One of the popular ideas put forth in Live Oak’s Five-Year Plan is moving the Sheriff’s Office to Live Oak. Why is this move important?
As the most urbanized area of the unincorporated part of our county, Live Oak and Soquel generate over one-third of the calls to the Sheriff’s Office. When a call comes in, residents should not have to wait until an officer drives from the City of Santa Cruz to respond. Having the Sheriff’s Center located in Live Oak not only services the needs of residents in those neighborhoods but stations officers in a better location to address law enforcement needs of the entire unincorporated area.
Having officers present makes a difference in the lives of our community. Recently I worked to save the position of School Resource Officer (SRO) at Soquel High. Budget cuts at the high school threatened the position. We have seen what happens when no SRO is there. In 2008, when there were not enough deputies to staff the position, there were fights and a shooting involving Soquel High students. Working with the school district and the Sheriff we managed to save this position that improves safety at the school and in the entire Soquel community.
The Arana Gulch bike path, which has been on the table for 15 years, is nearing fruition. What progress has been made?
Last year I helped lead a community process about how to spend Redevelopment funds in the Live Oak/Soquel area. Over 500 people participated in workshops and over 250 came out for a public hearing on the adoption of the plan. A key area of interest was making our community friendlier for walking and biking, and one of the most popular biking suggestions was completion of the Arana Gulch bike path. Community members seemed particularly interested in tying the network of bike lanes in Live Oak with the City of Santa Cruz.
Since the adoption of the plan the Regional Transportation Commission has committed over $1 million to help fund this project, which is primarily in the city. It still must gain approval from the Coastal Commission but there is hope that approval will come this year. Should it win approval, the county will enter into a conversation with the city about helping complete this path.
With the unemployment rate in Santa Cruz County near 12 percent, what is the county doing to improve job opportunities for local residents?
There are three major efforts underway to provide training and jobs for Santa Cruz County residents. Our local Workforce Investment Board (half the representatives comes from the private sector and the other half from the public sector) have secured over $3 million in grants to train local residents for the jobs of the future, particularly jobs in “green” construction. The Board has joined together with Cabrillo College and Ecology Action to fund coordinators for “Green Pathways” to build the training ramp into existing and new jobs in this growing segment of our workforce.
The Board of Supervisors and all the cities in the county recently approved seeking funding for the creation of a GREEN Financing District that will support the installations of energy efficiency measures and solar power generation. Property owners of residential, commercial and industrial properties will be able to make these improvements with no money upfront but paid back through their tax bills over a 20 year period. This is expected to leverage over $60 million in construction projects in our county over the next two years. I am working to develop a set of standards that promote local firms and hiring local residents for these jobs.
Lastly, the county is talking with the local construction industry to find out what we can do to increase the number of local contractors bidding for and receiving contracts for public sector projects. We are working to identify hurdles that prevent local contractors from participating and are developing new outreach efforts to stimulate local participation in these existing projects. Combined, these efforts are designed to enhance the recirculation of our money into the hands of local workers who in turn support our local businesses.