Supervisor Simitian is bringing forward initiatives that benefit all residents of Santa Clara County. Listed below are some initiatives Supervisor Simitian has lead:
Expanding Voter Access
Voters in Santa Clara County will find it easier than ever to cast their vote thanks to postage-paid ballots. Simitian proposed the postage-paid ballots in 2015, saying, “While the cost to individual voters is probably negligible in most cases, it just strikes me as fundamentally inappropriate to impose a cost, however modest, to exercise the right to vote.”
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is making sure that every vote is counted correctly in the County’s closest elections through automatic, publicly-funded recounts. On Simitian’s motion, the Board directed the Registrar of Voters to conduct an automatic recount for any local contest wholly contained within the boundaries of Santa Clara County that fell within the .5% margin, or 25 votes or less. Simitian’s interest in this issue is in part a function of the role he has previously played as an election supervisor and observer in Bosnia and El Salvador. “You watch what people in other parts of the world go through in order to cast a ballot, and you become very clear about the importance of every vote cast.”
Improving Access to Government
Santa Clara County will no longer charge residents a fee for filing an appeal on their property assessment. "It's a fundamental issue of fairness,” Simitian said. “Our Assessor's office does a great job assessing hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in Santa Clara County. But from time to time, they're going to get it wrong. Charging a member of the public a $40 fee for the right to appeal, and then keeping the fee even after we acknowledge our error -- there's just no way to justify that. It's patently unfair to make a mistake, and then charge a member of the public who has to go to the time and trouble of getting us to correct it. That's just adding insult to injury."
At Simitian's urging, the Santa Clara County Library District eliminated the $80 annual fee for a library card for people who do not live in the library district, making all libraries in the county free to use for the first time since 2011. The $80 library card fee was “one of the first issues I heard about when I started holding sidewalk office hours in my district,” said Simitian. “I did a little homework, made my case, and discovered that others shared my concerns.”
Privacy and Surveillance
Simitian authored a wide ranging regulatory framework governing the acquisition and use of surveillance technology by County officials – including the Sheriff and District Attorney. Under the new law, officials who want to purchase and use surveillance technology in Santa Clara County will have to provide analysis of the privacy and due process implications of the technology they wish to acquire, and get Board approval on a set of "use policies" for the technology. “The technology is not, per se, the issue,” said Simitian. “It’s the wisdom with which we use it. I’m hoping we’ll make wiser, more fully informed decisions going forward, and that the public will now have a voice in those discussions.”
Simitian called for the County Sheriff’s Office to acquire and deploy body-worn cameras for its deputies and correctional officers. Simitian’s proposal for cameras echoed that of community members and other government agencies around the country in the wake of recent episodes of alleged police misconduct. "We can watch with anguish what's happened in other communities around the country, shake our heads, and then move on,” said Simitian, “or we can accept the responsibility to do something. These certainly aren't problems that are going to solve themselves. The technology is available, and I think we ought to use it.”
As Chair of the Finance and Government Operations Committee (FGOC) Simitian has taken on the issue of reforming the County's jails and considering the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations.
Nearly a year after the City and County each committed $14.5 million to acquiring the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto, they have announced a proposed partnership with the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara, in an effort to fund, acquire, improve and preserve the Park as an ongoing source of affordable housing for its current and future residents.“With everyone pulling together we’re well positioned to preserve 117 units of affordable housing, prevent the eviction of 400 low income residents, and ensure that the current property owner receives full and fair market value for the property.”
For the foreseeable future, there will be a place in the North County for people to go and lay their heads at night, thanks to a County-funded cold weather shelter in Sunnyvale. Simitian spearheaded the effort to open a shelter after the closure of the Sunnyvale armory left the North County's homeless population without shelter during the winter.
Simitian proposed funding for the County's emergency assistance network, a group of organizations that provide emergency financial relief for low income residents facing homelessness. “It’s important for folks to know that there are places they can go when times get tough,” said Simitian. “Organizations like these are important access points for low income residents who need emergency funds for rent, utilities, and other housing costs.”
Simitian secured County funding for a “mobile pantry” that will be operated by West Valley Community Services, a nonprofit agency based in Cupertino. "The simplest way to describe it is, it’s a bookmobile for groceries,” said Simitian, “but it’s so much more than that. It’ll bring food, services, and support to the folks who need it most, right there in their own communities.” The mobile pantry will bring groceries, necessities, and supportive services to seniors and low income residents in Saratoga, Los Gatos, and West San Jose. Clients will be able to pick up fresh food and staples such as rice, beans, and canned and dried goods in easy to reach locations.