Greetings from the City of Santa Cruz and welcome to the City’s first e-newsletter. The newsletter, which we intend to publish quarterly, is part of our effort to connect with our community by sharing timely information about the City’s ongoing work, successes and challenges. The past year has been a busy one, with a focus on fiscal sustainability and increasing efficiencies while preserving our core services to the community.
Across the City, we have been actively seeking and embracing new technologies to help us work smarter. For example, the Police Department implemented the nation’s first Police SmartPhone application to provide the latest safety information and launched a groundbreaking predictive policing model to assist our officers in targeting crime hot spots. Further, in September, the City joined the social networking world by launching a Facebook and Twitter presence. The City was selected to participate in the prestigious Code for America program (discussed in the newsletter) to enhance our business web portal and lower the barrier to entry for small businesses. Finally, the Library system is hard at work to transition from an antiquated computer system to a contemporary one that will increase services to library patrons.
Unquestionably, the economic downturn has taken its toll on the City and our local businesses. Recognizing that local businesses help sustain the economy, provide good jobs and bring revenue to the City, the City Council recently adopted a fee reduction for our Downtown businesses. The incentive program should help retain existing businesses and fill commercial vacancies Downtown.
Finally, I am particularly proud of the fact that during these historically tough economic times the City stands on solid financial ground. In an era of municipal bankruptcies, mass layoffs and service reductions to the public, the City continues to maintain a responsible General Fund balance and creditworthiness. We weathered an $8 million dollar gap in FY 2012, thanks in large part to employee concessions totaling $5 million. Through these efforts, the City’s has maintained a strong AA rating (Standard and Poor’s). While the City may have further reductions to make, our swift response to the Recession allows us to be deliberate in our future choices.
Please take a moment to read through the newsletter articles, which give a flavor of many other important services and projects underway in the City. I hope that you find the newsletter informative, and please share it with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. As ever, we welcome your comments and questions.