Scott Kennedy, who served 14 years on the Santa Cruz City Council, including two terms as mayor, died at home Saturday of an apparent heart attack.
Kennedy, 63, served on the city council from 1990-2004. He was mayor in 1993-1994 and again in 2003-2004.
"He was a leading advocate for affordable housing and for city funding for meeting human needs," said Vice Mayor Don Lane, who was shocked over the news. Friday Lane had made a date for lunch with Kennedy for next week.
Kennedy was a rare local politician who was also heralded on the international scene – not without controversy.
Supporters of Israel were critical of his support for Palestinians and his criticism of the Israeli government.
"I'm still not totally believing it," said Lane. "Our relationship was based on work in the community but we really were personal friends."
"It's a terrible blow to me and so many people," said Peter Klotz-Chamberlin, a co-founder of the Resource Center for Nonviolence.
"He really engaged in lots of issues. I think contributing to bringing Palestinian people into the American political awareness and discussion and policy was his biggest accomplishment.
"The way he went to Palestine some 40 times, established strong friendships with Palestinians and brought many of them here to tell of their life experience. It was important for Palestians and Americans trying to understand our relationship with the Palestinian struggle."
They started the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz in 1976 and Kennedy won the 2010 Pfeffer Peace Prize, an honor for international human rights, justice, and peace work by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Raised in a Methodist church community in San Jose, he was a consciencious objector to the war in Vietnam in 1966 and spent the rest of his years working toward nonviolence.
He took heat for supporting the Palestinian movement and told Metro Weekly that he wouldn't let charges of anti-Semitism stop him from doing his work.
"There's been a shift in public discourse that used to be dominated by pro-Israeli sentiment," he told Metro in 2002.
"If I'm critical of Israel, they demand that I be equally critical of other Middle Eastern countries. But we don't insist if the Holocaust comes up that catastrophe of 1948 be discussed. My critics claim they're speaking on behalf of Jews and Judaism, but really they are supporting the most reactionary, racist substratum. It would be like supporting David Duke, Jerry Falwell and James Watt here in America."
In a 2010 interview with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, he talked about how he got involved in the Middle East.
"My involvement in Middle East issues began when I traveled to the region as a freshman in college in 1968 with my sister Diane Kennedy Pike and her husband, the late Episcopal bishop, James Pike. Bishop Pike died in the desert between Bethlehem and the Dead Sea in the fall of 1969. My sister and I lived in Jerusalem for several months in 1970, finishing a book that Pike had been writing at the time of his death (The Wilderness Revolt, Doubleday, 1972). While living in Jerusalem from 1970-71, my interests shifted from the religion and history of the region to contemporary politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict," he said in the interview.
"Since the mid-1970s, I have attempted to amplify the voices of those Palestinians and Israelis that are committed to waging nonviolent struggle to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights."
As serious as was his work, he also had a great sense of humor as you can see in the video interview at the right.