Superintendent Vargas makes references to quality of life and mental health during his county’s state speech

Superintendent Nora Vargas.  Photo by Chris Stone
Superintendent Nora Vargas. Photograph by Chris Stone

Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors Nora Vargas He centered on enhancing life for households, a stronger financial system, higher infrastructure and psychological well being care, and combating homelessness in his county’s state tackle Wednesday night time.

Talking to a full crowd on the West Plaza County Administration Heart, Vargas, Vargas challenged the viewers to assist her “make San Diego County a greater county for everybody.”

“There’s nothing we will not obtain collectively, as a result of you understand what? mentioned Vargas, who was first elected to the District 1 seat in 2020.

Throughout her speech, Vargas additionally mentioned selling public security, decreasing meals insecurity, combating for environmental justice and creating inexperienced jobs.

Vargas famous that between private tales and authorities statistics, the speech does not imply a lot to households struggling to place dinner on the desk, or these fighting their psychological well being.

Vargas added that it’ll “take greater than rhetoric” to repair main challenges.

“I cannot relaxation till we make actual modifications,” Vargas mentioned, including that the Board of Supervisors and the county authorities will “maintain combating till everybody has an opportunity at realizing the American Dream.”

Vargas mentioned that when she first took workplace, she labored to guard tenants struggling to remain of their houses because the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked critical financial harm and to cease unfair evictions. The county has offered thousands and thousands of {dollars} to assist working households in want of help, Vargas mentioned, including that she’s going to work with metropolis officers in an effort to broaden lease protections.

Vargas mentioned stopping and addressing homelessness is “a prime precedence,” which is why the board declared it a public well being disaster in September. As she shared the most recent official statistics for these dwelling on the road, Vargas mentioned she understood “how years of dangerous politics have failed communities.”

“I do know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all resolution,” Vargas mentioned, including that within the county, there are almost 100,000 households dwelling inside one paycheck of homelessness. “We should discover humanity in our options.”

There should be a complete technique to deal with the homeless epidemic, Vargas mentioned, together with working with 18 metropolis governments in San Diego County, together with spiritual and group teams to assist seniors, veterans and LGBT folks.

Vargas famous her work with colleagues Joel Anderson and Nathan Fletcher to search out extra emergency housing and assist veterans discover a place of their very own, respectively. “We all know that 24% of the homeless inhabitants that was counted in 2022 is over the age of 55,” Vargas mentioned. “Are you able to imagine we’re leaving previous folks on the streets and homeless?”

The county is giving every of the seniors in a particular program $500 a month to assist pay the lease, and it’ll improve the seniors. Vargas mentioned the provincial authorities will even faucet into federal, state and native funding sources to develop extra housing and “take away bureaucratic boundaries to getting it performed.”

“If we pay attention to one another, we are able to begin to make an actual distinction in our communities,” Vargas mentioned.

Vargas mentioned that when she was an advocate for schooling, she noticed college students sleeping of their automobiles and counting on meals pantries. And he or she added, “No extra, not on my watch.”

One in 4 San Diegans doesn’t have entry to good meals, Vargas mentioned, so the county will associate with completely different meals banks to assist residents and enhance group gardens.

“It is laborious to imagine that that is one thing we must be saying out loud in 2023: nobody ought to go hungry,” Vargas added. It is also necessary for county residents to care about psychological well being, Vargas mentioned, which has turn into an particularly necessary matter over the previous three years.

She indicated that the supervisors allotted 30 million {dollars} final 12 months for psychological well being providers and initiatives to assist youngsters and youth, and a pair of million {dollars} for people residing of their houses. The county is partnering with faculties on a psychological well being screening initiative, together with one for center college college students later this 12 months and dealing with mother and father to interrupt down stigma round psychological well being.

In response to the latest mass shootings, county leaders should work collectively to scale back the epidemic of violence, Vargas mentioned, including that “ideas and prayers aren’t sufficient.”

“We’re launching a Group Security Initiative to deal with gun violence and public security,” mentioned Vargas, in partnership with Sheriff Kelly Martinez. “I’m dedicated to bringing stakeholders collectively to implement restorative justice insurance policies and practices to maintain our communities secure.”

Vargas talked about her work with fellow superintendent Jim Desmond educating youth concerning the risks of fentanyl and different public security accomplishments, together with a Southern County useful resource middle for abuse survivors and a fireplace station in East Otay Mesa.

Vargas mentioned wholesome communities “foster a wholesome financial system” with small companies, which have been hit laborious by the pandemic, because the spine.

“Not solely do they make up many of the companies within the county, however additionally they make use of almost 60 % of our workforce,” she mentioned, including that she advocated a division round financial prosperity and group improvement. “This workplace serves as a hub to attach companies to the sources that may assist them thrive and create a diversified native financial system,” Vargas mentioned.

She added that the county has awarded almost $26.2 million in grants to assist native companies. “That is actual cash for actual folks,” Vargas mentioned.

Working mother and father who assist the native financial system need assistance and “childcare for all must be our aim,” Vargas mentioned, including that the county should discover inventive options to make this doable.

“It is smart that if we wish extra folks to handle youngsters, they need to be properly paid for his or her laborious work.” Vargas took a second to pay tribute to native unions, together with home employees, county and heavy trade workers, regulation enforcement and common attorneys. “Collectively, we are going to create a path to the center class,” she mentioned.

One other key to rising the native financial system, Vargas mentioned, is having the fitting infrastructure in place, in order that it is easy for residents to commute to work or college. Promoted a partnership with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System in a program that permits folks 18 and beneath to take public transit free of charge.

For the reason that program’s inception, youth ridership has elevated by 84%, Vargas mentioned, including that she needs to broaden free transportation for college-age college students.

Vargas mentioned she’s proud to guide efforts on welcoming immigrants to the county, from serving to youngsters on the San Diego Conference Heart to these reuniting with their households.

Vargas added that she’s going to “proceed to combat” in order that immigrants are handled with dignity and respect, and work to assist them turn into residents.

Vargas, a migrant, mentioned she remembered being a toddler and ready on the border crossing for hours in site visitors. Vargas added the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, which is able to pace up ready occasions, cut back air air pollution and assist the native financial system by supporting greater than 80,000 jobs.

Apart from a powerful financial system, “I feel it is our accountability to broaden outside entry for each resident,” mentioned Vargas, who added that the county ought to decide to extra parks and recreation facilities for every group.

Whereas there’s a aim to plant greater than 5,000 timber within the county, Vargas challenged members of the general public to assist her plant 10,000 timber. Vargas was elected president of the board in January, the primary individual of colour and first-generation immigrant to carry the place.

Vargas’ niece, Fatima Jimenez, acquired the speech Wednesday, calling it “an inspiring second for me and younger ladies like me.”

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