Thursday, September 2, 2004
Local Politicking Nationally
Only blocks away from Madison Square Garden—the site of the Republican National Convention where thousands of delegates gathered to hear high-profile politicians like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger—thousands of protesters gave the RNC a very different type of reception than Republicans converging on New York had hoped for.
They protested the war in Iraq and the Bush presidency’s policies at home in a series of the biggest demonstrations the city had seen in decades.
Eleiza Braun, political director for the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, was one of thousands on the streets in New York. On Aug. 30, she spoke to the Weekly from her cell phone.
“There’s a lot of music and dancing,” Braun said, shouting above the drums, horns, singing and chanting. “Its a high-spirited, good energy march, fighting the Republican agenda with love and hope from the people out in the streets. There are marching bands, puppets, political theater, entire brass bands—it’s pretty cool.
“The Bush administration is not going to be allowed to get away with exploiting the tragedies that happened on September 11,” she continued. “He’s calling the police and firefighters working heroes as he cuts health care benefits and labor rights throughout the country.
Braun was on 8th Avenue and 29th Street, at the Poor People’s March and Rally, sponsored by Still We Rise, a coalition of groups who aim to raise awareness about welfare issues, housing, civil liberties, healthcare and immigration issues, among others.
And soon, Braun said, she would head over to the United Nations building for the Kensington Welfare Rights Union march.
“Yesterday [Aug. 29], 300,000 people packed into 15 New York City blocks,” she reported. “We were saying ‘no’ to the Bush agenda, to the loss of jobs and health care, and to the war. We’re working for a better world.”
The demonstrations began on Aug. 29, and some police estimates put the crowd at half a million people.
“In 2000, Bush billed himself as a United,” Braun said. “Yesterday it was very clear that was the one truth he has told in office. We saw 300,000 united in the streets of New York City.”
Old Jail Catches a Break
In a victory for a Salinas group resolute in saving the old Monterey County Jail from demolition, the state Court of Appeals ruled this week that the County cannot raze the old building without first preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors agreed to destroy the 73-year-old building at 142 West Alisal St., but a group called the Architectural Heritage Association challenged the Supervisors’ decision in court. The County wants to raze the jail as part of the planned $78 million renovation of the adjacent courthouse and government offices.
A Monterey County judge ruled that the County did not need to prepare an EIR, but the Architectural Heritage Association appealed his decision.
The group is also pushing for the old jail’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
United Farm Workers Founder César Chávez was incarcerated in the jail for three weeks in 1970.
At the Sixth Appellate Court in San Jose last week, attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley told the three-judge panel that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires the County to complete a full EIR before deciding whether or not to demolish the vacant jail, and in its Aug. 31 opinion, the Court agreed.
The Court reversed the Monterey County judge’s opinion and directed the judge to issue a mandate ordering the County to set aside its approvals for demolition of the old jail, and to prepare an EIR in compliance with CEQA if it determines to go forward with the demolition.
“It’s clearly a great opportunity to save the old jail,” Brandt-Hawley says. “The EIR will require the County not only to assess the importance of the old jail, but also to look at alternatives to demolition. It’s not just do the EIR and then demolish. If there are feasible alternatives, the County has to adopt them. An EIR will give the jail a chance to survive.”
Following the Court of Appeal’s decision, Deputy County Counsel Efren Iglesia said his next step is to discuss the ruling with the Board of Supervisors in closed session. The next Board meeting will be held on Sept. 14.
“Obviously, one option is taking it up further on the tier of review,” to the state Supreme Court, Iglesia says, although he would not say whether or not he would recommend pursuing this course of action. “We disagree with the Court’s conclusions, but we respect the analysis that it employed in reaching its conclusions,” he says. “If the County really wants to demolish the jail, all it needs to do is prepare an EIR. It still could be demolished, but that’s not a decision I can make. It’s for the governing body to make.”