Our County by Efren Carrillo January 2012
As I write this on the last day of 2011, it is with gratitude for the crystal blue sky and brilliant morning, which will be enjoyed by many (while we hope for the rain needed to recharge our water supply). December is always a bittersweet time, as we pause to reflect on the triumphs and disappointments of the passing year, and lay plans to tackle the work and challenges ahead.
The past few weeks have been marked by the incredible generosity shown by our community toward their fellows in need…I got to witness this for a few hours spent ringing the bell and taking kettle donations for the Salvation Army in my neighborhood, and then as part of a large contingent of volunteers helping to serve dinner to needy families in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Guerneville. The capacity for giving in our communities is great…and, unfortunately, so is the need. The past few years have turned many lives upside down and inside out…and many people need assistance for the first time in their lives.
On Christmas Day, we read about Kevin Fitzgerald, the homeless man struck down by a car on 101. Here was a man who began life with brilliance and promise, and in his battle with mental illness ended up living on the streets. A good man, who scraped together a monthly donation to help children in Africa out of his meager disability check, whose seemingly unremarkable life left us all with humbling inspiration. He had great unmet needs of his own, but never lost his generous and charitable nature.
Redevelopment Cut Short
As we enter 2012, it is with the news that Redevelopment efforts in Roseland and the Russian River will be cut short by the State of California and a December 29th court decision that rejects our challenge to the governor’s bid to dissolve redevelopment agencies. A statewide effort by redevelopment agencies to contest the governor’s plan, and propose an alternate model for going forward (California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos) was summarily rejected by the court.
Hanging in the balance is a long awaited redevelopment effort in Roseland. This past year, our CDC secured ownership of Roseland Plaza, a blighted shopping center on Sebastopol Road, after a lengthy effort and protracted negotiations. The community has been working toward the goal of redeveloping this critical property, which connects to the Joe Rodota trail and the Roseland business and school community, for many years. The property has been purchased, community meetings held, excitement is high, and now the future of the project and funding is uncertain.
On the Russian River, redevelopment has been controversial. It paid for much needed work on the water system infrastructure, commercial district improvements, a new ambulance, and road improvements in small communities. Continuing evaluation of a much needed wastewater treatment solution for impacted communities along the Russian River is currently underway, and funding for the ultimate project will have to come from another source.
Willow Creek Restoration
On December 16th, officials from State Parks, Department of Fish and Game, NOAA, Trout Unlimited, Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), Public Works, Assemblyman Huffman, and our own Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods gathered to dedicate the new Willow Creek Bridge and fish passage.
Hats off to Michele Luna, Executive Director of Stewards, for her persistence and perseverance during the decade that it took to design and fund the much needed project! In a great example of agencies working together to solve a challenge, the bridge addresses road flooding which blocked access for residents while at the same time improving a high-value stream for Coho habitat. Willow Creek was identified by SCWA and National Marine Fisheries as a priority for funding, and it was an achievement that required collaboration, permitting, and funding from all of the above agencies to accomplish.
Moving into 2012
It has been my honor to serve Sonoma County as Chair of the Board of Supervisors during 2011. It was a year which brought new energy to the Board, with Supervisors Rabbitt and McGuire being sworn in last January. As we go forward dealing with the many challenges ahead, it will be in the same spirit of respect and team work which marked this past year. I look forward to facing 2012 working with my dynamic and committed colleagues, and the many talented public servants at the County of Sonoma.