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November 26, 2020

Tony’s Thoughts: Watsonville staff finally gets it

An updated version of Measure G—the half-cent public safety sales tax passed by voters in 2014—will be on Watsonville residents’ ballots next year.

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The new measure, which is still unnamed at the moment, has the same spirit as Measure G. Its goal is to provide a boost to the city’s police and fire departments that would otherwise struggle to meet Watsonville’s high demands.

But there’s one big difference in the new measure that has caught my eye: 8 percent of the funds will go toward the city’s Parks and Community Services department to fund safe spaces for young people.

According to numbers provided by city staff at the Oct. 8 Watsonville City Council meeting, Measure G raises roughly $4 million per year. That would mean the Parks and Community Services department would have an extra $320,000 to play with—pardon the pun.

If that money is used correctly, it could be a game-changer for Watsonville and its young people.

I’m an optimist. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

I get that from my mom, who told me it’s the only way to treat people. It usually means I often get burned by folks with cruel or deceptive intentions—thanks, mom.

That happened on Wednesday night in the moments before I covered the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency meeting at the Watsonville Civic Plaza. As I was leaving my car on the top floor of the parking structure, a group of kids on bikes and skateboards made their way toward me.

One of the kids, who could not have been older than 14, asked if I had $5. I asked him why he needed the money.

“I want to get something to eat,” the kid said.

I believed him, but I hardly ever carry cash. So I said, “sorry, I would take you somewhere and buy you some food if I didn’t have to cover this meeting.”

The kid said OK and the group moved along…or so I thought it did. 

When I returned to my car after the meeting there were several things scribbled into the accumulated dust on my rear window, including giant male genitalia and references to gangs—one made me laugh way more than the other.

I’m sure those kids will never read this, but if by some off chance they do, I want them to know that I’m not mad at them. Do I wish they were at home doing their homework? Of course. But they’re kids, and I was once in their shoes dealing with the same problems: there’s nowhere to go and not much to do for young people in Watsonville

This is in no way an attack on what the Parks and Community Services department is doing at the moment. On the contrary, this is an endorsement in what that department has done, and what it plans to do in the near future with Ramsay Park, pending some grant funding.

It’s also not an attack on Watsonville’s police or fire departments, which, in my opinion, have two good leaders in David Honda and Rudy Lopez Sr., respectively.

I’m also not asking you to vote for the new measure when it appears on your ballot. I have no right to tell you what to do with your money.

This is simply an acknowledgment that Watsonville’s staff finally has the right mindset. The only way to change a city’s culture is to start with young people—an effort Watsonville’s fire and police departments have already started with Measure G funds.

Is 8 percent of that $4 million enough to solve all the problems? No way. But it’s a good start.

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Contact Managing Editor Tony Nuñez at [email protected] or 761-7353.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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