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A new year and a new start

On Dec. 10, after being sworn in as the first African American man to become mayor of Santa Cruz, I spoke about how our community and its as leaders, needs to work to bring our community together after years of division. In 2019, meetings would last as long as 13 hours and go well after midnight, with charged emotions filling the chambers, and it was clear that the council and community were in need of a new start.

Since the beginning of 2020, themeetings have been off to a great start. As council members focus more on working toward a consensus, meeting times have gotten shorter and business is getting done before bedtime. In the spirit of our newHealth In All Policy, the council has beenworking on numerous items that promote healthy environments, equity, and justice in our community, and this article highlights some of what has been accomplished and initiated in 2020.

The council has brought forward numerous resolutions and written letters to join other communities in our state to call for the transformation of Pacific Gas & Electric into a customer-owned utility, to oppose proposed oil drilling and fracking in California, and to protect the AmahMutun Tribal Band’s sacred lands of Juristac. In addition to these letters, the council also unanimously voted to write a letter to the chancellor of UC Santa Cruz in support of the UCSC graduate students movement for a living wage.

The council has worked on policy to address affordable housing and tenant protections. The council directed staff to continue working with partners at the Community Action Board and Housing Authority on a tenant’s assistance housing support program and possible relocation assistance program to help low-income families experiencing nofault evictions. Additionally, the council has also increased the affordable inclusionary percentage to 20%, which will help increase the development of affordable housing in our community.

To help protect our environ-


Justin Cummings


ment, the council updated its packaging and products ordinance for “to-go” containers. These changes redefined both compostable and biodegradable to include certified products from the Biodegradable Product Institute, which now includes only fiber-based, rather than bioplastic food ware, that eliminates intentionally added, and potentially harmful, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and require vendors to charge afee of 25 cents on all disposable cups. These changes will help reduce plastic litter and promote the protection of wildlife, especially in the marine environment.

Working with Decriminalize Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Police Department, the council was able to unanimously passed a resolution declaring that the investigation and arrest of individuals 21 years of age and older involved with the adult personal use and personal possession of entheogenic psychoactive plants and fungi listed on the Federal Schedule 1 list be amongst the lowest priorities for the City of Santa Cruz.

This vote was overwhelmingly supported by members of the community who have personally benefitted from these substances by using them to treat debilitating and deleterious conditions including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and anxiety among other conditions.

The council is also working with the police department on policy to protect our citizen’s rights to privacy from live facial recognition technology, ban predictive policing, and create policy around transparency for the uses of surveillance technology for the purposes of law enforcement.

Finally, the council is building a stronger relationship with local unions as the city staff works with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building Construction Trades Council to create Community Workforce Agreements for city construction projects in the City of Santa Cruz. These types of agreements can help strengthen our local workforce by providing prevailing wages and union benefits, promote on local employment, provide union apprenticeships, and a career path for local young people interested in pursuing the trades.

As the new year begins, so does a new council focused on working together productively. We will continue to prioritize the environment, housing, homelessness and public safety.

We have many committees and task forces to address these issues and we are eager to engage with, and hear from, the community on all of these topics.

If there are issues that you would like the council to consider, please feel free to contact us at any time.

Mayor’s message is a Sunday column by Santa Cruz Justin Cummings, Scotts Valley Mayor Randy Johnson, Watsonville Mayor Rebecca Garcia and Capitola Mayor Kristen Petersen.

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