Initiatives focus on Economy, Health, and Environment
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—Today, Supervisor Ken Yeager, who this month took the helm as President of the Board of Supervisors, addressed a standing-room-only crowd in the Board of Supervisors Chambers as he delivered the 2010 State of Santa Clara County address. Yeager’s theme “Healthy Economy, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Environment” underscores initiatives he will ask his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to support during the next 11 months, signals new directions for the county administration, and elicits the engagement and support of the broader community.
Yeager spoke about the major roles Santa Clara County government is playing in the area’s economic recovery and providing aid to people hit hardest by the downturn. He pointed out that the County’s budget is about $4 billion—larger than four U.S. states.
“As the county’s second largest employer, we employ over 15,000 people and have contracts with hundreds of community-based organizations,” Yeager said. “One of my top priorities will be to ensure that even more of our tax dollars are used to keep good local jobs intact by passing a stronger local preference purchasing policy.”
He also emphasized the County’s role in facilitating infrastructure improvement projects that generate family-supporting jobs. “Last year, the County received more than $41 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and recent funding approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for a new 880/280 interchange will pump another $63 million into the local economy,” said Yeager.
“Equally important, the County is providing many services to the unemployed in this difficult period, such as CalWORKs, Food Stamps, and Medi-Cal eligibility,” said Yeager. “Those human services expenditures generate a $1.32 of economic activity for every dollar spent because beneficiaries put that money immediately back into the economy.”
Yeager reported that during the continuing foreclosure crisis, the County, in conjunction with the City of San Jose, was able to utilize ARRA funds to help keep residents in their homes. Combined, the two agencies funneled nearly $5 million to local nonprofits to provide rental assistance, housing counseling, legal services, and credit repair services.
Yeager invited Dr. Wally Bortz, author of Dare to be 100, to attend and present 50 gift copies of the book to serve as an inspiration to others to lead healthier lifestyles.
Yeager spoke about his commitment to the health, wellness and well being of the community. He unveiled several health initiatives including the creation of a Council on Health that will focus on prevention and healthier living.
The council will include civic, business, education, labor, health, and non-profit leaders appointed by the Board of Supervisors. “It will be charged with developing proposals to transform Santa Clara County into a place where all residents will have the opportunity to lead a healthier lifestyle that will reduce chronic diseases, increase vitality, and prolong life--making us one of the healthiest counties in the nation,” Yeager said.
“In order to improve prevention throughout Santa Clara County, we must pursue multiple strategies that address both the root causes of chronic disease and create incentives for families to live healthier lives,” Yeager said.
Yeager announced his intent to strengthen the County’s role in public health advocacy and drug and alcohol prevention and treatment, indicating he will ask the Board to add $5 million back to programs in Public Health and $3 million to the Department of Alcohol and Drug Services. He noted that over the last five years, Public Health had been cut by nearly $21 million, with the loss of nearly 180 employees. The Department of Alcohol and Drug Services has been cut by nearly $4 million with the loss of more than 30 employees.
Yeager’s health initiatives also focused on strengthening anti-smoking policies and campaigns, addressing the growing rates of obesity that put residents at risk for chronic diseases; and ensuring broad access to nutritious foods.
“We must develop proposals that tackle the current health inequities that exist and create a plan that will expand access to healthy food options in low-income areas that have high rates of poverty and poor nutrition,” Yeager continued.
He stressed the need to do more to stop women from being infected with genital human papillomavirus (HPV), such as vaccinating young women before they become sexually active, which can prevent serious and life-threatening diseases later in life.
He also emphasized the importance of funding for HIV/AIDS. “We have long known how to prevent and detect HIV infection early,” Yeager said. “Yet, in our county, prevention dollars have eroded as have the amount of services available in the community to educate and test people at risk.”
Yeager called for a health agenda that would restore funding for HIV and AIDS services, specifically in the areas of prevention, screening, and early identification.
A healthy environment will continue as a centerpiece of the Yeager’s 2010 focus. To that end, he proposing the creation of an Office of Sustainability to oversee the County’s environmental efforts.
“Although it is difficult to do this with our current budget,” said Yeager. “I believe it will help us to save money in the long run. It will also ensure we meet our many local, regional and federal mandates.”
One program the County is pursuing is a retrofit program to help homeowners make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their homes while reducing their utility bills.
Yeager is also asking the Board to expand the County’s green building policies that apply to new residential construction and County facilities to include multi-family and commercial buildings. He also proposes installing solar panels at various facilities throughout the County, and implementing a regional power purchase agreement that will be the largest power purchase by local government in the United States when it is completed.
The County is working toward achieving zero waste both in its operations and for its unincorporated residents. As part of that effort, Yeager will bring forward a referral to ensure that County-sponsored events are zero-waste events and continue his work to ban single-use plastic bags.
State of the County
Yeager ended his remarks reflecting upon becoming the first openly gay President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
“If I had to make just one overall comment about the state of the County,” said Yeager. “It is that despite all the economic troubles we face, I believe we are fundamentally strong and that we are in a better position to weather the fiscal storm than almost any other place in America. There is an implicit understanding that all of us working together can achieve more than we can by working alone, and that we can be an example to others of how people of differing backgrounds, cultures, genders, religions, and sexual orientation can get along in harmony. We have made much progress in this regard, of which all of us should be justifiably proud.”
Yeager recalled hearing testimony in 1979 while working for then-County Supervisor Susie Wilson. That day, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance protecting gays and lesbians against housing and employment discrimination.
“Sitting in my cubicle ten floors up, I—a gay man who wasn’t out to my friends or family—felt tremendous pride toward my government representatives,” reflected Yeager. “And it is here, in these same chambers, that I stand before you as the first openly gay person elected to the Board of Supervisors and who, elected by his colleagues to serve as Board President, is able to give this State of the County address.”
State of the County Speech
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Jim Weston, Office of Supervisor Ken Yeager, (408) 299-5040.
Posted: January 26, 2010