the power back into the citizens' hands," says Kipping, who's worried that if the county doesn't move now, Felton's water rates will rise by between 54 percent and 80 percent, with higher rates hitting the Sheriff's Department, schools, fire departments and municipalities hardest-- not to mention making efforts to buy back Felton's water supply more expensive, since hikes will increase its market value.

"We need to focus on a bond; we need to organize; we need to educate the people of Felton and beyond--and we have to watch for RWE to back a supe candidate who doesn't care about public ownership of water," says Kipping, who asked Landis to co-chair the Nov. 13 meeting. "Because if it wasn't for Tod, where would we be?"

Without a supe in place, Felton's water issue currently has no representation at the county level.

"I was told to put my one egg in my basket, but the egg, which was Jeff Almquist, hatched, the bird's flown the coop and now my basket, which is Felton's water system, is in danger," says Kipping. "We were told to just sit here and let the professionals handle it, but who are they and what are they handling?"

To find out, join Landis and Kipping on Nov. 13 at 7pm at the Felton Fire Station, 131 Kirby St.

Hair Razing

Here's a hairy way to help the families of Steve Rucker, the Novato firefighter who perished in the SoCal fires, and Capt. Doug McDonald, who was burned while trying to rescue Rucker: a cut-athon in which all haircuts cost $35, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Steve Rucker Fund and Doug McDonald Fund, c/o Bank of Marin, 1450 Grant Ave., Marin, 94945. Of course, if you're one of the firefighters who served in the SoCal blazes, you'll get your tresses shorn for free. The shearing happens at Le Salon Cruz at the newly opened Swift Street Courtyard, 402 Ingalls St., Suite 8 (off Mission Street), next to the new Kelly's French Bakery, 10am-7pm, Nov. 15. Call 831.420.1000.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the November 12-19, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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