Saturday, January 4, 2020

Measure B (Education & Encouragement for Bike/Ped)

By now Santa Clara County’s Measure B Education & Encouragement (E&E) funding should not be a surprise to anyone that’s reading this blog.  These funds are meant to cover activities and the development and distribution of materials that are designed and intended to satisfy the following goals.  Educate, and/or encourage safe walking or bicycling for residents or visitors of every age and ability; communicate to residents and visitors the benefits of walking and bicycling; and communicate to school children, residents, and visitors the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.  When I was appointed to the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission (#GilroyBPAC) in 2017, the measure had just passed.  It quickly was challenged in the courts and the sales tax collected was held in escrow.  

The challenge was not successful and VTA’s Board of Directors earlier this year approved the budget for fiscal years 18/19/20/21.  Each city by now knows the exact amount of funding they can receive each year.  Both the funding agreements and template needed by the cities have been distributed to staff.  The template is then submitted for approval to the VTA and contains the Project Activities Description, Project Goals, and Proposed Evaluation Metrics.  Once approved you are ready to start your programs.  The funding to each City is based on population and the projection of sales tax.  The VTA Board sets it during their budget process.  It’s a use it or lose it funding program.  Sales tax can fluctuate as well.  What’s clear is the amount of funding approved for fiscal years 18/19/20/21.  I am going to share the experience that I have had in Gilroy and how we have chosen to implement the program.  

During our 2017 Gilroy BPAC Strategic Planning session we decided to focus on Safe Routes To School.  County Public Health was already in Gilroy working off a grant for our schools.  Measure B E&E quickly became a hot topic and the approximate funding of $32,000 annually was reported by Staff to us.  A dedicated funding source to continue the momentum created by our existing Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program was exciting and gets us on the path of sustainability.  We then reported to City Council at our annual presentation about the opportunity.  We continued to watch over the court challenge and waiting for the opportunity to hit the ground running when the time is right.  

At our June 2019 Gilroy BPAC meeting we had a presentation from Lauren Ledbetter, VTA.    Fiscal years 18/19/20/21 have been approved by the VTA Board earlier this year and are available for Gilroy.  We are getting $35,648/year and that gives us $142,592 available today to spend/plan on education & encouragement.  It’s important to get this program into the mid-year budget cycle, because it’s a use it or lose it program.  You need to provide written explanation to carry over funds over three years from a fiscal year.  We are currently in FY 20.  This started FY 18.  June 30, 2020 will be end of three year for FY 18.  I feel that we can do a great job sustaining the momentum we have while utilizing the savings we have built up from past fiscal years in Measure B.  Gilroy City Council approved the funding agreement with VTA in August 2019.  

We decided to keep Measure B E&E on our monthly agenda, now was the time to develop the programs.  For our September meeting our Gilroy BPAC drafted the first general work plan for Measure B E&E.  It was a broad stroke and we tried to cover everything our City has engaged in.  Our Gilroy BPAC drafts all of our documents ourselves and we don’t utilize staff time for any of them.  I contacted VTA with the approved work plan and asked if it needs to go into more specific details, and I was then told a template will be used for formal submission.  VTA also told me that the work plan needed to go deeper and separate into individual work plans.  City Staff reported to us that they had no plans for the funding and needed a “champion” to run the program.  They were at full capacity to manage a program.  After the meeting Vice-Chair Sean Reedy and myself began brainstorming and drafting work plans.  We always had in mind that while we wanted them to be Gilroy specific, they are written up to be used across the County for any city.  In talking with other BPAC’s and city’s we know, we quickly realized that no plans were being drafted.  We have the ability as BPAC’s to be the forward thinkers and plan.  Sometimes that’s not possible for City Staff.  The have to deal with what’s in hand at the moment.  Everyone was waiting around for the “template” before they moved forward.  By the October 2019 meeting we had drafted 6 work plans.  All can be found on our website and by searching Gilroy Bike Ped. 

Before we advocated for the work plans to City Council we met with Gilroy’s City Administrator and Director of Finance.  The City Administrator stated that since this is a program for the next 30 years, in order to sustain it, it needs to be entered into the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Mid-Year Budget as an amendment.  The Finance Director who reviewed the funding agreement and stated that it seemed to look straight forward, and no reason to believe that we shouldn't' be able to expense and then receive the funding back from VTA within 30 days.  This sounds correct to me as well because I believe if VTA were to make this more difficult, then cities probably wouldn't be bothering with the agreement for the amounts we are receiving.  At our December annual presentation to City Council we recapped the year and then focused on advocating for our work plans.  The advocacy has paid off.  This Jan/Feb during the Mid-Year Budget review the program will be introduced and will incorporate the Gilroy BPAC work plans for council review and approval.

So in passing along this information I propose the following questions to you.  Is your City ready to start spending Measure B E&E funds?  Have they signed the funding agreement?  Do they have work plans?  If you don’t know these answers, contact your local BPAC.  I am always available for questions as well. #GilroyBPAC @hoseman16

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Year in Review Safe Routes to School in Gilroy

During my daughters first few weeks in Transitional Kindergarten, I noticed the efforts of Walk & Roll Wednesday’s, a national program designed to promote traveling to school/work by walk, bike, skateboard, scooter, and more.  I thought it was great to see this, until I was told it was because parents over the past decades were choosing to drive their kids to school.  This has a huge side effect on public health, traffic, pollution, lack of mass transit users, and our kids independence.  That’s when I joined the City of Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission because I saw a lack of leadership in my community when it came to bike and ped.  I couldn’t agree more with Bill Gates when he stated, “I like to push the level of risk of doing things that wouldn’t happen without leadership and vision.”

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) had another successful year in Gilroy.  The Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission (#GilroyBPAC) along with Santa Clara County Public Health (SCCPHD) had its first successful year after the formation of the Safe Routes to School Task Force.  The task force will guide and sustain the program for the long term.  The funding agreement and submission template for VTA (who oversees Measure B funds) is fully executed. In order to receive reimbursements for E&E activities, the City Council will approve work plans created by Staff and the Gilroy BPAC during their Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Mid-Year Budget as an amendment.  Fiscal years 18/19/20/21 have been approved by the VTA Board and are available for Gilroy.  We are getting $35,648/year and that gives us $142,592 available today to spend on education & encouragement.   It’s important to get this program into the mid-year budget cycle, because it’s a use it or lose it program.  You need to provide written explanation to carry over funds over three years from a fiscal year.  We are currently in FY 20.  This started FY 18.  June 30, 2020 will be end of three year for FY 18.  I know that we can do a great job sustaining the momentum we have from our efforts and the public health safe routes to school grant ending, while utilizing the savings we have built up from past fiscal years in Measure B.

SRTS has huge economic benefits that spill over into the City when we stay local and play local.  When you engage the youth to walk and ride to school they become more comfortable with their streets, neighbors, and surroundings.  Suddenly walking and riding to Downtown, Hillside Adventure Park at Gilroy Gardens, Gilroy Library, House of Bagels, The Patio, and the Garlic City BMX’s Dirt Pump Track seem a lot quicker and easier than driving in your car.  Shifty Cycles will continue to offer free bike valet for Downtown’s Thursday Night Live.

The Specialized Foundation Outride program began last year at Ascencion Solorsano Middle School (ASMS).  This P.E. program was such a success that GUSD Superintendent Dr. Flores encouraged all the middle schools to apply for the grant. South Valley and Brownell Middle School were both awarded the grant too.

“Outride’s primary activities focus on three key areas: Primary scientific research, school-based cycling programs, and the creation of cycling communities. The aim is to increase accessibility to cycling through both fun and sustainable school cycling programs. And through these programs—along with the research—we're advancing the understanding of how riding bikes can help improve the social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of children, with a particular focus on those with learning differences like ADHD. Finally, through the Outride Fund, we are supporting opportunities for kids to continue to benefit from cycling by funding trail, race, and education projects”

Program’s like this start to take their own spin in the schools.  ASMS held its first bike schoolwide assembly in May 2019 during Bike Month!  Specialized Bicycle in Morgan Hill attended and featured a pro rider who spoke to the group about his journey.  Our GilroyBPAC spoke about bike/ped projects in Gilroy, and we got to hear about the newly formed South County Composite High School Mountain Bike Team.  You can find more information about the team on our section of the City’s website.  Before the assembly we were able to take two separate rides with the students off campus and through Christmas Hill Park on the paved and dirt trails.

Garlic City BMX is continuing to meet with the City regarding site evaluation for the construction of a dirt pump track at Christmas Hill Park, and they held their first fundraiser at Hecker Pass Winery.  The Gilroy BPAC PASSED the following motion at their regular meeting on September 24, 2019.  Gilroy BPAC “Recommend the City of Gilroy or Gilroy Gardens enter into an Agreement to Lease with Select Contracts for the Adventure Park Proposal” To date we have received over 200 emailed public comments to both the City Council and Bicycle Pedestrian Commission.  We currently have letters of support from Santa Clara County Parks, Garlic City BMX, Bike Therapy, and South County Composite Mountain Bike Team.  More will follow.  Bay Area Ridge Trail, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley Mountain Bikers, and Trailhead Cyclery have all spoken in public comment about their support.  15 people spoke in public comment in support of the project at our meeting.

The Adventure Park in Gilroy will be a positive project in the region for people that bike, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. It will provide a benefit to our local community and attract tourism to the city. The park would be an amazing resource for local high school mountain bike teams, mountain bike enthusiasts, new riders, hikers, and those who enjoy emerging trends in recreation. There is not another project like this in the region.  Gilroy is a Bicycle Friendly Community and the Adventure Park supports the 2018 Tourism in the Hecker Pass Corridor Resolution.  Having places like this that are open to public year-round in our parks support our efforts for biking to school and playing local.

SRTS summary reports for residential developments and bike/ped infrastructure reports are in the packets for Planning Commission and City Council now.  This is information for them to see what the strengths and weaknesses are for current infrastructure around proposed developments.  Look around the City for the new Bicycle Friendly Community signs being installed this month.

We encourage you to nominate kids/adults for our monthly award within Gilroy that strives to make Gilroy a better place in regards to biking and pedestrian activities.   Nomination form is on our website.  Come to one of our meetings on the 4th Tuesday of each month 6pm at the City Council Chambers, or email any of us.

The youth in our community will shape the future, but it’s up to us to show them the way.  If you are looking for ways to get involved in SRTS then look to the schools that need parent volunteers or contact us. #GilroyBPAC