Remember the LBAM? It's baack! Not the actual invasive flying pest, of course—it never left. But the fervent brouhaha sparked by the light brown apple moth over a community's rights to keep state agencies from spraying pesticides is rearing its head once again.
Two years ago, the city of Santa Cruz successfully sued to keep the California Department of Food and Agriculture from using planes to drop pesticides over Santa Cruz County in its effort to eradicate the moth. Now a group calling itself People Against Chemical Trespass is hoping to go one step further with an ordinance that would make it illegal for nonlocal governments to use any pesticides whatsoever on Santa Cruz soil without the blessing of her people.
But why now? Dick Andre of PACT says the CDFA is in its dark lair as we speak, hatching more devious plans to rain poison on the land.
"Talking to people, they always say, 'I thought you already stopped the spray,'" says Andre. "The truth is, we stopped them in that instance, sure. But they can still come in and do ground spraying, or tie toxic twist-ties in the trees or use guns to shoot pesticide 'splat goo' on telephone poles and trees."
Andre's efforts at getting the Santa Cruz City Council to approve an outside agency pesticide ban, however, may be doomed. A 1984 pre-emption law bars local governments from overriding the state's power to spray pesticides where it sees fit. Santa Cruz Councilmember Don Lane, in fact, says he has reviewed Andre's proposal with Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone and concluded that such a law would be a magnet for expensive lawsuits.
"My initial impression is that no, [such a law] couldn't hold up," says Lane.
Andre says he wants the city to pass the law anyway, if only to test CDFA's willingness to take on Santa Cruz again. "If the state sues, the city could easily just rescind the law," Andre says.
Lane's not buying the tactic, which he says could sour residents who expect real results. "My sense is that the council is very interested in the issue and wants to do something," says Lane. "I'd just like to have more confidence that if we draft something it would have an actual legal impact."
Whatever happens, since its 2008 victory over the CDFA, Santa Cruz has earned a reputation as a David who defeated Goliath. Now, counties from Monterey to Marin are watching closely to see if it can pull off another upset.
"Everyone is looking to see if Santa Cruz will stand up to the state again," says Andre. "I think that we can."
So Long, Sapone
On Feb. 5, Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Patty Sapone turned in her gun and badge for retirement, leaving as the first woman to be promoted all the way through the department's ranks.
"There was no me when I started," says Sapone. "Back then there were policemen who were paid more and had more status, and there were policewomen who were paid less and had less status. Now, no one is the slightest bit surprised to see a female officer serving alongside them. In fact, I think the community demands it."
Santa Cruz City Manager Dick Wilson is one of the few city employees who can claim to know what Santa Cruz was like before Sapone wore blue. Wilson, who was hired in 1979 and recently announced his own retirement at the end of July, remembers her as an "extraordinary trailblazer" and says she'll be sorely missed.
"She's part of an elite group of people," says Wilson. "She's patient, a good listener and can deal effectively between the city and the police department. She's been very much a positive force in Santa Cruz."
A Day of MLK
Anna Deavere Smith, a celebrated actress, author and playwright, will deliver the keynote address at UCSC's 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation on Thursday, Feb. 11. The speech, titled "Race in America: Crossroads of Ambiguity," will begin at 7pm at the Civic Auditorium. Also that night, Santa Cruz Vice Mayor Ryan Coonerty will be presented with the Tony Hill Award for leadership and social justice. The award is named for the Santa Cruz civil rights activist and local basketball referee who died in 2007.
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