With a few months under our belt in the new fiscal year, I’d like to reflect upon recent accomplishments and challenges and opportunities in the coming year for the City of Santa Cruz. The past year was truly one-of-a-kind: we welcomed the Santa Cruz Warriors to town, oversaw an improving and expanding local economy and launched public safety initiatives to enhance our quality of life. And, the tragedy of February 26, 2012 shook us to the core. With heavy hearts and immeasurable sadness we said goodbye as a community to our beloved officers Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler. The subsequent outpouring of support clearly demonstrated our commitment to each other and collective resiliency.
Fundamentally, the response to the tragedy shows that our community is strong and determined. Together, we are tackling our tough issues head on. Together, we are focused on measures that will improve our way of life. It is with this thought in mind that I look forward to 2014 and making progress on our major strategic initiatives.
Commitment to Public Safety
– Reflecting our community’s values and desires, City Council and staff are firmly committed to keeping Santa Cruz safe and clean. In the FY 2014 Budget, City Council committed additional investments in campsite cleanups, public trash cans and restrooms, park rangers and an incentive program to fill vacant police officer positions. However, more needs to be done, and that is why we are working with community members on the Public Safety Citizen Task Force to develop effective solutions to persistent safety concerns. Recommendations from this body are expected in early December.
– The Santa Cruz “startup” culture is blossoming and attracting national attention. New technologies and companies regularly emerge here in Santa Cruz. From tech firms to natural foods to outdoor sporting industries, Santa Cruz continues to produce market moving ideas. We want to make it easier for those businesses to get up and running and remain successful here, which is why we launched OpenCounter, an online portal for new businesses, and enhanced communications with existing businesses to learn how we can improve local conditions for our business community.
Balanced Budget and Infrastructure Investments
– The City’s financial position continues to stabilize in tandem with the local economy. While uncertainty about sustained growth lingers, I am very proud of the fact that we maintained a balanced budget, while increasing our investment into critical infrastructure projects, including energy efficient upgrades at our Wastewater Plant, increased street paving efforts (using recycled material), and new fitness offerings in our parks, Levee and West Cliff. In the coming months, we as a community will explore our water supply issues and develop a set of solutions to ensure future water demands are met.
Throughout this year, I hope to hear from you. Public engagement and participation is a strong indicator of a successful City. Based on recent participation in public meetings and forums as well as the growing pool of talented volunteers engaged in civic projects, I am confident that we will succeed. Please contact me to share your ideas, thoughts, concerns and solutions. To learn more about our City, link to the full Annual Report