Santa Cruz County is currently suffering 13 percent unemployment, and the South County area hovers around 25 percent. What measures will be taken to improve these numbers?
The difficulty in combating high unemployment is something shared across the nation and most parts of the world. The contraction of the economy on account of reckless financial decisions being made in both the private and public sectors has made life much harder for local jurisdictions. Much of the unemployment in the Pajaro Valley can be attributed to the failing housing market, which has not only resulted in a reduction in home sales but also in jobs related to construction, carpentry, roofing, painting, landscaping—you name it. In addition, there have been cuts in the service sector, government sector, and so on. So the problem we have at hand is finding all these displaced workers new jobs.
Aside from simply hoping and praying that the economy turns around on its own, there are a number of things that we can do locally to help combat the situation. The recent purchase of the railroad extending from Davenport to Watsonville certainly has the potential to help revitalize our economy and reduce traffic tensions on our highways and roads.
One project in South County with a lot of potential is that of the Manabe Ow Business Park which will include development of some 95 acres of land alongside Highway 1 off West Beach Street. In addition to restoring 25 acres of wetlands, this project can provide much needed space for industrial growth. Another big priority is making sure that the agricultural sector continues to receive the support that they need in continuing business and growing our worldwide presence in the marketplace as issues relating to water and pesticides will require urgent attention.
In addition, we need to keep assuring that we can get folks the resources that they need. There are a number of groups specifically designed to help people start their own businesses, such as El Pajaro Community Development Center or the Community Action Board’s Women’s Venture Project. I think that it’s very important that we continue to support those projects that specifically help people looking for work. And perhaps above all, we need to work hard to keep the jobs that we have.
As a newly elected supervisor, what are some of the major issues facing South County that you hope to address?
A project that is very important and meaningful to me is the reconstruction of the Pajaro River levee system and the assurance that Pajaro Valley residents won’t have to live in fear of the floods that have sporadically plagued the area for the last century. The floods of ’95 were especially horrid as it caused more than $95 million in economic losses to the Pajaro Valley community with floodwaters covering 3,300 acres of agricultural land. Many households experienced waterlogged refrigerators, mattresses and flooring while others were forced out of their homes and workplaces altogether. The Pajaro River was actually designated the No.1 “most endangered river” by the American Rivers organization in 2006. While there are a number of different possible plans being discussed, action must be taken sooner than later.
Also of concern are the services we’re making available to youth. The southern part of the county is incredibly young, and it’s my intention to fund Parks and Recreation programming and park development to the best of our abilities. Channeling children’s energy into playgrounds and competitive play is one of the simplest yet most effective means to grow healthy and prosperous communities. I believe that more can be accomplished by working closely with our County Sheriff and Fire branches as well to create and promote youth events, exposing kids to the good our public safety workers do in the community.
Although these are extremely trying times, I look forward to serving the Pajaro Valley and county as a whole to the best of my ability, and I strongly encourage any persons eager to serve the community or share information to please contact my office.