News

Opinion: Nov. 4, 2020

Plus letters to the editor

Part of 'Pivot in the Pandemic,' the film version of the annual art show presented by Santa Cruz-based fashion presenter Pivot: The Art of Fashion. Design: Tatiana Elliston. Photo: Victoria Medina

Editor's Note

Steve Palopoli Profile Photo

There are so many annual events that are completely off the table for 2020, and if you’d asked me back in the spring—as it was becoming all-too-clear that this pandemic would be disrupting every aspect of our lives for the foreseeable future—I would have thought Pivot was going to be one of those casualties. I mean, the eye-popping annual event as we knew it checked every box for Covid-19-era impossibility: a huge live event attended by hundreds of people, with a cast of dozens of designers, artists, runway models and event organizers working together to stage a uniquely Santa Cruz version of a fashion show. At best, I would have figured they’d be able to put together some kind of virtual version.

I would, however, have been seriously underestimating Tina Brown and Rose Sellery, who created Pivot as a successor to Santa Cruz’s long-running and always cutting-edge FashionART show. Somehow they managed to take this most undoable of events and not only turn it into a film—which is cool in itself—but keep the live aspect by showing it as a drive-in event. How did they do it? Well, Wallace Baine explains that in this week’s cover story.

To bring this kind of energy and innovation to the ongoing slog known as “adapting to the pandemic” is not just admirable, it’s a real gift to the community that made Pivot a success in the first place, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We all need this right now. Thank you, Tina and Rose.

STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Letters to the Editor

DeCinzo Cartoons Unacceptable

Re: “Toon Out (GT, Oct. 28)” We, as leaders of the Santa Cruz Jewish community, want to express our views regarding a number of cartoons by DeCinzo that had been posted on the Trail Now website and have since been removed. One of these cartoons was reused in a video from a local candidate, who also removed it. Both parties have apologized to the community, and we accept their apologies.

There is no room in our public forum for this offensive discourse, whether it be by cartoon or any other type of communication. Whether consciously or unconsciously, DeCinzo employs classic anti-Semitic tropes against a political candidate in these cartoons, depicting him hunched over with an enlarged nose and carrying bags of money. One only needs to search “anti-Semitic cartoons” to see scores of depictions in the Library of Congress just like this used by the Nazis.

We find DeCinzo’s work dangerous, offensive and unacceptable.

We have been seeing a rise of anti-Semitic incidents across our country. In 2019, there were 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents, which included deadly attacks by gunmen at a synagogue in Southern California, a New Jersey kosher grocery store and a stabbing at a rabbi’s home in New York.

Given this disturbing trend, members of the Jewish community are legitimately disturbed and frightened by the use of these caricatures. We therefore call for their complete removal from the public domain, we ask everyone to refrain from reposting and sharing them for any reason, and we issue our fervent plea for a return to civil discourse based on the merits of issues rather than personal attacks.

We cannot tolerate hatred against anyone in our community. We must stand up against racism, anti-Semitism hatred against the LGBTQ community and immigrants or any other form of hatred that causes harm to members of our community.

Rabbi Paula Marcus, Rabbi Shifra Weiss-Penzias | Temple Beth El

 

Missing DeCinzo

Re: “Toon Out”: Thank you for your informative article about Steven DeCinzo. 

I sometimes wonder where he went to when canceled by the Sentinel. His work was a real gift to all of us.

When I moved to Santa Cruz eight years ago, I really enjoyed his editorial cartoons in the Santa Cruz Sentinel (which is now hedge-fund-owned and only a skeleton of its former self).

I was surprised sometimes to read letters to the Sentinel editor criticizing DeCinzo’s cartoons, which I felt demonstrated consistently wonderful satirical wit and a perceptive ability to show how “the emperor has no clothes.”

Marc Manger, MD | Live Oak

 

Reject Mean-Spirited Campaigns

The Santa Cruz County Democratic Party believes in equality, liberty, and justice for all – the right of a woman to choose her own future; the right to fair treatment in the criminal justice system; the right to excellent public education; the right to affordable housing; the right to clean air, water and protected natural resources; access to health care and the right to live without fear of hate crimes or gun violence.

We are very concerned with mean-spirited campaign tactics and condemn hateful words and deeds.

We proudly support John Leopold for County Supervisor, Nancy de la Pena for Superior Court Judge, Kristen Petersen for Capitola City Council, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Martine Watkins for Santa Cruz City Council, Jack Dilles for Scotts Valley City Council, Felipe Hernandez for Cabrillo College Trustee, Maria Orozco for PVUSD Trustee, and Bruce Daniels and Tom LaHue for Soquel Creek Water Board. 

Coco Raner-Walter | Chairperson, Santa Cruz County Democratic Party

 

ONLINE COMMENTS

Re: Housing Crisis Solutions

I am shocked at how you have diminished and insulted the legitimacy of Don’t Bury The Library, an organized campaign of hundreds of residents who have worked tirelessly for almost four years to have the downtown branch restored, renewed, upgraded and modernized—which is what voters were led to believe would happen if they voted yes on the ballot measure.

First, as though to belittle our organization, you refer to us as a “club.” Then you diminish our legitimate, multiple concerns about the misuse of Measure S funds approved by voters, by saying our primary concern is that we love the library where it is. Yes, we want the library where a library has been for 116 years, an integral part of the City’s Civic Center. We also want transparency in government and that did not happen with the behind close doors plans for a parking garage and library package obviously made as soon as the June 2016 votes had been counted. Maybe even sooner.

— Jean Brocklebank

 

The lack of housing is endemic of all of California. And the issue has been driven by the lure of low wage workers. Mostly from south of the US border. Businesses can hire these workers for less and treat them with less respect than they would US. People lured by better wages than in their home country are happy to weather the abuse. With 2.5 million of them in California it is no wonder that we have a lack of housing yet with only 125k homeless it would only take a reduction of 10% off them to provide twice as many homes needed to house all of our homeless. If businesses were better discouraged not to break the law it would be easier to balance the needs of our poor with our housing providers. People should direct our energies were it will do the most good. Push for increased penalties on businesses whom hire and abuse these workers as well as reducing the ease and incentive for workers to migrate here. This is the quickest way to provide housing for those of us whom need it most.

— Chelsea Wagner

 

Re: Sean Arlt Shooting

Thank you for following up on the Sean Arlt tragedy. It was a killing that did not need to happen. As a member of the city council in 2018, I recall that yes, indeed, the will of the council was to hire a full-time social worker as part of our negotiations with the family. This unspeakable tragedy has been so difficult on the Arlt family and on the police who were involved in the shooting. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. City Manager Martín Bernal’s continued obfuscation on this issue—along with many others, like his misdirected wrong-headed efforts towards our burgeoning homeless population, not directing resources to assist over-taxed councilmembers trying to perform their job, and protecting the now $750,000 golf course deficit—wreaks of incompetence at the highest level of local government. Incidentally, Bernal, who is unelected and the highest paid city bureaucrat, had long ago worn out his welcome in the city of Santa Cruz, but once the pandemic began, instead of being shown the door, he was booted up another notch to become the crisis “Czar” and is in now in charge of our city’s pandemic response efforts. Go figure.

— Chris Krohn

OP-ED

Ken Doctor’s False Narrative

By Dan Pulcrano

In times when the “fake news” slur is deployed with regularity to discredit the media’s reporting, maintaining a news organization’s credibility is a baseline responsibility. So what does it mean if a journalistic enterprise’s founding mission is based on a bald-faced lie?

Media pundit Ken Doctor has raised $2.5 million by shopping a false narrative that Santa Cruz is a “news desert”—a community without reporting, one that’s uninformed and parched for news. It is anything but.

For decades, Santa Cruz County has been a hotbed of competitive newspapering. Even with print’s well-documented decline, Santa Cruz defies the trend, supporting multiple sources of local information. 

Although its newsroom staffing has suffered under the ownership of a Manhattan hedge fund, Santa Cruz still has a daily newspaper—unlike many communities of its size. The weekly of which I’m publisher, Good Times, has triple the daily’s circulation and this year was selected as the best weekly in the state, winning the California Journalism Awards’ coveted General Excellence Award. 

But wait, there’s more. The county is also home to Watsonville’s 152-year-old Pajaronian, which back in the day won a Pulitzer Prize and has been modernized since its purchase by Good Times last year. Likewise, the Press Banner, serving the communities of the Santa Cruz Mountains and San Lorenzo Valley, continues a proud 60-year legacy. Tiny Aptos, Doctor’s hometown, has competing community newspapers. And the all-digital Santa Cruz Local has gained traction with solid reporting and a bootstrapped community engagement model.

To characterize Santa Cruz as a news desert insults the amazing work being done by local writers and editors who have been covering devastating wildfires and an unprecedented health crisis under the most adverse conditions ever.

How did the Knight Foundation and the Google News Initiative take Ken Doctor at his word that Santa Cruz was a community that was without civic reporting? As they spend hundreds of millions on news experiments around the world, it’s difficult to do due diligence and fact check every claim of news desertification in grant applications. 

These well-intentioned media funders are trying to help save local news, but instead could wind up destroying the last of the authentic community voices. 

Lookout Local imports expensive Big City talent, such as the Chicago Sun-Times’ top editor. Doctor has also used his fat checkbook to raid the talent of local newsrooms, including Good Times and the Santa Cruz Sentinel, at a particularly fragile time, as newspapers struggle to survive the worst-ever advertising drop with so many businesses closing or operating at reduced capacity. 

I’ve watched digital news sites with similar funders cozy up to special interests rather than hold them accountable. They generally cover the obvious stories—such as crimes, press releases, dining news and scheduled government meetings—while chasing search terms in hopes of boosting traffic. They sometimes lock their premium content behind a paywall and use advanced tools cooked up in media labs to monetize their content. 

The albeit idiosyncratic nature of a small business-supported news model ensures independence, a variety of voices and is sustainable provided there isn’t subsidized competition to divide the traffic, drive up costs, strip-mine talent and undermine the marketing channels on which local businesses depend.

Independent local media has historically given voice to emerging journalists rather than get in bidding wars for established marquee names. Our company, which traces its origins to Santa Cruz in the 1980s, invests in the communities where we operate. We buy and renovate old buildings, start Restaurant Weeks, Burger Weeks and Beer Weeks to help the local restaurateurs, and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofits through our Santa Cruz Gives initiative.

If Mr. Doctor wants to make a genuine social contribution by erasing news deserts, he should take his millions and move to a real one. There are 188 counties in America without a local newspaper, according to the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Media.

Of course, that would take some real pioneering. 

Most of them are poor and landlocked, too far away to listen to the seals bark on West Cliff Drive or gaze over pinot noir vineyards in the Corralitos hills. 

Dan Pulcrano is the publisher of Good Times and the CEO of the alternative media group Weeklys.

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