Four WOW Issues that Passed a Usually Divided City Council
A Tutorial on What Can Be Done in the Minority
February was a dry month for water, but a downpour happened on the policy front. If city council actions in February were measured meteorologically, it might be called one of the wettest legislative months on record. With a slightly center-right leaning mayor, David Terrazas, presiding over a politically fractured city council, no less than four significant policy issues were passed by the Santa Cruz City Council this past February.
While relatively recent councils have voted to accept a BearCat tank from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, refused to purchase land for a permanent Beach Flats Garden, would not allow for a vehicle parking area for destitute residents, and for decades city councils have repeatedly turned down safe sleeping zones for homeless residents, these current council decisions might appear out of a Cuban play book. This is not to mention that the city manager’s office has reported that Santa Cruz spends upwards to between $18 million-$20 million on combating homelessness and substance addiction issues through its police, fire, and parks and recreation departments. Given that backdrop, the Santa Cruz city council approved a dizzying array of former politically left issues: funding for a homeless camp site at 1220 River Street; voting to place a measure on the June ballot calling on the university to limit its enrollment to 19,500, which is the currently agreed upon number from the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP); and a first-ever rent freeze was enacted on February 13th, along with a just-cause eviction ordinance.
Given Surf City’s progressive history versus the current “moderate” council majority, one might assume that this group of councilmembers took a leap leftward. Probably not. More likely, former left-ish causes have become mainstream issues. It makes sense to set up a place for homeless people to sleep, to tell the university enough is enough, and to protect renters given that well over half of our residents rent.
Left vs. the Mainstream
Nationally, left issues like universal college tuition and healthcare for all have been moving steadily towards the center of American politics. Partly a result of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, but also because so many Americans struggle to pay the always increasing health insurance costs, and student debt-servicing. Some day we will figure out how much creativity and job motivation is lost by people not changing jobs they no longer like, or grew out of long ago, simply because they do not want to lose their healthcare. Ditto with college loan payments. Graduates cannot take on a post-college internship for further career experience, but instead move into barista or restaurant jobs to pay off their loans. In the past, many young people could leave college with enthusiasm and an adventurous mindset perhaps, but now they are saddled with anxiety and find few opportunities that will pay their living expenses and debt-service payments.
The Ugly Underbelly of Rent Control Rumormongers
The rich are attempting to eat the less-rich. If you are a landlord you have received no fewer than five offers in the past two weeks to sell your property. One from Scott Webber and Aimee Dietle from Century 21 states that they “work with 3 separate investor clients that pay cash, fair market price and close escrow in 17 days.” Scott and Aimee don’t seem to get it. Seems to me the city council took an extreme action on February 13th, called for by many in this community, to pass a rent freeze and contain this disease called rent madness. Now, some realtors seem to be saying it’s a tough climate, so sell us your property, at presumably a bargain, because rent control is coming. “All 3 are seasoned property investors and would gladly assume the current tenant lease contracts you currently have.” Who are these people? Are they betting that the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act will not pass statewide, and that rent control goes down at the ballot box in Santa Cruz in November? “If you have any interest in discussing what your property is worth,” these realtors invite you to “please call or email us at your convenience.” (831-818-2817) Renters, it is darkest before the dawn and the vultures are indeed circling. The community must circle too around our collective survival and right to housing. The Movement for Housing Justice can be reached at: https://movementforhousingjustice.org/
Bernie Tweet of the Week
“I’ve never believed in this blue-state, red-state nonsense. Yes, Lubbock voted overwhelmingly for Trump. But any county in this country, which has people who are struggling, can and must become a progressive county.” (March 10)