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Candidates take jabs at council

Candidates take jabs at council


Rotkin, Mathews Fitzmaurice favored in 12-way race

Crime, traffic, taxes and housing among key issues

Sentinel staff writer
October 21, 2002

SANTA CRUZ - Political cynics might say the upcoming City Council
election is a 12-way race with only three contenders.
While a dozen residents are vying for three council seats, only three
City Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice and former mayors Mike Rotkin and
Cynthia Mathews have extensive political experience.
But the other nine have been trying to set themselves apart by
emphasizing such issues as Beach Flats cleanup and the need for new
blood on the seven-member council. A constant campaign theme is
ridiculing the current City Council from both the left and right.
Two candidates Steve Argue and Thomas Leavitt call the
current council members progressives in speech but not in spirit.
Seven of the other lesser-known candidates say they’re coming from
a more middle-of-the-road to conservative perspective. Most of this
group calls current council members dreamers, more focused on
ideology than practicality.
Flogging the council which drew national attention for its support
of state and local medical-marijuana laws in the face of a DEA
crackdown, and for condemning a U.S. strike on Iraq is the one
thing most of the “dark horse” candidates have in common.
In the same forums, council members have been hit with charges
they’re too far left, not lefty enough, too politically correct, mean to
the homeless and too cowed by homeless activists.
Councilman Keith Sugar, not running in the race, said all the
conflicting criticism from candidates on the right and left “shows we’re
doing a good job. You can’t please everyone. The fact that people
from the right and the radical left aren’t happy probably means we’ve
done an effective job balancing competing interests.”
Kinder, gentler race
The race is less complicated and intense than it might have been if
Mayor Christopher Krohn and Sugar had decided to run again. Their
presence would have made the race a contest between so-called
old-school and new-school progressives. But both bowed out, citing
family commitments.
Fitzmaurice, wrapping up his fourth year in office, pushed for the
upcoming Nueva Vista center, an updated low-income family-housing
complex to be built in the Beach Flats neighborhood. He also authored
the living-wage ordinance two years ago, setting an $11 base rate for
city employees.
He rattled some supporters in July by siding with a City Council
majority that voted 5-2 for stricter downtown ordinance changes
outlawing after-dark panhandling and Hackey Sack, and stiffening
existing rules about leaving possessions on sidewalks.
But he’s also the only candidate with an endorsement from the Santa
Cruz Action Network, a progressive political group that has held sway
for left-leaning candidates in past elections but whose influence, in
recent years, has been open to debate.
Fitzmaurice is high profile, but he said he’s taking nothing for granted.
“I’ll have to fight really hard to get my name out there so people
understand I’m running again,” he said.
Fitzmaurice said he doesn’t want to be out of office now with
unfinished business like the need for more affordable housing. ‘‘It will
require a lot of subtlety and skill to make progress, especially with
diminishing income and revenue sources.”
Such issues take experience, he said.
The top fund-raiser, Mathews, spokeswoman and co-founder of the
local Planned Parenthood office, said she’s running again because “we
face real challenges, and to make progress we have to get as many
people as possible working together. One of my strengths is working
with the private, nonprofit and public sector together. That’s where
we see progress in housing, transportation, economic development,
youth (and other issues).”
She touts her work to protect the environment and the city’s
greenbelt acquisition during her tenure. She said this community “has
much more in common, in terms of values, than differences. We
sometimes intend to get distracted on the differences, and right now
we can’t afford to do that.”
Old and new
Rotkin’s admirers consider him a left-wing idealist who can build
consensus and embrace practical reality. His detractors say he’s too
open to compromise.
Rotkin, a lecturer in UC Santa Cruz’s community studies department,
calls himself an idealistic pragmatist. He said experience is crucial
because “the city is facing a pretty serious crisis. When I left, things
were in reasonably good shape. I am not saying it’s totally the fault
of the current council but we have a serious affordable-housing crisis,
(and) the city’s own economic crisis. We need to do a lot of economic
development that is sensitive to the local environment.”
He advocates a conference hotel in Santa Cruz and said that making
Santa Cruz “the only city that lets homeless people sleep on the
streets” would be disastrous, and that the focus should be on
expanded shelter services. He said he will enforce downtown
ordinances but that better enforcement of existing rules would have
precluded the need for them, and that the council “sent a tacit
message to police to look the other way.”
Argue and Leavitt have similar campaigns. They share a treasurer,
Bernard Klitzner, an associate of homeless activist Robert Norse. Both
candidates say current council members claim to have progressive
credentials but do little to back up the claims. Both say recent
downtown ordinances are divisive, anti-poor and discriminatory.
Leavitt said he considers Argue farther to the left because Argue
wants rent control.
Leavitt and Argue are the only candidates against Measure Q, an
initiative that would increase the 10 percent “transient occupancy
tax,” levied on hotel rooms, to 11 percent, with the extra tax money
funding tourism promotions.
Leavitt said it makes no sense to make the tourist bureau immune to
budget realities that affect other departments, while Argue calls it
“welfare to the rich.” Supporters of Measure Q say it will free up
municipal funds that promote tourism.
Argue, who does habitat-restoration work, says a “hypocritical”
council has cast a blind eye toward the needs of the working class,
artists, the poor and the environment.
He spent time in jail three years ago for hitting a police officer in the
face after seeing the officer take a child out of a protester’s arms
during a raucous demonstration.
The incident happened during a demonstration against U.S. military
action in Kosovo. His critics call him a fringe candidate with a
checkered past.
Supporters say he’s a former political prisoner who understands the
struggles of the poor first-hand. Argue said the Kosovo demonstration
incident only heightened his sense that people “have a right to defend
themselves from the government.”
Council under attack
Most of the other candidates say they were motivated to run
because they were so annoyed by current council policies.
Connie Thomasser, who works in computer software sales, said she
had to run because of “the degradation of the town. I’ve never seen
Santa Cruz in the shape it is in now.”
Thomasser, who was her high school class president and student
body president at Cabrillo College, said she wants to improve the
outside perception of Santa Cruz, do more to promote downtown,
support and encourage young merchants, and reach out to the
genuinely needy while trying to discourage “people who are exploiting
our good graces.”
She said the council needs much more diversity and doesn’t reflect
the community it serves.
“There is not a single 30-something on the board,” she said.
Greg Lopez, who works in construction management, said he was
inspired to run because some of the council members irk him so much.
“I thought, if those guys were elected, I should be able to get into
the council and do something meaningful,” he said. “I watch these
guys clown around with a peace park and get districted and really not
solve anything.”
He was referring to a $93,000 anti-war project that the council
shelved this year during budget talks.
Lopez, whose campaign emphasizes neighborhood improvements and
efforts to increase tourism, said the council needs to get tougher on
vandalism and other crimes.
“Someone has to have a strong arm and say enough is enough,” he
said. While adding he’s “to the right” on business issues, he’s
pro-union and “will be the world’s greatest friend to every homeless
person” who is willing to pull him or herself up from poverty, he said.
The youngest candidate is Jeromy McMillan, 24, whose family has
been in Santa Cruz for generations but is increasingly nervous about
public safety.
McMillan wanted to join the police, and had entered the police
academy, but said his leg was broken during a violent attack. He said
that experience, in late summer, heightened his sense that Santa
Cruz needs to be safer for all residents.
McMillan, who works as a server at Denny’s, said he wants more
officers on the streets, “to get drugs and prostitution out of there. I
want to make the city livable.”
He said the council has been distracted by foreign-policy issues and
needs to redouble its focus on local problems.
For ordinary people
Karen Woblesky said the council represents a “narrow slice” of Santa
Cruz. She said there is a disconnection between the city government,
neighborhoods and “ordinary people living their lives. There has been a
lot of deferred maintenance with funding public safety, roads, traffic
and water, all those non-sexy issues necessary to run a city.”
Woblesky also said the council should pursue business ventures
involving the university and city, following “the Palo Alto-Stanford
Phil Baer said the city doesn’t do enough to stop drugs and gangs in
Beach Flats and has made these charges a constant in his campaign.
He said running for election “is the only way to make the city pay
attention to these problems.”
He is the only candidate who supports Measure P, which would
repeal the city utility tax, saying the city never should have levied
the tax without a popular vote. He calls the tax illegal though a
Superior Court judge recently blocked an anti-tax group from making
this claim on its ballot argument in Santa Cruz, and dozens of other
California cities have the tax.
At a recent forum he said he was appalled by the city’s popular
image as “a place where everybody’s stoned. It’s absolutely
diminishing for any business opportunity.”
David Eselius, an engineer, also bills himself as moderate to right of
center, and said the council is beholden to special interests.
“I represent the needs of the guys who just want to live their lives
and raise a family happily and go to work.” he said.
He said recent city-sponsored transportation projects, including the
ongoing discussion and planning of bike lanes on Soquel Avenue, have
been misguided and traffic-obstructing. He said the city is inundated
with groups that lobby the council and is ill-prepared for a population
Aldo Giacchino, a management consultant, got off some early shots
in the campaign by challenging Rotkin’s and Mathews’ eligibility based
on a clause in the city’s charter regarding term limits. A Superior
Court judge sided against him, however.
Giacchino said he wants to fight a system where “only the
super-vocal, the far left and homeless (activists) have a voice and
are listened to. Nothing will change if these same people get elected
and keep it an old boys’ club. There has been a great deal of inaction,
and a lack of real participation by the public. The business community
has been ignored and treated with a distance.”
Giacchino backs the utility tax but would like it scaled down or
eventually phased out if it survives a November challenge.
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)

Tim Fitzmaurice
AGE: 53.
RESIDENCE: Santa Cruz.
OCCUPATION: UC Santa Cruz lecturer in the creative writing
EDUCATION: Master’s degree, UC Santa Cruz.
PERSONAL: Married, with a son and grandson.
EXPERIENCE: City Council member, a director on the Metro board,
member of the Regional Transportation Commission, this year’s RTC
chair. Former member of the City Transportation Commission.
Making Santa Cruz affordable.
Keeping our environment and community healthy.
Making our city safe.

Karen Woblesky
AGE: 40.
RESIDENCE: Westside.
OCCUPATION: Management analyst in personnel services, Santa
Clara County Fire Department.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, UC Santa Cruz.
PERSONAL: Married.
EXPERIENCE: Chair of the city’s advisory Equal Employment
Opportunity Committee, worked in public-sector agencies three years
Growing our local economy by rebuilding damaged business
relationships and promoting strategic partnerships that will strengthen
our community.
Revitalize and invigorate city government by creating proactive and
practical policies to ensure long-term fiscal health and the efficient
delivery of city services for all residents.
Protect and maintain our neighborhoods and quality of life by
properly funding public safety and no longer deferring maintenance of
our city infrastructure.

Connie Thomasser
AGE: 38.
RESIDENCE: Westside.
OCCUPATION: Sales executive and consultant.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, San Diego State University.
PERSONAL: Married, two children.
EXPERIENCE: Cabrillo College student body president; business
management, organization and communication.
Transportation and maintenance of local roads.
Increase business to shore up tax base and improve social services.

Greg Lopez
AGE: 43.
RESIDENCE: Santa Cruz.
OCCUPATION: Construction manager.
EDUCATION: Degrees from Cabrillo College, California State Hayward.
PERSONAL: Married, four children.
EXPERIENCE: Worked to create the DeLaveaga School Life Lab
Project, and built the school’s kiln room. For the last 11 years
sponsored a community pumpkin patch that has raised more than
$30,000 for local education. Coached youth soccer.
Revitalize the Beach Flats area.
Address traffic problems.
Build strong sales tax base for the city.

Cynthia Mathews
AGE: 60.
RESIDENCE: Downtown.
OCCUPATION: .Director of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Mar
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, UC Berkeley.
PERSONAL: Married, with two children.
EXPERIENCE: Two-term council member, 1992-2000; mayor, 1997;
service on several boards, commissions, task forces, including
Planning and Zoning Board, Vision Santa Cruz, Mission Street Task
Force, Depot Site Task Force.
Local economic development to sustain city services.
Providing for long-term water needs.
Finding feasible housing solutions.

Steve Argue
AGE: 33.
RESIDENCE: Eastside.
OCCUPATION: Botanist doing habitat-restoration work.
EDUCATION: Attended University of Minnesota.
EXPERIENCE: Many years as an activist.
Rent control.
Ending police abuses.
Ending the sleeping ban.

Phil Baer
AGE: 60.
RESIDENCE: Beach Flats.
OCCUPATION: Sculptor, carpenter, manager of family business,
Baer’s Beach cottage court.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s, master’s and master’s of fine arts from San
Jose State University.
PERSONAL: Married, with five daughters, two sons, five
EXPERIENCE: Active in Beach Area Working Group, Beach Flats
Neighbors, Beach Area Homeowners Association, Friends of the
Estuary, Parents Against Marijuana, and Neighbors Opposed To Beach
Area Drug Dealers (NOT BADD).
Street drugs hurt our young people, define our city’s image and limit
our city’s creative and economic potential.
The need for centrist political force and term limits as reality checks
for present leftist-entrenched career politicians.
The utility tax is illegal. Medical marijuana is illegal. City Council must
set an example by respecting the law.

Aldo Giacchino
AGE: 65.
RESIDENCE: Westside.
OCCUPATION: Self-employed management consultant.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in English from St. John’s University;
master’s in city planning from Pratt Institute.
PERSONAL: Married, with two children, two grandchildren.
EXPERIENCE: Ten years in city planning, five as director of planning,
Newark, N.J.; senior manager in health care and health insurance
organizations, including 10 years as vice president of Children’s
Hospital in San Francisco.
The budget crisis.
Drugs. Heroin and cocaine are spreading. We need to get real and
face this issue with strong police action.
Water, housing, transportation and the environment.

Mike Rotkin
AGE: 57.
RESIDENCE: Westside.
OCCUPATION: Lecturer at UC Santa Cruz.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s, Cornell University; doctorate, UC Santa
PERSONAL: Married, with three step-children.
EXPERIENCE: Served four previous terms on the Santa Cruz City
Council, including three terms as mayor; president, AFT Local 2199;
vice president UC-AFT; founding member of Westside Neighbors; chief
negotiator, UC Lecturers for 15 years; 18 years director of Transit
Board; six years, Food and Nutrition Services; four years, director of
Santa Cruz Community Credit Union.
Affordable housing and social services.
Transportation and traffic.
Economic development while protecting the environment.

Thomas Leavitt
AGE: 30.
RESIDENCE:, Santa Cruz.
OCCUPATION: Senior Unix systems administrator/entrepreneur.
EDUCATION: Attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, and
Cabrillo College.
PERSONAL: Married, with two step-daughters
EXPERIENCE: Served on city’s Homeless Issues Task Force; chair of
the city’s living-wage committee; active in the Green Party since
Affordable housing: Fix the bottom rungs of the housing ladder so
that people can afford to live near where they work.
Broaden the dialogue: Facilitate creation of neighborhood
organizations and business improvement districts, and give all areas
and all residents a voice in the city’s governance, so that we can
take full advantage of Santa Cruz’s social and economic potential.
Create public space that serves the public good: Build a downtown
that serves all and discriminates against none by restoring the Pacific
Garden Mall vision via the construction of a permanent, multi-block
pedestrian plaza.

Jeromy McMillan
AGE: 24.
RESIDENCE: Santa Cruz.
EDUCATION: Aptos High School.
EXPERIENCE: Attended police academy. Has helped at soup
Crime issues and public safety, with more of a local focus.
Help homeless get back on their feet.
Bring more tourists back to the city.

David Eselius
RESIDENCE: Westside.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of science.
PERSONAL: Two children.
EXPERIENCE: All my working life, I have spent understanding a
variety of large, complex issues and presenting solutions to correct
the problems. After attending more than 100 city meetings, I know
some of the city issues and will work with the community to solve our
21st-century problems.
Develop a city long-term growth plan that maintains our valuable
quality of life.
Improve the City’s tax base structure by supporting development of
our boardwalk, a conference center, hotels, boutique shopping,
restaurants, museums, artists, parks, open spaces and history.
Decrease Eastside traffic problems by increasing Soquel Avenue’s
travel lanes to four.

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Sentinel Prints Corporate Lies

This article from the corporate media was interesting when I read it in the paper a couple days ago, but it certainly isn't worthy of the journalistic standards of Indy-Media. I suggest that who ever posted it become the media and write their own article about the candidates, based on investigations that are independent of rags like the Senial.

As for the candidates this article endorses, they are liars and abusers of the peopl, just as the Sentinel is. After years of mismanagement Santa Cruz is one the most unaffordable places in the nation. Cops and landlords run roughshod over the people treating us like dirt. Now those responsible want you to think they did something for you and they want you to vote them back in.

I say we need a regime change in Santa Cruz!

Three City Council seats are open in the November 5th elections, but Argue and Leavitt are the only candidates truly challenging the status quo. Rotkin, Matthews, and Fitzmaurice are all establishment candidates and local political insiders. Rotkin and Matthews were both proponents of the failed Beach Area Working Plan. Matthews has even voted against the right of Free Radio Santa Cruz to be on the air. All three have voted to keep sleep illegal for the homeless and have never intervened to stop police harassment of political activists, the poor, and street musicians. Rotkin, Matthews, and Fitzmaurice are only progressive when it comes to national issues over which they have no control. Steve Argue & Thomas Leavitt are the only candidates who represent a truly progressive local agenda which includes expanding low income housing, freedom of speech, human rights for the homeless, curbing police abuses, and the preservation of our environment. A vote for Steve Argue and Thomas Leavitt is truly a vote for change.

THOMAS LEAVITT can be contacted at (831) 425-3646. His web site is E-mail him at Thomas (at)

STEVE ARGUE can be contacted at (831) 454-0272. E-mail him at steveorchid (at)


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