By ROBERT RICKMAN
Recently I had the honor to deliver the San Joaquin County State of the County address on the Grand Theatre stage - the crown jewel of my hometown of Tracy. I was able to share the County’s accomplishments and vision for the future, our economic outlook, and thank the employees, businesses, and residents.
The theme of my address was A Place to Thrive. This isn’t just a catchy phrase - I sincerely believe that San Joaquin County is among the most beautiful, innovative, productive and welcoming counties in California. And our future is bright.
While thankfully we emerged from the crisis of a global pandemic, the experience we endured has impacted each one of us. From lives lost, businesses forced to shutter, education was disrupted, isolation, uncertainty, and mental health challenges. But I believe that in times of adversity, we can and do become stronger, more connected and determined.
We all rose from uncertainty with true San Joaquin spirit and rebuilt, re-engaged, and reimagined what the future could hold.
I’d like to share some highlights that stand out.
Among the most important priorities of local government is delivering a balanced budget. In June, the Board of Supervisors approved a $2.59 billion budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, an increase of $370.8 million. This budget allows us to pay for critical and enhanced services and programs. In fact, Standard & Poor’s recently upgraded the County’s credit rating from A+ to AA-, demonstrating our commitment to fiscal responsibility.
A vital and growing economy is necessary to keep our County moving forward and innovating. We have continued to offer incentives to attract new employers and expanded the industrial, manufacturing, transportation sector and real estate market. Approximately 32 million square feet of new industrial space was constructed over the past five years, with about 10 million more under construction. Major employers like Tesla and Amazon have increased their footprints and added thousands of jobs, and Target is adding a 1.4 million square foot logistics center that will provide 2,500 jobs. The Port of Stockton had its second busiest year ever, Stockton Metropolitan Airport is expanding to attract new business and six major hotel brands are under development throughout the County.
This is personal and close to my heart. For close to 28 years, I’ve served as a state police officer/sergeant and have worked in every city in the County. In the past year, the DA’s Office has hired 20 new staff and increased the charging rate from 53 percent to 72 percent. The Board approved $2.2 million to establish the DA’s Fentanyl Intervention and Response Safety Team to fight the poison that is killing children and fueling the epidemic of addiction on our streets. And we committed more than $12 million to 16 fire districts to increase staffing ambulance dispatch centers, ambulances, watercraft, and training centers.
Homelessness is a humanitarian emergency for California. The Housing First model hasn’t worked, despite the billions of dollars the state has spent. Housing is just one component of the overall issue. People experience homelessness for a variety of reasons including substance dependence, serious mental illness, lack of resources and personal accountability. The Board has invested in diverse solutions, approving more than $200 million for countywide projects ranging from permanent supportive housing, emergency shelters, call response for service to the unhoused, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and enhanced care management. These investments will soon add over 700 new units of supportive housing and increase shelter capacity by 166 percent.
Protecting and managing our county waterways and natural resources is critical. During the storms of the past year, emergency responses from multiple County agencies were swift, which mitigated the adverse impacts significantly. The Office of Emergency Services activated their Emergency Operations Center working 24/7 to coordinate flood fight efforts. The Sheriff’s Office spent over 2,000 hours conducting evacuations and providing 24/7 security to protect homes and possessions. Public Works oversaw over $1.27 million in transportation infrastructure repairs, and we worked with federal and state agencies to maintain levees.
I can’t possibly recognize all the accomplishments of the past year and the people who made them happen, but collectively they make San Joaquin County a ‘Place to Thrive, one Where Greatness Grows.’ I am honored to serve you.
Robert Rickman represents Escalon, Mountain House, Ripon, Tracy and associated unincorporated areas on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in District 5 and currently serves as board chair. This article was submitted by Supervisor Rickman, highlighting his State of the County address. The full speech can be viewed at: https://www.sjgov.org/department/bos/soc.