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Reconcile, not recall

By Rick Longinotti

In January of 2019 the Santa Cruz City Council considered enacting a one-year moratorium on evictions without just cause pending action on recommendations of a task force to consider a long-term ordinance. The measure didn’t include tenant relocation assistance that was part of recently defeated Measure M. Nevertheless, there was a storm of opposition. The Council decided not to pass the ordinance. Instead the Council hired the Center for Consensus and Collaboration to explore setting up a stakeholder task force on rental housing. The idea was to get representatives of landlords and tenants together with a professional facilitator to try to find agreement on measures that would reduce the economic hardship and displacement of tenants in our community.

On June 11 Dave Ceppos from the Center reported to the Council that in spite of the community’s motivation to address rental housing issues, several factors “will be destructive to a task force.” One of those factors was the conflict between members of the Council. Another was the effort to recall two council members. The recall is funded by the same organization that opposed Measure M.

Ceppos told the Council “I feel badly for this community… This community is about to go on a war footing for the next two years.” Ceppos said that the community’s preoccupation with the recall would mean that “the compellingly expressed need for something to be done” to protect tenants would “more than likely take a [back] seat to a recall.” Before the evening ended, Ceppos’ prophecy was coming true. The Council dropped the task force idea.

Ceppos advised the Council that for the community to resolve this conflict, “Stakeholders AND Council would have to shift from the Retaliatory Cycle to a Conciliatory Cycle. “Can you acknowledge your own part? …Define shared beliefs...”

Months later we are deeper into the Retaliatory Cycle, as the recall proponents spent $89,000 to qualify the measure for the March 3 ballot. Voters are generally hesitant to recall elected officials just because of their politics. They reserve a vote for recall for serious misdeeds. The recall proponents alleged misdeeds. Councilmen Chris Krohn and Drew Glover “were found to have harassed female City Hall employees,” declared their mass mailing. The allegation of harassing women carries with it the emotional weight of generations of abuse that has finally found a powerful voice in the #MeToo Movement.

The allegation is false. The Rose Report, costing the City $18,000, did a thorough job of investigating complaints against the Council members. The Report found no evidence of gender-based disrespect. The only substantiated charge against Chris Krohn is that he uttered a “laugh. scoff, or snort” during a staff presentation. The only substantiated charge against Drew Glover is that he was “unjustifiably antagonistic” to another council member when she overstayed her time in a shared conference room.

Ann Simonton has worked to change the culture of disrespect and violence against women for 40 years. She says about the false allegations in the recall campaign, “We’ve worked too long to get charges of sexual assault and harassment taken seriously to see our progress undermined for political gain.”

The vote on the recall is a referendum on what kind of political culture we want in our little community. Will we be a place where dishonest campaigning succeeds? Or will we step back from the war footing and begin the Conciliatory Cycle? My contribution to reconciliation is to speak up when hearing Us vs. Them thinking in my circles.

This is a time when all citizens, especially those who have had political differences with Chris and/or Drew, speak up and say that recall is not the way to solve our problems. Says former mayor Tim Fitzmaurice, a candidate for Council should the recall succeed, “Removal of an elected city council member from office will not heal this city. I hope we can figure out a way to work together without blaming and shaming.”

Rick Longinotti is a Santa Cruz resident.

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