During the Legislature’s summer recess, I spent a lot of time talking to people around the 12th Senate District (keep reading below for some of my notes from the road), and I was reminded yet again that, in addition to ensuring the safety of our communities, our top priority in Sacramento must be job creation and economic growth. In fact, unemployment in July ticked up to 12 percent, and the jobless rate in some parts of my district is as high as 40 percent.
To add to the bad news, we’re learning that our state’s revenues are already falling short of the projections laid out in the majority-vote budget passed earlier this summer. That means, just two months after the deal was inked, even deeper “trigger” cuts to education and human service programs could be on the way.
Now, more than ever before, we need to focus on getting our neighbors back to work, and that starts by making California a better place to do business. Only when businesses locate here and hire local workers will we start to the see the economic turnaround – as well as a more solid footing for our state budget – Californians expect, deserve and need.
As the State Legislature reconvenes to complete its business for the year, your insight and feedback will be vital as we continue discussing these topics. I hope you’ll visit my website at cannella.cssrc.us and share your thoughts with me on these issues. Together, I fully believe we can get our economy moving again.
On Friday, July 15, I hosted an informational hearing in Merced titled, “From Food to Rail: High-Speed Rail Impacts on Agriculture.” With the first section of California’s high-speed rail system proposed to be built right through the heart of our state’s most fertile agriculture region, it’s important that we fully understand the impact the project will have on this multibillion-dollar industry. The hearing offered an important opportunity for us to hear directly from both the High-Speed Rail Authority and from agriculture industry representatives about how this massive infrastructure project will affect agriculture – as well as how any negative impacts can be mitigated. The hearing included testimony from representatives of the Grain and Feed Association, Yosemite Farm Credit, American Farmland Trust Policy, Merced County Farm Bureau President as well as several Central Valley farmers.
During a meeting with water agency and agriculture industry leaders in Fresno, I had the opportunity to hear firsthand feedback about the challenges they’re experiencing due to California’s continuing water infrastructure challenges. Even though we’ve been blessed with abundant rain these last few years, the reality is that our state’s water infrastructure system was built three decades ago for a California population half the size of what it is today. If we’re going to continue providing Californians access to a safe, reliable water supply, then we must act quickly to fix our state’s outdated water system. That’s a big part of the reason why I support the water bond passed by the Legislature in 2009 and why I will continue to support efforts to ensure California can deliver water to the families, businesses and communities that need it most.
When I visited Hollister last month, I had the opportunity to tour the Vista Meadows Senior Apartments, an affordable-housing project supported in part by more than $3 million in redevelopment agency (RDA) funds. Vista Meadows is a project of South County Housing, a nonprofit community development corporation that aims to promote healthy, sustainable communities by supporting both affordable housing projects and neighborhood services. However, because redevelopment agencies were effectively dismantled as part of the budget deal, there’s a good chance the funds that have supported projects like this one will no longer be available for future affordable housing projects in Hollister and around the state. The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging this part of the budget – but there’s much that’s still up in the air with these agencies.
I spent a day in Salinas over the break meeting with local public safety officials to discuss issues relating to gang violence around Monterey County. In addition to going on a ridealong with a sergeant from Salinas Police Department’s Violence Suppression Unit, I also sat in on a meeting of the Monterey County Joint Gang Task Force. It provided a good firsthand look at the work these officials are doing to fight gang violence in a coordinated, comprehensive way. I’ve consistently said that protecting our streets and communities is a top priority, and I appreciated hearing their feedback and insight on what we can do to ensure a safer, more secure future for our children and grandchildren.
Serving the 12th Senate District: Sargis Merza
Back in December, I met 10-year-old Sargis Merza, a fourth-grader at Stockard Coffee Elementary School in Modesto. He was a resilient, positive kid, but I could tell the gigantic lumps on his body – called venous malformations – must have been extraordinarily uncomfortable. When I talked to his mom, I found out there was an opportunity for him to have surgery to help his condition – but that there was bureaucratic red tape holding up the process. Our office was able to look into Sargis’s case and keep it moving through the California Children’s Services system. As a result, Sargis was able to have surgery last month in Boston! He’s certainly got a long road ahead of him, so I hope you’ll keep him and his family in your prayers, but I’m so glad my staff and I were able to be part of his journey to recovery.
Salinas One Stop Center to Retain EDD Services
With thousands of people in Salinas and across Monterey County facing unemployment in this tough economy, it’s critically important that our state agencies be available and accessible to serve and support our neighbors who are looking for work. That’s why I was so glad the Employment Development Department heeded the concerns outlined in the letter I signed asking the department not to terminate its services at the Salinas One Stop Center. As a result, I’m pleased to report EDD will continue providing employment training and counseling services to the local community.
This week, I was honored to join Sen. Blakeslee in recognizing Brittany Slaton of Hollister as Miss Rodeo California 2011. In this role, Brittany has the honor and responsibility of promoting the professional sport of rodeo around California and of representing our state at rodeos and equestrian events all across the country. In addition to being an accomplished horsewoman, Brittany is also involved with the local 4-H Club and with Salinas Circle for Children, an organization that supports children with special needs. Young women like Brittany are California’s future leaders, and I was pleased to recognize her many contributions to the local community, the 12th Senate district and the professional rodeo industry.
San Benito Superior Court House Bond Sale
I’m pleased to report that a lease-revenue bond sale has been tentatively scheduled for this fall for the San Benito County Superior Courthouse in Hollister. In short, this means that the $36 million project would finally be able to award a construction contract and break ground to replace an aging, inadequate court facility – bringing much-needed jobs and economic relief to the region. In May, I sent a letter to State Treasurer Bill Lockyer asking him to begin selling these bonds so that this important project could move forward (the previously scheduled bond sale was cancelled late last year), and I’m thrilled to hear this project will soon be back on track.