Mike Rotkin for Santa Cruz City Council
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Mike Rotkin Answers Questions Frequently Asked of City Council Candidates

1. What are your qualifications for City Council?

I have served five terms on the Santa Cruz City Council and have been Mayor four times. I am a labor activist, and I serve as the President of my union local, AFT 2199, and as the statewide Vice President of the UC-AFT for Organizing. I was the Chief Negotiator for my union for the past 20 years. I have been an active environmentalist who played a key role in stopping oil drilling off our coast, helped create a greenbelt around our city, and helped ban pesticides in City Parks by working to create an integrated pest management system. I have provided leadership in recycling, solar power and alternative energy, and public transit development. I have played a positive leadership role in making the City workforce more diverse and reflective of our local population in gender and racial terms, and I have been an active and effective supporter of affordable housing and civil rights for all. I was a founder and leader of the Westside Neighbors.

I played and continue to play a leadership role in the creation and support of human care services for our community and have served on the Board of several non-profits in the past, including the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Central Labor Council, the Community Action Board, and Food and Nutrition, Inc. (renamed Community Bridges). I am currently serving my third term as Chair of the Santa Cruz Metro Transit Board. I have served for almost 22 years on the Santa Cruz City/County Library Board. In all of my work as a public official, I have been accessible to all members of the community and responsive in working with members of the community to solve a very wide range of community problems.  Return to links list

2. What are your priorities/goals for your term in office?

I want to work with the community to find a way to increase our local tax base so we can provide City employees with the compensation they deserve and so the City can support social services, recreation, affordable housing, environmental protection, and public safety. We need to find a way to do this that does not destroy the environment or human scale of our community, both of which are part of what make this such a wonderful place to live and work.

I think that the way to approach this question is by creating a broad-based community discussion of our priorities and a consensus plan for moving forward. I have a great deal of experience in doing this kind of work, which involves a combination of grassroots initiatives to draw our residents into a dialogue about how we do and do not want our city to develop. Our solutions have to be both visionary and pragmatic at the same time. I believe that I have demonstrated my ability to work with diverse groups of individuals and organizations to make this process successful. It will not be easy, but it simply needs to happen.  Return to links list

3. More specifically, what kind of economic development are you talking about?

We need to play to our strengths as a community and welcome employers who will appreciate our highly educated community and our wonderful natural environment. Our initiative to create a high-tech and industrial area on the Westside of Santa Cruz is a start in this direction, but we still have a long way to go with that initiative. Green industries, based on our local green building ordinance, are also an important part of this mix. We also need to help establish an eco-tourist industry based on our National Marine Sanctuary, our greenbelt, our thriving arts community, and our attractive local environment in general. Developing these possibilities depends upon creating the community consensus I wrote about above.  Return to links list

4. How would you balance the need for affordable housing with environmental concerns?

There is really no need for a conflict between these two values. We need to continue to expand our accessory dwelling unit program in single-family neighborhoods, but to direct most of our new affordable housing to downtown, south of Laurel Street, and along major transportation corridors. We can preserve our greenbelt, and the quality of life in our single-family and multi-family neighborhoods, while dramatically increasing the density in the areas I have mentioned above. The key to doing this successfully is good design. I have enough experience in public life to know that a well-designed affordable housing project will win over many initial opponents, and density can be developed in a way that does not destroy the quality of life of neighboring residents. It is critical that we continue to press affordable housing developers to work with nearby neighbors to involve them in the planning of new developments and win their support for outcomes that increase the City’s stock of affordable housing.  Return to links list

5. What are your concerns about the growth of UCSC? How would you go about solving these issues?

One of the most outrageous aspects of the current UCSC growth issue is the way in which UC officials have worked to create a false dichotomy between supporting access to higher education and protecting the local community from the impacts of UCSC growth. We can have both increased access to higher education and reasonable mitigations of growth impacts. It does, however, require the UC administration to make a commitment to actually plan how they will manage their growth – something they have not, at least until now, shown much interest in.

Neither the Campus Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) nor the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required to accompany the LRDP begin to adequately address the impacts of proposed UCSC growth. This is not a plan that is good for the campus and bad for the town. The quality of life and the educational experience for the campus will be equally if not more negatively impacted by the growth that is being projected than the off-campus community. It is UCSC faculty, along with everyone else, who will be stuck in traffic every morning and every afternoon. It is the campus that will not be able to attract the best new faculty and staff due to a lack of affordable housing. Rising housing prices will limit the ability of many low- and middle-income students to attend UCSC, which already has the highest housing prices of any campus in the system. There is literally nothing in the LRDP or the EIR about mitigating the impacts on our transportation system, our housing market, or our water supply. Obviously, the campus and the community will have to cooperate in developing solutions to the problems created by campus growth. But the City was forced to put measures I and J on the ballot, and will be forced to sue the University over their inadequate environmental documents, because we need to do something to get the University’s attention and force serious negotiations before this disaster unfolds, not after it has destroyed the quality of life in our community and for those who work and study at UCSC.  Return to links list

6. If elected, how will you work to include the locally owned business community in your decision making process?

I intend to remain open and accessible to all sectors of our community, as I have been in my first five terms in office. I will be very pleased to sit down and talk with the Locally Owned Business Alliance (LOBA), its members, and any representatives of the organization to discuss any matters of concern. I believe that I have demonstrated over the years that support for locally owned businesses is not just rhetoric for me. When it comes to making our local community, including Pacific Avenue, the beach area, and other shopping districts, safe and welcoming to visitors and residents I have been responsive to the ideas and concerns of the local business community.  Return to links list

7. Describe your understanding of the issues that face the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in general.

The major issues are lack of equality and full civil rights, discrimination in a wide variety of areas, and lack of social recognition. Despite great advances in recent years, members of the GLBT community continue to face significant discrimination in housing, employment, access to social resources and in a wide variety areas of social life. The development of domestic partnership benefits was a great advance. Although they are hardly universal yet, they have been adopted by many public and private agencies. However, the lack of full rights to marriage and all of the legal rights that institution confers in our society remains a major obstacle to full equality. Some major problems that creates relate to adoption of children, medical care and inheritance rights with respect to partners, tax benefits, and some retirement and health benefits.

The issue of discrimination continues to be a significant problem ranging from issues related to lack of equal access to society’s resources through ridicule and insults, to open violence. Many of these problems are magnified in school settings. Again, we have made some significant progress on these issues in California in general, and especially in Santa Cruz, but schools remain very difficult places for young members of the GLBT community – with daily taunts, jokes, insults, threats, intimidation, and outright violence all too common.

The lack of social recognition is also a serious problem. We need to move beyond “tolerance” or “acceptance” of diverse lifestyles to a recognition and celebration of the significant contributions to our community made by many, many members of the GLBT community. We are still in a difficult period in which we are not past the risk that right-wing politicians and activists and fundamentalist religious zealots will try to undo the great progress we have made, and an unfortunately large amount of our energy is required just to defend the gains we have made so far when we should be moving to advance the struggle for full equality.  Return to links list

8. What is your history with the GLBT community?

I have been an active supporter of GLBT rights and equality since I first understood the issue in 1969 as a result of the Stonewall riots in New York City. I played an active leadership role in fighting the Briggs Amendment in the 1970s, including publishing and distributing 100,000 copies of a brochure I produced responding to that bigoted effort. Since then, I have been a monitor in every Pride parade since they started in Santa Cruz, and as an elected public official I have worked hard to support domestic partnership coverage in the City of Santa Cruz and in the UC system. I am outspoken in my public support for GLBT rights, including marriage rights, and I am very proud of having been named an ally of the GLBT community in past Pride events. I am a member of the Diversity Center.  Return to links list

9. Do you support plans to widen Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Watsonville?

I oppose widening Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. The studies conduced by the supporters of this project demonstrate that the reduction in congestion would be very short term and very minimal. A realistic scenario would be five years of hell while they build the project, two or three years of wonderful, non-congested driving, and then we’d be back where we started with respect to congestion, but having wasted a quarter of a billion dollars to get there. The current disruption and congestion being caused by the merge lane project on Highway 1 is but a small taste of the nightmare we would face with a full widening project, and in the long run we would be no better off with respect to congestion than when we started. I support expanded public transit, especially express bus routes and bus rapid transit development, as a realistic way to reduce congestion on our roads.  Return to links list

10. What steps would you take to promote bicycling and bicyclist's safety?

We need to continue to work on bike lane expansion. We need to convert all of our traffic signals so they are easily and dependably tripped by bike riders. We need to make improving the surface of City streets with bike lanes a high priority in all future street improvements, and more regularly sweep the bike lanes in the City. We need to improve bicycle parking in our commercial areas and require more new businesses (especially office businesses) to offer their employees shower facilities and incentives for not driving a car to work. We need to find ways to allow private individuals (businesses and residential) to avoid or reduce the costs of producing or maintaining auto parking facilities if they are willing to commit to bicycle and other alternative transportation use. I’m sure there are many other improvements for bicycle riders that make a lot of sense and I would intend to continue to work with People Power and other bike advocates to understand the most important new options and to see them realized.  Return to links list

11. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) policy 1710 recommends staffing levels of one line firefighter for every thousand of population served. Our current staffing falls well below this standard. Do you support making adequate staffing a priority? What criteria do you support for determining staffing levels?

I believe that it is accurate that we are far below the staffing levels recommended by NFPA policy. The situation is even worse than suggested by population figures alone. Because Santa Cruz has so many visitors and is the County Seat, we actually have more public safety problems than typically associated with a population of 59,000 residents. Our calls for service per population are far above those neighboring cities. Consequently, I support finding a way to increase our Fire Department staffing levels.

Unfortunately, our budget crisis does not allow that to happen in the short term. That is why, if I am re-elected, so much of my energy over the next four years will be focused on building up the City’s tax base. We need to develop the resources to pay our employees a competitive wage and provide them with benefits that do not continue to erode every year. Both the Fire and Police Departments are understaffed and in need of higher funding levels. I am working hard to pass Measure H, so we can continue to support public safety in the short-term, but in the long-term our City needs to grow our business sector to support the level of public safety and other services expected by our local community. I believe that I am in a good position to make that happen.  Return to links list

12. Briefly describe your work background.

Before coming to Santa Cruz, I held several varied jobs. I have worked as a lifeguard and swimming coach, on an automobile assembly line, wiring circuit boards, teaching fourth grade, as a laborer in construction, as a motorcycle mechanic, and as a folk singer in bars. When I first came to Santa Cruz in 1969, I did sociological research and worked for four years as a teaching assistant at UCSC. Since 1974, I have been employed by UCSC as a lecturer and since 1979 also as the Director of the Community Studies Field Study Program. I have been a City Councilmember as well, on and off for the past twenty-six years. For the first ten years, that was paid $50 a month. Since then, it has paid $1000 a month and as Mayor I earned $2000 a month the last time I served.  Return to links list

13. Briefly describe your educational background.

B.A. in English Literature, Summa Cum Laude, Cornell University 1969; Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz 1991  Return to links list

14. To what fraternal, professional, civic or social organizations do you belong?

American Civil Liberties Union – SC Board of Directors, Sierra Club, People’s Democratic Club, Democratic Women’s Club, NAACP, The Diversity Center, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG), Citizen’s for a Better Environment (CBE), California Peace Action, The United Nations Association, Mayors for Peace.  Return to links list

15. Do you plan to seek higher office?

No.  Return to links list


Links to Questions and Answers

1. What are your qualifications for City Council? Go

2. What are your priorities/goals for your term in office? Go

3. More specifically, what kind of economic development are you talking about? Go

4. How would you balance the need for affordable housing with environmental concerns? Go

5. What are your concerns about the growth of UCSC? How would you go about solving these issues? Go

6. If elected, how will you work to include the locally owned business community in your decision making process? Go

7. Describe your understanding of the issues that face the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in general. Go

8. What is your history with the GLBT community? Go

9. Do you support plans to widen Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Watsonville? Go

10. What steps would you take to promote bicycling and bicyclist's safety? Go

11. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) policy 1710 recommends staffing levels of one line firefighter for every thousand of population served. Our current staffing falls well below this standard. Do you support making adequate staffing a priority? What criteria do you support for determining staffing levels? Go

12. Briefly describe your work background. Go

13. Briefly describe your educational background. Go

14. To what fraternal, professional, civic or social organizations do you belong? Go

15. Do you plan to seek higher office? Go

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