Not many people understand the role of County government, let alone a County Supervisor, in delivering vital services to our communities and region. Yet, the San Diego County government is responsible for more than six billion dollars in annual revenue and expenditures. Things like behavioral health services, child welfare services, senior services, public health, housing and community development, homelessness, public safety, and land use, fall under the County’s governance.
At its core, the government is or should aspire to be, an institution of good. I wanted to become a County Supervisor to ensure that these services and resources work for everyone. I believe equality, fairness, access, and transparency should be the cornerstones of public service and civic resource allocation.
A year into my term as a County Supervisor, I better understand that change can be difficult for those burdened with the memory and experiences of a County government system that was not necessarily working for them or reflective of their values. Institutional progress, when leadership is stagnant for decades, is slow at best.
I believe, as public servants, we must constantly bring new ideas, voices, and insights into governance. Cultural competence, innovation, and equity all depend on our willingness and resolve to open our institutions to change. Only then can we collectively address the region’s most pressing problems.
The County population continues to grow, affordable housing is difficult to obtain, more children and seniors are living in poverty, and increasing numbers of families are sleeping on the street. Issues of mental health and substance abuse are prevalent and, for years, virtually unaddressed.
Poor air quality is causing massive disparities in life expectancy from one part of the County to another. The life expectancy of children born in our poorest communities is ten years less than their peers in our wealthiest communities. We must do better.
As stewards of the County government, it is incumbent on County Supervisors and other elected officials to create a better future in which everyone has a seat at the decision-making table. I chose to lead in the County government because a brighter future for our region and collective communities was not a given.
In a short amount of time, we have forged partnerships with public health institutions like UC San Diego Health to build national models for behavioral health services, including delivering patient-centered care using an innovative care coordination model and a regional behavioral health hub concept. Also, we are collaborating with the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless to implement new solutions to the housing crisis.
We envisioned and created a public-private partnership with the University of San Diego and The Brink to grow our local entrepreneurial pipeline in underserved communities through Innovate-Up! And, through our Neighborhood Reinvestment and Community Enhancement programs, nonprofits that never received a County grant before, have access to funding.
By leading with compassion and an equity-focused approach, I believe we can fundamentally improve our institutions and lives. We must consider the lived experiences of people who are impacted by the decisions we make and use every resource available to understand the issues and their effects before acting.
Our job is to make lives better. I hope that as we make changes to our policy-making process, more people—especially young people and those who were previously unheard —are inspired to join the ranks of public service. Together we can continue to apply compassion, innovation, and informed solutions to the next big challenges.