Looking at the year ahead of us, what issues do you expect to be at the forefront for the city, and how do you plan to address them?
It is an honor and a great privilege to be Mayor of Santa Cruz. We have a strong city council and staff and are prepared to work hard during 2013 to ensure that our city government moves forward with policies and programs that enable our community to thrive. For my part, I intend to focus my efforts in three areas:
One is economic development. Growing our economy is essential to solving so many of the challenges that this city faces every day. In the near-term, we must work to create jobs in Santa Cruz and keep existing jobs in town.
A strong business climate will bring more tourist revenue to our city. A healthy economy will mean that Santa Cruz will be able to afford to better maintain our recreational fields and parks, our roads and infrastructure. We will be able to support our existing public arts programs and to provide additional City Hall hours. A new expenditure will no longer mean a budget reduction in another area.
This year, city staff launched our Code for America “Open Counter” program, streamlining the process for opening a new business by creating an online portal. City council will expand its Business Retention and Recruitment program, by increasing the number of business visits and expanding staff participation.
We hope to begin a broader regional development conversation with measurable objectives and outcomes by engaging our partners: local business leaders, the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, the Conference and Visitors Council, UC Santa Cruz, and the Business Council.
Second, we will continue our focus on community safety, an immediate and critical need. We must keep Santa Cruz citizens safe and ensure that our residents and visitors are able to enjoy our community without feeling threatened.
We want all who reside in our community to have proper and affordable housing, and to be given opportunities to live in safe conditions.
Santa Cruz is a beach town, and most of us live here because of our amazing natural resources. We all want to protect our beaches, parks, and open spaces and are committed to keeping them clean now and for future generations.
Third, we must focus on the youth of our community. In 2012, we were able to fully fund our Santa Cruz Teen Center, and we invited local high school students into the governmental process during our first Teen Town Hall. This coming year, I hope that we will expand the Teen Town Hall Program, with the ultimate goal of making it permanent. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Many Santa Cruz young people are working together to make a difference. We should honor their interest in government and social services by providing jobs and volunteer opportunities for local teens. It is through these hands-on educational experiences that strong citizens are made.
I ask everyone to join our efforts for 2013. A city is not only those in government. Our task as councilmembers and city staff is to reflect the interests that you have, to try to engage you in giving us sound advice, and to encourage and support the many of you who already volunteer your time and work to improve our wonderful city. We want to be there for you, and to help make Santa Cruz a better place for all of us to live.