The government is famous for operating under the philosophy – “If it ain’t broke, fix it till it is”. That may be why we throw millions, even billions of dollars at the same problem every year and get the same results.
After being elected to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2017, I visited hundreds of local organizations, many of them non-profits. I wanted to know where our tax dollars were being invested and what was working and what wasn’t.
I was pleased to see models where people take responsibility for themselves and take an active role in their journey to becoming whole again. Unfortunately, I also found too many band-aid approaches. This is a flawed approach I’m working to change by challenging my colleagues to be bold with County investments in the human potential of the people we serve.
As Board Chair in 2018, I chose “Innov18” as the theme for my State of the County address and posed the question, what if government could clear the path and unleash the free market to fund innovative programs that empower people to transform their own lives? My mission being to help our most vulnerable populations, I highlighted several community-based solutions I saw during my visits.
One involved re-creating a model in San Diego that assists the formerly incarcerated, drug addicted and homeless called “The Other Side Academy”. I’m also working with federal officials on a demonstration project using an innovative pay-for-results model to move people from dependency to self-sufficiency.
I have led the County to invest in partnerships with local non-profits to add additional transitional youth housing, recuperative housing, and temporary housing for sex trafficking victims. After a disturbing trend of deaths linked to fentanyl coming across our border, I helped launch an unprecedented educational and door-to-door campaign about the importance of removing old or unused opioids from our homes.
I believe we must be transformational not transactional. We cannot abandon accountability from the very people who need us to believe they’re valuable, capable, and have a purpose in life. From our leaders making decisions about how our taxpayer dollars are invested, we also need accountability. We must redefine compassion, raising the bar for what’s possible for people, not lower it.