One of the most challenging issues for my office in 2019 was the reduction of recycling services in the San Lorenzo Valley and the loss of California Redemption Value (CRV) centers throughout the 5th District. While we have advocated for a legislative fix to the state recycling law, we also now have a local proposal designed to create relief for residents and retailers alike.
On January 14, the Board of Supervisors will consider a contract amendment with Grey Bears, our recycling provider at the County’s Ben Lomond Transfer Station, to offer CRV there as a pilot project for six months. While we are still working out details, including hours of operation, we hope the program’s existence will exempt retailers in the San Lorenzo Valley from a state requirement to provide CRV onsite, which is onerous and can lead to expensive fines if ignored.
Low-income residents have suffered from a lack of places to return cans and bottles for redemption since the County closed CRV in July at the Transfer Station, as well as satellite sites in Felton and Boulder Creek. Not long after, RePlanet closed its CRV operation in Santa Cruz, thus leaving only private operators in Watsonville and over the hill as the closest CRV options.
We are grateful Grey Bears and the Department of Public Works have worked together on a new plan to offer CRV, and I am optimistic that, pending initial Board approval, we can extend the services beyond the pilot period. I also will continue to work on our County’s legislative agenda and with the California State Association of Counties to push for changes in state law to address the global recycling market collapse and impractical CRV rules.
Also, on January 14, the Board of Supervisors will consider a request from me and Supervisor Ryan Coonerty to oppose a revised proposal made directly to the state by the Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County (HRC) to distribute syringes to intravenous drug users. Supervisor Coonerty and I joined our local law enforcement leaders in opposing HRC’s original proposal in April 2019 because of poor public outreach about potential distribution sites – including near Covered Bridge Park in Felton – as well as the fact that we already have a robust County-authorized syringe services program.
We hope for unanimous support from our colleagues on the Board to oppose state approval of the HRC proposal, which takes away local oversight of syringe distribution at a time when the opioid epidemic rages on and community groups pick up thousands of improperly discarded needles each year. I was pleased with the Board’s unanimous support of my motion on December 10 to limit our County’s secondary exchange – when someone collects and returns syringes on behalf of others – at 300 per visit from a previous limit of nearly 1,000 per visit.
Let me be clear that syringe exchange is a critical method of reducing the spread of disease among IV drug users, and I am glad our “one-for-one” program takes in more dirty needles than clean ones distributed each year. But the reality is that we must bring our services, which far exceed nearby counties in number, into better balance amid our massive drug addiction and needle litter problems.
As we look toward another busy year in 2020, here are a few other positive developments:
Created through my office, Monterey Bay Community Power will grow beyond its original three-county bounds to become one of California’s largest community-choice energy agencies. Service will begin in January to the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, and in early 2021 to other cities in San Luis Obispo County, as well as Santa Barbara County and several of its cities. Community Power also recently launched a $7 million fund for local businesses and property owners to access EV charging stations.
The Felton Library and Discovery Park are on track to open in early 2020, and the Boulder Creek Library will undergo renovations funded by Measure S and community contributions that helped us exceed a $100,000 matching challenge from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation.
I look forward to serving you in 2020, and as always invite you to contact me at email@example.com or 831-454-2200 with your questions and concerns.