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CAO's Newsletter - June 14, 2018

Dear County Staff,

As part of our quarterly staff newsletter, I wanted to write to congratulate you all on the 2018-19 Proposed Budget. The new budget is an extension of the work we began last year to make the budget more accessible, transparent and user-friendly. You will often hear that a budget is an extension of our collective values. I believe that is true not only in the choices we make within the document, but in how we present those choices to the public. I commend you all for a job well done.

Primarily due to one-time reductions, the 2018-19 Proposed Budget reduces overall spending while allowing us to continue maintaining quality public services. In addition to continuing key initiatives such as storm recovery, homeless coordination and an expansion of health care and mental health services for vulnerable residents, it also begins to set aside funds to pay for deferred maintenance on county facilities and technology infrastructure. I believe it is important to give our employees adequate workspaces along with the tools necessary to perform their tasks at the highest level, and we are beginning to move in that direction. And with the country about to surpass the longest economic recovery in modern U.S. history, we continue to build up reserves to protect ourselves against the inevitable economic downturn.

As we head into budget hearings with the Board, you will begin to hear more about the work we plan in the upcoming year, as well as more about our planned transition to a two-year budget cycle. For those who haven't seen it, the Proposed Budget now also includes additional features such as community profile maps and county trivia. An interactive budget tool can be accessed at

I am also pleased to announce the completion of our proposed Strategic Plan! Thank you to Assistant County Administrative Officer Nicole Coburn and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee for leading this effort. Hundreds of staff and thousands of residents participated in this process, and the enthusiasm within the county and community is evident.

Our shared Vision and Mission, as well as Values and Focus Areas, will guide us as we work to improve County services and the lives of our residents. Within each focus area are four Goals, which are listed below. Our next steps will be to put the Strategic Plan into action through an Operational Plan and performance measurement.


"Santa Cruz County is a healthy, safe and more affordable community that is culturally diverse, economically inclusive and environmentally vibrant."


"An open and responsive government, the County of Santa Cruz delivers quality, data-driven services that strengthen our community and enhance opportunity."


The County of Santa Cruz provides services and supports partnerships built on:

Accountability   Collaboration     Compassion      

Effectiveness     Innovation          Respect               

Support                Transparency     Trust

Our draft Focus Areas and Goals are:

Comprehensive Health & Safety

HEALTH EQUITY | Promote a safe and healthy community that nurtures body and mind across all ages and social conditions.         

COMMUNITY SUPPORT | Provide access to food and basic support through integrated health care and social services.             

LOCAL JUSTICE | Increase public safety through practices, partnerships and transformative opportunities that respect victims and reduce recidivism.

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH | Support residents and lessen community impacts through reduced stigma and increased access to integrated mental health, substance use disorder, and health care services.

Attainable Housing

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | Partner to develop affordable housing, lower barriers to housing solutions, and access new funding sources.             

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT | Sustain and rejuvenate communities by integrating places to live, work and play.               

LOCAL INVENTORY | Increase and diversify housing options through smart growth programs, adaptive reuse and innovation.

HOMELESSNESS | Expand services to reduce homelessness and increase housing stability.

Reliable Transportation

REGIONAL MOBILITY | Improve road infrastructure and intra-county connectivity, and enhance commuting solutions.           

COMMUNITY MOBILITY | Grow alternative transportation networks, and lower barriers to mobility.

LOCAL ROADS | Upgrade pavement conditions and road safety for everyone.

PUBLIC TRANSIT | Work to enhance functionality and promote use of public transit.

Dynamic Economy

REGIONAL WORKFORCE | Create opportunities to develop a quality workforce and increase family-wage jobs in support of the regional economy.

COMMUNITY VITALITY | Stimulate vibrant and inclusive economies offering robust shopping, dining, cultural and gathering spaces.

LOCAL BUSINESSES | Strengthen and retain small businesses and key sectors through innovation, flexibility and technology.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY | Support partnerships that promote early learning, higher education, and vocational and lifelong studies.

Sustainable Environment

OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE | Ensure access to and enhance experience in parks, open spaces, water areas and outdoor activities.

NATURAL RESOURCES| Protect and restore natural resources, including water, air, forests, coastline and agricultural lands.

LOCAL CONSERVATION | Support and strengthen efforts for clean air and water, conservation, renewable energy, recycling and reuse.       

CLIMATE CHANGE | Increase resilience to climate change impacts, including sea-level rise and changing weather patterns.

County Operational Excellence

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE | Provide our customers with equitable access to efficient, effective and culturally responsive services.      

COUNTY WORKFORCE | Attract, grow and retain a diverse, engaged and high-performing County workforce that reflects our community.

COUNTY INFRASTRUCTURE | Maximize and responsibly maintain County assets in support of community goals.

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT | Embrace innovation and continuous improvement to optimize County operations and maintain fiscal stability.

These Focus Areas and Goals reflect your collective input. Thank you again for helping our successful strategic planning efforts. If you would like to see a copy of the Plan, go to

I wanted to wrap up with a couple quick notes.

At the direction of the Board, last year the Planning Department began reimagining how we processed and approved accessory dwelling units, which can be a critical tool in addressing the local Housing Crisis (and meeting our Strategic Plan goals). Led by Kathy Molloy and Paia Levine (and the now-departed Sarah Neuse), the team put together an outreach toolkit making it easier for residents to understand the changes and learn more about how their property might be eligible for ADU construction. The toolkit includes an overview of regulations, a cost and cash flow estimator, guides and FAQs about design, construction and financing and more. It also allows property owners to instantaneously search their own property to see if it is eligible for an ADU. It can be explored at Outreach can be a critical component of any programmatic changes and helping the public understand more about how the county is working on their behalf. Please join me in congratulating them on a job well done.

You may have noticed the red electric JUMP bikes around the City of Santa Cruz. County employees at 701 Ocean may wish to use these bikes as well, with a rack located along River Street on the far side of the County Courthouse. To rent a JUMP bike, download the “JUMP bikes” app on your mobile device and set up an account. To unlock a bike, enter your account number and pin. Bikes can be returned to any JUMP bike location.

Lastly, many of you know I have hired a new Deputy CAO, Matt Machado, who will oversee Public Works. As part of Matt's duties, he will also be looking at the possibility of consolidating responsibilities now shared by several offices in order to better serve the public. Matt's first day was June 4. Please join me in welcoming Matt to the County family.


Carlos J. Palacios