Ryan Coonerty

County Supervisor

Santa Cruz, CA

Pro-Growth Progressive Idea: Creating entrepreneurship training programs to help small businesses grow in Santa Cruz

Ryan Coonerty was elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in 2014. He previously served as the Mayor of Santa Cruz where he successfully brought together labor union members, social service providers, environmentalists, and local businesspeople to promote innovative strategies to improve the quality of life.  Some of his efforts have received national attention, including creating an Ayuda Linea (Help Line) for day laborers to report incidents of abuse, investing the City’s reserve funds locally to spur the local economy, and authoring an ordinance that allows dense, for-sale housing which will provide affordable housing for teachers, city workers, firefighters and police.

Ryan is also the co-founder and chief strategist for NextSpace Coworking + Innovation and is implementing a new model for local and regional economic development to help citizens transition, start businesses, and live sustainably. Ryan has presented recommendations for other elected officials on how to replicate this model in communities across the country.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

In 2015 five giant banks- including Wall Street behemoths JP Morgan Chase and Citicorp- pleaded guilty to criminal felony charges that they rigged the world’s foreign-currency market for their own profit. In 2016 Wells Fargo Bank admitted that thousands of its employees opened millions of fraudulent consumer accounts without authorization, harming people across our country. The actions of these banks pose risks to investors and the public and I question whether these banks can be trusted with County funds. It is absolutely critical that government entities only work with the most trustworthy institutions as we invest and protect the public’s tax dollars.

Solution

Santa Cruz County Supervisors modified the County’s investment policy to reflect that the County will not do new business with law-breaking financial institutions and directed the County to unwind existing relationships with the identified banks to the greatest extent feasible.


Problem

Cities and counties have millions in reserve and special funds but most of those dollars are invested in large funds run out of state. Local financial institutions know their community and customers better than large banks, and therefore by having access to those funds can more effectively invest in the community.

Solution

County Supervisor Coonerty proposes investing a small percentage of these reserves in local banks and credit unions to keep the money local, creating jobs and more funds for these institutions to lend to citizens to start businesses, purchase cars or improve their homes, all of which help grow the economy.


Problem

Santa Cruz has long grappled with persistent drug and alcohol abuse-fueled petty crimes in its downtown area. The community’s sense of safety and economic prosperity are adversely impacted by this cycle of recidivism and many in Santa Cruz consider the local criminal justice system to be a revolving door for low-level criminals.

Solution

The City and County of Santa Cruz have joined forces to reduce recidivism among the community's most chronic low level offenders. County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty helped launch PACT in April 2014, an innovative multi-agency and multi-disciplinary team, working collectively to provide street outreach, case management and treatment in exchange for strict court accountability. This adaptive program offers wraparound services to chronic offenders, on a voluntary basis, in exchange for strict accountability for their actions. The PACT program has already seen evidence of success with recidivism rates for PACT-intervened clients greatly reduced in the first twelve months of the program.


Problem

Exposure to chronic stressors (poverty and discrimination) or adverse childhood experiences (abuse and neglect, parental mental illness and substance abuse, or family violence) can disrupt babies’ healthy brain development, creating lifelong negative impacts on learning, behavior, and health. Too many young children are starting life at a disadvantage, leading to poor health and education outcomes which make life much harder for the individuals and create high costs for society (treating complex physical/mental health issues, substance abuse treatment, criminal justice costs, etc.).

Solution

Scientists and economists agree that investing in high-quality early childhood development programs – such as home-visiting programs, early care and education, developmental and behavioral health services, and parenting and family support- produces the greatest benefits to children, families and society, yet public investment in very young children is low. I worked with local child advocates to establish and secure funding for a Thrive by Three Fund which will help our most vulnerable babies, toddlers and their families with the tools they need to be healthy, educated, and resilient. We will be tracking progress toward a number of outcomes, including:  more prenatal care for young mothers in the first trimester; fewer preterm and low birthweight babies; fewer mothers and fathers reporting hardships and emotional distress during pregnancy and the child’s first three years of life; less child maltreatment and entries into foster care among infants and toddlers; and increased access to high-quality care and early learning opportunities.