Santa Cruz City Council Election Guide
There is never a dull moment in Santa Cruz politics, which revolve around the City Council. Every other week the council chambers become a place for discussion, disagreement, and sometimes entertainment. From protests to marathon meetings that can sometimes last more than 8 hours, one thing is for sure, it takes some thick skin to serve as a council member. And there is no shortage of issues, both contentious and mundane to keep them busy. In just the past 3 years we have seen major discussions take place about water, public safety, housing, homelessness and economic development. There have been numerous major developments and approvals, including the La Bahia Project, the Hyatt Hotel, the Wharf Master Plan and bringing the Santa Cruz Warriors to town. Currently the city is also engaged in a large, public discussion about water through the citizen appointed Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC). Given the importance of these decisions, it’s no surprise that a crowded field of candidates is facing off in a fiercely contested race for the 3 open seats.
Outgoing Mayor Lynn Robinson has reached her term limit, and previous Mayor Hilary Bryant has decided not to run, leaving David Terrazas as the sole incumbent seeking reelection. During his tenure David often sided with the economic development majority of the council, including voting in favor of both the Hyatt and La Bahia Hotel projects, as well as the Warriors Arena. He was also a strong proponent of increased public safety measures following the City’s Public Safety Task Force, which included the initial funding for the Downtown Accountability Program (DAP). He also championed the beginning of the RFP process for implementation of a Parks Master Plan, which hasn’t been conducted in over 30 years. David has said that he supports the work of the WSAC, and is waiting on their recommendations to move forward on water. A vote for David would largely be an endorsement of the current economic focus of the council.
Cynthia Chase is the current director of Gemma, a local non-profit that helps to transition those who were previously incarcerated. She has been endorsed by a wide array of community leaders from both the business minded and progressive environmental sides of the spectrum, a rarity in Santa Cruz. However, it is unclear where she stands on key issues like water, as she has been endorsed by Desal Alternatives, but has also stated that she may support desal is there are no other viable options. She does support the cost mitigation approach to addressing public safety and homelessness issues, in use in the Downtown Accountability Program and the 180/180 homeless housing program. She is also likely to support continuing the economic focused legacy of the current council.
Leonie Sherman is a local self-defense instructor and journalist who would serve as an additional progressive voice on council if elected. She is strongly against the development of a desal plant for environmental reasons, and has been endorsed by Desal Alternatives. She has been one of the most vocal candidates about the need for more affordable housing, expressing support for easing the rules on accessory dwelling units, higher density zoning and greater regulation of vacation rentals. She is also the only candidate to come out against the Rental Inspection Ordinance. She also has the most outspoken stance on the downtown street performer regulations, being whole-heartedly against them, stating that they are the reason why many tourists come to Santa Cruz. A vote for Leonie is a vote for a greater progressive focus than the current council.
Richelle Noroyan is a long time politico with extensive experience working in the State Assembly and local Democratic party. She also has a background in technology, having worked for Apple and the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). If elected, Richelle’s core focus would be on local economic development through a combination of promoting local entrepreneurs, broadband expansion and revitalizing the Ocean Street corridor. In terms of public safety she favors the cost mitigation application of services, currently being utilized in the Downtown Accountability Program. A vote for Richelle would likely maintain the existing direction of the council that is focused on the local economy.
Bruce Van Allen has previously served on the council, and as mayor back in 1982. Since then he has served as a strategic advisor and campaign manager for Bill Monning during his tenure in the State Assembly and now Senate. Bruce has also remained politically active in his own right, serving as the Co-Chair of Desal Alternatives, the group that successfully campaigned for passage of Measure P, the right to vote on desal. Bruce’s core focus is to preserve the environment and push for greater social justice. He is less inclined to favor economic development for the sole purpose of job growth, especially in regards to minimum wage jobs, which he does not think are sustainable. A vote for Bruce would be a progressive vote complimentary with many of the policies implemented in Santa Cruz over the past 30 years.
Craig Bush is the most unique of the candidates running for council, having publicly stated that the police department takes up too much of the city budget and that people experiencing homeless are a result of depressed wages. He is also vocally against a desalination facility. In many of his public appearances he rails against larger institutional problems like economic and social inequality, but many of his policy stances on local issues are unclear. He is the only candidate without a functioning website.