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Outdoor dining customers have helped buoy Capitola’s parking revenue in recent months. (William Duncan — Santa Cruz Local)

CAPITOLA >> Better than anticipated revenue from hotel and sales taxes in recent months helped the Capitola City Council decide Thursday to fill vacant positions for a police officer, a traffic officer and a senior mechanic.

City leaders froze six vacant city positions when COVID-19 shelter rules started during the spring. Jim Malberg, Capitola’s finance director, said during Thursday night’s council meeting that sales tax revenue from April to June was 21% lower than the same period a year prior. Sales tax revenue was anticipated to be 50% lower. Similarly, hotel tax revenue was 71% off the same period a year prior rather than an anticipated 95% lower. 

“We’re starting to see some better performance,” Malberg said of the city’s revenue. City staff said that parking revenue was starting to improve in part because people have been drawn to restaurants’ outdoor dining.

Malberg said The Hook Outlet cannabis dispensary on Gross Road had lower than anticipated sales tax and other tax receipts for the city. Another cannabis dispensary is expected to open on 41st Avenue in Capitola this year or early next year, Malberg said. 

The council unanimously agreed to fill vacant positions for an evening-shift police officer, traffic officer and a mechanic. More budget information is expected in December. 

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Code of conduct

The city council on Thursday also unanimously approved a new code of conduct for city councilmembers and members of the city’s boards and commissions. 

Vice Mayor Yvette Brooks and Councilmember Sam Storey met with city staff and the city attorney to craft the code in part from other cities’ rules. 

Capitola City Manager Jamie Goldstein said the code does not replace any current laws. It also does not change rules about conflicts of interest or the Brown Act that bar members from making decisions outside public council meetings. Instead, Goldstein said, the new code of conduct provides:

  • A framework to guide how officials should conduct themselves
  • A structure in which to consider violations of the conduct of conduct

The code also provides guidelines for council members to disclose relationships with people who seek city permits or other decisions from the council, for instance. The code describes meeting decorum and ethical principles. City staff said the code is expected to be included in “onboarding” and signed by new council members and members of boards and commissions.

Goldstein described the code as “self enforcing.” Alleged violations can go to the city manager and city attorney to determine if any laws were broken. If no laws were broken but the conduct code appears violated, the council would discuss it and potentially reprimand or censure the person in question.

Councilmembers could not be removed for conduct code violations, but other city officials and members of boards and commissions could be removed, Goldstein said. 

Councilmember Jacques Bertrand supported the code. He asked whether councilmembers could accept free tickets to events run by nonprofit groups. Goldstein, the city manager, said it was OK if the nonprofit does not seek money from the city. If it does, “I might think twice about something like that,” Goldstein said. 

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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.