SC voters to decide council recall
By Jessica A. York
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SANTACRUZ>> Facing a populace concerned about its city leadership, Santa Cruz will undergo the city’s first recall election on March 3.
As a result of the atypical campaign effort, for which organizers reportedly netted more than 10,000 signatures each on two recall petitions by the October deadline, voters will be asked next month whether or not they wish to unseat Councilmen Drew Glover, elected in 2018, and/or Chris Krohn, elected in 2016. Though there have been efforts to recall city leaders historically, this year’s is the first to make it all the way to the ballot, according to data compiled by the Santa Cruz County Elections Department.
Regardless of how they vote on the recall questions, voters also will have a chance to weigh in on the incumbents’ replacements, though their choices will be relevant only if the recalls succeed. Of the four replacement contenders, three — Katherine Beiers, Tim Fitzmaurice and Don Lane — have name recognition not only as past
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City Council members, but also as past mayors. The fourth, educator and political newcomer Renée Golder, said the recall caused her to accelerate already-developing plans to run in November’s regularly scheduled general council election.
Glover, who was elected on his second attempt to join the council, joined what is dubbed by supporters as the council’s politically “progressive majority” and faced signs of challenge to both his proposed governing policies and his character almost immediately after being seated. Krohn, who previously served a four-year term straddling the turn of the century, rejoined the council two years before Glover. In those first two years, Krohn was a voting minority with Councilwoman Sandy Brown, and he began to face serious organized outside attention along with Glover by the end of 2018. Both men, along with Brown and Mayor Justin Cummings, were supportive of 2018’s contentious and ultimately unsuccessful citizen rental control ballot, Measure M.
Krohn and Glover also were the subject of a citycommissioned investigation into their workplace conduct after improper behavior allegations were made by then-mayor Martine Watkins and Councilwoman Donna Meyers, along with unnamed city personnel. Glover separately faced a second substantiated workplace conduct investigation related to a post he made on Facebook.
With nearly three years remaining on Glover’s term, his seat represents the more politically significant goal in the recall effort. As the campaign season moves into high gear, Glover said he believes the recall effort via its organizers criticizing how he interacts with his peers and city staff and his stance on homelessness related issues, among other concerns, has not had its intended impact to date. He said he has continued to follow through on his campaign promise to fight for change, “not politely suggest change at the pace of how the city may be comfortable in moving.”
“I think that was their (recall organizers’) attempt and their hope, was that they could use the recall to try to stifle me or limit the outspoken nature with which I approach issues of policy and criticize things that I see and hear and observe, both inside the city and outside the city,” Glover said in a recent interview. “I do not plan to be any less of an advocate or any less direct of an advocate when it comes to trying to address some of the issues that affect the most vulnerable people in the community.”
Asked what he is proud of accomplishing in his first year in office, Glover listed his lead sponsorship of the council’s Green New Deal resolution, “moving the conversation forward” on homelessness — including formation of the Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness — and taking part in obtaining bus passes for all downtown workers, increasing developer affordable housing set-asides and decriminalizing entheogenic psychoactive plants and fungi. “Most first-year City Council members just get in and watch. You don’t normally see councilmembers in their first year coming forward with policy drafts to accomplish things,” Glover said. “So, I intentionally took a different route. One, because I wasn’t elected to just sit and watch, it was to represent people. But also, because of the dire situations that we have going on in Santa Cruz that really can’t wait to be addressed, needed immediate action.”
Facing the recall efforts, Glover said he is “coordinating” with Krohn, Fitzmaurice and Beiers in an effort to see a continuing progressive voting majority, no matter the outcome of the March 3 election.
“They are people that I see as good replacements, should the attempt to remove me from office succeed,” Glover said.
Fitzmaurice, a prison writing teacher and UC Santa Cruz professor emeritus, last served on the City Council in 2006, with an unsuccessful follow-up bid in 2008. After serving for years as caretaker to his first wife, who struggled with dementia through the end of her life, Fitzmaurice said he is only now coming back into public life. Fitzmaurice’s more than 22-year friendship with Krohn was one of the reasons he said he did not immediately jump in as a recall backup candidate. He chose the longer-term seat so as not to challenge Beiers and does not support the recall, he said.
“This has got to be difficult for people to get into their heads that not only can you vote no on the recall, but you can vote yes on the replacement,” Fitzmaurice said. “And, in fact, that whole aspect of this election has been misinterpreted or misstated online.”
“I came to the conclusion that there were going to be some changes in our government if somebody did not run. And I have name recognition to a degree and experience, a lot of experience actually. And, and so I thought I was a pretty good candidate,” Fitzmaurice added. “Other people that have similar qualities didn’t want to do it.”
Asked about the current contentious state of city politics, Fitzmaurice acknowledged that “politics is not militant activism” and requires making practical adjustments to one’s plans when it best serves the community. He said from his perspective, the council may be more deadlocked on votes than it has been in the past, but disagreements among council members is nothing new.
“Why is it more of a deadlock than in the past? Because people are taking advantage of it. They’re seeing it as a way to create, ‘to rebalance the council’ is exactly the words that one of the recall supporters said a year ago on TV. ‘We’re doing this to rebalance the council,’ “ Fitzmaurice said. “They want to change what the council was doing. And to me, that’s a pretty evident, obvious plan.”
If tapped to replace Glover, Fitzmaurice, as with most of the candidates, said he would have the advantage of a short learning curve and familiarity with the city governing process after two past council terms. Fitzmaurice said he would work to restore the trust of a public that’s “feeling very vulnerable.”
“I’m very constructive,” Fitzmaurice said. “I’m not there to say no to things all the time, I’m there to say to yes things and to make them work.”
Fitzmaurice describes past city projects he played a leading role in, including opening the city’s first skate park, getting flashing-light pedestrian crossing signs on Mission Street near Bay Street and improvements to the Del Mar Theatre building.
“An elected has to say, I need to advocate for the health of the community,” Fitzmaurice said, contrasting himself with the more fiscally conservative city management staff. “And that might be saving the Del Mar or, or buying the Fun Spot and putting up the Marine Sanctuary building.”
The second candidate, Golder, who has been endorsed by recall proponents, said she opted to run for the seat only after observing the recall campaign was not putting forward one of their “own” candidates. Golder had been eyeing a run in the general election this coming November and said she did not think the recall petition would qualify for the ballot, but she opted to use the earlier election as a jumpstart to her planned effort.
“I was calling around to people I know and nobody said they were running,” Golder said. “So, I was like, shoot, maybe I should just go now on the off chance that it (the recall petition) passes and if it doesn’t pass, at least I’ll have my signs bought.”
Golder stressed that she was not formally involved with the organized recall campaign efforts, even though she gathered some petition signatures from neighbors. The move, she said, was a symbolic gesture in support of those who filed workplace complaints against Krohn and Glover, alleged actions for which she hoped to hear apologies. The fact that the recall has made it to the ballot, Golder said, “is kind of absurd.”
If the recall is successful and she is chosen as the top backup candidate, however, Golder said, she will be honored to serve.
“But I don’t take pleasure in what’s happening now. And I don’t wish anyone any ill-will,” Golder said. “And I don’t have anything negative to say about the current council members, even the ones that are being recalled.”
Golder said she believes anyone running for a City Council seat, including herself, wants to see Santa Cruz become a better place, just with different approaches to getting there. For Golder, “It’s all about compromise without compromising your values.”
The major issues Golder sees facing the city in the coming years are homelessness and how state and local funding is spent on the issue, affordable housing solutions and the environment.
On homelessness, Golder said she expected to push back against the ideas that the responsibility for resolving homelessness issues should fall on the backs of cities or have a “one-sizefits- all” approach.
“We’re going to have to really have some wraparound services where we’re really, you know, working together,” Golder said. “I know there’s a lot of different agencies providing different things and it would be great if it was more cohesive.”
With housing, Golder said the problem is that housing development has failed to keep up with the growing demand, due to fears around change. The key, Golder said, is to envision the city’s future and then build toward it.
“The idea that we can keep Santa Cruz how it was in 1965 forever, like, sorry, isn’t going to happen,” Golder said. “Like, people are going to still keep coming here, it’s going to happen. Also, what about the 7,000 kids, what if they want to grow up and move out of their parents’ house, but stay in Santa Cruz? Where are they supposed to go?” Golder listed her qualifications for the job as including her master’s degree in school leadership and heavy involvement in Santa Cruz City Schools committees, plus stints on the city’s Sister Cities Commission and on the Public Safety Task Force in 2013. Her skills, she said, include experience working with a broad range of people, the ability to reach compromise, the fact that she does not easily take offense and familiarity with public safety issues via her firefighter husband.
Krohn, who declined to be interviewed by the Sentinel in a sit-down session and did not respond to emailed questions, has two city government veterans on deck for his seat. If left in office, Krohn’s current term extends only nine months after March’s election, meaning he would be faced with a potential backto- back campaign in order to remain in office for a second consecutive four-year term.
Both alternative candidates, Beiers with four past council terms and Lane with three past terms, said in recent interviews that they wish to serve a stopgap role, with no plans to run again when the seat opens again in November’s election. Krohn is supporting Beiers as his replacement, should the recall succeed.
Beiers is clear that she does not support the recall efforts, while Lane said he is purposely declining to “choose a side.” The two both describe themselves as political progressives that would continue to uphold similar philosophical governing values in replacing Krohn. Beiers said that a recall is all-consuming and divisive for a community, something she observed prior to being appointed to the council in 1989, after then-Councilman Mo Reich, facing the threat of a recall campaign, resigned. She last served in 2012.
“Don and I talked about it, it’s the biggest issue that’s hit Santa Cruz in all these years,” Beiers said of the current recall. “And I said, Don, you’re, you can’t be neutral on the biggest issue in the city. Right from the beginning, before they got successful signatures, I thought, they just got elected. They did what they said they were going to do.” Lane, who last served in 2016, said that while people
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