Santa Cruz United (SCU) began its recall campaign in May 2019. Organizers marketed themselves as a grassroots campaign with the intention of removing City Council members Chris Krohn and Drew Glover from office.
SCU grounded its campaign on the claims that Krohn and Glover created an abusive and intimidating work environment for their female coworkers, in addition to their positions on rent control and houselessness. Although the organization has widespread support from landlords and property owners, it has also received massive backlash for perpetuating false and exaggerated information.
“What [the recall] does is force elected officials to run twice for the same seat, and the second time they run they have to win even more votes in order to stay in place,” said No On Recall organizer Erica Aitken. “It’s very hard to call this democratic in my opinion.”
The Yes on Recall campaign received over $116,000 in monetary contributions from large landowners and property owners inside and outside of Santa Cruz through Santa Cruz Together (SCT), the organization behind the anti-Measure M campaign.
Measure M sought to amend the city charter to enact rent control, but was overwhelmingly defeated. SCT raised about $100,000 in 2019 after Measure M failed, 62 percent of which came from real estate, property owners and developer interests.
“Developer interests are quite clearly diametrically opposed to having office holders who are willing to hold developers accountable for creating housing for people who live in Santa Cruz,” said No On Recall organizer and sociology professor John Hall. “To me, the most offensive thing about it is that apartment owners are charging exorbitant rents, skimming money off the top of the rents and turning around and donating it to a recall campaign. That is against the interests of their tenants.”
During the recall campaign, donations to SCT ranged from $50 to $5,000. The majority came from real estate agencies and property owners. One $4,000 donation came from ACSM, Inc. Construction in Phoenix, AZ.
“The outpouring of monetary contributions to recall Krohn and Glover is indicative that our community supports the Yes on Recall campaign,” said SCU board member and Lighthouse Realty realtor Peter Cook in an email. “Over 90 percent of the signatures to recall Krohn and Glover were gathered by local, volunteer, unpaid, community members; this is the definition of grassroots.”
According to released campaign disclosure forms, SCU and SCT spent a combined total of $70,431 on signature gathering expenditures. This would amount to $30.62 per signature if 90 percent of the signatures were gathered by unpaid volunteers.
SCU spent an additional $29,000 on “campaign consultant and petition circulation” to Dynami Athens Corporation. The corporation’s CEO, secretary and CFO, Robert Singleton, was defeated in the 2016 City Council election. Singleton did not provide comment at time of press.
“It’s clear that this recall is about following the money, and the money leads to the folks who are funding real estate and developer interests,” Krohn said. “We are working hard on fighting the recall, and I continue to promote the idea that Santa Cruz is not for sale. This council is working for affordable housing first, and to protect the most vulnerable in this community.”