In today’s episode we meet the five candidates for Capitola City Council. They are Yvette Lopez Brooks, Joe Clarke, Enrique Dolmo Jr., Gerry Jensen, Alexander Pedersen. The five candidates are running for three seats. They appear before Capitola voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.
We explain what a council member does. Then we press the candidates on the issues important to Capitola residents.
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STEPHEN BAXTER: I’m Stephen Baxter. This is Santa Cruz Local.
In today’s episode we’ll meet the five candidates for Capitola City Council. The five candidates are vying for three seats on the council.
We’re going to hear a little bit from all of them. Our goal here is to introduce you to the candidates. We want to share where they stand on some of the top issues outlined by voters. If you want to compare the candidates on a deeper level, take a look at Santa Cruz Local’s Election Guide. It’s at SantaCruzLocal.org/vote.
So what do Capitola voters want? This fall, we talked to voters from across Santa Cruz County about what they want from their city and county leaders.
We interviewed about a dozen voters in Capitola. They wanted to make biking and walking safer. They also said that they fight traffic around 41st Avenue and Capitola Village. They want to improve traffic flow. Others said they wanted to understand the candidates’ stances on the rail-trail project.
Because there are state requirements to build more than 1,300 homes in Capitola in the next decade, we also asked the candidates about housing.
The Capitola City Council has power to address all these issues. The council can help decide where and how new housing is built. The council decides how taxpayer money is spent. They create and change the city’s laws. They also oversee the city’s functions, like the police department.
Now let’s meet the five candidates. They are Yvette Lopez Brooks, Joe Clarke, Enrique Dolmo Jr., Gerry Jensen and Alexander Pedersen. We’ll introduce them all here. You can find out much more about them and their positions at SantaCruzLocal.org/vote.
Yvette Lopez Brooks is the only incumbent. Brooks has been on the council for four years. She is 38. She’s also the executive director of a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit called Your Future is Our Business.
Brooks said she moved to Santa Cruz County more than 20 years ago. She’s married with an 8-year-old daughter. They own a condominium. When asked what her dream was for Capitola’s future, she said she hoped other families could become homeowners.
YVETTE LOPEZ BROOKS: “I never imagined that this would be — what I like to call — my forever home. And nonetheless being able to own a home in Capitola, that was nothing I ever could have imagined.
I only wish — it would be my dream for everyone else, the hardworking, full-time parents, the folks who just don’t see that as a reality, I hope to try to create those opportunities for everybody, including my daughter. And I continue to want to serve and support my community.
“My other priorities is preserving our environment and looking at our housing issues, as well as just making and maintaining Capitola a really special town.”
SB: We asked Brooks about how bike safety could be improved.
YVETTE LOPEZ BROOKS: I appreciate that question because that’s been on our minds as well on city council. Just this year on city council, for the projects this year, we allocated $100,000 for pedestrian and bike safety projects. We’ve been working with (city) staff on identifying a number of opportunities to use those funds to improve bike safety, which included fixing the storm grate on Park Avenue at Highway 1, which we actually just completed. And we’re going to begin construction to complete the Clares Street traffic calming project which will improve bike safety over on Clares Road. So it’s definitely been on our minds as well. So we’re working hard. It’s something that I’ve made a priority, and I hope to be able to continue to work on those projects in the next coming years.
SB: Joe Clarke is 61. He’s a retired Santa Cruz County sheriff’s sergeant. Many know him from his years with the Sheriff’s Office. Or they’ve seen him on a stand-up paddle board at the Hook or Pleasure Point. We asked Clarke what local issues made him want to run for Capitola City Council.
JOE CLARKE: “Historically, Capitola has been well managed. The people before us in the city council have done a great job of keeping Capitola a quaint seaside town. And that’s the biggest reason I want to get involved in our local politics is because I don’t want to see it lose any of that. You know, we have all these state mandates about how we’re supposed to grow as a city and do these other things. We need to do it thoughtfully and carefully so we don’t lose our character. That’s one of the biggest reasons I want to be in the decision process: Finding out what’s best for our city, and what the residents of our city want, and then bring it all together and make it happen.
SB: We asked Clarke about what he would do to improve traffic flow in Capitola.
JOE CLARKE: Well, that’s a difficult question, because here it is, the state wants us to build more housing, which in turn is going to make more traffic. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. I think one of the areas that we can deal with (is) 41st Avenue — which is probably the second busiest roadway in the county — is to open 40th Avenue. Fortieth Avenue was closed behind Burger King back when they built the (Capitola) Mall. Because they were worried about traffic coming into the neighborhoods. I think we’ve gotten to the point now where we need to do as much as we can, and maybe opening 40th Avenue again would relieve a lot of the 41st Avenue traffic. And try to get more people that can, out on bikes. Maybe we can finally get our rail-trail going, get that trail up as soon as possible. That might alleviate some of the traffic problems.
SB: Another candidate is Enrique Dolmo, Jr. He’s 47. A lot of people know him as Mr. Dolmo. That’s because he’s the athletic director at New Brighton Middle School. He’s also the union president for the classified staff at the school. He said one of his accolades was his role in securing a nearly 15% raise for classified staff at the school.
ENRIQUE DOLMO, JR.: The reason that I’m running for the Capitola City Council is because of the youth. And that’s why I’m running. So you know, you may ask, well, what does that mean? That means I want more activities for our youth to do. I want them to be able to, you know, go to the (Capitola) Mall, and maybe we can get something in that Sears for them to play — some kind of a batting cage or indoor soccer. I’m looking for more avenues for our children to do after school. Because what happens is, some of our children’s parents work over the hill. And they’re not able to get home till 6 or 7 o’clock. So that’s three, four hours a day, 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month, 800 hours a year, unsupervised children. And that’s my platform. That’s what I want. More activities for youth.
SB: The redevelopment of Capitola Mall is also a priority for Dolmo, he said.
ENRIQUE DOLMO, JR.: We need to do something at the mall. It’s a beautiful mall. Or it can be a beautiful mall. Let’s build a hotel on that premises. If the community wants that, I would suggest that we build a hotel. We can get some taxes on that. And I think that’d be a great idea. And just one other thing going back to the mall. I would like to listen to what the community says. But I was driving through Gilroy yesterday. And I saw the outlets and I was like you know what, you know, let me start running that through the community. Let me see what they say about maybe having an outlet there. I think that’d be great. I don’t know that several times. I’ve driven over to Gilroy just to go to the Nike outlet just to get those shoes that are not really much more on sale. But you know, you’re always finding good deals at those outlets. And maybe that’s something that we need to do here in town.
In regard to the mall, the traffic on 41st is really bad. Building more apartments or condos at the mall would not alleviate the traffic, but actually make it worse. So we would need to work with the community and figure out what we can do to alleviate the traffic there — I don’t know what that is. A better highway, I don’t know. But if we were to build more housing units there, I would want it to go to our essential workers first.
SB: Gerry Jensen is the fourth candidate. He’s 54. He’s a co-owner of a construction and development firm. Jensen has been involved with the Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce. He also completed the City of Capitola’s Local Government Academy about two years ago. He said that during the academy, he gained a greater understanding of each city department.
State leaders set targets for every city to build a certain number of homes in the next nine years. In Capitola, there’s a target to build more than 1,300 new homes, mainly affordable units. We asked Gerry Jensen, and all the other candidates, where in Capitola they would support denser housing. Here’s Jensen.
GERRY JENSEN: We don’t have a lot of space. And we’re challenged by that standpoint. But we do have to meet this goal. And so one opportunity would be the 41st corridor. When — and I say when, like, from a positive standpoint — when the mall’s redeveloped, that there’s some integrated housing in that to help pick up our numbers and work towards that 1,336.
The 41st (Avenue) commercial corridor, Clares (Street), there’s some areas where we have some larger intersections that could help that. And we have to be sensitive to neighborhoods in our communities that we have. And then look at where do we have traffic, not just traffic, but if we’re going to build that housing, that we have good public transportation, we have good bike lanes, we have safe travel for people to move around (and) kids to go to school.
One thing I want to be an advocate for is workforce housing for our teachers and public safety people, I think that’d be an important thing. You know, I heard the saying the other day: ‘It’d be great for people — teachers, our (public) safety people, people that work in the city and provide services. It’d be great if they would not be not commuting to our community, but they will live in our community.’ And I you know, when I heard that, I was like, that’s a great quote. And I think that’d be one of my goals to ensure that.
SB: The fifth and final candidate is Alexander Pedersen. He’s 32. He owns a home repair and maintenance business. Pedersen also works at the Santa Cruz County Small Business Development Center. Pedersen completed Capitola’s Local Government Academy. We asked what local issues affect him and why he wants to run for office.
ALEXANDER PEDERSEN: Housing. Housing is a huge one. I mean, that’s probably my biggest focus. Being, you know, in the point I am in my life, and, you know, Capitola and Santa Cruz County has one of the, you know, the worst ratios of income to housing cost in the nation. So that’s a huge issue. And that’s a big reason that I’m running is to hopefully have some, you know, positive effect on that issue. I’m a renter, have been, you know, my whole life, and eventually, it would be great if I could own a house and you know, have something somewhere to raise a family and pass down to my children. And that’s, you know, that’s the American dream. It’s less than less of a reality to more and more Americans, which is pretty sad. So that’s a big thing that I like to focus on.
SB: We also asked about Capitola residents’ need for better bike safety.
ALEXANDER PEDERSEN: I’d say the main thing we can do to make cycling and bicycling around safer is to have protected bike lanes — which means having physical barriers, like plastic poles in between the bike lanes and the road. So I’d love to see as many of those as we realistically can have without having any negative impacts on traffic and parking.
SB: We asked Pedersen about how he would try to improve traffic flow in Capitola.
ALEXANDER PEDERSEN: More protected bike lanes is a big part of that, just, and more pedestrian and bicycle friendly infrastructure would I think have a huge impact on traffic, especially in Capitola. I mean, there’s not many places in Capitola where it wouldn’t be relatively easy to bike or walk. It’s such a small place. But again, you know, people need to drive, people need to work. I’d like to see more work and emphasis put into having public transportation friendly infrastructure, more bus stops, maybe covered bus stops, whatever you can do to encourage people to use more public transportation would be great.
SB: If you’re registered to vote in Capitola, you should have received your ballot by mail. If you need to register, or need to get a ballot, find details on Santa Cruz Local’s Election Guide. Visit SantaCruzLocal.org/Vote. Our Election Guide also has much more about each candidate and the issues.
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A big thank you to freelance reporters Alyssa Shook and Grace Stetson. They interviewed the candidates for this episode.
Thanks to Trimpot for the music.
I’m Stephen Baxter. Thanks for listening to Santa Cruz Local.
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