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Our County by Efren Carrillo - June 2015


Our County by Efren Carrillo - June 2015

by Efren Carrillo

Quality preschool and child care have been identified as the top evidence based strategy for reducing long term disparities in health, education, and income across Sonoma County. (A Portrait of Sonoma County – 2014, Strategies to Reduce Poverty in Sonoma County) The Board of Supervisors’ Work Priorities for 2015 included direction to coordinate with community partners and provide access to preschool for all Sonoma County children. Of course, this will be a focus of the Board and our community partners for the long term, as there are multiple capacity and funding issues which will take time to address.

The alignment of this work plan goal with the County’s upstream investments philosophy of providing early intervention programs for our children and families early in order to build skills that will carry young people into productive adult lives makes solving the preschool dilemma a priority for future efforts.  It is common sense that early exposure to reading, writing, and language skills offers the best opportunity for school success.  

While there are state and federal programs that support preschool education for low income families (Head Start, California State Preschool Program), there has been a chronic lack of facilities for preschool programs.  Late in May, our Board moved to fund a grant program to address some of these facility needs.  By funding $655,000 in one time facility needs through First Five funds and general fund, we will receive funding from state and federal sources for $2.39 million each year for these programs.  It’s a common sense investment that is basically a no-brainer.  For the one- time cost of providing facilities, Sonoma County’s children gain annual funding for programs every year and our community benefits long term from the school success of these children.

For every $1 invested in preventative early intervention programs such as preschool education, studies show a return of $12-$18 in reduced future costs for criminal justice or social welfare programs.  This investment will be a first step in maintaining current program levels, and our next steps will include an effort to expand programs countywide toward the goal of providing this opportunity for all children in Sonoma County.  Once accomplished, universal preschool will be one of the most impactful initiatives of our lifetime.

There’s a new energy efficiency program coming to Sonoma County.  Beginning in July, Rising Sun Energy – a Berkeley based non-profit – will be providing free energy services for Sonoma County residents.  The really cool thing about Rising Sun is that their staff is made up young people – age 15-22 - who receive training in the energy assessment field.  They provide no-cost energy assessments, solar assessments for homeowners, and will install energy efficiency measures to your home, whether you are an owner or renter.

Some of the energy efficiency installations that are provided are LED or fluorescent lighting, water saving shower heads and aerators for kitchen and bathroom sinks, water pipe insulation, retractable clothes lines, LED night lights and power strips.  They will also collect e-waste and will properly dispose of power cords, old batteries and unused electronic items.  

Rising Sun Energy has been successfully conducting this type of outreach, education, and assessment for over a decade in bay area counties, and is funded by PG&E, CPUC, and water utilities as well as the County of Sonoma.

While we are in a record drought, it’s good to highlight some of the efforts that are being made to conserve water in Sonoma County.  Regional Parks utilized the natural springs at Spring Lake this year, allowing the time needed for the springs to fill much of the swimming lagoon.  This measure saved roughly 2.5 million gallons of municipal water that has been used in prior years.  Parks also has launched an educational campaign requesting limits on water use while bathing and tending RVs and boats at campgrounds.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is leading an effort to capture juvenile salmon and steelhead to prevent loss of life with dropping stream levels this spring.  University of California Cooperative Extension and California Sea Grant fisheries biologists are assisting with fish rescue operations by scouting streams, mapping information about fish numbers, and assisting with the relocation of endangered and threatened juvenile salmon and steelhead.