Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Non-profit bike charity targeted for disruption by Santa Cruz City for alleged political motivations
"City Bicycle Distribution Issue to be Decided Next Tuesday, Jan 14"
2014-01-06 message from Steve of the Santa Cruz Hub:
Next Tuesday, January 14th the Santa Cruz City Council will decide whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. Please let the Council Members know you think this is a valuable program! You can let them know in person at the meeting, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently we don't know if this item will be discussed at the 3pm afternoon or 7pm evening session, but we'll post details as they are available: [http://bikechurch.santacruzhub.org/blog.html].
Every year the City ends up with hundreds of bikes which are not claimed and must be dealt with somehow. Because the bikes are generally of moderate to low quality and many are in disrepair, they offer little cash value to the City through auctioning. Therefore in 1996 the City began distributing them to youth in need, turning these old bikes into a valuable community resource. The distributions were open to any qualified nonprofit or government agency, and got out many hundreds of bikes to youth who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to own a bicycle.
Although a valuable program, participation varied over the years and sometimes the administration felt like a drain to the SCPD, which in 2008 stopped distributions and began sending bikes instead to the landfill. At that point the nonprofit repair shop the Bike Church approached the City, offering to handle most of the administration of the program. For the next four years, the Bike Church held 16 distributions, getting out 415 bikes through a variety of nonprofits, while salvaging tons of usable material from the scraps that no one else was able to make use of.
In early 2012, the City ended this important program without any notification to the Bike Church or other participating groups. Bikes were delivered instead to a for-profit business that sold many bikes which previously would have gone free to youth, and which did not invite the former nonprofit participants to take any of the bicycles. The five groups that had matched up the most bikes to youth prior to this change—Barrios Unidos, Green Ways to School, Project Bike Trip, Watsonville Bike Shack, and Western Service Workers Association—all wrote letters to the City praising the former program and the Bike Church's management of it, and asking that it be reinstated. However no changes were made at that time.
The following summer in August 2013, acknowledging that the municipal code does not allow distributions through a for-profit business, the City suspended distributions entirely. City Manager Bernal stated at that time the intention to invite proposals from nonprofits to partner with the City in renewing the program. However due to behind-the-scenes pressure by some Council Members this plan was never moved forward, with bikes now being auctioned off for as far as we know the first time since 1996.
Fortunately, the City Council will have the opportunity to vote on this matter next week, and we hope they will listen to the overwhelming community support for giving the bikes to youth instead of auctioning them off.
Response from Robert Norse:
Steve: Your position is significantly weakened by omitting any mention of the repeated attempts you and others made to clarify why the SCPD stopped the bike distribution and under pressure from whom. You omit mentioning that your attempts to get clear and transparent response from then-Mayor Hillary Bryant or from Assistant City Manager Tina Shull were dodged, ignored, or dismissed. You seem to be trying (again) to "smooth things over", "avoid antagonizing the SCPD", and "maintaining good relations with the city staff", but hasn't the sweet talk approach showed how ineffective it is? Power senses weakness and has only contempt for it.
The community and Council need to be publicly confronted with the rather bald questions: why were the distributions stopped? Why have they been held up for nearly two years? Why aren't the responsible people held accountable? And, most obviously, without any phony dicking around, why isn't the original process simply restored? Instead we have Micah's face-saving (and futile) Request for Proposals nonsense--which, so far, as gone nowhere.
Folks assembled in mass half a year ago already made a plea for return of the bikes. Half a year later--are we any closer? Just another Council meeting. Folks who could have had bikes--those poor folks who are the target of the City Council's ordinance changes last year and their notorious Task Force on Public Safety (or more accurately the Task Farce Transmitting Public Hysteria).
It is my understanding that these bikes are being auctioned off in Sacramento (if they're not dumped into a landfill)--does that confirm your information?
Please provide straight talk and straight questions to the community and Council. You may find such candor, if followed up by other direct actions may embarrass the SCPD stonewallers into relenting and actually forestall such abuses in the future.
"City Decides to Reinvent the Wheel on Bike Distribution"
2014-01-29 by Steve Pleich [www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/01/29/18749968.php?show_comments=1#18750148]:
Wheels Within Wheels -
It is both unfortunate and sad that the City Council has chosen to reject out of hand the years of service provided to the community cost free by the Bike Church Tool Collective. Unfortunate because rather than recognizing and utilizing a fully functional and sustainable bicycle refurbishment and distribution program, it has chosen instead to create another wasteful layer of bureaucracy to oversee. By favoring the Teen Center as the new distribution agency, the city has effectively "reinvented the wheel" where none was necessary. And now, only useable bicycles will be redistributed while the bicycle parts which could have been given new life by the Bike Church will now be auctioned off with no real end result in mind. And that is truly unfortunate.
But this decision by council is also sad. It is sad because it reflects the elevation of politics over practicality and community benefit that has become the hallmark of our present civic leadership. By any measure, the Bike Church would have distributed a greater number of bicycles that any other qualified and similarly experienced organization. This could have been, and should have been with enlightened leadership, a model of the kind of "public/private partnership" that this community sorely needs. One need look no further than the reopening of Harvey West Pool to see a working example of this model. Unable to cost effectively operate the large pool, the city closed that facility in 2007. In 2010, when community members Kevin Moon, Jim Booth and myself formed a private partnership to operate the pool, the city was wise enough and willing enough to agree to a public/private partnership that resulted in the large pool being reopened for community use; and it remains open on a regular summer schedule to this day. And yet now, with a experienced, community minded private partner ready, willing and able to take on the program of bicycle redistribution, civic leadership declined to make the obvious and best choice. What part politics played in this decision is a matter upon which reasonable minds might differ. But as a matter of good, common sense, there can be no argument that our community, and especially every young person who might not now experience the joy of bicycle ownership, deserves better.
Comment to article from a reader:
The Bike Church is associated with anarchists via sharing its space and non-profit umbrella of The Hub, which also includes Subrosa. Location is everything.
"Why the City hates the Bike Church", 2014-01-31 by Steve Schnaar [email@example.com]:
Because the City staff have refused to give me a straight answer for almost 2 years, I cannot say with certainty what this is all about. Part of it I suspect is the overall climate of attacks against homeless and homeless service providers, e.g. Robinson's attempt to shut down the HSC day services. According to the conservative perspective, by making food or bikes or anything else available to homeless people, we are "enabling" them, and therefore such services must be stopped.
However I agree a large part of it is also likely the fact that the Bike Church is located next door to SubRosa, which does have an openly confrontational attitude towards cops. Some years ago a few officers in uniform came to SR "to buy a cup of coffee", and were told they were not welcome to enter without a warrant, and then people blockaded the door. From that point the SCPD has hated SubRosa and blatantly lied about them in some cases to the press (notably after the May 1 window-smashing in 2010).
However SubRosa is only renting space, they are not representative of the Hub (short for "the Santa Cruz Hub For Sustainable Living), the nonprofit which manages the building and includes the Bike Church, the Fabrica, Green Ways to School, People Power Fund, and the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project. The Hub has no political position, and has never had any policy against police. In fact the Bike Church, although we are quite effective at handling difficulties on our own, we do occasionally call police for help with aggressive individuals. We also regularly call to run serial numbers of potentially-stolen bicycles, collaborated with them for 4 years to distribute bikes, and have recently become the first bike shop in town to help them register bikes.
Nonetheless, the SCPD as far as I can gather decided at some point that they couldn't stand bikes going to a neighbor of SubRosa. In a meeting I had with Assistant City Manager Tina Shull in 2012, after she explained all the bureaucratic reasons they supposedly changed the program, which I challenged point by point, Shull stated, "well, there is a more fundamental reason: some of our staff are not welcome on your property". She went on to tell a made-up story about police coming to drop off bikes, and the Bike Church making them wait out on the curb. This is entirely untrue; in fact our contact at the SCPD, Cindi Shockey, would often come by after the distributions to follow-up, and sometimes came in to talk to me in the People Power office. These facts, and the fact that the Bike Church and SubRosa are separate spaces, with separate doors and a gate inbetween, are evidently irrelevant to the SCPD, who cannot tolerate anyone "enabling" anarchists by renting space out to them.
A more recent incident, in a meeting with both Posner and Comstock present, Posner reports that Comstock said, "the Hub is an anti-government organization". We invited her to come check it out for herself, which to her credit she did, but so far it hasn't seemed to sway her opinion.
"steve is right", 2014-01-31 by city insider:
Yep, Steve sums it up pretty well with his post. This is exactly the thinking of the council on this matter. They also have the ERRONEOUS notion that Steve participated in the Wells Fargo takeover and base it on this shaky video by Alex Darocy [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C4Uiyimk2c]. They think this is Steve about 38 seconds into the video, but it clearly isn't him. Steve is a mainstream political activist, who in fact was campaign manager for a current city councilman, Micah Posner. The idea that him or the Bike Church would be involved in radical "anarchist" behavior is false on its face.
"still not clear", comment in response to another comment to this article, 2014-01-30 by anarcho la selva:
"The people to worry about, to be suspicious of are people who run something strangely alien, a cooperative. Yes, collectives are dangerous things, particularly ones who dare to empower people. In this case, empowering poor and working class people to fix their own bikes, to obtain bikes in trade for work, well that's something that makes our overlords just a bit suspicious."
-But why the Bike Church? There are many things that can be deemed a "co-op" around town that the council ISN'T targeting? For example, credit unions like Bay Federal or the mobile home co-op downtown or the housing co-op on the Westside. Why isn't the city council targeting them if they have something against cooperatives? It seems a little bit of a stretch to say that political powers are afraid of people learning to fix their own bikes? Why is that scary to them? I've known enough of the TBSC types over the years, and they complain about junkies and "campers", not ONCE have I ever heard one say "I'm afraid people are going to learn how to fix their own bikes, that is a threat to my private property!" Not once. Have you heard them say that?
"The fact that the Bike Church can be easily splattered with the label as "anarchist" made it a pretty easy mark for the likes of Robinson and Matthews and Comstock who seemingly value control and overt commerce over having agreat number of poor kids having access to a free bike. "
-But again, WHY is the Bike Church labeled as "anarchist"? If they are "anarchists", why on Earth would they have been cooperating with the police on a bike giveaway in the first place? None of this makes any sense.
"totally different orgs", 2014-01-31 by subrosan:
They are NOT all the same entity. This old metro article explains the relationship (or lack thereof) between them. [http://www.metrosantacruz.com/metro-santa-cruz/09.17.08/news2-0838.html]: "The new Bike Church has proven so successful that the collective has plans to expand. Turning its attention to another ubiquitous failure-prone tool of the modern age, the Bike Church is planning to open a technology-oriented co-op in the office space currently occupied by the nonprofit People Power, which will be moving next door. Muir says, "The Computer Kitchen will provide educational opportunities and material recovery/recycling services in much the same way the Bike Church does with bikes. They will also be looking to provide nonprofit organizations with tech assistance and affordable hardware." It's heady times for the cooperative. There are also plans to open an Info Shop, a free library of independent and activist literature that takes its cues from similar spaces in San Francisco and Olympia, Wash. The Info Shop, Bike Church, Computer Kitchen and People Power will all operate under the auspices of the Santa Cruz Hub for Sustainable Transportation, the nonprofit that holds the lease of the entire property. As one might imagine, working in a completely egalitarian manner isn't without its challenges. "Consensus decision-making can be a long drawn-out process," Agam grants. "We do consensus-minus-one, but we all get along pretty well and rarely have to spend hours on any one decision."
"Metro Article is Wrong", 2014-01-31 by Steve Schnaar [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
You can see on the website for the hub (http://www.santacruzhub.org) an explanation of who we are. The Hub is a nonprofit that includes as fiscally-sponsored projects the Bike Church, Green Ways to School, the People Power Fund, the Fabrica, and the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project.
The Hub also manages a building which is a community center. There are many tenants which are not legally affiliated with the Hub as a nonprofit, including Pedalers' Express (a worker-owned bike messenger business), The Computer Kitchen (an independent nonprofit), People Power (an advocacy group set up as an "unincorporated association"), and SubRosa (which to my knowledge operates fiscally as a project of the nonprofit "Revolutionary Garden Society").
The linked news article from when we expanded our space is simply wrong. For one thing, it was "the Hub" and not "the Bike Church" that expanded, and more importantly there has never been a time in which the Computer Kitchen or SubRosa was operating "under the auspices of the Hub". They are independent orgs operating as subtenants in a building the Hub manages as a community center.
"Why It Matters"
2014-01-29 by Robert Norse of "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom (HUFF) - Santa Cruz" [http://www.huffsantacruz.org]:
Letting the SCPD and its friends on the City Council get away with a two year Bike Blockade with the political intent of cutting off the Bike church at the urging of reactionary Council members with no public process is part of the issue.
Another aspect is allowing staff and a for-profit business with connections to former Mayor Bryant's spouse favoritism and improper profiteering.
Another is the fatal paralysis of activists reduced to respectful hat-in-hand behavior to the treacherous bureaucrats who set up a rigged agenda item that preemptively cut out the Bike Church. See [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/01/23/18749645.php?show_comments=1#18749947].
"Kids Suffering Because of SCPD's Political Agenda?"
2014-02-01 by Robert Norse of "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom (HUFF) - Santa Cruz" [http://www.huffsantacruz.org]:
A cop-heavy backroom agenda negatively impacts the entire community--usually because of its reactionary content, but also because of the concealed process. In this case, it's particularly nasty because what seems to have been the SCPD's agenda deprived at risk youth of bikes--penalizing the young and the innocent--so the SCPD could play vendetta games against the Sub Rosa's neighbors.
At risk-youth were supposed to be the recipients of the bikes from the non-profits to which the bikes had been distributed via the Bike Church. That process was first stopped, then transferred to the for-profit mayor-and-police-friendly Bike Dojo, and finally stalled again when it became clear the Bike Dojo couldn't handle the distribution and the bikes were stacking up. According to what I've heard from Bike Church and Bike Shack employees.
I recently listened to Jeremy Scahill's piece on Obama's murder teams in Afghanistan bombing children and then ruthlessly covering up those crimes (at http://tunein.com/radio/National-Radio-Project-p60408/ under "Jeremy Scahill on America's Dirty Wars"). It also pays to keep an eye on police agencies locally. True, it's relatively small potatoes for police, staff, and council to cover up the theft of bikes from needy youth.
Still, with all the phony talk about "crime" and "public safety", we need to consider who has the real power, how it's being used, and to benefit whom. People in positions of power can have much greater impact and be shielded much more thoroughly from public disclosure or accountability.
The next question is--what are we to do to (a) correct this twisted process, and (b) make sure those guilty of doing so are exposed and punished to discourage similar such abuses in the future. If anyone has suggestions, please speak up.
A subgroup of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship) proposed that the D.A. should investigate felonious behavior by whatever city officials are responsible for misdirecting ore than $400 in bikes--and take the guilty parties to trial.
If the Bob Lee can spend hundreds of thousands harassing innocent Occupy activists for being in Wells Fargo's vacant bank building 2 years back (the scandal of the Santa Cruz Eleven) , then he might want to spend a teeny amount of time going after corrupt officials whose actions directly affect the options of the young and not just the public image of the police and the profits of banksters.
A picture can be worth a thousand words: [http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/portlet/article/html/render_gallery.jsp?articleId=25039731&siteId=6&startImage=1]
"Bicycle Banditry: What's Behind the Curtain of Secrecy? "Reasons" for the Bike Church Bashing"
2014-02-01 by Robert Norse of "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom (HUFF) - Santa Cruz" [http://www.huffsantacruz.org]:
THE COLLINS COVERUP STORY
Scott Collins, an assistant to the City Manager who presented the Council's cover story, gave the following explanation Tuesday afternoon of what caused the Bike Church to be cut off without notice, apology, or explanation. Collins presentation was much longer and can be found at [http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=539&doctype=AGENDA] under Agenda Item #14. The "specifics" (which were far from that) were as follows:
" But in recent years, there were some issues that arose with the distributors that time. City line staff had issued you now, a number of complaints about... from multiple departments that found the program was burdensome to staff, typically requiring four or five staff members from different departments to execute the distribution.
In addition to that there were inconsistencies in terms of when the drop-off and then co-ordination would occur, which further impacted staff time but also the ability to manage the storage facilities. And public works staff had to haul off unwanted bikes and parts at the city 's expense and time after the distribution took place.
And there was no established point of contact at this organization to handle these concerns."
PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST
In response to this vague undocumented description, I made a Public Records Act last night to Collins and the City requesting:
"... access to all documents and notes (written, electronic, audio, or video) you consulted, referenced, or viewed in creating these claims.
This should include but not be limited to
(1) complaints to city staff from multiple departments that found the program burdensome
(2) any reports indicating that 4-5 staff members from different departments were required to execute the distribution
(3) inconsistencies in terms of when drop-off and then co-ordinating would occur
(4) any references to staff time impacted
(5) any references to difficulties in managing storage facilities
(6) any references to occasions where public work staff had to haul off unwanted bikes and parts
(7) any specifics about city's expenses and time on such occasions after the distribution took place
(8) any references documenting there was no established point of contact at the Bike Church to handle these concerns.
In addition please include any and all communications between the SCPD, staff, and council on this issue between July 2011 and January 2013. Prioritze the period between November 2011 and March 2012."
The City has 10 days to respond with documents or request a further delay to research them. It's hard to imagine why they'd need lots more time, since Collins presumably had the documents available when he created his report, unless he replied solely on police department verbal reports, staff gossip, and creative reporting.
Still it's notable that neither Steve Schnaar nor I were able to get any substantive records last year or the year before.
Meanwhile the number of bikes getting to children from the SCPD's stash is either reduced or (until the Teen Center begins its fractional distribution) non-existent.
Demonstrations of concern and/or outrage about this whole shady process don't need to wait another two years however--if folks are interested.