Richelle Noroyan, 43, has been chair of the local Democratic Party, district supervisor for former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, in Los Altos and served on Santa Cruz's Transportation and Public Works Commission. She has also worked at Apple, UCSC and Caldera Systems.
After she and her husband tried to find jobs on this side of the hill, she said her mission is to help generate high tech jobs here and keep talented people from having to move or commute over the hill.
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?
Noroyan: I support the city's ongoing research to consider a desalination plant as a possible option for serving the residents of Santa Cruz during drought years. I will not take a negative or positive stance until the first EIR report is completed. If the EIR shows a desalination plant would cause harm to our bay, I could not support this solution.
I agree with the Santa Cruz City Council's unanimous decision to allow voters to decide the desalination option. I don't believe Measure P was necessary as the city council already allowed a vote of the people. The cost of Measure P to the city will be $50-$70 thousand dollars. I would have rather seen that money go towards our roads, public safety, keeping our teen center open, cleaning downtown sidewalks or other youth services.
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?
Noroyan: According to the county's gang task force, gang violence has increased. Our police force needs the community's help in addressing this problem. More outreach to schools and parents by community volunteers would be a positive steps.
Parents need to know about the Santa Cruz Police Department's gang resource page for prevention and intervention tips. Tackling this issue while not increasing resources that engage our youth will be difficult. I will always promote our city staff applying for more grants and resources, but to make a significant difference, we need more funding.
We are either going to pay for prevention or pay for jail time. I prefer a prevention approach. It's more humane and makes sense economically.
Patch: How do you plan on supporting the Arts in Santa Cruz?
Noroyan: Arts in Santa Cruz, both in the county and city is a huge economic driver in our local economy. According to the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County, the arts generate $32 million in economic activity.
I will do all that I can to maintain the city's current funding levels and hopefully, in better economic times, increase it. I also believe arts in the schools is essential for a community to thrive. I learned how to play clarinet and saxophone at Westlake School and was part of the marching and jazz bands at Santa Cruz High. I saw first hand how music kept students engaged in school and in some cases kept some students from dropping out.
Patch: What do you think the best plan is for bringing back the local economy and creating jobs in Santa Cruz?
Noroyan: Continued funding of our city's economic development staff and their activities is an absolute necessity to seek out new opportunities. I believe our plan must be multi-faceted as there is no one silver bullet that will improve the situation.
I would like more coordination with UCSC in transferring their research to private business ventures. Of all the UC's in California, UCSC has the lowest rate of tech transfer between a UC and the local community.
I want to see better tourism services, from nicer accommodations to better street signage to encourage more overnight and multiple night stays. I would also like to facilitate more coordination between our high school and community college career technical education classes with local workforce needs.
We must also look internally at the process to obtain permits for businesses wanting to either start or locate to Santa Cruz and try to streamline the process to decrease the time and possibly the cost of the permitting process.
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?
Noroyan: One of our greatest problems is addressing our water supply during drought years. We must find an alternative source of water to handle extreme droughts.
I lived here during the extreme drought in 1977 and remember being unable to flush toilets and water yards. We only had around 34,000 people living here at the time. We now have almost 60,000 regular residents. Finding alternative water sources to get through tough drought years is essential for meeting our safety and hygiene needs, as well as ensuring our local economy doesn't collapse.
Our strengths are many, but I believe Santa Cruz residents are our greatest strength. Our residents are better educated and skilled than the state and national average. 25,000 of them commute over the hill. Imagine if we could keep more of their skills and talents in Santa Cruz. I would like to build upon the talent of our local population by increasing job opportunities.
Patch: If it were up to you, how do you see Santa Cruz five years from now?
Noroyan: The entrances to our city, both at Ocean Street and Highway 1 & 9 would be more attractive and welcoming whether it is a visitor coming to Santa Cruz or a resident returning from their daily commute.I want our city to take some pride in how we present ourselves as a city.
I would see more office space in downtown Santa Cruz filled with a video game cottage industry because we convinced several graduates of UCSC's video game department to start their own business in Santa Cruz instead of taking their talents over the hill. I picture more tech transfer between UCSC and our local business community that perhaps fill space in the former Wrigley's and Lipton's buildings.
I want to see our crime rates decrease. Our property crime rate is 104% above the state average while our violent crime rate is 70% above the state average. I want more tools for police and community groups to lower these rates through prevention.
I want to see our firefighting staff increase to national standards. The national standards require four firefighters per call. In Santa Cruz, we send out three firefighters. This prevents them from entering a burning building or other hazardous situations until a fourth firefighter is on the scene.
I see more people walking and biking around town safely because more awareness and education has been circulated in the community on how cars, bikes, and pedestrians can safely coexist in a mutually cooperative manner. I would also like to see a trolley or light rail system on the rail trail.
I want to find more ways we can bring the arts community and tourists together. I'd like to see our local artists increase their sales to our visitors.
I would hope through lobbying by city leaders and others, the federal government would recognize that cutting 80% of the housing and urban development budget that went to cities in the 1980's was a penny wise and pound foolish move, and would present a national solution for a national problem.