In Santa Cruz, a new year also means a new mayor. After being sworn in on Dec. 10 and pausing briefly for the holidays, Mayor Lynn Robinson began her first full day on the job last Monday. City on a Hill Press recently spoke with the new mayor to discuss her plans for the city.
One of the rougher years for Santa Cruz in recent memory, 2013 brought a spike in violent crimes and public safety complaints, including the tragic shooting of two police officers. With this in mind, Mayor Robinson spoke about her goals for moving forward in 2014. In addition to working on issues of public safety, she said she is focusing on youth programs, shining a spotlight on Santa Cruz’s small businesses and fostering community involvement.
CHP: What are some of your goals for 2014 as mayor?
Mayor Lynn Robinson: One thing that comes to mind are the Youth City Council programs. There’s one in South County in Watsonville and one in Santa Cruz now. For the first time ever, these kids are having this experience of civic engagement with their community. [Previous Mayor] Hilary Bryant was really great at promoting that last year and I want to take that to the next level and start taking their recommendations to the City Council.
I also want to support a group that does cleanups on the levee — they’re called the Lovely Ladies. They’ve been really instrumental in getting us focused on things we need to do to improve not only the safety but also the cleanliness of the levee. They’re persevering and it’s working. We’re in the process of getting a grant that’s going to help us with some of those things.
I want the youth who are focused on these things to have that same experience, so they can see what they want and need for their own quality of life in Santa Cruz is being listened to and [acted on].
CHP: You’ve been interested in public safety issues for a long time as a member of City Council, and this was a particularly hot topic last year. What are your plans in that department for 2014?
Robinson: One of my focuses is to take the recommendations of the Public Safety Citizen Task Force (PSCTF) [established last year] to heart and really hone in on where we can apply PSCTF’s ideas.
PSCTF was created because we continually heard from the community about either hotspots they weren’t comfortable in or crime happening in places they least expected it. One of the focuses I have this year is working with the city and our staff to work on things that are “down on the ground” that we can improve — cleaning up problem areas, things like that.
To that end, I’ve rolled out a program called Come Clean with the Mayor, in which people can come and help me clean up problem areas. Some of it is minor stuff, but some of it is very hazmat [suit] quality, egregious cleanups.
My goal is ultimately to help keep Santa Cruz safe and clean, both individually and as a community. This can mean everything from just cleaning a gutter to organizing community cleanups. The flipside is, how do you engage and work with the social services community on issues like mental health, homelessness and people living in poverty? There are so many ways to place yourself in a helpful role.
I want to engage people to let them know that instead of being the voice of a complainer, you can be the voice of a person who can help bring support. It’s multifaceted, but I want to help people realize they can speak up and say, “I can do that” or “I can help with that.”
CHP: What else are you looking forward to in your new term?
Robinson: On New Year’s Eve I watched a movie about surf culture on the Westside, and there were stunning helicopter shots, all the way from Pleasure Point over to the Westside. You kind of forget because we’re down on the ground, but you pull away and are reminded of that and then you think, “That’s it, that’s why we’re here.” I’m looking at [those shots] and thinking, “Wow, this year I’m the mayor of that.”
I want to shine a light on all the things that make Santa Cruz so beautiful and such a cool place to live, such as the farmers markets, the viticulture and the biking culture. There are so many different examples of things popping right now, so why not bring attention to them? It’s almost like branding Santa Cruz.
I also want to help get the word out about all the small businesses here, because they’re really the backbone of the community. You’ll see me at a lot of ribbon cuttings this year.
I’m really excited about this year. Accomplishments that may have been put on the back burner because of the economy or us having to change focus in the face of the crime last year can be addressed now. This is the year we get to look at it all more clearly, instead of just running from this to that like a rabbit. We can be more deliberate.
But in the course of the hard work we need to do to get accomplishments, I want to remind people to go have fun. I mean, look at where we live. What do you want to do? Kick back in one of the parks and look up at the blue sky, or put your feet in the sand, or what?
I’m also not going to keep my eyes off the prize of the hard work we still have to do, because it’s only fun when we keep it clean and safe.