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It's more important than any one issue position, or the politician who holds that position: a shared vision. A shared vision will unite a community to solve problems and pursue opportunities. Such a vision should not just be a feel-good statement of hopes and dreams. It is a tool for reducing complexity and conflict, and coordinating the efforts of a multitude of independent actors towards a common goal.
My vision is of Salinas as a great city, one that provides what all great cities provide:
- An environment for economic growth
- A vibrant center of culture--the heart of the city.
In a great city, these three qualities work together in a "virtuous cycle": Safety attracts people and economic activity. Economic activity generates wealth, enables city services and supports culture. And culture gives energy and meaning to everything, attracts people and generates more economic activity. The good news is that we already know how to achieve success in all three areas.
My "blue book plan" for Salinas provides the roadmap for making the vision real, in all three key areas of Safety, Economic Opportunity and Culture.
The Safety element brings together the best practices in community safety from the most successful cities in the country. It recognizes that it takes an integrated, multi-dimensional approach to succeed. Such an approach includes not just "getting tough on crime", but prevention, intervention and enforcement, and involves the police, the government, business and the community.
The Economic Opportunity element can be summarized as the Silicon Valley meets the Salinas Valley. This does not mean that we pave over the Salinas Valley for chip and software companies. Rather, it means we create the same environment for innovation and entrepreneurship found in Silicon Valley, but targeted on industries such as biology and agriculture. It happens that biology and agriculture are the areas of greatest future economic growth, and it happens that Salinas is ideally situated to benefit from that growth--if we recognize the opportunity.
The Culture element begins with the multi-cultural power that we already have. Salinas has attracted a vibrant mix of cultures that share a commitment to strong families, moral values, the arts, equal opportunity and the value of hard work. No one who looks at our agricultural industry, our revitalized downtown, our artistic and literary heritage, or our churches and community groups should doubt the strength of this city's culture--the strength of its heart. But we can do more to make Salinas a welcoming, supportive environment for the creative people we have and the creative people we want to attract. We have already seen the value of cultural investments such as the Steinbeck Center and the Measure V campaign to save the libraries and other services. We can do more in this area, utilizing public-private partnerships, and reap further rewards.
Going Beyond Promises
We all know the problems that most concern residents of Salinas: crime, loss of businesses, lack of affordable housing, declines in city services, pressure on families.
The Safety element brings together the best practices in community safety from the most successful cities in the country...it takes an integrated, multi-dimensional approach to succeed.
And so it would be straightforward to put together a platform based simply on promises to somehow fix these problems piecemeal: "I'll crack down on crime; I'll be good for business; I'm for more housing, better services and healthy, happy families."
Unfortunately, such a platform would be as empty as those promises: The city simply doesn't have the resources to fix these problems--if it acts on its own, and tries to attack them one by one.
But if the community is united in a shared vision--and a plan to make it real--these problems are not just solvable, they can be turned into opportunities.