Dispatches from the Santa Cruz Midterm Elections

Story and photos by Kyle Martin

Santa Cruz voters made major policy decisions in their communities in the November 6 midterm elections — the same election where more than 100 women won a historical number of political positions, and where power was flipped to a now Democrat-majority House of Representatives.

Area voters decided overwhelmingly against two rent control-proposing ballot measures: statewide Proposition 10 (which failed across California) and citywide Measure M.

According to Santa Cruz County elections data, nearly 67-percent of the 14,474 voters cast ‘No’ on Measure M.  Official elections results can be found here.

The measure, titled the Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act, in part proposed establishing a board to oversee the functions of rent control in the Santa Cruz housing market. It was hotly debated throughout Santa Cruz by supporters and opponents alike.

A group of about five stood on the corner of Mission Street and Bay Street just before the polls closed Tuesday night at 8 p.m. holding “No to Measure M” signs. Among them, wearing a “Beto for Texas” shirt beneath outer jacket and flannel layers, was Mark Burden, a Santa Cruz resident and landlord in his “late 50s.”

“I’m not categorically opposed to rent control,” Burden said, adding that it’s Measure M, specifically, that he opposed.

And he said he believes those arguing the pros and cons of Measure M generally share common interests and perspectives — namely, that the state’s housing crisis brought about the measure in the first place.

“The housing crisis is how it came about,” Burden said. “It’s why there is a Measure M.”

While in agreement on the problem, arguments reach stasis when the point of solving the housing crisis comes up, Burden said.

“We don’t disagree on the problem,” Burden said. “What we really need to agree on is the solution.”

Standing outside with his anti-Measure M sign, Burden said his piece on the matter.

“My opinion is that it’s really not going to be better for renters,” Burden said. “I think (if it passes) this is going to make it a tougher market for renters.”

Earlier on election night, at the Santa Cruz County Clerk elections office, Monica Iniguez, 28, said she voted in favor of Measure M. It was her first time voting in any political election in the United States, and it was “an eye-opening experience.”

Measure M might have done something to address the area’s homeless crisis. At least that’s how she felt, having recently moved to Santa Cruz from Monterey.

“I feel like Santa Cruz is more open to homelessness (than) where I was in Monterey,” she said, noting that she sees people experiencing homelessness “more out in the open” here.

“If you go to Monterey, there is homelessness,” she said, “but it’s not visible.”

She also voted yes on Proposition 2, the statewide “Housing for persons with mental illness” proposition. About 65 percent of 56,884 Santa Cruz voters voted in favor of Prop. 2, which aligns with the majority of California voters who also voted “yes” on the proposition.

“I think there’s a lack of mental health resources (in California), so I voted yes on Prop. 2,” Iniguez said.

Similarly, 38-year-old Santa Cruz resident Roger Peterson also cast his first-ever ballot in an  U.S. political election on Nov. 6 at the county elections office. Though he said he’s lived in the United States since 1989, prior to this election he was classified as a permanent resident. But on Tuesday, he redeemed his right as a newly established citizen to vote in the midterms.

“I was a member of society without a political cause who was placed in a cause by the events going on in the country,” Peterson said. “Personally, I feel like if I didn’t have an identity before, I sure as hell have one now.”

Peterson said he used to live in Florida, but wound up in Santa Cruz on May 29, 2017 — Memorial Day — when he decided to “basically give up everything I had to follow a passion I hold to come to California.”

With a degree in finance, he works locally as a tech developer on his own app.

“At this point, it’s about working a clear picture for myself of the country in America,” Peterson said after casting his ballot Tuesday.

He said as he “grew into a functioning adult,” he developed a better  understanding of the significance political races have on governance — especially after the election of Donald Trump. He said it was the 2016 presidential race that developed his interest in what happens “behind the scenes” of U.S. politics.

He mentioned his perception of homelessness in Santa Cruz as a reason why he also voted “Yes” on Measure M.

“I was very much in pain to see what humanity can look like when it’s neglected,” Peterson said.  With a degree in finance, he said he is “very much aware” the implications a rent control policy would have on area residents, developers and residents.

“There will be less pity on humans 10 years from now,” he said. Moving forward, he said he will continue to prioritize “humans before business.”

“Every homeless person is a reflection of us,” Peterson said. “It’s painful.”

After the polls closed, as temperatures dropped to the low 50s, three young voters spent time passing out blankets, clothes and bedding sheets to local homeless residents.

Several dozen homeless residents spotted along Pacific Avenue were the recipients of warmer layers — a culmination of spare clothes and such from the homes of sisters Rachel, 25, and Mackenzie Davis, 26, and friend Joel Taveras, 23.

Mackenzie, from Sonora, was visiting Rachel and Taveras in Santa Cruz. The donating rounds were a pit-stop before dinner with her sister later on election night.

Prior to the myriad “Thank yous” and “God bless yous” the trio received last night from those they helped, all three 20-somethings voted in their local elections.

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Kyle Martin

About Kyle Martin

Kyle Martin is Fil-Am multimedia journalist born in San Jose, CA who grew up mostly in North Texas around Dallas. After driving his 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee alone cross-country, through the circles of Hell known as the Texas Panhandle and the bottom half of Wyoming, he is now based in the Bay Area. He has experience writing and photographing in Texas, California and elsewhere. Send news tips and restaurant recommendations to kylemartinmedia@gmail.com.