Things Are Getting Better Thanks to Your Tax Dollars

Your tax dollars really are at work.

PUBLISHED MAY 25, 2024 1:16 P.M.
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New garbage and recycling receptacles! A new raised path through the rainy-season swamp!

New garbage and recycling receptacles! A new raised path through the rainy-season swamp!   Chris Neklason contributed

One of the pleasures of my job these days is monitoring the daily publication of articles from 119 different newsrooms and a couple dozen other sources—such as blogs and email newsletters— that cover our current 10-county area of operations. 

This unique perspective makes it possible to observe patterns in the reporting of local events across the state, such as the observation that municipalities and nonprofits are devoting ever more resources to resilience, or that California is beginning to experience a homebuilding boom.

The thing that’s standing out lately is that things are getting better all the time. 

What We’re Seeing

It struck me one day in March while on a walk in Santa Cruz, where I live. My wife and I went over to Lighthouse Field, a 38-acre mostly undeveloped parcel on the Monterey Bay, which we used to jokingly call “the most beautiful vacant lot in California.” (Saved from development of a hotel convention center in the 70's and taken over by the City of Santa Cruz in 1978 and later the State of California, it had since mostly existed in a state of benign neglect.)

That day on our walk, there was a new network of compacted clay paths being installed, along with several new benches and garbage cans. Fallen trees were being cleared, and dense thickets of Monterey cypress thinned. Suddenly the vacant lot was becoming a park. 

The same thing is happening all across the state as people unite around projects to make things a little better.

Such as new facilities for skaters in Truckee, Colfax, Nevada City, Grass Valley and Pacific Grove

Or new bike and pedestrian paths in El Dorado Hills, Woodland, Pollack PinesSilicon Valley, as well as the beloved and always controversial Rail Trail in Santa Cruz.   

Or new or upgraded parks in Salinas, Cupertino, Woodland, Knights Landing, Santa Cruz County, El Dorado Hills, Capitola, Mountain View and Rancho Cordova. The addition of new public restrooms at four public parks in Palo Alto will be especially appreciated.

And who can throw shade at the planting of trees in Watsonville, Manteca, and Woodland?

These are but a few examples of small and large projects in communities across the state making things a little better. The news is filled with them.

How to Get Involved

A good way to start getting involved is to get up to date on efforts already underway by tracking local civic agendas. Your city council or county board of supervisors consider projects and funding for community betterment all the time. You can find them on your Calfornia Local County Overvew page by clicking "Governments" in the nav bar. Call them, send an email or show up at a meeting to find out what’s going on and show your support.

Or, join a nonprofit that's working on something that you care about in your community. Many libraries work with partner “Friends of” nonprofit organizations supporting their mission. Many city and county parks systems also have local “Friends of” support nonprofits, such as my personal favorite, the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Join other “Friends” groups supporting something good in your community.

If you want to build something new in your community which nobody else is working on, like a bicycle pump track or skate park or inclusive playground:

  • Talk to your city council or county supervisor. If you want to get a community benefit project publicly funded, you need an elected representative to get it on the agenda. They and their staff are ready to hear your plan, answer your questions and help.
  • Join forces with an aligned nonprofit group and be ready to go out and fundraise.
  • Talk to someone who’s already done what you want to do, maybe in another city or town. They’ll probably be happy to share their experience.

Things are incrementally getting better in your community. Join the folks making it happen.

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