A total of six people have so far announced their intentions to run for the Second District seat on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, which opened when Zach Friend announced he would not seek a fourth term.
Previous stories covered Kim De Serpa, Kristen Brown, Doug Dietch and Tony Crane.
For this one, we take a look at David Schwartz and Bruce Jaffe.
The Second District runs along the coast from Aptos to Pajaro Dunes—including parts of Watsonville—and north through Nisene Marks State Park. It encompasses both rural and urban areas, as well as agricultural portions of the county. The person who fills the seat must therefore balance both business and agriculture, as well as serving a diverse population that ranges from wealthy to low-income.
Schwartz has run a tax services and accounting business for three decades. He says this financial experience, which includes interpreting government rules and regulations, have prepared him for the role.
He also serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County.
“This is a good opportunity for me to run for office, and I think the supervisor’s position is something I could do very well,” he said. “I think it’s time for me to give back to my community that’s done so well for me. I am ready to make a commitment to public service.”
If elected, Schwartz says he wants to address the county’s aging system of roads, as well as the housing crisis.
He would also streamline the county’s notoriously difficult permitting system.
“We need more (accessory dwelling units), but permits are expensive and they take a long time to get,” he said.
Schwartz said the county only has a handful of employees to check building plans, which he says will make it difficult for the county to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation of 4,634 housing units by 2031.
“If you really want to do that many homes, you really have to get those permits out,” he said. “They have to be affordable and they have to be issued quickly.”
The supervisors in July approved a plan to allow builders to bring their plans for review to a third-party entity.
Additionally, the county has streamlined the process with the Unified Permit Center.
Schwartz would also want to change the amount of property taxes the county receives from the property taxes collected. Just 13.5% goes to the county, with the rest going to the state.
“We get a very small piece of the pie, but we’re expected to do a very large amount of work,” he said.
He wants to streamline county services, saying he sees overlap between different departments.
“We can’t really save people tax dollars, we can’t lower the taxes,” he said. “But if we can spend more efficiently, then I think we can get more out of it. We can spend those dollars more effectively.”
Schwartz also says he would address crime and homelessness, including addiction and mental health issues.
He said he sees a gap in the way the county relays information to the public. It is difficult, he explains, to find information on ongoing roadwork or when public meetings are held. This is evidenced by low turnout he sees at meetings. It includes keeping the county website updated and streamlined, he says.
“If people are engaged, then they can be a bigger part of the decisions,” he said.
Jaffe has served for 21 years on the Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD) Board of Directors, during which time he says he has become fluent in the parliamentary procedure required of elected bodies.
There, he says he has learned open-mindedness, patience and critical thinking.
“I am running to give back to the community,” he said.
An oceanographer and geologist by trade, he helped SCWD battle impending seawater intrusion with Pure Water Soquel, a system that uses highly purified wastewater to recharge the critically overdrafted Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin.
“This is not a small task. The project is $140 million, and our district is about 16,000 connections,” he said. “The way we’re getting it done without fee increases is by getting grants from state and federal agencies and low interest loans.”
Jaffe also served as the first chair of the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency, an 11-member panel made up of people from the city and county of Santa Cruz, SCWD and Central Water District, as well as private and municipal well pumpers. That agency is tasked with overseeing groundwater management.
“I’ve been very successful as director of the Soquel Creek Water District board, and I want to bring that success and skills from that to be a supervisor,” he said.
Jaffe also says he wants to tackle affordable housing, which he calls one of the “greatest challenges that our county faces.”
He would also address homelessness and emergency preparedness.
With climate change posing a serious concern for jurisdictions worldwide, Jaffe’s work for a federal agency responding to disasters such as tsunamis, floods and storms has prepared him for the supervisor role, he says.
He would also look to improve the county’s transportation system.
“We need to develop a multifaceted approach to increasing the effectiveness of transportation,” he said.
The ongoing bus-on-shoulder project, in addition to work on the rail-trail system, he said, “is a start.”
Jaffe wants to bolster the county’s disaster resilience capacity, and cites a Malay proverb that reads “prepare the umbrella before it rains.”
“In terms of disasters I’ve seen that a little preparation goes a long way toward recovery and safety,” he said.
“I know what I’m getting into and I think I can do a good job,” Jaffe said. “My mindset is to improve the quality of life for all residents of the second district. After 21 years on the board it’s been proven that I listen, I react and I deliver.”