San Diego County will take progressive approach to jobs, justice, health, Fletcher says

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher, shown speaking at the Petco Park vaccination super station in January, delivered the annual State of the County address Thursday night.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher talked up initiatives and departments dealing with homelessness, immigrants, a film office and more


In his first State of the County address, Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher laid out a sweeping agenda that he acknowledged might be labeled as too ambitious Thursday night, Feb. 18.

With the county still dealing with a year-long pandemic that has been devastating to many residents and the economy, Fletcher announced several proposals and reforms that focus on social and juvenile justice, job creation, immigration, the environment, behavioral health and addiction recovery.

“The State of our County is resilient,” he said in the address, which was broadcast remotely from the county’s Emergency Medical Operations Center. “And together, we are ready to rise. Ready to rebuild. Rebuild our economy, our children’s education. Ready to restore. Restore our faith and trust in one another.”

Fletcher announced that the county will be launching new vaccination sites in coming weeks for the next tier of eligible vaccine recipients, including law enforcement officials, teachers and grocery workers, and said the county will be ready to offer vaccines to people with underlying health conditions and disabilities on March 15.

For employees affected by the pandemic, Fletcher said he soon will bring forward a measure on worker recall and retention to help people get back to work as businesses reopen. The county will work with the district attorney on a workplace justice initiative to crack down on wage theft and protect low-wage workers from exploitation.

That will be followed up with the county’s first Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, he said.

“And now let me say something you’ve never heard a chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors say,” Fletcher said. “Unions, those in organized labor, are our partners and our allies, critical to rebuilding San Diego’s economy fairly.”

Fletcher also said the county will join the call of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation to increase county contracts with local businesses, saying a 5 percent increase could inject $75 million more into the local economy.

Fletcher said the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it caused exposed inequalities in society that must be addressed as the economy rebuilds.

“We don’t simply strive to get back to ‘normal,’ he said. “We want better than that. Our commitment is comprehensive action to make life fundamentally better for all.”

He said he would be proposing a living wage ordinance to ensure that no one who works full time should live in poverty. Board policies on wages, job security and public health should always show a commitment to workers who held the community together during this tough time, he said.

Fletcher said he also will propose the creation of a San Diego film office to bring back the local film industry and create good jobs for stagehands, carpenters, designers and artists. The office will work with regional governments to streamline permitting, make public facilities accessible and consolidate community services to attract entertainment jobs, he said.

He called for the creation of a County Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities, which will work closely with area cities and with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria to maximize available state and federal resources.

Addressing new efforts in fighting drug addiction, Fletcher said County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten will issue an order next week to provide the drug Naloxone to prevent opioid overdoses, and in the coming months he will reveal a proposal and location for housing and supportive services for drug treatment.

“No doubt we will face opposition, but we can no longer let the ‘not in my back yard’ naysayers prolong suffering on our streets and neighborhoods,” he said.

In coming weeks, Fletcher said the county will announce initial results of a $25 million Behavioral Health Impact fund created last year to jumpstart an expansion of critically needed care.

The county’s first Behavioral Health Workforce Conference will be held this year, he announced, and the new Mobile Crisis Response Teams that were launched in North County last year will be expanded countywide, he said.

Fletcher said he also will propose a working families legislative platform with local, state and national counterparts to enhance resources for early childhood education and affordable, quality children. The county also will create a partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital to develop a behavioral health hub for youths.

He also announced he and Supervisor Nora Vargas are proposing the creation of a county Office of Immigrants and Refugee Affairs.

Addressing the environment, Fletcher said Vargas will work toward cleaning the Tijuana River Valley and Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer will lead the county’s efforts to address the storm water infrastructure failures and the growing funding gap.

Following the county’s adoption of an electric vehicle roadmap, Fletcher said he will launch an effort to expand access to affordable, used electric vehicles for low-income San Diegans.

The coming year also will see the completion of the first phase of a new juvenile justice campus, which he described as a place of rehabilitation and renewal that encourages family engagement and fosters academic achievement. The 1952 juvenile hall is slated for demolition.

“Treating kids like kids and investing in them, not incarcerating them, are the values that guide the county’s renewed focus on juvenile justice reform,” he said about the county’s oncoming efforts, which include the newly created separate Juvenile Division of Probation.

— Gary Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune