Former schools trustee, CTV executive to make City Council bid: Cece Pinheiro joins fray in Santa Cruz’s November contest

Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/14/2012

SANTA CRUZ – After seven years directing a nonprofit for special education families, former school board member Cece Pinheiro is taking a second shot at elected office.

Pinheiro, 54, who remains politically well-connected after leaving the board and a leadership post at Community TV, will be a candidate in November’s City Council election. Having moved back to Santa Cruz in May after a number of years living in Live Oak, Pinheiro announced her candidacy at the Dike March on June’s Gay Pride weekend.

“I have been waiting all these years for a lesbian to run, and nobody has stepped up,” she said. “We live in this little bubble of Santa Cruz. We have gay rights, but people are still being discriminated against.”

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she became enthralled with politics during an American government class at Santa Cruz High. She hoped to run for office someday, getting her chance in 2002 when she campaigned successfully for a seat on the board of Santa Cruz City Schools, where she worked for 15 years and served as union president for classified workers.

She was part of a majority of trustees who voted to close two elementary schools to cut costs – a decision that roiled the community.

“It certainly felt it was the right thing to do at the time,” she said of the 2005 decision. “In hindsight, could we have done it differently? Maybe. Would we have been able to maintain staffing?”

She said she was worried at the time about aides and other lower-paid workers losing hours.

“Any special ed teacher will tell you, ‘You can’t run a classroom without an aide,'” she said.

Pinheiro resigned her seat a year before her term was up to take the helm of the Special Parents Information Network, a nonprofit that provides support for parents of children with special needs. Previously, she worked as assistant director for Community TV and served on that organization’s board.

“She’s very approachable and accessible. I think those are important qualities for anyone serving on the council,” said the station’s former executive director, Geoffrey Dunn. “Cece can relate to a very broad spectrum of Santa Cruzans, regardless of their political perspective. She puts people over politics.”

On the council, Pinheiro said she would focus on the local economy, drawing on the university’s high-tech influence to bring more visitors and business. She’d like professors to do continuing education units at the Tannery Arts Center or Museum of Art and History.

The nomination period for council candidates opens Monday. There are four seats up for grabs in the Nov. 6 contest.

Other candidates who have filed a statement of intent are Take Back Santa Cruz board member Pamela Comstock, resident Jake Fusari, Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, county Democratic Party chair Richelle Noroyan, volunteer Steve Pleich and bicycling advocate Micah Posner.