SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
Indybay About Contact Newsletter Calendar Publish Community

Santa Cruz Indymedia | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services

City Ends Successful Bicycle Distribution Program in Secret Back-Room Deal
by Steve Schnaar
Monday Sep 3rd, 2012 10:10 AM
Since 1996, the City had made unclaimed bicycles available for nonprofits to give away to youth in need. Earlier this year, without any public process or notification, the SCPD and Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant ended this program, diverting the bikes to the for-profit business the Bike Dojo, which also partners with a business owned by Bryant’s husband (Cruzin Pedicabs), and which is now selling many of the bikes to fund their program, in clear violation of City policy.
In a secret back-room deal, the City of Santa Cruz recently ended a long-standing program to distribute unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. For over fifteen years bikes had been made available for nonprofits to give away to youth, and since 2008 the Bike Church had helped facilitate the program by hosting the distributions on its site, as well as coordinating with other groups and offering mechanical assistance to their representatives.

Earlier this year, without any public process or notification, the SCPD and Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant ended this program, diverting the bikes to the for-profit business the Bike Dojo, which also partners with a business owned by Bryant’s husband (Cruzin Pedicabs), and which is now selling many of the bikes to fund their program, in clear violation of City policy.

The Bike Church collective is asking supporters to call or write City Council to demand a transparent public process, as well as the reinstatement of the former bicycle distribution program: 831-420-5020 or citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com.


The full story:

In 1996, the City decided instead of auctioning off unclaimed bicycles, to work with nonprofits to get them out to youth in need. At times the program faltered, so in early 2008 the Bike Church offered to take on most of the administration, as well as hosting the actual distribution events. Since that time, we've hosted 16 distributions, getting out 415 bicycles through organizations like Barrios Unidos, Green Ways to School, Natural Bridges High, the Walnut Ave Womens' Center, and many more. The least desirable bikes, most of them incomplete or in severe disrepair, were left at the Bike Church, which as a community repair shop and recycling center is uniquely suited to handling a large volume of "bike junk" and redistributing it for cheap-to-free to the community. Indeed, independent from the City's distribution program, the Bike Church has given away over 500 bikes since early 2008, just under half of them going to youth, the rest to adults through our work-exchange program.

Earlier this year, without even the courtesy of an email or a phone call, the SCPD and Hilary Bryant decided to end this distribution and our years-long collaboration. Prior to this change, only registered nonprofits were allowed to participate in the program, and distributions were open to all nonprofits or public agencies in the city. The Bike Church is a registered nonprofit as part of the Santa Cruz Hub For Sustainable Living, is mostly run by volunteer labor, and is a veritable community institution that has been serving our community for over a decade. Now the bikes go to a new for-profit business which uses its youth program to promote memberships at its gym, and whose distribution of City bikes is not open to all schools and nonprofits. Worst of all, the Bike Dojo is now selling some of the bikes which once went out directly to youth, in clear violation of City policy (see City Council agenda for 10/31/2006).

The Bike Church submitted a request under the California Public Records Act but has not received any documents that record a discussion or decision which explain the change. Although Rick Martinez at the SCPD stated in an email to the Bike Church that the program was changed "at the request" of Council member Hilary Bryant, the public records request did not turn up any communications from Bryant at all. Stranger still, an unnamed Council member originally told City Records Coordinator Nydia Patino that she or he had "several dozen" emails on the subject, and delayed the process to see if we really wanted them all. Yet when it came time to hand them over, this unknown Council person then "realized" all those were actually unrelated to City business and sent from a private account (see email exchange below).

The Bike Church is calling for the reinstatement of this valuable program, which helped hundreds of youth and several nonprofits and public agencies, as well as contributing to the supply of used parts by which they are able to keep cycling affordable, and even to offer parts and service to hundreds of people who have no money to pay at all. They also denounce the creep of Washington-style politics, with its insider deals and refusal to hand over public records, into our local government, and urge those in agreement to contact City Council."

########

Following is an email exchange between the City Records Coordinator and a mechanic at the Bike Church seeking public documents:

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Schnaar
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 7:43 PM
To: Nydia Patino
Subject: Re: Public Records Request Response

Dear Nydia,

Thanks again for following through on this. I am kind of confused though as to why you called me to ask for more info about what I wanted, saying it would be cumbersome--but now I only get 4 brief emails? Are there other communications between the Bike Dojo and the City (including the SCPD)? If so I would like to see all of them.

Thanks,

Steve Schnaar


August 21, 2012.

Mr. Schnaar:

I apologize if my call was confusing. I initially called you because a Councilmember thought they might have several dozen emails to provide in response to your request. This turned out not to be the case as those emails were under a personal email account and not relevant to any City business.

I had all Councilmembers check for any correspondence responsive to your request, including in their City issued email accounts. The four emails I forwarded to you yesterday is all I received. All other Councilmembers had no responsive records.

The Santa Cruz Police Department already responded with any responsive records to your request on August 17, 2012.

Please let me know if I can be of further service.

Nydia Patiño
Records Coordinator
§Update from the Author
by Steve Schnaar Thursday Sep 6th, 2012 4:43 PM
Dear comment thread readers,

In the fallout of this article and associated emails we sent out, it has become clear we should have been more careful in our wording. While we obviously have many important questions and concerns, some of the accusatory language we used suggests greater certainty than we have documentation to support. We (the Bike Church) are definitely still pursuing this issue, but we also put out the following apology:

The Honorable Hilary Bryant
Santa Cruz City Council
Santa Cruz, California 95060

September 6th, 2012

Dear Hilary,

As a representative of the Bike Church, and the author of a recent article and email sent out by our group, I am writing to offer my sincere apology for the style and tone of these communications. While we obviously feel frustrated about recent changes in the City's bicycle distribution program, we recognize that it was out of line to frame the issue in such a harsh and accusatory way.

Above all, we apologize for the wording which implies that Vice Mayor Bryant had a financial interest in recommending this change. For the record, we have never thought Ms. Bryant or her husband Dave Shuman were directly making money from this program. (Indeed, there is not even much money at stake in the world of used bicycles). We also want to emphasize that our mention of Cruzin' Pedicabs was only to raise the issue of process, and not intended as an attack on their company as somehow connected with or responsible for the termination of the old bicycle distribution program. In fact, as bike mechanics and cyclists we love pedicabs, and are happy to see them springing up all over town.

In addition, we offer our apologies to the Bike Dojo for emphasizing their status as a for-profit business without elaborating about their youth program, which does collaborate with nonprofit agencies. Whatever differences we might have, we appreciate the Bike Dojo's efforts to get kids outside having fun and exercising, and getting bikes to some kids who otherwise would not have access to them.

Finally, we want to extend our apologies to the SCPD including Deputy Police Chief Martinez. We very much appreciate all their years of participating in bicycle distributions, and although we felt confused and frustrated by the unannounced change, we should not have implied any knowledge about their motivations aside from the reasons they gave us.

In conclusion, we take full responsibility for having used language out of proportion to the information at hand, and which did not serve the end of moving us forward with a process of possibly reviewing or revising the bicycle distribution program. We hope some of you are open to engaging with us regarding either this program, or our communications about it.

Sincerely,


Steve Schnaar
Collective Member
The Bike Church

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2012 3:36 PM
Steve was recently interviewed on this subject on Free Radio. The show is archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb120830.mp3 about 5-10 minutes into the audio file.
by Public Resident
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2012 9:01 PM
This is a very fishy e-mail from the city- what are the 'dozens of e-mails sent from a private account?"

More corporate collusion with the city council at the expense of grassroots bike culture. Who needs these abandoned bikes more? A for profit business or struggling families in the flats trying to get to work. Disgusting.

Critical Mass to Occupy the Bike Dojo??
by Becky Johnson
Wednesday Sep 5th, 2012 1:40 PM
My problem with this is that a back room deal was struck. No public process was used. And Hilary Bryant didn't even use her official e-mail to negotiate the give-away, and now claims her e-mails which involved City business are "private."

What!?

Worse, the give-away was to a business partner of Hilary's husband.

Why wasn't this done in public during a regular process of City Council?
Is Bryant just so used to being "special" that she can do whatever she wants and doesn't even have to disclose the process to the public?

This is NOT what we want in our City Council members.
Make sure that EVERY candidate for City Council agrees to make a public record of every communication done by them whether thru their official e-mail contacts or whatever e-mail they use for City business.

Sunlight cures corruption. Open government is needed!!
by John E. Colby
Thursday Sep 6th, 2012 2:50 AM
I have caught Ms. Patiño in numerous lies when making California Public Records Act requests. She claimed: (1) there was no written correspondence between a management firm the city does business with and about 80 officials/employees of the City of Santa Cruz; (2) the City of Santa Cruz maintained about 20K pages of telephone bills for the Economic Development and Redevelopment Department; (3) the Economic Development and Redevelopment Department had no contact directories for outside parties (like address and telephone directories).

Most recently Ms. Patiño and her supervisor Bren Lehr were caught in the lie described in this Santa Cruz Indymedia article:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/26/18716362.php

When it comes to California Public Records Act requests the City of Santa Cruz cannot be trusted.
by Dan
Friday Sep 7th, 2012 6:14 AM
...you don't write inflammatory stories unless you have the information to back them up! Has anyone heard the word "libelous?"

The changes in the program could be a result of complaints about a "gift of taxpayers funds." As people complain more and more about "big government" some are looking for illegal acts. Giving away bicycles to non profits routinely is technically illegal. Under California law government agencies are supposed to sell things of any value at public sale unless the property is being transferred to another government agency. Any unclaimed bikes and parts should be sold at auction and not given away by the city police.
by repost
Sunday Sep 9th, 2012 8:53 AM
I am upset to hear that a long-standing program to distribute unclaimed bicycles to youth in need has been ended without a public process. Many cities auction their unclaimed bicycles, but, in 1996, the city of Santa Cruz decided the community would benefit more by working with nonprofits to get these bicycles to youth in need. Since the Bike Church took over much of the administration and distribution of the program in 2008, 415 bikes have been given to local youth in need, through organizations like Barrios Unidos, Green Ways to School and the Walnut Avenue Women's Center. Not only was the Bike Church very successful in the distribution of bikes but youth were also connected to a valuable resource that would teach them how to repair and maintain their new bikes. Now, the bikes are being diverted to the Bike Dojo, a for-profit business. The city of Santa Cruz needs to reinstate the former bicycle distribution program and stop diverting bicycles to the Bike Dojo.

L. Yasmiene Mabrouk, Santa Cruz
by repost
Monday Sep 17th, 2012 7:10 PM
Wrote to the city council and got this in return: Greetings

Thank you for writing about the City’s disposition of unclaimed bicycles.

In response, let me begin with four key points.

1) The message I suspect you received that prompted your email contained some erroneous information and incorrect claims.

2) While I am still trying to sort out all of the details, I do believe the City did fall short in terms of the process it used to change how the bicycles were distributed.

3) There was no conspiracy and no one is making money from the city’s bicycles.

4) There is a real possibility that the Bike Church will have an opportunity to again be the recipient of some of the City’s bikes.

Now… a bit more detail…

Without any evidence, a representative of People Power accused Vice Mayor Bryant and the owner of the Bike Dojo of wrongdoing. He also incorrectly described the business relationship between the Bike Dojo and Bryant’s husband. He also presumed that private emails between Bryant and the Bike Dojo were evidence of some kind of secret, mal-intentioned plan. In fact, those emails had nothing to do with city business and contained Bike Dojo newsletters… Bryant is a member of the Bike Dojo and receives those newsletters just like all their other members.

Bryant’s husband, Dave Shuman, does lease space from the Bike Dojo to store bikes from his pedi-cab business—but they are not business partners in any way.

Project BIKE is the relatively new recipient of the City’s unclaimed bicycles. Project BIKE is the nonprofit effort organized by the owners of the Bike Dojo to distribute bikes to youth that might not otherwise get to own a quality bicycle. (Among the recipients are the city Teen Center and the Beach Flats Community Center.) They donate hundreds of hours to this effort and do not profit from it. No City bikes are sold by the Bike Dojo or its owners. Some community members have donated bikes to Project Bike and these are sometimes sold to help cover the costs of the Project BIKE program.

All of this is not to say that the City government did not make mistakes. But those mistakes have to do with the process used to decide who would receive unclaimed bikes. I was aware of this issue more than a month ago and asked the City Manager to see if we should go back and correct our errors in that process. He agreed to do that. Quite frankly, the city manager’s office was slower to act than I had hoped and it left the issue festering… presumably leading to unfounded claims of misdeeds. However, the lack of a prompt enough city response is no excuse for making up a story based on assumptions rather than facts.

At this point, because of the controversy, the City Manager’s office knows that it will have to deal with this more quickly and provide information to the community and the city council about what happened and how it will be remedied. I have taken this as my responsibility to see that this happens. I suspect the outcome will be that both Project BIKE and the Bike Church – which has also done fine work getting bikes into the hands of young people in our community -- will have the opportunity to be recipients of unclaimed bikes.

Unfortunately, the unfair damage to the reputations of those involved is harder to remedy. I hope those who have spread incorrect information in this respect will work to repair that damage.

Again, thank you for writing.

Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz
by Steve Schnaar
Saturday Jun 15th, 2013 12:24 PM
The Honorable Hilary Bryant
Santa Cruz City Council
Santa Cruz, California 95060

September 6th, 2012

Dear Hilary,

As a representative of the Bike Church, and the author of a recent article and email sent out by our group, I am writing to offer my sincere apology for the style and tone of these communications. While we obviously feel frustrated about recent changes in the City's bicycle distribution program, we recognize that it was out of line to frame the issue in such a harsh and accusatory way.

Above all, we apologize for the wording which implies that Vice Mayor Bryant had a financial interest in recommending this change. For the record, we have never thought Ms. Bryant or her husband Dave Shuman were directly making money from this program. (Indeed, there is not even much money at stake in the world of used bicycles). We also want to emphasize that our mention of Cruzin' Pedicabs was only to raise the issue of process, and not intended as an attack on their company as somehow connected with or responsible for the termination of the old bicycle distribution program. In fact, as bike mechanics and cyclists we love pedicabs, and are happy to see them springing up all over town.

In addition, we offer our apologies to the Bike Dojo for emphasizing their status as a for-profit business without elaborating about their youth program, which does collaborate with nonprofit agencies. Whatever differences we might have, we appreciate the Bike Dojo's efforts to get kids outside having fun and exercising, and getting bikes to some kids who otherwise would not have access to them.

Finally, we want to extend our apologies to the SCPD including Deputy Police Chief Martinez. We very much appreciate all their years of participating in bicycle distributions, and although we felt confused and frustrated by the unannounced change, we should not have implied any knowledge about their motivations aside from the reasons they gave us.

In conclusion, we take full responsibility for having used language out of proportion to the information at hand, and which did not serve the end of moving us forward with a process of possibly reviewing or revising the bicycle distribution program. We hope some of you are open to engaging with us regarding either this program, or our communications about it.

Sincerely,


Steve Schnaar
Collective Member
The Bike Church
by Robert Norse
Monday Jun 24th, 2013 10:35 AM
Nine months later, bikes are still not being distributed to non-profits by the Bike Dojo, the Bike Church, or the SCPD--as far as I know.

Requests for Bryant's e-mails on this subject have yielded verifiably incomplete results after endless delay.

When confronted at City Council two weeks ago, Bryant had nothing to say.

Lane--when I spoke with him several months ago--evaded the basic questions: Why was the Bike Church policy changed? Who changed it? What is preventing a restoration of that policy? Why aren't bikes being distributed now?

Tina Shull, the slippery Assistant City Manager, has refused to answer these questions except to use the time-honored "we're working on it" cover.

A salute to Steve Schnaar for trying to lift the lid off this stinky brew.

A slap in the chops for People Power (and Micah Posner) for giving false credibility to the politicians and abjectly issuing apologies instead of demanding action. It seems likely that SCPD-sycophants are blocking the bike distribution.

I'd like to see the e-mail Steve received from Hernandez suggesting this was Bryant-initiated deal--something I've never heard her acknowledge.