A highly contested election is occurring now throughout Santa Cruz County and our community as well. While not every one of our readers will have this option on their ballot, we still thought it was important to inform all on the District 1 Supervisor Election. We emailed each candidate with the following questions. Please note that each candidate had equal opportunity to reply. All received responses are unedited and listed below.
1. Tell me a little about your candidate profile in terms of experience, education, and motivation.
2. What do you think differentiates you from your fellow candidates?
3. What are your top three issues that you’d like to tackle?
4. What is your strategy for building consensus?
5. What’s one thing you’d like voters to know about you before they head to the ballot box?
Manu Koenig, Nonprofit Executive Director
1. For the last 9 years I've been working on improving local government to better reflect the will of the people. I helped write an app called Civinomics where anyone could propose new policy and vote online. As a government consultant I've conducted public opinion research for the County of Santa Cruz and every city in it. As Executive Director of Santa Cruz County Greenway I tirelessly advocated for a trail in the rail corridor (no train), and lead the effort to collect 10,000 signatures in support of the plan. I studied Management Science and German at Stanford.
The spark of motivation to run came when I witnessed the incumbent disregard voters' time, money, and opinion in the transportation planning process. He pushed forward a freight train that no one wants or needs and pushed off a true third lane for Highway 1 till after 2035, despite the urging of Caltrans, local business owners and thousands of constituents. That’s when I realized we needed better representation plain and simple. I looked around and realized I was well positioned to offer that to my community.
2. I'm a problem solver, not a politician. I've proposed detailed solutions to the major issues. So far I’ve only heard the incumbent speak in the past tense and his website and campaign materials don’t propose new solutions - mine do.
3. Here are the top issues and what I’ll do about them…
- Build tiny houses to get people off of the streets, then enforce no-camping laws.
- Ensure 1:1 needle exchange to improve patient outcomes.
- Create more work training opportunities for greater accountability and a stronger community.
- Reduce fees and wait times at the Planning Department.
- Update the building code to incentivize affordable-by-design units.
- Prioritize housing for Santa Cruz County residents and workers.
- Build an express lane on Highway 1 for dependable travel times.
- Improve METRO bus service with color coded routes and greater frequency.
- Build more protected bike lanes including the trail in the rail corridor (no train).
4. Talk to the people who deal with the problem every day. Identify the smallest possible thing that will reduce their struggle. Do that thing as quickly as possible. Repeat.
5. I will stand up for you and change the bureaucracy, rather than ignore you and enforce the bureaucracy. I’ve been on four boards: one tech-startup (Civinomics), two non-profits (Digital NEST and Santa Cruz County Greenway), and one government (City of Santa Cruz Downtown Commission). I know the drill. I will be proactive and set the agenda to make the County work for you.
John Leopold, Incumbent
As a 27-year resident of Live Oak and a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, I have worked hard to be part of my community. I have helped in Soquel schools, served as a Live Oak Little League Coach and represented the area on the Cabrillo College Board. I have been the owner of a start- up business, led the Santa Cruz AIDS Project and crafted policy at the local, state and national level.
My parents taught me that to be part of community it is important to provide service to the community. Through my support of schools, youth, and those in need, I was inspired to step up to serve as County Supervisor to listen and help give a voice to the residents of the First District and engage them in being a part of the decisions that affect their lives. As a Supervisor I hold regular meetings with the public on issues ranging from housing, transportation, broadening the dialogue about criminal justice reform and discussing a sustainable future for our county. Through this dialogue we have created the Boys & Girls Club, the Heart of Soquel Park and Leo’s Haven at Chanticleer Park, the first fully inclusive park where kids of any ability can play together. We have also created policies that protect neighborhood by setting limits on vacation rentals, protect mobile home residents through a Mobile Home Park Closure ordinance, and protect the environment by having our County to be the first to ban fracking in the state of California.
As we look to future, I continue preparing for our needs through the enactment of the Sustainable Santa Cruz County Plan to allow for new housing types in our community and to support modest increases in residential density along our transit corridors. We are already using County-owned land to build housing and we are promoting policies to make it easier for people to build ADUs in their backyard. Building on the success of Monterey Bay Community Power, I will work with the new County Climate Action Manager to prepare adaption strategies to address the effects of the changing climate, so we are prepared for rising sea levels and increased fire danger. Lastly, I will continue to work to build programs that increase opportunities for all families and places for children to thrive and play.
Creating policies means being able to work with others to accomplish our shared goals. Transportation is one of our most contentious issues in our county. As a leader on the Regional Transportation Commission, I helped forge a consensus around transportation funding that required compromise by all parties but great advances for everyone involved. That led to the successful passage of Measure D, the transportation funding measure for local roads, the highway, the trail network, and our bus system. I used that same leadership skills to help the Commission come to a unanimous vote on the use of the rail corridor for both transit and a trail.
Representing a district where most of the population lives in the unincorporated part of the County, the Supervisor must be a zealous advocate for residents. In my community service, whether elected or unelected, that is exactly what I have tried to do. There is no other candidate in this race with the successful track record that I have earned. I have worked with the community to accomplish great things from new parks to transformative and beneficial policy. I have stood up for the community against strong foes, from oil companies to the Federal Aviation Administration. I am fiercely committed to advocating for this district and working for everyone in our county.