SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—Today, President George Shirakawa, elected to the post by his colleagues on the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors earlier this month, addressed a standing-room-only crowd in the Board of Supervisors Chambers as he delivered the 2012 State of Santa Clara County address. Shirakawa’s theme “Building Our Future Together,” reflects the values that he learned growing up in a family that knew economic hardship. It also underscores the priorities he will champion during his year of leadership.
“My mom’s family came to California from the mid-west dustbowl and worked in the fields in order to survive,” Shirakawa told the audience. “More times than not, home was a labor camp on the side of a highway.”
He went on to say, “My dad’s parents suffered the discrimination and humiliation forced on mixed-race families that worked on the ranches and farms of the Central Valley during the middle of last century. Our matriarch was my grandmother, who knew that the only way to ensure survival was keeping the family together.”
Shirakawa said that Santa Clara County is the most diverse county in California and that’s what makes us strong. We should use our diversity to strengthen our resolve to build a safe and healthy community, starting with multi-lingual signage in County buildings.
Shirakawa told the audience, “The state of the County is challenging.” The County is looking at another potential round of cuts at mid-year and more in 2012-13. It’s during these times of crisis when we have to come together, just like a family, to build for the future.”
“We all know that strong families need to stay healthy, feel safe, take care of their elders, nurture their children, and provide the resources necessary to thrive,” he said. “That’s also what the County needs to do.”
Shirakawa said that “we have to make sure that all of our communities are healthy.” To that end, he will propose to the Board of Supervisors that the County conduct a Latino Health Assessment in 2012.
By mid-century, Latinos are projected to comprise 43% of the County’s total population. Only 60% of Latinos under 65 living in Santa Clara County have access to healthcare coverage, nearly 20% lower than the county as a whole. Almost 70% of Latinos in this county are overweight and they more likely to have diabetes and other chronic diseases related to obesity. The County must do a comprehensive health assessment to ensure that this growing community stays healthy for the future.
Shirakawa plans to set a personal example by improving his own health.
“I will walk the talk,” he said. “I will ask the students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, the school I attended as a kid, to join me for the President Shirakawa Challenge. I will challenge students to exercise by regularly walking with me and sharing a healthy afternoon snack of fruit and water. I hope this challenge will begin a lifetime of exercise and healthy eating for all who participate, including me.”
He will ask his colleagues to support a bold response to the obesity epidemic.
“I propose development of a Healthy Corner Store policy that encourages the availability of healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, in neighborhood stores that often serve low-income residents,” said Shirakawa. “By collaborating with Working Partnerships and other community groups, we can design a program that promotes good health and increased shopping at local businesses – a win-win for families and the economy.”
As a part of his healthy community priorities, Shirakawa also will call for:
- Development of an integrated system of care for current and new Medi-Cal beneficiaries, which would function as an Accountable Care Organization, eliminating unnecessary administrative expenses and expanding community-based prevention services.
- Partnering with the Veteran’s Administration to offer services at the Downtown Medical Clinic, when it opens.
- Pursuing a funding mechanism to create a water fluoridation system. The county is the largest community in the nation that does not have fluoridation. Last year, at one clinic alone in the Tropicana neighborhood of east San Jose, over 10,000 patients were served. More than 9,300 of those were baby root canals.
- Setting even higher standards for the Public Health Department, by seeking accreditation for quality service by the nationally-renowned Public Health Accreditation Board.
Commitment to Public Safety
Shirakawa discussed the dwindling resources for gang prevention in the cities and proposes to establish the Santa Clara County Anti-Gang Alliance. This will allow a broad group of stakeholders, in collaboration with cities, to share information and provide resources to all communities impacted by gang activity. The County has the know-how and resources to lead this effort.
Last year, on the heels of a court-order to reform the corrections system, the State legislature thrust the responsibility of housing and serving low-level offenders to Counties. In 2011, the County also was widely recognized for the creation of the County Re-Entry Network, a network of agencies and community-based organizations that provide services to those recently released from custody. The network provides an array of drug and alcohol, mental health, housing, and job-training services.
To strengthen the network’s efforts, Shirakawa is forming a Blue Ribbon Committee on Re-Entry Jobs Initiative, to be chaired by Pastor Tony Williams of the Bay Area Maranatha Christian Center. Pastor Williams’ committee will bring together public agencies and private business to make jobs available to those who are seeking a better and more productive life after release from custody.
Renewed Commitment to Seniors’ Agenda
Shirakawa is calling for a study of the Senior Nutrition Program, with a focus on meeting community needs with integrated services, followed by a new RFP to distribute resources more effectively. Seniors are financially vulnerable now more than ever. He also will propose that staff develop a new plan to maximize Public Guardian services to ensure that the assets of needy seniors are protected from elder abuse predators.
Opportunities for At-Risk Youth
Shirakawa sounded the alarm on a growing problem of child pornography and its damaging affects on vulnerable children. He said the he sheer volume of people sharing child pornography in just Santa Clara County alone at any given time is alarmingly high.
“In Santa Clara County, we have a silent, growing problem with child pornography and its damaging effects on vulnerable children,” Shirakawa said. “A recent study by the Mayo Clinic and the American Federal Bureau of Prisons, reported that 76% to 85% of individuals who were arrested for internet pornography last year had molested a child.”
He is calling on the Board to exercise leadership on eradicating this problem and allocate the resources needed to get the job done.
“Our youth is also feeling the squeeze of the bad economy and the lack of opportunity. For young people who turn to crime and ultimately get lost in the juvenile justice system, we need to deliver services that positively impact the whole child.
Shirakawa will ask for a review of “wrap-around” juvenile services and the current RFP for these services to ensure that there is equity in the system and every community is served well. As chair of the Public Safety and Justice Committee, he will ask the Blue Ribbon Committee on Re-Entry Jobs Initiative to develop a strategy for our juvenile population.
- Call for the board of Supervisors to support the Silicon Valley Education Foundation’s initiative to make A-G (which makes college entrance requirements the curriculum) the default curriculum at every school district in the County, as was approved by the East Side Union High School District in 2010.
- Implementation of the School-Linked Services program at 53 schools by integrating State Mental Health Services Act and Early Intervention funding.
Resources for Vital Community Services
Shirakawa will call for the County to continue our commitment to creating jobs for the local economy in this new environment caused by the state legislature’s actions. He will ask the Board to have the administration to develop, in cooperation with community and business interests, a comprehensive Economic Development Plan as redevelopment funding decreases, in order to fill the voids where appropriate.
Shirakawa also has asked Vice President Yeager to chair a Special Ad Hoc Committee on Economic Development to identify the best and most beneficial use for the County’s newly acquired former City Hall building located next to the County Government Center, at 801 North First Street, San Jose, CA.
State of the County
Shirakawa ended his remarks by acknowledging the challenges ahead, as well as the opportunities.
”There will be much to do in 2012 as we work our way toward prosperity and better days. There is still a tough road ahead, but the economy is showing signs of a slow but steady recovery,” he remarked. Referring to the vision and leadership of the County Board of Supervisors, he continued, “We can achieve success by focusing on the sun beginning to peak over the horizon.”
Full Text of Speech
Media Contact: Eddie Garcia, Chief of Staff, Office of Supervisor Shirakawa, (408) 299-5020, or Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119
Posted: January 24, 2012