Two words describe the state of San Joaquin County – growth and progress. Jobs, our economy, infrastructure, homeownership, recreational opportunities, and our resident population are skyrocketing. Clearly, San Joaquin County is a special place to live, work and play.
Our Board-adopted strategic priorities – fiscal responsibility, good governance, public safety, economic development, and protecting our water and agriculture – contribute to our success.
Beginning with fiscal responsibility, we have adopted a structurally-balanced budget for four years in a row, and we retain S&P A+ and Moody’s AAA bond ratings. At my request, our Auditor-Controller is conducting a county-wide fee audit. This has already produced positive results – lowering fees, cutting red tape, providing better government, and increasing transparency.
Some of the budget issues we will soon address include increased costs related to labor negotiations, retirement contributions, cannabis regulations, homelessness initiatives, fighting CA WaterFix, and decreases in state and federal funding for some health programs.
Good governance is the heart of everything we do as public servants. Let me highlight a few examples of exceptional efforts to provide good governance in the County.
First, our Information Systems Department won the California County Information Services Directors Association 2017 Innovation Award because of their development of the Innovative Care for Adolescent Needs project.
Next, our Board-established Homelessness Task Force – including service providers, community-based organizations, law enforcement experts and policymakers – has worked collaboratively to initiate a Continuum of Care system addressing homelessness. The Board also hired a full-time program administrator to coordinate homelessness programs. The County is partnering with Ready to Work, a nonprofit corporation, to use vacant Honor Farm space for a transitional housing facility for men with a history of homelessness and infractions. The program will offer education, job skills training, substance abuse counseling, mental health treatment, interim housing and other homelessness-reduction services.
The County’s Phase 2 Acute Care Patient Wing Expansion Project at San Joaquin General Hospital is nearly 60 per cent complete – on time and on budget.
It’s no secret that I’m a supporter of our veterans. They deserve our lasting gratitude and support. The County has been advocating for nearly 10 years to locate and construct a Veterans Community Based Outpatient Clinic in San Joaquin County at French Camp. Groundbreaking is projected in 2019. It is imperative to get this clinic built on schedule so that Valley veterans no longer face an 80-mile drive to Palo Alto through extremely congested traffic to get the support they need.
Turning to public safety, the San Joaquin County Detention and Program Facility is a new capital project now underway to replace minimum-security Honor Farm barracks with 256 medium-security beds and program space. We expect construction to start in 2020.
Continued economic growth is one of our greatest achievements. San Joaquin County offers unique business attraction qualities – a large deep-water port, a freight-friendly airport, and access to a national trucking network and transcontinental rail lines. Add to that a robust workforce, nearby universities, ample industrial and commercial space, affordable housing, and a high quality of life, and it’s easy to see why Fortune 500 companies are locating here.
According to UOP’s Dr. Jeffrey Michael, “San Joaquin County has one of the fastest growing economies in California. Between 2013 and 2016, employment grew by 10 percent while population grew by 1.5 percent.” Companies like Amazon, FedEx and Medline are rapidly expanding in the County, occupying millions of square feet of commercial space and providing thousands of well-paying jobs for County residents. Our workforce earns an average income higher than the U.S. average and more than the average income of half the counties in California. Additionally, the County recently adopted a new Economic Development Incentives Policy to complement the regional business incentives guide. The guide can be found at www.sanjoaquinusa.org.
Concerning water and agriculture, the County has devoted significant time and resources to protecting the Delta and our world-class $2.3 billion agriculture industry that exports to 90 countries. We collaborate with the Delta Counties Coalition and numerous partners to advocate for cost-effective, common sense alternatives to the Twin Tunnels. These include increased storage, groundwater recharge, levee improvements, regional self-sufficiency, and desalination.
State officials must have the political courage to abandon the destructive WaterFix proposal and instead unite Californians around common-sense solutions that effectively meet our statewide water needs. It’s imperative that dam construction become part of the statewide water portfolio. Anything less is shortsighted and irresponsible.
Our greatest reward as a Board of Supervisors is helping our constituents thrive. San Joaquin County is a place where businesses prosper, where people are eager to visit, and where our children, grandchildren and residents are proud to call home. I look forward to working with our community partners and our citizens in the coming years to expand our growth and progress and continue our success.
Bob Elliott represents the Fifth District and currently serves as Chairman of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.