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Cutting Through the Vape Smoke; a Santa Cruz Exodus

The real problem with the city’s new advisory committee on homelessness

There’s been a lot of vape smoke in the air lately—enough that it may have clouded our perception of at least one important detail.

In a news story last month about new cigarette vending rules (“Puff of Smoke,” 6/26), GT reported that the county’s smoke shop industry has not seen a significant problem with merchants selling cigarettes or vaping paraphernalia to kids, according to remarks from Damon Hancock, the county’s tobacco compliance officer. That much is true. In April, Hancock credited smoke shops with doing a good job of checking IDs.

What’s also true, however—and what GT neglected to mention—is that five retailers did get busted for selling to minors in a sting operation at the beginning of the year.

Shops should double down on making sure to check IDs. And in future vape coverage, we’ll double-check our notes.

RABBLE HOUSERS

The city’s new Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness has the potential to transform how we talk about homelessness.

Then again, the task force—approved on a 4-3 Santa Cruz City Council vote—also has the potential to be latest advisory body that no one listens to. 

The underlying problem is not that the council ultimately chose to ignore liberal Councilmember Sandy Brown’s pleas to include homeless residents on the committee. The committee will have at least one formerly unhoused individual, as well as the authority to add more homeless residents if it chooses.

The problem with the committee is that it has to exist at all. Over the past half-decade, the City Council has increasingly punted on topics by forming new, often-expensive advisory bodies to study the biggest issues for them. The city has barely started implementing widely popular suggestions from the Homelessness Coordinating Committee from a couple years ago.

So all this committee nonsense is purely the fault of a gall-less council for repeatedly refusing to lead on pressing topics… right?

Wrong again! 

Even on the nights when city councilmembers show shades of borderline competency on the homeless issue, it’s nearly impossible for them to display any leadership, because of the polarized, increasingly distracting peanut gallery of extremists in the audience, cheering, jeering, smirking, yelling and holding up ridiculous signs.

If the latest committee’s findings don’t work out, the City Council might try hanging up a sign of its own during contentious meetings—one that reads, “Shut the hell up. We’re working here.”

STAKE OUT

This past weekend, Emiley Stake, who served for seven years as local Woodstock’s business development manager, moved to San Diego, where she accepted a promotion to the corporate office and serve as business development director for the whole pizza chain.

The move ends Stake’s three-year run as board president of the Downtown Association. Speaking of which, the departure of so many Santa Cruz figures these past couple months leaves Nuz to ponder one important question: would people still read this column if it were written from Paraguay?

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