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12.19.07

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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs


The Coastal Commission gives the nod to Terrace Point, the deep pockets behind high-performing Pacific Collegiate School, Moveon.org rallies against war with Iran and an enterprising former College Republican cybersquats on City On A Hill Press.

Point Lost

What's that unhappy silence punctuated by occasional grumbling over there on the Westside? That's local members of the Sierra Club and the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE) licking their wounds over last week's decision on Terrace Point and mulling over whether to challenge it.

On Dec. 13, the Coastal Commission voted 7 to 4 in favor of UCSC's plans to expand its marine science facilities at the much-disputed location, which has seen 20 years of brawls over development. Opponents say they were surprised by the number of hot shots who stepped up to support the project; the parade of backers (in person and by letter) included former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta, County Treasurer Fred Keeley, Monterey Bay Aquarium's Julie Packard and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories' Kenneth Coale.

"They pulled out all their chips and spread it on thick, in my opinion," says CLUE's Don Stevens. "It was all 'good for the world,' and yet their development is compromising the very resources they're trying to save."

"Not one raised any environmental concerns," says Sierra Club Coastal Program lawyer Mark Massara, adding darkly, "The political fix was in for the university."

That's not how Institute of Marine Sciences director Gary Griggs sees it. He's astonished that after so much convincing testimony—and so exhaustive a process—some commissioners still voted against it. "Quite clearly it doesn't matter who speaks for something," he says. "I mean, we had letters of support from lab directors all over the bay. And one or two people can stand up and say, 'You didn't do that right,' and those lingering doubts can hang on there."

Griggs says the university, which bought the property for $4 million in 1999, has spent some $3 million trying to get the expansion approved. (The wetlands studies were some of the most extensive undertaken by the Coastal Commission, according to staffers.) Environmentalists have challenged the project all along the way, citing the 100-acre property's value as raptor habitat and public view shed and arguing that it's a wetlands and therefore eligible for enhanced protection under California law.

Massara gives a hint of where future legal action might head when he says the Terrace Point decision violates the law by raising the bar for proving the presence of wetlands. "In their desire to support the mission of UC, the Coastal Commission threw wetlands law in the trash can," he says.

Opponents have 60 days to mount a challenge. Meanwhile, Griggs says two or three years is the soonest construction will start. "To be quite honest, we don't have the money for any of those buildings," he says.

Follow the Money

Santa Cruz became the focus of national attention last month when U.S. News and World Report ranked Pacific Collegiate School (PCS) the second-best high school in the nation. It was a coup for Santa Cruz. But before anyone goes making plans to replicate PCS across the county, it would do to consider this: while the success of this small 9-year-old charter school on the Westside can be attributed partly to its rigorous programming, a sizable part, alas, can be attributed to its base of fundraisers. This is no ordinary public school.

PCS is able to retain arts programs, small class sizes and merit-based teacher bonuses through the contributions of family members and matching funds from corporate donors. PCS parents are asked (but not required) to donate at least $3,000 per student; a couple dozen families donated more than $5,000 dollars last year. This money combines with school fundraisers and matching funds from corporations, including big shots like Microsoft and PG&E, to help PCS reach its yearly fundraising goal of $625,000.

While the specific allocation from corporate donors was unavailable, PCS development coordinator Camilla Boolootian explains that these donations are usually granted because family members work at these companies (where, Nūz guesses, they probably aren't the janitors). The matching funds are then given to PCS as part of the overall parent contribution.

Once the donations have been submitted, they go into the school's general fund, where the money can be distributed for student programs, counseling and staff pay and to support smaller class sizes. (PCS does not receive any of the state-managed Public Charter Schools Grant Program funds that other charter schools use for these purposes.)

Clearly, PCS is putting its demographic advantage to good use. The second-place ranking was the result of a comprehensive evaluation process. U.S. News and World Report analyzed student performance on state tests, overall college readiness of students (derived from a number of factors including scoring on Advanced Placement tests) and the performance of traditionally disadvantaged students.

PCS, where all students take AP tests and 93 percent pass, blew the top out of the readiness category. Its state test record was likewise strong.

The disadvantaged student statistic is usually based on how many students received free lunches, but since PCS has no cafeteria, this measurement, perhaps tellingly, was left blank.

PCS principal Andrew Goldenkranz says part of PCS's secret is its recognition of how developing brains work and its freedom to design curricula accordingly.

"Every neurologist, learning therapist and psychologist will tell you about the relationship between music and math, between spatial relationships in art and understanding geometry, and between art and history. We use that."

Additionally, PCS keeps classes small by capping admissions at 420 through a lottery system; the average is 21 students per class, compared to a countywide average of 25 students per class.

So: might the success of PCS provide lessons for other public high schools in the county? Maybe a few. Santa Cruz County Superintendent Michael Watkins, who became superintendent at the beginning of this year, wants to integrate what elements he can.

"We need to learn from these programs. They have strong faculty, strong leadership, strong curriculum and strong after-school programs," he says. "I believe there are a number of similarities that we can bring forth in comprehensive school settings that aren't just specific to a charter school setting."

To which Nūz says: Good luck.

Stop the Madness

With President Bush continuing to beat the war drums against Iran, about 30 local antiwar activists gathered in U.S. Rep. Sam Farr's office in the county building last Thursday, Dec. 13, to call for restraint. The activists delivered a petition with over 1,100 signatures to Farr's staff urging him to support House Resolution 64, which would exclude Iran as a target under the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion. The local petition is part of a nationwide drive by Moveon.org that has gathered 160,000 signatures.

Farr, who was in Washington at the time, has already signed onto the bill and promises to vote for it if it comes to the House floor (it's currently in the Foreign Affairs Committee).

"We're aware of the president's saber-rattling toward Iran, and we're not happy about it," Farr told Nūz via email, adding that he's still working on cleaning up the last misguided war: "I admire MoveOn's antiwar work, and I encourage them to circulate their very effective petitions to other members of Congress to join my own bill, H.R. 413, which would repeal authorization for military force in Iraq and require the withdrawal of our troops."

H.J.R. 64 was submitted Nov. 14 by Democratic Hawaiian Congressman Neil Abercrombie amid fears that recent designations of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a supporter of terrorism, especially in Iraq, will allow the executive branch to launch a military strike without a congressional vote. The bill would bar the Bush administration from using allegations of Iranian arms dealing to Iraqi insurgents as a justification for attacking Iran.

The noontime rally drew many regulars of the local peace community, including members of the Raging Grannies, Code Pink and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

David Morse came out to the rally because he worries that the dark history of manipulated U.S. intelligence is repeating itself with Iran. Morse, who now makes a living hand carving violins in Soquel, says that in 1970, then-President Nixon used maps of communist arms stashes in Cambodia that were generated by Morse's military intelligence unit to justify expanding the Vietnam War to that country.

"We thought it was a joke at first," says Morse. "Then two weeks later the map of probable locations had been drawn up and Nixon went on TV using these maps to justify expanding the war.

"The same thing is happening here. George W. Bush has manipulated the probability game that military intelligence officers have to play. Those officers have to say there is 'some probability' that enriched uranium will be used for weapons, even if there's no proof that's the case. Bush will then use that to launch a war for completely different reasons."

Veterans made up about a third of the activists present at the Santa Cruz rally, including Fred Norwood, who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969. He showed up to remind his fellow peace activists and Farr of the lessons he learned during his tour in Vietnam.

"The poor peasants suffered the most, and that's true in any war," he says. "I thought that after the horrors in Vietnam this would never happen again."

Web of Specious Arguments

URLs are very unforgiving when it comes to typos. Spelled incorrectly, they either don't work or send the user far, far away from the intended target. Even minor mistakes can send unsuspecting browsers into mine fields of pornography and popups.

People who specialize in exploiting these mistakes are called "domain squatters" or "typo squatters." Ordinarily they're taking advantage of Internet traffic runoff in order to make money from advertisements, but a UCSC alumnus named Chandra Sharma has turned squatting into a political act.

Sharma's put up a website called Cityonthehillpress.com (our italics) that redirects visitors presumably headed for the school newspaper site to the university's sign-up page for the College Republicans. Presented with a cease and desist letter from City on a Hill Press (CHP), Sharma refused and said the paper would have to buy it if it wanted the site taken down.

The site went up on Feb. 26, after an advertising staffer from CHP incorrectly entered the URL in a Facebook advertisement, accidentally substituting "the" for "a" in the paper's name. Under normal circumstances the typo (or, in this case, grammatical error) would have simply directed users to a blank page.

But that's in a world without Sharma. Seizing the opportunity, Sharma registered that page and coded it so users who clicked on the ad recruiting for the college newspaper would, instead, find themselves pulling up the recruitment page for the UCSC College Republicans.

According to CHP co-editor Claire Walla, the newspaper staff discovered the mischief at the start of the academic year when voting for new editors. A plan to write a cease and desist letter never came to fruition; Walla says the old editors assured the new editors they would do it but never did.

Several weeks ago, when it was discovered that no letter had been written, Daniel Zarchy, another of the paper's editors, contacted Sharma and requested that he remove the site."Long story short, he does not believe that he is in violation of our copyright, and says that he wants us to make him 'an offer,'" Zarchy wrote in an email. "I asked how much, and he said that he doesn't have a figure."Sharma says that he did not violate any copyright laws by creating his website and suggested that CHP's staffers take a course in copyright law.

"If I were violating their copyright, I would be using a 'work' from their publication, verbatim, in another publication or work without their express permission or proper accreditation, so that doesn't apply. Titles don't qualify for copyright protection," wrote Sharma in an email, adding that CHP was not a registered trademark.

"It should also be noted that, even if they did own the trademark as they claim, I'd assume it would be for 'City on a Hill Press' and not 'City on the Hill Press,'" he continued. "So once again, the argument is inherently flawed. Take a look at www.ebau.com, www.amazok.com and the ever-popular misspelled www.googol.com for examples on how CHP's claim doesn't stand up in legal application."According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which coordinates and manages domain names, Sharma could be violating paragraph 4(b)(iii) of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy (UDRP) that all users registering any domain must agree to before registering any domain name. The policy states that any domain created in "bad faith" can be disputed and the UDRP defines "bad faith" as registering a domain with the intent to disrupt a rival business.

Zarchy declined to comment on anything else and said the newspaper would be examining its legal options.


Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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