By Kora Fortun and Annemarie McGreehan
The Santa Cruz County Clerk Office certified results from the March 3 election on April 7, and the recall of Santa Cruz City Council members Drew Glover and Chris Krohn passed.
Fifty-one percent voted to recall Krohn, and 53 percent voted to recall Glover. The council swore in Katherine Beiers and Renée Golder to replace them on April 7.
The recall was one of the most contested ballot items, and picketers on both sides canvassed the community for months. Recall petitions cited the council members’ positions on houselessness, specifically efforts to keep camps and vehicle home communities open. Without adequate shelter, the houseless community is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as the new City Council responds to the pandemic.
“The recall was ugly, divisive, difficult,” Beiers said. “But I really think within no time it will be in the past and we’ll move forward.”
Beiers campaigned against the recall, but ran to secure a progressive seat on the council in case it passed. Krohn worked with Beiers when he was first elected to City Council in 1998 and she was mayor, and encouraged her to run in the recall election.
“She’s a real progressive,” Krohn said. “She’s big on homeless issues. She’s very good at trying to get resources to take care of our homeless population.”
Beiers will serve the remainder of Krohn’s term, which lasts until December, but does not plan to run again in November.
Renée Golder ran as a pro-recall candidate and will be serving the remainder of Drew Glover’s term through December 2022. Golder supported the 2018 “No on M” campaign to block rent control legislation, and was a member of the 2013 Public Safety Citizen Task Force that reported that houseless encampments pose a public health and safety hazard. On the council, Golder wants to work to find solutions for houselessness and other community issues.
“Now more than ever we will need teamwork, honest communication, and out of the box thinking in order to see our city return to normal,” Golder said in an email. “We will need to be prepared to make sacrifices and tough decisions as the financial implications are going to be dire.”
During their time on City Council, Krohn and Glover supported affordable housing requirements and the decriminalization of sitting or laying in public spaces and opposed the Ross Camp closure.
The new council’s first action was a unanimous vote to fine misdemeanor violators of the COVID-19 emergency orders. In the meeting, council member Sandy Brown acknowledged the city’s need to strictly enforce public health precautions, but echoed concerns expressed during public comment.
“There is potential for this to have negative impacts on our unhoused community members disproportionately to the rest of the population given that we are really struggling with how to address this and provide adequate shelter,” Brown said. “I hope that this is not used as a tool to make it more difficult for our unhoused community members to survive during this very difficult time.”
Some houseless individuals are sheltering-in-place at public parks and beaches that have been closed under county health order. City Attorney Anthony Condotti said tourists were the main target of the order, but the decision to cite houseless individuals for violations lies with the police department.
The CDC recommends that people living in encampments should be allowed to stay there if individual housing options are unavailable. Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry said there are few individual housing options available in Santa Cruz.
“They did a sweep of people at the post office, and the CDC and COVID-19 experts say that the police moving camps like that will spread COVID-19 in the community,” McHenry said. “And experts are saying that every single person who lives outside should be placed in a hotel. […] But so far that’s not happening.”
Santa Cruz residents are awaiting the new council’s first full meeting on April 14 to see how decision- and policy-making unfold, and if the progressive policies spearheaded by former council members Drew Glover and Chris Krohn will continue.
“Politics is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. When we started this project [to create more affordable housing] in 2016, two of us got elected, and two more got elected in 2018. And I knew there was going to be pushback,” Krohn said. “You know, we learned some lessons in this race. And we will come back roaring in November.”