The economy is showing signs of strengthening, and that is the best news for Contra Costa County because we rely heavily on property taxes to operate and deliver most of the services that we provide. That doesn t, however, overcome the problems created by the impacts of the Great Recession. We are still feeling those effects considerably.
In addition, sorely needed federal funds that help our community were also cut or suspended because of the failure of Congress to pass a budget in a timely manner.
Those two factors have made it very difficult for the county to deliver services. Roads have not been maintained as much as we d like; infrastructure improvements have been largely put on hold; services have been severely cut for those who most need assistance; and our employees have had to learn to live with tighter budgets.
As I step down from the Board of Supervisors chairmanship, despite these challenges, the county supervisors accomplished many things this year, including adopting a financially balanced budget for the second year in a row after several years of deficit spending. Under the guidance of Chief Administrative Officer David Twa, the county has learned to live within its means.
In addition, there has been some significant progress on a variety of activities in which I am deeply involved, and I want to share those updates with you.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative got under way. Staff members from the County s Conservation and Development Department have been taking inventory and assessing the northern shoreline for future development and recreational resources. They ve been contacting a wide range of stakeholders, including the cities, the East Bay Regional Park District, and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as various manufacturing entities who are already located there and the businesses that might be interested in moving to the area.
Marinas, cities and parks along the riverfront will be involved in the planning process.
Good-paying jobs can stabilize families and strengthen our local economies and communities.
On Jan. 10, next year, we will be having the first summit of all the stakeholders to discuss how we can work together as a region to accomplish the enhancement and development of the northern shoreline. It will take place at Antioch s Community Center.
PUBLIC SAFETY: The county is going through the planning process to establish a network of services for the low-level offenders who are returning to our county s supervision under AB109. When completed later next year, AB109ers will be able to get services in West, Central and East counties.
County agencies such as Probation, the Sheriff s Office, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, Behavioral Health and Workforce Development, along with the Superior Court, community colleges, and a host of nonprofits are working together to establish this network of services so the incidence of recidivism can be lowered.
AB109 gave the county new responsibilities. Contra Costa County, I m proud to say, we didn t turn down the challenge and are making lemonade out of lemons. We re breaking new ground in creating partnerships, breaking down the silo walls to provide rehabilitation, and the County is an acknowledged leader in innovative ways to reduce recidivism, sentencing and providing the much needed services.
HEALTH CARE: Contra Costa was the only county awarded a contract to provide call center phone assistance for Covered California, the statewide version of President Obama s Affordable Care Act. Under the leadership of Kathy Gallagher, the County found a call center location, hired and trained personnel, and opened its doors on time to begin enrolling residents Oct. 1.
While the federal health insurance program has had its trouble in other parts of the country, Covered California has had few problems with its website. In fact, we have done such a great job, California enrollees in Obamacare makes up one-third of all the enrollees nationwide.
TRANSPORTATION: The Caldecott Tunnel got a fourth bore which opened last November on time and on budget. The project was one of the country s top infrastructure projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The fourth bore allows for two tunnels in each direction 24/7, creating smoother traffic flow and fewer headaches for commuters who were often stuck in stop-and-go traffic for hours on end.
East County s main thoroughfare, Highway 4, continues to improve as the work widening the road moves eastward.
FIRE SERVICE: Unfortunately, we have had to close some fire stations in the Contra Costa Fire District because of a lack of funding. The decision of voters in 2012 to not support a parcel tax for fire service gave us no other choice but to trim expenses. However, the District is aggressively seeking additional funding to maintain the level of safety to which we have become accustomed.
Altogether, four firehouses were closed and one was turned into a part-time station. We tried to place personnel and equipment in areas where they can best cover their neighborhoods to ensure the safety of our communities. We hope the economy will improve enough so that further cuts will not occur. Housing prices are rising and the private sector is hiring again, especially in the Bay Area.
As busy as 2013 has been, 2014 promises to be even busier. Many of the projects that we started this year will begin to bear fruit next year. Until then, I wish you all a great holiday season full of compassion and thankfulness along with a meaningful celebration of peace and goodwill. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Supervisor Glover represents District V on the Board of Supervisors.