Responding to Councilmember Posner on Today’s Council Meeting

Subject: UCSC Expansion, Cars on the Beach, Needle Exchange, & Public Safety
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2013 00:08:57 -0800

On the agenda: UCSC Expansion, Cars on the Beach, Needle Exchange, & Public Safety
Dear Constituents,
City Council continues to be a fascinating learning experience for me and each agenda item is merely a window into a complex intersection of institutional efficiencies and community priorities.

Cars on the Beach
This week, item number 18 of the 3PM session is a proposal from staff to amend the city’s ordinance governing automobile use on the city’s parks and beaches. The proposal would legalize the expansion of the use of automobiles beyond emergency and maintenance vehicles to “any vehicle under contract with the city”. Those of us who walk and ride the levee path and beaches have noticed a significant increase of automobile traffic in these “car free” places, much of which is comprised of private First Alarm Security Guards patrolling from within their trucks. Now folks have the opportunity to comment on whether or not this is appropriate. If you do or do not want First Alarm and other folks trucking around the parks and beaches, please send the city council an email before Tuesday at 9:00 AM to citycouncil@cityofsantacruz .com or show up at the meeting at 809 Center Street. Number 18 will be heard as early as 3:30PM.
UCSC Expansion
Perhaps the most fascinating thing to be discussed on Tuesday will occur in closed session but the public is still welcome to weigh in on it. At 1:30 PM, on Tuesday, the council will talk about it’s ongoing case with the Habitat and Watershed Caretakers. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, this is in regard to the fact that a citizen’s group (Habitat and Watershed Caretakers) recently successfully won a lawsuit against the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that the City filed on behalf of the University to expand city water and sewage ‘sphere of influence’ into the upper campus of UCSC. Should the city continue to spend money and staff time to attempt to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court? Should we redo the EIR to include the alternative that UCSC could expand into upper campus without increasing its overall water use? Or drop the whole thing and risk undermining the part of the settlement agreement with the city requiring the University to house at least 2/3 of their students?
Needle Exchange
What isn’t directly on the agenda is the atmosphere of fear around public safety in our city, fueled by Take Back Santa Cruz. At the last City Council meeting on Feb 12th, the council took action on a series of public safety recommendations, including a conversation on our local needle exchange program, which is run by volunteers. Everyone agrees that this program could use more oversight and support from the county health department, but some people seemed to blame the program itself for the scary proliferation of used needles around town, and were trying to insure that the needle exchange lose its ability to operate in the city.  After a week of intense study, I learned that needle exchanges are, in fact, our best chance of properly disposing of used needles and that the proliferation of needles is more likely caused by drug stores selling needles for 60 cents each without a prescription and having no obvious place to dispose of the dirty ones. At the end of the day (literally), Cynthia Mathews made a motion for the county health services staff to come up with a needle exchange proposal to include operation within the city which passed unanimously. While the Council still has to approve a location for the exchange and is sure to get opposition in doing so, the motion represented a victory of reason and sound policy over fear based perceptions.
Other Thoughts on Public Safety
While we can all appreciate the energy that folks are putting into public safety right now, it is important that we use our best thinking and best research when trying to improve the situation, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and proposals on how to do so.
PS: There are many excellent events being organized to promote Public Safety at present. One of them is being organized (in part) by my ex-campaign manger Jacqueline Seydel. Below is the information:

March and rally to counteract the acceptance of rape culture.
Noon on March 8th- International Woman’s Day
Meet at the Quarry Plaza at UCSC for speakers, followed by a march to town.

Please contact me anytime. I work for you.

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Council member Posner:

Here are a few concerns regarding your e-mail to constituents.

1.  I notice you did not send it to me from the City Council address, yet you are suggesting people respond to that address.  Which do you prefer?  Are e-mails on city business being saved so they can be made accessible to Public Records Act requests?  Will you please request specific information (currently being withheld) on which City Council members are using private accounts to store (and/or delete) correspondence on City Business?

2.  Re: #18 specifically.   Please make a staff request to get information regarding citations, stops, and costs of city-authorized vehicles on the levee in the last two months. How frequently do they patrol?  What specific “public safety hazards” have they found?  Ask for particulars, not general comments about drugs, loitering, camping.   Ask how much property has been confiscated on the levee.  How much thrown away?

3. UCSC expansion:  What are the enforcement provisions for UCSC’s promise to provide 2/3 of the student housing ?  Wasn’t the same promise made several decades ago and then violated without consequence?  What’s your position on the questions you raise?

4. Council’s cave-in in response to Needle Hysteria:  Are you actually suggesting there is any credibility to the Drug War Prohibitionist claim that needle exchange needs “more oversight”? If so, what particular acts or omissions of the last four years require that?   

5.  I renew my request that you ask for police stats around the Barson St. site during needle exchange times for the last three months to indicate (a) whether any reports of needles were found there, (b) whether there was any increase in actual crimes there, and (c) how many needle-stick reports have been made to the SCPD and other agencies in the last 5 years.

6/ Please also ask whether city authorities have a specific needle clean-up program, how often it operates, how much funding it gets, and whether that funding has increased or diminished in the last decade. 

It continues to enrage me that you and other Council members responded to a panic attack by creating a public safety hazard with the shut down of the Barson St. needle exchange.  This was done behind-closed-doors with no public input
in a decision you have neither publicly renounced or even criticized.  (If you have done so since in any public statements, please advise me.)

    I believe obtaining the information requested above may be helpful to assess the accuracy of the picture Take Back Santa Cruz, the Clean Team, and their right-wing allies on the Council painted in the last few months.  It may in some small measure ameliorate the damage City Council has done through the City Attorney.

    Thanks for this your constituent letter and for  trying to broaden your public outreach.

Where can the “restore needle exchange in the City” petition can be accessed in hard copy?  I’d suggest you also put out that information to constituents (as well as on-line info) if you are serious about restoring needle exchange in accessible areas and reversing the public health threat the Council has unleashed. 

Robert Norse