With the season of glossy fliers and knocking on doors approaching quickly, five Santa Cruz City Council candidates have announced their intentions to run. Though they are campaigning on similar issues, like the city wide housing crisis and homelessness, they each bring unique perspectives and solutions to the larger discussions.
Mayor Cynthia Mathews will seek another term, and current Councilmember Micah Posner has yet to decide. Councilmember Pamela Comstock will not run, and Councilmember Don Lane is getting temporarily termed out after eight years, leaving at least two open seats. The candidacy nomination period begins July 18 and runs through Aug. 12, and the general election is Nov. 8.
Drew “Dru” Glover
A cancer survivor and photographer, Dru Glover founded Santa Cruz nonprofit Project Pollinate to promote environmental sustainability for the future by hosting educational events around Santa Cruz.
“The next generation is what we should be focusing on,” Glover says. “Our generation and the generation before us are important, but our future leaders of the community are who we need to be focusing our time and energy into.”
Glover wants to make housing more affordable by building more units, as well as improving alternate and accessible forms of public transportation—whether that means maintaining Metro routes or making it easier to cycle around town. He also wants to create more community involvement in local politics. Glover insists, though, that Santa Cruz doesn’t have any singular issues.
“All of the issues are combined, and we need to take a really holistic approach to addressing [them], educating the community, getting people involved, and brainstorming solutions,” Glover says.
J.M. Brown, a public relations representative, says his reasons for running for city council align with his background in journalism: he has a desire to serve the public.
“I got into journalism to ensure accountability in our community, be a voice to the underrepresented, and to shine light on social problems,” says Brown, a former Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter. “When I decided to leave that profession, I realized that those are the same attributes that someone should want in a city councilmember: someone who is going to ask good questions, be an independent thinker, and have the best interests of the public in mind.”
Brown wants to focus on creating and maintaining affordable housing, advocacy for the “highest and best” use of the San Lorenzo River, public safety, and mental health.
Brown has so far garnered the most impressive list of endorsements, including Assemblymember Mark Stone, County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty and former mayor Hilary Bryant, also a campaign advisor to Brown. Brown is serving as a City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Commission member and a member of the Santa Cruz County Housing Advisory Commission.
Martine Watkins says she has always been a problem solver. A mother of two, Watkins works as the senior community organizer in the Santa Cruz County Office of Education.
“I come from a perspective of thinking about the future, and ensuring that the decisions that we make today are considerate of what it takes to build a healthy future,” says Watkins, who is the daughter of county schools superintendent Michael Watkins.
Martine Watkins, who grew up in Santa Cruz County before pursuing legal studies at UCSC, wants to find solutions to the housing crisis. “If we don’t think about these issues, I don’t know that our kids will be able to live here,” Watkins says. “We have to be mindful about what policies today have on those who are here to inherit the world and our community tomorrow.”
With around 150 days until the November election, Steve Pleich has already begun knocking on doors.
“I am going to be out every day asking people what their issues are, and how city council can serve them better,” Pleich says. “City council is the most powerful and influential position that people have in Santa Cruz, and it’s also the position from which you can do the most good.”
Pleich is a self-employed professional grant writer actively involved in community service and nonprofit programs throughout Santa Cruz. He has run twice before, largely on repealing the sleeping ban and other homeless issues, and says he is pushing a three-issue campaign.
“We really can make Santa Cruz a more self-sustaining community just by raising the minimum wage to a living wage, finding affordable rental spaces, and promoting sustainable transportation,” Pleich says. “All of these things are interrelated. That’s what I am going to concentrate on … It’s really a working-class campaign.”
Though he has no political experience, Nathanael Kennedy wants to advocate for more public restrooms downtown, more homeless shelters and bicycle cops.
“The number one thing I am trying to accomplish is simply getting the police some tandem bicycles, because that way two police arrive at the same time,” Kennedy said. “It’s important that when they are on bikes they can have a passenger.”
As a self-employed artist, Kennedy has made and given out more than 9,080 origami cranes this year, he says.
He’s been arrested a handful times in the past 15 years, and was convicted in a 2008 misdemeanor weapon exhibition charge—a detail he’s not thrilled to have re-hashed in the media. In 2002, Kennedy was arrested for vandalism misdemeanor charges related to sidewalk chalking. If elected, he hopes to have spaces designated for chalking downtown.
Steve Schnaar, the latest candidate to jump into the race, is the founder and director of the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree project, and a volunteer mechanic for the Bike Church.
He is passionate about preserving the Beach Flats Community Garden, environmental sustainability, solutions to homelessness, and affordable housing.
“Like Bernie Sanders, I’m someone with a broad vision of economic and environmental justice, and I have a very long track record of fighting for these ideals,” Schnaar tells GT via email.
He has several proposals for more affordable housing, including rent control, making it easier for homeowners to build back units and requiring the inclusion of affordable housing units in all new developments.