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A still from a Clean Team video documenting the pollution at Carbonero Creek.

A still from a Clean Team video documenting the pollution at Carbonero Creek.

When TJ Magallanes cofounded the Clean Team last fall, he never wanted the group to focus on organizing weekly cleanups, which have become the Santa Cruz coalition’s calling card.

“What we would do was go around and document areas that need attention,” Magallanes says. Instead of starting cleanups, Magallanes took pictures of places that needed to be cleaned, posting them online with GPS locations. He sent them to the city in hopes government officials would take the lead.

“I never wanted to go to deep in the cleanup part of it,” he says.

Magallanes worried that cleanups would become politically charged. Within the first month, Magallanes noticed changes: he was removed as an administrator from the group, and started doing cleanups.

“What it really turned into was vilification of different members of the community and of homeless people,” he says. Since then, Magallanes says administrators on the Clean Team’s Facebook page started deleting all of his comments.

A few weeks ago, Magallanes left the group altogether.  

Meanwhile, the Clean Team has indeed found itself the center of one controversy, after a recent online video captured an altercation at Carbonero Creek between a homeless man and Clean Team volunteer Ken Collins.

In the video, Collins stands over the prone transient man, swearing at him, telling him to pick up his trash and poking him with a metal stick.

The Clean Team’s rules specify no interaction with homeless people or active encampments. The video was taken down after the person who uploaded it claimed to have received anonymous threats, but a different user reposted it. Clean Team administrators declined to comment for this story.

For Collins, the video is an embarrassment he wants to put behind him. He feels it doesn’t represent the hard work he’s put into cleaning up in his community and battling the city council to improve sanitation and facilities for the public—including the homeless.

“That’s one bad moment in six months of doing cleanups. And I’m bummed. I’m not stoked on that one bit,” Collins says. “I have a wife and children, and I don’t want them seeing that, I don’t want people seeing that. But when you’re so passionate about the hometown you live in, and you’re looking at all this pollution and needles and crime, and you’re going out there and seeing it—I got emotionally carried away…that could happen to anybody.”

To Collins, a big-wave surfer who just got back from Chile, the video is a distraction from the issues on which he has single-mindedly focused—trash and waste in the parks and waterways around Santa Cruz. He doesn’t believe it’s right for others to make his work out to be political, or anti-homeless, as he doesn’t see it as such at all. He has, he says, continually received criticism from both liberals and conservatives, and feels caught between the left and right agendas in a political spectrum that doesn’t interest him.

“I’m trying to tell people stop making it complicated. It’s not complicated,” Collins says. “If there’s garbage all over the place, we need to pick it up. We need to get garbage cans. If there’s open defecations in our waterways, we need to have bathrooms. There’s not any other answer…That’s public safety.”

One thing Magallanes and Collins—who once worked together in this grassroots anti-trash effort—still agree on is that there shouldn’t be a need for it.

“As much as I want to help out and do good, I didn’t think it was our responsibility,” Magallanes says. “I wanted to get the city motivated to clean up.”

For his part, Collins has never been thrilled about picking up trash on Saturday mornings, and wants the city to step up. The problems, he says, are too big for any small group to handle.

“I’m not saying I’m Superman. I’m not saying I’m Mr. Righteous. I’m just saying there’s a problem, and we need to address it,” he says. “To me, it’s not like one side wants to ignore it. It seems like all parties don’t want to take this on. I feel like Santa Cruz doesn’t have any real leaders right now.”

Additional reporting contributed by Steve Palopoli.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy.html Corrina McFaralne

    I flashed on two wholly memorable experiences from my own life as I read this article;

    1. Glastonbury, England (of Isle of Avalon fame), like City of Santa Cruz has long-wrestled with a motley array of ‘travelers’ homing in on their town as a go-to place (I myself in time-past have slept tucked in behind a church wall in Glastonbury). Lots of stories there of altercations between resident and transient, tempers flaring, revenge-vandalism blah blah… Then a town resident, in this context, accidentally shot and killed a person. This upshot of a highly charged issue was so deeply horrifying to the community(of themselves) that it culminated in citizens of Glastonbury coming together to re-define ‘who’ was showing up on their doorstep and, since Glastonbury has always been a place of pilgrimage, the suggestion was made that ‘pilgrims’ come in many guises and that perhaps a re-framing was possible. They determined from this to find new ways to engage with what had become a conundrum and sometimes frightening local reality. Not that this resolved all issues but certainly could be identified as a major turning point/shift in the conversation & relations. I think they did in fact install sanitation facilities as part of this recognition.

    2. When we were on a road trip in New Zealand in 1989/1990 we were deeply impressed and delighted that New Zealanders themselves (not government) have established mores regarding transient folk in their communities. Not only did we once come across waterproof mattresses in beautifully kept caves (with welcome sign to travelers) but we found bathrooms in towns with signs such as this one; “These toilet facilities have been built(financed) and are maintained by local residents of this community. Please leave it as clean as you found it. Thank You.”

    The transient/itinerant spectrum is broad, maybe more especially in Santa Cruz, and does not make for easy solutions but wouldn’t it be phenomenal if we installed a noteworthy/news-worthy row of Clivus Multrum stalls, just like they have at Bronx Zoo (youtube that; serves huge numbers every year and turns those fabulous nutrients into superb topsoil!), only ours could include an innovative design of cameras at a very specific(!) level; “if you shoot up in here we have installed a mechanism to beam you up to…..” (fill in the blank).

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/11/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy Corrina McFaralne

    I flashed on two wholly memorable experiences from my own life as I read this article;

    1. Glastonbury, England (of Isle of Avalon fame), like City of Santa Cruz has long-wrestled with a motley array of ‘travelers’ homing in on their town as a go-to place (I myself in time-past have slept tucked in behind a church wall in Glastonbury). Lots of stories there of altercations between resident and transient, tempers flaring, revenge-vandalism blah blah… Then a town resident, in this context, accidentally shot and killed a person. This upshot of a highly charged issue was so deeply horrifying to the community(of themselves) that it culminated in citizens of Glastonbury coming together to re-define ‘who’ was showing up on their doorstep and, since Glastonbury has always been a place of pilgrimage, the suggestion was made that ‘pilgrims’ come in many guises and that perhaps a re-framing was possible. They determined from this to find new ways to engage with what had become a conundrum and sometimes frightening local reality. Not that this resolved all issues but certainly could be identified as a major turning point/shift in the conversation & relations. I think they did in fact install sanitation facilities as part of this recognition.

    2. When we were on a road trip in New Zealand in 1989/1990 we were deeply impressed and delighted that New Zealanders themselves (not government) have established mores regarding transient folk in their communities. Not only did we once come across waterproof mattresses in beautifully kept caves (with welcome sign to travelers) but we found bathrooms in towns with signs such as this one; “These toilet facilities have been built(financed) and are maintained by local residents of this community. Please leave it as clean as you found it. Thank You.”

    The transient/itinerant spectrum is broad, maybe more especially in Santa Cruz, and does not make for easy solutions but wouldn’t it be phenomenal if we installed a noteworthy/news-worthy row of Clivus Multrum stalls, just like they have at Bronx Zoo (youtube that; serves huge numbers every year and turns those fabulous nutrients into superb topsoil!), only ours could include an innovative design of cameras at a very specific(!) level; “if you shoot up in here we have installed a mechanism to beam you up to…..” (fill in the blank).

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy.html Robert Norse

    What happened to the comment I posted yesterday?

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/11/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy Robert Norse

    What happened to the comment I posted yesterday?

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy.html Santa Cruz Resident

    So, Magallanes has a beef because the group is finally accomplishing something and it wasn’t his idea? 

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/11/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy Santa Cruz Resident

    So, Magallanes has a beef because the group is finally accomplishing something and it wasn’t his idea? 

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy.html Eric Rowland

    TJ didn’t envision TCT picking up trash.  He highlighted the issue, actually did go out and pick up trash (on the cliffs) and the City did…nothing.  The other concerned citizens had two choices.  Continue to watch the City do nothing, or DO SOMETHING.  So we did, and we do.  I for one am not interested in the politics of who administers a Facebook page, though it should be pointed out that TJ has since moved out of State.  What is it he would do from Oklahoma to help Santa Cruz?
    As for Ken Collins, he made a mistake and apologized.  Given that Santa Cruz has a rep for giving thieves, junkies and even dealers a second chance, how about the same for someone doing good instead of bad?  It should also be pointed out that he used a trash grabber, not a “a metal stick”, which sounds like a weapon.  A small point, but visualization is key for readers.
    Simply put, community members who help clean up the community each week should be applauded (as we are each week by drivers, bikers and walkers) instead of local media focusing on ginned up controversies.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/11/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy Eric Rowland

    TJ didn’t envision TCT picking up trash.  He highlighted the issue, actually did go out and pick up trash (on the cliffs) and the City did…nothing.  The other concerned citizens had two choices.  Continue to watch the City do nothing, or DO SOMETHING.  So we did, and we do.  I for one am not interested in the politics of who administers a Facebook page, though it should be pointed out that TJ has since moved out of State.  What is it he would do from Oklahoma to help Santa Cruz?
    As for Ken Collins, he made a mistake and apologized.  Given that Santa Cruz has a rep for giving thieves, junkies and even dealers a second chance, how about the same for someone doing good instead of bad?  It should also be pointed out that he used a trash grabber, not a “a metal stick”, which sounds like a weapon.  A small point, but visualization is key for readers.
    Simply put, community members who help clean up the community each week should be applauded (as we are each week by drivers, bikers and walkers) instead of local media focusing on ginned up controversies.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy.html Rober Norse

    The video depicting Ken Collins behavior—as well as that of bigoted support from other “Clean Team” members—is described in a lengthy story at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/05/15/18736901.php (“Video of Take Back Santa Cruz-supported Clean Team Harassing Homeless Forced Off Internet”).

    The video, however, has again been censored.  Someone really doesn’t want the community to see what Take Back Santa Cruz-dominated groups are doing.

    Still wondering where my earlier comment went.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/11/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy Rober Norse

    The video depicting Ken Collins behavior—as well as that of bigoted support from other “Clean Team” members—is described in a lengthy story at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/05/15/18736901.php (“Video of Take Back Santa Cruz-supported Clean Team Harassing Homeless Forced Off Internet”).

    The video, however, has again been censored.  Someone really doesn’t want the community to see what Take Back Santa Cruz-dominated groups are doing.

    Still wondering where my earlier comment went.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy.html Robert Norse

    Community members who raise fascistic fears of crime with tales of “needle terror” vastly exaggerate and misrepresent the situation are not performing a community service.

    Driving needle exchange from the city creates more not less improper needles disposal.

    Blaming homeless people is part of a long-time agenda from conservative residents and businesses to drive poor people out of town.  It’s the kind of media bullying, political opportunism, and bigoted mindset that creates real misery for the poorest people.

    It’s also part of a culture war that distracts from bankster crime and the official repression that has followed the Occupy protests.

    Drug war hysteria is nothing new—-and the results are far worse than drug use.  Massive corruption, ruined lives by the millions (by useless criminalization), and a blueprint for the Bush-Obama police state in which we now find ourselves.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/06/11/local_cleanup_group_draws_controversy Robert Norse

    Community members who raise fascistic fears of crime with tales of “needle terror” vastly exaggerate and misrepresent the situation are not performing a community service.

    Driving needle exchange from the city creates more not less improper needles disposal.

    Blaming homeless people is part of a long-time agenda from conservative residents and businesses to drive poor people out of town.  It’s the kind of media bullying, political opportunism, and bigoted mindset that creates real misery for the poorest people.

    It’s also part of a culture war that distracts from bankster crime and the official repression that has followed the Occupy protests.

    Drug war hysteria is nothing new—-and the results are far worse than drug use.  Massive corruption, ruined lives by the millions (by useless criminalization), and a blueprint for the Bush-Obama police state in which we now find ourselves.