.NUZ: Recallers Pull Out the Stops; Voting Rights Threat on Hold

What do kids’ soccer games, a bougie Westside winery and a Whole Foods parking lot have in common? They’re all contested ground in Santa Cruz’s increasingly vitriolic foray into recalling city councilmembers over a rabid aversion to homelessness.

With three weeks to go until an Oct. 22 deadline to submit several thousand petition signatures and kick off a recall election for Councilmembers Drew Glover and Chris Krohn, Santa Cruz United has ramped up both old-school door knocking and more unconventional outreach.

A Facebook offer for on-demand petition delivery by an “amazing surfer dude” named Jason, for instance, went over well with ladies quick to slide into the comments under a headshot of what appears to be an animate Ken Doll. More controversial for the recallers: setting up a table to stump for the cause at a kids’ soccer game.

“I’ll take my kids to a protest I believe in any day, but I’m not gonna take my kids’ whole team,” one parent tells Nuz. Of mixing youth sports and divisive local politics, they add, “I personally feel like those things should be separate.”

Peter Cook, a realtor and Santa Cruz United campaigner who ran the table at the Harvey West soccer fields last month, says “maybe three parents” objected to the sideline signature drive. It’s only unethical, he says, “if me being concerned about the well-being and safety of my kids is unethical,” since he opposes encampments that could impact the safety of his three young children.

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More broadly, the campaign has revolved around using ever-harder-to-ignore encampments as a dog whistle to scare up support for the recall. One recent online post suggested that Glover is “OK with Main Beach becoming Ross Camp 2.0.”

Elsewhere in petty politics, a left-wing writer named Autumn Sun set off a social media frenzy by posting dozens of TMZ-style photos of polo-clad attendees (Is that you, Jason?) at a September Santa Cruz United event at Stockwell Cellars. The event at the winery, which also hosted an anti-rent control campaign party last fall, was advertised with an incentive: “10 signatures and we’ll buy you a glass of wine!” Though the photos appeared to be taken from a public area, they incited allegations of “stalking” and measured exchanges, like “Karin, calm your tits.”

Day to day, Santa Cruz United volunteers like Carol Polhamus also say the campaign has gotten uglier. The retired high school teacher, who joined the recall effort after organizing against RV parking that “trashed” the Westside, has been called “lots of expletives about being racist, facist,” she says.

“Truthfully that kind of stuff motivates me,” Polhamus adds. “It speaks to the level of dysfunction that’s in the atmosphere now.”


On Monday, Sept. 30, the city of Santa Cruz had a deadline to respond to a legal complaint under the California Voting Rights Act. The notice of violation argued that local Latino voters hadn’t gotten proper representation on their City Council. It called on Santa Cruz to implement district elections, but the city hasn’t formally responded.

A lawsuit is not imminent, though, according to California Voting Rights Project President Lanny Ebenstein, who’s been involved in numerous complaints, including this one in Santa Cruz. He says his group won’t proceed with a lawsuit while the recall effort is underway. Out of dozens of California cities hit with this type of voting rights complaint over district elections, none have won in court. The vast majority haven’t bothered trying—opting instead to settle and pay a hefty fine to the firm that sent the complaint. Also, Ebenstein says, even if a city were to prevail in a suit, state law prevents it from recouping legal fees from the plaintiffs.

Sounds like a pretty sweet gig for the prosecuting team! No wonder so many cities are getting sued.


  1. After a lengthy phone interview, I was disappointed to see you only took two small quotes from all I said, and quoted them out of context in both cases.

    To set the record straight, I got involved in the recall effort after the proposal to allow RV camping on Delaware and Swift. Allowing RV parking in an environmentally sensitive area is a bad idea, particularly without any kind of sanitation services, dumping station, garbage cans, etc. But what I told you was that our environmental education high school program performed seven years of community service projects at Natural Bridges and Antonelli Pond, clearing non-native plants, planting native ones, creating kiosks explaining the local flora, building pathways and rest spots, and that I was sad to see that all that hard work was “trashed”. There are safe RV parking sites in the county and should be more of them, but allowing people to camp wherever they want, particularly in residential neighborhoods and environmentally sensitive parks, is not a good solution.

    As to your comment that we are “recalling city council members over a rabid aversion to homelessness”, that is completely untrue. We want to assist people in need, but not in the way it was done at the Ross camp, and not in the way it is being proposed by Krohn and Glover. People experiencing homelessness are not all the same and they need different services. We want people’s needs to be addressed, with mental health services, drug/alcohol rehabilitation services, etc., in collaboration with the county, and not allow people to live in the mud with rats and needles with no actual shelter. Permitting that does not help either the homeless or our community. Proposing transitional homeless encampments in city neighborhoods and parks is a bad idea. State studies show that transitional homeless encampments are not the solution for getting people out of homelessness. The clean up in the aftermath of closing a camp, and the expenses related to closure and cleanup wastes the limited resources that could otherwise have been spent on more sustainable solutions. We are not anti-homeless; we are anti-bad decision. We want a council who can collaborate with the county, each other, and the community to find sustainable, effective and cost effective solutions.

    I did say that the incredibly bad behavior demonstrated at the tables serves to motivate me, but it’s because that’s exactly what I hope to change in our current city politics. We need leaders who are collaborative, who can listen to all kinds of community concerns and ideas openly and respectfully, who consider the whole community, without bullying, demeaning behavior or grandstanding. Those Glover/Krohn supporters who think it’s ok to yell insults from their cars or bicycles as opposed to actually having a discussion about our city’s significant issues, or who accuse people they don’t even know of being racist or fascist as their frontline offense, or who harass and follow volunteers, just validate our reasons for doing this. That type of behavior is unproductive and unacceptable.

    Finally, since over 90% of our signatures are being obtained through volunteers, we have done everything we can think of to reach our goal, from tabling everywhere we can, walking door to door in every neighborhood in the city, and yes, to even having a “concierge” service. Far from being, by your description, an “animate Ken doll”, Jason is a great person trying to help all he can. You might be surprised to learn how many people actually can’t get out, don’t drive, and are limited by illness or caregiving or other factors. Having someone come to the door at a determined time really helps them by allowing them to participate in the effort.

    To learn more about the reasons for recall, as well as how you can help, go to santacruzunited.com

  2. Carol Polhamus’ stance and activities would hold more weight if she would acknowledge the lies being told by Santa Cruz United. No one wants there to be name-calling of others in Santa Cruz and yet that is what she is promoting.

  3. I met Carol Polhamus in front of Whole Foods a month or so ago. She was very polite and forthright, in my opinion. She did not get uptight after many provocative questions. In fact, she responded with dignity and honor, unlike many “Progressives” I know that declare “private meetings,” yell “Fascist” and shout you down when opposed.

    I signed Krohn/Glover recall petitions Wednesday, September 25. I hesitated for quite a while. Enough of the self-righteous, double standard hypocrisy. Way beyond merely showboating bombast.

    As an aside, a few years back on Pacific Avenue I encountered two young people selling CD’s at a table. I declined to purchase their CD and was called a “Racist.”


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