Numerous new programs and policy directions were announced by Fletcher last night at his first State of the County Address
Last night, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher called the state of our county “resilient” while delivering his inaugural address from the County’s Emergency Medical Operations Center. Chair Fletcher declared that by coming together, “we are ready to rise” above the inequities that have hurt San Diegans not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but long before it.
“We don’t simply strive to get our lives back to normal. We want better than that,” Chair Fletcher said. “Our commitment is comprehensive action to make life fundamentally better for all...so tonight, let us resolve to continue our fight not only against the coronavirus, but against all the underlying conditions that have made this response so hard... we will always honor our commitment to the unincorporated communities...but we have an opportunity to do more.”
During the Address, Chair Fletcher delivered a progress report on the County’s response to the COVID-19 and emphasized the vaccine is our best path out of the pandemic. He then worked his way through a series of updates and new announcements about: equity and racial justice, the economy and working families, mental health and substance abuse, immigration, housing and homelessness, environmental justice and open space.
New Framework for Jail Healthcare
Last year Chair Fletcher challenged San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore on his plans to outsource healthcare services in County jails by advocating the County seek a new opportunity to take the services in-house in order to create a truly integrated system of care. During tonight’s Address, Chair Fletcher announced the two have reached an agreement on how to proceed.
“Earlier this week, Sheriff Bill Gore and I came to an agreement on a new framework for healthcare in our County jails,” said Chair Fletcher. “Sheriff Gore will put a stop to the expansions of outsourcing healthcare, and together, we will request a significant increase in the number of County public health nurses, mental health professionals and drug treatment providers in our County jails...I appreciate the Sheriffs’ collaboration. We share the same goal – treating people humanely and lowering recidivism. Now, we share the same plan.”
Workplace Fairness & Opportunity
Since taking office, Chair Fletcher has been fighting for worker rights and during tonight’s State of the County Address, he announced he will take on several efforts to ensure fairness for workers regarding their pay, going back to work after the pandemic and monitoring employer labor practices
“It is time our County government comes in line with other jurisdictions by adopting a living wage ordinance,” Chair Fletcher said. “I will also be bringing forward a measure on worker retention and recall. To make sure those who lost jobs due to the pandemic have a fair shot at getting them back when their businesses reopen.”
“This year, working with our District Attorney, we will launch a workplace justice initiative. To crack down on wage theft. To protect low-wage workers from exploitation,” the Chair continued. “And I will follow that up with a proposal to create the County’s first-ever Office of Labor Standards Enforcement because we can’t have a fair economic recovery if working people don’t get a fair shake.”
New Economic Opportunities
Since last year, Chair Fletcher has moved hundreds of millions in county, federal and philanthropic money to help small businesses, nonprofits and workers during the pandemic. During tonight’s address he reinforced his commitment by announcing he will work with Supervisor Joel Anderson on strategies to strengthen the economy. He also announced two new efforts to expand economic opportunity in the county.
“To create jobs and power our recovery, it’s time to bring San Diego’s film industry back,” Chair Fletcher said. “This year, I will propose the creation of a robust San Diego film office. Not just a commission, but a working office. Working with other regional governments, we will streamline and expedite permitting, make government-owned facilities accessible and easy to use, consolidate community services needed to make filming easy and aggressively target more opportunities.”
He continued: “We will join the call of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. to increase contracting with local businesses. Just a 5% increase could inject 75 million dollars more into our local economy.”
Taking Action on Behavioral Health
Chair Fletcher made Behavioral Health his top policy priority, and during tonight’s State of the County Address he highlighted several areas of to create a better way for delivering services and making more investments.
“Last year, we launched a $25 million Behavioral Health Impact Fund. Designed to jumpstart an expansion of critically needed care. In the coming weeks, I will announce its initial results, and when San Diego sees the impact it made, I know there will be demands to do more,” Chair Fletcher said
He also announced, “The County’s new Mobile Crisis Response Teams, begun as a pilot program in North County, are replacing cops with clinicians on behavioral health calls. It’s already delivering results by deescalating dangerous situations and providing treatment, not punishment, to people in crisis. I appreciate the work of our District Attorney in this effort. Over the coming year, we plan to take this innovative program countywide and fully integrate it into the 911 system.”
Chair Fletcher also wants to beef-up the behavioral health workforce in San Diego County, “There’s a steep shortage of essential mental health workers and to tackle this challenge, I’ll be convening the first of its kind San Diego County Behavioral Health Workforce Conference...Bringing together the heads of our major universities and community colleges to bring a new crop of behavioral health professionals to the frontlines of this fight. So we make real progress on behavioral health and create a pipeline for thousands of good-paying careers along the way.”
Community-based Naloxone Distribution
The County Board of Supervisors recently supported Chair Fletcher’s policy to abandon the long-failed War on Drugs and embrace Harm Reduction to address substance abuse. A 180 degree shift from the past. This evening he announced: “In the next week, we will issue a local Standing Order from Dr. Wooten, enabling community-based Naloxone to prevent opioid overdoses – with medication paid for by the State and distributed peer to peer — all through a County clearinghouse.”
Tackling Housing and Homelessness
Chair Fletcher when talking about homelessness tonight said, “We know supportive housing goes hand in hand with effective drug treatment, and in the coming months, I will unveil a proposal and location to make significant progress on both....these efforts will help reduce homelessness, but the creation of a new County Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities, which I’m announcing tonight is critical to streamlining San Diego’s regional response. This office will allow us to work more closely with local cities, in particular a renewed effort with Mayor Todd Gloria on maximizing available state and federal resources.”
Children and Families
During tonight’s address Chair Fletcher highlighted the importance of helping children and families thrive and said, “Key to strengthening families will be a transformative proposal I will bring forward to invest in a campus to support women who have been separated from their children due to addiction or incarceration. We want to try and stop separations, divert parents from jail and, if incarceration is required, not force them back to the same environment that caused the initial problem.”
“We not only want them to be reunited, but provide the tools, training and support necessary to break generational cycles of instability. Childcare, parenting training, job training, behavioral health services and so much more,” he continued.
“In my post as the Chair of the Child and Family Strengthening Advisory Board and First 5 Commission, I will bring forward a Working Families legislative platform with our local, state and national counterparts and community partners to enhance resources and supports that we know are critical for families to thrive...early child education and affordable, quality childcare at the top of the list,” Chair Fletcher said.
Reforming Juvenile Justice
Chair Fletcher discussed the importance for reforming juvenile justice in San Diego County. Tonight he discussed creating a place of rehabilitation, restoration and renewal for youth who enter our juvenile justice system.
“I am calling a special conference of the Board of Supervisors on February 23 focused exclusively on the future of our probation department and, in particular juvenile justice reforms.,” said Chair Fletcher. “...We need to expedite phase 2--demolishing the 1952 juvenile hall and complete the final piece of a comprehensive approach. Building these new facilities is a priority for our County. We need to ensure that youth who are sheltered in the County’s care are housed in facilities that are built to support rehabilitative services for youth, encourage family engagement, foster academic success, provide a healthy, safe environment for positive youth development and support staff safety.”
Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs Rights
During tonight’s Address, Chair Fletcher said as a region, we have to commit to supporting our immigrant community, including those seeking asylum. He called for completing the work of having a dedicated shelter location for immigrants that can “ramp up and down based on the need.”
“And to coordinate these efforts and others, Supervisor Nora Vargas and myself will be proposing the creation of a County Office of Immigrants & Refugee Affairs, Chair Fletcher said.
Last year Chair Fletcher introduced and passed a policy to create a new County Office of Equity and Racial Justice. Earlier this week, the new director of the office was announced after a thorough search process that involved significant community input. Tonight, Chair Fletcher announced an effort to establish even greater accountability for the County, and this new office.
“To incorporate equity and racial justice into all our policies, all of our programs. We must add to this office the requirement for an annual racial equity report-- to assess our impacts and progress based on data,” he said. “Let’s hold ourselves accountable to see if our rhetoric matches our record.”
During tonight’s address, Chair Fletcher highlighted several actions the new Board is taking to not just meet, but exceed state goals for a new climate action plan, support a zero carbon economy, green jobs, and prioritizing environmental justice. He also highlighted a new effort that will get underway this year to expand on the electrical vehicle roadmap he introduced last year, and get more San Diegans into affordable electric vehicles.
“Last year, San Diego County adopted a landmark ‘electric vehicle roadmap’, setting us on the right course. But the next step is an exciting new campaign we will launch later this year to expand access to affordable, used electric vehicles for low-income San Diegans.”
Waterfront Park: Padres Partnership for Sports Field & Chess Tournament
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided San Diegans with a renewed connection to the outdoors, Chair Fletcher tonight announced several new efforts to add recreation activities to the County’s Waterfront Park.
“This year, I’ll bring forward a plan to add a dog park, outdoor basketball, pickleball – which is apparently the new hot thing – and world class t-ball and wiffle ball fields,” said Chair Fletcher. To harness the excitement we all feel for our Padres, the ball field will be designed and built in partnership with the San Diego Padres. Lets replicate the feel of PETCO Park for our little t-ball stars.”
“And in a quieter corner of the park, in a proposal that may only excite me,” Chair Fletcher said in jest, “we will add outdoor chess tables to bring a beautiful game into our beautiful outdoors. And keep geeking out with me here for a second...In the new school year, my office will sponsor a countywide chess program for students in underserved communities and an annual outdoor tournament to identify San Diego’s best!
He also vowed to collaborate with the Port of San Diego to explore closing parts of Harbor Drive to car traffic to make way for outdoor dining, biking and walking paths along the waterfront.
San Diego River Park
Chair Fletcher also announced the creation of a task force with regional and tribal leadership to help identify funding strategies and priority projects to help complete the 52 mile walking and biking paths of the San Diego River Park that began two decades ago by Senator Chris Kehoe.
“I am proposing to explore the creation of an Enhanced Infrastructure financing district -- to permanently fund the development and maintenance of this system of trails,” said Chair Fletcher. “Together with our regional partners, including Mayor Gloria, Councilmembers Campbell and Campillo, and our tribal leaders we will convene a working group with a 90 day window to develop a strategy for a fully connected and funded river park.”