People Power director to leave for council bid; Micah Posner has run bicycling advocacy group for 10 years

Santa Cruz Sentinel 04/13/2012

SANTA CRUZ – Micah Posner, director of the vocal bicycling advocacy group People Power, announced Friday he is stepping down in July to run for the City Council.

Posner, 44, a resident of the Lower Ocean area, has been a fixture on the political scene in recent years, pushing for greater and safer bicycling on area roads and in parks. He hopes to parlay that grassroots profile into a council campaign focused not only on alternative transportation, but also on affordable housing, the homeless and campaign financing of local elections.

“It’s one thing among many, but not why I’m running for council,” Posner said of bicycling access. “If I just wanted to keep working on transportation, I’d just stay where I am. I want to work on a wider variety of things.”

Posner said he wants candidates for council to stick to the city’s recommended fundraising limit of $24,000 and change the way the city responds to panhandling and other social issues downtown. He said he wants to see more outreach and intervention in dealing with the homeless.

“I also agree with (Mayor) Don Lane that if we find homes for homeless people they won’t be homeless anymore,” Posner said.

Four of the council’s seven seats are up for grabs in November as Councilmen Ryan Coonerty and Tony Madrigal are termed out after eight years and the four-year terms of Lane and Councilwoman Katherine Beiers come to a close. Lane and Beiers have signaled they are likely to see re-election.

“Micah’s challenge is going to be: when you’re on City Council, it’s a lot less of an advocacy position and more trying to balance different interests across the community,” Coonerty said.

A Riverside native who stayed here after graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1991, Posner has been director of People Power for 10 years, urging local and state officials to approve bike paths in Arana Gulch and a branch rail line acquisition that could facilitate a rail-trail corridor. Posner cited success in having a bike lane placed on Soquel Avenue and helping to establish the Green Ways to School safety program.

Posner, well known among city officials for his tenacious lobbying, perennially advocates for a bike facility on King Street, one that would serve as an alternative route to Mission Street, where two cyclists have been killed in recent years. Even though he has battled with city staff over its reluctance to study the plan, Posner said he believes bicycling has become an “integral part of the environmental movement.”

“More and more often I find that our biggest obstacle to more sensible transportation is simple inertia, rather than a disagreement about what we want as a community,” Posner wrote in an email announcing his council bid.

Posner said there will be a national search to fill the top job at People Power, but that he will remain a member of its steering committee.

Barry Kirschen, a longtime Santa Cruz High School teacher, said he supports Posner’s candidacy. Kirschen was speaking as a 35-year resident, not as president of the local teachers union.

“I think it would be healthy for there to be a voice on the City Council that is more progressive than our current majority,” Kirschen said. “I think that he understands that Santa Cruz is not all about business and revenue – but that part of what makes our town special is the environment.”

Councilman David Terrazas, elected in 2010 to form a council majority focused on economic development and public safety, said, “I think the fact that many people are out of work right now and the economy continues to struggle locally, it remains a key issue. I hope we hear all candidates talk about helping to improve economic conditions locally.”

Posner, who founded the co-op PedX cycling delivery company in 1994, said he supported the council’s recent move to provide local businesses with an advantage in bidding for city contracts, and he is interested in studying the sufficiency of parking for businesses.