Click photo to enlarge
Jon Weiand/Sentinel Andy Flagg, left, stands with his son Duncan as they discuss the upcoming new year in downtown Santa Cruz Saturday.

SANTA CRUZ -- Santa Cruzans seem largely optimistic about 2013, though concerned about violence and political gridlock.

In interviews downtown Saturday, nary a soul predicted that 2013 would be less rosy than 2012 and those interviewed were unanimous in their estimation that the economy was improving.

"I'm feeling very positive about the new year -- it's going to the best ever, we've had so many bad ones," said Jim Marshall of Santa Cruz, who was recently laid off from his position as director of the Children's Center at Cabrillo College.

"The drop in home prices was hard to take, along with the job losses," added Marshall, who is co-owner of the Children's Alley preschool, along with his wife, Mary Jo.

Mary Jo Marshall said she was glad "her team" won the election.

"But I'm still politically nervous with the fiscal cliff and the gridlock and still so frustrated with the process," she said.

Orthopedic surgeon Lisa Lattanza said she believes the new year will bring a chance to deal with the issues that came to a head in 2012.

"I feel like what happened at the end of this year -- Connecticut, the fiscal cliff, all those things -- present a real opportunity for change," Lattanza said. "I hope our leaders get the message and start working together. If they don't, we as a community need to take back what is good about America."

Lattanza said she has family in Italy who don't experience mass shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School and don't understand why those things happen in America.

"We need to question the violence in our society, from Quentin Tarantino movies to video games and take a look at what we value, on a community by community level," she said. "There is a lot that is great about this country, but can we say it's the best? We have to look at it and take action."

TafarI Smith said he recently moved back to Santa Cruz when work in construction and landscape design dried up during the recession.

"There seems to be more opportunities now," he said. "And I have a daughter who was born on her due date, 12/12/12, so all the numbers are lining up. It feels like a blessed year."

Andy Flagg was outside Bookshop Santa Cruz with his 13-year-old son, Duncan. The family lived in Santa Cruz for several years and now live in Worcester, Vt.

"I'm excited for what is going to happen," Flagg said. "The economy is better and I just find optimism in learning new things. Each day is a new opportunity."

Flagg said he works with a fuel efficiency program for the Central Vermont Community Action Council that is good for people and the environment, and that his family is happy and healthy and might be able to return to Santa Cruz. He worked formerly for the city's Redevelopment Agency, he said.

"I try not to get too involved with politics," Flagg said. "So it's just me and I know I have the potential to do wonderful things."

Scott Boynton, who was home in Felton for the holidays, from Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., where he is in his last year of graduate school in podiatry, said he predicts an excellent 2013.

"The Mayans were wrong," he said. "But I'm positive about every year; you have to be."

Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9