Take Back Santa Cruz co-founder launches council run: Pamela Comstock has backing of key trio

by J.M. BROWN
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/28/2012

SANTA CRUZ - A founding member of the public safety advocacy group Take Back Santa Cruz has announced her bid for City Council, a move that instantly drew support from key leaders.

Pamela Comstock, 40, who along with husband Craig and other relatives formed Take Back Santa Cruz in 2009, will seek one of four open council seats in the Nov. 6 contest. The software executive who has organized safety marches and drug den cleanups has backing from a trio of neo-progressive council members whose 2010 victories helped to train the city’s focus on safety and the economy.

Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant and Councilmembers Lynn Robinson and David Terrazas have endorsed Comstock, a 30-year resident who serves on the city’s Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. Robinson said she believes Comstock can parlay activism into government service.

“She is a woman of action who can really step in and make a difference for our city,” said Robinson, who herself entered politics after co-founding Santa Cruz Neighbors. “The real beauty of (grassroots advocacy) is you start working with the community and instantly you collectively communicate the need to step up and work with government and those who can help you make a change.”

Take Back Santa Cruz co-founder and spokeswoman Analicia Cube said the group does not make political endorsements but that individual members strongly back Comstock’s run. Cube is a cousin of Comstock’s husband, and Cube’s husband, sister and brother-in-law are also founders of the group, which has more than 4,200 members on Facebook.

Although the group has been criticized by some as lacking compassion for the homeless and transient population, Comstock said she supports the city continuing to fund shelter and meals “But I also believe in personal responsibility,” she said, adding that she would support background checks for people who receive services and triple fines for crimes committed in city parks.

Comstock has eyed a council run for several years, feeling citizens focused on bringing more business to town and boosting public safety were largely unrepresented on the council until now. Before going to work for Antares Audio Technologies, a Scotts Valley company that makes the Auto-Tune software, Comstock owned the now-closed Lollipops, a children’s clothing and furniture store in Gateway Plaza.

“Our economic vitality relies on job creation,” she said. “The business community should be viewed as a valued partner and a key to the longterm success of the city.”

Comstock wants the city to streamline the business permitting process and create a local business advisory panel to provide guidance to the council rather than hire high-priced consultants. She also encourages town hall-style meetings where the public can interact with city leaders on a wide variety of topics rather than be restricted to two or three minutes of remarks during council meetings.

“People are our greatest resource and will go along way to help us solve whatever problems we’re facing,” she said.

As for a proposed seawater desalination plant to boost water supply, which will be a major council issue during the next four years, Comstock said she is glad voters will get to weigh in before the project is built.

“I don’t think anyone is excited about desal, but we have to look at our longterm infrastructure,” she said.

Comstock has also been endorsed by outgoing Councilman Ryan Coonerty. Other candidates are resident Craig Bush, carpenter Jake Fusari, Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, Transportation and Public Works Commissioner Richelle Noroyan, nonprofit director Cece Pinheiro, volunteer Steve Pleich and alternative transportation activist Micah Posner.

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

by J.M. BROWN
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.

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

by J.M. BROWN
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.

Volunteer makes second bid for Santa Cruz City Council: Steve Pleich opposed to desal, wants more affordable housing

by J.M. BROWN
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/13/2012

SANTA CRUZ - Steve Pleich will be hard to miss as he and other City Council candidates line up for November’s race.

At 6 feet 5 inches tall with a shock of platinum blond hair, Pleich wears Hawaiian shirts and is a fixture at community events. And he’d like to move from his usual seat in the third row of the Council Chamber to the dais.

The 53-year-old part-time grant writer and avid volunteer is making a second effort to join the council. In 2010, he placed second to last in a field of eight, didn’t raise much money and had no real campaign structure.

This time around, Pleich said he’s more prepared, actively fundraising so he can buy yard signs and seeking endorsements of his main message – to make government and all the services it provides more accessible. A member of Occupy Santa Cruz and a longtime advocate for the homeless, Pleich believes the city needs to be more responsive to the community.

“Our City Council has not moved quickly enough nor strongly enough toward supporting the creation of affordable housing and the creation of more jobs here,” Pleich said.

Rather than invest $3.5 million in a new stadium for the Golden State Warriors Development League team, Pleich said he would rather see the city refurbish the Pogonip clubhouse or tackle other long-standing projects.

The next council likely will vote on a proposed desalination plant. As a supporter of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, Pleich is opposed to the facility, saying he believes conservation and other measures could make the costly supply-boosting project unnecessary.

Pleich volunteers with Save Our Shores and helps with the annual Community Thanksgiving dinner. He worked with other community members last year to raise money and interest in reopening the big pool at Harvey West Park, which the city did in June on a temporary basis.

Pleich, who grew up in the East Bay and came to Santa Cruz in 1999, lives in an RV that he sometimes parks at the Circle Church on the Westside, an arrangement he made with the church a couple months ago. Pleich said he moved there from Live Oak expressly to qualify for the council contest, but he also works with the church and several others on a homeless shelter program.

Pastor Steve DeFields-Gambrel said the church often allows people to stay in the church lot for varying lengths of time. Any more than three parties would violate the city’s camping ban, and he said Pleich is rarely there during the day anyway because he is often on the go.

“We work out an understanding with each individual person,” he said.

City Clerk Bren Lehr said, according to the county elections division, Pleich qualifies to be a candidate because he registered to vote using the church address. Records show he changed his registration from Live Oak in May.

Pleich is one of eight candidates who have filed statements of intent to run in the Nov. 6 contest for four seats on the seven-member council. The nomination period opens Monday.

Other candidates are Take Back Santa Cruz board member Pamela Comstock, resident Jake Fusari, Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, Democratic Party chair Richelle Noroyan, nonprofit leader Cece Pinheiro and bicycling advocate Micah Posner.

Local Democratic Party leader launches bid for council: Richelle Noroyan to seek office for first time

by J.M. BROWN
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/09/2012

SANTA CRUZ – A longtime fixture in the background of local politics, Richelle Noroyan is ready to test her own electability.

The Santa Cruz native, who this month will leave her post as chair of the Santa Cruz County Democratic Party, has said she will be a candidate for City Council in November.

“I love the town I grew up in and brag about it all the time,” Noroyan said. “Being part of making decisions and making the community better are very exciting to me.”

The nomination period for the Nov. 6 council race opens July 16.

Noroyan, 43, the granddaughter of Armenian immigrants whose parents ran a convenience store and the former Hugo’s Armenian Restaurant on Mission Street, is a member of the city’s Transportation and Public Works Commission. She served five years as district director for former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Los Altos, before becoming a marketing consultant for a small web-based firm.

Noroyan’s top priority as a council member would be spurring job growth that keeps workers in Santa Cruz rather than Silicon Valley. The Santa Cruz High graduate said she supported the La Bahia Hotel project for its construction and tourism jobs, and would support new high-tech industry here built around the gaming department at UC Santa Cruz and other ventures.

“I saw a lot of friends I went to school with, kids from blue-collar homes, not be able to stay in Santa Cruz,” she said. “We need to make an effort to bring jobs that allow people of all income levels to stay in town.”

Outgoing Councilman Ryan Coonerty, a former two-time mayor, said he believes Noroyan has the experience and pragmatism to serve on the council, including helping to deal with take-aways from Sacramento.

“She and her husband have tried to find jobs in this community, and that really informs her experience when trying to vote on projects,” Coonerty said. “Certainly her work with the Legislature and her other relationships will be helpful as the city continues to be victimized by the state of California. She also has experience in and appreciation for the private sector.”

Noroyan, who wanted to be a music teacher growing up, said she developed an interest in government early on. She realized as a music student that schools took a funding hit when Prop. 13 passed in 1978.

“We always had to do fundraisers,” she said. “That made me angry because we are doing something good for the community.”

She also understood the abuses of government, having listened to stories of relatives who survived the Armenian Genocide during World War I.

“It made them conscious about human rights,” she said of how her parents raised her. “It made me socially conscious and aware.”

After graduating from Fresno State University, now known as CSU Fresno, Noroyan worked for the state Democratic Party as a campus outreach coordinator and field representative and was the project manager for the Tobacco Education Clearinghouse of California.

Noroyan also has held posts at UCSC, Apple and Caldera Systems.

Two new candidates joined the frey Monday for the four seats up for grabs in the Nov. 6 contest. Take Back Santa Cruz board member Pamela Comstock and resident Jake Fusari filed statements of intent with the city clerk Monday.

Those who have already filed are Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, nonprofit leader Cece Pinheiro, homeless services advocate Steve Pleich and bicycling advocate Micah Posner.

Santa Cruz mayor wants another four years on council; Don Lane seeks first back-to-back term

by J.M. BROWN
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/07/2012

SANTA CRUZ – The first time Don Lane was elected to the City Council, he opted out of running for a second term.

Exhausted by the rebuilding work, recession and political climate after the 1989 earthquake, he needed a break.

It proved to be a long break.

After a four-year return to the council in 2008, the city’s current mayor, 56, has decided now is the right time to seek back-to-back terms.

“I think the fact that I’m running again is, in part, a refection that this has gone better this time for me and I feel like I do have and will continue to have good energy” to serve the community, Lane said.

Lane, the administrator for the Santa Cruz-based Appleton Foundation that awards grants to nonprofits, wants to focus on rebuilding the local economy and continuing to confront homelessness. He and four other candidates have filed statements of intent to run in the Nov. 6 contest, and the official nomination period begins July 16.

Karl Heiman, co-founder of Think Local First and owner of downtown’s Caffe Pergolesi, said he has appreciated Lane’s support of small businesses, including March’s passage of a local preference for contractors bidding on city projects exceeding $10,000.

“I really like to see council members running that are pro-business and pro-improving the economy,” said Heiman, who serves on the city’s Downtown Commission. “(Lane) has got the experience and background.”

Lane, who worked on recent plans to bring the Golden State Warriors’ Development League team to Santa Cruz, wants to further develop that facility to create greater community use. He also wants to work with developers to build Marriott, Fairfield and Hyatt Place hotel projects approved by the council but stymied by economic conditions.

Lane has also been a vocal proponent of the city’s efforts to study desalination as a preferred source of new water supply. Lane said he isn’t sure he will be a champion for the project if re-elected – a council decision could come in 2013 or 2014 after an environmental analysis is vetted – but wants residents to have as much information as possible before voting on the facility.

When Lane took the mayor’s seat in December, he said ending homelessness would be his top aim, which some critics saw as drawing attention away from public safety and economic initiatives. Then, in May, authorities say a parolee released from a state mental health facility who came to stay at the Homeless Services Center fatally stabbed a downtown shop owner.

Lane said that incident shouldn’t derail efforts to find permanent housing for the homeless, saying the killing was the result of holes in the state parole system, not homelessness. Lane said one motivation for wanting to see the local economy improve is to continue providing a safety net of social services.

“But that is not what is going to transform homelessness,” he said. “It’s not so much about city contributions, but hundreds of people in the community saying, ‘We are going to work on this problem in a more constructive way.’”

Lane, who grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Santa Cruz in 1973, graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in politics. His wife Mary works as an electronics technician in UCSC’s chemistry department.

He owned the Saturn Cafe for 15 years, selling it in 1994. He also worked at the Homeless Services Center for 2 1/2 years, departing in 2008, but has served on the center’s board for 20 years.

Lane was elected first in 1988, a year before the Loma Prieta quake devastated much of downtown. He left the council in 1992, the first year he served as mayor, but later served on the city’s general plan and housing advisory committees.

Lane once again won a seat on the council in November 2008, and will serve the remainder of this year as mayor.

Other residents who intend to run in the Nov. 6 contest are former mayor Cynthia Mathews, Transportation and Public Works Commissioner Richelle Noroyan, Special Parents Information Network executive director Cece Pinheiro, bicycling advocate Micah Posner and 2010 candidate Steve Pleich.

Cynthia Mathews to run for fifth term: Three-time former mayor wants to keep working on economy, water supply

by J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/06/2012

SANTA CRUZ - Just two years after leaving the City Council due to term limits, three-time former mayor Cynthia Mathews eyes a return.

Mathews, 69, intends to run for a fifth term in the Nov. 6 contest, when she will compete against the current mayor and a cast of first-time candidates.

The nomination period officially opens July 16, but Mathews, Mayor Don Lane are several other candidates have already filed statements of intent with the city clerk.

Even after serving 16 years on the council, Mathews said she wants to run again because “there is an array of issues I feel strongly about and feel I have some experience that can be helpful.”

Indeed, there are few initiatives in Santa Cruz during the last three decades that don’t bear Mathews’ mark.

A member of the Vision Santa Cruz group that laid the groundwork for downtown recovery after the 1989 earthquake, Mathews also helped plan the city’s bicentennial, new Police Department and Tannery Arts Center. She was a key figure in developing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center set to open at the end of July and has been involved in preserving the historic Cowell Lime Works at UC Santa Cruz.

After serving a combined 15 years on the Planning Commission and zoning board, Mathews joined the council in 1992 and won re-election in 1996. She served as mayor in 1997 before term limits forced her off in 2000.

After sitting out two years, she was elected again in 2002 and served as mayor in 2006, when she was re-elected at the top of the ballot. She served as mayor in 2009 before leaving the council again in 2010.

During the next four years, Mathews said she wants to continue focusing on the local economy, public safety and the city’s water supply.

In her last term, Mathews presided over the economic twists and turns that shaved millions off the city budget, leading to layoffs and reduced funding for Parks and Recreation. She said the council has been “moving in a good direction” in recent years with its renewed determination to improve the business climate.

“There has been a good working dynamic and it has reflected a change in the community and city’s historic values,” she said.

Bill Tysseling, executive director of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce, said the business community is happy about Mathews’ candidacy.

“She has been a supporter of downtown development and business,” Tysseling said. “She also has a strong background in infrastructure, and probably knows as much about transportation and water as anybody else in town.”

This past year, Mathews and former Mayor Mike Rotkin have been at the forefront of the debate over a proposed desalination plant. They formed the Sustainable Water Coalition to advocate the city’s continued pursuit of the project, which opponents decry as environmentally damaging and financially wasteful.

Mathews said she isn’t concerned about how her outspokenness on desalination may affect her campaign.

“My record is deep and diverse enough that people will just have to judge me on my whole record,” she said.

Mathews has been anything but disengaged in her two years off the council.

She serves as chair of the oversight board for the city’s former redevelopment agency, and sits on the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council and Museum of Art and History’s board.

Before getting into politics, Mathews helped to found Planned Parenthood in Santa Cruz in the mid-1960s and worked there for several decades. She and husband Bill Mathews, an astrophysicist who retired from UC Santa Cruz, have two children and two grandchildren.

Other residents who intend to run are Transportation and Public Works Commissioner Richelle Noroyan, Special Parents Information Network executive director Cece Pinheiro, bicycling advocate Micah Posner and 2010 candidate Steve Pleich.

Election Digest: June 12, 2012

S.C. Sentinel   06/12/2012

SANTA CRUZ

People Power founder to appear for Posner

People Power founder Jim Denevan will be the featured guest at a fundraising dinner for Micah Posner’s campaign for Santa Cruz City Council. Posner has resigned as director of the bicycling advocacy organization to run in the November council contest.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 29 at Fairytale Farm, 728 Riverside Ave. The dinner will feature organic produce grown in the garden behind Posner’s home. There is a suggested donation of $100; volunteers are needed.

Sign up and buy tickets at micahforcouncil.org or call 227-4772.

Denevan, a chef and artist, went on to create Outstanding in the Field, a farm-to-table organization. The farm behind Posner’s house was created when he and wife Akiko Minami established a tenancy-in-common arrangement with neighbors.

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

by J.M. BROWN
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.