The Weekly Dump – 3.15.24

Is “Progressive” a Losing Proposition in Santa Cruz?

It’s starting to feel that way. The current Santa Cruz city council is basically 6 moderate Democrats and one hard core progressive Democrat. What a 180 change from just a few years ago, when Chris Krohn, Drew Glover, Sandy Brown, and Justin Cummings (on occasion) held a “progressive” majority on the city council. And what a mess it was! I’m talking dumpster fire mess. Ross Camp. The takeover of San Lorenzo Park. Throw in a milquetoast city manager and a chief of police who was more interested in photo ops than enforcing the laws. Fast forward to now. Martin Bernal is gone. Andy Mills is gone. And Sandy Brown, the lone progressive city council person, is being replaced by a moderate democrat. So Mayor Fred will have his full, basically unanimous majority of moderate democrats. Last week’s election results showed overwhelming support for the 4 moderate women who won seats. Once they are sworn in, there will be no more progressive city council members. None! 

Santa Cruz is still very Blue, very Democrat, but it’s always been seen as a city that’s “left and left of left”. And we of course have conservative voters here too, a minority of voters who are mostly smart enough to stay out of the local infighting and let the Democratic majority fight with each other. The labels of “progressives” and “moderates” will always be subjective and contentious and often weaponized. Both sides mostly agree on stuff in principle, it’s more about how to do it where they disagree. Housing was a big contentious issue yet again in this election with Measure M, which was soundly defeated against a hard push by local progressives. The 4 city council candidates who won rejected Measure M, the ballot initiative that sought to increase affordable housing requirements on new developments and require a citywide vote before any zoning changes could increase existing height limits. It was a failed power grab by local progressives, and it failed badly. The losing progressive candidates were endorsed by “Santa Cruz for Bernie”, the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and by the Service Employees International Union Local 521 (the people dressed in purple all the time). The irrelevant and long past their expiration date “Santa Cruz for Bernie” is the kiss of death of endorsements. The DSA are left of left of left, another kiss of death endorsement. If I see either one endorsing a candidate, I immediately stop and go the other way. Any other way. I’ll write myself in if I have to. 

The city has been heading in this more moderate direction since the 2020 simultaneous recalls of toxic assholes and self proclaimed progressives, city council members Chris Krohn and Drew Glover. Since then, only Sandy Brown has won re-election once, no new progressives have won a seat on the Santa Cruz city council since Krohn and Glover were replaced by smart, moderate women. Since 2021, Sandy Brown has been flying solo for progressives, often casting the sole dissent vote from what is a six person moderate majority. When Brown terms out at the end of this year, her successor will be Susie O’Hara, who won a settlement from the city of Santa Cruz after suing over the toxic work environment created by Krohn and Glover (and enabled by former city manager Martin Bernal).Talk about coming full circle! She’s back, only this time the environment is cordial, respectful, and easy to work with. 

Santa Cruz progressives have taken loss after loss in electoral politics, watching as voters reject rent control and empty homes tax measures, and a moderate clean sweep in the latest election which offered 4 seats on the Santa Cruz city council. And even the Board of Supervisors was no better. Manu won easily. Monica Martinez, arguably the lone successful progressive BoS candidate, is probably headed for a runoff. 

It sure feels like we’re seeing a paradigm shift from progressive to a moderate political majority. It might be a slow change, but it’s definitely changing. And ultimately it bodes well for Santa Cruz. 

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

I read a really good column from Mike Rotkin this week, where he talks about the local election results, door hangers, and how being pragmatic and programmatic is more attractive to local voters than being aspirational and abstract. I thought this bit nailed it:

“Because we do not have polling on voter views in local elections, this can only be speculation, but I would also add that I think that local voters simply found the more pragmatic and, importantly, programmatic approach of the four (likely) victors in the March 5 primary more attractive than the more aspirational and abstract politics of their opponents. Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Sonia Brunner, Gabriela Trigueiro and Susie O’Hara all associated themselves with the city’s existing programmatic approach to dealing with  homelessness – one that reduced the city’s homeless population by 29% last year. It helps that the city has replaced its “whack-a-mole” approach of scattering large homeless camps with a program offering every homeless person removed from an area an alternative shelter or housing alternative.

Abstract demands that the city simply leave the homeless alone or provide all with housing, with no program for how that would be funded or organized, were not attractive to local voters. Abstract calls for compassion simply did not compete well with existing approaches that have started to prove effective.”

Mike Rotkin used to be a far to the left progressive. He’s learned from years of experience with skin in the game that being pragmatic is better than beating a dead horse. 

Local Transient Cross Burner Arrested

This week, SCPD arrested a local bum who apparently is the lead suspect in an arson fire that took place in front of Holy Cross church involving the cross that sits in the courtyard in front of the church. It’s hard to speculate on the motivation behind a crime so moronic. Was it a hate crime or was he pissed off at someone at the nearby soup kitchen? Santa Cruz is full of angry, stupid assholes like this guy. In large part because of the lack of consequences for stuff like this. We get what we are willing to tolerate and we over tolerate (and coddle) guys like this. 

Watsonville Shooting Suspect Still Living At Large

Tuesday night around 11PM, Watsonville Police responded to a report of shots fired on Crescent Drive. When officers arrived, they found a person suffering from at least one gunshot wound and no suspect. The victim is expected to survive. Watsonville Police said there is no threat to the public at this time. It is unknown if they have made an arrest or have any suspect information at this time.

Homeless Murder Trial Begins Monday

Next Monday, a jury will hear opening statements related to the stabbing of a homeless man in a downtown parking garage back in November of 2022. The man was found dead inside the Cedar and Chestnut streets parking garage. Less than 24 hours later, SCPD arrested  a 65 year old downtown resident at his home. Witnesses describe the two men as having a physical altercation, before the suspect stabbed the victim in the torso. 

Santa Cruz City Council Meeting Notes – 3.12.24

The big contentious item on the non consent agenda was an “appeal” of the Oversized Vehicle Ordinance (OVO), which was designed to get the ridiculous number of land yachts, detached campers, broken down buses, and other oversized vehicles from parking on city streets in Santa Cruz. In the end, after a bunch of pleas from a small group of vocal critics who seem to have a vested interest in living out of their vehicles, the city council denied the appeal 6-1 (with Sandy Brown of course being the sole dissenting vote). She even gave a sad explanation of not wanting to amend the agenda item with any of the stuff the DSA crowd wanted because why bother, it wasn’t going to win anyways. And she was right! When she leaves, it’s going to be even harder to get progressive stuff on the city council agenda, let alone pass any of it. We should see streamlined city council meetings, except of course for oral communications. 

Santa Cruz city council meeting – 3.12.24

Maybe He Just Wanted a Hot Shower

The University of California Santa Cruz campus police arrested a man last week after being found naked inside a campus residential hall shower. The 26 year old naked man, who was not a student, ran out but was arrested nearby shortly after. He was arrested for trespassing.

The Drug Addicts Goody Bags

Well this was interesting! (thanks to Joe for the tip and lead). Pipes, condoms, and lollipops! Ready to party!

So I’m not sure the guy they busted actually received these goody bags from County Health Services on Emeline (which is where the county run needle exchange is) or if he got them from the Needle Fairy’s group (which is linked to in the screencap). He was obviously high as a kite when they questioned him. But either way, it’s still ridiculous. I hope they aren’t coming from the County. 

New Rides Coming to the Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk began construction on a new Ferris wheel this week, and it’s expected to be completed in time for Spring Break. The new “Dream Wheel” ferris wheel is 65 feet tall with 3,000 lights built in. Another new ride called “Surge” is expected to be completed by Memorial Day weekend.

Beware the Ides of March

“The Death of Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini (1806)

Today marks the Ides of March, the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate (city council?) by as many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius. According to the story, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar on the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, “Well, the Ides of March are come”, implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Aye, they are come, but they are not gone.”. This meeting was made famous in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March”. It’s a good thing the city council meeting was on Tuesday and not today!

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  1. Ben, that was a very good analysis of Santa Cruz politics. I’m glad you’re back.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong…

    Wasn’t it the post Glover-Krohn “moderates” that created the largest drug slum known to man (benchlands 2021-2022)?
    Wasn’t it the “moderates” who proposed that the City’s corridors (Mission, Water, Soquel) be turned into drug slums (then blamed city staff when everyone realized how stupid that was)?
    Then, after “housing” 150 transients in tents (costing $14M), allowed 200 “service resistant” transients to trash Sycamore Grove, the B40 forest, …?
    Isn’t it the post Glove-Krohn “moderates” in office now that created the current mess in Harvey West Park?
    Neary Lagoon, Antonelli Pond, Coral Street all seem to be having issues as well

  3. Love the Weekly Dump! Thanks for your work and effort.

  4. On the levee I witnessed the “Harm Reduction” mobile wagon loaded with sandwiches, water, and granola bars. Looked like a just and good cause till one of the gals lifted the top layer and voila! Needles, glass pipes, and cooking kits. Everything you needed but the drugs. Total bullshit. Especially when you consider the comment made by one of the local denizens that the one “Harm Reduction” volunteer is the local dealers girlfriend! A one stop shop!

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