Photograph by Sarah Phelan
SCAP Shake-Up: SCAP's executive director, Chris Smith, reportedly says goodbye.
The SCAP Shuffle
The SANTA CRUZ AIDS PROJECT, a favorite local nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting the spread of AIDS, has gone through some tough times in recent years. Underfunded, thanks to state and federal budget cuts, its staff has often been overworked and/or underpaid for the valuable work it does for the community. Most recently, though, anonymous sources claim that the staff is in the process of forming a union to combat the "hostile work environment" created by SCAP's executive director CHRISTOPHER SMITH.
"No one was happy with him there," reports the source. "The feeling I got was if we didn't agree with his management decisions and we voiced those opinions or came together as a group, that would result in negative actions against us."
SCAP staff directed any and all of Nüz's questions to SCAP board president MAURICE CARRILLO, who gave Nüz only an extremely abbreviated audience. Still, it was sufficient to confirm the rumors that Smith, who was hired in 2003 after former executive director TOM LINDSAY passed away suddenly in July of that year, will indeed be leaving SCAP at the end of the month. Smith's decision was reportedly prompted by his discovery of the unionizing effort, and came just prior to the recent departure of APRIL D. JACKSON and her husband, MICHAEL PETILLO, both of whom Smith hired from his former place of employment at the Arizona AIDS Project. Carrillo says Jackson and Petillo will be moving on to new jobs in Seattle, but there's no word to date of where Smith will be landing. (Efforts to reach Smith went unanswered as of presstime.)
Still, according to Carrillo, "It's just coincidental that all this happened at the same time; it's not an exodus of people."
During his stint with SCAP, Smith, with the consent of SCAP's board, made the controversial decision to cut the education and prevention departments and eliminate the jobs of the six people who administered them—cuts purportedly made to close a gap in the budget.
Following those moves, Smith told Metro Santa Cruz ("SCAP Scrape," Feb. 23, 2005) that "part of the problem is that as the funding has been cut, there hasn't been a proportional decrease in staff. For a nonprofit with a $1 million budget to have 18 staff members is crazy."
Since the layoffs, SCAP has not had a member of staff on the board besides the executive director. Meanwhile, sources claim that Smith was inconsistent as a manager: "One day, he's all buddy-buddy with you and the next he's got the 'get-on-board-or-you're-getting-fired' type of attitude."
"With client services," says a source, "he told them, with his fists on the table, that if they showed any emotion toward [a decision he made], that he would take that as a letter of resignation and they could pack their stuff and leave."
Even with Smith leaving, sources say they still plan to pursue unionization, "just to set a standard for how things should be run and how staff should be treated."
For over a month, Republicans have been seething over the left turn GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER allegedly made since his disastrous special election—although Arnold himself insisted that "there will be no change in direction at all"— after he named Democratic activist SUSAN KENNEDY as his new chief of staff.
Either way, news that Schwarzenegger decided not to grant clemency to Crips gang founder STANLEY 'TOOKIE' WILLIAMS (which will make Williams the 12th California inmate to be executed since lawmakers reinstated the death penalty in 1977) doesn't prove much either, since the last California governor to grant clemency was a Republican—RONALD REAGAN, no less, who spared a mentally infirm killer back in 1967.
Further adding to the theory that supporting the death penalty is required gubernatorial positioning these days, no matter which side of the political fence you sit on, is the fact that topics like "Tookie" and "clemency" don't readily pop up on the gubernatorial websites of state Controller STEVE WESTLY or state Treasurer PHIL ANGELIDES, who so far are Arnold's only two Democratic challengers in the 2006 race for governor.
Instead, a perusal of Angelides' website (www.angelides.com) led to Angelides "Governor's Re-Election Slogan" contest, whose entries so far include "Shh! I'm just a bad actor"; "Vote Arnold 2006. Kindergarten Cop 2"; " Vote for Arnold. I'll kick your butt if you don't"; "Don't blame me. I can't even pronounce California"; "Maria doesn't even want me at home"; "Arnold 2006. Your votes can stop my bad movies"; and "Help Me Terminate California."
Meanwhile, Westly's campaign (www.westly2006.com) has mounted a competition in which you can vote to decide which celebrity should be drafted to run in the Republican primary this spring—instead of Arnold.
With choices restricted to MEL GIBSON, BRUCE WILLIS, VINCE VAUGHN, CHUCK NORRIS and BO DEREK, Norris leads (31.3 percent), followed by Vaughn (27.1 percent) and Derek (25 percent), with Gibson trailing (14.6 percent) and Willis bombing (2.1 percent).
On a more serious note, Westly jabs a finger at Arnold and Angelides by challenging them both to make their tax returns public—a challenge that has gone unmet for 88 days as of presstime.
Snow Night Smackdown
SNOW NIGHT in downtown Santa Cruz is usually garnished with happy children, flushed cheeks and smiling parents—an idyllic scene from a region blessed with such good weather that serious snow is impossible.
Yet this year, among the cheer of the DOWNTOWN ASSOCIATION-sponsored event, a snarky menace raised its anti-corporate head: THE ART & REVOLUTION STREET THEATRE. This cabal joined in on the festivities by singing a selection of anti-corporate Christmas carols. While the rest of Santa Cruz's families reveled in the imported White Christmas, these denizens of universal equality attempted to remind us of the true nature of American Christmas: capitalism.
Swapping "Winter Wonderland" for "Consumer Wonderland" and "God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen" for "God Bless You Very Wealthy Men," organizer GRANT WILSON and his cadre of caroling anti-corporatists regaled passing shoppers and children for a few hours.
"We asked children what they wanted to hear and got quite a few requests for 'Jingle Bells,'" said Wilson. "We actually had more people singing along than pre-planned participants."
So how did the Downtown Association (which recently announced that the evergreen by the WORLD SAVINGS BANK has no lights and decorations for the second year in a row because the DTA can't muster up enough electrical power, at least not in a safe and sane manner) end up reacting?
KEITH HOLTAWAY, who works for the agency and helped to organize Snow Night, had bigger things on his mind.
"I didn't hear them. I was in the middle of a huge group of people having a good time," said Holtaway, noting that the purpose of Snow Night is, "first, to get as many kids as possible on the snow, and second, to raise as much money as possible for SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK to help them make their holiday goals."
Art & Car Cultureolution will again be caroling on Wednesday, Dec. 14, starting 4pm at the Farmers Market. Happy Chrishanukwanzamass.
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