For Immediate Release:

Santa Cruz, CA, January 7th, 2019. This weekend a randomly selected Citizens Council will convene to develop a “We the People” set of recommendations for the Santa Cruz Branch Line Rail Corridor. The event will take place just days before the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) votes on a plan for the corridor that includes freight and passenger rail. The Jan 17th vote will influence public transportation infrastructure for decades to come. All members of the public are invited to the Community Conversation on Saturday, January 12th, 6:30 PM at Cruzio Works in Downtown Santa Cruz. Limited capacity; registration required via Eventbrite.

 This “people’s wisdom council” will be composed of voters randomly selected from the Santa Cruz County Voter Roles. They will meet with the help of professional facilitator Jim Rough from the Center for Wise Democracy over a 24hr period, from 6:30 PM on Friday Jan. 11th to 6:30 PM on Saturday Jan. 12th. During this time the facilitator will engage the intellect, experience and emotions of all participants in “choice creating” until the group reaches consensus on a set of recommendations. They will present these recommendations at a public Community Conversation on Saturday night for further improvement. “This is a 100% open and transparent process,” said event organizer Corrina McFarlane, “we want as many people as possible to participate.”

The event is a response to the RTC’s own public comment process which many say fall short of the “open, transparent public process” mandated by Measure D. “Many members of the tech community have spoken at RTC meetings and they basically just ignore what we say,” said Doug Erickson, who leads Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup. “There’s never been a chance for citizens to talk to each other and work out a solution,” says McFarlane, “it’s just been us talking at them.”

The Center for Wise Democracy has successfully conducted this “We the People” process in Ashland, OR, [example 2], Austria to develop a response to the flood of Syrian refugees. “So far the best use case is in Austria where the local government used it to develop a response to the flood of Syrian refugees the country has seen,” said facilitator and Center for Wise Democracy Founder Jim Rough. “The people like the process there so much that it was incorporated into the local constitution.”

This community dialogue has many local precedents as well, including the City of Santa Cruz’s Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC) and the City of Capitola’s “Vision Capitola.” Recently, Santa Cruz City Council Member Sandy Brown called for a community dialogue on the hotly contested issue of rent control. “I’m thrilled that this event is taking place,” said Rick Longinotti, Board Member for the Campaign for Sustainable Transportation and who also participated in the WSAC. “The water supply advisory committee facilitated breakthroughs on a seemingly impossible problem,” Longinotti said. The process this weekend will be 24hrs instead of 10 months long like the WSAC. It will also involve randomly selected citizens instead of participants appointed by City Council. “It’s a bit different but I’m excited to see what conclusions we can come to,” said Longinotti, “a dialogue is long overdue.”

If the event is a success, the group will consider holding more events on other topics. Register to attend in-person (limited seating) or see it live streamed via