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While Mayor Coonerty Hammers Away at Civil Liberties, the ACLU Awards Him Sunday
by Robert Norse
Friday Aug 22nd, 2008 4:59 AM
The local ACLU plans to present Mayor Ryan Coonerty with the 'Hammer of Justice' award Sunday between 3 and 6 PM Aug. 24 in the La Feliz Room of the Seymour Center at the Long Marine Laboratory, 100 Schaffer Road. The Human Rights Organization and HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) hope to educate ACLUskees as to the true nature of Mayor Coonerty's kakocracy and suggest more suitable candidates.
Who's interested in coming to a protest Sunday afternoon around 3 PM? Or in supporting such a protest by making signs ? Contact me at 423-4833 for more info or just show up at 100 Schaffer Rd. at 3 PM Sunday.


Apparently several months ago, the ACLU Board made a quiet decision, apparently not even polling its own membership, to further Mayor Coonerty's fall election campaign with an absurd award--the "Hammer of Justice" Award.

Last year Assemblyman John Laird received the "Hammer of Justice" award for his work on gay civil rights--an action for which there was some basis (though Laird adopted harsh measures to combat homeless civil rights protest when he was Santa Cruz mayor two decades ago in 1988).

The rationale for the ACLU's decision (made by a minority of its members) was unclear but had to something to do with Coonerty's "constitutional law" classes at Cabrillo and UCSC. That Coonerty preaches "constitutional law" while practicing "unconstitutional" lawmaking is the kind of casual hypocrisy that Santa Cruz "progressives" have become famous for.

Some public comment on the ACLU's peculiar "Award the Abuser" decision can be found at


I contacted veteran insider and Civil Liberties Slayer Mike Rotkin himself yesterday by phone in search of an answer to this strange contradiction. Rotkin is both an ACLU Board member and for those watching closely, the shadow mayor of Santa Cruz, still sitting on the Santa Cruz City Council in spite of progressive efforts to retire him. No response yet, but I've invited Mike on Free Radio to defend the Board's decision.

Last year at the ACLU awards ceremony Rotkin's response to criticism of the ACLU was to physically block the critics from entering ("because of their signs") and call the police. They advised Rotkin he couldn't exclude the peaceful public, even with signs. ACLU members were sadly silent as the Rotkin showed the corrupting force of power-over-principle. The police and D.A. did not charge Rotkin with making a false police report (Rotkin suggested the signs urging an end to the sleeping ban were disruptive), but the critics were allowed in.

The signs and petitions we carried urged the ACLU to publicly oppose the Rotkin/Coonerty- backed city Sleeping Ban ordinance. We also urged members to support the court challenge being proposed that year. A year later, of course, they've done nothing further around that issue--apparently ever afraid of offending City Council and conservative westside residents.

Last year's repressive ACLU actions against critics who attended its "public" meeting are chronicled at "Activists ask ACLU to help end sleeping ban""

and "Rotkin Responds to the ACLU Scandal: Signature Hypocrisy of Phoney 'Progressive' Politics" at


Becky Johnson in her brief commentary below outlines some of Coonerty's bad positions and actions.

NOTE TO READERS: Last year, HUFF attended the ACLU awards ceremony only to be refused entry because Robert Norse was carrying a sign. Mike Rotkin called the police and the UCSC police and the SCPD showed up. The UCSC police sgt. informed Rotkin that carrying a sign into a public meeting was a legal activity. HUFF members were then allowed to attend the event and no further incident occurred. This year,this event, to which the ACLU is 'inviting the public' plans to give Mayor Ryan Coonerty an award. No doubt for his cutting public comment at City Council meetings, banning activists from Bookshop Santa Cruz who have been critical of his policies toward homeless people, and for making all downtown parking lots 'no trespass zones.'

Coonerty is also outstandingly bad on a number of other issues:

* an enabler of the SCPD--in its coverup of the political infiltration several years ago of the DIY Last Night peaceful protest and the Council's refusal to provide protections.
* supported a blank check to the Parks and Recreation boss to close down any areas of the city under the P & R jurisdiction (which includes the entire Pogonip, City Hall, the library, pa without a public hearing or an affirmative vote from the P & R Commission.
* refused to release either his public meetings schedule or his appointment book history of meetings with lobbyists as required by the California Sunshine Act.
* helped to cripple the Measure K Committee, created by Initiative last election to oversee the SCPD and ensure that marijuana busts on private property of adults are the lowest property; still hasn't appointed his member, leaving the position vacant.
* arranged through closed door meetings with staff and conservative Council meetings for last year's SCPD crackdown on Pacific Ave and continues to champion further such measures in the upcoming election under the guide of 'quality of life' and 'public safety' labels.
* refuses to meet with or document is personal attacks on critics who publicly confronted him in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz for his anti-homeless position. He declared others were "banned for life" for protesting the Mayor's policies on the sidewalk in front of his bookshop.


The Santa Cruz ACLU itself seems to be beyond redemption. The southern California ACLU chapter actively supported legislation leading to the historic Jones decision overturning the L.A. Sleeping Ban in 2006 and the northern California ACLU chapter actively backed a successful Fresno lawsuit against the seizsure of homeless property there, winning a $2.3 million settlement.

But here in Santa Cruz, the ACLU has refused to publicly oppose the same Sleeping Ban practices that its sister organizations fought in Los Angeles and Fresno, burying the issue in committee time after time.

The national ACLU Drug Policy Project has its headquarters here (above the Tacqueria Vallarta at Cathcart and Pacific), but has taken no action to oppose the Coonerty Council's emasculation of the Measure K law, which the voters passed in 2006, making marijuana enforcement the lowest priority for the SCPD. (See "Measure K Commission Survivor Speaks Out ..." at

On one issue the local ACLU did take a stand--opposing Coonerty's Parking Lots Trespass law, removing 10 solid blocks of downtown space traditionally open to the public from public use and banning public assembly there. (See "Local ACLU Statement on the Parking Lot Panic Law" at ) But now the Board is awarding the Mayor who pushed through the legislation it opposed.


Kate Wells, who is on the ACLU's legal committee, but was not consulted in the ACLU's decision to award Coonerty, will be out of town, but has expressed amazement and outrage at the decision. She wrote the following letter to the Board:

From: Kate Wells
To: board [at] ; legal [at]
Sent: Monday, July 14, 2008 10:57 AM
Subject: Re: [Legal] Chapter Awards

.... Having brought many civil rights lawsuits against the City of Santa Cruz over the years of my practice, I have had the unique opportunity to witness first hand the human rights stances of every mayor and councilmember for the past couple of decades. Ryan Coonerty, in my opinion, has not only not stood up for the principles espoused by the ALCU, but has instituted and supported political and legislative stances that are inimical to the goal of achieving those principles. And such behavior is even more egregious given his status as a civil rights instructor.

As mayor, Mr. Coonerty has actively instituted a policy curtailing the ability of the people to address their elected officials at city council meetings. As a councilmember and mayor, he has shown overwhelming support for anti-homeless legislation including the criminalization of sleep, of covering oneself with a blanket at night, of being able to take cover against the rain in a public parking lot, and even the peaceful act of soliciting funds on the streets of the city.

The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty have twice in the past decade named the City of Santa Cruz as one of the top 20 "meanest" cities in the United States based on the number of anti-homeless laws in the city, the enforcement of those laws and severity of penalties, the general political climate toward homeless people in the city, the city's history of criminalization measures, and the existence of pending or recently enacted criminalization legislation in the city. I know of no other city in the country that outlaws the mere act of covering oneself with a blanket in public during the night. Ryan Coonerty has supported and defended such draconian laws despite the fact that many homeless people in our city, including a Viet Nam vet in a wheelchair, have died in the night from hypothermia.

In Jones, et al. v. The City of Los Angeles , et al., a suit brought by ACLU attorney Carol Sobel, the Ninth Circuit condemned such anti-homeless practices as cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Said decision was hailed by the ACLU as a great victory for human rights. See the published article at:

I was the attorney for the plaintiff in Maurer v. The City of Santa Cruz, the case referred to by Don in his letter as (d). In that case, I pleaded with the city, prior to filing suit, to voluntarily change a blatantly unconstitutional law regarding panhandling on the streets of Santa Cruz. Instead, the city council, including Ryan Coonerty, decided to defend the clearly indefensible ordinance at all costs - Northern District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel scoffed at the position put forth by the City Attorney and found the law to be in violation of the First Amendment as written and as applied, ordering the City Attorney to rewrite it.

Any first year law student would have known that the ordinance was unconstitutional and yet the City spent nearly $100,000 defending the lawsuit - including paying my fees and damages to the plaintiff. Ryan Coonerty, with his knowledge of Constitutional law, was in a unique position to exert his influence on the council and/or to voluntarily bring forth an amendment to the panhandling ordinance to bring it in line with the First Amendment. He obviously did not.

I, too, would like to know exactly what Ryan Coonerty has done to deserve an ACLU award. In my opinion, in view of the foregoing information, he has not earned such consideration.

Kate Wells


Coonerty's bad civil liberties record locally caused him to be opposed and rejected as an Obama delegate last April in spite of his high profile "mayoral" status. His punitive hostility towards critics is chronicled there in the e-mail correspondence he had with Obama supporter Metteyya Brahmana. See "Coonerty to Face Challenge in Obama Delegate Selection 2 PM Sunday: at

Coonerty decreed new restrictive rules at City Council making Santa Cruz one of the only cities in the state that requires Council permission for community members to speak for two minutes on individual consent agenda items. See "Coonerty Uses New Consent Agenda Gag Rule" at

Ironically Coonerty faced off against ACLU legal committee attorneys Kate Wells and Don Zimmerman in a television debate on the Sleeping Ban from which Coonerty had me banned last fall: See . There Coonerty defends a law which makes "sleep criminals" out of homeless people. Coonerty has taken no action to reduce the $97 fines which 60-90 homeless people incur each month in Santa Cruz, where there is no emergency drop-in shelter for 90% of the city's 1500-2000 homeless population.

Coonerty's controversial record is also chronicled at

At the SEIU Candidate forum earlier this month, Coonerty continued his call for more "quality of life" enforcement downtown. This is right-wing code talk for giving the police more power to selectively enforce their own sense of what is appropriate behavior downtown, using the Downtown Ordinances which severely restrict sitting, sparechanging, political tabling, and performing. Unfortunately Jeff Smedberg banned all recording of the candidates' commentsn or we could hear Coonerty's comments uncensored.

The Sentinel original announcement of the ACLU awards ceremony can be found at:

Those who haven't the time or energy to show up to speak to ACLUskees directly on Sunday may wish to cancel their donations to and/or membership in the ACLU by e-mailing the neo-liberals who came up with this Coonerty election eve support measure at board [at] .

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 12:36 PM
straight from the ACLU website at, these are the folks who either voted to award Coonerty his "Hammer of Justice" award or presumably have the power to overrule that decision (made in secret some months back):

The individuals named below are either incumbents or are people recommended by the Santa Cruz ACLU Board Nominating Committee. Voting will take place at the Annual Membership Meeting on November 15, 2007. Members will be able to use the printed ballot at the meeting to write in name(s) of other candidates.


Note that two former Mayors (Rotkin and Fitzmaurice), both of whom have voted to further criminalize homeless people and restrict public speaking time at city council for critics, are on this Board.

Interested folks might want to call in to ask these public-spirited citizens how many of them are on the Coonerty-for-City-Council campaign. And how many abused the name of the ACLU to support someone whose actions have repeatedly restricted civil liberties locally.
by Fairness
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 4:28 PM
It does seem that the name listed is Tim FITZPATRICK and not Tim Fitzmaurice as noted by Robert. Otherwise, I would have to agree with him about the Board/Coonerty thingy. Smells tricky!
by Common sense
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 4:59 PM
We have Robert Norse to thank for our limited access to comment at City government meetings. He has so abused his rights to do so that they had to limit it just so that other people had a chance to speak and that the meetings didn't go on until 1 am LIMITING THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE REST OF THE COMMUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN THEIR GOVERNMENT, YOU KNOW, THE ONES WITH JOBS AND OTHER SUCH RESPONSIBILITIES.
by Thomas Leavitt
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 6:01 PM
You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists. -Abbie Hoffman

By this measure, the Santa Cruz City Council has consistently failed to live up to the standards that many many many other municipalities have adhered to when dealing with their "dissidents". ... and the progressive/liberal coterie's unwillingness to challenge the implementation of the City Council's participation impairing rules and practices is both politically stupid (imagine what a future City Council run by folks like John Mahaney and Louis Rittenhouse could do with the precedents that have been set by our current and past City Councils) and morally indefensible.

Anyone who takes seriously the claim that Robert is somehow capable of single handedly extending a City Council meeting till 1 a.m. need to go take a remedial math course. I challenge anyone to demonstrate that Robert has ever single handedly consumed even a hour of public comment time, let alone the three hours or more require for this to be the case. Plenty of other City Councils have dealt with their gadflies in a far more rational fashion, without severely damaging the integrity of the process of public participation.

If Robert ever got his hands on a skilled lawyer with time to burn, I'm sure he could make the City Council deeply regret their behavior to this point (and the taxpayers as well, unfortunately).
by Lydia Blanchard
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 6:33 PM
Here is the text of a comment I made today, 8/23/08, to the ACLU website:

I have regularly given membership fees at the August meeting. I have not received a mailing or emailing with general meeting information for the ACLU chapter in Santa Cruz. I am startled by the nomination and election without my knowledge of Ryan Coonerty for an American Civil Rights Union award. Mr. Coonerty has with spurious reasons limited by 33% the speaking time of the public at Santa Cruz City Council meetings and spoken rudely, ineffectively, and without legal basis to people preparing to speak at some other public meetings. His actions as mayor leave a good deal to be desired. I object to the ACLU chapter's making this decision without including its membership in it. I will not attend this meeting on 8/24 because of a prior commitment. I totally support any legal or civilly disobedient civil rights complaint made by others at the meeting because of the Coonerty award. --Lydia Blanchard, MFT
by Robert Norse
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 7:02 PM
"Fairness" is quite right.

My apologies to Tim Fitzmaurice for misreading "Tim Fitzpatrick".

It is true, however, that in 2001 then-Mayor Fitzmaurice imposed the new "decorum" rules that unconstitutionally banned (the perfectly legal) tape recording of public discussions with city staff and banned the use of unseemly words like "fuhrer" and "flunky" at City Council.

Fitzmaurice is the Councilmember actually responsible for tryign to ban me from City Council and provoking a false arrest for a brief silent "don't act like a bunch of fascists" gesture.

Since 2002, the City Council has enmeshed the taxpayers in the "fascist salute" lawsuit, still on appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. (See video of the event at and story at and

ACLU Board of Director Mike Rotkin (and recycled Santa Cruz Mayor) has so far not responded to my request for more insight into the reasoning of the ACLU Board in honoring an attorney/mayor who was cut public access, supported criminalization of the poor, and kept his public meeting and lobbyist meetings secret.

Perhaps at the ACLU wisdom, Board members will deign to explain.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2008 11:29 PM
Teachers, tutors, sightseers, and gadflies--assemble at 2 PM for a ride up to 100 Shaffer Rd. for the ACLU Awards. If you have a vehicle and want to help with the caravan, all the better! Folks are also encouraged to bring camcorders and cameras to document the dialogue.

The Calvary Episcopal Church is on Cedar and Lincoln across from the Wednesday Santa Cruz Farmer's Market.
by a fan of the freeway blogger
Sunday Aug 24th, 2008 1:12 AM
Visualize world leaders.
by Robert Norse
Sunday Aug 24th, 2008 8:15 AM
ACLU's New Core Principles: The Coonerty Revolution
by a fan of the freeway blogger
Sunday Aug 24th, 2008 8:26 PM
The Brown Berets were incredible!!! The event organizers and ACLU members were gracious, especially when faced with a difficult situation. Mr. Coonerty himself was polite when I handed him a Hammer of "Just Us" flyer with his picture on it. Even the great band playing at the event, Singing Wood, lent a compassionate ear. And most importantly, expressions of concern about issues important to those that are often ignored was respected, and heard. It was beautiful. Truly.

During these dark times even the smallest gestures of human decency are deeply cherished.

Thank you very, very much, one and all.
by Smells Like Stasi
Monday Aug 25th, 2008 9:36 AM

OAKLAND: Police spies chosen to lead war protest
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer, Friday, July 28, 2006

A Protest, a Spy Program and a Campus in an Uproa
By SARAH KERSHAW, January 14, 2006

Group Accuses Santa Cruz Police Of Spying
Internal Police Investigation Launched, January 11, 2006

"In early 2006, Coonerty voiced unqualified support for Santa Cruz police after it was discovered that undercover officers had infiltrated community meetings organizing an unpermitted New Year's parade. Coonerty opposed an independent investigation and supported an investigation by police of their own behavior. The investigation was lead by the police administrator who ordered the original undercover investigation."

Quebec Police defend Rock-Wielding Undercover Officer,
Vancouver Sun, Aug 25 2007

Coonerty is an employee of both the city and the university, and has never once spoken out about this blatantly illegal and unethical activity - indeed, he has even participated in covering it up. Significantly, the Santa Cruz City Council never adopted any rules about the behavior of their undercover officers, or made clear the nature of the association between the Santa Cruz Police Department and the JTTF - Joint Terrorism Task Force - that also has a close association with the university.

At the present moment, the head of the U.S. Justice Department is calling for unrestricted spy powers for the FBI, so that anyone can be investigated based on nothing more than the agenda of some unknown government employee. Thanks to the recent firebombing on the Upper West Side, the FBI now has a free reign to do whatever they want - is the city going to be asking the FBI to account for their activities? Those paid-off lapdogs? The ones who spend all their time giving away city money to international engineering corporations, golf courses, giant developers and the like?

Hilarious. Of course, the so-called "independents" (including Rob Norse, a major fraud and all the 9/11 Truth operatives) in Santa Cruz are mostly a bunch of COINTELPRO operatives. The only reason Free Radio Santa Cruz has been allowed to stay on the air is because they've been thoroughly infilitrated. Real independents have this problem called money - the fronts get their bills paid by secretive non-profits that draw their funding from massive corporate funds like Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.

The same is true for indybay, of course. Any undercover officer would have no problem infilitrating this little site and taking control of it. You can also bet that their are a ton of undercover right-wing types at the Denver Democratic Convention, trying to stir up trouble for the benefit of the FOX and CNN camera crews.

Oh, but COINTELPRO ended in the 70s, you say... they would never think of setting up fake news outlets today, would they? I mean, Democracy Now is honest and could not possibly be a fraud, even though they are pulling down $4 million a year from some very secretive funds...
by Robert Norse
Monday Aug 25th, 2008 3:05 PM
Four of us HUFFees went to the ACLU annual fund raiser (contributing commentary rather than funds): me, Bernard Klitzner, Becky Johnson, and Gary.

Mark Levy, the local folksinger, arrived later offering to play his guitar and play some of his greatest local hits like "There Ain't No Sleepin' in the City of Santa Cruz" and "999 Points of Light" (about the City's persecution and prosecution of Sandra Loranger, who distributed free food two decades ago to support the homeless). There was a loud and tuneful marimba band that was going full blast, so Mark postponed his concert until another time, but stayed to chat with Board members and visitors.

Mike Rotkin, who'd blocked my way and called the police the year before to stop me from carrying in a sign [see comment above] was much more subdued this year. We arrived at the same time and exchanged the briefest of pleasantries. He was low-key throughout the afternoon.

There was a lot of strong pressing and some directing, but no outrageous commands and police threats from the Board members organizing and running the meeting. A bald-headed fellow (I think it was Pat Reilly) was apparently in charge. Last year, he backed up Rotkin's false arrest. This year, he was tense and seemed to be at my elbow frequently, but he restrained himself. Joyce Brodsky, seeing me distributing fliers, tried to get me to put them all on the literature table. I complied by putting some of them on the table and continuing (less conspicuously) giving out fliers to arriving members of the public. Board members generally treated me in a genial manner with some dialogue, mostly at my initiative.

Various Board members gave me different pieces of the "why" behind the Coonerty award. They all acknowledged there was controversy. One said they spent an hour discussing it. Another said that with attorney Don Zimmerman (a Board member) gone, they didn't have the info they needed to reject the Coonerty nomination. He also said there were few nominees.

Another defended Coonerty as being "an inspiration" to his students on civil liberties issues in his classes at UCSC and Cabrillo.

As mentioned above I find Coonerty's teaching constitutional law in theory with one hat and removing them with another doubly damning.

He can't claim ignorance. It's sort of like John Yoo's torture memo supporting the Bush-Pelosi regime. Except that Coonerty actively pushed for laws that the ACLU questioned or fought (the Parking Garage Paranoia Law and its Parking Lot Panic extension). So Coonerty--unlike Yoo--was not merely an adviser, but an active legislator (and now Mayor).

There was also an admission that some of the praise around Coonerty's teaching skills came from his aunt Sheila, who is on the ACLU Board. Sheila apparently values family loyalty over the ACLU's local reputation and the broader civil liberties situation. Her nephew, the Mayor, her nominee for this award, pushed for the Parking Lot Panic law, which she actively opposed on the Downtown Commission and before the City Council last year. She wrote Coonerty's glowing introduction, praising him and her family extensively.

Hopefully Becky Johnson will be posting some video; Community TV videoed the entire parade of folly; and I will be playing audio segments on my show Thursday evening 6-8 PM at 101.1 FM.

The Coonerty family was out in full force--Ryan, father Neal, Ryan's sister, and, of course, aunt Sheila were all there. One critic did report that while others receiving awards got standing ovations, there were a significant number who did not rise to applaud Coonerty when he received his "Hammer of Justice".

If the Coonerty family didn't have such horrible local politics (Neal gave us the Downtown Ordinances), I'd have more sympathy since their Bookshop Santa Cruz has open public (unpopular activists excepted) bathrooms and they let a few homeless people sleep in their eaves.

It's hard to believe that the ACLU Board is so out of touch with Coonerty's record and the civil liberties controversies in Santa Cruz. One of the members came up to me to commend me for my radio show, but I guess he was the exception. It's more likely that the fascination of national issues, and the lure of local political power plays a bigger factor here.

Bernard Klitzer was, for me, the real hero of the occasion. He was carrying a sign critiquing Coonerty's policies. He carried it in, though I was harassed last year doing so. He sat with it quietly outside during the Marimba concert from 3-4. Then during the awards, he came inside and stood in the back of the room holding it up throughout the proceedings. (This is an action that Rotkin told us last year would have been regarded as a "disruption")

As the meeting drew closer to Coonerty's award time, Bernard drew me aside and asked me to "negotiate" with the people running the meeting, so he could stand up front next to Coonerty during his speech to present a dissenting view. My initial suppressed laughter turned to admiration as I heard Bernard passionately negotiating with the nervous Board members outside.
(That interchange was recorded, both by me and by Bradley of indybay. I'll play mine on Thursday night.)

Bernard's throat choked up as he talked about the right to dissent to the same people awarding a Mayor who was regularly cutting back comment time at City Council and backing a crackdown on the homeless downtown. Gary, computer maestro and 2 am. flyerfashioner, supported Bernard suggesting a compromise.

Rotkin, watching this and perhaps remembering last year's police fiasco (the police came off more liberal than the ACLU since they refused to arrest me for carrying a sign), finally made Bernard an offer. He could stand in the front in full view of the audience, but off to the side, but not next to Coonerty as he gave his acceptance speech. Bernard agreed. And he was escorted to the front of the room by Pat Reilly, and stood there throughout Coonerty's speech silently.

It takes a lot of courage to show the kind of vulnerability he did to the ACLUskies.

Sandino of the Brown Berets accepted the last award of the afternoon, along with three other Berets. I think Bradley took a lot of photos and Becky videoed the whole thing. At the end of the presentation, Sandino went out of his way to speak directly to Ryan Coonerty and to the ACLU from the podium, expressing regret and dissent about his Parking Lot law and other issues.

A sunny afternoon, good food, some activist solidarity, a little more info, and some chatter with sympathetic ACLU members.

Becky may provide a report on why the local ACLU, after 20 years, can't get it together to even issue a simple statement opposing the City's Sleeping Ban (unlike many other California ACLU's). She spoke with a retiring Board member who reported it was a controversial issue that they couldn't agree on.

Was our protest effective in changing any minds? The other HUFF members I was with felt pleased and satisfied, with Sandino's statement, with Bernard's bravery, with the verbal contacts they had with ACLUskies.

What I saw was this: Rotkin-led ACLU learned from last year that it couldn't use high handed and heavy tactic without significant consequence. Last year their own members said nothing or piled on as Rotkin blocked my way, denounced me, me and called the cops. The cops (from two different police departments) apparently refused to make an arrest A passerby not connected with HUFF wrote a story and provided photos. They certainly didn't want to repeat this fiasco.

Letting Bernard stand silently let Rotkin and the ACLU now appear to be the model of tolerance--allowing high-profile dissent in their own meeting. The question is whether the change was cosmetic and calculated, or deeper and heartfelt.

If the ACLU were really serious, it should (a) withdrawn the award and (b) actually take up some local civil liberties issue (such as the absurd ban on public assemblies in parking lots, the criminalizing of the poor for sleeping, sitting, and peaceful sparechanging, and the Coonerty Council's violations of the Brown Act.

In the interim, they should also issue a statement distinguishing their position from that of Coonerty's on such matters as: the Sleeping Ban, the Downtown Ordinances, Coonerty's Parking Lot law, selective enforcement by the SCPD, exclusionary City Council procedures, and issued an explanatory statement. With Coonerty coming into a hotly contested election campaign (five former Councilmembers/mayors are running for four seats) and Coonerty's aunt on the Board, the action appears to be political. With Coonerty's civil liberties record, the action appears nonsensical.

Other HUFF members view the matter much more positively, as a new beginning. When I see new and real actions--even as limited as those taken by ACLU's in other cities, I'll be more inclined to agree.

Stasi's critique of Coonerty's silence [comment above] is interesting.

I also encourage Smells to publicly confront Coonerty and other Council candidates at upcoming candidate forums (September 3rd and 10th are the next ones I've heard about). Ask them about the relations between the SCPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as well as their involvement in the Drug War, their policies on infiltration and record keeping, their use of force policy, the records of how many times guns have been drawn, and/or tasers used, etc. At the same time, get the Public Records. We need a Public Records Act group to work on getting relevant documents here.

As for specifics about infiltration, etc., such claims should always be carefully examined--if there's actually any evidence presented. Otherwise, unsubstantiated claims are hard to distinguish from COINTELPRO divide-and-conquer disinformation of the late 60's or nervous paranoia.

Free Radio Santa Cruz mostly suffers from circular firing squads. Santa Cruz Indymedia is too eager to impose its own agenda (unlike other indymedia's and blogs like the Sentinel's, it censors without allowing access to hidden or deleted comments and doesn't advise those censored why). But you still get lots of info and access at FRSC and Indymedia that you don't get elsewhere.
by Robert Norse
Monday Aug 25th, 2008 9:28 PM
I've tried to get this downloaded as a PDF, but haven't yet been able to manage it. So here's the text without formatting:

ACLU's New Core Principles: The Coonerty Revolution


Old ACLU Principle: Homeless people have a right to sleep at night—not anywhere and everywhere but somewhere. Sleeping at night is an involuntary activity necessary for human health and survival. Denying that right constitutes torture--practiced only in primitive regions like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Sleeping Bans violate due protection, equal protection of the law, and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The ACLU has supported successful lawsuits and legislative action against the bans in Los Angeles, San Diego, Richmond, Fresno, and Sacramento.

New Coonerty Policy: Santa Cruz Municipal Code 6.36.010a gives $97 fines for sleeping outdoors or in your vehicle. The city generously provides 80 drop-in shelter beds this summer for 1500-2000 people. More funding for police & ranger crackdowns in the Pogonip. No explanation for why Santa Cruz is so far behind the larger more conservative cities.

Old ACLU Principle: Homeless people have a right to be secure in their person and properties. The Fresno Kinkaid decision, supported by the ACLU, won $2.3 million from the City for its destruction of homeless property.

New Coonerty Policy: Chief Ranger John Wallace candidly acknowledges his labor-ready crews destroy homeless tents, survival gear, and personal property in the Pogonip as “trash” with no provision for storage as mandated by Kinkaid. Coonerty has expressed no concerns nor made any changes.

Old ACLU Principle: People using public spaces are innocent until proven guilty. Public spaces need to be kept open to the public absent serious safety emergencies. The local ACLU opposed the 2007 expansion of the Parking Lots and Garages Trespass law, making it illegal to sit in your car for 15 minutes or assemble in a lot for any other purpose than parking—criminalizing all other public assembly.

New Coonerty Policy: Coonerty's ordinance, motivated initially by homeless camping in the garages, now reverses the presumption of innocence and closes off 10 blocks of square space downtown. Coonerty failed to agenda-ize the required next-year review of the law.


Old ACLU Principle: Police departments must not infiltrate and spy on peaceful political protest because that chills such activity. Public officials need to hold police officials accountable when abuses are found and change bad policies.

New Coonerty Principle: Northern California ACLU's public documents requests revealed Deputy Police Chief Kevin Vogel's “investigation” (and vindication) of his own undercover operations against the DIY Last Night parade. Coonerty, then on the Public Safety Committee—charged with overseeing the police—had no complaints. The lax regulations finally agreed upon did not meet S.F. ACLU standards and were not subject to a public process. Coonerty was silent.

Old ACLU Principle: The War on Marijuana is a costly, abusive, and self-defeating juggernaut. The ACLU's Drug Policy Project, based on Santa Cruz, has backed challenges elsewhere and defended WAMM. Various measures passed by voters in Seattle, Oakland, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz mandated police treat marijuana as the lowest enforcement priority.

New Coonerty Principle: Coonerty refused to support Measure K either in or out of council—even after it was passed by 64% of the voters here. He expressed no objection when the City Attorney under pressure from the SCPD moved to gut its enforcement provisions. He delayed for months in appointing members and agreed to cut back its meetings to two per year.


Old ACLU Principle: Transparency in government with officials providing public records as to lobbyist meetings and planned mayoral engagements.
New Coonerty Policy: Access denied to records of lobbyist meetings and mayoral schedule.

Old ACLU Principle: City council meetings allowing citizen access and testimony.
New Coonerty Policy: New city council procedures requiring council “permission” before the public can specifically address over half the items on the Consent Agenda. Brown Act complaints about this bizarre reduction of public speaking time have been ignored or rejected.

Old ACLU Principle: Increased time for the public to speak.
New Coonerty Policy: New procedures cutting individual and oral communications time nearly in half.

Old ACLU Principle: Regular meetings at accessible times.
New Coonerty Policy: Densely packed Council agendas in the afternoon which “hurry along”
comment and canceled meetings at night when working people and students could attend.

Old ACLU Principle: Increased access to city government without discrimination against critics. New Coonerty Policy: Closed door to critics who peacefully protest in front of his Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Old ACLU Principle: Time clear and certain for oral communications.
New Coonerty Policy: Oral Communications “at the end of the agenda” requiring speakers to wait for hours.

Old ACLU Principle: Separation of government and business interests.
New Coonerty Policy: Banning critics “for life” from his Bookstore, signing his decision “Vice-Mayor Coonerty”.

Old ACLU Principle: Open access to Public Records, particularly when a public official is attacking critics.
New Coonerty Policy: No substantiation released after Mayor Coonerty publicly made written charges sexual “harassment” & “intimidation” of city staff, bookshop employees, and relatives, signed with his official title.

Flyer by Norse of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 831-423-4833 8-23-08
by a fan of the freeway blogger
Monday Aug 25th, 2008 11:05 PM
Hold on, a number of people had a role in the flyer! Everyone at the Human Rights meeting on Saturday, for starters. I was simply the last minute GIMP jockey.

Don't get me wrong. I've been disappointed by the ACLU for years. I'm not alone, which explains why other activist groups attract new membership, and strive to establish new legacies, instead of resting on past glory. I'm not sure if the Sunday event was a "new beginning" for the local chapter of the ACLU or a "grand finish" but it was certainly beautiful. Bernard its sun, Robert and Becky its stars.
by Sum Dim
Saturday Aug 30th, 2008 4:19 PM
It is truly heartening to see Coonerty finally receive this award from the ACLU. Ryan and Neal have struggled for years against the forces of the extremist status quo that Robert, Becky and Bernie represent. These are people who are trying desperately to drag Santa Cruz back to the failed social experiments of the seventies and eighties. Thanks to Ryan and his fellow true progressives, this will never happen. The Huffies will be relegated to the rubbish heap of history and we will finally have our city back. Thanks Ryan. Enjoy your hammer. And enjoy using it on the Huffies!