The new “Love You Madly—Artists For Santa Cruz Fire Relief” campaign that Wallace Baine writes about in our cover story this week is the kind of homegrown giving effort that exemplifies the best in our community, and we jumped at the chance to be the media partner. As with our annual Santa Cruz Gives campaign, this is locals helping locals in need—and I think we all know how much the victims of the CZU Lightning Complex fire need it. So read about how this ingenious effort came together and why so many fantastic musicians signed on to help. Then check out the songs and messages they’ve recorded, and please give!
There is more in this week’s issue about the fires, including Jacob Pierce’s story about the changes that may be needed to fight wildfires more effectively in the future. We’ve reported on a lot of news around the CZU and other fires over the last month, but what keeps coming up are questions about the science of wildfires. What is dry lightning, anyway? Why do some fires smolder for long periods of time before they erupt into flames? We get asked so many questions like this, and luckily we once again have the eager graduate students in UCSC’s Science Communication Program on hand to answer all of our reader queries: how the fires started, why they’re getting worse, what it takes to control them, their effects on our environment and wildlife. Please submit your questions to me at [email protected] with the subject line “Fire Question” by Friday, Oct. 16, and we’ll devote a future cover story to the answers.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
Independent Review Needed
Re: “To Our Santa Cruz Community” (GT, 9/9): To Alderwood management: As an early and enthusiastic booster of Alderwood, I had been hoping for a full and coherent accounting of the dreadful actions two months ago.
Your note to the community is not that accounting; for that reason I will not be returning. At least not yet.
For me, Alderwood was the only place in Santa Cruz where one could sideline one’s everyday jeans and bring out one’s big city clothes and attitude. It offered a genuinely sophisticated bar, intriguing food, and an unconditional welcome for a pretty diverse crowd. It was the place in Santa Cruz; my friends and I were the ones waiting in line at 4:30pm so that we could get a coveted seat at the bar.
Your staff went beyond service. To use NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer’s great phrase: You delivered hospitality. Waiters remembered names; managers smoothed the glitches when the kitchen backed up.
Plus you listened: When we complained that it was too loud for conversation, soundproofing appeared. New, lower-priced menu items were added and Chef Wall even gave in and created a thicker burger.
I hope you’re getting the picture: We liked the combination of food, atmosphere, and sophistication.
So I was shocked when the bulletin exploded on social media: There had been a confrontation at Alderwood complete with angry obscenities, racial slurs and fists. What’s more, it was between an off-duty staffer and a guest and a woman companion. Of course, it was (partially) captured on video. And this being Santa Cruz, seemingly hundreds of people weighed in and social media blew up with the force of a tropical storm.
Two months later, your ads in the Sentinel and Good Times along with an email campaign lay out a stripped-down recitation of the incident coupled with a commitment to diversity, and an explicit request for customers to return.
Let me make clear: Violence is almost never acceptable. Neither do I think the penalty for a bad decision should be a de facto boycott. You are entitled to run your business, within the constraints of regulatory oversight and vigorous, honest competition as you see fit. But what the community saw–in admittedly an incomplete snippet–was a drunken patron and guest taking a swing at your employee, who was then the object of a verbal assault.
Here is my objection to what you have shared and what you are asking. In 2020, you cannot investigate yourself, especially when there is a partial video recording that shows the customer throwing the punches. It’s not sufficient for you to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury. We no longer let police do that.
We don’t allow drug companies to submit trials without peer and FDA review. In pronouncing yourself satisfied at your verdict–that you acted properly in discharging your employee—you’re asking us to accept your finding and to renew our patronage.
I cannot. This dreadful incident calls out for an outside, independent review. You have had two months to come to that obvious conclusion. After an initial statement, your handling of this incident has been a textbook case of radio silence, avoidance, and hope that the controversy will subside. For example: even after you published your ad, it would appear that you are discouraging a dialogue with the community. At this writing, your Facebook page has seemingly been sent to some phantom zone.
We have a wealth of experienced investigators, retired jurists, academics, even fellow business people who could have provided that arms-length examination and analysis. Plus, with business moving in slow-motion because of the pandemic, it’s not too late to conduct a more open probe.
Put it this way: your employee violated your code of conduct and you terminated him. Many of us have come to a parallel conclusion about your conduct. The evidence we have seen is far from exculpatory, and absent an independent review, I will be standing with “those who want to make Santa Cruz a better place.” It just won’t be at Alderwood.
Stephanie Jacobs | Santa Cruz