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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

Interview with SC Clean Team founder TJ Magallanes
by Cleaning the Team
Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 11:18 PM
Fourth generation Santa Cruzan TJ Magallanes knows all to well about groupthink, bullying and the problems that can develop when one expresses their thoughts within a community group. He has run several Santa Cruz community oriented Facebook pages, which have enjoyed various levels of success...and failure. He has tapped into the power of social media, and has used it to enact positive changes within our community. He started Santa Cruz’s own Clean Team in response to piles of needles and tons of garbage being found in the caves at Cowells Beach. After struggling with city officials to get them to clean up the mess, TJ organized a group of people and rid the beach of almost 3 tons of garbage. The Clean Team was born!

The original goal of TJ’s Clean Team was to both document, and pressure city officials to dedicate resources to clean up various litter-intensive hot spots around Santa Cruz. It has since morphed into something quite different. As you’ll soon see, no good deed goes unpunished, and at least partly due to harassment, TJ is currently laying low out of state. Friends, I’d like to introduce you to TJ, founder of the original Clean Team!
Jeremy Leonard

Fever Pitch - Interview with SC Clean Team founder TJ Magallanes

Posted on May 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

Group-think, according to Wikipedia, “ ...is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or defiant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.”

In an online group, it’s fairly easy to control and censor alternative viewpoints, resulting in “incorrect” outcomes. For example, Topic Dilution, Anger Trolling, and Consensus Cracking are just three methods used to sneakily control a forum. Overtly, censorship through deletion of certain topics and ideas by administrators can alter the tone and meaning of a conversation. The result is a one-sided (often biased) argument. In the context of attempting to solve serious problems within a community, this approach will often utterly derail and stifle progress. If the true goal of a group is to attempt to solve community-wide issues like the addiction, violent crime and theft, problems that we’re facing here in Santa Cruz, then a myriad of voices need to be heard.

On the subject of group-think, Wikipedia goes on, “Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "in-group" produces an "illusion of invulnerability" (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the "in-group" significantly overrates their own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of their opponents (the "out-group").”

Us vs. Them!

This is exactly what many in the county of Santa Cruz are feeling, and some would argue that over the past few months, a very vocal minority has been controlling the dialog in online forums, groups, and in-person at various city council meetings. In my experience with certain community groups it sure seems that this collective narcissism is a direct result of online crowd manipulation from various people of “authority.” It’s easy to see how these actions, and this feeling of power, can escalate into harassment toward people who have been disenfranchised from the group. It’s also not a far stretch to see how a group can talk itself into, and justify harassment of individuals who are disenfranchised from the community at large. For example, homeless. Mobs whipped up into an emotional fervor have been responsible for some heinous acts throughout history.

How did we the people of Santa Cruz get to this place where we’re so polarized that we can’t even have a respectful conversion without worrying about being heckled, mobbed, censored, or even to the extreme as you’ll hear in the following interview, of being threatened? I mean, you half-expect to see the bullying, hateful speak, and emotionally charged violent dialog come out of kids at a jr. high school, but from grown adults?

“I’ll meet you on the playground after school!”

No, we’re supposed to be mature. Not to mention, Santa Cruz is generally a well-educated, and socially aware community. We should be able to listen to someone else speak without becoming so emotional that we burst out in a fit of name calling, which culminates when several others from the ingroup jump into the argument and someone eventually virtually stomps off like a 2-year-old.

Yeah, well, don’t be so sure!

It seems that many of the Santa Cruz in-group have their virtual arms crossed, lips pouting, and brows furrowed, and are refusing to respect or even just listen to other sides of the discussion, which might just have something of value to add. (Crazy thought, I know.) Their knuckles are cracked, and their fingertips are at the ready for virtual fisticuffs the very instant that someone steps out of line!

As a result, it feels that the admins and members of certain community groups are attempting to further divide us one deleted thread, one fury of name calling, and one heckled, sincere thought from a well-meaning person at a time. It’s a non-sustainable model, and eventually people will catch on and grow tired of the hateful rhetoric. In fact, they already are.

Fourth generation Santa Cruzan TJ Magallanes knows all to well about groupthink, bullying and the problems that can develop when one expresses their thoughts within a community group. He has run several Santa Cruz community oriented Facebook pages, which have enjoyed various levels of success...and failure. He has tapped into the power of social media, and has used it to enact positive changes within our community. He started Santa Cruz’s own Clean Team in response to piles of needles and tons of garbage being found in the caves at Cowells Beach. After struggling with city officials to get them to clean up the mess, TJ organized a group of people and rid the beach of almost 3 tons of garbage. The Clean Team was born!

The original goal of TJ’s Clean Team was to both document, and pressure city officials to dedicate resources to clean up various litter-intensive hot spots around Santa Cruz. It has since morphed into something quite different. As you’ll soon see, no good deed goes unpunished, and at least partly due to harassment, TJ is currently laying low out of state. Friends, I’d like to introduce you to TJ, founder of the original Clean Team!


JL:
Hey, TJ! Let’s dive right in. Why were you inspired to start the Clean Team?


TJ:
Basically how it started was, I was the manager of a business over on Fair Ave., It was a digital institute of performing arts, an audio engineering school. I was noticing this huge increase in our gear getting stolen. Every week we were having stuff stolen, and I was living on the West Side, and I was finding needles in the street once in a while. I was just noticing an unfavorable demographic of people. My buddy Dylan posted a video of a bunch of trash at the end of my street. Down at Cowells. I called the city to see if they were going to pick it up, and they said that they weren’t. Then I thought, you know what? I’ll do it! I’m a contractor, I have all of the tools that we might need, so we rappelled down the cliff and pulled out three and a half tons of garbage. After pulling out all of that garbage, I was a little angry at the city. The city had just spent this money on a new basketball stadium, and yeah, I feel that Santa Cruz needs a good basketball team, but I feel like that project was fast tracked. I just felt that we’re fast tracking stuff like that, and at the same time, we have the dirtiest beaches in the country almost. I held a community meeting at In Digital, after I had started a Facebook page called Report Your Local Lurker. We were getting a ton of stuff stolen from our houses on the West Side, and this was just a way to let people know what was going on. Then our Facebook page started to go awry. You know, there are a few members of different community groups that are just very extreme. They were threatening to kill homeless people and all of this different stuff. Then I was like , You know, that’s not what I’m all about. So I shut down the group, and that angered a lot of people.

A lot of people from the Take Back Santa Cruz Group, they were angry. I understand that they wanted an outlet where they could voice their opinions, so I immediately started the Clean Team. We hosted a clean up at Natural Bridges, and had about 60 volunteers show up, and we pulled out a ton of garbage. The mayor was there, and several of the City Council members, and we pulled out a ton of trash. We pulled out a little meth lab, and an ankle bracelet from a pedophile. And this was right in a park, in the Sanctuary! If you look, you’ll realize just how bad it really is. So I got this idea to make GPS tags, so you can take a picture, tag it on Facebook, and you get a location, so that the city or other organizations could clean it up. One thing that I was really angry about was that certain non profit organizations, just weren’t doing their job. The Clean Team, with no money, cleaned up more than Save Our Shores. They get almost a million dollars of funding per year. So we did it just with the power of social media! I realized the power that we had with social media, and we were able to get a lot of stuff done.

I really didn’t want to have to clean up all of the mess. I wanted the city to become responsible for the mess that they had created, and I wanted various non profit organizations to do what they were getting paid to do.

JL:
How do you feel about all of the improperly disposed of needles?

TJ:
I am 100% for needle exchange, but I feel that if we make needles available, we need to make rehab available. The problem that we are running into, the way I see it, is we don’t need more cops, we need fewer robbers. What had been going on is that we are not treating addiction as a medical condition. It’s being treated as a crime. As long as it’s being treated as a crime, we’re not going to solve the problem. The War on Drugs has been unsuccessful, there’s no denying it. I am a member of a group called Breaking the Taboo, and we all realize that the War on Drugs is not working. I did some research, and places like Portugal have decriminalized all drugs. Rather than everyone becoming drug addicts, it lowered drug addiction by something like 45%. Homelessness rates went down. You know, no matter what, we’re not going to end addiction, and until we start treating it like a disease, we are not going to end the problem of needles in the streets. Were not going to be able to lower the crime, and basically we’re going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As I started getting onto this, I actually sent letters to Feinstein and Boxer. I sent letters to Obama trying to get funding for a rehab center here in Santa Cruz, and I was told that they weren’t going to give us any financial support.

JL:
What about the changes recently made to the needle exchange program?

TJ:
A lot of that stuff was something that I independently brought up. I started putting up these guerrilla sharp boxes. So the places where I was finding 100 needles per week, I put up a sharps box. So now you’ll notice that the city has put up a lot of these sharps boxes. We had a program that was working very well here in Santa Cruz, until all of the funding was cut. We weren’t finding needles all over the place, and when those programs were gone, we started finding needles all over the place.

JL:
Are you talking about the Drop-In Center?

TJ:
That was the Drop-In Center and the needle exchange program. After that got cut we started finding the needles, and addiction rates went up. I’ve tried getting so many people into rehab, and it’s sad. If you have no money, you’re not going to get into rehab. We’ll give people free food, but we won’t get them into rehab. A lot of people will argue that, ‘They have to WANT rehab.’ Well even if they want rehab, it’s not available unfortunately.

JL:
What about mental health?

TJ:
We don’t have many good mental health programs in Santa Cruz, and people will say, ‘Keep it Weird.” Well there’s a lot of crazy people in Santa Cruz, which I don’t think anyone denies that. But another problem that we have is that we’re letting people out of jail for some pretty serious crimes. It’s a revolving door system, which is kind of feeding into the Prison Industrial Complex.

JL:
I talk to you now, and your ideas sound very reasonable, but when I read the Clean Team Facebook page, it doesn’t really jive with what you’re telling me. Why does it seem like the group is saying the exact opposite?

I don’t know if you know this, but I was kicked out of the Clean Team. The Clean Team was basically taken over by Take Back Santa Cruz, and they kicked me off of my own page. A vocal group member was basically made an admin, and I was kicked off. They had a completely different stance on the needle exchange. You know, I’ve done a massive amount of research when I went to all of these needle meetings. I went to the very first meeting and recorded it, and everyone was fighting and flipping out. There were all of these people that hadn’t done any research, and they were coming up with solutions that absolutely weren’t feasible.

I was sent a bunch of hate mail from the person that started Take Back Santa Cruz, saying that I am in no way affiliated with them. I thought that was fine, because I don’t care to be affiliated with them. I was also receiving death threats, from all kinds of members of Take Back Santa Cruz, and other random people. I’m getting death threats on various forums, and finally I thought that, you know what, if people want to fight over this place go ahead. I’m here trying to help, and if they don’t want my help...I feel that I got more done in three weeks than people had gotten done in a year. After being threatened and being called an anarchist, and all of this random stuff, it was evident that they obviously don’t know who I am. I was reading stuff in the forums like, ‘If I see TJ in the street, I’m going to kick his ass.’ They don’t even know who I am. They might have seen a picture on Facebook, or read a story, or had seen me on KSBW, but they don’t know who I am.

I do my best to be non confrontational, but what was happening was that they would erase anything that I would put up. I was trying to get to the root of the problem. I feel that it was being derailed and unraveled. It was a sad moment for me, but it was almost a release. The police chief told me to lay low, my phone had gotten tapped, my email hacked, and I was dealing with all kinds of crappy stuff. I had to step back for a while. I feel that it’s helped me gain a more, objective, educated viewpoint, rather than just working strictly off of emotion.

JL:
So you’re currently living outside of California?


TJ:
After realizing just how bad it really is in Santa Cruz, I needed a break. There is so much in-fighting, and after having people take over my group, and taking it in a completely different direction than I was trying to go with it. I really wanted The Clean Team to make the city have to wake up. People are getting paid for what they’re not doing. It made me furious. The polarity is the epitome of close minded thinking. When I saw some of the cleans going on after I left, and I saw that people were taking homeless people’s stuff, I was appalled. You know, just because you find some people’s skateboards, you can’t just take them. I am all for cleaning up the garbage!

Whenever I hosted a clean, I went out there a week before where people were camping, and I would talk to everyone out there and let them know that we were going to be cleaning. I went to the Pogonip at midnight with an officer to let people know that we weren’t going to be messing with their belongings. What ended up happening was that people wanted to do these loosely knit cleans. I have no doubt that everyone cares about Santa Cruz, but I definitely feel that there’s a lot of misguided effort. We hear about all of these crimes against homeless people, and it just appalls me.

I was tired of all the hate. I definitely saw a lot of hate on the Take Back Santa Cruz website. I got personal messages when I had the Report Your Local Lurker website that were absolutely evil. People were talking about poisoning the homeless, lighting their RVs on fire, beating them up at night. It just made me see the evil in this world. You know, never underestimate the stupidity of people in a group. It’s mob rule, and basically reminds me of a riot.

JL:
I want to play a video that I took during a Clean Team event in the Carbonera Creek, and get your reaction (I play the attached vid).

TJ:
That’s basically emotion taking over. It’s obvious that they found these people’s camp, but that’s their survival camp. These people have nothing. Yeah, they probably are junkies, but there’s no rehab for them. It’s like seeing a person sick with cancer. If a person was laying there sick with cancer, you would try to get them to a hospital. Instead, when they’re junkies, people try to send them to jail. They shouldn’t be dumping all of their garbage down there, but they have no place to go. We have 3000 homeless people, and 100 beds at the shelter. We can’t really expect these people not to sleep in these random spots

JL:
Is it true that you had homeless people on your first clean?

TJ:
I think there’s a lot of dignity that comes from a hard day of work. People didn’t know this, but on my first few cleans, I had a whole bunch of homeless people on the cleanup! I didn’t have to tell anyone that, I just wanted to get the homeless involved. I feel that rather than getting involved with the homeless, people have actually pushed them further away. It’s become an us vs. them, it’s a class war began to happen. That’s not going to be sustainable for Santa Cruz when it’s at war with itself. There are so many things wrong in Santa Cruz, I feel that it’s going to take a multifaceted approach to fix it.


JL:
Thanks for the interview, TJ.

TJ:
Thanks so much for all you do in our community.


Converse to my opening paragraphs on group-think, energized communities can get some seriously good work done. There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of Santa Cruzans who are members of these various community groups mean well and want what’s best for all of the members of our community. However, we should never allow hateful words and bullying to reach the fever pitch that it has of late. We should never allow hateful extremes to dominate community dialog. Surely we can do better.


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Submit tip 3 Comments

Lisa Litten
3:00 pm on Sunday, May 12, 2013
The actions of the individual on this video are the sole actions of this individual. He does not represent nor will ever represent the Clean Team. I was present at the time and could not stop this person. The videographer of this dropped names stating he was representing them. That was also untrue and he acted on his own. Yes, TJ started the Clean Team but he has moved on from Santa Cruz to other parts of our nation and we wish him well.

Reply

Lisa Litten
3:05 pm on Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Clean Team is compromised of women and men from all walks of life. We have one thing in common, helping our environment. Every Saturday for the past 6 months, a small group of Clean Team members have given up their mornings for our open spaces. Cleaning the garbage before it enters our waterways through creeks, streams and storm drains is our number one priority.

Unfortunately, some people have other ideas about what the Clean Team is about. A community member recently asked to come along to participate in one of our cleans. He is not an active member or board member of the Clean Team. Words were said that DO NOT express the interests or attitudes of the Clean Team. This is an unfortunate and isolated incident that in no way reflects the core members of our group. We cannot control frustrations people have but we can tell you that this is not who the Clean Team is, nor is this in any way shape or form the way we want to be perceived.

The Clean Team are stewards for our environment. We are so lucky to live in a place where the mountains meet the sea but at the same time, we have to be careful of how we treat our land. Its not impossible to change the what is going on in our environment, however it takes very dedicated people to work towards this change. The Clean Team members who are there every weekend ARE dedicated to making Santa Cruz beautiful, and making our water and natural surroundings safe and clean.

Reply

David Christian
4:23 pm on Sunday, May 12, 2013
Every clean that I have participated in with The Clean Team has been conducted professionally by passionate caring community members. Active camps have been respected and the mission has never been to displace or disrespect any of the individuals that we have come in contact with. JL, by posting this article, are you using social media to influence a biased opinion about " The Clean Team"? Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.

http://santacruz.patch.com/blog_posts/fever-pitch-interview-with-sc-clean-team-founder-tj-magallanes
by John E. Colby
Thursday May 23rd, 2013 1:58 AM

It is excellent articles like this one which led me to submit the following California Public Records Act (CPRA) request to the City of Santa Cruz seeking information about Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) — here's an excerpt from my request which is attached, in its entirety, as a PDF.

Dear Ms. Lehr:

I am writing because the recent news interview documenting the takeover of the Clean Team by Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) members — who ousted the founder T.J. Magallanes and then threatened him — has aroused some anger about the tactics and practices of TBSC members towards the poor, homeless, and other marginalized members of our community. It has come to my attention that TBSC is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation with corporate entity number C3274118.

I refer you to the following news articles:

http://santacruz.patch.com/groups/jeremy-leonards-blog/p/bp--fever-pitch-interview-with-sc-clean-team-founder-0c63abc71a

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/05/15/18736901.php

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_22726140/man-who-allegedly-stole-flowers-from-fallen-officers

It is timely to take a closer look at the relationship between TBSC and the City of Santa Cruz. Under rights granted me by California Government Code 6250 et seq., otherwise known as the California Public Records Act (CPRA), I ask for:

• all agreements with TBSC maintained in a City of Santa Cruz system of records or in any system of records of its subordinate agencies, departments, divisions, commissions, (sub)committees, representatives and agents.
• all records of understandings with TBSC maintained in a City of Santa Cruz system of records or in any system of records of its subordinate agencies, departments, divisions, commissions, (sub)committees, representatives and agents.
• all records of declarations with, for or by TBSC maintained in a City of Santa Cruz system of records or in any system of records of its subordinate agencies, departments, divisions, commissions, (sub)committees, representatives and agents.
• all permits for or by TBSC maintained in a City of Santa Cruz system of records or in any system of records of its subordinate agencies, departments, divisions, commissions, (sub)committees, representatives and agents.
• all records of transactions with, for or by TBSC maintained in a City of Santa Cruz system of records or in any system of records of its subordinate agencies, departments, divisions, commissions, (sub)committees, representatives and agents.
• all presentations, reports, membership records and briefs about, by or for TBSC maintained in a City of Santa Cruz system of records or in any system of records of its subordinate agencies, departments, divisions, commissions, (sub)committees, representatives and agents.



I hope to share some very interesting records from this CPRA request with the community — through Indybay, and hopefully through the Good Times, Patch, Santa Cruz Community TV, and other mainstream media outlets.
by zouzou
Tuesday Jun 11th, 2013 10:05 AM
or is the city taking its sweet time?


I'd imagine at the very least TBSC had to fill out this form with the city:

http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=252