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Community United: A Proposal

A grassroots, citizen driven proposal for laying the groundwork to reinvigorate our community. Calling all voices.

I recently read the blog “Stand Up and Fight” by Paul Gutierrez. I recognize that not all are on board with his more vigilante style in further postings, but nonetheless, I was moved by his initial call to action. As a relatively new Watsonville resident, almost every time I’ve driven downtown I’ve thought, “there is so much beauty here!” The rich history, the classic buildings, it’s too bad there’s not more to do here. It’s too bad when most people hear Watsonville, they primarily think about the gang activity and not the rich history, quaint downtown or productive farm land.     

Last year, I attended a conference focused on sustainable farming called “EcoFarm.” At the conference, I learned about a town called Hardwick, in Vermont. This small town went from vacant buildings and an empty main street after the local industry collapsed, to a thriving local community.  They did this through a commitment to their town, and to each other, connecting around locally and sustainably grow food. In a New York Times article entitled “Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town” , a nearby resident was quoted as saying “I’ve never seen such a cooperative effort.”  Granted, a grassroots local food movement would not necessary solve the gang problems in Watsonville, however, the overall idea of a citizen driven, cooperative effort to reinvigorate a problem town, hits home.  

The more I thought about it, the more I started to believe that we could apply a similar concept to Watsonville, or at least borrow some of their ideas.  Let’s start with a vision of how we would like things to be (I’m speaking for myself, but guessing most folks are interested in a similar vision). Watsonville... a culturally diverse town with a rich history.  One that has a main street full of locally owned, mom and pop shops. In the evenings, you can find neighborhood gatherings, outdoor movies and tourists wandering the safe streets, investing in our diverse community.  A town with a sense of place and purpose, actively securing it’s future.  

What would we need to bring this vision to light? Here are a few ideas borrowed from the citizens of Hardwick...

Start a nonprofit. A nonprofit with a mission to invigorate the community and support it’s citizens. The individuals on the board (10 seems reasonable), would serve a set term, but not too long so many community members would have the opportunity to serve as board members. Board members are elected based on their commitment and skills they can offer—rather than by how much money they have and who they know. These board members would represent the community of Watsonville—diverse in ethnicity, gender, age, etc. Like the Patch, the nonprofit can serve as a means to connect community members. The nonprofit can elicit donations, and look for investors.  Community members could then apply for funds to help them launch their small, local business. 

In Hardwick, the residents personally helped to ensure the success of a new restaurant, who in return agreed to support the local farmers and artisan producers. A CSR was started, a spin off of the popular concept, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in which members buy-in at the beginning of the season and are guaranteed a weekly delivery of fresh produce. In the case of Claire’s restaurant in Hardwick, community members purchased a $1000 CSR (Community Supported Restaurant) coupon in cash or contribution of a product worth the same amount. The coupon purchasers are entitled to $25 worth of food for 10 monthly visits per year for four years, totaling $1000. Community members share in the risk of the restaurant’s success, and in turn, the restaurant pledges to support the neighboring producers. Granted, it wouldn’t have to be a $1000 contribution, but the concept of a CSR seems like a good one to me, and has proven to be successful in Hardwick, and other communities around the country.        

Could something like this happen in Watsonville? Why not?! Recently in the Patch, I saw an article about remembering old favorite restaurants.  What if residents actively exercised the power of their dollar in order to help start up and sustain a restaurant that could be employed and enjoyed by local residents, with the guarantee that the restaurant would help support local agricultural and artisan producers?  

If such a nonprofit existed, they could have a website, social media, etc. that would keep residents informed about the progress of such endeavors.  Also, it would serve as a forum for community members to interact (much as the Patch has done). Perhaps there is a beach clean-up, or a potluck to educate folks about neighborhood watch. In Santa Cruz, progressive concepts like the “Time Bank” are allowing residents to trade their time rather than their dollars. Perhaps community members could pledge a certain number of volunteer hours, which could be matched in funds by a local donor. Whatever it may be, this community-focused information could be found in one place.  

My hope is that this blog can launch a respectful conversation and result in actions that will better our community. No, these ideas may not speak to the depth of the gang problmes, however, building a strong community seems like a good place to start. I have no doubt that someone will find fault with something I said, however, if we do our best to stay focused on a solution, perhaps we can truly make a change.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paul Gutierrez September 21, 2012 at 11:12 PM
If this is what you would like to be a part I you can come to the meeting tomorrow at 7. I own a non profit that has raise millions for charities around the world. We can go over how we can out your ideas into motion and figure out what can be done and what programs you would like to see started and we can begin doing something positive. I applaud you.
Watzon McWats September 22, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Right on Amy! I agree with most all of what you've said. I've lived in SC county for a while now, butam still a somewhat new resident of Watsonville. There are many aspects of this area that I absolutely love, but I often find myself looking around at the resources and wondering why we as a community aren't doing much with them. One can't help but look at sucess of simmilar towns and scratch their head.
David H. Perez September 22, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Amy, I am completely behind your idea as well, and I am looking for a good opportunity to become a do-er rather than just a complainer. Watsonville needs to come up with a more clear definition of the term "diversity", however.
HizDesign September 22, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Agreed David :) How about a regular old dictionary definition: "variety; a range of different things; assortment; array" Hehe I love definitions...:)
Amy September 22, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Hi all. I'm hosting a first day of fall event and won't be around today or this evening. David, I agree about the generic use of the term "diversity." I've been loosely following the comments on Paul's last post. Imagine if all of the negative energy spinning through many of those posts was directed at something positive rather than each other? I'd like to find a neutral Watsonville location to hold a community meeting in a few weeks. This would give us time to spread the word to willing community members, and allow us to better shape ideas and an agenda. I can work on finding a date and location, and then post a blog with the details.
Carlos Itzcuintli September 22, 2012 at 09:17 PM
"Imagine if all of the negative energy spinning through many of those posts was directed at something positive rather than each other?" The main negativity its the article itself.
HizDesign September 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM
There is nothing negative about people wanting to improve their city, restore integrity AND honor where it has been lost or set aside, & see criminals and/or lawbreakers pay for their poor choices. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Kate Gomez September 22, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Carlos makes a good point, why does Watsonville need to change? Most of us like it just the way it is. The problem I see is all the trouble makes trying to make it like some kind of american dream city which it will never be, it has always been and will always be a Hispanic city of and for Hispanics.
HizDesign September 22, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Kate? ' it has always been and will always be a Hispanic city of and for Hispanics.' Oops...you're stepping into real time discrimination here... might want to rethink your words.
Kate Gomez September 22, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Discrimination on Hispanics has been going on for hundreds of years in this town. We built this town while working at near slave wages after being forced to work here. Now we have grown strong and now we set the rules. We like Watsonville as it is (if we could get rid of the trouble makes that want to restore the old colonial rule system) and plan on keeping that way.
David H. Perez September 23, 2012 at 12:01 AM
@Kate Gomez - Kate, you sound like an intelligent person and are a good writer, but think about your reasoning. Yes, it is a given that Hispanics, and a lot of other ethnic groups, have been the victims of discrimination and racism since this country began, and there is still plenty of discrimination. You and I are on the same page there. Geez, look at all of the people who can't wait to get our Black president out of office. But doesn't making statements like, ". . . it has always been and will always be a Hispanic city of and for Hispanics" make you sound as racist as others who think this should be a White society? My mother always taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. I hear Latino activists in this area often use the terms "diversity" and "unity." Shouldn't the concept of diversity value EVERYONE in the community, not just Hispanics? And shouldn't the concept of unity encompass every single individual in the community regardless of their background? I really think by using the ideology you are expressing, you are cultivating the same kind of racism that you feel you have been the victim of. Mom said two wrongs don't make a right. I don't think that many of us who express our views on the Patch are trying to undermine the positive strides that Hispanics have made in this town. I just think ALL of us need to think about what the words "diversity" and "unity" really mean before we can make meaningful change. Fair enough?
Kate Gomez September 23, 2012 at 12:28 AM
No, not fair. What is fair when we get our just due, payback some would call it. Why should we have nothing while the 1% have 99% of the wealth? It's time that we took what is ours from them. We have been on the short end of the race stick for hundreds of years and now it's time to create a new order. Diversity may be tolerated to a point and unity is for the brown races but it is time that we take back this country for the 99%
David H. Perez September 23, 2012 at 01:00 AM
@Kate Gomez - Oh, come on Kate! The 1% are no more all White than are the 99% are all Hispanic. Give me a break! You and I would be in a lot more agreement if everything with you wasn't about race. I don't think we are talking about a RACE issue as much as we are talking about a CLASS issue. I am half Hispanic and half White, my wife is all White, and neither us nor anyone in our families are part of the 1%. Believe me, nobody in our family is rich, and some of us are struggling. We are no different from you. I do not understand your idea that "diversity may be tolerated to a point." Wow, that makes YOU sound like the hater! And unity is only for the brown races??? Kate, I think you and I and everybody else are Earthlings and Human Beings and Homo Sapiens, and we are all from the same planet. That is what unity is all about. Nobody can undo the wrongs that have been done in the past, but creating new wrongs in retaliation does not make everything right. I sure hope you find a way in your heart and soul to give up your hatred and anger toward non-Hispanics, and re-define for yourself what diversity and unity really mean. Peace to you.

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