|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, May 10, 2004
Santa Cruz Sentinel 5-9-04
As We See It: Partnership between UC, city could be lucrative
The city of Santa Cruz faces major economic challenges well into the future, and it’s time for the city’s leaders to accept some of the help that’s being offered. At the annual UC Santa Cruz-Santa Cruz City Council meeting last week, acting Chancellor Martin Chemers came up with some innovative and tempting ideas for the city.
In the past, city thinking — at least the prevailing thought — has been simple: growth is bad. Any information coming from the university, or from the business community that focuses on more people and more services has been judged harshly.
But in these days of dwindling resources — both monetary and natural resources — it’s time for the City Council to look for ideas as to how to serve the people of Santa Cruz better.
City Manager Richard Wilson has described the city’s financial outlook as dismal, and has suggested that the city needs to find more income or face cutting services.
No one wants to see cuts, so it’s the new sources of revenue that are being sought.
Meanwhile, city workers have continued to agree to wage freezes as well as cutbacks. But they won’t stand for such limits for long. The city had better come up with some answers.
The problem is that some city leaders and a large number of constituents just won’t support the kind of growth that new business can bring.
Chemers, for his part, proposed some interesting ideas at last week’s meeting. Among them:
Offering the city to use part of the recently acquired Texas Instruments site for business development.
Allowing private developers to build housing on UCSC land for city residents who work as teachers, firefighters and the like.
Working with the city to improve transportation to the campus.
Providing land near Long Marine Lab on the Westside for a desalination
For many years, city leaders get elected by promising residents that they’ll be able to keep Santa Cruz the way it is, and by denying development that might be potentially lucrative. Now, with the wolf at the door and the city in deep financial trouble, that promise is becoming more irresponsible.
Another big part of city philosophy has been the theory — a dishonest and irresponsible one — that it’s possible to control growth by withholding services.
The best example of that is water. Today’s water supply is insufficient for the city except during years with plenty of rainfall. The last 10 years or so have been thankfully free of drought, but the next time there’s not enough rain, watch out.
City leaders have resisted attempts to develop new water sources. At this point, it’s clear that desalination is the city’s best choice, and leaders had better start convincing the electorate that utilizing ocean water is in everyone’s interest.
Alas, we’re not confident that they’ll do so. At last week’s meeting, City Councilman Mike Rotkin pointed out that desalination is meant to only be used in the case of a drought.
The reality is different. Desalination will probably be needed in many years, and it’s time that city leaders concentrate on providing needed services, and not limit them in order to somehow control growth.
Same with development — both housing and new business. Santa Cruz needs to avoid becoming a community of only rich people, with normal people unable to get jobs or find housing. Curtailing services and new development can have a dire impact on community life.
Good planning practices and effective zoning can protect certain community resources. But the practice of limiting services and all new development should not be used as part of the planning process.
Chemers and UCSC have brought some interesting new ideas to light, and
we challenge the City Council to look toward the future with creativity
and imagination. Just maybe some of these ideas are worth pursuing.
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