Steven Argue on Homeless Activists Coral Brune and Robert Norse for Santa Cruz City Council
Homeless Activists Coral Brune and Robert Norse for Santa Cruz City
Council

By Steven Argue
Coral Brune and Robert Norse went to the debates and saw that the
status-quo City Council candidates running were not worth
supporting. With Thomas Leavitt and Steven Argue choosing not to run
this year it was hard for local human rights activists to find anyone
worth voting for in the Santa Cruz City Council races. So the two
have decided to jump into the race at the last minute as official
write-in candidates.

While the lack of representation stood out on many issues, the
sleeping ban is a good example of how this latest crop of political
hopefuls, old and new, are looking for a job where they will just
keep everything the same. None of the original seven candidates
running for the four open seats were have a position for ending the
city law making it illegal for the homeless to sleep at night,
although Tony Madrigal has said, "I am open to lifting the sleeping
ban." It's nice that Tony is open to ending a law that makes
criminals out of all people who cannot afford a roof over their
heads, but being open to it is a political maneuver that amounts to
taking no position.

The sleeping ban in Santa Cruz makes the harmless act of sleeping
illegal for the homeless whether they are outside, in a tent, or in a
vehicle. Covering up with a blanket is another crime. Coral Brune
and Robert Norse see that where the council candidates stand on
homelessness is a key issue partly because anyone in government who
can not get this issue right won't get anything else right either.

The four incumbents, Scott Kennedy, Emily Reilly, Ed Porter, and
Mark Primac, all have a record in office of supporting the sleeping
ban as well as other harassment of the poor. Despite their ability
to do so, none of these politicians would even put the issue on the
City Council agenda in the past four years.

Ryan Coonerty, the top fundraiser and son of a former mayor, has
also pledged his support for the sleeping ban. He explains his
position saying that without these anti-homeless laws, people would
see all of the homeless camped in the street and support for the
funding of social services would dry up. It is an interesting point
of history that Adolf Hitler made this same argument regarding the
visibility of the homeless and social services in Germany.

Candidate Mark Fogel, who has a very limited base, represents the
far right in the elections. He is registered with the Independent
Party and was the only candidate not registered with the Democrat
Party before Coral Brune and Robert Norse entered the race. Mark
Fogel claims that the current anti-homeless laws are not enough
saying that the current Santa Cruz City Council shows, "Far too much
tolerance for an environment that practically invites transients from
all over the country to our town."

In contrast to all other candidates, Robert Norse and Coral Brune
have entered the race at the last minute as write-in candidates under
the following demands:

"Expand and Restore Street Performing Downtown

"End Abusive City Codes that Criminalize the Homeless like the
Sleeping Ban, the Blanket Ban, & the Sitting Ban

"Restore Access to Public Spaces; finally a Downtown Plaza

"Replace the City Attorney and City Manager

"Real Citizen Oversight of the City Staff

"Real and Regular Democratic Access to City Council

"Real Community Control of Police This Time

"End the Drug War in Santa Cruz; No Forced Fluoridation.

"Restore Medical Marijuana Distribution Centers in S.C.

"Rent Control and Just Eviction Protections for all Renters

"Justice for De Anza & Clear View Court Mobile Home Parks

"Tax Real Estate Profiteering

"A City Sunshine Law: Indict Brown Act Violators

"Resist the Federal Government's Bogus "War on Terror"

"Pass City Laws Against "Patriot Act" Repression

"City Disinvestment in War Companies; An Amnesty Zone for Courageous
Resisters of the Illegal Iraqi War

"Say No to Incumbent Retreads and Politicians-on-the-Make

"Shake Up Santa Cruz : Elect a Troublemaker

"Join the Write-In Resistance: The Fight Starts November 2nd"

While Liberation News has some minor disagreements with this
platform, we think that the most important point is that it
represents a local people's agenda in opposition to all of the other
candidates who are running. It is a similar agenda to that put
forward in this author's City Council campaigns in 2000 and 2002, a
platform that makes necessary and realizable demands that the
capitalist system and its politicians are unwilling to deliver. This
presents the polarization necessary in the social revolution that
will be needed to begin to remedy these problems of poverty, war, and
repression.

This is in stark contrast to the local Democrat Party hacks in
power (and one sell-out Green) who pretend to take the people's side
in order to more easily betray us. It is from the left cover of
false promises and meaningless resolutions that the city government
carries out its pro-police state, anti-renter, anti-working class,
anti-free speech, anti-medical marijuana, and anti-homeless agenda
locally.

On September 21st, 2003 the Santa Cruz City Council abolished the
only real rent control in the city. This was rent control for mobile
home residents. The city decision, made by the fake leftist City
Council, destroyed housing security and equity for the elderly
residents living in close to 200 homes at the De Anza mobile home
park. The City Council's excuse? Legal costs in defending the rent
control from the corporate landlord at De Anza. Yet the City Council
doesn't seem to care about the legal costs of sending their cops out
to run roughshod over the homeless and political activists.

The truth is that the pro-corporate and anti-renter Santa Cruz City
Council opposes rent control on every level and could care less about
the elderly De Anza residents who have lost their housing security
and equity as a result of the City Council's decision.

Incumbents Emily Reilly, Mark Primac, and Scott Kenedy all voted
to boot the elderly residents of De Anza to the street. To his
credit Ed Porter was the only politician on the city council to vote
no. Yet Ed Porter has not pursued a policy to gain citywide rent
control.

The calls of Robert Norse and Coral Brune for rent control and
just eviction protections for all renters along with justice for De
Anza & Clear View Court mobile home park renters represents the
positions of Liberation News.

The false credentials of the incumbents in this race could fill a
book.

Incumbent candidate Scott Kennedy runs the Resource Center for Non-
Violence, yet he supports police violence against activists and the
homeless carried out by his police in Santa Cruz while refusing to
pass a city resolution calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and
refusing to pass a City ordinance against the enforcement of the
Patriot Act in Santa Cruz.

Incumbent candidate Mark Primack touts his past involvement in
saving the green belt, while presently being heavily financed by
large developers.

Incumbent candidate Emily Reilly claims she "bakes good things"
and falsely claims she pays her workers a living wage at her bakery,
a claim that has been refuted by her workers.

Incumbent candidate Ed Porter got the endorsement of the Green
Party in 2000 by promising to overturn the city's anti-homeless
sleeping ban, a promise he has not kept. Despite this clear betrayal
the pro-capitalist petty-bourgeois Green Party has decided to endorse
Ed Porter this year again.

Incumbents Ed Porter and Emily Reilly ignored the public in a
meeting on downtown problems where the majority told them that police
abuses were their number one concern. The two instead drafted new
laws giving the police broader powers to harass street musicians,
political activists, and people who look homeless. The new laws were
passed by the City Council and I (as well as Mathew Hartogh) have
since been arrested twice for having a political table up for more
than an hour. Tom Noddy was arrested under the new law for juggling
lemons as well.

While there are many activists who prefer to jump on the band-
wagon of the city government's progressive illusions to give their
own cause the mantel of governmental legitimacy, Liberation News
points out that this mode of operation is counter productive. Groups
such as unions and the Green Party alienate themselves from their
true allies by supporting status quo politicians who do not really
support their causes.

The key to understanding the difference between pseudo-progressive
politics and the revolutionary program of Liberation News is to
understand the difference between words and deeds. This principle
holds true in examining the policies of national and state Democrats
and Republicans just as it does in examining the local politics of
the Democrats and the Green who hold office.

A good example would be the policies of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton
appeared to many who listened to his words and looked at the
endorsements he got from many unions and gay rights groups to be pro-
union and pro-human rights for gays. Yet in reality Clinton gave gays
the "don't ask don't tell policy" of the military, which actually led
to more discrimination of gays in the military. Clinton also stepped
in against workers who were out on strike, hurting workers in favor
of corporate profits. In addition Clinton was carrying out wars
across globe from the bombing of Yugoslavia to giving billions of
dollars in military aid to the death squad government of Colombia. He
starved 1.5 million Iraqis (mostly children) through an economic
blockade, ended welfare as we knew it, weakened the Endangered
Species Act, let political prisoners such as Leonard
Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal rot in prison, proposed a health
insurance bail out while opposing real health care solutions such as
single payer or national health care, etc.

Locally members of that same Democrat Party, and one Green, run
the city government. The level of hypocrisy that comes from these
people is very high, but almost never reported in corporate
newspapers such as the Sentinel, Mercury News, Metro, or Good Times.
For instance there were numerous articles on the medical marijuana
give-away at city hall, yet there were no articles that pointed out
that this symbolic act was illegal according to the zoning ordinance
introduced by Mike Rotkin and Tim Fitzmaurice and passed by the city
council. That zoning ordinance outlawed medical
marijuana dispensaries in almost all of Santa Cruz and shut down the
one dispensary in the city on Seabright Avenue. Yet these same
politicians used the DEA raid as an opportunity to create a photo-op
on an issue important to the majority of Santa Cruz voters.

This is no small question. Through this city law the pseudo-
progressive city council makes the attainment of needed medicine for
patients with glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, and epilepsy much more
difficult and illegal.

The complicity of the corporate media in portraying anti-medical
marijuana politicians as pro-medical marijuana is one example showing
how the backing of the corporate establishment keeps these pseudo-
progressives in power. It also shows the need for more
people to be part of and rely more on alternative media.

The challenge of Robert Norse and Coral Brune in this election to
the hypocrisy of these politicians is an important step toward
building a working class alternative.

While the Democrat politicians and their allies who defend the
capitalist system simply see the homeless as failures, we at
Liberation News see homelessness as a failure of capitalism. Studies
have made it clear that it is the shortage of affordable housing and
the low wages paid to much of the working class that are the two
largest causes of
homelessness in America. In addition there can be little doubt that
mental illness, physical handicaps, alienation, and drug and alcohol
addiction are also major contributors to homelessness, but these
stereotypes do not represent the majority. Poor people also become
homeless because of their desire to create art, travel, or who have
difficulty participating in a society that is often so regimented and
unjust.

Liberation News, in solidarity with the Brune and Norse
candidacies, declares that the homeless are not some kind of pest
infestation to be jailed, driven out of town, or driven off the
earth. We instead see the homeless as human beings who should all
have housing, access to good paying meaningful jobs, as well as
needed social services. Thus our political program addresses both
ways to cure homelessness and opposes laws that punish people for
having no home.

A combination of hatred for the homeless on one hand and ignorance
or apathy on the other, combined with a large dose of lies from the
corporate media and the status quo politicians keeps the Santa Cruz
anti-homeless politicians in power. Yet instead of
playing into anti-homeless prejudices amongst the electorate and the
local power brokers Liberation News seeks to educate the electorate
about some of the key issues involved in the Santa Cruz anti-homeless
laws and seeks to break the power of the current king
makers. We do not adjust our principles according to what could
obviously get us elected by getting us more backing in the corporate
media, more funding for our campaigns, and
fewer struggles with the prejudices of the electorate.

In advocating solutions we do not gloss over and ignore the basic
economic divisions in society, nor do we pretend we can make everyone
happy. In America there are workers and there are bosses. There are
also renters and there are landlords. While there are
other classes in the middle, these are the most basic economic
divisions; they are, in short, the division between the exploiters
and the exploited. Locally the exploiters maintain control with their
money, media, pseudo-progressive politicians, police, judges,
jails, etc

The relationship between renters and landlords is much like the
feudal relations where serfs were forced to slave for their
landlords. In Santa Cruz low-income workers are forced to turn the
majority of our income over to landlords who often use the money to
do things like buy more property or party hard off of our labor. The
pseudo-progressive government's sleeping ban makes the very act of
sleeping after not paying our feudal landlords their monthly tribute,
illegal. In addition the city government does not address
the issues of renters.

While high rent is the biggest problem facing low-income renters
and the homeless it is also the biggest problem facing downtown
merchants. Yet instead of blaming the greedy landlords many of the
downtown merchants, coupled with the corporate media and their
errand boys in city government, are scapegoating the poor for their
problems.

Obviously instead of laws against the poor, activists, and street
performers we need rent control and more low-income housing. We also
need higher wages. On this issue we once again run into the hypocrisy
of the local pseudo-progressive government.

One of the bragging points of the pseudo-progressive incumbents in
the last election was their passing of the so-called living wage
ordinance in the year 2000. This ordinance was one of the weakest in
the nation, effecting only about 10 workers with a one-dollar
raise. About 600 part time workers working for the city government
were not covered by this ordinance. Nor are workers who work for
companies that do work that is contracted out by the city or those
who work for non-profits that are funded by the city.

Liberation News calls for a stronger living wage that actually has
an impact on the majority of low wageworkers that work for the city.
Cutting the six digit salaries of top administrators such as the city
manager, the chief of police, and the head of the Re-Development
agency as well as others could pay this for.

In addition Liberation News calls for a doubling of the minimum
wage and indexing it with inflation through legislation on the city,
state, and national level. All workers deserve a minimum living wage
much higher than the current minimum wage. This
is another issue where we side with the exploited over the
exploiters, the workers over employers.

While the capitalists insist that it is their God given right to
exploit workers, and claim that they give workers jobs, Liberation
News points out that without the capitalist system there would be no
capitalists to expropriate a large portion of our labor power in the
form of profits. Likewise we support the labor movement and other
movements in every attempt to rest a larger share of the fruits of
our labor from the parasitic capitalist class.

The disagreements Liberation News has with the labor movement stem
from our desire to strengthen the labor movement and its legitimate
causes. To these ends we are strong advocates of union democracy and
see the rank and file of the union, not its leadership, as the true
union. On this point we support the strikes of the union membership,
whether officially sanctioned by the leadership or not. This includes
the Santa Cruz bus driver's
wildcat strike of 1998. We also condemn the actions of City Council
members Mike Rotkin and Scott Kennedy in crossing that picket line to
fuel busses as scabs (this was witnessed by Nora Hockman, a local
leader of the SEIU). Likewise we do not agree with the decision by
SEIU 415 to endorse Scott Kennedy, Tony Madrigal, Emily Reilly, and
Ed Porter

Liberation News calls for an entirely different electoral strategy
than is currently pursued by almost every union. It is our position
that workers gain nothing from
their unions endorsing Democrats and pseudo-progressives. We also
think that the union dues that the leadership squanders on these
campaigns would be better spent on putting together a much stronger
strike fund to directly strengthen the union's ability to strike and
by spending money on legitimate progressive and pro-union candidates
from the left and stands in the way of the formation of a legitimate
Labor Party that stands in opposition to the Democrats. Such support
could make a huge difference in whether or not truly progressive and
truly pro-union candidates get elected, if the union bureaucracy
stops backing the corporate politicians of the Democrat Party.

The only candidates in this election who are putting forward a
people's agenda in this election are Coral Brune and Robert Norse.
While they have jumped into the race too late in the year and no
chance of winning, Liberation News gives our endorsement to their
campaign as a protest and encourages people to write in their names.
Likewise we would like to see Coral Brune and Robert Norse use this
as a step towards running again in 2006.

Liberation News:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Liberation_News/

and

http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/liberation_news


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