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The Panel That Stumps You Back: The candidates line up at a recent forum.

The Contenders

Did you know there are 12 people running for Santa Cruz City Council? Ever wonder who they are? We thought you might have.

By Sarah Phelan

HERE AT Metro Santa Cruz, we see it as our job to inform you about candidates in upcoming elections. But we have to say the surprisingly low-impact campaigns being run by more than a few of the dozen candidates running for Santa Cruz City Council ain't making our job--or yours--any easier.

Now, let's be fair--unlike their national counterparts, most local candidates run their campaigns on shoestring budgets. So far this fall, Cynthia Mathews is the city candidate with the mostest, having raised $22, 000, ($5,000 of which was used for legal defense funds), proving perhaps that her "Yes, Cynthia, you can count on my support" fliers really do work.

But with four candidates declaring less that $1,000 in contributions, it's clear that they won't be able to afford fancy fliers and signs, not to mention a bilingual candidate statement in the county election guide. Getting into the county guide costs $635 per language, or $1,270 in total, and only if you've agreed to campaign spending limits. Which basically means that only the richest candidates can reach the county's poorest voters--just in case you didn't believe us that irony's not dead.

At the city level, candidates get a page in the election guide free, providing they agree to voluntary campaign and expenditure and contribution limitations--an arrangement to which 11 out of the 12 candidates have agreed.

And that, of course, is just the bare minimum. With all the effort candidates have to put into getting their names out there, perhaps the biggest irony of all is that the local politician with the biggest media profile in recent weeks isn't even running for re-election--Mayor Chris Krohn has been both on CNN and in the pages of The New York Times saying yes to medical marijuana, and no to a war on Iraq!

The problem for our current crop of council wannabees is twofold. First, 12 of them are running for only three seats, and second, three of them--Cynthia Mathews, Mike Rotkin and incumbent Tim Fitzmaurice--have a leg up on the competition in that they have name recognition and a record by which they can be judged, with all three having served as mayors of Santa Cruz.

Even some first-timers, though, know how to get noticed. Aldo Giacchino got plenty of press earlier this fall when he launched a lawsuit against fellow contenders Mathews and Rotkin, claiming they were ineligible to run. The suit was dismissed, but Giacchino got his first taste of name recognition in the process. Thomas Leavitt made his mark by being the only contender to get the Green Party's endorsement, and, until recently, being the only candidate to oppose Measure Q, the city's hotel tax. Meanwhile, Steve Argue, who recently also came out against the hotel tax, is championing rent control, and Phil Baer says he's all about getting heroin off the streets.

So, do you know what your favorite and least favorite council candidates are up to? Chances are, probably not--even though the election is only two weeks away. In light of that, we thought we'd give you a little help by letting you know where they stand, and give them a little help, too, by letting them know how high their profile is around town with our handy Sign Visibility Rating, which works on a scale of 1 to 5, thusly:

4 = We have their sign, or someone not too far away does.
3 = We've seen 'em around.
2 = We saw one on the back of an SUV once.
1 = Dude, where's your sign?

Got it? OK, here we go. The candidates are organized in alphabetical order; their information comes from their own campaign materials and public statements and from interviews. Watch for our endorsements Oct. 30, and don't forget that October 21 is the last day to register to vote. 'Cause, man, if you blow off this election after we went through all this trouble, we are gonna be so pissed.

Steve Argue

Platform: A habitat restorationist and a DJ for Free Radio Santa Cruz, Argue is for rent control and a stronger living wage ordinance, ending the sleeping ban and police abuses, a stronger living wage, unions, free speech, fewer downtown allowances and fewer regressive taxes. He's also for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries now closed by city zoning, more bike paths and an improved bus system.

He is against Measure Q, also known as the hotel tax, the repeal of the utility tax, logging on city owned reservoir land, and is the use of pesticides and herbicides, wherever possible. Handy quote: "A vote for Steve Argue is a vote for change."

Funds Raised: $1,525

Endorsements: The California Rifle and Pistol Association

Contact Info: 457.9754, ext. 1169, or email [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 1

Phil Baer

Platform: A carpenter-sculptor who lives in Beach Flats, Baer opposes what he calls "the heroin mercado," which he says has thrived on the streets of Beach Flats for 20 years. Baer says that since the San Lorenzo Estuary and Main Beach are the focal point of beautiful Santa Cruz, residents should object to "the desecration of this historic community and environmentally sensitive area by the hard drugs sold there."

Funds Raised: $1,065

Endorsements: Neighbors Opposed to Beach Area Drug Dealing

Contact Info: 423.0170 or email [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 1

Dave Eselius

Platform: An engineer and Navy veteran, Eselius believes that population growth is the most important issue at hand. With county figures projected to increase 45 percent by 2020, Eselius predicts a crisis in transportation, housing, water, jobs, schools, health services and quality of life. He promises to produce a 20-year growth plan within the year, and says he sees no viable alternative to traffic other than highway widening, the cost of which, he says, would by law be shared by the local community.

He accuses local government of only wanting to build roads for bicycles instead of "correcting city traffic jams."

Funds Raised: $800 in self-loans

Contact Info: 423.0170 or email [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 1

Tim Fitzmaurice
Accept No Imitations: Tim Fitzmaurice is correctly labeled at a candidates forum.

Tim Fitzmaurice

Platform: A councilmember and university lecturer, Fitzmaurice supports campaign finance reform, the living wage, the skatepark and teen center, Gault Street senior housing, medical marijuana, granny units, Beach Flats family housing, Del Mar restoration, bike lanes, gay youth, the Metro Base project, the saving of Harvey West Pool, river restoration and pesticide limits. Asked about transportation, Fitzmaurice, who has served on the Regional Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transit District Board, says he thinks the Highway 1 issue will be decided by the people as a ballot issue. In the meantime, he'd like to see the bus schedule expanded and more bike lanes added. Describing himself as "something of a maverick, not always pleasing to political factions," Fitzmaurice reaffirms his commitment to seniors, youth, affordable housing, shelter for homeless children and families, and his fight "against hate and abusive behavior in the city."

Funds Raised: $6,991

Endorsements: Mardi Wormhoudt, Emily Reilly, Ed Porter, Celia Scott and San Francisco supe Aaron Peskin

Contact Info: [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 3

Aldo Giacchino

Platform: A management consultant, Giacchino says the budget crisis shows we need "a new balanced approach." He also says that "If we are known as a drug city, then tourists won't come." Aldo has produced a flier which stresses that housing density must be placed along traffic corridors and downtown, "not in low density neighborhoods." Noting that he is dedicated to serve full time, Giacchino supports getting railway right of way to use for bike trails or electric vehicles, and pursuing strong economic activity "to generate increased sales tax and hotel tax revenues." He also supports "persistent enforcement of basic laws to remove those who insist on disruptive behavior downtown and in our neighborhoods."

Regarding the utility tax repeal threat, Giacchino says, 'Let the community decide." But if it is repealed, he proposes "a smaller utility tax, backed by a clear spending plan, renewable by voters every 4 years."

Funds Raised: $11,584, most in self- loans

Contact Info: www.votealdo.com, email [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 2

Thomas Leavitt

Platform: A self-described entrepreneur, Leavitt is the only City Council candidate with the endorsement of the Green Party, and the first candidate to come out against the city's proposed hotel tax, Measure Q, which he says was triggered by fear the utility tax will get repealed, thereby wiping out the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council's budget. Leavitt says he wants to "establish neighborhood improvement districts, fix the bottom rungs of the housing ladder, and restore downtown as a center of community and culture through establishing a pedestrian plaza downtown." He also supports safe sleeping zones, a permanent multiblock downtown plaza, affordable housing and the living wage, and opposes the downtown ordinances, the privatization of public space and massive buildings downtown.

"We need new leadership and an authentic progressive voice to broaden the dialogue beyond downtown, thereby linking it to the beach front," says Leavitt, who believes our traffic woes are a product of "our imbalance between low-paying jobs and high-costing homes," and supports the creation of "high quality jobs and alternative transit."

Funds Raised: $2,059, most in self -loans

Contact Info: www.thomasleavitt.org

Sign visibility rating: 1

Greg Lopez

Platform: A construction manager, Lopez asks why our most-visited area is one of the worst in the city. Noting that Beach Flats is a constant source of trouble for the Santa Cruz Police Department, Lopez supports "the revitalization of the Flats." He suggests more "quality local industries" as a way to reduce gridlock and does not believe that "building affordable housing and inviting the homeless from other areas" will solve our housing crisis.

On top of the usual problems, Lopez lists "downtown drug problems, violence and a general lack of respect for police and elected officials."

Funds Raised: $149

Contact Info: [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 1

Cynthia Mathews

Platform: Currently director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood, Mathews has served on the City Council for two previous terms, experience which she says will help provide "constructive leadership in protecting the environment, promoting a strong economy, meeting local housing needs, investing in youth and families, and building trust in local government." Author of the successful ballot measures C and D to ensure adequate funding for schools, Mathews also supports the completion of the Metro Base, "as the supply of affordable housing moves South" and as a safety net for those who can't afford to buy a car. She touts her endorsements, which include the People's Democratic Club, SEIU No. 415, GLBT Alliance, American Federation of Teachers No. 2199, Democratic Central Committee and the Democratic Women's Club. Handy quote: "There are no simple answers. I listen to concerns, especially in areas I'm not familiar with. I look for solutions with broad buy-in."

Funds Raised: $22,639, with $600 going to a legal defense fund outside normal election limits

Contact Info: 423.8977 or [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating : 4

Jeromy McMillan

Platform: Restaurateur McMillan is the only candidate not to have a statement in the city's election guide. He has been somewhat of a mystery man, and did not show up at the candidate forum we attended. We do know that McMillan stresses a Beach Flats cleanup, more police officers and "better education for our children with a safe learning environment."

Funds Raised: None have been filed

Contact Info: 426.7218 or email [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 1

Mike Rotkin

Platform: A teacher in USCS's community studies department, Rotkin, who has served almost 18 years on the City Council, believes the city needs "experienced leadership" to deal with its current economic, affordable housing and transportation crisis. "We need people prepared to face the reality of inviting business investment, making downtown an enjoyable place to shop and hang out, attracting small businesses, and expanding tourism without destroying the environment." He supports the living wage, strong unions, permanent jobs, metering lights on Highway 1, affordable housing, building public transit, and indoor resources for the homeless. He is opposed to safe sleeping zones, as he believes that would "draw more homeless to our community and overtax our social and homeless services." He is also against increased density in neighborhoods, and supports greater density near urban transportation routes, in Beach Flats and on the UCSC campus. Endorsements include the Central Labor Council, Democratic Central Committee, Democratic Women's Club, GLBT Alliance, Labor Union Local 270, Operating Engineers Local 3, People's Democratic Club, SEIU Local 415, UC-AFT Local 2199, UCSC Democrats, UTU Local 23.

Funds Raised: $17,456, with $700 going into a legal defense fund, outside normal election limits

Contact Info: 423.4209 or email [email protected]

Sign Visibility Rating: 4

Connie Thomasser

Platform: A business professional and a homeowner, Thomasser says she'd like to see more school buses on the roads, and supports the introduction of metering lights on the highway. She promises to be "a voice for family neighborhoods, a conscientious committee participant and representative who wants to return Santa Cruz to the residents who live, work and play here." Says Thomasser, "I will endeavor to increase communication among the entire community and work closely with all City Council members to address your needs and concerns with renewed energy and excitement; I believe I can be an integral participant and I need your vote to make it happen."

Funds Raised: $350, most in self-loans

Contact Info: [email protected].

Sign Visibility Rating: 1

Karen Woblesky

Platform: A human resources analyst for the Santa Clara County Fire Department, Woblesky says we are not making meaningful progress with solving the problems affecting our community. "We're at a crossroads. We've inherited dismal financial health, and our city has no plan for generating revenue," says Woblesky, who stresses that "highways are major corridors for emergency vehicles" and that we must maintain police and fire services as well as repair potholes. "I'm for a balanced approach to alternative transportation, but my 85-year-old grandma is not able to take a bus or bike," says Woblesky, who says she wants to protect our environment and quality of life, supporting children, families and seniors, providing safe streets and public places and a renewed commitment to fiscal responsibility. Handy quote: "It's time to start saying yes to tomorrow."

Funds Raised: $1,000 worth of self- loans

Contact Info: www.karenforcouncil.com

Sign Visibility Rating: 3

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From the October 16-23, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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