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As we head into summer, all of us need a little sunshine, literally and figuratively. This spring tested our resolve in ways we couldn’t have foreseen, but it also presented new opportunities to work together for the greater good of our community.

During the past few weeks, we experienced the tragic loss of young and talented public servants. Branciforte Fire District Capt. Peder McElroy, 48, died May 30 and was honored during a memorial service two weeks later for his 22 years of service and many years as a devoted family man. Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was killed in the line of duty June 6, leaving behind a young family and colleagues who admired him greatly. We honored him June 17 during a service at Cabrillo College that was attended by public safety personnel from across California. On that very day, San Mateo-Santa Cruz CalFire Capt. David Lutz, 33, died in an off-duty hiking accident near Big Sur. He is remembered as a brave firefighter and wonderful father, who like Sgt. Gutzwiller, had a baby on the way.

And on June 15, Allison Endert, 43, an analyst for Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, was fatally struck by a car in Santa Cruz, where she had served many years as a Gault Elementary parent leader. A mother of two, Allison worked hard for District 3, helping to create the County’s Nurse-Family Partnership and complete infrastructure improvements at Twin Lakes Beach, where we hope to place a future memorial in her honor.  

                        Design – Make this a call out

Memorial funds have been established as follows:

All of this has taken place amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we are now in our fourth month of combatting. While at first Santa Cruz County excelled at keeping infection rates low due to early adoption of shelter-in-place and social distancing measures, we are now seeing a sharp but expected increase in cases as we follow state guidelines for opening our economy to include restaurants, retail, beaches and other activities. There is a delicate balance to be struck between reducing harm for public health and reducing unemployment and other hardships caused by the closures. A true test of our resilience will be whether we can adequately manage the surge in severe cases and whether our community continues to follow requirements for distancing and face coverings. Learn more at santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus.

The July 4 holiday is a time we look forward to celebrating with family and friends, perhaps by attending parades. While we cannot safely gather in big numbers this year, we can certainly join the Boulder Creek and Scotts Valley virtual parades at https://www.facebook.com/events/2581589065387002/ and https://www.facebook.com/Scotts-Valley-4th-of-July-Celebration-1514400992197418/.

  

Before the Board of Supervisors takes its annual break in July, we will adopt the 2020-2021 budget June 30. However, the $878 million budget is just a placeholder until a fuller impact of COVID-19 is clear in August, at which time we also hope to know more about state and federal support. On Tuesday, the Board will consider furloughs of county employees to cut costs amid historic losses in revenues that fund critical public services.

There are bright spots: The County stands to receive $28 million from Congress’s CARES Act for COVID-19 expenses. And because our lodging, restaurant and retail sectors opened sooner than anticipated, we have adjusted our initial estimates of tax losses.

Lastly, we have other successes to share: The return of California Redemption Value (CRV) services at the Ben Lomond Transfer Station and the growth of Monterey Bay Community Power. From early February to mid-May, the CRV program run by Grey Bears collected 107,000 pounds of material and pumped $78,000 into the economy through redemption vouchers. Meanwhile, Monterey Bay Community Power, soon to be known as Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE), is expanding with a new name to accompany a larger geographical footprint. By 2021, CCCE will include 32 counties and cities, the broadest service area of any community choice energy agency in California, which since 2018 has offered 100% carbon free electricity at rates far below PG&E, saved customers $17.1 million, and allocated $5.5 million to local energy programs. Stay tuned in August for more details about CCCE’s future programs.

Bruce McPherson is the Fifth District Supervisor for Santa Cruz County and former California Secretary of State.

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