Justin is a renter, an independent thinker and cares about people, equity and the environment

Justin Cummings, Santa Cruz County Supervisor candidate and member of the Santa Cruz City Council.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Lookout asked the two candidates running for 3rd District Santa Cruz County Supervisor to write up to 800 words to help voters differentiate between them. We asked them two specific questions, with strict word counts. Justin Cummings’ answers are here.

Lookout: Please tell readers why they should vote for you. What specifically sets you apart from Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson?

I was elected in 2018 and in December, I will fulfill my commitment on the Santa Cruz City Council. I have served as councilmember, vice mayor and, in 2020, was the first Black mayor of Santa Cruz during one of the most challenging years in our recent history.

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Community Voices Election 2022

Community Voices is bringing you the direct voices of the candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, those who want to represent you. We will also bring you the voices of those supporting and opposing local ballot initiatives.

It’s one of the most fundamental parts of Lookout’s role in democracy, and one we all prize more deeply as we witness the widening assaults on democracy across the country and the world.

We believe this will help you stay informed and make important choices about who you want to represent you and what issues matter to our community. Our Election 2022 page brings together all of Lookout’s current coverage.

We have done our best to be rigorously fair and to contact everyone running and give them an opportunity to present their views. If candidates are not in our pages, it is because they chose not to respond to our requests.

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I am a renter, an environmental scientist, educator, and a diversity, equity, and inclusion nonprofit developer. I would be the first Black person ever on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. We need representation for people who have been historically excluded from government on the board.

In addition to having fulfilled my commitment on the city council, I differ from my opponent in many ways. I have proved myself an independent thinker who will work with staff and push back when necessary. I work with the broader community and bring diverse stakeholders into the decision-making process.

I fight for tenant protections. I fight for increased affordable units in new developments. I fight for maintaining annual funding for social programs and service providers, including Planned Parenthood, senior protection and support services, child care and more.

I oppose 17-story, market-rate and luxury housing downtown.

I supported district maps that would increase representation of students, people of color, working and low-income people in our local government, which my opponent didn’t support. I opposed the temporary outdoor living ordinance, which would have pushed homeless people into our open spaces and into industrial areas and the surrounding neighborhoods. I have voted consistently to support our city workers. These are just a few examples of how we differ and our record proves it.

I am the only candidate endorsed by the state Democratic party, and have significant support from other Democrats and organizations in our county, state and nation, which you can find on our website.

This is because people trust my leadership and judgment.

I have been an effective elected representative and with your vote, we can continue to work together.

Lookout: Please focus on the single most important issue to you right now and how, if elected, you will address it. Be as specific as space allows.

Answer: The environment/climate change.

Protecting our environment is the most important issue in our community as we confront the climate crisis, housing crisis and homelessness crisis.

The 2020 CZU fire was the most destructive fire in over a century. Sea level rise threatens our fresh-water wells along our coast. Housing costs have pushed workers and students farther away, which increases traffic and carbon emissions. Houseless people living in our open space also have significant impacts on our environment.

As the stewards of this land, we must develop our community so we protect our open space, agricultural lands, water and wildlife.

Protecting our environment means investing to reduce pollution and our carbon footprint. To reduce wildfire risk and increase fire protection, we need a countywide vegetation management and wildfire mitigation plan, as recommended by the Santa Cruz Civil Grand Jury.

We also need to reduce barriers to community members becoming volunteer firefighters.

With the failure of Measure D, we need to prioritize our rail and trail to provide environmentally sustainable transportation options. We also need to reintroduce the electric bike share program countywide, so everyone can have access to electric bikes.

Homelessness is not just a public health issue, it is an environmental issue.

To protect and support our most vulnerable citizens, we need significant investment in effective safety net social services so people aren’t pushed into homelessness. We also need targeted solutions to help those experiencing homelessness.

We desperately need housing for our local workers, who are the heart and soul of our community.

I will work to increase the affordable housing inclusionary percentage in new developments from 15% to a minimum of 20%. We also need to address employee compensation so we retain good talent and so workers earn a living wage for the community they serve. Furthermore, we need to hold UC Santa Cruz accountable for housing its students on campus and providing affordable housing.

Candidates Justin Cummings (center) and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson with moderator Jody K. Biehl (left).
Justin Cummings (center) and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, candidates for 3rd District Santa Cruz County Supervisor, at last week’s forum with moderator Jody K. Biehl (left).
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

When people live where they work and study, it reduces traffic and carbon emissions — and our impact on climate change.

Finally, we need to protect our agricultural lands and incorporate new technology and practices that continue to move us toward more sustainable organic farming, reduce our dependence on pesticides, and keep healthy food production here locally.

As supervisor I will work with the community to move policies forward in good faith and collaboration. I will look at data and the facts and will base decision making on what is the right thing to do.

I have been endorsed by many social and environmental justice champions like former U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, former 3rd District Supervisor Gary Patton, former Santa Cruz mayor Katherine Beiers, former supervisor candidate Ami Chen Mills, the Sierra Club, the state Democratic Party and more.

I am the candidate who brings the diversity we value, has the professional experience and experience in local government we need right now.

I hope I can count on your vote.

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