The Santa Cruz County jobless rate has risen to a new high of 15 percent—higher than both the state and national averages. How can Santa Cruz begin recovering from this slump?
High unemployment is a severe problem nationally as well as in Santa Cruz. While actions can be taken on the local level to respond to this crisis, changes at the state and national level will have a much greater impact.
Locally, we applied for all of the stimulus funds that were available to us and aggressively allocated them to county projects, both stimulating the economy and saving jobs. We need to aggressively seek additional stimulus funding and strongly support legislative job creation proposals. These stimulus funds have already created a significant number of local jobs. We need to maintain this funding, and these jobs.
In addition, I initiated an energy efficiency program, now called California First, that has received a significant state implementation grant. This program will not only assist property owners with installing solar and other energy improvements but will also generate a number of green jobs in the county.
The county’s first priority should be to focus on the local unemployment problem. We need to continue and expand the training and job development programs of the county’s Workforce Investment Board. Ensuring that local residents obtain the jobs that are created is critical and an effective training program is essential.
Are there any important local environmental efforts underway?
Yes, state park advocates are currently gathering signatures for an initiative slated for the November 2010 ballot. The State Parks Initiative would establish a dedicated and reliable funding stream for state parks and natural resources to ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
On March 16, I asked my colleagues on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to take a position in support of the State Parks Initiative because I believe California’s nearly 280 state parks are priceless public assets, important economic engines, much-needed recreational outlets, and a vital legacy for our children and grandchildren. The Board unanimously approved my recommendation.
The State Parks Initiative would ask Californians to invest in their state parks by paying an annual $18 fee. In exchange, Californians would receive free year-round day use admission to all state parks. If successful the initiative would free up state parks’ current $130 million General Fund allocation, which could be directed to other vital needs.
State budget cuts are starving state parks, causing them to fall severely behind in needed maintenance and repairs. Nearly 150 state parks were shutdown part-time or suffered deep service reductions because of budget cuts, and more park closure proposals and budget cuts are expected this year.
I think it is critical that we help our state parks secure a stable, dedicated long-term funding source. For more information visit the website for Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks at thatsmypark.org.
Could you talk about the county’s action on Assembly Bill 2138?
I placed an item on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisor’s March 16 agenda asking my colleagues to support Assembly Bill 2138, which would create the Plastic Ocean Pollution Reduction, Recycling and Composting Act, which would require the fast food industry to only use packaging that is recyclable or compostable in the communities where it is used. The Board unanimously approved my recommendation.
The amount of plastic, disposable food service packaging, and single-use bags that are carried by storm water runoff increasingly threaten California’s aquatic and marine environments. I believe we must take a leadership role in protecting our oceans.
Single-use food packaging litter kills wildlife like birds and endangered sea turtles, which become entangled in it or mistake it for food and try to ingest it. Untold numbers of sea birds, marine mammals, and fish have died from marine debris.
There are also economic impacts to the litter, as local governments are often left with the cleanup bills. This legislation would reduce the cost to local governments for cleaning up and disposing of the tons of plastic waste that is entering our waterways and polluting our beaches and the ocean.
I successfully led the county to ban polystyrene in 2008 and I believe supporting AB 2138 is another important step to fight pollution and protect our oceans.