City on a Hill Press sits down with City Council candidate Robert Steffen to chat about booze, drugs, and increasing the distance from his “Pink Umbrella Man” past.
City on a Hill Press: What kind of changes do you want to make in the city of Santa Cruz?
Robert Steffen: I would start with the kind of local laws that are being enacted, like laws that have been written against free speech activities.
I don’t like the laws where you can’t do anything in the parking lot for more than 15 minutes. You can’t sit in your car and read or talk. Unless you’re handicapped, then you can be in there for 30 minutes. The people in the council are just too conservative at the moment.
They’ve also written laws in which people cannot sleep in their cars. The people that are sleeping in their cars or outside don’t choose to be in that situation, it’s a social problem that needs to be dealt with. These laws need to be addressed. And there’s the law about not sitting on the sidewalks. They’ve gone too far trying to control people’s behavior.
Another one is asking people for money. It’s a First Amendment right to have freedom of speech. Perhaps they’re just insane, but they still have the right to speak. I think these laws are wrong and they shouldn’t exist.
Locally, these are the things that I would like to address.
CHP: What are your thoughts on the Santa Cruz party ordinance?
Steffen: I’m against the so-called party ordinance. It applies to any gathering of two or more people, so if your neighbor doesn’t like your meeting with a couple people, they could call the police on you. This law gets in the way of people meeting and socializing. I tend to prefer quiet social gatherings, but still, people should have the right to be a little boisterous if they choose.
CHP: Is it true that you support the lowering of the drinking age?
Steffen: In this country people are allowed to go and die for their country at the age of 18, and you can vote at 18, and you’re tried as an adult when you’re 18, but for some reason you’re not allowed to drink until you’re 21, so that doesn’t make sense to me.
At 18 you’re an adult and you should be able to drink. I also happen to agree with the legalization of drugs and I want to stop the war on drugs. Money, of course, is coming from both sides — from the government, who wants to stop it, and the people that want the drugs are sending money as well, and sending weapons, and there’s fighting on all sides and this shouldn’t be going on.
CHP: How would you go about applying these laws?
Steffen: What the current City Council is doing is, they’ve done their best to tell the local police department to not pursue people with marijuana or that it should at least be something on their lowest priority.
I would, on a local level, try and make sure police do not go after people that are 18 and over for drinking. For state and federal levels, I would do what I can to try and pass resolutions, and another thing would be try and get the laws changed.
I’m kind of a neophyte at all of this, but I’m sure that if we can get people that agree with these ideas elected, then the laws can get changed!
I’m just one sheet, but there are people with lots and lots of sheets of ideas that need to be filled by people with more progressive ideas.
The way to do it is for people to talk to each other. That’s why we have these social communication websites like Facebook — there’s no reason why we wouldn’t have a pretty fast groundswell. Things can change pretty rapidly, and it might take a couple of years, but still.
CHP: Why pink? Is it one of your favorite colors?
Steffen: It’s a fun one! And it is one of my favorite colors. I actually don’t know if I have a favorite at the moment. I like lots of colors.
CHP: How do you feel about stepping out of your old image and pursuing politics?
Steffen: For one thing, it gives me something to do. I’m going to be going to all of the City Council meetings so I can get a feel for all of the rules of order and the mechanics of the activities. I hope it should be lots of fun!
CHP: Why should students support your bid for City Council?
Steffen: I would say if they are in favor of more civil liberties, more individual rights, and the right to express themselves as individuals and to see positive social change, and that they agree that all people are equal, that they should support me in this platform.
CHP: What is one thing that people do not know about you?
Steffen: I like computers! I like technology. My degree is in electrical engineering. I like that so many positive solutions can come out of technology.
CHP: Should we expect to see the umbrella once again?
Steffen: It depends on my mood. I don’t have any plans one way or the other!
CHP: What can you bring to the table if you join City Council?
Steffen: I have pretty good reasoning skills and some fairly diverse life experience and background. And then I have beliefs that I tend to put forward locally, statewide, and federally. I would like to encourage people to be self expressive and have more confidence in themselves.