Why the word “Houselessness?” Because Santa Cruz is everybody’s home, we all belong here. However, some citizens lack a physical space to live. With Santa Cruz now the most expensive rental market in the United States, it should come as no surprise that we have a tragedy unfolding in our hometown: houselessness.
- More than half of our residents are renters and need protections from significant rent increases and no-cause evictions
- More “Yes” places for both temporary and permanent housing, such as more truly affordable housing, project homekey transitional housing, shelters, and safe parking/camping locations in every neighborhood;
- Protect working-class neighborhoods from gentrifying market-rate developments;
- Progressive taxes such as an increased Property Transfer Tax
We need a robust and just Housing for All program, one that breaks free from NIMBY-YIMBY oppositions and trickle-down theories. Instead of for-profit developers working the system to maximize units at the lowest cost, we need non-profit developers that engage in real community consultation. We need more transparency and accountability from our elected and appointed decision-makers, so that we can weigh in on developments from the very start and throughout the process. We should commit to building at least 50% affordable housing, including larger units for families. We can vote in progressive wealth taxes to increase funding for these projects. We can say NO to gentrification, NO to sprawl, NO to privatization… And at the same time, we can’t keep saying no to everything, that’s part of what’s gotten us into this mess. We need to start saying YES to more density, YES to infrastructure improvements, YES to more diversity, and YES to a whole range of temporary and permanent shelter and housing options for everyone in our community.
- Unequivocal support for worker cooperatives and unionization: bargaining with workers in good faith, prioritizing staffing and wages in our budget, showing up to listen and advocate for workers, respect strike lines, create city policies to support labor unions and their workers.
- More city employees on the ground with higher wages. The current housing wage for Santa Cruz is around $60 an hour.
- Listen to the expertise of those workers regarding their living and working conditions and respond positively in workplace and contract improvements.
Our support for labor must be unconditional. Everything we have in this world comes from our labor and our natural resources. Labor keeps our communities going– cities and counties alike–and workers should have a fair deal that reflects that. Santa Cruz County’s poverty rate is 17% higher than the state average. At the same time, we have a disproportionate number of wealthier than average households. We are living in a climate of extreme inequality that has only gotten worse over the last few years and during the pandemic, leaving more people struggling to make ends meet. We see over and over again that those who have the most power and the most resources are not going to voluntarily make things more fair or take the action needed to avert climate catastrophe. We know that what workers want is to be able to do their jobs and do them well. We know to make this happen we need more people working on the ground–with job security, union membership, real living wages, benefits, flexible family leave policies, hazard pay and adequate PPE, and a COLA.
The council majority’s effort to push through a regressive sales tax in 2022 would have hurt the poorest members of our city the most. At the same time, that majority refused to make improvements to the base-pay of the city’s lowest-waged workers–who are not currently guaranteed a living wage. It’s absolutely indefensible that our lowest-paid workers can barely survive while our highest-paid workers earn more than double the Average Mean Income.
We should be actively encouraging worker cooperatives and unionization of workers at businesses in the city, including UCSC. It’s never a bad time to unionize, as increasing the stability and economic security of workers is good for the community as a whole.
- Community-led responses to the climate crisis.
- Grassroots not AstroTurf: Artificial turf’s brand name has taken on a new meaning, referring to purported “grassroots” efforts that are actually funded and supported by industry and political entities.
- Infrastructure by and for the public, not private interests: Cleaner streets, parks, buses and parking lots.
Our City Council adopted a Green New Deal resolution in 2019 and recently released their Climate Action Plan 2030. There are some great actions in that plan! At the same time, not only are we way behind on many targets, there are decisions being made all the time that run counter to transitioning to a just, sustainable Santa Cruz for the people who live and work here and for the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The Green New Deal is a fabulous framework for a better Santa Cruz, but we need to filter each and every decision that we make through a lens of climate justice, right-relations, tenants’ and workers’ rights, and raising the standard of living for our poorest residents–a true “Health in All Policies.” This lens needs to be based not on our biases, perceived “common sense,” or cynical real estate interests, but on evidence-based research and consensus-building practices. Platitudes won’t get us to a real Green New Deal, and we can’t keep wasting time postponing the inevitable.
We need to balance green development with environmental conservation and community needs for public green space. We should renovate buildings whenever possible and minimize new infrastructure for cars. When we build new affordable housing, we need to keep public open spaces with trees and benches within easy walking distance for elders, toddlers, and people with disabilities, especially as our world overheats. Citizen ballot initiatives can be aligned with these needs and would help preserve public ownership of our land, without us having to give up either neighborhood character or plans for more affordable housing.
Increased multimodal public transportation is key to economic and climate justice. It’s also nice to read or daydream while on the way to work or school, to bike safely in dedicated lanes, and have universally accessible sidewalks for people who use mobility devices to get around. With progressive taxes and a reconstructed city budget, we can subsidize bike and public transportation for city residents so that we can increase services and get more cars off the roads.
We can run the downtown trolley year-round or create a new hop on-hop off service that would benefit tourists and locals alike. Connect that with a congestion fee and parking lots on the periphery, and we can keep beach and boardwalk traffic from congesting neighborhoods so badly.
We need to make changes to our Public Safety programs and policies, and we need to have the people most impacted by those policies not just at the table but centered in those discussions and decisions. We can’t continue to exclude people because their ideas are inconvenient or challenging. For example, our Black and Latinx residents who want more radical alternatives to policing should have just as much representation as those who are in positions of power and advocate smaller reforms. Our unhoused and BIPOC neighbors need a seat at the table for every decision that affects their ability to survive. Our residents who advocate for re-allocating some police funds to a CAHOOTS-style alternative emergency response program should be taken seriously by our Council and Police Chief instead of brushed off.
We can shift our focus on policing to align with our values of Community Care with new programs for neighborhood Community Care Emergency Response Teams. Starting with downtown and city workers, we can use our highly capable community of mental health care professionals to train and support residents to help their neighbors with non-police problems.
The atmospheric rivers which caused catastrophic flooding for many people living along the banks of the San Lorenzo River last December revealed that neither the City nor the County have emergency response plans in place for people experiencing houselessness. It is essentially criminal negligence to omit planning for a known frontline community, and I will continue to advocate for robust, effective, and inclusive plans for everyone in the face of natural disaster or other emergency.
I am a fierce advocate for our unhoused neighbors, many of whom are queer or gender non-conforming. As they are disproportionately represented in and particularly vulnerable members of this frontline community, they need protection and services, not the criminalizing ordinances that our city council conservative-democrat majority passed last year.
The murder of an unhoused gender non-binary person in the summer of 2021 by a former intimate partner was a failure of both the criminal justice and city-county homeless response systems. It is unconscionable that a person who lost their housing for economic reasons (as the vast majority do), experienced disability, and was living in their vehicle, did not have a safe, secure place to park and did not receive notice that their former abuser had been released from prison.
We need to strengthen our social safety net, protect tenants so that they don’t lose their housing, reduce economic inequality by raising pay and lowering rents, explicitly support unionization of local businesses, and create safe living spaces (with services) throughout our community. Aside from improving the material conditions of people’s lives, we must change the narratives around houslessness, disability, chronic illness, mental health, and neurodiversity so that we are building empathy, connection, trust, and collective care, rather than eroding it.
Reducing the arsenal of military-grade equipment and chemical weapons will save us money, benefit all living things, and increase public safety. Now that we have more transparency because of federal law AB481, we can insist that our police department’s equipment aligns with community values, international law, civil rights, and a sensible budget. We need an independent, citizen oversight body for review, accountability, and recommendations for SCPD budget, policies, actions, and equipment.
A multi-jurisdictional “Regional Public Safety Training Center” is working its way through our 5-year strategic plans. These centers can focus on fire and rescue training, but they more often focus on militarized police equipment and munitions testing. Our communities and ecosystems won’t benefit from this conception of public safety. We must follow this proposal and organize to resist it in all of our municipalities and several counties.
Mandatory public financing and spending limits for local elections. The ultimate goal is publicly financed campaigns. Minimize or eliminate PAC spending by whatever means possible. Local PAC Santa Cruz Together has been raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars over the past several campaign cycles. This spending unfairly and undemocratically influences local governance.
The original inhabitants of what is now known as Santa Cruz were the Awaswas-speaking Uypi tribe. Members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, the descendents of the people taken to Missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Buatista, are alive and busting ass to maintain their language and culture, and to protect their sacred sites. There is not a single member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band resident in Santa Cruz, and that is a massive problem that is a continuation of our settler-colonial roots. How can we continue to live here without recognizing their almost complete exclusion from their traditional territories and local decision-making processes? We need to seriously address our failure as a community to right these wrongs–through cultural changes, significant reparations, land-back, and self-selected inclusion in all levels of City and County Governance and well-paid positions in every city and county department, should they want them.
We need to continue our community reckoning with racism towards our Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and Pacific Island residents. This racism manifests in systemic and largely hidden housing and employment discrimination as well as in outright acts of hate. White Santa Cruzans can do much better at listening to the experiences of People of Color with open hearts and minds, acknowledge that we have internalized racism, and then make concrete changes to the attitudes and systems that perpetuate that racism. Ultimately, to paraphrase both the Combahee River Collective and Angela Davis, we need identities based on politics rather than politics based on identity. This means that our politics matter more than any aspects of our personal identities, and are rooted firmly in justice, mutual respect, and the cultivation of solidarity between us.
All city business should be bilingual, including simultaneous translation of meetings. All schools should be bilingual, not just one. We need to provide the material conditions to allow people to serve on advisory bodies and commissions, with childcare or stipends to allow them time off care and work duties.
The frontline community of Beach Flats should have property returned to them in the form of restoring their community garden and the riverside that was paved for a parking lot.
Non-citizens should be allowed to run for municipal offices, as in other cities.
Even with Roe v Wade in effect, we didn’t have equal access to abortion services in our city or county. We need to continuously work to decrease stigma and increase access to a full range of reproductive health care for all members of our community, including abortions.
I have publicly spoken about my own sexuality, past abortion, and reproductive health care needs, and the need for universal reproductive health care in our community, not just for “women.” Free abortion, on demand, without apology!
Pass CalCare, healthcare should not be a for-profit enterprise.
I wholeheartedly support Medicare for All. If I am elected to office, I will bring forward a city council resolution declaring support for Medicare for All, and I will work to enact whatever possible within city, county, and state limits to move our health care systems in that direction. I will work to increase publicly owned and operated health care facilities in our city and county, and will advocate for Universal Health Care at the state and national levels.
Explicit support for our healthcare workers is essential: higher pay, better working conditions, increased recruitment and retention, and expanding unionization for all healthcare workers will benefit our healthcare systems, bringing benefits in turn to vulnerable people, including our aging population, our poor and workers themselves.
I will also fight against the continued privatization of Medicare. Seniors and disabled people already face disproportionate levels of poverty and limited healthcare choices. They continue to face rising costs and 3rd party interference in decisions that should be between them and their doctors. I believe that the only acceptable healthcare system is a universal public one, serving peoples’ needs, not corporations’ greed.
My personal hospital, for example, is Dominican, a non-profit Catholic hospital. My partner, children, and I cannot receive all of the care that we might need in this system because they offer limited services. In addition, they don’t support abortions or assisted suicide. These are two vital areas of health care that a large portion of our population must seek elsewhere, without insurance. If this hospital is essentially playing the role of a public hospital (by being the only one available) then we should expect full reporting on care and a standardized definition of charity care. Plus, if such institutions are operating in areas without public hospitals, they should be mandated to provide any and all medical care. I support Medicare for All and standardized terms of care and community benefit.
The City of Santa Cruz does not have a Health and Human Services department, and until recently refused to offer services for programs that they felt fell under the county HHS domain. I would support the creation of a city Health and Human Services department to mirror and collaborate with the county.
While we do have some good health care programs in our city and county for the uninsured, underinsured, and the indigent, it is my understanding, based on experience and research, that overall services are inadequate, not available 24/7, and that indigent people, especially, are often treated badly and released with no followup care. Likewise, as a small community, we have a dearth of mental health emergency and inpatient beds for people at all income levels. We need to reinvest in those life-saving facilities and care providers. It is imperative that we provide excellent care for everyone in our community, regardless of their ability to pay, housing status, or immigration status. Mandating that facilities in our communities reduce their profits and instead invest in expanding care, with the support of government when needed, is a logical solution.
Consistent with the 2022 CA Dems platform, I support getting cops out of schools and investing in many more mental health professionals and support staff. Staff and teachers at most levels are underpaid and overworked, they and our children suffer as a result of staffing austerity. Like so many other workers in our community, the wages are too low, the rent is too high, and workplace conditions need improvement.
CCCE and PGE should be in the hands of the people, not privatized to make shareholders and executives rich. Let’s immediately begin investing in community-level solar and wind microgrids, that are resilient to disasters and can fund basic income for undocumented workers.
I support public banking. When we don’t own our own financial infrastructure, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the whims of the marketplace, hedge funds, and more and more of our dollars being extracted from our community.
I am a mother, artist, and community activist in Santa Cruz. My life path reflects my essential values of social justice, participatory democracy, collective care, and ecological stewardship. I am committed, personally and professionally, to these values and believe they distinctly qualify me to serve as a city council member, where there are more working artists than in most cities in the country.
Parenting children demands responsibility, frugality, communication, and empathy.
Working as an artist and administering artistic and community projects requires bravery, risk, and composure.
Community Organizing with the Working Families Party, Santa Cruz Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, Sanitation for the People, and Santa Cruz Cares, where I have personally connected with some of the city’s most vulnerable and marginalized residents to reduce the harms of neglect and inequality, fiercely demonstrates my respect, engagement, and concern for everyone in my community.
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