September 27, 2012
Criminal Justice Dialogue
Museum of Art and History
Helene Moglen opened with a summary of the last dialogue. She proposed a meeting to be held after the election in November at which interested participants can discuss the administrative structure of Santa Cruz Commons, its process, and the nature of future events and collaborative activities. She introduced the evening’s speakers: Scott MacDonald, who is Chief Probation Officer of Santa Cruz County, and Craig Reinarman, who is Professor of Sociology at UCSC and an expert on drug policy. She observed that the Smart on Crime program had transformed the potential crisis of AB 109-the Pubic Safety Realignment Act- into an opportunity for Santa Cruz County. It has become a national model—and a model for local non-profit groups.
The format of the dialogue would be 30 minutes for the presentations, one hour for discussion and the remaining 20 minutes for a discussion of possible way to proceed.
Self introductions of participants:
Lorenzo Abeyto – COPA, community activist in Watsonville
Nancy Chen – co-convener, SCC, Professor, Anthropology UCSC
Carolyn Coleman – Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center
Bill Domhoff, Emeriti Professor, Sociology UCSC
Donna Haraway – Professor, History of Consciousness UCSC, retired
Kathryn Heff – Garfield Village
Rusten Hogness – freelance science writer
M’liss Keesling – Recovery Advocate
Gina Keyes – Soquel High School
Gina Langhout – Professor of Psychology,COPA
Scott MacDonald, Chief Probation Officer Santa Cruz County
Mary Male– San Jose State Professor of Education retired, COPA
Sheila Namir – Psychologist
Debra Pembrook – COPA
Mary Powers – Principal, Santa Cruz Adult School
Craig Reinarman. Professor, Sociology UCSC
Mike Rotkin – former mayor of Santa Cruz
David Sweet – Alliance for Human Rights, Santa Cruz County
Megan Thomas – Professor of Politics UCSC
Lamar Turner – Elderfocus
Dick Vittitow –retired, community member
Daniel Young –Trustee, United Veterans council, retired
Craig Reinarman (CR): he has had a history of activism. As a conscientious objector, he moved to SF to do community service. He worked with a group of ex cons to reform the prison system from within, to end indeterminate sentencing and to restore voting rights. He then worked at a research center on a parole assignment experiment and found—not surprisingly– that people who got aid committed less crime. After receiving his graduate degrees, he came to the Sociology Department at UCSC and worked on drug law reform. The drug war has been the largest single feeder of the prison wave. In 1986, crack cocaine produced national hysteria and new laws that required mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses, which were supported by Democrats as well as Republicans. This and a bipartisan failure sparked the extraordinary imprisonment wave with a massive increase in drug war funding. Prisons kept expanding despite decrease in crime -going from 50,000 offenders in 1980 to 500,000 under George W. Bush, Jr. Incarceration rates soared from 150 per 100,000 to 750 per 100,000 – a higher proportion than in South Africa and Russia. Disproportionate numbers of prisoners were warehoused. There was also a darkening of this population and overcrowding with extraordinary rates of recidivism. Fast forward to the Plata decision – a lawsuit about prisoner overcrowding and the absence of decent medical mental and health care inside prisons. The key witness in the case was Professor of Psychology, Craig Haney, who testified on the psychological effects of incarceration. Judge Thelton Henderson (who once clerked for Justice Kennedy) wrote the decision in the Plata case, using logic that he thought would appeal to Justice Kennedy, which succeeded. With Kennedy’s swing vote, the Court ordered Department of Corrections to release thousands of prisoners in order to reduce the population to 130% of capacity. Justice Scalia was apoplectic in his dissent. It was the passage of AB 109 that created opportunity for innovative reform for Santa Cruz County. Scott MacDonald has been working in the trenches to effect significant change.
Scott MacDonald : Scott started on a personal note and then discussed local reform and how Smart on Crime was established. As a student, he had been familiar with Craig Haney’s work –and had even spoken to Haney on the phone before he became a student at UCSC. After leaving UCSC, he entered the criminal justice field, wanting to do good in the world but also seeing the hypocrisy that existed. His career struggle was learning to change institutions from within and seeing that significant local impact also had national impact.
Santa Cruz is one of 3 early model sites for juvenile detention reform. With funding from the Ann E. Casey Foundation, there are now over 200 jurisdictions in 40 states. Over 70 jurisdictions from across the nation have come here to learn about our implementation.
The early 90s entailed a focus on gangs with racial disparity in juvenile hall. The 1970s face of juvenile justice disparity was young girls when the status offenders were handled in the delinquency system. It was not until the 1980s that the overrepresentation of Latinos began to occur in juvenile halls across the country. An intentional process began in the late 1990s to address both the over-representation of Latinos and crowding in the juvenile hall. At the start of the process there were populations as high as 70 with youth sleeping on floors in a facility with a rated capacity of 42 beds. Now, after detention reform, it is not uncommon to get down to 15 kids and there are days when there are no girls in juvenile hall. We have reduced reliance on incarceration by by 2/3 and reduced out of home placement in group homes and residential treatment by 2/3. We are building non- profit partnerships to keep kids at home. Detention does harm and often leads to recidivism. Cramped overcrowding with no programing also does harm.
In 2005, we used components of reform in order to deliberately reduce the jail population. We actually closed a facility and saved a lot of money.
In this period Haney connected with MacDonald and, with the help of Susan Greene—who was working with John Leopold– they began to work together, meeting regularly with others in Haney’s living room. A main focus was the education of the public since an informed public general supports progressive interventions.
Craig Reinerman – The main theory is that incarceration increases crime. Alternatives incarceration, like those advocated by Smart on Crime, will actually make us safer in the long run. Progressive reformers show that in the long run incarceration is less safe. There is a need to look for yet more alternatives. In Santa Cruz at this time there was a simultaneous conjuncture of a number of city officials – Mike Rotkin, John Leopold, Neal Coonerty and others- with local expertise and an array of creative people who did extraordinary work in order to create community. Susan Greene started the Gemma program and as chief of staff for John Leopold on the board of supervisors, wanted to reduce county expenditures. Scott MacDonald and other reformers were doing great work on the inside of criminal justice institutions. This was an unusual combination that drew successfully on social networks and social capital. Then the fiscal crisis of the state led even conservatives to rethink and reconsider the “lock them up” logic. The core intention of Smart on Crime is to engage in various forms of public education, to work with elected officials, to bring in academics, and create a constituency that knows about issues and can actively search for alternatives to incarceration that help people in trouble.
Scott MacDonald: I will cover a few things we’ve done to clarify what appears to be serendipity. We all met long before AB 109. We didn’t know the outcome of the Coleman Plata case yet but we knew that we could strengthen the local situation and connect the local to the global.
We had 3 public events. First included 200 people on May 24, a Monday night in Live Oak with news media present. The news had just broken about the decision to reduce the prison population and AB 109 was being proposed. This event was held on same day that the Supreme Court upheld lower court (Plata case.) There was a direct lightening rod connecting the national with the local. Our Sheriff spoke and presented his forward thinking approach, which entailed building alternatives to incarceration similar to what had been done on the juvenile justice side in Santa Cruz County. I meet with 58 probation chiefs and know of no other county that is doing this—maximizing the Sheriff’s alternatives to incarceration. With regard to the Smart on Crime events, a lot of work was done to make those connections and getting people to the event.
The 2nd event in SC was High St. Church. Both events were televised by Community TV. The San Benito chief made a presentation on social justice event. The 3rd event – focused on drugs and the reliance on Incarceration, drugs and property related crimes that are generated by drug addiction. For many non-violent, non serious offenders, treatment failure while on probation was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Treatment failure resulted in prison commitment, not the underlying crime. The challenge we face is how to increase treatment success, which is more of a public health issue. Craig Reinarman wrote an Op Ed piece that put drug problems in a broader perspective. In general, the response was favorable. The discussion was inclusive and people were engaged. In sum, ingredients of this approach were bold vision with action. It turns out not to be difficult to sell the community on reform. However, our local newspaper hasn’t comprehensively covered our local reform efforts –which have received national attention—over the past 15 years that the effort has been in existence. Newspapers are drawn to dramatic coverage. The project could progress further with better media coverage.
Bill Domhoff: Reminds me of Take Back Santa Cruz. Media feeds certain ideas and then energizes the public. It focuses on danger to neighborhoods, which are represented as filled with crime. This rhetoric is linked to the politics of current elections. Media can do a better job.
Scott MacDonald; Take back Santa Cruz has an event in October at which Smart on Crime will present. Restorative justice will be a topic point as a potentially productive way to get individuals involved. For example – a kid chews up neighbor’s lawn with donuts (using car to drive over lawn to create circles). Neighbor didn’t a have car, asked kid to replant the lawn. The neighborhood accountability board thought this wasn’t enough. They found out that the kid had a car and could take him grocery shopping. He ended up taking this neighbor shopping for the next 2.5 years.
At almost 1 year of AB 109 there have been 23 individuals paroled to probation who completed their parole conditions. That group has had no felonies and only one misdemeanor conviction. The probation department is compiling data for the first year, but the program failures are low. Data speaks a different story from anecdotes.
David Sweet: I want to underline Bill’s point. For 5-6 years, the ACLU board has been actively proud of the two Craigs and Scott. Until tonight. I was interested in the project but didn’t read it about it and had assumptions about what the title meant. The Sentinel is not your friend even on reporting on a vital question such as this. This is a serious problem.
Craig Reinarman: We tried to counter Tough on Crime with Smart on Crime. The worst approach is KION. If it bleeds it leads. In one discussion, he had confronted an editor on US news and world report who talked about decisions for leads and cover stories. The editor was candid on wanting sensational stories. KION has “manhunt Monday” which makes the media an extension of law enforcement rather than journalists who report on law enforcement. Media are typically horrible on these questions.
Gina Langhout: How many people are released on AB 109?
(answer by Scott): There are 122 parolees under this ruling, 23 successfully completed the program Seventy-seven individuals have been sentenced locally.
Debra Pembrook– Pointed to the history of Geogiana Bruce Kirby as suffragette and prison reformer in Sing Sing for women. Her presence here speaks to a unique confluence in Santa Cruz.
Dick Vittitow-Given these assumptions about the relation of crime and imprisonment, what gave you courage to test out your assumptions to show this wasn’t right?
Craig – This is a flattering question but really the answer has to do with many years of hitting my head on wall to the point of not caring. Combined with the accumulation of evidence of prisons overflowing, we felt we had a good case to make. There are different kinds of courage in institutional reform.
Scott – I started in a naïve and idealistic place. I had people around me to foster me so that I could take risks. I got support from leading reformers in the nation. The more we de-incarcerated, the more crime dropped significantly. This supported the theory that when we lock up kids, we create criminogenic risk and recidivism. There will always be that bad case and event but that also happened in the old parole system. I knew we would have the data.
Gina: Hard to understand this concretely. What is happening instead of imprisoning? What is the partnership looking like on the ground? How is that piece working with different views, e.g. deporting people?
Scott: On the juvenile side we are reducing disproportionate incarceration. In the pretrial program, where kids are out during due process, there is 98% no recidivism. We did data analysis. In the old system, warrant goes out, but many people don’t have day planners. We asked Friends Outside to go and help us find people and reconnect them to their probation officer, thus averting warrants. Every warrant averted means 40 days saved from being incarcerated. We have reduced warrants by over 60%.
Mike Rotkin – It’s important to point out the development of protocols to decide whether to drive a kid home or detain him/her. People at intake are trained now to decide rather than initiating a process to lock people up.
Helene: What are the other possibilities?
Scott – There is electronic monitoring, support for kids, reminders to go to court, and programs that work within a youth development and strength based framework. There is also a two day curriculum to give structure.
Gina – How do you interface with people who don’t share this view?
Scott – We try to go to places of resistance. We meet with neighbors.
Bill Domhoff – Is there a failure to polarize?
Gina – It seems there are two levels, the community and people in the system.
Scott – This is a common theme of doing justice. It’s different for the DA, probation officer, and police. The collaborative approach is difficult. My sense is that DAs want to see this fail. Judges follow probation recommendations 99% time (or less). If we bring programs to judges, in a loosely coupled system, they want alternatives. “Trail them, nail them, jail them” is the old and ineffective model.
Mary Male– I want to point to role of social networks in success. Most of community safety is focused on soccer fields in Salinas. As COPA we have 11K signatures and 23 organizations that stand with you.
Mike Rotkin – Mentions a cynical quote “Politics is art of getting morally indifferent people to do immoral things.” Battles are won not on the basis of rationality but on the basis of emotional appeals. That’s what hat allowed Smart on Crime to get off the ground.
Scott: I want to emphasize 3 talking points:
-Efficient use of resources
-Justice should be fair and equitable
We had a broken public system that was unsafe and we reduced that unsafety disproportionality.
Craig: There is a long anti government tradition.
Scott- There’s also silence around the money thing. Also, bad press about treatment of kids at the California Youth Authority got attention. People can be motivated about values.
Carolyn Coleman – At actual events, Craig’s presentation, slides, and statistics were very powerful. Law enforcement and elected leaders are being bold about reform. The COPA connection was also important– there were stories of people sharing experiences. Having people who weren’t part of Take Back Santa Cruz and were from neighborhoods were a good balance. Monica Martinez’s work with homeless also a key.
Craig – Nancy Pelosi is reputed to be so progressive. But she represents San Francisco—how could she be other than progressive? I came to this university because of folks that created UCSC. Doesn’t take huge courage to do this in Santa Cruz.
Dick Vitetto – There is an article I recently read about how successful entrepreneurs show strong sense of naivete, which is a factor for success.
Deborah – Want to mention that the faith community works on human trafficking and that the progressive lens is more conservative on this issue. Prop 35 takes non working aspects of war on drugs (e.g. mandatory minimal sentencing) to human traffickers. Conservatives come out against this proposition, but there is no coalition to match massive funding. You already had a lot of groundwork…any ideas to build this for prop 35?
Craig – See Nick Kristof’s recent NYT article on importance of President Obama’s speech on human slavery. There is a problem of looking at prison as answer. Not many kingpins are going to jail vs. users. More punishment leads to unintended consequences and doesn’t deal with underlying cause.
Scott – Alan Hopper at the ACLU has done a lot of good work on AB 109. He is connected to Smart on Crime and is doing state reform work. There are different connections that can be made. People are paying attention to us in Santa Cruz because of our effective approach to AB109.
Donna Haraway– Wish to circle back to press issues. There was a micro event on Cleveland Ave. to hold garage sales and dog sitting. One strand started with car break-ins, which were blamed on released folks. I suggest there be a clearing house or evidence based town crier on SC Commons website that features a factoid of the month or Twitter Treasures for Progressive SC.
Scott – There is forthcoming data showing that crime among parolees who are to be released in October proves the opposite – that crime is not being generated by parolees under probation supervision in any significant way.
Helene – Jory Post’s writing project entails the use of stories to move others. What about putting pressure on the Sentinel to produce series on criminal justice? Develop an interviewing project involving students, for example.
Gina – Or a friendly amendment of the literacy project – use art forum and murals to tell alternative stories.
Scott – Short stories matter – what succeeded and how different this is crucial.
Craig – We have a CCREC (UC Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable California) grant to do interviews of first parolees who went through AB 109.
Sheila – How can we use these stories, how will they be disseminated?
Craig – We are getting seed money in order to apply for bigger grants.
Scott – This is part of a larger evaluation project.
Mike – should consider the importance of individual conversations vs. mass media. In the past SC city printed out brochures on rape and domestive violence for $3500, mail factual info to each home.
M’lisse – I want to advocate for people still in custody. We still have people in custody who have needs. We have to create a healthier community. Otherwise it’s us vs. them. It’s not the total piece we need to do. Some of the collaborative work we do with UCSC is to bring the university into the jail and support the families.
David: Wants to underline Helene’s point about the importance of stories. Stories about Smart on Crime are evidence based and persuasive. What do we remember about The Sentinel? It’s stories. It’s a constant reminder of other people and their contribution to the life of the community. Santa Cruz Commons can use people who are becoming writers. Use 21st century ways to get stories out. Example, after a story about founder of GEMA. I saw Ria in town and asked if she was the founder. People get to know other people in the community by reading stories about them.
Gina – On radio we have outlets for example – “First Person Singular” series. Venues that don’t involve The Sentinel.
Bill – As this gets larger, where are the successful cases going? School, work? Is there a way to get prison money to grow program. With certain enemies out there, is this also true of prison guards? Do you reach a point of placing parolees or losing money? The system puts you on their side.
Scott – Yes, there are comps regarding downsizing. There are 60K less parolees, but the narrative is failing due to no data.
Helene – Suggest putting together committee on writing to conceptualize a plan for writing project about criminal justice—and other forms of expressive culture as well. We should work with Jory Post and Don Rothman.
Scott – Yes, literacy is associated with reduced recidivism. Mentioned program for guys to read children’s books in library. “Booked” in a different way.
Santa Cruz Commons Dialogue: “Realizing a Progressive Vision of Santa Cruz, Part 2”
September 5, 2012, Museum of Art and History, 7-9 PM
Jason Alley, Recorder and Helene Moglen, Editor
1) Introductions *Everyone went around the circle, introducing themselves and describing their connection to Santa Cruz.
*Mike Rotkin made announcements and provided background information.
*A dialogue on criminal justice issues will take place on September 27th at the Museum of Art and History. Scott Macdonald and Craig Reinarman will discuss their project, Smart on Crime, and will explore with the group ways in which that project might serve as a model for other university-community collaborations.
*A Santa Cruz Commons website will be constructed this fall. Materials generated by the project since January 2012 will be posted. These will include minutes from meetings and dialogues, an on-going inventory of progressive community organizations, the results of the UCSC faculty survey, conducted September-October, 2012 (see below.).
*A draft Statement of Purpose for Santa Cruz Commons had been distributed with the meeting announcement and was distributed to dialogue participants. Suggestions for emendations should be sent to Helene Moglen HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org.
*An unsuccessful attempt was made by Nancy Chen and Helene Moglen to secure funding from the university to establish a Center for Community Partnerships.
There are still funds remaining from the initial grant from the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI.) These must be used by December 31, 2012.
*In reviewing the first dialogue (“Realizing a Progressive Vision of Santa Cruz, Part 1”), Mike Rotkin talked about the group’s “hunger” for conversations that do not reproduce ideological battles but focus instead on local concerns in Santa Cruz County.
*A key question for the evening was “What should be the foci of our next dialogues?”
*Some goals that Rotkin identified as emerging from the first dialogue included 1) engaging in outreach work that goes beyond conversations; 2) working together to make the progressive community more visible during moments of crisis; 3) making local progressive efforts more visible, and 4) addressing divisions in the community from a progressive standpoint (e.g. the Watsonville/Santa Cruz City divide).
*Regina Langhout reported briefly on the UCSC faculty survey on which she is working with one of her graduate students. The goal of the survey, which Chen and Moglen commissioned, will be to identify: 1) active and retired faculty who are interested in working collaboratively with the community, 2) the issues on which they would like to focus, and 3) research they have done, are doing, or would be willing to oversee, which would be of use to community groups and organizations. The survey will make more visible the community/university collaborations that already exist and will facilitate the initiation of new collaborative efforts. Since the results of the survey will be posted on the website, it will be possible for local groups to connect with knowledgeable faculty around specific issues.
4) Summer Research
*Nancy Chen reported on her work over the summer with Santa Cruz Commons interns, a group of five to eight undergraduate students and recent graduates who are volunteering their time. They are currently working on a mapping project that will be posted on the website launched during the fall. The goal of the interns—and of the larger project– is to document community activities in the areas of housing, health, criminal justice, education, and art and democracy. The interns have been interviewing people in the community in order to get a good sense of how things work “on the ground.”
*Throughout the process, students have been thinking of innovative ways of mapping progressive organizations and activities—tracking absences and presences, rather than simply producing lists. Students in a spring course taught by Sharon Daniel, a member of the Santa Cruz Commons UC Working Group, also experimented with approaches to mapping and their videos will also be available on the Santa Cruz Commons website.
*Chen also reported on the upcoming webinar that Santa Cruz Commons is planning to have in the fall with Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit-based social justice activist. The idea is to have an intergenerational dialogue with her about progressive social change.
4) Preliminary Remarks
*Mike Rotkin asked participants to consider two areas for the evening’s conversation—
1) What should our topics be (considering links between and among issues as well as focusing on a single issue or concern?)
2) What should the format or formats of the dialogues be?
3) Who should be included in the discussions?
4) How do we craft open and interesting conversations around progressive
issues that link the university and the county?
1) What kind of actions do we see as possible (e.g. linking students to the
community, collaborating to influence policy, making progressive groups in the community and at the university more visible?)
2) How do we work together to form an active, coherent, self-identified progressive community?
*Rotkin also noted that although UC Santa Cruz has instituted a requirement that all undergraduates undertake some form of experiential learning before graduating, the university has no institutionalized structure to support or facilitate this requirement.
5) Dialogue and Discussion
*One person indicated that he would like Santa Cruz Commons to sponsor an event at which people—across generations and social differences–would talk about what it is like to live in Santa Cruz as a marginalized person or as a member of a marginalized community.
*Another person suggested that in order to be an effective progressive one had to be marginalized. He also noted the importance of recognizing and empathizing with the experiences of members of marginalized groups.
*Someone else said that race and class are not being dealt with in the county/community, and he noted the continued invisibility of undocumented immigrants in Santa Cruz County. For him, examining what it is like to live life as an undocumented person needs to be a central concern for the group.
*Another participant talked about divisions between north and south counties and asked the group to consider what could be done to break down existing barriers, which often seem absolute.
*Someone else asked where mid-county is in this frame of reference? He talked of the importance of mapping the micro-communities of Santa Cruz County, looking at the texture—above or below official rhetorics—of different kinds of constituencies.
*Another speaker indicated that from his perspective (as someone from Watsonville), the geography was “…Watsonville versus everything else.” He talked about how, aside from the Volunteer Center, there weren’t many spaces/efforts that were collaborative across the entire county.
*One person spoke of the recent exhibit on “love” at the Museum of Art and History and how moved she was by the different narratives of a heterogeneous group of people. She went on to talk about efforts to engage marginalization through oral history and story-making projects in order to facilitate listening and talking across differences. Santa Cruz Commons could be a venue for training people of different generations and backgrounds to conduct interviews and facilitate story-making locally.
*A recent UC Santa Cruz graduate insisted on the need to somehow involve the 17,000 UC Santa Cruz undergraduates. She indicated that there is “…no way to get out of the bubble” [of the campus]. She saw significant opportunities for helping to educate students about privilege.
*Another participant talked about the myths surrounding race and class locally and how the university and Santa Cruz Commons could help to illuminate some of these complex issues.
*Someone else mentioned the Invisible-5 project ( HYPERLINK “http://www.invisible5.org” http://www.invisible5.org), an audio tour documenting the invisible histories of California’s Interstate 5. She suggested that Highway 1 could be perfect for a similar creative investigation of “…places that are off everyone’s maps.” She wanted the group to consider emphasizing a figure and a place in addition to collecting stories. She also wanted to register the problematic absence of anyone from Cabrillo College in the room that evening.
*Another person suggested that the group consider asking people what brought them to Santa Cruz. “How do people identify themselves and the choices they made about which areas to live in?” is one way to frame the question. “Why do people want to live downtown?” was another query she thought worth exploring in light of the co-housing project that is under construction in the downtown and in which she is participating.
*A retired faculty member spoke of marginalization and the assumptions he used to make about downtown Santa Cruz before he started interacting with some of the homeless people and artists there. He spoke of there being “…a way of knowing and not knowing” about Santa Cruz.
*A community member phrased the question as “How did you end up in Santa Cruz and why are you still here?” and saw opportunities for building bridges from that starting point.
*Someone else asked if the Santa Cruz Public Libraries could be partners and sites for the kinds of community discussions people were imagining, referencing her own knowledge of similar efforts organized around local reading campaigns (e.g. an entire community reading a text that resonates locally as in “Santa Cruz Reads…”). (Editor’s Note: Jory Post has worked with others—including library staff–to establish two such two groups, Santa Cruz Reads” and “Santa Cruz Writes.” This is an example of the invisibility that Santa Cruz Commons is working to overcome.)
*Another participant was struck by the conversational focus on stories that people tell. He asked, “What kinds of things pull people from the margins? Empathy. What produces and is productive of empathy?” For him, it is important to help people learn to ask the sorts of questions that draw other people out, thus creating a community of active listeners. Another key question revolved around what kinds of institutional and informal forms would support a community of active listeners—thus helping to create a multiplier effect.
*Someone else asked “Then what happens to these (conversations and insights )? Is there a way to make these permanent?” She alluded to the Live Oak elementary school mural project as an example of people (in this case, children) trying to make permanent the alternative visions that represent their stories and their lives.
*Someone else saw rich resonance between oral history and mapping. She suggested that with the aid of GPS technology there might be ways to hear particular histories as you travel through space.
*Another speaker circled back to the importance of seeing people inhabit their stories and asked “How would they be embodied?”
*Someone spoke of thinking of the north/south county divide as a metaphor for the world (i.e. “the global South”). The injunction to “think globally and act locally” is not easy to do when faced with global causes for local problems (i.e. unemployment in California.) These realities don’t lend themselves easily to local solutions. This person also wanted to upset the prevailing view of “community” as inherently good and “marginalization” as inherently bad. He reminded us that people have historically fled small towns for cities, in essence escaping the conviviality of “community” for the anonymity of urban life. Also, Santa Cruz has been a place that attracts people actively seeking a marginalized position. So celebrating marginality needs to be part of our conversations and efforts as well.
*Another participant voiced concern about the ongoing loss of funding for oral history work, referencing the Regional History Project ( HYPERLINK “http://library.ucsc.edu/regional-history-project” http://library.ucsc.edu/regional-history-project) at UC Santa Cruz. She wanted to temper some of the enthusiasm for collecting oral histories by unpacking the larger set of dynamics whereby university functions were devolving onto the community as a result of budget cuts. “What’s devolving onto the city? And can the city handle it?” were important questions for her.
*Someone else mentioned that many students were willing to contribute to this kind of work as they searched for ways to “…invest themselves in something.” She circled back to her earlier points regarding the need to educate students about the local community.
*Another participant saw the potential of Santa Cruz Commons in helping to define what an experiential learning program would look like with different hubs of activity. He referenced local writer Peggy Townsend’s work and talked of putting students in classrooms throughout the county via field study courses and work/study programs.
*Someone echoed the last speaker’s idea and saw potential in creating a structure to support linkages between nonprofit entities/government agencies and students. Local government, in his view, would easily be behind such an effort.
*A faculty member talked about UC Santa Cruz being a public institution with public commitments. The reason for wanting a UCSC Center for Community Partnerships is that “ (a) public institution needs to be public. We need to have this kind of infrastructure in place.”
*One of the core Santa Cruz Commons organizers spoke of inviting members of the UCSC administration to a future Santa Cruz Commons meeting so that they could hear from everyone assembled the kinds of collaborative projects in which the group is interested. Such an event might facilitate the articulation of a shared vision of experiential learning.
*A community member talked about California State University, Monterey Bay serving as a potential model for what Santa Cruz Commons was imagining. Being engaged in the community is a fundamental feature of its undergraduate curriculum.
*A retired faculty member spoke of a kind of informal and “invisible” college that could form without funding. By bringing in more nonprofit actors and bypassing the routine of asking for money every year from the campus administration—and being consistently underfunded—an “invisible” Community Studies could take shape. He spoke of the tremendous value of putting students into the field and the collectivist coming together that could happen by bringing more nonprofit people back to the table.
*Another person spoke of the importance of more than just telling stories—but starting a dialogue. She also wanted to encourage giving students real responsibilities and trusting them in any and all community collaborations.
*Regarding the “invisible” college, someone suggested that what the original speaker meant was that any such endeavor had to be “visible” to the community but could remain “invisible” vis-à-vis the university administration.
*Someone else wanted the group to think about public schools as deserving of collective attention. He spoke of “…making public education a site at which people’s “imagination for democracy” would be fostered. He suggested that children learn almost nothing about democracy in school and that we need to find other places where we can facilitate the development of imagination as a valuable human resource. Additionally, he thought the group could help support progressive teachers and he indicated the need for K-12 public schools to be an integral part of the picture.
*Another speaker wanted to encourage the fostering of independent studies for undergraduates looking to go beyond classroom-exclusive learning.
*Another retired faculty member wanted the group to consider the important socializing element of peer-to-peer dialogue amongst students. He wanted the group to take seriously the earlier speaker’s comments about the absence of representatives of Cabrillo College and urged us all to find a way to include the expertise of Cabrillo faculty, staff and students.
*Another Santa Cruz Commons organizer talked about the project’s emphasis on “rendering visible” the commons. She spoke of how the summer interns had come up with the great idea of having a series of TED talks by representatives of various community-based organizations who would talk for five minutes about their “urgent futures.” The focus would be on how to build the future, move forward and reframe possibilities. “Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?” could serve as a guiding query.
*Someone else liked the future oriented view and saw it as a way of encouraging new activists. As someone who worked in the past with Cowell College students, he resonated with the idea of telling one another face-to-face stories that might lead to action.
*The dangers of displacing a robust conversation about the relation of democracy and education onto a future cadre of imagined interns troubled one participant. She warned of the dangers of “…letting ourselves off the hook” regarding a serious discussion of the profound crisis surrounding democracy and education. She wanted to hear and think more about what counts as progressivism amongst everyone assembled.
*One person spoke of the opportunities for rethinking and retooling the university curriculum based on the needs of Santa Cruz County.
*Someone else wanted to speak out against the intern idea. She saw it as faculty picking up the pieces of what the university was sloughing off in terms of infrastructure. She expressed deep reserve about doing free work for the university. She did like the idea of focusing on democracy and education.
*Someone talked about liking the independent study format. It offered an opportunity for retired people to get involved (as mentors and participants). And by threading in oral history and independent studies, it created opportunities for students as well. The trans-disciplinary emphasis was a good one in this person’s view.
*One person suggested hosting a dialogue on democracy and education in the fall. She also was excited by the possibility of putting together internships for high school students and others from across the broad spectrum of the community, imagining a larger project into which retired faculty could fit.
*Another participant talked about how many oral histories had already been taken, noting also that they sometimes can be transformative. She argued that she was not sure that just hearing someone’s stories encourages someone to be progressive. “Who are we targeting these story epiphanies at?” she critically asked.
*A faculty member saw possibility in the Museum of Art and History as a venue for pairing oral histories and dialogue. He suggested that the museum could be instrumental in building an archive, titled something like “Living Santa Cruz History.”
*It was decided that a Working Group would be convened to begin shaping a preliminary agenda based on the minutes and the audio recording of the meeting. After sending out a preliminary copy of the minutes, the Santa Cruz Commons organizers said they would follow up with anyone who expressed interest in helping out in that capacity. (Editor’s note: In fact, several people—Helene Moglen, Julia Muldavin, Jory Post, Megan Thomas–offered to participate in such a group, which will meet on September 18th. The recommendations from the Working Group will be circulated to Santa Cruz Commons participants for consideration and discussion.)
Minutes of Dialogue
“Realizing a Progressive Vision of Santa Cruz”
Museum of Art and History, 5/23/2012: 7-9 PM
*Helene Moglen, Santa Cruz Commons Co-Director, spoke first. She welcomed
everyone and said that the co-directors would put together a white paper based on
the dialogue and on responses to it, which participants will be invited to contribute.
She named the three organizations that were co-sponsors: Santa Cruz Commons,
the Museum of Art and History (MAH) and the Center for Collaborative Research for
an Equitable California (CCREC). She indicated that the project only existed as a
collaboration—“…clearing space where no space existed before,” in the words of Ron
Glass, faculty collaborator. She suggested that the point of the project was not to
debate whether Santa Cruz has been progressive or not. Rather, the goal is to focus
on the collaboration of community activists and activist academics who want to seek
solutions at the local level to social and economic problems that seem intransigent in
a national context. The general objective is, therefore, to conceptualize and mobilize
alternative practices that are both innovative and committed to social justice. In the
process, the meaning of such words as “resources,” “work,” and “productivity” might be
*Nina Simon, Director of MAH, indicated that she imagined the museum as just this
kind of space, in which people can come together around art, history, culture and ideas.
She said that she also hoped the museum would be a place to continue with further
dialogues in the fall.
*Attendees then went around the circle and introduced themselves, many noting how
long they had lived in Santa Cruz.
*The last person who introduced herself noted that there was a time when she would
have known many of the faculty on campus. She spoke of the gaps between the campus
and the larger community and the importance of creating connections. Her comment
prompted another query—is the name of the project going to be Santa Cruz Commons
or Santa Cruz County Commons? A large part of the county does not identify with the
2) Opening Comments
*Mike Rotkin, former Mayor of Santa Cruz and longtime Lecturer in Community Studies,
indicated that the intention of the project planners was to include the whole county—
not just to focus on the city. He then offered a brief overview of significant progressive
benchmarks in Santa Cruz’s recent history, reminding everyone of the county’s deeply
conservative political culture prior to the 1970s.
*He spoke of the present moment as one in which earlier progressive gains were
slipping away, as people felt the need to respond to the situation that we’re in. Social
service funding is decreasing at the same time as the progressive movement is stalling.
He talked about it being easier to oppose the things you didn’t want (i.e. earlier struggles
against the General Plan and the John Birch Society) but that it was less clear where we
should be going. Rotkin spoke of looking for something between the Occupy movement
and the Democratic Party—a pretty big space to fill. An overarching query for him would
be “What would a movement to turn this community into someplace we’d like it to be
actually look like?” In other words, we should discuss not what President Obama should
be doing but what we should be doing. The four questions that were sent out with
Rotkin’s letter of invitation were then rearticulated—
1) What defines progressive politics and a progressive agenda in the current
period? What would it mean to “think outside the box?”
2) What are some common themes that cut across or should cut across
particular social or environmental issues today in Santa Cruz?
3) What kind of research, teaching and service could UCSC faculty be doing in
support of a progressive agenda in Santa Cruz?
4) How can progressive political/social/environmental/economic change be
envisioned and effected at the local level, even when problems seem intransigent
when they are considered in national and international contexts?
3) Dialogue and Discussion
*The discussion began with one person commenting that they noticed no representation
from faculty in the sciences on campus, adding that we’re learning a tremendous amount
from science about where we’re headed and the importance of bringing science into
our lives. This comment prompted someone else to mention the Science & Justice
Working Group (http://research.pbsci.ucsc.edu/scienceandjustice/blog) headed by Jenny
Reardon, Associate Professor of Sociology.
*Another participant spoke of what he called the “wonderful naivete” of people he
recently met who are affiliated with 826 Valencia (http://826valencia.org), a writing
and literacy project based in San Francisco and headed by author Dave Eggers. He
talked about how excited people were to be bringing volunteers in to help further literacy
education. The problem, in his view, still remained in the “official” classroom with what
teachers were asking students to do. He thus found himself “biting my tongue” and was
looking for alternatives to doing so.
*Someone else talked about feeling frustrated with the hard sciences’ view that what
they do is disconnected from other social dynamics. Echoing the first speaker’s
comments, he talked about reaching out to open-minded scientists who might want to
*Another person spoke about how there was much evidence of the operation of
progressive values locally. The problems are those of limited inter-connections and of
inattention to process as people try to figure out “What do we do?” The lack of energy
coalescing, the importance of bringing people back together and avoiding naming
something as a “political activity” were key for this person.
*Someone else spoke of the progressive agenda and process as 1) “something good
for the community,” 2) something that was taken up on behalf of social justice and
3) “something folks can agree on.” She offered that there was too much focus on
disagreements when, in actuality, there were more points of agreement. For this
person, progressivism was about “making progress on real issues” and avoiding the
kind of politics that leads to “…oxygen getting sucked out of the room.” This speaker
also highlighted the dangers of progressivism as an obstructing force lacking “true”
transparency and “true” accountability. Too much political correctness had also done
progressivism a disservice in her view.
*Another person described contemporary society moving in ways that aren’t rational with
people thirsting for rational discussion and conversation—something more substantive
than what is in the news headlines.
*Another participant spoke of entrenched beliefs that pigeonhole possibilities into either/
or scenarios. This created missed opportunities for collaboration. Systemic issues are
overlapping, which makes option A versus option B kind of thinking unhelpful as well as
creating divisions and weakening the ties of community. A need to put old arguments
and myths aside in favor of large scale, systemic collaboration was also described.
*Another community member talked of the need for commitment to practical, less grand,
responses—and reiterated the importance of building on that approach. Process was
also important for this person as well as the need for more ethnic and age diversity
amongst the participants.
*This prompted another person to speak of how the realities of class and race have
created segregated city versus county dynamics. For this person, that was the biggest
failure of progressive Santa Cruz.
*Someone else spoke of the need to emphasize opportunities for connection between
different groups. Here the idea of connecting the things that are meaningful for people
*Echoing this, another person talked of rendering visible the progressive communities
and constituencies in Santa Cruz—with their various connections. This prompted a co-
director’s allusion to the inventory of progressive entities that the project is undertaking.
She indicated that, when the inventory is completed, it will be posted on the Santa Cruz
Commons web-site, which will be posted over the summer or in the fall.
*The public process informing the work of Smart on Crime was mentioned. The speaker
tried to imagine what a Smart on Crime parallel would like around housing, for example.
And then how would people go about creating some kind of connection between housing
and criminal justice to show how the issues were interrelated? The efforts of the now
defunct Santa Cruz Action Network (SCAN) were referenced. SCAN was a coalition in
the recent past that worked across issues. For this speaker, a key query was how to
move beyond working solely at the level of a single issue.
*Someone else mentioned visions for collaborative action.
*This prompted one speaker to talk of the realities of not having “the loudest voice”
around particular issues (in her case, affordable housing and homelessness). She
spoke of the need to clear the air, to find an underlying bond and to share in that as the
basis for communication. She saw the value in identifying “…that minimal space where
people can agree” as a precursor to having a “real” dialogue. For this speaker, it was
essential to turn the heat down and get beyond the headlines in situations of heightened
controversy. She argued that “us” versus “them” dynamics were not productive and she
urged instead that we search for what it is that residents have in common. She closed
her comments with a pointed reminder that progressives do not necessarily have the
loudest voice in the room.
*This moved another faculty member to summarize some of the main points that had
been touched upon earlier. She talked about learning how to be “critical friends” to one
another. This requires moving beyond an assumed need not to hurt people’s feelings
and into a desire to facilitate the development of each person. She also discussed
looking for a synthesis and connection between different sectors in the county–
focusing not just on amelioration, but on transformation as well. The process should be
consistent with our values and desired outcomes. This person also discussed changing
role relationships so that we can relate to each other in different ways, thus possibly
enabling us to have different conversations among broader groups of people, including
those who are often excluded from these conversations. She encouraged thinking about
civic activity as broader than people who vote and read the paper, and asked what
it would mean to have the participatory engagement of the broader community. She
then said that there seemed to be a desire for the university to gather data that was
useful to the community in the form of program evaluation and other data sources that
could help with funding. As a final summary point, she asked what our institutions are in
the county, and how they support our vision. Are they sufficient? Do they facilitate the
taking up of community responsibility to engage in problems and solutions? In term of
the way forward, she spoke of an engaged group of people committing themselves to
deliberative dialogue by speaking from their own experiences and getting beyond “hot
button” issues. Finally, she talked of the importance of multi-front organizing, citing
the work of Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA) as a model
that is already active in our county and in Monterey county. For her, this epitomized
a “relational organizing” that searches for commonalities.
*Another participant identified one-on-one conversation—or conversational triads—as
key. Issues become “real” as stories bind people together.
*Someone else spoke of connecting the process with a broader public and asked “How
can we create other ways for people to participate actively?” She also talked of “future-
casting” and the importance of “critical juxtapositions.” Such juxtapositions 1) look at the
past, present and future simultaneously, 2) bring seemingly unrelated topics together
and 3) cross-pollinate, leading to further conversation.
*Another community member spoke about data-driven knowledge as key to the process
of opening knowledge up beyond status quo understandings. Leadership was also
central. This person talked of the importance of evidence-based practices coming from
a practical position and how people are waiting to see efforts similar to Smart on Crime
around youth violence, immigration and economic issues. A lingering question remained
around how to take these knowledges “up a level” to the world of policy.
*Responding to Rotkin’s opening comments, one person offered that they didn’t see any
progressive stall at all. Instead, they saw a spinning, dynamic progressive movement
locally. This person did not see a lack of direction but rather differing values that
stopped people from engaging completely. Also, this person did not want to hear about
southern versus northern county divisions.
*Another participant responded that there was more capacity to communicate about
collective reality than there were institutions to facilitate said communication. This
person identified a strong desire and enthusiasm in the community for taking risks
around communication across differences as well as an appetite to talk about real
issues. The problem is that it’s happening too randomly.
*Someone else spoke of hearing support for criminal justice reform and the need for
rational dialogue. People were thirsting for that. Moving beyond sound bites was
identified as a worthy goal. People were feeling increasingly adverse to “agendas” and
program solutions. Having a conversation with others around how they feel about the
issues and creating a collective consciousness was key as well. After all, people did
show up for this conversation on a weekday evening, illustrating how essential it is not to
sell people short.
*Another community member talked about modest goals and the importance of the
dialogues drawing people who have different views together into the room.
*Hearing from “real” people that things need to change immediately—employing terse
language and threats of violence—was something one local nonprofit staff person
unfortunately had to deal with as a result of a recent murder of a Santa Cruz resident.
*Someone else chimed in that having a rational conversation in a moment of crisis was
not really possible. Debriefing had to happen first.
*Another person offered that staying committed to evidence-based dialogue was key.
There was still a need to devise interventions based on best practices.
*Another participant talked of “best practices” being open to interpretation. There is
a danger of “the feeding frenzy of the mob” in tense moments. This person echoed
agreement with earlier comments on the importance of transparency and “critical
friendship.” Best practices and values for this person were defined as what was best for
the whole [community].
*Someone else echoed the emphasis on “real” evidence-based solutions around
homelessness. Again, clearing the air was identified as crucial.
*One person spoke about the need for some kind of context to shape conversation
outside of the initial emotional reaction to events—distinguishing between an immediate
versus a long-term response. He suggested the need for some kind of community
church where a commonality around deep values and feelings about things could be
*This prompted another participant to talk about how he saw Santa Cruz as progressive
on a superficial, not very deep level. Responses to the recent murder in town showed
how reactionary feelings could come to the surface at the same time that collective
failures and the inability to take collective responsibility for things were ignored.
*One of the faculty directors for the project spoke of imagining how the university’s
research capabilities could address the needs of the community. Santa Cruz Commons
planned to undertake a survey of faculty members’ areas of expertise and commitments
to working in the community. The plan would then be to think of ways to establish
structures for graduate students to do community based research with faculty serving as
conveners/directors of research teams.
*Another person suggested that a key query should be “What would a just community
look like?” Having a clear idea of and honest conversation about the forces at work
were articulated as important. This person also talked of distinguishing between “real”
and “perceived” needs in making a just community possible. The tensions surrounding
the city versus the county were still present and could not easily be whisked away.
*A community member spoke openly about not knowing exactly what it meant to
be progressive and why the label “liberal” seemed inadequate. He spoke of feeling
overwhelmed by different demands that he felt he should respond to and asked “Where
can I put my energies?” He also talked about not feeling connected, which he named
variously as separate, disconnected and fragmented. Still, he felt inspired by what
progressives could do and the importance of pressing the rest of California to be
progressive. He saw the dialogue that evening as important. He ended with an
observation that empathy is missing from our society and he asked “How do we connect
ourselves in some important way?”
*A faculty member talked about how the needs seemed infinite and how he was
finite, echoing the earlier speaker’s feelings about how that could “get you down.” He
humorously talked of feeling “urgent action fatigue.” He was, however, interested in
creating organizational forms that would enable this work to continue and he noted
that there is a strong progressive community out there that is unfortunately atomized.
He wanted to try to think of organizational forms that could make progressive work
more legible—and with no or less money. This person mentioned his earlier efforts in
support of Project Homeless Connect, doing needle exchange work, as well as with the
Homeless Garden Project. He believed social change is possible but that it is slipping
away. History, in actuality, showed that these things do and will slip away. That was a
reality. The point, however, was to be alive to possibilities.
*Another faculty member talked about institutional revitalization and asked “What are
our anchor institutions?” She argued on behalf of forging more connections among
institutions in Santa Cruz. She offered up The Center for Community Partnerships
at Wesleyan University (http://www.wesleyan.edu/ccp) as a model for Santa Cruz
Commons to explore. The center functions as a clearinghouse for campus and
community connections, providing community members one central telephone number
to contact to find out which faculty members or groups they can contact for information
and various forms of support .
*Another participant echoed the earlier keyword of compassion and offered up the
Resource Center for Nonviolence as a community resource. This person briefly
referenced the skills that the university had at its disposal.
*Someone else spoke of how there had never been a progressive movement in Santa
Cruz that could embrace everyone but that a productive, proactive response from the
progressive community required that it not allow itself to be overwhelmed. This person
also noted that, historically, progressivism came on the scene through the creation of
grassroots institutions like these discussions. In the present moment, progressives were
not well organized to respond to current crises. He asked us all “How would we create
this space for this conversation to continue?” and noted that if you got something good
together, it would create energy and people would find or make time for it.
*A faculty member closed with some thoughts on movement building. He offered that
movements historically had two key functions—a resistance function (dealing with
immediate crises) and a movement building function (focused on long-term work and
fostering the long-term view). He talked about long-term community renewal and shared
a story of having two local groups draw maps of their communities and the disjunctions
they revealed about how people imagine community. He urged us all to take seriously
the query “How do we get a map of community that includes the people who are living
the problems we’re trying to solve?”
The meeting concluded with the co-chairs indicating that they will circulate the minutes
of the meeting along with a questionnaire, which will invite responses to the dialogue
and suggestions for future action. On the basis of the minutes and the questionnaire,
they will assemble a white paper so that a possibly expanded group will be able to
resume the conversation where it ended.