Author: Minerva Perez

For disconnected youth, job prospects dim

Central Valley communities have the highest percentage of youth in the state who are not working and not in school, according to a recent report. Advocates in the afflicted counties say there is a way to help these so-called “disconnected youth” by building a council specifically aimed to address their needs.

Bridging the health gap may start with building trust

Health care professionals, policymakers and African American women recently gathered in Merced to share their views on the social and racial barriers that keep women of color from being active participants in their own health care and to develop strategies that will improve the health outcomes of all African American women in the county.

Prison reform comes to Merced when jails are already full

Merced County sees the October realignment of state prisoners into county supervision as a chance to try something different in their approach to crime prevention. “Evidence-based practices show the more you do with lower-risk offenders the more damage you do,” said Scott Ball, chief probation officer and chair of the committee overseeing AB 109, the legislation mandating a historic shift in managing people convicted of non-violent crimes.

Merced seeks to improve public transit options for seniors

California’s population is getting older, and advocates say seniors will be unable to easily remain mobile, active and independent if policymakers don’t make public transportation a priority. In the Central Valley town of Merced, seniors are already feeling the pinch of too few options.

Summer sees counties using tools from GIS to goats to reduce wildfire risk

Last year, the Merced City fire department colored in maps by hand to identify potential fire hazards from owners who don’t clear their property of weeds during the dry season. This year, the department is putting away the colored pencils and starting to gather GIS data. The city of Merced is joining counties across California that use GIS to track properties that don’t meet weed abatement requirements. The maps let fire departments get a jumpstart on intervention when owners don’t act to protect property from the ever-present threat of summer wildfires.

Teens talk to their town about sugary drinks

Childhood obesity is a big problem in Merced. A group of local teens are doling out a dose of reality about the link between sugary drinks and obesity to parents and children—and talking about a proposed remedy. The teen group wants to educate locals about a soda tax introduced in the assembly this February.

Bringing sidewalks to Merced

Pioneer Elementary School in Merced has two pedestrian pathways for kids who walk to school: one’s a paved sidewalk and the other is a strip of gravel on the side of the road. A local organization is trying to bring more sidewalks to pedestrian-heavy areas like the elementary school with GIS mapping, but ongoing efforts to improve Merced’s walkability might be cut short by budget shortfalls.

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