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03.18.09

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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Santa Cruz wins top marks in wellbeing poll; Watsonville council mourns loss of colleague Dale Skillicorn and scurries to fill his seat.

Happy, So Happy

This just in, Santa Cruz--you are super fit and you love your job. Does that sound right?

Well, it should, according to the results of a Gallup poll of all 435 congressional districts on well-being. After surveying more than 350,000 Americans--that works out to about 804.5 people per district--with 42 super-sciencey questions like "Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?" and "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your job or the work you do?", the results released earlier this week rank the 17th congressional district first in "healthy behavior" and second in "work quality."

That means that things either truly kick ass around here, or the rest of the country is, like, seriously depressing. The top overall well-being score went to Anna Eshoo's District 14, which combines Palo Alto, Menlo Park and other hoity-toity hamlets on the peninsula with the residents of our own Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond and Felton, which--arguably--enjoy a very different lifestyle.

The broad trends uncovered in the survey showed that while people are generally "happier" in the Western part of the country, the good folks in the South are the most down in the mouth.

They also closed the book on that silly old "money can't buy happiness" adage, showing that the wealthiest districts have indeed been able to purchase self-fulfillment, while the poorest districts are the most unhappy.

The lowest well-being score went to the South Bronx. Insert this numerical data into a rap lyric and--pow! Instant street cred.

The survey will be generated over the next 25 years, to make absolutely, positively sure we know what we already know.

City Scrambles to Fill Skillicorn's Shoes

This past Monday was the first day back at work at the Watsonville Civic Plaza following the unexpected early-morning death of 71-year-old City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tempore Dale Skillicorn on Saturday,

March 14. Reports say he suffered an aortic aneurism. "Our staff is very shocked. They worked very closely with Dale," said City Manager Carlos Palacios. "It's a very quiet and reflective time around here."

But the business of running a city presses relentlessly on, and staff is already preparing to fill not only Skillicorn's District 7 seat, which he held for seven years, but also his important commission seats.

A special session of City Council has been called for Friday, March 20, at 6pm, wherein the council will decide to either appoint a replacement or hold a special election. The former option is more likely, and the council will have 30 days to choose from a pool of candidates who submit applications and undergo public interviews in the coming weeks.

According to Palacios, recent history has seen two appointments in the wake of councilmember resignations, including that of Judy Doering-Nielsen in 2006. A special election would drag the process out several months.

Skillicorn also sat on the board of some powerful committees as the representative of Watsonville, including the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments and the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District. The replacements will also be made by the City Council, and City Clerk Beatriz Flores said that a decision on those seats will likely be held until a regular council meeting, "unless the commissions say they need the appointments done right away."

Mayor Antonio Rivas said he is planning to recommend that already appointed alternates take Skillicorn's place if possible. That has rookie Councilmember Luis Alejo poised to take the AMBAG seat as well as a seat on the wastewater control board.

Councilmember Manuel Bersamin is Skillicorn's alternate on the Zone 7 Flood Control and Water Conservation District, while the Metro board has no alternates. "We'll have to ask the City Council members who wants to take over that position," said Rivas. "The main thing is, I'd like to wait until after the services for Mr. Skillicorn."

Rivas said that Skillicorn's absence will be felt well beyond the sphere of local government. He was also instrumental to several local causes, including the creation of green jobs in Watsonville and the preservation of the Redman House.

He was a powerful voice for Toys for Tots around the holidays. "He was a very caring man, always willing to give to the community beyond the duties of being a councilmember," said Rivas. "We're going to miss his input and his help."

The mayor hopes to call an additional special session of the council in order to honor Skillicorn for his achievements as soon as his family picks a date.


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