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Which Side Are You On?
Last council meeting of the year brings home little bacon, and no tofu. But a subcommittee to study the Santa Cruz housing crisis some more? That got done.
This would be the year of housing, housing, housing according to Mayor Cynthia Chase. That was back in December of 2016 when the mayoral world was new and immigration raids and a homeless benchlands camps were yet to come. December of 2017 might’ve been thought about in terms of the next comet sighting, a happening event but still far off. Hope, along with Santa Cruz dope, were still wafting freely through borrowed gas-tax repaving projects and declarations that Surf City might be the fourth most expensive planetary housing destination. That was then. Chase again reiterated the pledge in a Good Times interview on Jan. 23rd, “Housing is a big focus this year.” (http://goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-news/qa-cynthia-chase/) Even when faced with a Homeland Security-immigration crisis on Feb. 15th–seems like the Department of Homeland Security had a desk inside the SCPD, and no one knew about it… except the SCPD–she didn’t change direction and make “sanctuary” her main issue. Nope, she doubled-down proclaiming at her “state of the city” address in May, “Our community is struggling with a full-blown crisis that requires rethinking of approach, emphasizing innovation, capitalizing on the growing level of compassion and expertise in our community and we need to come together to define our collective housing condition.” (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20170523/NEWS/170529865) Of course, that statement was made in front of a developer-real estate heavy crowd. A very different crowd than the one that would show up the next month, 400-strong, at the SC Civic Auditorium. The June 24th council meeting was all about housing, housing, housing questions…and the crowd got back the council majority’s collective answer: study, study, study. But alas, it wasn’t until August that the mayor began her “listening tour” and the vaunted “Year of Housing” became a full-throated, the-British-are-coming cry, culminating in a five-month sprint all the way to the end of her mayoral run. That mad dash ended this past week in a few council motions she suggested others make because as mayor she cannot introduce legislation. Her words were spoken forcefully, trying to overcome laryngitis and possibly, shear exhaustion. The finish line was nigh, but the gold (silver? bronze?) simply out of reach. Her main suggestion was to allow a committee of three councilmembers to go off and deliberate on the reams of material collected during her “listening tour” and then come back to the council in March with recommendations. During her marathon listening sprint she met with over 30 different groups to discuss “the crisis,” our brand of Northern Ireland’s “The Troubles,” I guess; five city council study sessions were held; and the mayor seemed to expend every ounce of her being in order to get something going and move the city toward real housing solutions for all. But therein lies the conundrum.
“Which Side Are You On?”
It goes back to the old union song, “Which Side Are You On?” It was written by Florence Reece at the age of 12 and her father, a coal miner, was out on strike during the great “Harlan County War.” It was often performed by Pete Seeger, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XEnTxlBuGo) The real estate interests in Santa Cruz have enough housing. The developer class gots their homes too. Mayor probably should’ve crossed them off the list early. No? The Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, and University Admin-types all have interests in continuing the failed state of a market-driven housing system in this part of the world. It’s not what Santa Cruz needs. Supply and demand can be thrown out in this arena. Mayor Chase’s margin of victory some three years ago came about because “The Progressives,” threw their support behind Bruce Van Allen, Leonie Sherman, and ‘da mayor. She simply forgot (?) who brung her as the political saying goes. She found some new friends at the big dance, I guess.
Our father was a union man some day I’ll be one too.
The bosses fired daddy what’s our family gonna do?
Come all you good workers good news to you
I’ll tell of how the good old union has come in here to dwell.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
The folks who showed up at the civic auditorium last June pretty much covered the gamut of our Santa Cruz lack of affordable housing troubles. I doubt the “listening tour” produced much in the way of new ideas than those gathered at the civic a few days before council went on their customary July vacation. If a subcommittee of the city council and a group of impaneled residents, would’ve rolled up its collective sleeves immediately following June 24th meeting and started then, we might actually now have a plan. Oh, but staff got in the way and I guess suggested a “listening tour,” lengthy report backs, more study sessions, and reasons not to risk too much at this time given the city manager’s $2.7 million current budget deficit. The plan put forward at last week’s city council meeting may well likely culminate in some really good suggestions by next June of 2018, right before the city manager (CM) puts the kaibosh on the whole thing ’cause we now a $3 million hole in the budget’ as a result of past police and fire pension agreements. We just can’t take on any more stuff that costs money right now will be the CM’s mantra. But folks, the real harm in forming this council subcommittee is that it’s leaving out the public. I suggested expanding the committee. Give each councilmember two appointments and unleash the intelligence and creativity that overflows in this town. So many smart people here have a singular passion: real affordable housing. And they know a lot more, and have a lot more time, than any current member of the city council. I can honestly say there isn’t any member of the current council given his or her other committee assignments, council meeting dates, and outside jobs who can offer but a modicum of time, and that’s just not good enough given what’s at stake. So, look for certain city staff to try and lead the subcommittee towards a kind of bureaucratic promised land when final recommendations come back to council.
Santa Cruz Has a New Mayor
David Terrazas was sworn in as the 94th mayor of the city of Santa Cruz last week. (https://www.santacruzpl.org/history/articles/340/) He began his mayoral reign on the evening of December 6th. Formerly, vice-mayor Terrazas literally changed hats all in one motion as Mayor Cynthia Chase was absent due to a nasty cold. During his new mayor remarks, he spoke of “a deep love of Santa Cruz,” and proudly stated he is the grandson of immigrants, and that his wife Monica is also an immigrant from El Salvador. David’s remarks were as circumspect as they were emotionally charged. There is “a crisis in mental health…there is crime on our streets…public misery and disorder…” Terrazas itemized his public safety concerns first. He wants to “improve the Riverwalk,” and “keep open spaces healthy and family-friendly.” I think I supported him when he said, “we need to find out who the homeless are and what they need to get off the street.” Amen brother. He said he had three priorities: 1) community safety, 2) support for city core services including support for youth programs, and 3) “cleanliness of downtown.” He also said, “I support getting back to basics.” There was not much in the way of specifics, but it was offered up before more than 80 David-supporters present with gobs of passion, multiple smiles, all the while exuding a sense of determination and forthrightness. I think too he wanted to be candid, but he held himself back, perhaps for another day and time.
Gavin Newsom, Candidate for Governor, Comes to the Cruz Looking for Support
In my life-time, no elected governor has ever run a campaign on universal healthcare, support for sanctuary cities (and state!), or addressing the needs of our state’s most vulnerable population, the homeless. Gavin Newsom says he is running on all these issues. He also seems to be proud to run on these intractable matters. They are arguably the state’s most pressing and persistent ones. Newsom was in town this past Saturday bringing his upbeat, unabashed, some might say oil slick brand of liberalism to Surf City. In his hour-long presentation before a crowd of well over 100, mostly Dem party loyalists at the Police Community room on Center Street, Newsom offered his stump speech, and he even acknowledged it at one point, thanking the audience for asking tough questions on homelessness, creating a state bank, releasing Prop. 51 funds, housing more UC students on campus, and the one he received the most applause on, universal-single payer-medicare for all healthcare. I came away impressed and wondering if as the front runner–LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California State Treasurer John Chiang, and former California Public Schools Superintendent Delaine Easton are all running–he will tack towards the center as he visits the rest of a state that is not Santa Cruz or San Francisco. He appeared quite comfortable here in the city of the Holy Cross. Villaraigosa will be in Santa Cruz on Wed. Dec. 13th at Fred Keeley’s house.
Bernie Tweet of the Week
“The Democratic Party will not become a vibrant and successful 50 state party until it opens its doors widely to the working people and young people of our country. I am extremely pleased that the Unity Reform Commission has begun that process.” (Dec. 9)
Picture of the Week
New Sheriff in Town
Santa Cruz Mayor, David Terrazas being sworn in by Superior Court Judge, Paul Marigonda in the Santa Cruz City Council Chambers at 809 Center Street.