Surfer, carpenter father makes first Santa Cruz City Council bid: Jake Fusari wants to create more jobs

Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/17/2012

SANTA CRUZ — At 28, surfer and carpenter Jake Fusari is hoping what he lacks in political experience he can make up with a fresh perspective that looks out for young families like his.

Fusari, a third-generation Santa Cruzan, hopes his focus on job creation, tourism promotion, public safety and cleaning up the beaches will resonate with residents in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s. The first-time City Council candidate wants to raise tax revenue to better equip police for fighting gang violence, prostitution and aggressive panhandling downtown and in the beach area.

“What we are lacking is common ground between people who want to grow and environmentalists and developers to find solutions where we can grow a little bit,” Fusari said. “We need to generate more revenue for the city to afford the things we need for cleaning up our streets.”

The Westside resident’s message mirrors that of a trio of candidates — Hilary Bryant, Lynn Robinson and David Terrazas — who won seats in 2010. Those council members are in their 40s or 50s, and each had some civic service under their belt before running for council.

But Fusari only sees his youth as an advantage.

“I want to encourage other people of my demographic to become more involved in politics and in the community,” he said. “It’s our time, and it is our responsibility as natives to say, ‘We are going to put a better foot forward. We have to get out there and make a difference.’”

Fusari was disappointed by the state Coastal Commission’s denial in November of the plans for a full-scale hotel at the site of the crumbling historic seaside La Bahia. He hopes another plan is developed by the property owners, saying too many regulations on development keep new business at bay and strangle job creation that keeps youth and others out of trouble.

“I view the system failing all of us as the problem,” he said.

Fusari, a Santa Cruz High graduate who has surfed for 20 years, wants to help clean up Cowell Beach, a legendary surfing spot plagued by pollution. As for another critical environmental issue, he is cautious about a proposed desalination plant likely to be voted on by the council in the next two years, saying its potential marine impacts and high-energy and financial costs should make it a last resort for water supply.

Fusari works as a carpenter for his father’s Fusari’s Construction and George Bros. Construction, whose owner supports Fusari’s designs on bettering the economy and making Santa Cruz more affordable.

“What does Santa Cruz have to offer a young family?” Matt George said. “How is he supposed to thrive if there is not a focus on helping to create opportunities and a livable wage?”

Fusari and his wife, the former Keshia Caviglia, whose family owns the new Louie’s Cajun Kitchen and Bourbon Bar that replaced Clouds downtown, have a 19-month-old son.

Four seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 6 contest. The nomination period opened Monday and closes Aug. 10.

Other candidates are Take Back Santa Cruz board member Pamela Comstock, Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, county Democratic Party chair Richelle Noroyan, nonprofit director Cece Pinheiro, volunteer Steve Pleich and bicycling advocate Micah Posner.