Last week’s La Bahia decision was met with widespread disappointment.  The proposed luxury hotel was destined to save the day, right up until the last minute when the plans were rejected by just one vote (the now-notorious Mark Stone) leaving many up in arms.  While I’m the first to advocate questioning authority, in this case the Coastal Commission, I am concerned that the Bahia expectations were a tad over-reaching. Since none of us has information disclosing the financial status of similar properties, the Dream Inn for example, how could we possibly be so certain of Bahia success and the long term positive impact on our local economy, upon which we were so fervently counting?

Shop LocalHaving just checked the Dream Inn online reservation availability, I learned that this neighboring 4-star beachfront hotel is not sold out.  They have rooms available now, next weekend and the following weekend as well.  It’s August in Santa Cruz.  For a seasonal hotel, this situation has got to be disconcerting.  The Dream Inn is a Joie de Vivre property.  Having read JdV CEO Chip Conley’s compelling “Peak”, this means impeccably planned and managed by some of the industry’s best and brightest.   Due to location, competition and perhaps without the level of expertise, La Bahia was less than certain of the instant success it was being billed as.

To be clear, I’m not assuming the property would fail, nor am I discounting the magnitude of the loss, a sentiment with which I’m all too familiar.  Like the time when well into my second-trimester I was managing the San Jose Committee to Defeat George Bush during the 2004 election campaign.  Steadfast and undeterred by even the most ardent of naysayers, I led the charge with my baby belly
through 4 months of intense, grassroots fundraising, only to end up in front of
the TV at Chaminade on election night watching it all go up in smoke.

And then again after becoming a small business owner.  There I was, with three employees looking to me to keep things afloat, when our biggest vendor, accountable for 30% of our business, sent notice that they we were shut off because we were too small and they were consolidating suppliers.  So the super-popular core product of my business would still be available, but only through my competitors.   And there was no similar-attribute replacement.

Crushed, I had no choice but to recover and make some alternative decisions.  But at least this time, unlike with the ill-fated Bush debacle, I had that option.  My point for anyone with the stamina to read long enough to get to it is, a city is a business.  Where one path to recovery/profitability closes, there are alternatives to explore that sometimes turn out for the better.  The City of Santa Cruz needs to
do some research, identify some key value propositions, determine which potential revenue stream to pursue based on a cost benefit analysis, and invest in a
strategy to make it happen.

And in Santa Cruz options abound.  With our abundance of small farms and
vintners for example, Agri-tourism is a new and growing sector of the travel industry that Santa Cruz could easily capitalize on.  Is it possible to connect
the dots to create a compelling marketing story, update the Travel and Visitor site to compellingly convey this message and invest in a PR and marketing campaign that would bring in more tourism dollars?  Or maybe to revisit current visitor campaigns and potentially revitalize them with a strong social media program?  Seems so.

On the other hand it’s also possible that no new strategies may be added, no alternatives income streams pursued.  Yet even then, all is not lost, because as individuals we have the power to personally initiate change.  It’s not
a mysterious process either.  One concrete way we can begin to effect measurable economic change is by altering the way we distribute our money – which organizations we  support.

When we make it a point to shop locally, as in Santa Cruz owned and operated, an extra 20% of every dollar spent stays in our local economy.  Although I’ve attempted to garner the numbers from several sources unsuccessfully, I’ve no doubt the potential for additional revenue is significant.  So don’t wait for politicos to solve our problems, make it a point to buy from local grocers, support our local banks and credit unions and keep it within our community whenever possible.

And if you want to extend your reach even further, tell other people what you’re up to, send them information about how this simple action can help our community directly.  I was so inspired to talk with Kyle Thiermann, 21-year old surfer and activist, who took local living advocacy to a new level with his video campaign.  This initiative was responsible for catalyzing $340 million dollars of lending power out of centralized banks into local banks and credit unions, reaching people throughout North America, South America, Africa and Europe.

But the good news for most of  us, especially time-crunched parents, is that you don’t have to quit your day job or ignore your kids.  Just making it a habit to support locally owned and operated business is a wonderful first step on the path to economic freedom.  Because at the end of the day, regardless of which initiatives the Coastal Commission, or even Congress for that matter, decides to pass, it all starts with you, exercising your power by voting with your dollars (so pass it on)!  And start today!

In positivity,

Elizabeth