Ryan Coonerty

County Supervisor

Santa Cruz, CA

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

Ryan is Chair of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the two-time former Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz.  He is also an entrepreneur, author, and educator. He is the host of the NewDEAL’s "An Honorable Profession" podcast. He was the cofounder of NextSpace Coworking + Innovation (now owned by Pacific Workplaces), a lecturer on law and government at UC Santa Cruz, and co-author of The Rise of the Naked Economy – How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace and wrote Etched in Stone – Enduring Words from our National Monuments. Ryan was selected by the Aspen Institute to be a Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership as one of "the nation’s most promising young elected officials.”

On the Board of Supervisors, Ryan has created incentives to support affordable workforce housing, led the expansion of the public safety and treatment programs, led efforts to sue oil and gas companies for carbon emissions, established a Thrive by Three Fund to support families' health and educational outcomes.

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

County governments are unlike any other entities, providing a breathtaking array of services. They include public safety and jails, road maintenance and repairs, permitting and other land use services, mosquito control, recycling and waste management, health clinics for disadvantaged communities, homeless services, marriage licenses, parks and beach access and the list goes on. But how do all these services fit together? How does the county apply limited resources across so many fields in a way that best fits the values of the community? We needed a Strategic Plan and an Operational Plan tied to the budget to put it into action and a website to track our progress.

Solution

After an unprecedented level of public and employee input, Santa Cruz County developed its first Strategic Plan, Vision Santa Cruz County, an overarching vision with six focus areas: Comprehensive Health and Safety, Attainable Housing, Reliable Transportation, Sustainable Environment, Dynamic Economy and Operational Excellence. Goals aren’t enough. We needed an Operational Plan to make it happen. The county now has 178 distinct objectives to pursue over the next two years. And all of it, from the strategic plan to the objectives is synthesized with the county’s first-ever two-year budget. Residents can visit www.sccvision.us to follow the county’s progress on each objective by tracking the key steps necessary to complete each task.


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.