Making a run for it: City Counsil candidates, from right to left beginning with top row, are Lynn Robinson, Bruce Van Allen, Chris Cobb, Cynthia Mathews, Mike Rotkin and Simba Kenyatta
Metro Santa Cruz's City Council Candidate Forum
Earlier this month, Metro Santa Cruz queried the six candidates running for City Council about a number of topics, including a variety of specific issues that are likely to be of interest to local voters. This issue, we're running their complete written responses to the most issue-oriented questions.
METRO SANTA CRUZ: UCSC growth, minimum wage, sales tax and marijuana enforcement initiatives will all appear on the city's November ballot. What are your thoughts on each of these topics and how will you vote?
CHRIS COBB: UCSC Growth: We can speak all day about the "right" and "wrong"-ness of the university growing, but the university is going to grow; to deny that is doing our city a disservice. It seems that individuals in city leadership have built up a relationship with university leaders filled with animosity. It happens over so much time. Bringing in a fresh voice that is focused on bringing the two sides together to deal with the reality of the situation seems a good start.
Minimum Wage: If this were a council issue I would recommend we allow the state raise to take effect and assess once it has been in effect for a while. As it stands I will personally be voting yes on the measure as I believe it is important to treat our service workers fairly and ensure that businesses have a workforce to pull from.
Sales Tax: I'm not a big fan of increasing taxes to the General Fund to deal with a budget deficit. In business you have a budget and you stick to it, making hard decisions when there is not enough money to go around. You can't just go ask for more revenue when you want to spend more. The same would hold true in my mind for the city budget. There are alternative ways to deal with getting things done, outside of the tax-and-spend mentality. (I have put an example idea on my blog at www.myspace.com/chrisccobb.)
Marijuana Enforcement: I agree with the ballot measure the way it stands. We have many others issues to address with our limited police force.
SIMBA KENYATTA: (a) Many years ago I suggested the city needed to directly tie the amount the university pays the city to their growth physically and demographically, to lessen their impact on our city. I feel my training in conflict resolution and coalition building, again, will come in handy. We need to learn to approach the situation as allies trying to educate our youth, not as adversaries trying to get something at the other's expense. However, that doesn't mean we, as the city government, will just roll over and accept anything offered just to make peace. We need to protect our city and environment.
(b) After listening to the Bay Area survey teams' report to the City Council, I'm sure the wage increase will work with a minimum of business disruption. As the father of a 24-year-old I see firsthand the effect of low wages. He's leaving Santa Cruz because he can't afford to live here. We are losing our best and brightest to low wages. If the governor thinks $8 an hour is needed to live in California, surely you can see it's necessary to make at least $9 an hour to make a living in one of the most expensive places to live in the Western Hemisphere.
(c) I've always been proud of Santa Cruzans because they seem to get the correlation between taxes and services. I'm particularly proud because some of the money will go to making sure our social services aren't diminished. However, if you don't care much about the poor or poor sick people, remember as I've said before about taxes: Where do you think fire trucks come from?
(d) Marijuana shouldn't be illegal for adults in the first place, so making it the lowest priority makes sense. We have far too many people paying criminal penalties for a relatively harmless herb. Someone said, "So if someone is littering next to an herb smoker, the litterer would be cited?' Yes. Think of the consequences of everybody littering as compared to the consequences of those same adults smoking herb. I'd much rather live without litter. The only reason marijuana is still illegal for adults is because it's the last hostage of the "cultural wars" declared by conservatives some 30 years ago.
I am in favor of all four measures.
CYNTHIA MATHEWS: I have strongly supported Measures I and J, calling for the university to fully meet the impacts of its proposed growth in our community. The university provides very real benefits to our community--good, well-benefited jobs, cultural vitality, a strong economic base for other businesses--but it also has very real impacts. The future impact on housing demand, transportation systems and water supply must be offset by meaningful mitigations.
Measure G, the measure calling for a higher minimum wage in the city of Santa Cruz, is well intentioned but poorly drafted. I will be voting against it. It puts our local family-owned businesses--which this community values --at a significant disadvantage to national chains and other businesses just outside the city limits. Many local businesses survive on a very narrow margin: this would force them to eliminate benefits and jobs. This is too small a community to absorb the impact of Measure G, which will only get more pronounced over time.
I thoroughly agree that the nation's drug laws call for overhaul, but Measure K is not the answer. It has serious legal flaws regarding the direction of police activity, which leave it open to costly legal challenge. More importantly, it makes it difficult to respond to many of the serious issues brought to us by neighborhoods and community organizations. Adult use of marijuana is de facto already a low priority for enforcement. We don't need this measure funded by an outside interests to strain our budget, public safety and community health efforts.
LYNN ROBINSON: Measure I and J are a necessary attempt to force the university to address the impact of UCSC growth on our community and resources. While I support the measures, we need a new relationship with UCSC and more influence on the UC system level which begins with our state legislature and the UC Board of Regents. Our city leaders have a record of little influence over UCSC planning and this must change.
I support fair and good wages for all workers. Unfortunately, Measure G, while well intended, is poorly written and will hurt more workers than it helps. Even our locally owned progressive businesses oppose the measure because they will be forced to cut back on existing health-care benefits and jobs. The far-reaching consequences of the measure, as written, cause more damage than benefit to our economic diversity and workers. I look forward to an alternative concept that can be embraced by everyone.
I support Measure H to help fund essential city services and road repair. Our city, however, has to start building a healthy economy. Constant tax increases are not the answer to our city's economic crisis. Measure H is a stopgap measure supported communitywide, but not the economic model for city prosperity and the funding of social services. For too long our city has borrowed against the future and now the bills are coming due. A creative and vibrant community like Santa Cruz deserves and can do better.
I don't support or oppose Measure K, but I do view it as an unnecessary law for permissive Santa Cruz. It is likely that this initiative will result in costly legal challenges while achieving only the symbolic. Our police and our city have more important issues to deal with.
MIKE ROTKIN: I support Measures I and J, which will limit university growth unless its impacts on the campus and local community are mitigated. I am on the Committee supporting these measures and wrote the ballot statement in support of the measures. UCSC contributes significantly to our community, but the badly planned growth that would be allowed by the recently approved Long Range Development Plan would be a disaster for both the campus and the community. Unless we address the impacts on our transportation system, our housing market, and our water supply, both the campus and the community will be severely damaged.
In the past, I have always supported increases to the minimum wage. I was a major proponent of the city's living wage for city venders. I support further increases in the state and federal minimum wage and would support a carefully crafted local minimum wage which addressed issues such as protection of benefits, provision for tips, protection of protected workshops (like Goodwill and Hope services), and a realistic indexing program. I wish I could support Measure G, but it fails to adequately address the above concerns. Consequently, I have neither endorsed nor opposed Measure G.
I support Measure H, the sales tax measure on the November ballot which will both help protect existing city services and significantly expand our ability to fix our seriously damaged streets and protect our river, greenbelt, and city parks. The maintenance of the current sales tax level plus an additional quarter cent sales tax is a modest stopgap measure to protect critical city services while we work on developing a long-term solution to increasing our city's tax base and revenue stream.
I have been, and continue to be, a strong supporter of medical marijuana and an outspoken opponent of our failed federal drug policies. Since marijuana enforcement, except where it is linked to gang violence or sales of more destructive illegal drugs, is already the lowest priority for the Santa Cruz Police Department, I will let the citizens of Santa Cruz (and perhaps the courts) decide what to do about Measure K, the marijuana measure on the ballot in November.
BRUCE VAN ALLEN: UCSC Growth: Our small city has to have the ability to hold UCSC accountable so its impacts don't outweigh its many benefits. I support Measures I and J, which begin to do this.
Minimum Wage: I support Measure G, the minimum wage initiative. Over ,000 people work at low-wage jobs in Santa Cruz. They keep our economy going, and I want to make sure they and their families can afford to stay here. So-called economic development that leaves those workers behind doesn't have a place in the 21st century, especially in Santa Cruz.
Sales Tax: I support measure H, the City Sales Tax measure. I think the people of our community know they get good value from city services. Measure H will allow the city to end several years of having to cut the budget, and get on to repairing roads, maintaining parks, and providing for public safety and lots of other important services.
Marijuana Enforcement: I support Measure K. Measure K will make Santa Cruz safer. It will free up police time to focus on the real priorities--keeping neighborhoods safe, preventing violence against women and minorities, and protecting civil rights.
METRO SANTA CRUZ: Homelessness, immigration and development are all topics of interest, controversy and, at times, distress. What are your thoughts and opinions on each of these subjects in their relation to the city of Santa Cruz?
CHRIS COBB: Homelessness: We have done the most, if not all, that can be done to support the homeless as a city, and also ensure that the residents that live here are comfortable and have clean, safe areas to be social. The remaining problems will need to be addressed on a societal level; residents will need to consider alternative ways of ensuring the safety of everyone, such as citizen angel units downtown and the like.
Immigration: A very complex issue. Enforcing our current immigration laws as they stand cannot be argued against. Discussing changes to the current immigration laws is a very viable process. I would encourage everyone with a stake in the matter to work within the system to discuss and affect change in a positive way.
Development: My main thought on development is that we need to consistently demand sustainable building methods in all areas, residential and commercial. It's disappointing to see new development approved without requiring solar, grey water capture, and other simple, yet very effective, sustainable practices.
MIKE ROTKIN: Homelessness is a national problem and the reasons for particular individuals or families being homeless varies widely. I support the city's current approach to this issue, which is to work with other jurisdictions in our county to provide extensive services for people willing to work to end their homelessness and more modest emergency services for those who will not participate in programs to address the issues that keep them homeless. I support the camping ban because I do not want Santa Cruz to be the only city in the United States that invites homeless people to sleep on our streets.
I support national immigration reform that would allow the people producing our food, washing our dishes in restaurants, cleaning our hotels, and doing labor that most American citizens would not do for any salary to participate in the American dream. I want our federal government to have a foreign policy that doesn't destroy economic opportunity in Mexico and other Latin American and Asian countries, which drives immigrants into the U.S. In the meantime, I want the INS to stay out of our city and stop harassing hard working residents and their families.
I support increased economic development because I understand that it is essential to increase our tax base and create revenue to support essential city services and decent pay and benefits for city workers. The City Council cannot impose economic development on our community, so the job of the council over the next four years will be to work closely with neighborhood groups and residents to build a consensus about the kind of development we want, where we want it to be located, and how it will be designed so as to minimize impacts on our environment and quality of life.
SIMBA KENYATTA: I'll start with immigration first, because I think homelessness and development are linked. Our community is so dependent on migrant laborers and illegal immigrants that to talk of anything but a way to make these immigrants legal is hypocritical and shortsighted. I feel we've barely scratched the surface of ideas because of fears of being called names, like racist, to being accused of caving in to extreme left politics. My personal stake in this is to make sure African Americans and Latinos aren't played against each other over jobs for which we really aren't in competition. Black people and brown people need to be each other's allies about immigration. Seeing brown laborers bent over in strawberry fields reminds me of black people picking cotton; again, making someone else rich while we fight each other for scraps.
People are homeless because it is more important in this culture to make money than it is to take care of our brothers and sisters. Developers seldom make socially conscious decisions unless forced or given monetary inducements. They get away with bad decisions because we need the money they represent to our community. Until we start teaching our children that we're responsible for each other and this earth, everything else is just a band-aid. Maybe we could even revamp our antiquated U.S. school system in Santa Cruz. We could include some form of community work as a requirement for a complete education. We keep turning out good consumers and capitalists but questionable human beings in this society. It's time for change. I know this is practically heresy to speak this way, but I'm nothing if not honest. And heresy is sometimes needed for social change.
CYNTHIA MATHEWS: Homelessness has many faces. As a councilmember, I have consistently supported programs that provide meaningful resources at many levels: a day center with access to resources, family shelter, transitional housing, health and mental health services, and more. This is a compassionate community, with public sector, nonprofit agencies and the private sector working together to provide far more than most communities. Still, the problems and solutions are really national in scope, and call for more resources at that level.
Issues associated with immigration are easily oversimplified, generally around the tension between legal and illegal status. In fact, many immigrants come with a strong work ethic and desire for economic improvement. Those at the lowest end of the economic and educational spectrum face a host of challenges--housing, language and culture, education, access to health care. Santa Cruz public and nonprofit agencies have developed good working relationships to address these needs.
Development is an essential ingredient of building a healthy, vibrant community. Whether we talk about residential development to meet our housing needs or economic, and commercial development to shape a strong local economy, the challenge is to support development that reflects local strengths and is consistent with the long-term needs of a changing community.
LYNN ROBINSON: As a City Council member I will work for all of our residents and nurture the vital diversity of our entire community. Santa Cruz must continue to provide services for the needs of all our residents including homeless families and low-income residents. As Santa Cruz moves forward, our vision of the future and development must be in harmony with our values and our cherished environment. We are a city rich in innovation, creativity, and environmental integrity, which should always be reflected in our future developments. I will work hard to bring the residents of Santa Cruz together, to focus on making sound planning decisions that improve the quality of life and vitality of our incredible city.
BRUCE VAN ALLEN: Homelessness: Modern mass homelessness in the U.S. started about 25 years ago. Before that our country had 50 years in which nearly everybody had a home. So I believe we can do better. Locally, we've done more than most small cities, but there's more to do. When a fifth of our residents now pay 75 percent of their income for rent, and almost half pay 50 percent, many local families are just a job loss or medical bill away from homelessness. I will work to do more locally, and to bringing the housing crisis to the attention of state and national leaders.
Immigration: Our country always benefits economically and culturally from immigration, and my goal would be to make sure that working people get their share of the economic benefits. That means higher wages in general, and increased protections for all workers, to prevent employer exploitation that takes advantage of a low wage base and of immigrants' insecurity about their status.
Development: What I want to change is the way we handle large developments. I believe that before a major development gets into the permit process, the community should have the role of setting over-all goals and identifying constraints. If we have a community-supported plan first, then the specific project doesn't have to be the battleground. This approach would give neighborhoods the assurance that they won't be over-ridden by inappropriate development. It would also give businesses and investors a more reliable relationship with the city, so they would understand what's expected before spending money on plans and fees.
METRO SANTA CRUZ: Please give very specific reasons as to why a voter should choose you among all the current candidates?
CHRIS COBB: I will bring a new voice to the council that is reflective of sustainable, green principles. I will give counsel that includes the consideration of benefits of sustainable building practices, smaller community living and quality of life considerations.
I am in touch with the current business world and will work to attract companies and jobs from emerging growth industries such as green energy and green technology.
I will move to eliminate the contentious relationship with the university and work toward a collaborative approach based on open dialogue and mediation.
I have been endorsed by the Green Party.
I have spent my career bringing people together, hearing all sides and moving issues forward in a productive manner. These skills are natural for me, and will translate well as I serve on the council.
My job on the council will be to serve the public for four years by being the person who listens to all sides, processes through all that is heard and provides counsel based on the overall prevailing spirit of all that was heard. I have the utmost capacity to perform that service with honor and integrity.
SIMBA KENYATTA: I have the ability to relate to all kinds of people from the grimiest alcoholic on the street to a CEO in a boardroom because I give respect to each. My extensive training in coalition building and conflict resolution allows me to see all sides of a conflict without judging any side, which enables me to look at a proposal on its merit, not preconceptions or my personal desires. I have worked in many organizations virtually all of which have been in service to the people of Santa Cruz. I became a city employee after I designed and implemented a successful youth program. Having served on the Louden Nelson Advisory Committee (as chair, twice) I saw how the city budget works, because Louden Nelson's (Parks & Rec) budget was a substantial part of the city's budget and we had to make sure to prevent losses in the running of the center.
I am very creative and imaginative. I'm able to see things from different perspectives. Only I can represent underrepresented people in Santa Cruz. I will add diversity of thought as well as ethnic diversity. My election would send a statement that we have at last arrived in the 21st century by finally electing a very qualified black person. While I'm nothing resembling a jokester, I actually also have a sense of humor, which can sometimes help defuse tense situations. Everything deep doesn't have to be heavy.
CYNTHIA MATHEWS: Santa Cruz has tremendous assets: natural environment, economic energy and a creative, caring and engaged community. But the city also faces serious continuing fiscal challenges in its efforts to provide the basic public services and quality-of-life features that local residents want.
My 30-plus years of public service in Santa Cruz--three-term councilmember, nonprofit manager and community volunteer--provide a depth and breadth of experience to continue as an effective councilmember in challenging times.
Over the years I've built a record of working productively with others around shared goals, and doing the detailed work to move from vision to reality. This includes leadership with Planned Parenthood, the Downtown Neighbors Association, Friends of Wilder Ranch, local schools, environmental issues and arts and cultural organizations.
As councilmember, I've worked to make city policy reflect local values through tangible results, including affordable housing and safe neighborhoods, greenbelt protection and parks improvements, partnership with community service organizations, environmental leadership in conservation and green building, and support for a strong local economy.
Looking ahead, the city faces a number of daunting issues: housing, transportation, concerns for public safety, economic change and adequate water supply. We face the specific need to deal with proposed university growth and to develop a new general plan for the city's future. Looming over all is the urgency of providing sound, sustainable revenue to provide the basic services our residents depend on.
I will be accessible, hard working and fair, reflecting progressive values and a broad view of what it takes to build a healthy community.
LYNN ROBINSON: We need a new voice on the Santa Cruz City Council who puts people before politics. As co-founder of Santa Cruz Neighbors, I have consistently helped everyday citizens get connected to solve problems of graffiti, traffic, neighborhood crime, planning issues, methamphetamine drug houses, and more. I bring neighbors together with police, firefighters, city staff, UCSC leaders and the local business community, to refocus city priorities on problems that matter.
As a community leader, I am already doing the work that people should expect of a councilmember. I am currently on the city's General Plan Advisory Committee, the county's Transportation Funding Task Force and the Scope Park Art Selection Committee, and serve as liaison to the UCSC Good Neighbor Initiative Student Internship. I work extremely well with people from all walks of life because I have a sincere respect for all citizens in Santa Cruz.
I am a UCSC graduate in studio arts and a nationally recognized organic garden designer. I'll focus on keeping Santa Cruz unique and thriving with a strong stewardship for our environmental treasures. As a small business owner of my organic garden design company, the financial well being of Santa Cruz is of utmost importance. We deserve better than to be a city that is declining in its physical beauty, economic health and social services, and I will work tirelessly to move forward together.
MIKE ROTKIN: Based on my extensive council service and my committed community work (UC-AFT president and chief negotiator, founder of Westside Neighbors and Westside Community Health Center, Credit Union Board of Directors, Transit District Director, Board of Directors of Community Bridges, Board of Directors American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], and more), I have the experience necessary to address the current problems facing our city. My pro-active approach to problems has been a key part of our successful struggles to create a greenbelt around our city and to fund extensive social services, parks and recreation services. My commitment to social justice has moved us toward racial and gender parity in the city workforce as well as the creation of living wage requirements for city contractors and domestic partner benefits for city employees.
I will bring the same combination of idealistic and pragmatic commitments to building the city's tax base so we can continue and expand important public services and make sure we can compensate our city employees fairly for the important work that they do. My experience as a grassroots organizer and in city government will help me work with neighborhood groups and other city residents to involve them in helping us plan the future of our community. We need to make sure that our economic development choices do not destroy the natural beauty and human scale community that make this such a wonderful place to live and work. I will continue to be accessible, responsive and effective as a councilmember.
BRUCE VAN ALLEN: I'm running for City Council because I believe that the people of Santa Cruz should decide the future direction of our community. In years of community service, I have:
Here's what I will work for if elected to the City Council:
METRO SANTA CRUZ: Imagine that a combination of natural disaster and economic downturn results in subtracting 15 percent of the city of Santa Cruz's yearly budget. As an elected City Council member, in what specific ways would you adjust spending to accommodate that change?
CHRIS COBB: The first step I would take would be to bring all city leaders to the table to assess the situation. Labor leaders, university leaders, city staff leaders, we will all need to go over the situation in detail so everyone knows and agrees on the amount that needs to be subtracted from the budget. Once everyone is on the same page, everyone will be asked for ideas on where we can reduce the budget, and dialogue can be undertaken.
The most important part is that the dialogue does not become contentious. There is a reality that needs to be dealt with, and if all sides are open as to what is and is not available as far as funding is concerned, everyone can step up and make the hard decisions together for the good of the entire city. I work this way with disparate business departments all the time. Bringing leadership together to openly communicate is a must.
SIMBA KENYATTA: Obviously we first lock in our essential services and public safety officers, then start paring down what's left. Reducing the workday/week of city workers to a level that saves the city money without financially breaking city employees can be worked out with the unions' help. Also, with the workers' advice, freeze hiring, reduce labor costs through attrition and/or freeze pay raises for as short a time as possible. Ask for voluntary temporary pay reductions from individuals if that's possible and remember that unlike answering this questionnaire, I won't be trying to answer this city finance question by myself. I think one of the better things to do at a time like this would be to trust my colleagues and constituents in helping me solve the problem.
CYNTHIA MATHEWS: The city budget is a complicated beast. Some city activities are self-contained "enterprise funds": expenses are covered entirely by income. These include water, sewer, solid waste (garbage and recycling) and the golf course. It's the city's General Fund--everything else --that's most vulnerable to cutbacks.
Unfortunately, a dramatic reduction in the city budget is not hypothetical. A "perfect wave" of circumstances over the past five years--dotcom collapse, loss of major manufacturers, state take-ways of local funding, rapidly escalating employee benefit costs--has caused revenue shortfalls, forcing the city to trim its General Fund by over 10 percent (approximately $7 million) and eliminate over 70 jobs.
We've had to cut park maintenance, limit hours at popular facilities like Harvey West Pool and Louden Nelson Center, reduce street and sidewalk repair, and trim our workforce in every department. Given this reality, the council has worked to both protect existing revenue and focus on economic development for the future.
Measure H on this November's ballot is a case in point. It would authorize a small increase in the sales tax to repair rapidly deteriorating streets, restore maintenance and security to parks and open spaces, and support essential public safety services. After five years of successive cutbacks, there's simply no other way to generate the needed funds.
A 15 percent cut in the city budget, following the dramatic cuts over the past five years, would require deep and painful cuts. At this level, it would require a complete re-examination of city structure and services.
LYNN ROBINSON: I don't need to imagine the disaster and economic downturn. We are already experiencing it! We are now seeing the result of continued city budget cuts and reduced city programs that in past years were fully funded. Essential services and city workers have already born the brunt of our declining tax base, which is in part due to City Council decisions.
As I look back on the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, our devastating natural disaster, the community showed how resilient we can be when a wide variety of stakeholders come together for the welfare of all. I believe we are at that tipping point again without the earthquake. Our local economy is the crisis. We must come together again as a community, to understand the dire consequences of not improving our tax base with good businesses that fit within the values and scale of Santa Cruz.
Any additional cuts in the budget will compound the hardships on everybody and reduce city services further, to the most basic of levels. It is unacceptable for our community. We need forward-looking leadership that understands economic development so we can provide the city and social services we value and cherish.
MIKE ROTKIN: Hypothetical questions are always difficult. A great deal depends upon whether the council believes that the disaster recovery and/or economic downturn are likely to be long-lasting or only of a temporary duration. If a recovery can be expected in a reasonable period of time, the city could borrow from our reserves or the city's Trust Fund. However, this only would make sense if new revenue sources can be expected within a reasonable period and one can see where the repayment to these funds would be coming from.
If the recovery is expected to take several years, as, for example, with respect to the city's current revenue crisis, a combination of modest tax increases (e.g., Measure H) and significant budget cuts in discretionary programs (e.g., closing Harvey West Pool in the winter, closing Louden Nelson Community Center and the Teen Center, etc., one or more days a week, cutting back on park maintenance and recreation programs, small cuts in community social service programs, raising fees for various city services, restraining capital outlays for new furniture, carpets, vehicles, etc., and reducing special public safety programs) would be the only real options while the city worked to build up the tax base in order to produce new revenue.
Hopefully, this would be done in such a way that no one area of public life would be devastated by budget cuts. But working on economic development, so the cuts can be reversed, would be essential to maintaining the quality of life in our community.
BRUCE VAN ALLEN: My goal would be to maintain the humanitarian side of city services, including public safety. All departments of the city would need to look for ways to reduce spending, postpone projects and freeze hiring. In a time like that it would be important to avoid hasty decisions that increase costs later.
To the extent that state and federal disaster funds would be forthcoming, it would be important not only to direct those funds to people's immediate needs, but also to uses that build the basis for returning to full revenue over time, as we did after the earthquake. For any sustained drastic cutbacks, the City Council would need to present the situation clearly to city staff and their unions, and to the entire community, and make sure that there is wide understanding and participation in decisions about downsizing.
METRO SANTA CRUZ: In a more fortunate hypothetical situation, imagine a game of Monopoly in which you, as an elected City Council member, draw a 'chance card' granting you a 'bank error' adding 15 percent to the city of Santa Cruz's yearly budget. To what areas, issues or projects would you allocate these new funds?
CHRIS COBB: I would recommend the same process for usage of additional funds as I would recommend for a severe decrease; open collaboration between the city leadership.
That being said there are a few obvious areas to me that I would put heavy consideration toward:
SIMBA KENYATTA: I would put more money into youth programs, particularly after-school activities and/or anti-gang warfare programs and youth counselors, or we could find matching funds to develop a performing arts center, possibly in conjunction with UCSC, or develop more and safer bike lanes, or bring back First Night celebration, or use the money to ascertain what businesses are needed and/or viable in Santa Cruz and provide seed money, with the help of the business community, to help women, poor people, people of color and other "minorities" to create collective, cooperative entrepreneurial ventures. Or any combination of the aforementioned ideas.
CYNTHIA MATHEWS: A rapid increase in revenue provides temptation to go on a spending spree, but it's important to analyze the reasons for the increase and assess longer term needs. If this were a one-time "bank error," I'd want to look at some of our long-deferred capital needs--maintenance and improvement of city facilities--where we could finally make the improvements we've been wanting to make.
There's a long "wish list" of excellent and necessary projects that could benefit from such one-time capital investments--traffic calming in neighborhoods, streetscape improvements in commercial districts, basic infrastructure. I'd want to look for this kind of opportunity for longer-term investment, in consultation with our staff, commissions and community. We would also want to make sure that our reserves are in good shape, to protect against the "down-cycle" which will inevitably occur.
LYNN ROBINSON: Don't we wish it were simply a game of Monopoly! If we were able to wave a magic wand and restore 15 percent to the budget, I would repair our streets, making them safe for bicyclists and motorists. I will ensure that our greenbelts and parks are safe for everyone to enjoy by funding our park rangers. We must place a priority on helping our seniors and providing youth and gang intervention programs.
MIKE ROTKIN: Let me be blunt. Anyone running for City Council with the belief that this will be a situation he or she will face in the next four years is running for office in the wrong city! But should such a hypothetical situation come to pass, I would begin by restoring the popular and successful programs we have been forced to cut in recent years--community policing, improved fire and public safety funding, social service funding, street paving, opening the pool year-round and Louden Nelson and the Teen Center seven and six days a week, respectively, increased ranger protection and parks workers for our greenbelt and city parks, and more subsidy for affordable housing. I would also work to make sure that city employees receive the wage and benefit packages that they deserve for the important contributions they make to the quality of life in our community.
No doubt, that list would more than exhaust a 15 percent windfall in the city's annual budget, but if there were money left over, I would invest that in energy-saving technology, which would save the city money in the long-run and help us address the problem of global warming. I guess there is no harm in dreaming!
BRUCE VAN ALLEN: If these new funds were only available once, then I'd want to allocate them to city facilities, roads and parks, covering deferred maintenance as well as investments that improve the city's ability to provide services over the longer run.
If available annually, the first thing would be to start covering the existing annual gap between revenues and the level of services people currently get from the city. Anything else would go to restoring the city's workforce to provide the level of services we had before the past five years of cutbacks.
If there is enough money to add services, I would want to hear as much as possible from city residents about their priorities, so it might be useful to convene special budget discussions with greater opportunity for public participation.
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