Today our country is facing a set of economic challenges that are making local matters worse. The exporting of our manufacturing economy, our dependence on high-priced foreign oil, the mortgage and foreclosure crisis, and the huge cost of waging war in Iraq have created some of the greatest economic challenges in a generation. This requires us to do everything we can locally to blunt the harm and capitalize on our assets.
Calaveras County has a wealth of natural and human resources. However, the median income of some District 2 communities is among the lowest in the Central Sierra. Our challenge is to develop a thriving, sustainable economy without destroying the beauty of our region. Some in politics try to pit one part of our community against another on subjects like forest practices, growth, economic development, etc. Controversy and antagonism create political gridlock and ultimately keep our communities from reaching their full potential.
In addition lack of adequate sewer and water systems in places like Valley Springs and San Andreas has thwarted our ability to grow our economy. History has given us over a dozen small water and sewer agencies, none of which can meet local water and sewer needs alone.
There is a better way.
- Calaveras County and District 2 should have a thriving, diversified, resilient, and sustainable local economy, supported by open community dialogue, consensus building, and a common vision.
First, county government should facilitate dialogue among all elements of our community. Community forums and public hearings should be the Board of Supervisorsí stock in trade. Mediating disputes, rather than inflaming them, will help foster solutions and create new possibilities and priorities.
Calaveras County leaders should:
- Invest in infrastructure that can properly serve a thriving economy. Roads, water, and sewer systems must be adequate to handle the service requirements of business. We must seek cooperative solutions that can provide infrastructure where it is needed and at reasonable cost
- Provide greater support to small businesses and local entrepreneurs within a broad county economic plan that should be reflected in a county general plan economic element.
- Designate appropriate areas for commercial and light industrial development. Provide incentives to attract businesses compatible with local sensibilities that will provide family-wage jobs.
- Hold an Economic Summit in 2008 that includes all parties.
- Include an economic element in the new county general plan.
- Adopt policies that would give advantage to enterprises that agree to hire locally and procure supplies, services, and materials from local vendors.†
- Ensure that economic development reflects community values, not outside MegaCorp economic interests.
- Encourage agriculture and agriculture-based tourism as well as ecotourism and history-based tourism. The Calaveras Grown effort to promote in-county, value-added farm products deserves county support.
- Shelve the boom-bust cycle that began with the Gold Rush and continues today with clear-cutting, in favor of sustainable economic practices. If we donít, the long-term result will be fewer jobs, depleted resources, and weakened communities.†
- Give high priorities to schools and libraries in our economic plan. Education is a critical element in creating a positive business climate. Good business requires a smart, skilled, educated workforce. Businesses coming to new locations often list the quality of local education as a top factor.
- Ensure our countyís land use policies and practices do not repulse the very people we are trying to attract. If tourism, recreation and services are to be major parts of our economy, we need to maintain and enhance the qualities that attract visitors. Avoid burying the genuine charm and spirit of our towns, farms, and ranches beneath a sea of Wal-Marts, clear-cut forests, and poorly planned suburban developments.
- Applaud and support community renewal programs, such as the CHIPS†Project. District 2 median incomes are low and unemployment rates are high. We can pull ourselves out of regional recession, but it will take leadership, supportive government, and community action to do it.
- Create an environment that provides real jobs for our young people. Youth job training is critical. If our young people have no skills and no work, our communities cannot prosper. Sustain high school elective programs, such as auto repair, agriculture, wood shop, welding, Regional Occupation Program medical, and law internships. Support youth job training efforts such as the West Point Fire Districtís intern program and the training and placement work of Mother Lode Job Training.
- Build on new successes such as the Sierra Century bike ride, which came to District 2 for the first time last year.