Mayor Don Lane and Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant spoke with student media organizations at an on-campus press conference last Monday. The pair talked about their efforts to strengthen the local economy, as well as other issues of interest to students and Santa Cruzans.
CHP: What is the city council currently doing to build the local economy?
Bryant: We’ve been working on how to improve technology in the city. I was in a meeting the other day and they said just three doors down they could get fiber optic, but not right here. That’s a challenge — it’s a huge economic development challenge for us. The university has been helpful in that challenge with its ability to bring in educated individuals, but we have to get better at letting businesses know that.
There are actually a lot of smaller tech companies in the area, and these are the future of Santa Cruz. I don’t think we will get a significant number of large tech companies, so we have to build up these small companies and we have to start re-branding ourselves as a tech community. There are a lot of creative thinkers in the area and a lot of amazing projects underway right now. David Haussler is working on the genome project here at Santa Cruz and also has a group working out of the Silicon Valley. What we need to do is make businesses more interested in starting up in Santa Cruz.
Lane: Plantronics is our biggest high-tech employer in the region. UCSC serves as a big motivator for the company to be in the area, and they definitely recognize the school makes it easier for them to find the kind of talent they need. There are so many people that commute to big tech companies, and there is really no reason for them to leave Santa Cruz every day. I know there are dozens of people who live in Santa Cruz and go over to work at Google, and if we could just create a Google satellite office, it would really work for both the company and the community. That way, we are not competing with these big companies — something we simply cannot do — and we are instead bringing them to us.
CHP: Santa Cruz K-12 public schools have recently been dealt budget cuts. Has there been any consideration of privatizing them?
Bryant: We’ve been having this whole charter school conversation lately, but I believe people really care about public education and there are amazing teachers in public education who really care about what they are doing. I don’t think we’re going to go to a system of private schools — just because so many people believe in public education — but to keep the quality of it up, everybody has to be engaged.
Lane: I think it is such a fundamental issue to our society. It is easy to just fall back on the private sector to fix issues, but doing so creates a society of winners and losers. A great public education system is the best barrier against that.
CHP: Amid education cuts, are you confident the upcoming local ballot measure intended to preserve funding for Santa Cruz city schools’ arts, music, and libraries will pass?
Lane: The measure will only renew what is already in place as far as education goes, and
measures like that are easier to pass, so I believe it will go through.
CHP: Are there any local measures you are aware of right now you think would interest students, or the community in general?
Lane: I’m on a task force of the city council that’s looking at hotel taxes. We have been discussing raising the tax rate on hotels from 10 percent to 12 percent, but whether that goes on the ballot is a decision for the city council. It would be very beneficial for Santa Cruz, though, because all the tax money from hotels stays local, whereas everything else that is taxed is shared with the state and federal government.