I've heard that good New Year's resolutions must be attainable, and you need to have a plan. With this in mind, I've created a list of resolutions for our fair city. We can't wait for both political parties to develop common sense. We need to start right here, right now. Here are my New Year's resolutions for Sacramento.
1. Eat local. Our region’s agricultural production is valued at around $1.9 billion a year. We eat around $1.6 billion of food, but only 2 percent of what we eat is grown here. If we increased our local consumption to 5 percent, that would be an additional $48 million in local food sales. If we could put pressure on regional restaurants, school cafeterias and supermarkets to offer more food grown in the area, this simple change would create significantly more local jobs.
2. Make our homes and buildings energy efficient. We have more than a million buildings in our region. Almost all of them could and should become energy efficient or energy producing using solar or wind power. Now, with some innovative programs that are being developed by the city of Sacramento and the feds, we could simultaneously create thousands of jobs, reduce our energy consumption and support local green companies. This can be done by having property owners get an energy audit on their building. This determines which energy-conservation measures (skylights, insulation, heating and air-conditioning units) will pay for themselves with decreased energy usage. The energy savings pay for the loan payments, which are made to the bank or added to the property tax.
For property owners, it is a no-brainer. Since the monthly payment is covered by their energy savings, they save money. And they have a much nicer building that will become more valuable over time, especially if energy prices go up.
Energy conservation can create a lot of jobs. If 125,000 building owners spent an average of $4,000 on weatherization and energy-conservation measures, it would represent a $500 million jolt to our economy. And we might be able to avoid building an expensive new energy plant in the future.
3. Increase food-stamp (CalFresh) participation. Like Social Security, the federal government covers the cost of food stamps in addition to contributing 50 percent of the state’s administrative expenses. For various insane reasons, California has horrible food-stamp participation. Only about half of eligible Californians receive food stamps. For the Sacramento region, this represents roughly $225 million in lost aid. By copying protocols from other states such as Oregon, which has a 90 percent participation, we could change this. Increased aid would not only reduce hunger in our state, but it could help to jump-start our economy.
These three simple ideas could dramatically lower our unemployment rate, improve our environment and reduce hunger. Let’s start right here in Sacramento, right now, in 2013.