In the News


Change in style with SC's new mayor

By Sentinel Editorial Board, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 12/11/13

We'll take it as a good sign that at the same Santa Cruz City Council meeting where a new mayor was installed, the council unanimously reversed a poorly thought out measure that would have put limits on free speech.

In wisely returning to a limit of 100 persons permitted at public gatherings before a city permit is required -- instead of cutting that limit to 50 -- council members again showed a refreshing willingness to listen to the other side on an issue, and once convinced to act for the greater good of the city.

Tuesday's reversal was similar in intent -- though not in financial implications -- to the council's decision to step back from the brink of commitment on a planned desalination plant that is mostly unwanted by city residents, even if the water supply crisis shows no signs of abating short of an unfamiliar deluge.

With desal, opponents made strong arguments and cannily put together a deliberately vague ballot measure that showed the height and depth of opposition to the proposal. Council members, several of whom had ardently backed moving the project along -- put desal at least on temporary hiatus while community wide discussions are ensuing that will explore alternatives.

Our point is that the current council has show a willingness to be responsive and responsible during difficult times. There's no reason that shouldn't continue under the leadership of new Mayor Lynn Robinson.

That doesn't stop some -- especially advocates for improved homeless services -- from worrying that Robinson will be more doctrinaire and inflexible than her predecessor, Hilary Bryant.

Bryant has become a hugely popular figure in Santa Cruz -- bringing common sense, compassion and a balance of civic boosterism to her year as mayor. She's been a public figure Santa Cruzans could rally behind, and for -- and her efforts during the dark days when two police officers were murdered, and in forging a compromise reconsideration of the desal project, set a high bar for her successors.

On a side note, we hope that Bryant -- torn by the demands of public service and her more important life as a wife, mother, athlete and businesswoman -- finds the will and the way to run again for the council in 2014. It can take years to learn how to effectively lead a city and her experience and growth will be invaluable in coming years.

Robinson may bring more of an edge to the position, but she's also a tireless worker for improving a city she obviously loves. Regarding homeless services, Robinson has asked tough questions -- and here she is representing the neighborhood groups that have always been her base. The issues of crime and public safety, wandering transients and illegal encampments, drug abuse and needles, can't be swept under the rug. One of the primary challenges for the council will be implementing recommendations from the citizen public safety task force assembled by Bryant. Some of their recommendation are already drawing fire from local nonprofits and homeless advocates.

We expect this discussion will be back and forth and that Robinson will listen to all sides as she works with other council members to, as she put it Tuesday, "keep Santa Cruz safe and clean."

That's the goal and it needs to be reached -- but getting there will take political skill and even compromise.

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