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Santa Cruz Mayor Lashes Out, Stonewalls on Public Meetings; Lethal SCPD Harassment Surges
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Saturday Dec 22nd, 2007 5:31 AM
In response to repeated requests for his Public Meeting schedule, a list of prior meetings with lobbyists, and a face-to-face meeting, Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty responds with the following letter cutting off discussion, stonewalling on information required by the Public Records and Sunshine laws, and attacking the journalist. Meanwhile police are stepping up Xmas-time harassment downtown.

For the last year and half, Councilmember Coonerty (who was then appointed Vice-Mayor and recently Mayor) refusal to reveal the City's secret memo from City Attorney Barisone. Barisone has apparently advised City Council behind closed doors to spend money fighting a lawsuit requiring Santa Cruz to do what Los Angeles and San Diego have done--allow homeless people to sleep at night (somewhere--not anywhere and everywhere--but somewhere) without fear of camping tickets, given the ongoing shelter emergency.

In response to the City's unconstitutional and cruel anti-homeless policy, activists have picketed Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz. Coonerty finally appeared on television, under condition I not be on the panel, in November on the Voices from the Village Live! show.

To view the entire Coonerty TV debate, go to or

My commentary on the Sleeping Ban debate--from which I was excluded--can be heard at

Shortly before that, homeless activist Tim Rumford (whose blog covers the Santa Cruz homeless scene) wrote an article for Street Spirit newspaper criticizing Coonerty.
See "Santa Cruz Sleeping Ban Struggle(for Street Spirit newspaper)" at

Mayor Coonerty responded to the protests at his store, the exclusionary tv debate, and the Street Spirit article
See "Mayor Coonerty's Reply" at

I then requested a meeting (as is customary with each new Mayor) and other information he is required to reveal as a public official.
See "My Reply to Mayor Coonerty: Request for an Interview"

Street Spirit, the homeless newspaper that published Tim Rumford's critique of the Sleeping Ban and Mayor Coonerty, sent a response:
See "Street Spirit Editor Denounces Mayor Coonerty As 'Repulsive'"

After no response from the Mayor after 9 days, I sent another letter:
See "Mayor Still Silent After Two Requests for Meeting, Public Information"


On December 19th, I received the following letter from the Mayor:

December 14, 2007
Dear Robert,

This is in response to your email [sic] of December 12, 2007.

First I will be happy to give you any and all information to which you are legally entitled.

Second you are welcome to communicate your concerns to me via e-mail or phone messages. At this time, I will not meet with you in person as I have done in the past. My reasons for not meeting with you include the following:

1. Targeting the economic well being of my (non-elected) family members and friends as a means of influencing my public policy decisions.

2. Harassment and intimidation of city and Bookshop Santa Cruz staff.

3. Inappropriate comments to female members of City Commissions and my family members.

This is not meant to provoke a dialogue on this subject. For any future questions about arranging a meeting, please refer to this letter.


Ryan Coonerty
Mayor of Santa Cruz


In response, I have e-mailed the Mayor the following Public Records Act request, asking for documentation of his serious charges of possible criminal conduct:

December 20, 2007
Dear Ryan

Thank you for your letter of December 14th.

In it you note “At this time I will not meet with you in person as I have done in the past. My reasons for not meeting with you include the following: ... Harassment and intimidation of city and Bookshop Santa Cruz staff.”

Please provide any record whatsoever including but not limited to notes, memos, journals, correspondence, complaints, requests for public assistance, records of 911 or interdepartmental calls, whether written, electronic, audio, videotaped, or anecdotal re: your claim of “harassment and intimidation of city staff”.

In order to assist me in identifying the appropriate records of the alleged harassment and intimidation, please state in each case whether the alleged incidents are considered civil or criminal in nature.

I would like the following information on each incident if it is not evident in the records sought:

1. date and time of the incident.
2. location (whether on public or private property)
3. alleged subjects of harassment or intimidation

As regards any alleged criminal incident, please provide the names of any witnesses.

Also specify to the best of your knowledge whether any criminal investigation has been initiated or completed.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Robert Norse


Since the above letter was simply a demand that he document the most serious charges, I followed up with a second letter, reminding him he still hadn't answered the questions raised in my letters of December 2nd and 12th, renewing my information requests.

December 20, 2007
Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your letter of December 14th (which I just received yesterday).

I am sending you under separate cover a Public Records Act request for specifics around your charges that I have harassed and intimidated city staff. I take it you will follow the law in forwarding the requisite documents within ten days.

I note that you have declined to answer the questions I put to you in my letters of December 2nd and December 9th. I repeat these questions:

1. What is your procedure for scheduling meetings with the public (specifically
for those outside without phones) who want to bring concerns to your attention?

2. Please supply a copy of your planned public appearances (or appearances before groups) between now and February 28th as far as you have scheduled them.

3. Please supply a copy of scheduled meetings with members of the public in the past month, in so far as those meetings were in your capacity as mayor or city councilmember.

Thank you for clarifying why you will not meet with me.

The criteria you are using, however, are not clear. Do they apply to others?

Does this mean you are also refusing to meet with other activists demonstrating in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz? They are also protesting your policy and that of your father--who is the author of the Downtown Ordinances. Neal is also another supporter of the City’s Sleeping Ban, and, as you have described him, the owner--along with your sister--of the Bookshop.

I have not received any complaints either from city staff, city commissioners, your family members, or members of the Bookshop Santa Cruz of “harassment and intimidation” or “inappropriate comments”. To the best of my knowledge, our protest has been careful not to single out individuals (other than responsible politicians like yourself and your father).

Please be more specific about these complaints and clarify whether they extend to other members of the protest. If you are accusing people of inappropriate or criminal behavior, you owe it to them (not to mention the community) to clarify exactly what you’re talking about.

I would also suggest there are more suitable avenues for addressing the basic issue than halting dialogue on the Sleeping Ban. That affects the health and well-being of over 1500 people outside.

I can understand your being upset that I am urging the community to vote with its dollars.
I think your refusal to engage in a healthy dialogue at a time of year when such a dialogue is most significant does little to endear you to potential customers and voters, and indeed may cut into your Christmas profits.

Your suggestion to me during the Community “Voices from the Village Live” show that activists should spend tens of thousands of dollars running for public office in a year or attempt the equally expensive task of putting an Initiative on the ballot is neither feasible nor timely. Homeless should not have to wait twelve months to be able to sleep legally somewhere tonight.

Your expanded police and ranger force has put increased pressure on homeless people outside (tents slashed, property seized, $95 citations issued). Destroying homeless tents in the dead of winter in a shelter emergency is a human rights violation that can’t wait on money and political caprice. I should think this would be obvious.

You have never been open to a dialogue on the Sleeping Ban or other homeless issues so it’s no surprise to find you explicitly closing the door to this possibility. But it’s disingenuous to suggest that the Bookshop protest is a significant factor.

Let’s be honest. Your refusal to address the “no shelter but tickets for sleeping” position goes back years to the beginning your term. It cruelly impacts poor and homeless people--many of them disabled vets. Our “Banish Bigotry” protest in front of your workplace was relatively recent and has actually been the only activity that seems to have attracted your attention. You might check out the homeless memorial for the dead coming up in a few days.

Your position is, in human rights terms, indefensible.

Targeting me rather than addressing the issue is neither good city policy nor intellectually honest.

Are homeless people and their advocates to be treated like pariahs until your business priorities (or those of your family) are satisfied? You have already banned peaceful activists from the bookshop, signing your ban letter “Vice-Mayor.” Now, as Mayor, you exclude a member of the public from meeting with you because of a legitimate First Amendment protest against your business.

Your harsh position will ultimately cost the city money from the General Fund. The federal courts have directed cities with far larger and more powerful city attorney offices than yours, i.e. those in San Diego and Los Angeles, to comply with the elementary constitutional guarantees which Santa Cruz rejects. The 9th Circuit Court found the Sleeping Bans their “cruel and unusual punishment”. Those cities are now paying financially for succumbing to pressure from conservative staffers and police officials. Can you not learn from their example?

Further, I believe your letter is not merely an attempt to avoid a public issue to the profound disadvantage of both homeless residents and taxpayers, who will end up paying for the lawsuit. It also seems an attempt to intimidate me through anonymous charges made by a powerful city official.

You may not choose to have a “dialogue” with me, but please make good on your stated willingness to “give...any and all information”--specifically answering the questions above--already raised in this and the two prior letters.

Please clarify the specific complaints of “intimidation and harassment” and “inappropriate behavior” have been made against me. Or withdraw those charges publicly.

Robert Norse


As of December 22nd, the Mayor has responded to none of these requests.

However his letter attacking me as "harassing and intimidating" has been placed in a public file in the Mayor's office.

Inquiries to the Mayor concerning these issues can be made at 831-423-8939 or rcoonerty [at]

Members of the public have a right to know when and where the Mayor will be speaking, and who he has been meeting with. This is simply a matter of transparency, accountability, and good government.

Please contact the Mayor with your own requests on the subject, if you feel this is a matter of public concern.


Even more vital during freezing winter temperatures is increased harassment of the homeless downtown. The Santa Cruz Police Downtown Unit and the Santa Cruz Police Street Crimes Unit have stepped up arrests and citations downtown. See

The regular press police log (which does not appear to be complete) can be found at .

It does not seem to include sleeping and camping tickets. Tonight I heard reports of people arrested for public intoxication, then released without bedding or survival gear in the dark and the cold. This comes one day after the reading of the names of the homeless dead this year.

If anyone learns anything, please post it.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Becky Johnson
(becky_johnson222 [at] Saturday Dec 22nd, 2007 8:19 AM

1. Targeting the economic well being of my (non-elected) family members and friends as a means of influencing my public policy decisions.

BECKY: Here is the bottom line for any merchant (and Ryan IS a merchant!!! despite his protestations to the contrary)--Anything that MIGHT cause them to lose a dime of business is forbidden. I was CONVICTED of using sidewalk chalk on a sidewalk because (and this is actual court testimony by the CITY) while I was bending over to write with chalk, I MIGHT have impeded a shopper from entering a store!


2. Harassment and intimidation of city and Bookshop Santa Cruz staff.

BECKY: Ryan prefers the intimidation to be ONLY from Cops towards homeless people trying to sit, sleep, or ask for a dime. HUFF has NOT harassed or intimidated anyone at Bookshop Santa Cruz--unless you call lobbying, carrying signs, and gathering signatures on petitions harassment. These are legal, first-amendment protected activities which Ryan---a Constitutional lawyer should know.


3. Inappropriate comments to female members of City Commissions and my family members.

BECKY: Is Ryan accusing us of sexual harassment?????? Based on WHAT???? This is libel on the part of the Mayor. It's a baseless accusation, and coming from a City official, its especially troubling. What HUFF has done is to use the FREE SPEECH ZONE to perform 1st amendment activities in an attempt to redress government grievances. 37 Homeless people died this year, and the Sleeping Ban and the Blanket ban only contributed to their demise. This is the issue that HUFF is tabling about for 2 hours a week outside Ryan's Family's store. Ryan is a past and future owner who spends his time on the council passing preferential legislation to benefit Bookshop Santa Cruz.
by Such hyperbole
Saturday Dec 22nd, 2007 11:24 AM
He is calmly dismissing you, not lashing out....and I suspect that's what's really frustrating you. You seek to engage him in your all-consuming one-agenda life...and he's refusing to join you.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Dec 22nd, 2007 12:32 PM
Charges of "harassment & intimidation" do not equal "calmly dismissing" an activist. That seems to go without saying.

Buddies of Ryan's (like "Such hyperbole" may be) might advise him that unfounded accusations of criminal behavior could be construed as libelous. But then the Mayor's peculiar "Constitutional law" interpretations (he's an attorney who teaches such courses) apparently enable him to ignore constitutional rights for homeless people. So why bother with such niceities when dealing with your critics? Just smear and stonewall.

I'm also curious to know just how the "shopping behavior" of Santa Cruzans has been impacted by the "Banish Bigotry" picketing and tabling for the four months.

It's main purpose was originally to gather plaintiff's names for the forthcoming Sleeping Ban lawsuit to implement the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Jones decision. Or watch the city attorney make tens of thousands of dollars arguing the city's right to harass, cite, and arrest people for the crime of sleeping when they have no legal place to sleep. This in the teeth of a finding that such behavior in Los Angeles was "cruel and unusual punishment".

Its secondary purpose was to publicize other anti-homeless legislation and action by Coonerty. Such actions included his support for the absurd and universally abusive Parking Lot Panic Law (which puts ten square blocks of publicly used space out of bounds unless you have a vehicle, and then only for 15 minutes). He also backed exponential expansion of Ranger John Wallace's "search and destroy" program in the Pogonip and city parks, shredding homeless tents and dumpstering homeless survival gear and precious personal propertly.

Let us not overlook his masterminding increased crackdowns downtown along with Council members Matthews and Robinson through the secretive Downtown Task Force, support of the Halloween and New Years Eve "Triple Fines" zones, sell-off of Scope/Scribner Park (too much homeless lingering?) and gutless attack on Councilmember Madrigal for suggesting there "may" have been class or racial profiling in the SCPD.

On that subject, we've held a regular survey/balloting of whether the community perceived or has experienced profiling downtown. Pretty overwhelmingly the answer has been yes.

Please let us know whether your shopping habits have been impacted by our tabling--either with more shopping at the Bookshop or less.

We'll be setting up the Banish Bigotry table tomorrow at 2 PM in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz. You can also post here, or e-mail me at rnorse3 [at]

by Craig
Wednesday Dec 26th, 2007 6:37 AM
Robert, I won't take the time to find specific places on this website where you have libeled Ryan Coonerty, but they are everywhere. Every time you directly tie him, personally, to any negative action that happened to any person who happened to be homeless, you are certainly guilty of defamation, don't you think? Your homo-erotic obsession with him, one of seven council members and only recently mayor (an appointed, honorary, completely meaningless in real "power" position) verges on the mentally unstable. Plus, let me remind your that Ryan Coonerty did not post your face on websites, organize rallies at your house (you have no place of business so I can't use that as an example), take every opportunity at every public meeting to denounce you personally. No, he sent you a direct email response to your direct question, and you decided to make it public.

I'm no lawyer, but I don't see how an email intended for just you, which YOU decided to make public, makes him responsible for any defamation of your character. And besides, let's be serious- can your character be defamed any more than you've done yourself?

Think of it this way: he is upset that you have decided to single him out for your misguided crusade (the goal is not misguided, mind you- your tactics are and always have been). You've then targeted his family's business, even after he has made clear that he no longer has an ownership stake, Becky's uninformed statements that he still has ownership notwithstanding (see Becky, in the real world, people don't necessarily get rich off of the people around them just because they are associated with them. I know it's hard for you to understand, seeing as you've lived off Robert's trust fund for so long...). You then continue to drag his name through the mud over and over and over again, and just like you always do, once you've poked someone with a stick enough that they react, you then post the reaction as an unprecedented and uncalled for attack on you.

Stop personalizing this. You have failed for decades because you have personalized your activism, and by being a class-A jerk, you've managed to get some press because every time you push someone over the edge you claim harassment. This can only work so long. Don't you get it that most people around you (well, outside of your sycophantic circle) know your tricks and either ignore you or dismiss you. You are a failure as an activist- name three things you have changed in Santa Cruz in the last five years.

And you know what? I may have moved out of town, but because of you I plan on continuing to shop at BSSC online.

Get a life, leave Ryan Coonerty alone (or at least deal with him in a respectable manner, and no, pasting his photo and picketing his family business is not a respectable manner), find another man to infatuate over and get a job.

Good riddance...
by Ben
Wednesday Jan 2nd, 2008 8:54 AM
Why should Robert get a job?

He already has enough money from his trust to take care of himself. And it's enough money to keep himself warm at night.

Why should Coonerty schedule a meeting with Robert? Considering that Robert does not even live in Santa Cruz.
by Ben
Thursday Jan 3rd, 2008 2:21 PM
BECKY WRITES: "Ryan is a past and future owner who spends his time on the council passing preferential legislation to benefit Bookshop Santa Cruz."

BEN WRITES: Give us an example. A specific example where BSSC particularly received the benefits of SC legislation. Something that other tax paying citizens of Santa Cruz did not... only the BSSC.
by Craig
Thursday Jan 3rd, 2008 5:55 PM
Unfortunately, Becky and Robert don't feel that they have to answer any questions of them. They are the only ones that can ask questions in their little world. And good point- why should the mayor of Santa Cruz meet with someone who isn't a constituent? Why doesn't Robert spend as much time at the Board of Supervisor's chambers as he does at City Hall for a city he doesn't live in?

Ahh, these are the things that we'll never know, because unlike elected officials, these two monkeys aren't accountable to anyone and they act like it.
by Greg N
Friday Jan 4th, 2008 8:37 AM
Very interesting that Becky said............

"I was CONVICTED of using sidewalk chalk on a sidewalk because (and this is actual court testimony by the CITY) while I was bending over to write with chalk, I MIGHT have impeded a shopper from entering a store!"

I've seen her butt. I am quite confident that when she bends over it creates quite a massive obstacle. She could honestly shelter quite a few of her kin under it during the rain storms of late.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Mar 8th, 2008 10:07 AM
Two and a half months later, Coonerty has not responded with any written material documenting any of his charges.

Anyone with more info can post it.
by Greg
Wednesday Mar 12th, 2008 2:05 PM
I was really happy to notice in the Santa Cruz Sentinel Forums that a homeless man that has been posting about his plight has finally found housing. Craig Canada has been mentioned in many Indybay articles as he is homeless and a medical marijuana patient. He's 53 and has been looking for a home for quite awhile. He's been denied assistance due to his medical status.
He has asked Robert and Becky to help him find housing a few times. Robert and Becky have used Craig as an example of the homeless situation at many meetings and have posted articles about him on Indybay. He has served their purpose well.
The only thing is that neither Robert nor Becky ever found him housing. Nor did they ever try. Becky has stated on here a few times that HUFF is not here to help people find housing but to make it so that they can continue to live on the street without being harassed.
Well, Craig will not have to worry about that any more. He now has a home, can sleep inside at night, use his own toilet facilities, and an address in which to help him rebuild his life.
Who did this for him? A downtown business owner paid for his down payment and application. Craig did not ask this person to do so. This person did it on their own.
This person has been repeatedly attacked by Robert and Becky.

by Ben
Wednesday Mar 19th, 2008 3:13 PM
Thee months ago Becky made a rather serious accusation and was asked to show just one specific example where BSSC particularly received the benefits of SC legislation. Something that other tax paying citizens of Santa Cruz did not... only the BSSC.

Three months later she still fails to supply us with this information.
by Ben
Monday Mar 24th, 2008 2:54 PM
It's been almost one month and Becky still has not supplied this thread with any documentation regarding the accusations she presented.

Anyone with further information is welcomed to post a reply.
by Ben
Saturday Apr 12th, 2008 8:42 AM
It's been almost 4 months since Becky threw an accusation at Coonerty with no substance. She has been asked repeatedly to give a minimum of one example to back up her statement. To date she has offered nothing.

If anyone is to take Becky and her kind seriously they need to be prepared to offer concrete evidence of their accusations. This continual slander only strengthens the opinions of those that question them and their motives.

While I support the conversations about some of the social problems in this town, misinformation will get these topics nowhere. To get what you want accomplished you need to offer facts first and then deliver results. Neither comes from Becky or those she supports. This is why many people in this community view Becky, Robert, and HUFF as background noise. An irritant you can ignore and not take seriously.
ryan coonerty and clan use book shop santa cruz as a place to bust people for marijuana and ban activists. this is a proven partisan use of the place. The downtown library does no such thing. ryan coonertys latest office space is his new scam selling cubicle space in the office upstairs next door to bssc. Ryan coonerty also enjoys harrassing potheads on the street. ever wonder how he got labeled pro oil in decinzos latest cartoon?
Ben, the anonymous Coonerty supporter, need look no further than the Parking Lots and Garages Law (or the Parking Garage Paranoia Law, as I've called it). The law, unlike those of almost any other California city, makes it illegal to sit in your car reading a book in a public parking lot under the supposition that you might commit a crime. It also makes all public assemblies illegal there without a permit.

Coonerty candidly told me in the one and only lengthy conversation we had about the law in the spring of 2006 that he did so primarily on the basis of complaints from his own employees.

I actually don't think it "benefits" them, because the law really decreases security in the lots, decreases public space, increases tensions, and shreds the Constitution. However it was apparently motivated by concerns about their "comfort".