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By Eric Johnson
Published Jun 13, 2022

The Santa Cruz County Governmental Center The Santa Cruz County Governmental Center Image credit: By Crystal Birns

6-13-22 Defending Democracy

Thank you for voting. Given the abysmal turnout last Tuesday, you might think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I would bet dollars to donuts that you voted. You are a member of California Local (heartfelt thanks for joining our tribe). You opened this email (our open rates are extraordinary, and thank you for that as well). I’m guessing that, like me, you believe in democracy and believe in government, despite the fact that these beliefs are challenged every day.

I admit to being dismayed that Tuesday gave us a landslide of apathy, as a huge majority of eligible voters statewide and in Santa Cruz County decided to stay home. I know that a lot of them did so because they have lost faith in government. They’ve become cynical about what some people call “career politicians.” I believe that brand of cynicism is a grave threat to democracy. I also know from the experience of covering elected officials for decades that this brand of political cynicism is a form of naïveté. People who pay close attention—even those of us whose job is to hold politicians’ feet to the fire—know that many electeds are working hard to make their constituents’ lives better. That kind of thinking isn’t edgy or cool but it is the truth.

In Santa Cruz County, this truth about elected public servants is truer than most anywhere else. Voters here have sent a legion of noble leaders to local offices, to Sacramento, and to Congress, for decades. From Lighthouse Field to to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, much of what makes Santa Cruz County the remarkable place that it is resulted from the work of elected officials and the people who supported their campaigns. The list is too long to even begin, and last Tuesday, it got longer. 

The City of Santa Cruz also decided to make a stuructural change to its political landscape, and will in November vote for its first-ever polularly elected mayor. The following day, the Honorable Fred Keeley, whom Lookout Local's Mark Conley called "the county's most veteran politico," announced that he may soon announce his candidacy for that office. (Full disclosure: Fred is my friend, and on a phonecall Sunday morning, without making anything official, he sure sounded like a candidate.)

By the way, the word "honorable" is used traditionally as a title of courtesy for elected and appointed officials. That kind of show of respect has largely vanished from political discourse at both edges of the political spectrum, and has been replaced with a nastiness that is so common we hardly notice it. The Honorable Ryan Coonerty, who will soon conclude a couple decades of local public service, is doing his part to bring the "polite" back to politics with his nationally distributed podcast "An Honorable Profession."

Back to Tuesday's vote: I take heart in the fact that people who are paying attention, who care, went to the polls and made their choices, and that the decisions y’all made will continue to set Santa Cruz County on a path to a sustainable future.

The resounding defeat of Measure D, a reaffirmation of Santa Cruz County’s hopes for both rail and trail, is another example of democracy in action, of course. And kudos to Greenway for immediately conceding in a gracious manner. The measure that had seemed to be extremely divisive instead brought a huge percentage of county residents together, and let’s hope that there can be cooperation between rail-trail supporters and Greenway supporters as the Coastal Rail Trail continues to move forward.

On a related note: If you saw Thursday’s House committee hearing, you know that our democracy faces a profound threat. And maybe you noticed that the harshest criticism of Republican lawmakers who are perpetuating the Big Lie came from fellow Republican Liz Cheney. "There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone," she said, "but your dishonor will remain."

Thank you for being among those who are stepping up to do what's right.

Some Perspectives on Last Week's Vote, Etc.

CalMatters' Emily Hoeven tries to answer a big question and our own Jon Vankin punctures a popular myth.

Did California Voters Send a ‘Message’ on Crime? Not So Fast!

Crime in California cities may not be quite the voting issue the national media says it is.
Do California's election results in Los Angeles and San Francisco mean this blue state is flirting with turning red? That's what the national media is trying to say. But there's a lot more to the story.

Why Didn’t More Californians Vote?

California mailed out more than 22 million ballots to registered voters ahead of Tuesday's primary election. But as of Friday, just 4.5 million had been counted.

A Local Alliance of Community Groups

Speaking of the defenders of democracy: Imagine a place where almost 250 organizations consisting of thousands of individuals work together to make life better for their community. If you are in Santa Cruz County, you are in that place.

A couple years back, our colleague Chris Neklason conceived of an online product that, among other things, brings all of these organizations together. You’re looking at it. You can join your activated neighbors easily by going to our Santa Cruz County Community Groups directory.

And now we’re making it possible for each of these groups to have access to California Locals content management system, so they can post information, blog posts, events, etc. Follow the link below and Chris will tell you all about it.

See You at the Barn Raising

Nothing to see here, just folks working together.
The headlines have been screaming lately. Meanwhile, the quiet work of building a better world goes on.

Impact Report Image for decorative use