Santa Cruz City Council Candidate Forum - Santa Cruz Local 10/5/2020
4:37PM Oct 6, 2020
Hi, everyone, welcome.
It's so cool to see the number of attendees climbing up.
Hi, everyone. I'm Kara meiburg uzman, CEO and co founder of Santa Cruz local. For those of you who don't know what Santa Cruz local is we are a local news podcast, newsletter and website. We cover local government and our county's deepest, biggest issues. And today is the first of five candidate forums we're hosting this week. This is for the Santa Cruz City Council. We have four more coming up, one for each city council and the county board of supervisors. Before we get started, I wanted to thank all our partners and co sponsors who made today possible. The app toss Chamber of Commerce, the Association of faith communities, capital a so called Chamber of Commerce, community bridges county park friends live oak cradle to career paparoa Valley Chamber of Commerce, Santa Cruz Community Health Center's Santa Cruz County Business Council, Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Cruz museum of art and history, Santa Cruz, indivisible Santa Cruz policy, Santa Cruz works and the Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce. Thank you so much.
quick check before we
before we meet the candidates is Oscar here. We plan to have Spanish interpretation available. Our interpreter is we're having trouble connecting our interpreter. So I apologize. We won't have it at the very start. But we hope to have it very soon. I apologize about that. So this conversation is being recorded. We're gonna post it on our website, Santa Cruz local.org slash elections. That's where we'll post the recordings to all our candidate forums. So now let's meet the candidates. Please say your name and why you're running for city council. You'll have 30 seconds. Stephen will keep track of time. And you'll see the clock in his window. Kayla Kumar.
Great. Hello everyone. My name is Kayla Kumar. And I'm running for Santa Cruz city council because I want the voice of the average everyday person who lives in Santa Cruz to be centered in the way that we navigate this crisis and beyond. I'm committed to always coming from that place of community as we make decisions along the long road ahead. And I'd be honored to serve the people. Thank you.
Thank you, Kayla. I'm Kelsey Hill.
Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for having me. My name is Kelsey Hill. I'm a nonprofit media specialist or renter and seabright a climate advocate and a young person navigating the heightening affordability crisis in our community. One of the reasons that I'm running is because we're barreling toward where to Santa Cruz that is not inclusive to folks from lower income backgrounds. And I want to make sure that as we build our future we are doing so with through a lens of equity and resilience. Thank you.
Thank you, Elizabeth Conlon
Hello, everyone. My name is Elizabeth Conlon. I'm a scientist and a renter on the east side of Santa Cruz. I'm running for city council because of the dueling crises of the pandemic and housing which I see as the most urgent issues facing our city. I envision an inclusive and vibrant Santa Cruz through new housing for all income levels, a building Santa Cruz's sustainable model city and addressing our homelessness.
Thank you chevra commentary Johnson.
Good evening, everybody. My name is Shepard Callen Tory Johnson. Thanks for hosting this. I'm running for city council because I care deeply about the resilience and the health of our community. I've dedicated the last two decades of my life and career towards working towards solutions that create a healthy resilient Santa Cruz and I know that we have a hard path ahead of us if I want to offer my skills In my experience to helping our community we build Thank you.
Thank you, Sandy Brown.
I'm Sandy Brown. I'm running for Santa Cruz city council re election. I am doing this because I have had a lifelong commitment to advancing the goals of economic democracy, sustainability and social justice. I want to continue to do that work at the Council. And I'm terrible at sound bites. So I'm just gonna leave it there and talk with you all and answer your questions. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Martine Watkins.
Thank you. So I am a parent. I live on the east side and I'm a current city council member, former mayor and I'm running for city council for the same reasons I ran in 2016 to make Santa Cruz the most healthy, the most equitable and sustainable community as possible. And as we move forward with economic recovery, I believe we can uplift our communities who have been left behind because our best policies will yield multiple benefits and we need strong leadership in this moment. Thank you.
Thank you, Sonia Berner.
I thank you, Kara. My name is Sonia Brenner, and I'm running for city council as my commitment to support Santa Cruz as an invested community member. I currently work downtown is the operations director and serve on the Housing Authority Board commissioners overall, seven years now. And housing is a really big topic that I'm committed to public health and safety and economic sustainability. I really believe the fullness of my life experiences qualifies me. Thank you.
Maria. Could Dennis. Good evening, everybody. My name is Maria Cardenas, and the current executive director of Santa Cruz Community Ventures and I have dedicated my life to justice and equity. I'm running because I'm a problem solver and endure, ICSC a city that has struggled for over two years was extremely policies and politics that have divided us as neighbors. And right now we need to experience that connection to each other to bring the best of us to ensure the Santa Cruz can thrive. Thank you.
Thank you all. And there's one more candidate that you'd see. You'll see on your ballot, Alicia, cool, she did not respond to our invitation. And you'll see, yeah, you'll see her name on the ballot, voters will get to pick four candidates out of the nine. Okay, now for our main questions, these three main questions or three main questions come from a survey that we've had out of our readers and listeners, and we'll paste the questions in the chat. So you can we won't be repeating them in between each candidate, you can keep track of it in the chat box. If you don't see the chat box, you should see a bar at the bottom of your screen and just hit the little icon that says chat. So candidates, you'll have 90 seconds to answer this question. Stephen Baxter again, will keep time. We ask that you be respectful of the other candidates in your responses. Please understand that everyone comes from different places. along that same line, though, we invite you to differentiate your stance from others. So the first question is, by now you know each other's policies on affordable housing. You said we've you've participated in at least 10 of these forums. How is your stance on affordable housing different from the other candidates? And people want to know what's your plan to fund more affordable housing in the city? Where will the money come from?
chevra Collin Tory Johnson
Thank you still jotting down the question. Um, I know that affordable housing is a crisis in our community. That's one of the issues that I'm committed to working on. And I've worked on a number of issues that are related to this. So that's one of the things that's different about me is that I've seen the impacts of a lack of affordable housing, the homeless population or community for example, this is something I've worked on here in Santa Cruz as well as in San Francisco. I believe that we need to look at affordable housing that brings in housing for a range of incomes, including our low, very low and middle incomes. I know I myself have lost colleagues and friends who are fellow social workers like myself, teachers, firefighters, and of course it impacts are very low income, as I said, around the issues of homelessness. How would we fund the affordable housing I think one of the things we need to look at is Partnering with nonprofit affordable housing builders, we can also look at outside resources. And two years ago, I supported measure H. And I think when the time is right, and we're out of this recession, we really need to think about a consistent way of bringing in resources to fund the affordable housing projects that we have in the queue. And that will hopefully be put in the queue. Thank you.
Thank you. Again, since the question is not posted in the chat yet, how is your stance on affordable housing different from the other candidates? People want to know your plan to fund more affordable housing in the city? Where will the money come from? Sandy Brown?
Yeah, so I believe that the way to get affordable housing in our community is through the regulatory framework. So policy that requires developers to build their fair share of affordable housing and or contribute to the city's efforts to fund afford of new affordable housing development, and then also incentive incentives for production. So I think that for me, that means I'm proud to have increased the lead the charge for an increase in the inclusionary housing percentage from 15% to 20%. And to also have taken the lead on writer protections and other, you know, other issues that are really important to people who are really struggling in our community right now. I also think that we need to be looking not just at saying, well, we're going to use city land for 100% affordable housing projects. But we need to be singularly focused on using that land wisely. And that small parcels and large parcels a lake, I think we can partner with nonprofits, other affordable housing developers community land trust, how are we going to fund it? a vacancy tax on second homes, directed to affordable housing development. We also have opportunities for state grants and others. And I also think that we it's time for a housing bond when the economy is in recovery.
Again, please differentiate how, how you are different from the other candidates on affordable housing. What's your plan to fund more affordable housing in the city? And where will the money come from? Sonia Bruner?
Hi, Kara. Thank you. So, for me, the funding comes from a variety of sources, because our housing crisis is a very multi layered and has different needs. And as someone who is a renter, and someone who was in a low income public housing program for eight years, after being on the waiting list for six years, I know I understand we need more housing. And I feel that since I serve on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, like I said earlier, overall, seven years now, I served for two years in 2010. And again since 2015, but creating options there through the Housing Authority, increasing vouchers through HUD federal funding, and also looking at private and public partnerships to fund more low income, affordable housing. And I think there's a variety of sources that we can tap into through the state as well, and really getting creative with grants. And we have to look at inflation adjusted rent subsidies and incentive programs. So, you know, within this minute here, I think my Time's up.
Yeah, your time is up. Thank you. We have to stick to a strict schedule. Again, the question How is your stance on affordable housing different from the other candidates? What is your plan to fund more affordable housing? What? Where will the money come from? Kelsey Hill.
Thank you. So I want to preface this by saying where I differentiate from the other candidates is I've experienced homelessness fairly recently in my life. I dealt with housing insecurity throughout my teenage years. I know what happens when we let affordable housing slip through the cracks. When I moved to Santa Cruz, my rent was only 375 a month and that was less than a decade ago. If I was moving to Santa Cruz now I don't know if this would be a welcome home for me. I don't know if I would be able to afford it. So I reject the notion that saying yes to every market rate housing project in the pipeline is going to meaningfully combat our housing crisis. If we are truly going to pursue deeper affordability we need to be priority tising and really aggressively pursuing affordable housing that is accessible to very low income families. I also, you know, believe that city owned land is a good space for 100% affordable units and exploring innovative solutions like community land trust, that can really lock in that affordability for generations. I also want to echo the sentiments around a vacancy tax, I think that we should let the voters decide if we want to put a vacancy tax on second homes, on vacation rentals. And, you know, we could put that money in a pot of funds for affordable housing. I also think that we should get creative around outside funding and grants, which doesn't sound like I have disagreement with my fellow candidates on but I think that is one way that we can pursue funding. I'll leave it there.
Thank you, Kelsey. Martine Watkins.
Great, thank you for the question. I think for one, I want to say that we lost redevelopment funds, which was a great real essential tool for local jurisdictions to be able to create affordable housing. So absent that we have to do our best to leverage our Affordable Housing Trust Fund our existing city assets in terms of our parking, infrastructure, whatever we can do in terms of what we have, in regards to sort of the differentiation of myself and other candidates. I served on the housing blueprint subcommittee. And I feel like we have to take a holistic approach that's pragmatic and moderate in terms of how we're addressing our housing solutions that's community supported. And that requires us looking at our existing housing stock, and how are we protecting our existing affordable housing? How are we creating a way to bring more affordable housing online, that is both a reasonable for our community, but also responsive to what our constraints are in terms of not being able to fully produce completely affordable only housing all the time. And that requires a balance between market and, and affordable required housing, we also can look at other ways to streamline housing, like we did with the policy recommendations around how we get more ad use online. But essentially, we have limited space. So we have to find ways to support housing. And that means not creating an inclusionary percentage that's not going to deter housing from being created at all, and ultimately involving the community in every aspect, which is an aspect of what the housing blueprint subcommittee designed.
Thank you. Kayla Kumar.
Yeah. So I think one primary way that I differentiate myself as a candidate is I'm really focused on this specific shortage of housing types in Santa Cruz, I want to start from that place and work out. This is of course, not about ideological opposition, I want everyone to be housed it just the plain truth of the matter is that we don't have enough housing types of the very low, low and moderate income levels. So I'm focused and I think the city should be completely focused on addressing that specific being very specific and laser focused and how we're spending our time and resources. I don't think the supply side just increase the stock doesn't matter. It can be market rate, it will make it affordable. I think that arguments and complete prices created not just by supply, but demand and people from outside of Santa Cruz are constantly wanting to come here. We're seeing that play out right now. And so we'll keep increasing the supply of condos, Margaret condos and people from Silicon Valley who can afford them will keep taking them and making this affordability crisis worse. So I think that's a huge differentiation. Again, I support drawing down federal and state funds letting voters decide on vacancy tax, we could put that in the housing, Affordable Housing Trust, also, the housing bond measure he did very well in Santa Cruz, I think again, waiting for the time when the time is right. And then city partnership can partner with nonprofit developers and kind of ease that financing difficulty. Thank you.
Thank you, Kayla. Elizabeth Conlon
so the urgency of solving the housing crisis is the primary driver in my decision to run for city council. My involvement in housing and Santa Cruz EMB has guided me towards a series of policies that will increase both the number of deed restricted low income, affordable housing units, and units that are more naturally affordable. So for these deed restricted units, which are for very low, low and middle income, you know, residents of Santa Cruz, the way to increase that is to have them largely subsidized by market rate housing. That is the that is one of the best ways to build I agree that we should use city owned land to build affordable housing with nonprofit developers, but we really need to build market rate to subsidize those affordable units. I am open to a vacancy tax that I understand that that would raise about 50,000 $500,000 a year, which is approximately the cost of constructing a single apartment unit. So that's just not going to get us the affordable housing that the city needs. I also draw a contrast because I believe that we should have more infill development throughout the city. And I'm open to upzoning places around the city, not just downtown to allow for duplexes and for plexes, and more naturally affordable housing units. I'm also open to making building cheaper by eliminating parking minimums. So those are those are some of my ideas for improving affordability.
Thank you, Elizabeth, Maria Dennis,
everybody. Housing is not as simple issue to fix. And neither is housing affordability, as was stated by Kayla, we live in an extremely attractive part of the world and and development alone will not take care of affordability. nor would it take care of the equity issues that we see in housing. So for me in terms of housing, there's a priority in low income and extremely low income housing because we have not paid attention to that. We have really paid attention to market rate building over the decades, one of the priorities should be meeting arena goals that are coming up in the next year, and making sure that our housing element and our housing plan and general plan reflect the need to match our workforce to the housing mix that we have in town. I do believe that we need to renew the feasts that we're putting on development. And I believe strongly that we should be looking at our downtown area as a great space to create walkable, mixed use dense, focused development that allows for worker fit that allows for an attention to the climate crisis. And that allows for economic development at a local level. I also agree with Elizabeth Elizabeth that we need to be looking at our neighborhoods and looking at Sony rules that allow for duplexes and AB use. We should be looking at our surface parking lots and making those viable for housing opportunities. We should be reviewing spaces that we need to look to align with public transit so that we can have people who work here live here.
Thank you, Maria. Okay, so now for our lightning round, we will ask a series of yes or no questions, and we ask that you raise your hands if the statement applies to you. And I'll go through and I'll name the candidates who raise their hands. So the first first question is please raise your hand if you are a renter. So in your Bruner, Kayla Kumar, Elizabeth Conlon, Sandy Brown, Kelsey Hill, and Maria Dennis,
please raise your hand if you're a landlord.
Nobody. Please raise your hand if you voted to recall drew Glover or Kris Krohn, either of them. Sonia Bruner shedra cantare Johnson and Martine Watkins. Thank you. Developers are allowed to pay in lieu fees instead of building affordable housing. Raise your hand if you support the elimination of in lieu fees.
I see no hands.
The city council recently increased the affordable housing inclusionary rate from 15 to 20%. That requires housing projects of a certain size to offer 20% of units at lower prices to people with lower incomes. Please raise your hand if you support that decision. Sonia Bruner, Kayla Kumar, Sandy brown shedra commentary Johnston Oh, is that a maybe? halfway Maria could Dennis Kelsey Hill
and Martine Watkins
Oh, halfway for Martine Watkins. So again, that question was whether you support raising the inclusionary rate to 20%. Last question of the lightning round. Please raise your hand if you support the downtown library mixed use project as proposed. It calls for no more than 400 parking spaces and at least 50 affordable units on cedar and Cathcart streets. I'm Sonia Bruner, Elizabeth Conlon, Martine Watkins, Deborah kalantari Johnson and Maria ca. Dennis. Got it. Thank you. Okay, so now back to the questions from our survey. Again, you'll have 90 seconds to respond to this question. People told us that they're concerned about the row of tents growing along Highway one near River Street. Given the health and safety risks for people sleeping along a highway, what is your plan to address this camp?
I want to share in the communities I want to commiserate, emphasize homelessness is not good for anyone. And my heart is with those who have to experience it. And I am myself a person who has I know just how close we all are to being there and how lucky I was to have that extra layer of community support show up for me to get me out of homelessness. And now I'm a renter in Santa Cruz, California, you know, and so for me, that's I come from that place of, I want to see people with stable shelter. And I'm a housing first candidate, which means that I would like to see the development or procurement otherwise have 100% supportive housing, that includes you know, people who if they are homeless for a variety of mental health or substance abuse, other, you know, domestic violence, other reasons, that they also have services that can help them work through that, while also being sheltered. And so I think, you know, in the, that's the North Star, that's where we always have to have our focus. And I hear that across across groups, like people want folks to be housed and a lot of these issues that people are experienced, really are a direct result of that. And so I'll leave it there.
Thank you, Kayla.
Again, the question given the health and safety risk for people sleeping along the highway, what is your plan to address the camp on highway one near River Street? chevra call antari Johnson.
Thank you for the question. As I mentioned, I've worked on homelessness for about two decades now in San Francisco in here and in a variety of ways. I've written grants, I've done strategic planning, I've done direct service, and, and worked recently with the COVID emergency response team to help transition age youth. This is a very complex issue. I think that they can't miss unsanctioned. unsupervised encampments are not healthy for those who are living in the encampments. They are not healthy for the neighborhoods, and they diminish quality of life for everyone. I would like to work across our county. This isn't just a Santa Cruz city issue. I know that they're that right now. They're camped on the north coast. But this is a community wide full county issues. I'd like to work across our jurisdictions with the with the county departments, our public health department and our Board of Supervisors and CEOs office and find a safe location that these individuals can go to I think we also need to work at a pathway towards housing as Kayla said, Absolutely Housing First, getting folks in the navigation center that will link them to resources. And the other thing I want to share is that I've said this on other forums, we need to think upstream to prevent homelessness and chronic homelessness, about a third of our homeless population in the last point in time count our youth unaccompanied youth under the age of 25. And so we really don't need to invest in this population so that we don't see the suffering that we see in our community. Thank you.
Thank you, chevra. Martine Watkins.
Yeah, no, thank you for the question. I think one of the things that I've seen on the past for the past four years on city council is how challenging the issue of homelessness is, because it's really complex. It's a very complex social issue. I will also highlight the importance of prevention and the importance of early intervention. So how do we remember that we have a not so visible homeless population in our county? And how do we support getting them the resources they need and on to pathways for success. That said, we as a city also have a responsibility to ensure the health and well being of all of our residents and the and the environment of our community. And as we seek solutions, we have to think about ways that we're holistically looking at mitigating the impacts of these unsanctioned camps. Ideally, having opportunity for individuals to be connected to the shelter services available to take up offers around the shelter services available, not all want to pursue that. And so that is that county wide conversation around what are we doing for, for shelter and for services around mental health and substance abuse. And then for those that don't want those services, we have to think of a holistic strategy to help them either one be connected to a services and case management that will lead them on a path to out of getting out of homelessness in the first place. And I think as we move forward as a city, we have to also think about what are different mechanisms that we can explore and we're going to be having a special meeting to discuss the Cahoots program and other tools that have worked in various jurisdictions.
Thank you, my team. Kelsey Hill.
Thank you. So I want to start this answer by saying that in speaking to community members about this issue, as we said, a complex issue, I empathize with folks concerns that come from both a house and unhoused perspective, we all want to feel safe. We all want our kids to be able to walk around this community and feel safe. But that being said, the fact is that we are not ensuring the health and well being of our residents. And that's why we are seeing unsanctioned camps pop up, we're not truly pushing forward on a housing first model in an aggressive way that we could be. And then now we're seeing a level of infrastructure of supervised camps, hygiene stations pop up in COVID-19, during this pandemic, that we have been told in previous years was not possible. So I'm supportive of expanding that infrastructure and keeping it in place throughout the duration of this pandemic, following the recommendations from the community advisory committee on homelessness, to create navigation camps, navigate navigation campus, and continuing to work with the Association of faith communities, working with the county making sure that we are really partnering with every possible agency that's already involved in this issue, as well as exploring additional avenues so that we can really build up the support structure that's creating I'm also supportive of exploring a Cahoots like model that can more properly address the issues around house business, and associated issues like substance misuse behavioral issues, because right now, what is what is happening is not currently working.
Thank you, Sonia Bruner.
Oh, and this question is about highway one. And I've already been getting this question to some degree. And for me, there's a kind of person I am, what am I going to do about it as a council member, there's kind of an expectation and a lot of responsibility. And so I'm the kind of person that I want to understand and learn more, I want to research the data, understand the historical context, and really figure out the best way to approach it. And so for the highway one, encampments, I did a ride along with one of our police officers, and visited three of the encampments along Highway one. And also visited the bench lens as another managed encampment through county care, and really got to speak to various people who work to understand the differences in the highway. One property is owned by Caltrans, and not the city. And so right there, it's understanding what the obstacles are, and how we can leverage resources and understanding the relationship with Caltrans and understanding how to engage with people working with those experiencing homelessness and the organization's. We all agree that we need a navigation Center and the centralized place of resources. And I've been times that.
so hard with that time.
Sorry. The next is Elizabeth Conlon
Yeah, I understand that this question is at the forefront for a lot of residents of Santa Cruz. And, you know, I'm frankly fairly disappointed that it took a global pandemic for the city to really put out more bathrooms and hand washing stations for for the homeless, like these are basic human needs. And you know, not only is it important for them, it's important for the health of all of us for the you know, for the, and the cleanliness and the health of our streets and our parks. And so I really want to see the city, at least in the short term, continue to make sure that there are clean bathrooms and hand washing stations available, that is an absolute necessity. Um, you know, I agree with the nuance that chevra brought to the conversation that we need to think about approaching homeless homelessness based on the different subpopulations, you know, those living out of vehicles, those who are, you know, youth aged out of foster care, maybe, and then the chronically homeless homeless. Part of my platform is an outreach led approach to homelessness, I think, you know, we all understand that, that moving people from place to place is not productive. I'd like the city to stop being so reactive and more proactive and we need to start connecting better connecting people with social services. And then I also agree with Kayla, that in the long term, we really need to work with the county to get permanent supportive housing, and there's really encouraging research that just came out That this is effective in housing the chronically homeless population.
Thank you, Elizabeth, Maria Dennis.
So, you know, I think the pandemic, if it showed us anything was the importance of connecting and working with the county, you know, the county has access to resources and resources to deal with, or unhoused neighbors. And as much as the city can do, we cannot do it alone. And we really must be working with the county to attract state funding and federal funding to address the issue. But even given that, we have to realize that we're facing an extreme budgetary reality for the city, and that we must take leadership and pushing for that cross jurisdictional county led effort to address the unhoused issue. And but let's be honest, 70% 74% of those without homes were residents prior to losing their home, and 54% of them are unhoused due to loss of employment, eviction, or increased rent. If we want to address the our unhoused neighbors, we have to address affordable housing, and making sure that we create the pathways to have people have a home. That to me is the number one priority. But without a doubt, it's about working very closely with the county having accountability and push to work together to make sure that we bring the state and federal funds to address issue. We want people to be safe. We want people to feel at home. And that includes public health. You know, I agree with Elizabeth about having the hand washing stations and the mobile mobile showers. But at the end of the day, all of that means nothing if we don't actively work to ensure we have enough housing here in Santa Cruz.
Thank you, Maria. Sandy Brown.
Thank you. So I first want to say that the situation along Highway one I believe is in large part a result of our failed three decades of failed policy using move along and enforcement only approaches to addressing our unhoused community. It's also the result of our failure to identify locations in suitable locations and operationalize plans for managing cabinets. And those are things that while could be considered the in the county's purview, I don't really distinguish I think that we need to be bringing any and all efforts to bear to address the challenge we could working with the county is important. They do have the resources. But we also have resources we can we can use. And we have community partners, the the AFC is ready. I mean, they have a successful program, and they're ready to expand it. And the city has not acted. And so I think that for a fraction of the cost, we could actually be get, we could get these things up and running pretty quickly. Everything that we have done in response to covid has had been things that are not everything, but almost everything has been things that we have said can't be done. And it's taken this crisis to make us realize that it can be done. And we need to look at models from other communities, like the transitional encampment models, the kahootz model with respect to how we interface with our, our homeless or unhoused community members. And I'm out of time,
much more. Thank you, Sandy.
Thank you for your answers. The next question. The city council is expected to make budget cuts soon due to COVID related declines in revenue and tax revenue. What's one city program or department that you'd be willing to trim? And what's one possible way to raise revenue? Again, you'll have 90 seconds. Kelsey Hill
thanks. And it's difficult for me to say which department being a candidate and not a city council member that I would be willing to cut at this time. I don't want to say that I would cut any administration administrative position or department without having those folks at the table, the folks that work with that department. It's really important to me to make sure that we are in honest conversation with the way that our city runs in terms of bringing in revenue. I think that we need to embolden our small businesses, we need to explore outside funding and making sure that we are properly stimulating our economy so that in this recovery, we are bringing in sales tax. I know that's one place that the city has been hit hard. And in the way that I approached budget cuts. I think that the way that I see it is that we need to be chopping from places in the budget that will not be disproportionately felt by workers by essential services. Our budget reflects our values and in chopping essential services that will disproportionately impact folks that are living paycheck to paycheck workers that are operating ourselves. We are showing that we would rather keep high consulting fees administrative bloat in our budget, versus actually cutting our versus actually saving the folks that help run our city. And I'll leave it there.
Thank you, Sandy Brown.
Yeah, no single department, I am gonna echo some of Kelsey, his comments about, I believe that we need to make cuts at the top, we need to make cuts in our managerial positions, and also our consultant, but budget, across departments, I think that we should be making cuts that are furthest away from those essential services that our community relies upon. And the workers who are the lowest paid workers at the city who do that essential work to keep our community functioning, I also believe that we should maintain a commitment to some of the important community programs that we rely upon to you know, to really help people who are struggling, the most marginalized folks in our community, again, for a fraction of the cost of, you know, a full blown city operated program. So I believe that we have the past we have the potential to do that we need the political will. It's a different way of thinking about what's what's, what we should prioritize, and I will continue to advocate for that across the board.
And I'll leave it there. Thank you. Martine Watkins.
Yeah, this this, this question is really tough, like so many cities throughout our nation, we're struggling and we were actually projected to act to not be in a fiscal constraint this year before all of it. So I think well, I'll guess I'll I'll add is that, you know, there will have to be cuts to services there. This could be results based centric, thinking about what do we need? And what do we want to accomplish? In this moment, there's certain programs that aren't underway because of COVID. And the health constraints. So how do we put those programs on pause? Clearly, we can look at some of our capital projects in deferment, looking at other types of big investments, but we ultimately have to keep our infrastructure functioning. Unfortunately, there are certain consultants that we do need expert opinions on that we don't have in house. So how can we manage who and how we're bringing in those consultants in a way that's responsible as a city. In terms of revenue strategies, we're looking at how we can have an equity based sort of fee structure in terms of RI, reimbursement and cost recovery. There was a time when we were exploring increasing our T ot tax. I'm currently working with other people in our state around how cities got taken the wave the opportunity to pursue a sugar sweetened beverage tax, which could have brought in revenue to support our residents. So those are the types of creative ways that we need to work with our community and look at what types of successful revenue enhancements we can get forward through in the city of Santa Cruz, like so many cities, we struggle with various options here.
Thank you, Mark. Maria Dennis.
You know, I think quite frankly, that the pandemic hit different groups of people very differently, and laid bare the inequities that we see in our community and that were there beforehand. I don't think we need to be shocked or surprised that the inequities we're seeing right now, I think it's important that they have been brought into focus. And just as much as the pandemic laid bare dose inequity. So I think it is important imperative, that as we look at recovery, that we are active and focused on a recovery that is just that is equitable, and that centers those most harmed by the pandemic, and that recovery, in terms of the city budget, they are essential services, and we must have, but this is also an opportunity to review how we're doing the work. A lot of times, especially in budget times in our budgets there there's a need to do more deep analysis on actual impact, and review better models that are out there that can both reduce costs and increase efficiencies for the city. And I think we should be looking at that. In terms of revenue. This is not a short term revenue question. This is really a long term questions for the city to look hard into what industries we want to develop, we have to be looking at how we one as a two way street, and try to bring in commerce and manufacturing and other products that are being built in Monterey or Silicon Valley to bring them when they share value to Santa Cruz, as a long term strategy to diversify their income stream. We can not rely on hospitality and tourism, when their wages are not providing the living wages that we need for workers.
I agree that this will be a huge challenge for those on city council to confront. You know, I do understand that the city has been in discussions for several months and you know, hired some consultants to give proposals on you know, what could possibly be cut and how we could possibly raise revenue. You know, I do want to make sure that any cuts are for programs that don't hurt the most vulnerable in the city. That's why I, you know, I'm kind of weary when I see proposal like cutting homeless outreach, or decreasing Park maintenance. And these are not the times to take away those essential services when you know, people in the city say homeless, you know, outreach to homelessness is one of their key issues, and people are using the parks. However, I do think that, you know, you know, maybe we can eliminate some of the vacant jobs, we could look into refinancing the city's debt, for for raising revenues, I also want to stay away from things that will, that will hurt small businesses and the residents of Santa Cruz. And so you know, I think maybe increasing parking meter fees, that could be a good incentive to get people walking and riding bikes, and out of vehicles, which would be a climate friendly policy. I also think housing could be part of our strategy, because if we build more housing, we would be able to collect more property tax revenue. And so those are some of my ideas for for addressing the budget shortfall.
Thank you, Elizabeth. chevra, calling Terry Johnson. Thank you,
Kara. So our city recently passed a framework called the health and all policies and I worked with the city in the last year to develop and pass this framework. And just in brief, it, it puts every city decision making through three lenses, and that's equity, sustainability, and health, public health. So that's a tool that we have, it's very timely, that we have this tool that's a tool that we have, that we I would use to make these difficult decisions. We won't be able to do it alone, we will need federal bailout, we have to get really aggressive with our state and federal representatives and advocate to bring in money. I mean, let's just be real, it will, we will and we're not alone, other cities will need the same. So we'll have to get very aggressive to advocate for those funds. I think there are places that we can cut some of it as been mentioned already here, we can look at positions that are unfilled, and keep those freeze those positions. We could look at capital projects and put pause those projects. And we can look at incentivizing retirement. So those are some areas that we can we can look at for cuts, again, using the health and all policies framework. And in terms of increasing revenue. Again, the Federal federal balance will be huge and important. And I do agree that we have to look upstream, it's a moment that we can pause and think about the community that we want. And look at the industries that we can bring here to to bolster help us with recovery, but bolster our community and create a diverse amount of time diverse community for the future. Thank you.
Thank you. chevra. Sonia Bruner.
So I, my understanding, I will be watching this upcoming budget meeting that's coming up with City Council, I'm trying to follow that whole thread and understand as what I'm getting into the process of each department, going line by line and assessing where they feel cuts are most realistic. And then it going to the budget subcommittee at work recommendations to Council. So I can't speak yet to a specific program, I would propose to get cut, I just don't know enough yet of the nuts and bolts in the whole picture. But I certainly think that non essential allocations would be first to be evaluated. And public safety, sanitation, for example, are all essential, and taking a people first approach as best we can. And really supporting cuts that have the least impact on services to those who are unemployed, low income, those experiencing homelessness, and just that really invest in our long term economic viability and looking at what we can put on hold any capital projects funded by the General Fund. And we have to look at programs that directly support our most vulnerable community members and communities of color and we have to really advocate for state and federal funding.
Thank you, Sonia. Kayla Kumar.
Yeah, so um, this contraction is going to be severe. And I want the voters to know that. As a council member, I'm going to be spending a lot of time a lot of long nights looking line by line, doing the very hard and complicated work of making this these series of significant and somber decisions. And I'm the kind of person when we have difficult decisions to make, I just want to make them together. I wish the process was more participatory. In fact, I've seen actually a few comments in the, in the chat now to this, and I'll say, I absolutely believe that one thing we can do is right size, our mass policing budget, and reallocate those funds to the social services, which have gotten a lot of space tonight, but not a whole lot on how to fund them. And, you know, I think it's not quite a program, though, it seems like one but the high price consultants, I would love to do an inventory of the how much we pay for reports that we don't end up using, or seem to have any impact on the decision making process and make cuts accordingly there. Of course, drawing down federal and state funds are going to have to be a must we need to have people in there that are working tirelessly to to leverage those relationships and draw that those funds down. And then again, you know, incentivizing what is occurring in our community as small business shifts towards industries that are more sustainable, like green tech, and then social service, such as addressing homelessness and crisis response. I think I'm out of time. Sorry, assuming I lost you there.
Thank you. Thank you, Kayla. Thanks, everyone, for your responses. Now for our final lightning round. This is on the city budget. Again, please raise your hand if you if statements apply to you. Given the current gloomy city budget outlook, would you be in favor of these ideas to raise revenue and cut spending? These 10 ideas came from a consultant hired by the city. Please raise your hand if you'd be in favor. So raise your hand if you'd be in favor of increasing the city sales tax is now at 9.25%. Do I see a hand there? No. No hands. No. Martinez halfway. Okay.
Got it. Um,
raise your hand if you would increase the hotel tax. It is now at 11% Sandy Brown, Kelsey. Whoa. Cheb recall Atari Johnson. And halfway for Maria could Dennis and Martine Watkins I think? Yes. Okay. Raise your hand if you'd increase parking meter fees. I'm Kayla Kumar Elizabeth Conlon Sandy Brown. Kelsey Hill chevra. Qatari Johnston. Maria cadenas and Martina is halfway. And Sonia Bruner is halfway maybe. Okay. Raise your hand if you'd increase fees for public works and planning department services. Yes, for Sandy Brown. And that's all I see. Raise your hand if you'd be in favor of selling the Santa Cruz city owned part of skypark in Scotts Valley chevra commentary Johnson Sandy brown Elizabeth Conlon Kayla Kumar Sonia Bruner Oh is how Oh halfways are Sonia Bruner and Kelsey Hill. Murray. Yes. From our team Watkins. Yes for Maria could Dennis. Thank you. Raise your hand if you support a vacancy tax on commercial or residential properties similar to Oakland's? Yes for Kayla Kumar Elizabeth Conlon Sandy brown Kelsey Hill shiver commentary Johnson Maria Dennis. Is that a yes for Martine Watkins? Half pastor Martine Watkins and half for Sonia Bruner. Got it? Raise your hand if you would trim the budget of the economic development department.
Martine Watkins is a halfway No, no other hands. Raise your hand if you would cut half of Raise your hand if you would cut half of vacant city jobs.
No context at all for that one.
Um, where are they?
Um, um, what departments know. I want
to know. Yeah, yeah. The consultant report said half half of the city jobs that are vacant. So maybe for Sonia Bruner, maybe for sugar commentary Johnson. Maybe for Elizabeth Conlon and maybe for Martina walkins. Raise your hand And if you would cut half of the nearly $2 million in funding for homeless outreach and nonprofit groups, no hands. And last one, raise your hand if you'd be in favor of reducing parks maintenance. net. Thank you. Okay. So now for closing statements. You'll have 30 seconds each. Why would you want to leave voters with? Elizabeth Conlon?
Yeah, thank you, Karen. Stephen, thank you to the other candidates, I just really want to leave everyone with the idea that I understand that housing is complex, I want to take a pragmatic look at it, I really think that we need to act urgently and boldly try a lot of things in order to solve the affordability crisis in the city, because it's, you know, it's hurting people at all income levels, and that I will be driven to try and find solutions.
Thank you, Sandy Brown.
So I would just say that I, you know, I've been fortunate to live here for most of my life the past 30 years, and I have been fortunate to serve on the Santa Cruz City Council for the past four years. I am not a sound bite kind of person. As I mentioned, I as a council member have really rolled in my sleeves and gone to work to tackle some of our community's most pressing issues. And that has happened in my service on many committees, including the housing blueprint, subcommittee, a revenue enhancement committee, and three years as a member of the budget committee, as well as a library subcommittee, the downtown library subcommittee, and others. But so I say that to just say that, you know, I really want to dive in and be Oh, am I out of time. Thank you. Yeah. Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry. I dive in. That's what I'll
take you up. Martine Watkins.
Thank you. So being raised in the county and now working in education and raising our two daughters here with my husband, I'm committed to making Santa Cruz a place where all can thrive for many years to come. And during my first term on Council, I learned the importance of leadership, using data that way to listen to all perspectives and respond with well thought out solutions. Hence a lot of the halfway responses to the yes or no questions. I believe this is critical today. As we face unparalleled champ challenges. We need strong leadership. And I'm ready to continue to serve to make Santa Cruz the most healthy, equitable and resilient community to come. Thank you.
chevra kalantari Johnson.
Oh, you're sorry. There you go.
Sorry. I was trying to unmute. Yes, thank you for this forum. And thank you for everyone for being here tonight for caring about our community. I'm running because I to care deeply. I've worked on initiatives over the last two decades that have improved our community health and well being and some have received national recognition. I have a diverse and wide range of endorsements. And this is telling that I can work with different people. I can work with diverse perspectives, and I hope to work with you and serve as your council member.
Thank you, Kayla Kumar.
Yeah, so I just want to share with voters that I have an intersectional background that crosses racial economic justice, and gender justice and a couple that with passion and love for our community, to really step up to the challenges that we face. So I want people if you're worried, if you're just done with this crisis, if you're just hanging on by your fingertips and wants you to know that I'm going to have your back and I'm going to fight for you every step of the way. We got this. Thanks.
Thank you, Maria Dennis.
Again, thank you everybody for your time. tonight. I invite you to dive deeper into each of our candidates. These you can look at mine at both Maria 2020 orgy. At the core I'm running at a service and love of the city. were facing tremendous challenges, but there were challenges that were there before they needed attention that needed focus and dedication. I'm a problem solver. I'm a doer. I have over 20 years working on justice and equity. And we need to make sure that we focus on outcomes and impact as much as possible without leaving people behind. Thank you. Thank you.
So I'm running for Santa Cruz city council because the challenges ahead in the challenges ahead. We need someone who will truly understand what's at stake here especially for folks like me, who are young who come from a low income background and are struggling to make rent. I'm running on a vision for Santa Cruz that centers and equitable recovery from COVID-19 climate justice solutions, affordable housing and transformations in our community safety. I've had the honor of Being endorsed by community centered organizations and labor. I'm a grassroots candidate and I'll have your back.
Thank you. And Sonia Bruner.
I'm committed to supporting the health and well being of Santa Cruz. I really believe being engaged at a local level makes the most impact impact and through my decades of civic engagement and my work in the downtown district volunteer efforts, nonprofit collaborations background in small business management and support and serving on the Housing Authority Board. I believe that I will work hard for the next four years. My name is Sonia Brunner, thank you so much.
Thank you everyone so much for attending. Thank you to all the candidates for your time. Thank you to all the attendees. This is the first of five Santa Cruz local candidate forums for this week. We're having one for each city council in the county, as well as the county board of supervisors will post the links to register please join us and we still invite you to take our survey and submit your questions for those forums. We also have Santa Cruz OCO has a nonpartisan elections guide and it will be updated throughout the week. And we'll post our video of this forum on that website. It's at Santa Cruz local dot o RG slash elections. And it also has voting one on one in Santa Cruz County how to register how to check your registration and your voter history how to change your mailing address. And all you need to know frequently asked questions about voting. It's all on our website at Santa Cruz local dot o RG we in San Francisco is a membership driven news outlet. All our journalism is free for everybody. But we are supported by our members. Members make a monthly or annual contribution starting at $9 a month or $99 a year. And that's invested directly in our local newsroom. And we invite you to join more than 640 locals and become a see increase local member at the link is in our chat box San chronicle.org slash membership. We also invite you to join our free newsletter. We preview what's happening in the week for local government. We give you the deepest dives in our county on our biggest issues like housing, homelessness and city budget. Thank you all for attending. Really appreciate your time. Thank you all. Thank you to each of the candidates.
Thank you. Thank you
for being here.
Thank you, attendees. Thank you everyone.
I'll play some music for the last one.
reading all the chats here. Thank you everyone.
Thank you Natalia is mom
Okay, I think we can