Good Time

By Todd Guild

A longtime biotechnology researcher and public transportation advocate is challenging Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manu Koenig when his District 1 seat goes up for reelection early next year.

Lani Faulkner kicked off her campaign on Sunday afternoon in a small, redwood-studded picnic area in Delaveaga Park. More than one hundred people were in attendance, including elected official and nonprofit leaders that make up the dozens who have signed on with endorsements.

Faulkner, 55, says she made the decision to run after several community members approached her saying they felt that their concerns were not being addressed by the board.

If elected, Faulkner’s view on the county’s public transit system would be a stark contrast to that of Koenig, whose vocal opposition to the future passenger rail project has become a centerpiece of his time in public office.

Faulkner is founder of Equity Transit, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit that advocates for “a robust and affordable public transportation system.”

She points out that more than 70% of voters in Santa Cruz County opposed Measure D, which was supported by trail-only advocates and would have all but scuttled plans for a passenger rail.

Equity Transit actively opposed the measure.

“Supervisor Koenig doesn’t represent the majority and that’s part of the problem,” she says. 

Supporting public transportation systems such as passenger rail ties into environmental protection, which she says is another of her key priorities.

“Transportation is really critical, because it is one of our top contributors to greenhouse gasses,” she says. “So we really have to manage our transportation system and support robust public transportation, our bussing, future passenger rail and anything else that can help address these environmental issues.”

She adds that the state of California has signaled its support for such plans with its financial investment in the statewide rail network.

Faulkner has spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry and was the senior clinical research associate at Stryker Neurovascular, a Fremont-based company that develops technology to help stroke victims.

She says her experience in that industry—requiring her to work collaboratively with state, national and international institutions—has helped prepare her for the role as supervisor.

She also lists housing, homelessness, disaster preparedness and water and resource management among her priorities, as well as supporting and improving services for children and seniors.

She would also look to improve the county’s responses to disaster victims, such as those affected by the CZU fires.

“When I think of disaster preparedness, I’m thinking of this larger umbrella about how we can be better prepared for our future to manage all these things that might come,” she says. 

Faulkner serves on multiple local boards, including the local chapter of the NAACP. 

She taught systemic and cellular physiology at U.C. Davis, where she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in physiology.

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