Today, we launch Community Voices

Community Voices logo

It’s Lookout’s opinion section for the many challenges of the 2020s. Let’s meet them squarely, rounding up and debating the best ideas among us.

Enjoying the bumper stickers affixed to Santa Cruz cars is a classic, if declining, pastime. One popular sticker particularly resonates with me, as today, Lookout proudly launches Community Voices, our new opinion section built for the challenges, crises and platforms of the 2020s.

It’s this: Think Globally, Act Locally.

Ever since UCSC took seed here in 1965, Santa Cruz has become a more globally curious place. It’s not just the faculty and students, who are drawn from around the world and country, and increasingly are better matching up with the diversity of the wider state, country and world. It’s the conversations we have here. Creeping into our get-togethers are the growing fears of the country’s political polarization, plutocrats run amok, autocrats ascendant, and, of course, the many wild cards of climate change playing out before our eyes. It’s the representation of global citizens here, the increasing number of people who work and connect with others around the world each week, yet have chosen Santa Cruz County as their home.

On some days, it seems we have a full plate of problems here. Yes, it is a kind of paradise to live here on this swath of the Central Coast, but it is paradise with problems. The issues aren’t unique. From homelessness to affordability to generational, health and educational inequities to sustaining our environments, these issues ring nationally and globally.

Yet, we realize it is up to us, as community members, as citizens of a fragile democracy, to do what we can do — individually and collectively — to solve what we can as soon as we can. In a few words: to make things better.

That’s been Lookout’s mission — to help make Santa Cruz County a better place for all who live here — since we launched 18 months ago. But we’ve had a big missing piece: opinion.

No one has ever complained that Santa Cruz lacks opinionated people. Ask any elected rep about their experiences at hourslong public hearings, and you know that.

Yet our place, Santa Cruz County — at this shaky, uncertain time in the wake of COVID-19, in a time of anachronistic war in Europe, in a time when simply providing shelter to our residents has become frighteningly difficult — doesn’t have a easily accessible digital center for intelligent ideas, debate and conversation. Social media has been a game-changer in so many ways, but we believe that a new, locally driven center for thought can do what social media has proved it can’t: bring people together around real solutions to better our communities.

Community Voices aims to do that and quickly. I’ll pass the baton here to Jody K. Biehl, whom Lookout was lucky enough to land a few months ago, to tell you much more about Community Voices, its intentions and how it will work. Suffice it to say, we’ve got great confidence that our community has an opinion editor in Jody who will be the fair broker and talented journalist such an undertaking requires.

You’ll find Community Voices pieces running throughout the week, in their own section, starting today. We launch with just the kind of piece we think distinguishes Community Voices from your grandmother’s editorial page. In her early get-to-know-the-community work, Jody met Ernestina Saldana, and the idea was born. Allow Ernestina to show, not just tell, her experience navigating the streets of Live Oak, in a wheelchair. Ably shot by Kevin Painchaud, we’re glad to use this wonderful digital medium to tell a new story that must be seen.

As trustworthy news media should do, we’re keeping our opinion section, which will include Lookout’s own viewpoints, separate from our news pages. Even the headline typeface is different, to signal to you, our readers, the difference between news and Community Voices. We’re making Community Voices freely available, to nonmembers as well as members, for now, and hope that those of you who haven’t yet signed up for membership see the new value that we’re adding, and join Lookout. In fact, you can get a special 15% discount on new memberships by using the code voices. Today, Community Voices launches with both Ernestina Saldana’s video and the beginning of our opinion page election coverage, both of which will run through the June 7 vote. Today, we also launched Election ‘22 in our news pages, with the basics of a voter’s guide and election calendar, both informational utilities for you. Over the next six weeks, Lookout will focus on each of the contests on the ballot as well, while we offer good statewide ballot coverage, through our Los Angeles Times and CalMatters content partners.

Finally, don’t forget to join us for our Candidates Forum on May 12. Together with the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Cruz County Business Council, the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Works, Lookout brings together two sets of candidates. All four candidates for California’s 28th Assembly District and all three candidates for the District 3 County Supervisor position will debate. Jody will moderate. Sign up here for the free event, hosted by Hotel Paradox and available virtually as well.

Please join us for this invigorating season ahead.