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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Public administration student takes on local-level politics

Live Oak, California native and Chico State student looks to bring impactful solutions to his local community through elected, public office
Cruz Mora is on the ballot for Live Oak City Council this November. Photo Credit: Cruz Mora
Cruz Mora is on the ballot for Live Oak City Council this November. Photo Credit: Cruz Mora

Of Chico State’s 15,000 enrolled students, the principles of “Today Decides Tomorrow” are maximally personified by public administration senior Cruz Mora’s commitment to representing his community’s residents in local politics. 

This November, Mora will be on the ballot for Live Oak City Council, a city in Sutter County California. This will be his fourth election for city council since 2020.

Mora said his inspiration for local-level civic engagement was ignited after his high school civics instructor experienced a heart attack following the results of the 2016 election. Mora wasted little time getting involved at the local and state level.

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Mora’s political involvement began with attending Live Oak City Council meetings, where he described being the only resident attendee. 

“I’m the only one there, it’s the council, the administrators and an empty city council chambers. It’s just me having a conversation with the administrators,” Mora said.

If elected, Mora said he will be committed to enhancing Live Oak residents’ quality of life through access to clean water, economic development, infrastructure and public safety. He emphasized, however, that the most pressing issue facing Live Oak is the city’s outdated water infrastructure. 


This will be Mora’s fourth election for a City Council seat. Photo credit: Cruz Mora

As the president of Chico State’s Wildcats for Bernie in 2019-2020, which saw him go to Iowa for the 2020 Democratic National Caucus, Mora attributes his greatest takeaway from the experience to his ability to listen. 

Through listening, his desire to address the water issue for his community has intensified. He described home visits, in which the discussion is initiated by an offering of a rusty-colored glass of water. 

For Mora, the water issue is personal. 

“Our City continuously violates state law in regards to multiple contaminants…specifically arsenic,” Mora said. State law only allows the arsenic levels within the water to be allowed at 10 parts per billion, which is “10 drops of arsenic in an Olympic-sized pool.”

The Consumer Confidence Report for Water Quality indicates that the City of Live Oak violates state law regarding arsenic levels, nearly 2,000 times the level of safe drinking water. 

“They exceed the limit ranging from over 10 to 20 parts per billion,” said Mora. 

Arsenic is carcinogenic. The National Institutes of Health describes the effects of arsenic-infused water to range from cancer, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, peripheral neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc.

In 2014, Mora’s mother was diagnosed with stage 3B cervical cancer. Mora himself suffers from chronic migraines. Health professionals attribute both conditions to the long-term exposure of arsenic-heavy drinking water.

“Because it’s personal, this is the first issue that I present to folks about Live Oak,” Mora said.

Despite having a population of little under 10,000 people, Mora has described being subjected to an array of smear campaigns attacking his leadership credibility and character, in addition to being subjected to racist and derogatory heckling during City Council meetings.

Former council member Harsev J.R. Thiara, whom Mora regards as one of the most knowledgeable members, lost his seat over similar smear campaigns deployed within his latest election. 

“They don’t want a different guy, they want a ‘yes man’, they want things to go their way, they want to control every aspect of city policies, they want to control every aspect,” Mora said.

He said his opponent, Nancy Santana, who in 2021 moved into Live Oak city limits to foster an electable image, has ended meetings after he has brought up sensitive issues.

Despite refusing to address the water issue for Live Oak residents, Santana acknowledges the outdated and toxic water infrastructure through having non-local water shipped to her residents. Upon addressing this before the Council, Mora found himself subjected to further smearing and ridicule. 

“It [the system] was designed this way. On my first several attempts to advocate on the clean water policy they [city council members] put their fingers in their ears and came up to me after the meeting and say ‘Why are you doing this, what’s your motive’?”

As a 24-year-old undergraduate student, Mora said his opponents have advised him to delay running. 

Mora has been a student assistant for the California Department of State Hospitals where he worked with individuals declared unfit to serve trial. Following, Mora said he served as an office technician for the Employment Development Department where during the height of COVID-19, he played an intricate role in orchestrating the distribution of financial relief to families most impacted by the pandemic. 

Currently, he is a policy analyst for the Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration within the California Department of Health Care Services.  This, Mora says, has endowed him with a greater appreciation for complex humanitarian issues and a deeper understanding of the bureaucracy of government.

Chico State has played no small role in supplementing Mora’s success. With encouragement from Social Sciences Program Coordinator Diane Dwyer, Mora interned as a district intern for the California State Assembly district office of James Gallagher. “I knew his politics, but I still wanted to learn,” Mora said.

Public Administration Program Coordinator Paul Viotti too, has inspired Mora academically by, as Mora describes, “push[ing] us not just to stick to theories in a textbook, but do the community outreach and engagement; the experiences that students need, that are not in a textbook.” 

Cruz encourages students to engage with their major advisors and explore opportunities available to them in undergraduate studies and emphasizes students should try to get involved. 

These experiences, supplemented with the Chico State education, have empowered Mora to “be the voice for folks who don’t always have them. That’s specifically marginalized communities … these voices are really not ever brought to the table.”

In his most recent race, Mora was runner-up and only 61 votes from election victory. However, he regards the progression in stimulating community awareness as a victory. “Regardless of whether or not I have a seat in power, these things will get done,” Mora said.

Cruz Mora will be on the ballot for the Live Oak City Council. Courtesy: Cruz Mora

Mora is committed to the Live Oak community and for the time being, isn’t going anywhere having recently purchased a home in the community with his husband Marcus.Cruz M

He is adamant that the level of engagement he has put forth with residents, as opposed to his opponents, will ultimately pay dividends. “The way I am running a campaign is completely different than them, they don’t go door-to-door or put ‘boots on the ground,’” Mora said.

If elected, Mora will be the youngest and first openly LGBTQ+ Live Oak City Council member. 

To better equip students with the tools necessary to follow in his footsteps, Mora advises Chico State’s educational faculty to incorporate more experiential learning opportunities into the curriculum, such as internships, project-based assignments with local governments or organizations and simulation exercises that mirror real-world public administration challenges. 

He encourages interdisciplinary collaboration that can also give students a broader perspective and a more holistic understanding of the complexities of public service.

For Wildcats interested in getting involved in public service Mora encourages students to volunteer, attend city council meetings, participate in community events and network with professionals in the field. 

He emphasizes that simply expressing interest in public service can also open doors and invites students to contact him, as his campaign has openings for virtual or in-person internships and volunteer positions that will give students a taste of public service work. 

Mora will be running against Live Oak City Council incumbents Nancy Santa and Lakvir Ghag.

If you are interested, please visit

Shane Aweeka can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Shane Aweeka
Shane Aweeka, Reporter
Shane Aweeka is a senior at Chico State, scheduled to graduate this May with a bachelor's degree in public administration and a minor in international relations. In September, Shane will begin working towards his master's in the Netherlands in a program focused on global political economy or international politics. He looks forward to contributing to The Orion’s efforts this upcoming semester and developing an understanding and appreciation for the art of journalism. Outside of school and work you can find him skiing or surfing.

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    julie cambridge // May 6, 2024 at 10:40 am

    Bravo Mr. Mora, you are fighting the good fight. Clean water and air are fundamental government services that too often are ignored. Young people like you give me hope for the future.