GT looks ahead at likely key local issues for 2013
The last half of 2012 seemed to revolve around the election. Before that, the year kicked off with the SmartMeter saga still in full swing, and Occupy Santa Cruz stealing headlines. What will be this year’s equivalent? For one thing, we will have transportation projects under way (Rail Trail, Highway 1), and continued struggles with unemployment, hunger and other symptoms of a struggling economy. But here are three issues that we suspect will unfold in particularly interesting ways in 2013.
HOMELESSNESS: Although homelessness is a perennial issue in Santa Cruz, community concern about it has peaks and valleys. The latter half of 2012 was one of those peaks: uproar intensified after two homicides in 2012 involved homeless people (the death of a homeless man at the hands of a group of other homeless campers, and the murder of business owner Shannon Collins by a transient). Potential answers to homelessness were discussed at a Creating Smart Solutions to Homelessness Summit, and put into practice with the implementation of the 180/180 project (which pushes for permanent supportive housing), the third annual Project Homeless Connect, and the growth of other, more grassroots efforts, like those by the Association of Faith Communities. In 2013, we’ll see what sort of impacts these various efforts are having, but also if any new solutions, perhaps more aimed at the roots, will spring up as a result of the community’s plea for change. The 2013 Santa Cruz County Homeless Survey & Census will certainly shed light (and useful data) on the subject.
CRIME: As GT reported in the Dec. 27 issue, the Santa Cruz Police Department had a record number of calls for service in 2012 (more than 100,000), and crime was up 6 percent in the city. Although robbery, aggravated assault and burglaries were down in 2012, there was a 46 percent increase in auto theft and a 9 percent increase in larceny, according to the department’s last Uniform Crime Report.
This year might be when we, as a community, start looking more seriously at the intersections of crime, drug use and homelessness—where they overlap and fuel one another, where they don’t, and what could curb the trends. Community action groups, from smaller neighborhood watch efforts to clean-up crews to more vocal entities, like Take Back Santa Cruz, mobilized like never before around these issues in 2012, raising their voices even louder as the year drew to a close. Concerned residents crowded a Dec. 17 Public Safety Committee meeting, as well as previous city council meetings. The momentum is such that we can count on it rolling over into 2013, and perhaps gelling into something tangible being done.
WATER: Thanks to Measure P and the Santa Cruz City Council’s earlier move to put desalination in the hands of voters, 2014—when desal could land on a ballot in the spring or fall regularly scheduled elections—might be the big year for the issue. But, in the meantime, 2013 promises to be chock full of new information worth paying attention to. If the project moves past the Draft EIR and citizens (not just in Santa Cruz, but probably also in all areas that would be affected by the desalination plant) do get to vote on it, 2013 could be the year to really study up on the decision. There are two forthcoming documents, in particular, that could sway things: The first is the scwd2 desalination plant Draft EIR, which is slated to be finished in March (although it wouldn’t be surprising if it gets delayed further). The second is the City of Santa Cruz’s Habitat Conservation Plan, which will be the culmination of a long negotiation with state and federal fisheries agencies over how much water must be left in local streams in order to protect endangered fish species.
Other water points of interest on the horizon:
1. An in-depth study of potential water transfers between neighboring districts, conducted by County Water Resources Division Director John Ricker, is due to be completed in March.
2. The city’s conservation potential will be laid out in its baseline conservation plan, which should be released early this year.
3. The city will embark on its next water conservation plan this year, which will present a roadmap for the next 10 years of conservation.
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