Majority Report April 9-15, 2019

Santa Cruz City Council Strategic Planning? Not Yet

The new council is entering its fifth month and still no Strategic Plan in site. It has been a “Waiting for Godot” chess match with the current city manager, Martin Bernal, when and if a council strategic planning session will be held. This council-manager form of government can be tricky. I believe the city council wants to go forward with this session asap, but the city manager needs to be in the room too. The city council hires and fires the city manager and city attorney, but the city manager hires and fires the rest of the 800-plus city work force. The absence of a strategic planning session is not because there is a lack of will on the part of councilmembers. I believe we want to craft a two-year plan now and we are already a half year behind. The traditional “Two-year Strategic Plan” is now looking like a 1.5-year project instead. The clock is ticking and the “other side” knows it. The previous city council’s two-year-old plan is over. The Corridors Plan, Wharf Master Plan, Library-in-a-Garage plan and homeless services non-plan are all either on hold or on life-support. When will a new two-year strategic plan be implemented? The community must be heard from.

New Council, New Plan?

A group of Santa Cruz activists, homeowners, renters, volunteers, and students have now met three times since last November’s election in order to come up with a community strategic plan, or perhaps a People’s Plan. More than 60 people have attended these people’s planning meetings, and a broad range of topics have been discussed including council communication, the Brown Act, rent control, raising the minimum wage, separating the library from the garage, a permanent site for the downtown Farmer’s Market coupled with a community town commons, halting USCS student growth, implementing effective police review, and how to best address our homeless and houseless crisis. Topics also included are how to best spend the gas tax money to support alternative transportation, formation of a people’s budget committee, and how best to allocate parking fund revenue in the pursuit of affordable housing. A single issue keeps coming up again and again: if Santa Cruz has a “15% inclusionary” to create more affordable housing, then why aren’t we raising more concerns about the “85% unaffordable housing” that is currently being proposed?

A People’s Strategic Plan

What’s possible over the next year and six months? This Community-Council group met three times for a total of 9 hours. Here is a brief summary of issues which might be a part of a city council Two-year Strategic Plan:

  • Separating the Library-in-a-Garage Concept
    • creating a “town commons-plaza” and permanent farmer’s market space if that is where constituents want to go
    • remodeling the current library (pretty big constituency for this, far larger than city manager-staff constituency)
  • Homeless Shelter—city put a bid in on Seaborg property next to the current Homeless Services Center…how to get this up and running once escrow period is over?
  • Housing and Rent StablizationTask Force—how do we light a fire and get people moving on this…David Ceppos is the consultant from the Sacramento-based Center for Collaborative Policy (CCP) who interviewed the entire council and now will choose 20 community members to interview to determine make-up of task force.
  • Climate and Bio-Diversity Commission—begin with a city council subcommittee and work with current Climate Action Taskforce coordinator, Tiffany Wise-West.

Other honorable mentions

There are so many good ideas out there in our community. At some point, we will have to decide what does a one-year, two-year, three-year, and four-year strategic plan look like. Then, a tentative calendar for moving agenda items forward from the community onto the city council agenda needs to be formed and out of this process it could be determined which issues might be placed before voters. The following is a list of issues under discussion by the Community-Council group, ones that could also go onto the city council Two-Year Strategic Plan agenda if that meeting ever occurs. If not, the community will continue to carry on with its own strategic planning.

  • Form a Human Rights Commission and a Youth Commission
  • Buy the Beach Flats Garden
  • Reform the Rental Inspection Ordinance to favor tenants and keep safe but unpermitted properties in the housing pipeline
  • Institute a police review board (“Cop Watch”)
  • Pass a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance
  • Pass a “public banking” ordinance
  • Write a General Plan amendment restoring urban-rural transition to Golf Club Drive area
  • Build a minimum of 200 units of affordable housing on parcels that the city currently owns. These include the NYAC building (between bus station and old Tampicos) and the former thrift store site on Front Street. The city should be receiving some $8.4 million coming into its coffers from the recent sale of the Sky Park property in Scotts Valley.

Bernie’s Tweet of the Week

“How do we have trillions of dollars to spend on endless wars, but we don’t have the money for education and health care? How do we have money for tax breaks for billionaires, but not to feed hungry children? Together we are going to change those priorities.” (April 1)

Majority Report April 2-8, 2019

“A Taking?”
I missed last week’s city council meeting, but I am including the Cliff Notes version summary here. In “closed” then “open” session the city council voted to acquire by eminent domain part of the property where Central Home Supply now has its business. The idea is to widen the Highway 1 and 9 intersection, which is arguably one of the most chaotic in Santa Cruz. City Council adopted a resolution that made the finding “that public necessity requires the acquisition by eminent domain of the real property…” owned by the Santee family at 744 River Street and 708 River Street. I am not sure I would’ve voted to acquire by eminent domain this property, for two reasons: 1) I do not believe we need more asphalt at that intersection, and 2) it is a very significant action on the part of government, any government, to force a property owner to sell against their will. There must be a clear “public benefit.” Perhaps legally, the case for a “public benefit” can be made, but for me Central Home Supply is business Santa Cruz needs and benefits from and this forced property sale may very well cause them to leave town. They have another similar business in Scotts Valley, but…it’s in Scotts Valley.

Damn Cell Towers, Boxes, Small Devices, Conduits, and Polls
Verizon Wireless finally got their encroachment permit “for the installation and maintenance of underground conduits, vaults, at grade cabinets and wireless canister antennas mounted on utility pole at 117 Morrissey Blvd. within the City’s right-of-way.” This permit was turned down twice before by the city council, but a letter was recently received by the council from a Verizon suit threatening legal action. And, like most city councils around the state, we rolled over with the threat of costly litigation being the dagger hanging perilously over the head of our local government. At least Councilmember Sandy Brown stuck in a “friendly amendment” “regarding efforts by cities to modify regulations to make it difficult for Verizon and other telecom companies to install cell towers. ” Go Sandy!

Health-in-All?
Just the facts ‘mam…From the minutes of March 26th meeting: “Councilmember Mathews moved, seconded by Mayor Watkins, to approve the Health in All Policies Work Plan and $20,000 budget for consultants and materials.” Just sayin’! As Deep Throatadvised Bob Woodward back in the summer of 1974: follow the money.

Lot 24
The evening meeting saw many dozens of neighbors fill council chambers to say NO to the use of the staff inspired Lot 24 for a homeless transitional camp. It is a parking lot near the end of Chestnut Street adjacent to Depot Park. I believe the council heard neighbors loud and clear. Personally, I am not sure I would’ve voted for it (and certainly NOT the other staff suggestion of putting an encampment in the Jessie Street Marsh!?! Not sure what the thought was there.) How about this as a tentative plan: 1) clean up Ross Camp using state money (part of the $10 million that came to Santa Cruz to address homelessness), 2) have a non-profit group come in and manage the camp, 3) hire social workers to perform a needs census, 4) open 1220 River Street campsite and find out who would move over to that camp, and at the same time keep a managed Ross Camp open with a reduced number of tent sites. What if we disbanded the Ross Camp immediately as some of my council colleagues wish to do (it’s also on the April 9th agenda)? Campers will move back to the site alongside Holy Cross, to the Pogonip, to DeLaveaga Park, and to other neighborhoods that have since seen their campers move to the Ross site. This item segue-ways into this week’s agenda…

This Week on the City Council
Item #7 SB 1 Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, FY 2019-20. Senate Bill 1 was the 12-cents per gallon gas tax that passed in 2016 and had to be re-passed in 2018. Santa Cruz receives between $1-2 million per year from this tax. The council was sent a list of Public Works projects. It was their list and not the city council’s list. I have been asking for a while for a comprehensive list of what SB 1 funds can be used for. I have not yet received that list. I will ask again.

Item #10 (UBER) Jump Bike Contract Amendment #2.
These bright red bikes seem to be everywhere. People are using them. Is this program the unmitigated grand slam hit and sexy alternative to the gasoline engine vehicle that some are saying? We would like to think so; myself included, but like a certain policy pop culture buzzy-fuzzy word suggests, are these Jump Bikes feelings data driven? What are the numbers…of users, injuries, bikes left in the right-of-way, satisfied customers, where people are leaving bikes, i.e. most popular places to ride to…we want to see all of it? City Council needs to look at the data before approving any more contract amendments, electric outlets, or dedications of more SC public real estate to this endeavor. Many questions concerning this program need answers. Please, show the city council and the community the numbers.

Item #14 City of Santa Cruz Commitment for Civility Proclamation.
Sure, as long as it does not interfere with people’s First Amendment rights. I urge everyone to listen to this NPR piece “Charlottesville Debates Civility.

It’s about the Charlottesville, Va. city council. Seems that two African Americans were elected after a white supremacist killed activist Heather Hyer with his car in 2017 in a tragic political (madman) act. The radio piece concerns establishment politicians railing against the “incivility” of the new councilmembers.

Item # 15 Homelessness and the Gateway Encampment.
(see “Lot 24” above.)

P.S. I believe this item will allow members of the community who brought forward issues about possible location of homeless-houseless transitional encampments to see that their voices were heard by the city council. They perhaps changed the course of history in their neighborhood(s). It is a good feeling when as a member of the public you try and fight city hall and you end up feeling like someone in local government listened.

Item #1 City Council Work Plan and Strategic Planning. 
As I mentioned last week, this council is coming up on five months being in office and still no “strategic” plan for the next couple of years. So, council will have the opportunity to plan to have a planning meeting. This agenda item is only to schedule a “strategic” planning session. Contact city councilmembers and let them know what they should be planning for…Affordable housing? An emergency homeless shelter and day-use facility? Enacting mitigations to climate change? A permanent home for the Farmer’s Market? A new downtown library which might crown a real civic plaza at Church and Center Streets? A city-wide composting program? A Human Rights Commission? Buying the Beach Flats Community Garden? Let the city council know what you would like to see…this is your government.

“The DCCC’s new rule to blacklist + boycott anyone who does business w/ primary challengers is extremely divisive & harmful to the party. My recommendation, if you’re a small-dollar donor: pause your donations to DCCC & give directly to swing candidates instead.”(March 30). (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee =DCCC)

Majority Report March 25, 2019

BrattonNote… instead of running Chris Krohn’s weekly Majority Report I asked him if we could re-“print” a letter that originally ran in the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s editorial page. He agreed. This letter is signed by some of the most active women in our community and gives a very deserving and needed approach all the recent fuss and furor over Mayor Watkins and the agenda choice.

“We respectfully disagree with a recent opinion piece regarding Santa Cruz City Council decorum. As women who have worked most of our lives, we are very sympathetic to the challenges women face in a sexist culture. As women, however, we are not exempt from the standards we enforce. We need to stay mindful of our responsibility to accuracy, inclusion and public process.

The Santa Cruz mayor and city council are no exception. We have a well-educated, firm woman serving as mayor at present, Martine Watkins. We are fortunate that our City Council, including all of the three men: Drew Glover, Chris Krohn and Justin Cummings, are unusually supportive of and sympathetic to women, as well as to people of other oppressed genders living in our sexist culture. We are aware of the personal journeys each has taken to be effective in that struggle. That is why we are saddened by the mayor’s actions this past month. On Feb. 5, Mayor Watkins declined to agendize items that council members Glover, Krohn and Brown had prepared together and forwarded to her several days before the regularly scheduled “agenda review” session. She did not communicate with her colleagues personally to discuss her decision. The item addressed the topic of how to help move levee encampment residents, an urgent problem. The decision was the mayor’s to make and her responsibility. Declining her colleagues’ request, however, was unnecessary. None of us supports using the role of meeting facilitator as a means to prevent colleagues from bringing forward new ideas. Especially when three elected colleagues, the most allowable under public meeting laws, endorse the ideas.

On Feb. 8, as part of an article on homelessness, Councilman Glover wrote about his feelings of being sidelined in this way, ending his article with the following: “I can understand what the mayor may be trying to do and I think she is a good person, but needless to say, I am disappointed,” communicating sadness mixed with conciliation. Unfortunately, Mayor Watkins responded by delivering a now-infamous, public tongue lashing from her seat at the center of the dais on Feb. 12, taking her colleagues and the large public audience by surprise, and giving the objects of her accusations no details and no opportunity to respond. Sexism is a serious problem in our culture, but using unsubstantiated attacks to tar your colleagues does nothing to improve the situation at best and at worst, weakens the entire movement to dismantle sexism.

We are disappointed with Mayor Watkins and her supporters. Mayors serve as facilitators, and hopefully leaders, of the council. Mayor Watkins received the support of Krohn and Glover. The ad hominem attack included a group opinion piece alluding to nonspecific sexism and poor decorum attributed to members Krohn and Glover. Choosing sides, as the opinion-piece promotes, feeds the flames of division on the council and promotes the very divisiveness that the women who signed the opinion piece objected to. The comments seem a frustration that the centrist leadership has shifted and she is now serving on a council with a more progressive council majority. The resulting attack to the integrity of councilmembers Glover and Krohn seem exactly the personal attacks that the mayor discourages at council meeting public comment.

We are confident that the mayor and all council members have the capability to resolve any misunderstandings and differences for the good of the community on their own time. We also hope that all council members maintain the ability to address issues with each other in person rather than from the dais. We wish Martine Watkins, Chris Krohn and Drew Glover success in their leadership roles. This is a dynamic time for the city of Santa Cruz with a high-level community engagement which many communities would envy.

Signed by, Mathilde Rand, Randa Solick, Susan Martinez, Ernestina Saldana, Denise Elerick, Alesa Byers, Sara Ringler, Barbara Riverwoman, Abbi Samuels, Isabelle Scott, and Kaitlin Gaffney. (Previously published in the editorial section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.)

Majority Report Nov. 29, 2018 – Election Aftermath

Take 1: WHAT AN ELECTION! 

It was a consequential campaign. From the very start back in February, many long-time observers of the Santa Cruz City Council were aware that the 2018 election might be a memorable one. With the state of national affairs what they were–Trumpism, Kavanaugh, and McConnell, (oh my!)–many locals who wished for better outcomes were ready to invest time and energy into local politics. After all, a severe housing crisis was helping fuel an even more severe homeless crisis and not getting involved was not an option.

Take 2: It Was an Issues Election

Although Measure M, which called for rent control, was a ballot initiative for the ages–providing iron-clad support for tenants, first–the Santa Cruz city council majority was also at stake. The council was experiencing a five-member, 12-year market-rate development-first ethos. It was a well-oiled vice grip manufactured by those with great means, and it resulted in that majority often turning a deaf ear to various segments of our community. Whether it was the hundreds who came out to council meetings in 2015 to protest the acquisition by the police of a Lenco BearCat Tank offered by the Department of Homeland Security, or protesters who railed against the non-acquisition of the Beach Flats Community Garden, there was a stark portrayal that things were not well in Surf City. Then, the community pushback on two projects at either end of Pacific Avenue comprising over 150 condos with little affordability seemed to go almost unnoticed by the developer class. (And now along comes Devcon’s 206-market rate apartment complex…stay tuned.) Earlier (2016) a former church site property, zoned for multi-family housing, was transformed into a play palace for the well-heeled traveler, now known as the Broadway Hyatt.

The Majority vs. the Neighbors

The current city council majority had also registered yays in the face of Westside neighborhood opposition in order to place a garish hotel on Mission near Swift Street without implementing any neighborhood suggestions; a cell tower on Meder Street was approved in the face of 20 neighbors present in council chambers; and Jump Bike racks were put in places they simply should not be. Combine that with an Eastside uprising over all the council yes votes for market rate housing along the “corridors,” which produced few affordable units and set the stage for a robust and rigorous council campaign of issues over platitudes and hoped for leadership over policy rubber stamping. The campaign was informative and heated. It was about “housing, housing, housing.” Rent control was the obvious wedge issue, but the library-at-the-bottom-of-a-five-story-garage-on-top-of-the-Farmer’s Market was also center-stage. A 25% inclusionary ordinance to help yield more affordable rentals was suggested as was offering tenants priority over the university-inspired rental inspection ordinance.

The Denouement Aftermath

The votes are due to be certified on Dec. 6th. It appears that only the “provisional” ballots, some 6000 countywide, are yet to be counted. The National Conference of State Legislators defines a provisional ballot in the following way, “Provisional ballots ensure that voters are not excluded from the voting process due to an administrative error. They provide a fail-safe mechanism for voters who arrive at the polls on Election Day and whose eligibility to vote is uncertain.” (http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/provisional-ballots.aspx)

 

Drew Glover

Drew Glover

Justin Cummings

Justin Cummings

 

The current SC city council “winners” appear to be Justin Cummings, Donna Meyers, and Drew Glover should the current trend of voting returns continue until 12/6. The Good Times last week said that this candidate formation would likely hold. The Santa Cruz Sentinel also seemed to suggest the same this past Monday morning and three new faces would indeed appear soon at city hall. But ultimately it is the County Clerk, Gail Pellerin who will issue a final ballot summary and report. The Santa Cruz City Council will likely rubber stamp that count at its Dec. 11th meeting and then it will become real and a key historical moment all in the same time. As I said here last week, the people who supported Justin, Drew, and Measure M worked hard, overcame the moneyed interests, and should be proud of their work no matter the outcome, although cleaning up yard signs, paying off any last-minute loans, and cleaning up the campaign office is much easier when you win. Soon, it will be on to the process of healing some of our community’s open political wounds. I look forward to participating with the next city council in that process.

City Council Agenda-packing

The city council agenda this week, and Dec. 11th, appear to be a developer-dream team wish list. Perhaps those free housing-marketeers are beginning to sweat with a new council coming soon, so let’s place whatever we can on the council agenda before January comes around. We’ve got Accessory Dwelling Units BIG ordinance changes; a SIX-year permits extension for the 32-condo project at 1800 Soquel Ave; a fake 15.5% (over two years) “rent control” ordinance; and the further evisceration of the 1980 Measure O ballot initiative, which mandated 15% of all housing development be “affordable.”

 

Happy Birthday Isabel!

My daughter Isabel was born 18 years ago this week and watching her grow and change, and change again has been one of the true joys of my life.

Drew Glover

Majority Report November 24, 2018

Vote-Counting Continues at 701 Ocean Street

There is relative quiet for now in Room 310, the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s office and official place of ballot counting. Unlike Florida’s Broward County’s embattled clerk, our clerk Gail Pellerin, is calm, efficient, on-task, and appears determined to get this vote count right even if her staff has to work 11 and 12-hour days. I’ve made repeated visits this past week to Room 310, including Sunday, and early this morning, Monday. They are just wrapping up the “vote by mail” count and will soon begin opening the first-ever general election CVR’s, or “conditional voting registration” counting. This last category was created by the California state legislature to extend voting opportunities right through the 8pm hour of poll closures on Nov. 6th. It was done so that as many California voters who wished to vote could indeed cast a ballot. Over 2000 “same day voters” did indeed take the legislature up on their latest drive to elicit input into the political system, and according to one county clerk employee, Santa Cruz ranked Sixth among the state’s 58 counties where same day registration took place. Los Angeles, being the largest county, is tops, but percentage-wise, Santa Cruz county may be the largest same day voting participant. Counting the same day ballots, as well as the 50% of vote by mails that come in during the last days of the campaign, is the reason why it takes weeks to come up with a final tally.

Growing Movement

I am proud of the hundreds who participated in the Justin Cummings, Drew Glover, Yes on M and Yes on Prop. 10 campaigns. It was a team effort. Win or lose I must say that the blood, sweat, and tears that began last February–gathering over 10,000 petition signatures–and continuing up until the polls closed at 8p on election day was nothing short of Herculean. The engagement, debate, meeting stamina, and walking endurance places many of you in the civic-activist hall of fame. When over 100 show up on a sunny Sunday to knock on doors…well, that’s the kind of community I want to live in. When the votes are certified on December 6th by our County Clerk, all of you who participated in gathering signatures, walking and talking, and working on the amazing get out the vote effort that took place in the final frenetic days of the election have little to regret. When some volunteers could not show up, others did. When Lower Ocean was covered, volunteers would head over to Seabright or South of Laurel or up to campus. People were committed and flexible. Many moving parts yielded many moving people, cars, bikes, skateboards, and feet. Wow, is it really over? Who among us has not woken up recently wondering what neighborhood you would cover that day? Or wondered what happened to all those yard signs we put up? Did anyone dream of forgetting to vote and wake up in a cold sweat of at first regret, and then relief that the election is actually over? Onward to victory!

Next UCSC Chancellor?

I was kind of blown away when I arrived at the UCSC campus’ Tierra Fresca restaurant last Friday. I thought I was coming to sit with a group of campus insiders to discuss what criteria might be used in selecting the next Chancellor. I passed several armed police before descending the stairway to an eatery that sits right above the College 9 and 10 student dining hall. I breezed into the room and casually passed a woman whose head was buried into her podium notes. As I strode past she looked up. It was former Homeland Security chief, former Arizona governor, and current UC President Janet Napolitano. I introduced myself, welcomed her to Santa Cruz, snapped a selfie and headed for table 8, which was already bedecked with plates of salmon sitting atop top an arugula salad. Clearly, this was not going to be provincial affair. We were immediately welcomed by Janet and asked to discuss two questions:

1) What qualities would you want in the next Chancellor of UCSC? (Napolitano’s question) (btw, George Blumenthal is retiring)

2) If we (the table, there were 9 tables of 6-8 participants each) were getting together in five years, how would you measure the success of the choice that was made? (consultant’s question)

We were then told to get to work in our table groups and assign someone to report back out to the entire nine tables what the group discussed. It was 12:10p, we had until 1p to chat. This all had to end by 1:30p.

Political and Local Glitterati

It was a conversation that included County Supe John Leopold, state resources chief John Laird, Assemblymember Mark Stone, County Supe Bruce McPherson, SC city councilmember Cynthia Chase, former mayor Don Lane, and many others with great amounts of city and county experience. I noticed no current students were present and I would hope a separate set of these meetings could be arranged to hear their input…Here are my notes, which I presented to the larger group. Seems to me they pretty much sum up what other tables discussed and presented as well. At my table were McPherson, Chamber of Commerce exec. Casey Byers, former Asssemblymember and current UC Regent Charlene Zettel (first Republican Latina in state Assembly), search firm consultant David Bellshaw, and Donna Mekis former Pres. of UCSC alumni Council. It was a healthy, albeit polite discussion in which I tried to hammer home the messages I’ve received from the SC electorate and my experience from my day job on campus: 1) there’s some pretty ugly labor conditions on campus that have been going unaddressed, 2) UCSC students are at the root of housing crisis in town, 3) respect and stewardship for a healthy and thriving natural environment on-campus and off-campus is essential for the next chancellor to grasp, 4) the city council and UCSC have a long and inextricable bond and must figure out how to live together, and 5) campus growth affects almost every aspect of local government.

The Criteria Discussed in Selecting Next Chancellor

—Build a strong campus-community, which means engaging in a city-county-UCSC dialogue;

—Next Chancellor should be aware that they are coming into a heated atmosphere around the issue of campus growth and have something to add to the discussion;

—This person should expect a certain culture of intimacy, and with that a culture that speaks up. In other words, guarded and thin-skinned chancellors need not apply!

—Must possess a commitment (and track record?) to first generation students;

—The perfect candidate should have a handle on the tech community and be willing to conduct outreach;

—Next Chancellor should be someone who embraces the natural environment and understands how important that is to the UCSC and city community;

—He or she should possess experience with labor relations and negotiating with unions;

—We need someone who is “transparent” and “authentic,” meaning if the chancellor and faculty have a different viewpoint the faculty knows that the chancellor is being transparent and authentic with them and trust can be built that way;

—Housing, housing, housing…we are in a community-wide housing crisis and the next Chancellor’s skillset ought to reflect some experience elsewhere in this regard;

—She or he must be “fundraiser-in-chief;”

—Chancellor candidate has to be experienced in dialogue with students…be “culturally competent” as well;

—The Next head of this university has to be willing to live on campus (the outgoing Chancellor did not live in Santa Cruz);

—There is a culture here that is sober, serious and questioning…it is perhaps characterized by the idea that “we are going to change the world,” and the ultimate candidate must embrace, or at least understand this concept;

—Lots of people in Santa Cruz county go over the hill each day–33,000–the next Chancellor must be a leader on-campus, off-campus, and be willing to meet with the business community.


Bernie Sanders Bernie Tweet of the Week

“If we transition to a renewable energy system, as we must, we can save money and create millions of jobs while leaving our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.” (Nov. 19)

Rent Control Epitaph or Beginning of a Movement?

Measure M: Our ‘Network’ Moment?

The 2018 election is now over. The counting continues. How much were voters paying attention? Was this one of those once every 20-year major community skirmishes? Nineteen eighty-one was one, and 1998 was another. These were perhaps two other historical election-year markers in which the electorate sought out real change. You know it’s happening when local politics begins to leak into casual fall conversations about the World Series, or how the beginning of the UCSC school year brings smiling students and mega traffic back to the Westside. People found themselves this fall asking casual strangers, ‘So, what do you think about this rent control thing?’ Could this year’s election be a voter ‘aha’ moment? Many are on edge about the cost of housing and the inability to find solutions to homelessness as well. Could this be a Peter Finch moment we are living in?

Network

Remember, that old, and a bit odd, 1976 drama, Network, where Finch played a Walter Cronkite-type news anchor who at a certain moment instructs his audience to open their windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any longer.” Well, I hear what’s coming out of Santa Cruz windows and it’s something like, ‘I’m mad as hell and I just can’t pay this kind of rent any longer.’ Unlike what ensued in the fictional movie Network, real people in Santa Cruz came together this past winter and wore out their flip-flops and running shoes pounding the pavement to gather signatures, over 10,000 in only 87 days! Measure M is the result. Hundreds entered the political fray, some for the first time, to qualify this initiative. Never before had so many signatures been gathered so quickly in the city of Santa Cruz. But are these activists ready for the mad dash towards the November 6th finish line? Measure M got some major pushback from landlords, real estate developers, and outside corporate interests to the tune of $1 million. A local group, Santa Cruz Together opposed M, and combined with this outsider money they had a corporate war chest. It was an epic local battle. Tons of outsider Goliath money far exceeding the Movement for Housing Justice’s meager $50,000 effort. Who will prevail? Big money or big heart? There are still thousands of votes to count from the city of Santa Cruz, but we should know something this week. Stay tuned because this revolution will likely also not be televised.

An Every 20-year Revolution?

Could this all be a local form of Thomas Jefferson’s revolutions cycle? “God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion…” This Santa Cruz “rebellion” was sparked by a whirlwind of national and international events, but a simpler truth is that rent is too damn high. We may live in a Santa Cruz bubble, but it is a bubble of our own making. History tells us that when hundreds participate in a local movement and gather over 10,000 signatures in the process, something in our community is awry and change is likely close at hand.

A Movement?

Many UCSC grads and undergrads were accepted to go here, but were never told much about the depth of this community’s housing crisis. Immigrants living and laboring in Santa Cruz for the past two decades, making what many of us would consider middle-class incomes, have suddenly seen their rents rise 30-50%, while their wages remain stagnant. Locals who grew up here surfing, hiking, and loving the hell out of this place have found themselves all at once displaced as their parents sold during “a hot market,” while other parents were renters and wanted to retire, but can’t because if they keep working they can stay near their children. Santa Cruzans are “mad as hell” and Measure M is but one way of saying, ‘We not going to take it any longer.’ A whole new generation is becoming politically active. A movement? Maybe, but Measure M will be but one political and social barometer if any movement is to take off here in Surf City.