Q&A with … Norma Santiago, El Dorado County supervisor
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – It’s been said there’s a “granite curtain” dividing the El Dorado County portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
But not so, says El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who took time from a slew of board, committee and commission memberships to talk about the state of the basin and the county with the Tribune earlier this month.
With the county facing another round of cuts to fill a budget deficit in June, reinvigorating the east and west “bookends” of El Dorado County will be key to restoring the area’s economic health, Santiago said.
Streamlining policy and procedures will be an important part of the county’s role in that restoration, Santiago said.
Here’s what else she said:
On the county’s budget…
“Our midyear review looks pretty good. Our projected deficit is not as bad as we had anticipated. We have been very proactive in making cuts ahead of time – we made some initial cuts in November. Some of the reports on the projected revenues coming in, while not stellar, are not as bad as we thought they were going to be. So, we’re looking at a deficit for 11-12 of a little bit over $3 million which prepares us now for the next step, which is in June, when we start holding budget hearings.”
On whether there are projected cuts that would hit the South Shore particularly hard…
“Not at this point. I think that what we are going to be seeing a lot of is really evaluating the areas of law enforcement. I think that human services has essentially taken as much as it can. Like I was describing yesterday, if cut – even health services as well – there are some places that if you cut you end up paying for at the other end. So, it’s going to interesting to see where those cuts are going to be coming from and whether there’s a way that we can pool our resources, whether it be in law enforcement or in the department of transportation. Those are two of our bigger (departments), obviously law enforcement makes up over 60 percent of our budget. To look at some streamlining of some processes there to save some money there, while I can’t say anything, because I don’t know what’s going to come from the state either and that could definitely impact South Lake Tahoe. That’ll impact the entire county, but we’ll see what happens.”
Could we be laying off active deputies…
“I don’t know, quite frankly, I don’t know whether it’s looking at cutting deputies or better utilization of the staff we have, O.K.? Or maybe looking at the structure, are we a little too top heavy versus having more deputies actually out in the field? Those are the kinds of things that we’re looking at. And the new sheriff and the new undersheriff are the ones that are going to be looking at that to make a recommendation to the board.”
On what the county can do about unemployment…
“Government, essentially, has to get out of the way or, better yet, be a partner with the private sector to help generate interest in capital investment in a particular area. So, of course we want to attract new businesses, but we also have a responsibility to look at our current businesses, you know, what services, what resources”’ you might need to stay here or to expand. As the county supervisor I think it is our responsibility to work with those sectors to let them know what resources are out there for them, particularly when you’re talking about small businesses and access to capital because there is an entrepreneurial drive, a huge entrepreneurial force, in El Dorado County that we should be addressing and looking at because those small entrepreneurs could be the large companies of the future particularly in light of all the kinds of innovation that our coming. So, what can we do for unemployment? We have to look at our policy, streamlining process, regulatory reform, making sure that our business have access to resources that they need, whether it’s helping build a business plan or getting access to capital. Do you have that information? There are many agencies that we as board members sit on, we sit on boards of several agencies that can give you access to those resources.”
On what will keep the Lake Tahoe Prosperity Plan from sitting on the shelf…
“That’s a very good question and I’m going to be a little bit self-centered in my answer: I’m not going to allow that to happen. I will not allow that to happen. I made that commitment to everybody in the steering committee. It’s not going to happen, it is driven by people who are long-term residents of this basin. They aren’t going to let it happen either. We are going to be taking advantage of every opportunity we can because it is not going to be a plan that’s going to sit on the shelf. We can’t afford it to sit on the shelf. Thirty percent or more of our population is living at poverty level. That is unacceptable to me and that is unacceptable to all of the electeds that are represented in the basin. We’re just not going to allow it to happen. That’s the bottom line, we have no choice, it has to happen. There is not an obstacle in front of us that I cannot see us overcoming, that’s how serious it is. It is a plan that is going to help, from El Dorado County’s standpoint, when you talk about the bookends for El Dorado County, that is going to bring the county back to the generation of revenues that it generated in the past.”