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Progressive Choices

Are people who run for Santa Cruz City Council masochists? The answer, to Nüz's mind, is "abso-frigging-lutely," judging by two candidate endorsement forums held back-to-back last week.

Take the public forum sponsored by the PROGRESSIVE COALITION FORUM, moderated by Assemblymember JOHN LAIRD (D-Santa Cruz) and representing the concerns of the PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC CLUB, the SANTA CRUZ ACTION NETWORK, SEIU #415 and the GAY LESBIAN BISEXUAL TRANSGENDER ALLIANCE. Candidates had to complete a bunch of questionnaires (one of them consisting of no less than 38 multipart questions) before being grilled (on what coincidentally turned out to be one of the hottest days this year) under blinding lights onstage in the Louden Nelson auditorium in front of arguably the town's biggest bunch of political animals.

Apologizing for "bringing the Sacramento weather" with him, Laird kept the grueling proceedings under control for two hours as candidates replied to five pre-selected questions, including their stand on MEASURE J, the proposed sales tax initiative to widen Highway 1. Up until the PCF forum, the current City Council had taken a neutral stance on the highway, but three council incumbents--ED PORTER, EMILY REILLY and SCOTT KENNEDY--went public in their opposition to Measure J, arguing that the true costs of widening aren't known, widening won't fix traffic jams and the tax is a net loss for other transportation options, including bus, rail, bike and the proposed Coastal Rail Trail. They were joined in their opposition by challengers RYAN COONERTY, MARK FOGEL and TONY MADRIGAL, which left Councilmember MARK PRIMACK flying solo in his support of Measure J, which he views as a "countywide referendum."

Perhaps the darkly funniest moment of the night came after challenger Fogel was asked what he'd do to increase housing stock for low income residents. Expounding on the joys of capitalism and suggesting that people who want subsidized housing should move to socialist countries, Fogel said, "Those who do well here are rewarded, others can live in Watsonville, and trying to socially engineer housing will not work." That left him at the mercy of the next speaker, who happened to be Kennedy, who asked, "If I move to a socialist country, do you promise your capitalist country won't invade?"

No one was surprised when the PDC and SCAN endorsed challenger Coonerty as well as incumbents Reilly and Ed Porter, but Nu_z was a bit shocked when they didn't endorse SEIU organizer Madrigal, the only candidate to make his opening speech in Spanish as well as in English, not to mention that he grew up as a farmworker and has hands-on knowledge of the issues of our bicultural community and the subcultures within it.

Born and raised in Turlock, Madrigal, who describes himself as "Made in the USA," says he often gets mistaken for a Jehovah's Witness when he walks the precincts because he wears suits, shirts and ties--a clothing choice, which helps him "not get written off as a person of color"--and which hopefully didn't tip the PCF scales against him. Noting that he narrowly fell short of SCAN's requirement that "we get 60 percent of endorsement," Madrigal noted, "But I did come in fourth place, which shows that a lot of people are very responsive to the idea of new leadership and energy. I live on the east side, we need diversity of perspective, class, gender--and I believe I'm the only renter running in this race."

LOBA's Picks

The following morning, Madrigal and the rest of the candidates were doing their best to look slick and spruced up, despite the ungodly 7:30am start at the LOCALLY OWNED BUSINESS ALLIANCE'S FORUM.

Once again, Coonerty and Reilly walked away with endorsements, but this time they were joined not by Porter but by Kennedy and Primack, with Madrigal missing the endorsement boat again, this time because he placed fifth in a race for four council seats.

With questions swirling as to whether a SEIU organizer would have a conflict of interest as councilmember (questions whose logic should surely also apply to candidates who own businesses in the city), Madrigal, who is on two-month leave from SEIU (with one month reportedly paid by unused vacation time, the other unpaid so SEIU can, as he puts it, "enjoy some salary savings"), told Nu_z that SEIU staffers serve on the city councils of Salinas, Napa and Stockton; another is a county supe in Solano, and 150 SEIU members serve as elected officials nationwide.

The LOBA forum also had its comic moment, when the NO ON MEASURE J folks didn't show up for LOBA's highway widening discussion, causing one member to gleefully quip, "I guess they got stuck in traffic."

As it happens, the real reason was way more mundane, with People Power's MICAH POSNER having apparently confused 7:30am with 7: 30pm. But as a result, Jim Conklin's pro-widening presentation on behalf of CITIZENS FOR IMPROVED TRANSPORTATION went unchallenged and the LOBA folks voted yes on Measure J, putting them at electoral odds with PDC's and SCAN's no votes--which make J's passage unlikely.

Hot Tix

Travel, think and work smart. That is this week's mantra, beginning with a showing of Free to Fly, about maintaining links between the Cuban and American people at 7pm on Thursday, Sept. 16, at Live Oak Grange, 1900 17th Ave., Santa Cruz.

The next day, Sept. 17, Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire shows at 7:30pm at Louden Nelson, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz.

And on Saturday, Sept. 18, U.S. Rep. LOIS CAPPS (D-Santa Barbara), joined by a panel including Rep. SAM FARR, speaks about realigning U.S. foreign policy and practice, at 3pm at First Congregational Church, 900 High St., Santa Cruz.

The following week, U.S. Partners founders HINA PENDLE and STEPHEN MEYER host a free reception about transformative approaches to work. "People long for more fulfilling, balanced ways to work," says Pendle, noting that "sumptuous Italian desserts will be served." 7-9pm, Sept. 22, Ristorante Barolo, Bayview Hotel, 8041 Soquel Dr., Aptos. Call 831.662.2232.

Burning Woman

Disappointed that she and her partner, JEFF STASI, could not go to BURNING MAN this year, FAUSTINE PENNEY had a hot idea. Why not create BURNING WOMAN in SC on the same night as the Nevada burn? This fledgling Burning Woman attracted several dozen devotees, who assembled in Kinko's parking lot for a costumed bike-riding procession that wove its way to Seabright Beach, where the dance and drum-filled event went off without a hitch. Sounds like a cool alternative to roasting in the desert with 35,000 people.

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 September 15-22, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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