She's served four terms on the Santa Cruz City Council, but Cynthia Mathews, 69, is ready for a fifth.
She's had a hand in some of the most important developments in the city, including rebuilding after the 1989 earthquake, the Tannery Arts Complex, the new police station and the Marine Exploration Center.
She is a strong proponent for the desalination plant and has worked on that in some of her time off the council.
Patch: Where do you stand on the issue of a desalination plant, and do you think it should be left up to the people of Santa Cruz to decide as outlined in Measure P?
Mathews: We need a safe, reliable water supply for the health of our people, our economy and the environment. Santa Cruz’s self-contained system is almost entirely dependent on rainfall in our watershed, and is extremely vulnerable during major drought.
The City’s long-term water needs and constraints have been studied for years. I concur that the City needs an additional, reliable source of water, augmenting its ongoing conservation initiatives and restrictions during drought. Past studies on this subject explored a variety of supply options.
A small desalination plant, developed jointly with the Soquel Creek Water District, was identified as the most promising option on many counts, and the City has commissioned a full Environmental Impact Report. That EIR, to be released later this year, will give us actual facts. I support the right of the people to vote on this; the Council has made this commitment regardless of the Measure P outcome.
Patch: How do you plan to fight crime in the wake of the ongoing economic doldrums? Do you think gang violence is growing within the city? If so, what do you think should be done about it?
Mathews: Public safety, like all city services, took continued hits over the past decade due to economic conditions, but even then I joined the council in protecting public safety to the greatest extent possible. With the city budget now appearing to stabilize, I will focus on sustaining a healthy staffing level, and continue our initiatives to work more efficiently through technology and restructuring. A key to effective public safety work is the continued emphasis on community policing; working to engage neighbors, schools and businesses as active partners. Gang presence is an ongoing, serious public safety issue in Santa Cruz. High-profile violence tends to rise and decline at different periods in response to larger regional dynamics, but ongoing gang presence, particularly its impact on young people and neighborhoods, is still extremely serious. I support the City’s participation in the regional gang task force, and prevention programs for youth.
Patch: How do you plan on supporting the Arts in Santa Cruz?
Mathews: I’m a strong believer that the City should be an active partner in establishing Santa Cruz as a thriving arts and cultural community, in all its many forms. As former council member I played a leadership role in establishing the City’s 2% for Arts ordinance, its downtown mural program, the public sculpture program, and selection of numerous public art pieces. I championed the City’s partnership on major arts facilities such as the Tannery Arts Center, Museum of Art and History, Del Mar Theater. As board member of the Conference and Visitors Council, I lead efforts to increase attention on cultural tourism as an attraction and economic force, including such annual events as Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Cabrillo Festival, Open Studios, and festivals. I believe the arts are fundamental to our community character. I will continue to take an active role in promoting this, in partnership with our many great arts organizations.
Patch: What do you think the best plan is for bringing back the local economy and creating jobs in Santa Cruz?
Mathews: Santa Cruz is fortunate to have a diversified economy with both large anchor components and many smaller or emerging elements – everything from UCSC and tourism to technology, specialty food and beverage, active lifestyle, arts, and significant proportion of small locally owned businesses. Each has a different set of needs, challenges and opportunities, and each requires a different strategy.
As I have done during past Council service, I will work closely across all sectors to meet with business owners and leaders, to understand their issues and help create the conditions for success. Issues may be as diverse as public safety in our downtown and beach areas, high-speed internet access, cultivating relationships at UCSC, tourism marketing, traffic, the permitting process, or assistance for small business.
The fundamental strategy is to commit to regular and complete communication, with the intention that this will be a community that invites investment and supports success.
Patch: What do you think Santa Cruz's greatest problem is and how do you propose we fix it? What are the city's greatest strengths that you'd like to see preserved and/or built upon?
Mathews: A significant problem underlying many of our challenges is the deep hostility and cynicism that some individuals and groups exhibit toward those who are earnestly trying to make a positive contribution. Santa Cruz has lots of challenges – in areas like the economy, housing, healthcare, education, social dynamics, public safety, traffic, the environment – the list goes on.
There are very good people in all sectors working hard to making a difference. When there are malicious attacks on individuals, groups, businesses or public institutions, they undermine individual morale and community dynamics. We are fortunate that most people in Santa Cruz love their community and do want to be involved in some way to help it thrive. We need to promote opportunities for people to become engaged in community life, work together on shared goals, celebrate success, and appreciate those whose contributions make a difference.
Patch: If it were up to you, how do you see Santa Cruz five years from now?
Mathews: Here’s my vision: a community where residents and visitors feel welcome and safe; where people feel optimism about their prospects for jobs or business; where they feel community identity and pride.
I see a city that continues to lead in environmental protection, at both the policy level and individual lifestyle; where downtown and the beach area feel inviting to locals and tourists; where parks and open spaces are free of harmful behaviors.
I see our social safety net working together with community to make best use of limited resources, for positive outcomes. I see significant improvements along Ocean Street and Front Street, approval of a quality hotel at the La Bahia site, and strengthening of positive ties with UCSC. I’d like to see us on a clear path to ensuring a safe, reliable water supply for the City. An ambitious agenda? Yes, but we can make real progress.
facebook: Cynthia Mathews for City Council