Candidates make their case to Santa Cruz voters

Santa Cruz’s District 3 city council seat is being contested for the March 5 election in a race between incumbent Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and her challenger, Joy Schendledecker.

Schendledecker previously ran for Mayor of Santa Cruz in 2022, but lost to Fred Keeley. She has since been elected as a California State Assembly 28th District delegate and is involved with organized labor in the area. She is a member of United Auto Workers Local 2865 and is a community organizer focused on issues of economic and reproductive justice, environmental sustainability, peace and democracy.

GT sent questions to the candidates to get their takes on some of the city’s most pressing issues. Read Schendledecker’s responses below.

(Responses have been edited for brevity.)

Why are you running for city council?

I decided to run for city council because I want to be a part of making our city work better for the majority of Santa Cruzans. Many of us don’t feel heard or reflected by our current corporate-oriented council majority. I’d like to bring balance back to our representation, helping shape public conversations, budgets, and policies from a community-led position. 

What do you think will be the most pressing needs for Santa Cruz over the next four years, and how would you address these needs as a council member?

Our most pressing needs relate to an inequitable and unaffordable housing market coupled with the hyper-commodification of elements necessary to sustain life. Workers are not paid enough and need better workplace conditions. The impacts of climate change are being felt before we have adequately prepared. City council governance is top-down, leading to a crisis of constituent confidence in our city leaders. My proposals for making our city more egalitarian and democratic include precinct assemblies, ranked-choice voting, publicly-financed campaigns, a people’s budget process and more effective collaboration with Santa Cruz County.

What are your thoughts on how the city should address the increasing demand for affordable housing? Any ideas on how to keep public services adequate to accommodate potential new growth? 

Our General Plan has identified sites for thousands of potential homes. We should be working with neighborhoods and property owners in the planning process to minimize appeals. I like the Strong Towns approach of bottom-up governance, incremental growth, fiscal responsibility and safe streets. We should use wealth taxes to beef up our Affordable Housing Trust Fund, use public property for public housing and increase tenant protection programs. We need to use the funds more responsibly on common-good infrastructure and higher wages for our SEIU city employees.

Do you think raising the city’ s sales tax to help fund assistance programs for the unhoused is a good idea?  What else do you think could be done to address the issue?

I would rather see progressive wealth taxes than regressive sales taxes. Even if those of us living above the median income can handle another parcel tax or $1,000 more per year spent on local sales taxes, the other half of our community is squeezed so hard they have to choose between rent, paying bills and buying essentials. We need to insist on fiscal responsibility and raising funds from people and corporations who have more than enough, not from the people who are most burdened by the cost-of-living crisis.