[Hpn] Santa Cruz, CA - Council mutes downtown `color' but topless protesters not banned by council - San Jose Mercury News - July 16, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Tue, 16 Jul 2002 23:31:20 -0500


Council mutes downtown `color'
Santa Cruz Bans Street Sports, Won't Let Beggars Get Too Close
but street artists and topless protesters - not banned by the council

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By Ken McLaughlin - San Jose Mercury News - July 16, 2002

A divided Santa Cruz City Council passed a series of new laws Monday to
discourage the taunting of women and gay people and other ``bad behavior''
downtown.

Arguing that the central business district was ``out of balance'' and that the
public had a right to feel comfortable on sidewalks filled with street people,
the council voted 5-2 to:

 Increase the distance that panhandlers must stay away from building entrances,
kiosks, drinking fountains, telephones, mid-block crosswalks and fences to
either 12 or 14 feet.

The council will make its final decision on the exact distance next Tuesday
after city staff members survey Pacific Avenue, downtown's main drag.

Current law bans panhandling at a variety of distances, ranging from four feet
from drinking fountains to six feet from building entrances, kiosks and
mid-block crosswalks.

 Ban hackysack, football, baseball, Frisbee throwing, beach-ball tossing and
other sports downtown. The council decided that youths playing sports on the
sidewalk particularly endanger seniors and people with strollers.

 Make it illegal to lean against the front of a business after being told by
the owner or ``other person in charge'' to knock it off.

Mayor Christopher Krohn and Councilman Keith Sugar cast the two dissenting
votes. Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice also voted against the ``leaning'' ban, saying
he often liked leaning on buildings himself.

Both Krohn and Sugar indicated they supported the new laws but agreed with
homeless activists and other critics that the process had been rushed.

Indeed, when council members proposed a new committee to deal with downtown
problems on June 25, few political observers thought the council would be able
to pass new laws before it took its August recess.

Merchants, workers, shoppers and many Santa Cruz residents had complained to the
council that young drug users, obnoxious panhandlers and foul-mouthed hecklers
were taking downtown away from families and average folks.

Some business owners asked the council to outlaw bare-breasted women,
hackysackers and panhandlers who approach people while they're waiting in line.

Others called for a ban on groups of six or more people who gather outside in
one place for more than an hour.

A pitch for `color'
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Last week, a coalition of homeless activists, artists, street musicians and
women defending the right to go topless insisted that the problems have been
overblown by the merchants and other Santa Cruz residents.

They said the council risked removing downtown ``color'' -- a big draw for
tourists. Many activists made the same point at Monday's public hearing.

At last week's council meeting, Jasmine Byron shocked the council by removing
her T-shirt and waving a copy of a ``Mammary Manifesto'' heralding the city's
long history of bare-breasted protests.

Two other topless women appeared at the speaker's podium, as another
bare-breasted woman blew bubbles in the audience.

But Councilman Scott Kennedy indicated Monday that the demonstration had
backfired.

The next day, he said, many residents told him the meeting was indicative of the
inconsiderate behavior that seemed to be becoming more acceptable on Pacific
Avenue.

``A lot of what passes for dissent is infantile misbehavior,'' Kennedy said.

Bare-breast backlash
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In a letter to the council, Tom Marketello wrote: ``Last Tuesday evening's city
council meeting was a genuine circus complete with freaks, psychos, nudity, and
the usual handful of vocal activists who faint at the sight of a help-wanted
sign.

Do you ever wonder why the majority of the taxpaying public like myself stays
home instead of participating in the meetings.''

Still, the street artists and topless protesters -- who were not banned by the
council -- are planning on a bigger demonstration for July 23, when the council
is expected to give final approval to the new downtown laws.

The group plans a clothing-optional ``Expose Yourself to Art'' protest at City
Hall from 3 to 6 p.m., followed by a march.

Sugar said Monday that he was disappointed that none of the activists had made
it clear that they would push wayward street people to ``clean up their act.''

Although he didn't vote for the laws, he said, ``Consider it a shot across the
bow. . . . Your First Amendment rights end at my nose.''

Contact Ken McLaughlin at kmclaughlin@sjmercury.com or (831) 423-3115.

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