The view from Santa Cruz stretches far along the coast, from Davenport down to Pajaro. Like the views, the nearby political results have far-reaching effects with your ballot covering Santa Cruz County in addition to its local city government.
Both city and county governments are vital, with key roles in housing, transportation, and environmental policy. Santa Cruz students have the chance to vote on both this November. With tight races in the fall, students can determine what kind of town they want to live in for the next few years. For those of you who want to engage in local politics at Santa Cruz, here’s what you need to know.
Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors
The county of Santa Cruz is divided into five separate districts, each electing a supervisor to a county board. The Board of Supervisors holds broad executive and legislative powers and manages countywide issues and aid, from public parks to prosecution to human services. Supervisors are elected to a four-year term, with the election cycles staggered over two years. District 3, which includes most of UC Santa Cruz, excluding Family Student Housing, and District 4 will be electing new supervisors this November.
With incumbent Ryan Coonerty not running for reelection, District 3 will have its first open seat since 2014 and will mark the first time the seat has not been held by a Coonerty since 2006. Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson are running for the seat, with both of them currently on the Santa Cruz City Council and Cummings previously serving as mayor from 2019 to 2020.
Kalantari-Johnson led Cummings in a June primary by 3.31 percent and less than 500 votes, marking a tight race for the fall and meaning the return of students for November will provide an important electoral swing.
Santa Cruz City Council
Santa Cruz City Council members serve staggered four-year terms similar to their county-level counterparts. The City of Santa Cruz previously held at-large elections for seven seats, with the role of mayor rotating throughout the seven.
Due to a 2019 lawsuit, Santa Cruz had to move towards dividing the city into equitable districts. Measure E was approved in the June 2022 primary, and made the mayor directly elected rather than rotating throughout the council.
In addition to the mayoral position, Measure E also approved a six-district map of Santa Cruz, dividing UCSC through High Street and Coolidge Drive. Local residents approved the measure in the June primary with 66 percent approval, marking the city’s first ever district-based City Council elections this November.
Stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the City Council candidates throughout the quarter.
The City Manager is a bureaucratic role appointed by the mayor, tasked with researching and presenting legislative options to the council.
As the City’s highest ranking bureaucrat, the city manager has to synthesize council debate into the actual written law for the City Council to modify, debate, and vote on. Additionally, part of the city manager’s role is to determine a potential law’s legal and historical precedents.
Though the means of choosing the mayor of Santa Cruz are changing, the responsibilities of the mayor will remain largely the same.
The mayor is the head of city government and the city’s leader for ceremonial purposes, as well as being the leader of Santa Cruz in a military emergency.
Here it is key that the mayor “shall have no regular administrative duties” according to the city charter. The most prestigious seat in the council is no longer in rotation, but now an open competition for a non-district seat.
Local Ballot Measures
In a chance for direct democracy, Santa Cruz voters will decide several political questions about the city’s future, in contrast to them being made by government representatives. City on a Hill Press won’t be breaking down local measures presented to UCSC students and Santa Cruz residents in this publication, but we will do so in our special edition voter guide at the start of fall quarter. While you’re staying tuned for that, click here to read the exact language of each measure that you’ll be seeing on your ballot.