Sonoma County Update by Efren Carrillo
2011 brought the winds of change to the County of Sonoma. Our first Board meeting of the year saw the swearing in of two new representatives on our Board, Supervisors Mike McGuire and David Rabbitt. Also sworn in with great excitement were our new District Attorney, Jill Ravitch (a Fifth District resident from Sebastopol), Sheriff Steve Freitas, County Counsel, Bruce Goldstein along with re-elected veterans Treasurer/Tax Collector Rod Dole, and Clerk/Recorder/Assessor Janice Atkinson. The newly elected officials replaced seasoned officials who have given many years of their lives to public service.
Change can be invigorating, and in this case, it couldn’t come at a better time. We face unprecedented deficits in the coming months. Incoming Board members bring new energy to our office and we will need all of their ideas and enthusiasm to deal with our upcoming budget challenges. Their honeymoon period has already ended with our budget workshop on the 25th. We received a grim view of the hard work that lies ahead.
Crisis creates opportunity. While we look to the realities of our current situation, from a fresh vantage point, opportunities will be explored and undertaken. We’ve spent the past two years doing more with less, making painful cuts and we are not done. It will be necessary to reevaluate what is essential and explore how technology can be harnessed for increased efficiencies. The County will be embarking on a major redesign, and a major down-sizing. The result will be a new “normal”, because “the way things were” simply is not sustainable in our current economy.
We’ve already begun evaluating budget year 2011-12, and how to deliver service needs with funding shortages. Still to be revealed is the bite that the state may take out of our revenues. Redevelopment projects…for our District in both Roseland and the Russian River…are under threat. Some projects have been fast tracked and money committed at our Board meeting on January 18th. This should allow us to still undertake projects that we’ve invested years in planning and community effort to realize. There is some hope that Redevelopment agencies will continue, but that is incredibly uncertain for the moment.
On January 18th, the Directors of the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), which is another hat that the Board of Supervisors wears, held a well attended evening workshop on the Estuary Management Project EIR at the Jenner Community Club. There was a full house, and many people participated in the hearing and commented for the record on the Estuary project, which will change the way that the Water Agency manages the mouth of the Russian River at Jenner. The EIR is available at the SCWA website or the Guerneville Public Library. Public comment in written form will be accepted at the Agency until 5pm on February 14th.
Sonoma County is hosting its first ever Food Forum on February 24th at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This effort is co-hosted by the Department of Health, Board of Supervisors, UC Davis Cooperative Extension, and the Sonoma County Food System Alliance. Exploring ways to improve access and aid production of local affordable sustainable foods has been identified as a top priority to improving health in underserved communities. Initiatives being explored are wider uses of public lands for crop production, and creative methods of providing access. Two great, local examples of this are the Bayer Farm in Roseland with its large community gardens and the acceptance of electronic CalFresh cards (formerly food stamps) at local Farmer’s Markets.
The Sonoma County Humane Society is winding down its wildly successful feline spay neuter program. For $30, you can have your cat vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and microchipped! This is an incredible deal, and the Humane Society’s goal is to treat 4,000 cats during the event period. Sponsored by VIP Petcare Services (a local Windsor success story), along with the Humane Society, County of Sonoma, and Forgotten Felines-the event will run through February. Please call 800-427-7973 to arrange an appointment for your kitty or neighborhood stray.
Finally, the County of Sonoma has produced its first Annual Report. This new effort is part of our ongoing commitment to make County government more accessible and transparent, and we hope that you find it useful. Obtain a copy by calling our office at 565-2241 or view it online at: http://www.co.sonoma.ca.us/cao/pdf/annual_county_report_2010.pdf