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With Big Spending and an Endorsement Fight, Recall Heats Up

In surprise vote, UCSC College Democrats endorse recall of Drew Glover

City Councilmember Chris Krohn, one of two councilmembers up for a recall vote, says he and his colleagues have been doing good work on labor agreements, drug decriminalization and funding the Warming Center homeless service. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

A few weeks ago, Santa Cruz City Councilmember Drew Glover was speaking to the UCSC College Democrats up on campus.

One student asked Glover about one of the recent investigations into his conduct at City Hall.

Glover responded by accusing Mayor Martine Watkins, who had complained about his behavior, of “playing the woman card.” Estrada says Glover’s comment, which resulted in a tense 20-minute exchange with the group, was one of several that offended the College Dems, as highlighted in a recent post on the club’s Facebook page.

Glover says, in an email to Good Times, that the uncomfortable exchange started because of misguided questions from students who were confused about some of the underlying facts behind the allegations.

Last week, the College Dems held an endorsement meeting on the potential recalls of Glover and fellow Councilmember Chris Krohn—both of which will appear on the March 3 ballot. Glover Skyped in. The call also included Carol Polhamus, representing the pro-recall group Santa Cruz United, and another representative, calling in on behalf of Krohn.

When Glover was asked about his “woman card” statement from a couple weeks prior, he initially denied ever making the comment, according to both Estrada and Polhamus.

“We definitely went in there with an open mind, and it shifted our perspective a lot,” Estrada says of the club’s two meetings with Glover.

Later that night, after the second meeting, the College Dems—a club that endorsed Glover’s run in 2018—voted to officially endorse his removal from office. Under the club’s rules for endorsements, all decisions must meet the threshold of a two-thirds vote in order for the club to make an endorsement, and the vote on Glover did so. Club members voted by a slimmer majority in favor of removing Krohn. That resulted in no endorsement on the question of Krohn’s recall.

In its Facebook post, the club later posted that the decision had nothing to do with Glover’s “progressive politics,” but was instead “based in his conduct towards our club.”

Glover tells GT that he’s “of course disappointed.”

“But I think that this is a fantastic example of how emotions play a strong role in politics and the influence these accusations (true or not) have had on this recall process,” he writes.

Keli Gabinelli, who represented Krohn at the meeting, believes the group missed the bigger picture. The recall, she writes in an email to GT, amounts to a landlord-funded power grab. In a separate email, Krohn says the current council majority, which includes Glover and himself, has been doing good work on labor agreements, drug decriminalization and funding the Warming Center homeless service.

This past summer, a report came out detailing allegations of workplace conduct violations by Glover and Krohn. Each councilmember had one complaint against him substantiated. Their supporters brushed off the violations as minor, ticky-tack infractions, but shortly after the report came out, Glover had a heated exchange with a city staffer that resulted in a memo from the city manager and new rules for whom Glover was allowed to talk to.

In December, Glover had another substantiated complaint against him. This violation was for a retaliatory Facebook post directed at Kevin Grossman, former chair of the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. A letter obtained by GT from the investigator to Glover noted that he had already been told to change his behavior, and also not to retaliate against anyone. “Nonetheless, it is evident that your conduct is still giving rise to new complaints,” investigator Timothy L. Davis wrote.

Glover disagrees with the finding, and denies doing anything wrong.

Davis, a San Jose-based lawyer, recommended that the City Council be appraised of the violation. The finding was reported on Santa Cruz Local last year, and in GT, but the city never made any announcements about it.

CHECKING ACCOUNT

Former Santa Cruz Mayor Katherine Beiers is one of two candidates running for Krohn’s seat on the City Council in the event that he gets recalled.

Her true hope, though, is that she does not end up on the council. That’s because she wants to see both Krohn and Glover hold on to their seats. Beiers—who has Krohn’s endorsement—says she’s been opposed to the recall, ever since she heard that people first started getting signatures more than six months ago. She even received a call about a year ago from someone shortly after Glover took office. The person asked if she wanted to take part in a possible effort to recall Glover. She was not interested.

“I wish I’d remember who it was who called me,” Beiers, 87, says, still feeling indignant at the idea. “Someone gets fairly elected, and they want to remove him. That told me a lot. It was about searching for whatever reason they could find.”

In some ways, the story behind the recall goes back to 2018, when Measure M, a local rent control measure, met well-funded, significant opposition and lost at the ballot box.

Santa Cruz Together, the landlord-led group spearheading the opposition, continued to raise money after successfully defeating the measure, partly because a new City Council majority was discussing rent control-type tenant protections.

Peter Cook, a member of Santa Cruz Together, says the group kept fundraising because of issues like neighborhood safety, the local economy and civility at City Hall. “We have grown reserves to support future campaigns such as Yes on Recall,” Cook tells GT via email. All told, the political committee raised more than $156,000 between the start of 2019 and Jan. 17, 2020—with a lot of the money coming from landlords and property management companies, public records show.

The committee has funneled much of that funding into Santa Cruz United’s anti-recall campaign. Now Santa Cruz United—which operates separately from Santa Cruz Together— has taken in $109,000 for its effort to recall Glover and Krohn. That includes more than $67,000 from Santa Cruz Together, which paid for expense items like “petition circulating,” “petition copies,” and “recall literature.”

Many landlords also gave directly to Santa Cruz United, according to financial reporting forms listed on the city’s website, and a Phoenix-based construction company called ASMC Inc. gave $3,000. Not counting the additional money in Santa Cruz Together’s reserves, Santa Cruz United has taken in more than five times the money that the Stop the Recalls group has.

Polhamus says Santa Cruz United is a loosely affiliated coalition of neighborhood groups—with additional from members of Santa Cruz Together and public safety groups like Take Back Santa Cruz.

When Stop the Recall leaders like UCSC Professor Emeritus John Hall started going over the financials, one item that caught their eye was the amount of money—more than $65,000—spent by Santa Cruz Together on the cost of “petition circulating.” Late in the signature-gathering period, Polhamus and fellow Santa Cruz United leader Dan Coughlin both stressed that 90% of the signatures were gathered by volunteers. Assuming that was true, it looked like Santa Cruz Together paid canvassers more than $25 per signature for that other 10% of signatures on behalf of Santa Cruz United. And if not, opponents said that recall leaders were dramatically underrepresenting the number of paid signature gatherers who took part.

Coughlin now says that by the campaign’s end, the share of signatures gathered by paid workers was higher. He also believes the “petition circulating” cost probably included tables, banners and other costs. He adds that he plans to go back and look at the financials, and that he doesn’t fault Stop the Recalls for looking at the numbers the way they did. “I can see where they’re doing, and I can respect that, actually,” he says.

Former Mayor Bruce Van Allen, who opposes the recall, notes that, in general, the money being spent dwarfs the cash that would flow through a typical City Council campaign race, where candidates typically follow voluntary spending limits.

“It’s very hard to counter the kind of money that the pro-recall groups are raising,” he says.

SPEED RACE

All the candidates in the recall race say that, if elected, they hope to heal the wounds incurred from years of divisive politics.

Former Santa Cruz Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice is running as a replacement candidate for Glover. Like Beiers, he supports Glover and Krohn first and foremost and would like to see them finish out their terms.

He’s running in case Glover loses. Fitzmaurice says the current majority has accomplished good things and he doesn’t want to see them go away. Fitzmaurice says that, if elected, his main focus would be on rebuilding relationships between the City Council and the community. In particular, he says groups that are down on their luck have learned to distrust the city more than anyone.

“We’ve got to work on rebuilding trust,” Fitzmaurice says. “When you’re an addict or you have other struggles—you’re poor or homeless—that’s when you have the most issues trusting the council, trusting the police, trusting the community, trusting the police. We need to rebuild that trust.”

First-time candidate Renée Golder is also running for the Glover seat, and she was the first one to jump into either race. If elected, she says she hopes to focus on housing, homelessness and protecting the environment. Golder says she probably would not have jumped in, had she known Fitzmaurice was going to enter the race. Golder had already been planning a run for the council this upcoming November, and that’s still on the table if she doesn’t win this time. “If the recall doesn’t pass, I’ve already bought my campaign signs,” she says.

Candidate Don Lane, a three-time former mayor running against Beiers for the possible Krohn seat, has criticized the recall at times. In general, he feels it may be too blunt of an instrument. He still doesn’t know how he’ll vote on the question next month.

Five months ago during the recall’s signature-gathering phase, Lane wrote a blog post titled “I remember—but do I recall?” about his ambivalence toward the process and also reflecting on a recall effort he himself faced 30 years prior.

Lane realizes that many of his anti-recall friends are disappointed that he hasn’t come out against the recall altogether.

“That’s really difficult, because the folks against the recall don’t like it. They want me to be on their side,” Lane says. “I’m trying to make the point that, if I’m going to be a bridge builder, I can’t be seen as firmly entrenched in one side or the other. It’s tricky, but I feel like it’s the right thing for me to do.”


Update Feb. 25, 10:30am: A previous version of this story over-reported some of the fundraising totals from pro-recall groups.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Don Honda

    February 5, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Jacob, you neglected to mention that the Pro Measure M people spent over $90,000 for their campaign with much of it coming from outside Santa Cruz. They used this money in part to pay petitioners to get signatures. I remember the false “facts” that was repeated be them, geared to student renters

    • Don Honda

      February 6, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      PLEASE ADD THIS TO THE ABOVE COMMENT IF IT IS PRINTED:
      In addition to outside money, the Measure M initiative received free assistance from national advocacy, tenant, and legal groups.

  2. John McKelvey

    February 5, 2020 at 10:03 am

    For people that insist that the recall is funded by “real estate interests,” please read all the financial disclosures. Take a look at the category of the donor and the expenditure code. There are comparatively few donors that are not “individuals,” and the number that are actually comprise a small portion of the funds raised. Describing the recall campaign as funded by “outside/corporate/real-estate/etc.” interests is just another attempt to change the channel from the recall campaign’s wholly-appropriate focus on Krohn and Glover’s incompetence and unprofessional conduct.

    • Tom De Meo

      February 5, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Thank you I Agree many residents gave under one hundred dollars. Measure M was not the main reason for their support. Crime and council dis function as well as neighborhood safety were

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