The recall and us
By Ryan Coonerty
For months, I’ve stayed out of the debate about the recall of Councilmen Chris Krohn and Drew Glover. My reasoning was that I, as a County supervisor, must have relationships with all council members to serve our city. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to get caught up in a nasty political fight.
That changed last week when I read the report from the UCSC Democrats’ meeting about the recall. You can read it on Facebook, but it boils down to Glover attacking a female student for asking about his multiple charges of harassment and bullying of female city employees. Glover responded that the victim was “playing the woman card” and then attempted to bully and silence the students. The group, which had overwhelmingly endorsed Glover just last year, is now supporting his recall because: “His behavior was unacceptable and showed us it is not a stretch to believe that he has acted this way previously, and to believe the women who have come forward accusing him of bullying and intimidation ...We believe the women who have come forward. We witnessed his bullying of women firsthand, and find that behavior intolerable for an elected official.” Watching these young leaders take a brave stand, I can no longer justify my silence, especially when many of the victims of Krohn and Glover are excellent public servants and valued community volunteers. The victims didn’t complain because they disagreed with the policies of the council members, rather, they did so because Krohn’s and Glover’s behavior was egregious. And for every one person that came forward, many more did not out of fear of reprisals.
So, following the College Democrats’ courageous act, here are some thoughts from my front row seat to the recent deterioration of our civic life:
• Many leaders of the antirecall campaign agree with the UCSC Democrats. They’ve told me privately that they think Krohn and Glover are “a--holes,” “incompetent” and worse. They are holding their nose to maintain a “progressive majority.” The irony is that if these progressive leaders (especially Justin Cummings and Sandy Brown) simply spoke up, honored the victims, and censured Krohn and Glover for unacceptable behavior, there would not have been additional victims or the need for a recall.
• This election is not about rent control. Both sides are using this issue to rally their base, but the reality is that the current council majority (Krohn, Glover, Brown and Cummings) are not going to pass anything that substantively helps renters. They had a full year to take action, talked about it once, tabled it and have made no effort to bring it back because it’s a politically hard, complicated policy that has largely been preempted by the state.
• There is no “us” and “them.” The unending attacks on Cynthia Mathews, Donna Meyers and Martine Watkins are lies. These women are effective progressive leaders, who have consistently fought for equity, the environment and our community.
• In addition to harassing and bullying, Krohn and Glover’s mistake has been to wrongly assume that they were elected with a mandate. They weren’t. Under our at-large, multi-candidate system, no council member does. Whoever wins this election should remember that and start working collaboratively to solve our problems.
• The toxic atmosphere at Council meetings is intolerable. Many community members have told me that they won’t get involved or attend council meetings because they fear for their safety and the palpable antagonism toward people with views who do not align perfectly with the majority’s. We cannot drive people away from the democratic process.
• The Council sets policy, but city staff implements it.
Key staff because the Council majority has tolerated behavior that would cause anyone else working for the city to be fired or disciplined. If a recall doesn’t pass, the city will see more talented people leave and will be unable to recruit good people who keep the city running.
• Finally, behavior matters. Krohn and Glover have crossed too many lines. Every other Tuesday, for more than a dozen years, I’ve served with elected officials of all stripes making hard, controversial decisions. Many times, I’ve been frustrated both personally and politically with them as they have with me. Despite this I’ve never supported a recall before. The unacceptable behavior of Krohn and Glover is of a different magnitude and the community needs to say so.
This isn’t just about Glover and Krohn. This isn’t about politics. This is about us. How will we interact, govern and determine the future of our community? We simply cannot survive or thrive in the current toxic environment. Please vote “yes” on the recall.
Ryan Coonerty is a Santa Cruz County supervisor and two-time former mayor.