SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) District 1 Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisor John Leopold is up for his fourth term as supervisor. The incumbent is being challenged by five other candidates.
Manu Koenig, Mark Esquibel, Benjamin Cogan, Donald Kreutz and Betsy Riker are all running against Leopold for the area that covers Live Oak, Soquel, the Summit area, Santa Cruz Gardens and Carbonera.
“I think the biggest issue is the high cost of housing and homelessness, and that’s why I’ve worked to think of new ways we can build affordable housing," Leopold said. "That’s why we’ve changed our development code so you can build different kinds of housing like tiny homes.”
Leopold also has plans to continue the work he's already put in place.
“The new Leo’s Haven is the first fully inclusive park where kids of any ability can play together. We need to build more spaces like that,” the incumbent said. “We’re going to finish the environmental work on the sustainable Santa Cruz County plan. We’ve already seen projects that reflect that new kind of development pattern.”
34-year-old Manu Koenig has worked at several tech start ups, and most recently was the executive director of Santa Cruz County Greenway.
“We need a much more action oriented approach if we’re going to tackle the mounting problems we see,” Koenig said.
The non-profit Greenway's goal is to turn the rail corridor into a scenic bike path.
“I would prioritize building the trail that we can afford, and that we have the $80 million to build instead of a train that we can’t,” Koenig said.
Leopold is a supporter of a rail and trail. Koenig said the three biggest issues in his district are housing, transportation and homelessness.
“We need a new third lane [on the highway] and funding mechanisms to pay for that lane. So I suggest a fast track,” Koenig said.
Mark Esquibel agrees with adding another lane to the highway. He’s a political new comer who grew up in Santa Cruz. Esquibel said he joined the race to be a voice for the people in the area.
“They’re fed up with the establishment, with the status quo and they want change. That’s why there are so many people running,” Esquibel said.
Esquibel is running on his conservative values, and his experience working in telecommunications and energy over the hill.
“Enough is enough for me. I’ve been here for 47 years and seen it deteriorate,” Esquibel said. “I have built infrastructure projects in the Bay Area and saw nothing built over here. I have seen homelessness taken care of in the Bay Area and nothing over here.”
36-year-old Ben Cogan ran unsuccessfully against Leopold in the last election.
“I’m like the anti-establishment candidate, or the freedom candidate. Let’s keep it local not regionalized,” Cogan said.
“The 5G Verizon cellular network, which hasn’t been significantly tested for health benefits and the pure water Soquel pumps sewage to an underground aquifer. I want to look into that, because we lose the authenticity of our water supply if it gets contaminated,” Cogan said.
The top two vote-getters head to the November election unless one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.
The two other candidates Donald Kreutz and Betsy Riker did not return our request for interviews on why they are running for supervisor.