.Santa Cruz District 5 City Council Candidate: Susie O’Hara

Candidates make their case to Santa Cruz voters

Santa Cruz’s District 5 city council seat is being contested in the upcoming March 5 election between two political newcomers, Susie O’Hara and Joe Thompson.

Over the last 15 years, O’Hara worked for the City of Santa Cruz as water commissioner and as program manager for the city manager’s office. She has served on local nonprofit boards, county commissions and has ties to UC Santa Cruz. O’Hara hopes to improve the effectiveness of local government.

GT sent questions to the candidates to get their takes on some of the city’s most pressing issues. Read O’Hara’s responses below.

Why are you running for City Council?

I’ve been a Santa Cruz resident for almost 18 years. I’ve raised my children here. I have worked along many invested and talented community members to bring about positive change. I have seen our community experience hardships and victories. I’m running for City Council to utilize my extensive experience, passion for change and problem-solving skills to ensure each community member has the very best quality of life, a consistent opportunity to engage, and a city government they can be proud of.

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What do you think will be the most pressing needs for Santa Cruz over the next four years, and how would you address these needs as a council member?

Santa Cruz faces many pressing issues but none more important than our lack of affordable housing, the uncertain funding options to continue improving homeless response, and infrastructure resiliency, especially in light of climate change. To make progress on each of these issues, our City Council must follow through on our Housing Element plan, develop government and private coalitions to build affordable workforce and student housing, maintain a balanced budget and proactively invest in infrastructure resiliency.

What are your thoughts on how the city should address the increasing demand for affordable housing? Any ideas on how to keep public services adequate to accommodate potential new growth? 

The City’s development standards take into consideration not only the building size, density and physical cohesiveness with the neighborhood, but how those new residents will integrate into our public service demands. Adequate water supply and pressure, adequate transportation access, fire safety and other services are integrated into our approval process. While that process happens project by project, the City’s General Plan considers growth within a holistic context, ensuring our community’s water supply portfolio, traffic patterns, revenue sources and public safety response are adequate today and well into the future.

Do you think raising the city’s sales tax to help fund assistance programs for the unhoused is a good idea? What else do you think could be done to address the issue?

Yes, I support the City’s sales tax increase. We’ve made a significant amount of progress on homelessness response and much of the City’s new programs are funded by one-time State funds. To continue to see success and impact, we must have a sustainable source of funding for not only homelessness response, but to ensure the City’s essential workers are fairly compensated, our streets, neighborhoods and open spaces are safe and inviting, and our good work on housing development can continue.

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