Making plans is a sure sign of maturity. As is setting a course for the future. It’s true in personal life goals, and in a city’s overall mission.
That being true, several developments last week indicate the city of Santa Maria is growing up, fast.
City Council members heard reports on the use of Measure U funds, and finalized a list of priorities, a blueprint for city officials to guide the community into the future.
We’ll dispense with the mildly alarming news first — the city is spending more for scheduled programs and services than Measure U is producing in tax revenues.
Voters approved Measure U in 2012, authorizing a quarter-cent sales tax add-on. The original purpose of the tax increase was to better finance public safety agency operations, for which more than 90 percent of the tax revenues have been used in the last two fiscal periods.
That part of the plan is working perfectly. The snag is that rising employee costs are eating up more of the Measure U dollars than anticipated.
But the city may have an out. The Enos Ranch commercial center is slowly coming online, and tax revenues from the businesses there could offset the red-ink trend in Measure U funding.
City officials are taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping the regional shopping center will draw shoppers from around the Central Coast, perhaps offsetting the growing deficit in the Measure U fund.
The better news is that the City Council affirmed its priorities strategy outlined in workshops last month. There are two lists, or tiers of priorities.
The so-named “essential priorities” include pursuit of economic development and higher-paying jobs; making progress in developing the core downtown area and implementing the Downtown Specific Plan; and planning and developing the South Broadway area.
The main feature in tier-2 is reducing youth and gang violence. At first we had a problem with the council agreeing to move gang violence into a lower-priority category, but when you consider what the city has accomplished on that issue in the past two years, the switch makes more sense.
Another tier-2 priority for the coming year is to develop an annexation strategy to provide more available land for economic development, housing, medical facilities and educational institutions.
That is sure to be a topic of conversation in the coming years, because a lot of folks like Santa Maria just the way it is. They won’t be shy about voicing their opinions at council meetings.
Growth is inevitable, and city staff and City Council members deserve credit for acknowledging that fact, and taking steps to have a map for future city leaders to follow.
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when it seemed like California was going to develop into one long strip mall, interrupted only by multi-lane freeways. And that’s what happened in some communities, mostly in Southern California.
When that image began to emerge, Californians realized that was not the best future for them and their families. Urban planning became a focal point, and the planning focused more on quality of life than potential for profit.
The profits still have to be factored in, but not at the total expense of quality of life. Most people realize California is a veritable paradise, or at least it should be, given its geographical wonders.
So, communities having a solid plan for development has become the norm — and that’s exactly what Santa Maria’s leaders are providing.
Have ideas about what Santa Maria should be? Speak up.