Majority Report | December 7, 2017

2017: The Year of Housing Dangerously

What’s New (and Old) This Week

  • Spending $80,000 for fencing in Louden Nelson and Star of the Sea Park
  • Now we know why Parks and Rec. purchased the humongous F-150 pick-ups!
  • Do we really need another “committee” to study housing, post “Mayoral Listening Tour?”
  • SC Finance Minister does not, or won’t, get it.
  • Ideas, short of a rent freeze, that city council could implement to protect renters and improve our housing situation in the city of Santa Cruz.
  • Verbal fireworks abound at “library-garage” community meeting this past Sunday
  • Kara Guzman replaces Don Miller as editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Fences Make Good Neighbors?
OMG! Eighty grand. I kid you not. The Parks and Recreation Department (P&R) came forward with a done-deal resolution to fence in Star of the Sea Park and Laurel Park, which is the backside green space side of the Louden Nelson Center. It came to the council big and fat and ripe for a rubber stamp. Meetings were held (with who? “Neighbors.” what neighbors?) and decisions were made, I guess by Mauro Garcia the director of P&R, and he put it on a batting tee before the city council last Tuesday (Yes, the fences were already ordered and construction will start tomorrow. Then he added, almost as an after-thought, …that is if you (the council) pass this resolution approving the funding…) Did I say it will cost upwards to $80,000 for both sites? Will the “wrought-iron fences” do what the neighbors, and Parks and Rec (?) think it will do? ALL persons will still be allowed in the parks during daylight hours. Until we begin funneling the $80k into mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, and shelter space we will likely see more requests for fencing and police for our parks and greenbelt spaces.

Parks and Recreation and Those Enormous Pickups They Purchased
I received a text message last Saturday while marching alongside the mayor and other city councilmembers in the incredibly popular and well-attended Santa Cruz Holiday Parade. (Btw, I counted around 8000 people out in the streets, and I am sure that is a conservative estimate.) It seems that P&R. had a holiday float in the parade. The text said: “It all makes sense now. We needed the Ranger trucks (Ford F-150’s) for the parade.” (They really make a great float!)

click here to continue (link expands, click again to collapse)

2017, ‘The Year to Not Do Anything About Housing,’ or, ‘The Build-Baby-Build Group Wins’
After announcing 2017 as “The Year of Housing,” and following dozens of sometimes grueling and tedious and momentous meetings a big thud seemed to hit the city council agenda for Dec. 5th. Many were expecting this meeting to be THE meeting, to actually get something done. You know, vote on some housing ideas and issues, up or down. The Dec. 5th agenda arrived and this is what the housing item stated:

Santa Cruz Voices on Housing:  Fall 2017 Community Engagement Report (CM)

Motion to direct the Mayor to appoint a priority ad-hoc City Council Housing Blueprint Subcommittee to evaluate the ideas, actions and proposals in the Santa Cruz Voices on Housing Report and return with a set of recommendations for Council deliberation by March 27, 2018.

I recently found this definition:

“Committee: a group that individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.”

Housing Ideas Collected During the “Listening Tour” and Not Yet Acted Upon Because We Need to Take Them to a Committee
Will all the good ideas put forward during the Mayor’s “Year of Housing Listening Tour,” now go to die in a committee? The city council can act on many of the ideas without a committee (of 3 council members? How about a cross-section of 14 community members, which I will advocate.) Right now the Santa Cruz city council can implement real affordable housing measures, like legislating a 25% affordable housing ordinance on every project; offering tenants “just-cause eviction protection” from unscrupulous landlords; commit to placing an initiative on the November ballot to raise the hotel tax by 3% to create a fund for housing and homeless services; implement a vacant homes tax, and even commit to placing a rent control measure on the ballot and let the community decide this issue. I am not holding my breath, but all these measures might be discussed. (Stay tuned because this column goes to bed on Monday’s near noon, so results of the last council meeting are not in yet.)

We Will Be in the Red Until 2024
That is the word from Finance Director, Marcus Pimentel. He and City Manager Martin Bernal are increasingly hard-pressed to explain why deficits in the city budget continue even though city coffers seem flush, there is no hiring freeze, no recession, and people seem to be out in the streets spending money. Their main reason for the deficit: police and fire fighter pensions included in contracts before 2010. So, it will take many retirements until the city (cities all across California to be fair) see a leveling off of revenues versus expenditures. It will take until 2024, in fact. Director Pimentel even brought in the heavy hitters from the accounting firm, Varinek, Trine, Day & Co. LLP, Certified Public Accountants, to explain to councilmembers–he and city manager looking on–that all California cities are in deep doo doo because of the pension agreements they signed in past decades. And if you want to avoid bankruptcy, follow our suggestions on cutting, shaving, and repairing your budget now so we do not have to do open-heart surgery later. Council is pushing back though, not on the veracity of our need to cut, but on what we want to cut and what we want to retain (cut kids programs or capitalize on cost saving through attrition, for example.)

~

Drew Glover (far left) brought a Round-Up ban initiative to the Santa Cruz City Council. The council majority wanted to punt, but then passed a 6-month pilot project that will look at all pesticides used by the city.

Library-Garage Redux?
Stopped in briefly to the Downtown Library Committee’s second to last public meeting last Sunday. Wow! Over a hundred people had been divided up into groups and each group was offering their report-backs to the larger group. What I heard was that virtually no one seemed to want the library paired with the garage, and that several folks said if you have $25 million of public funds for this project why do consultants come back with $30 and $40 million projects? The question of the day: will the city manager and city transportation officials get their garage with a library? Or will they take the garage idea, sever the tie to a library, and go back yet again to the drawing board? This garage concept on the current Farmer’s Market site has been kicked around by city traffic planners for over two decades now. Most of the public present on Sunday seem to believe garages are so 20th century and we need to move into the 21st century. Score one for community organizing! I saw members from the Campaign for Sensible Transportation (CFST), SC4BernieSanta Cruz Climate Action Network, and Don’t Bury the Library all present and accounted for and offering Santa Cruz officials Susan Nemitz,  Martin Bernal, and Jim Burr all they could handle.

Newsworthy

  • Kara Guzman, a former Santa Cruz Sentinel writer is now the Sentinel’s Executive Editor. (Here  http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20171129/NEWS/171129651) This is news! Does the editor of the Sentinel still have the clout in the community it once had? Of course not, but the paper is still alive and kicking, but unfortunately still owned by hedge fund people who are constantly looking to cut and winnow out whatever dough might be left in this hometown newspaper asset. Many of us who still read the Sentinel welcome Kara Guzman and are hoping for greatness.
  • Jake Pierce of the Santa Cruz Good Times gets it pretty right in his recent piece on the forces at work in this city’s housing struggle. Check it out, “Can Santa Cruz Build its Way Out of a Housing Crisis?” Of course, the short answer is, ‘Hell NO!’ But there are forces, usually economic ones (some named in Jake’s article), who will have us believe this and take-down the community with its market-rate supply and demand theories.
  • The best day-to-day working journalist in America, and most hard-working–I’ve run into her in Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and New York City–is hands-down, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now (democracynow.org). But possibly the best show on the air that offers consistently in-depth and insightful critiques of the media is Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone’s weekly show, On the Media. This week’s version is a compendium of Fake News, which rightly puts the President as the lead rumor-monger on the fake news circuit. Listen to it now at: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/otm/
  • I could not believe it, not only is Bill O’Reilly from Long Island (Levittown), but this week’s New York Times Magazine profile candidate, Sean Hannity, “How Far Will Sean Hannity Go?” has him also from L.I. (Franklin Square). Now, full disclosure, my first 18 years were lived in Nassau County not far from these two infamous Fox News strumpets. No, I’m not proud of that, but Amy Goodman also grew up on Long Island (Bay Shore), so go figure.

Bernie Tweet of the Week
“Mr. President, keep your promises. Today, get on the phone. Tell Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell that you will veto any bill that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” (Dec. 3)

~Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, former Santa Cruz City Councilmember (1998-2002) and Mayor (2001-2002). He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 12 years. He was elected last November to another 4-year term on the Santa Cruz City Council.

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