Nathan Fletcher speaks
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher makes a point during Tuesday night’s speech. Image from video

Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher Tuesday evening used the annual State of the County address to tout recent achievements and unveil new initiatives.

Speaking before an audience at the San Diego Continuing Education Center in the Mountain View neighborhood, he said he was there to talk “where we are, progress made and where we need to go.”

“It’s beautiful to see everyone here — in person,” Fletcher said, referencing how the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a similar gathering last year. “It’s a sign of real progress after an incredibly difficult couple of years.”

Fletcher noted that life has been difficult because of the pandemic, inflation, soaring housing costs, deep political divisions and lingering problems.

“But for all the challenges around us, we also see signs of real progress,” he said.

Fletcher declared the county’s state as strong “and getting stronger every single day.”

“I’m not going to let anyone take us backward,” he added. “I choose progress. I fight forward. And I hope you will join me because I know we can do it.”

Signs of hope “began with our community coming together to mount one of the most effective COVID-19 responses in the nation,” Fletcher said.

“Despite threats, intimidation and acts of violence … we did not waver from doing what was right,” Fletcher said. “In the face of disinformation and division, we did not give up and we did not give in.”

Fletcher said that with a 93% vaccination rate and one of the lowest death rates in the nation, “we saved lives. We provided swift emergency relief that local businesses, families and workers needed. Together, we are rebuilding our economy. Our county workers didn’t flinch.”

Now in his second yearlong term as board chair, Fletcher announced numerous initiatives and programs — some of them co-sponsored with other supervisors — including:

  • A tent shelter for 150 homeless people at the county’s Rosecrans Complex, in partnership with the city of San Diego and Lucky Duck Foundation, with a planned opening date of July 1
  • A streamlined agreement for partnership with 18 cities intended to help homeless people, with options such as safe camping, safe parking, tiny homes, behavioral/public health services
  • A new low-barrier addiction treatment facility location in the Midway District, in partnership with the city of San Diego
  • A proposed safety ordinance to protect people working inside warehouses against unsafe and unfair practices
  • Overturning a county ban on project labor agreements
  • Exploring a living wage ordinance
  • Hiring more veterans in county government
  • A possible $100 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, with the money used to increase harm reduction and addiction treatment services
  • $10 million in federal COVID-19 funds for increased childcare workforce and facilities
  • The county purchasing a $15 million, dual-engine firefighting helicopter, first proposed over a decade ago then-Supervisor Dianne Jacob
  • An outdoor experience program at county-run regional parks covering admission costs, and providing gear, instruction and transportation to people and families, as a way to break down barriers to outdoor activities

Fletcher said the county, as part of its efforts to help children harmed by neglect and abuse, enacted numerous recommendations from a working group, with the goal of crisis prevention.

Fletcher also highlighted the importance of foster parents, including those willing to take in LGBTQ youth, siblings and children 8 years and up.

Fletcher, whose family includes two adopted children, said child welfare issue was personal for him having grown up with a violent and unstable father.

Every child struggling should know that “not just your county government but the entire San Diego community has your back in this effort,” Fletcher said.

Needed reforms to the county criminal justice system includes “never retreating in the fight for a San Diego where every family is safe from violent crime,” Fletcher said.

“Despite what you might have heard, we never stopped funding public safety in San Diego County,” Fletcher told the audience.

“Please, get your news from reliable sources that tell you the truth. We need law enforcement. We value and appreciate them. That support will never waiver.”

Fletcher said the Board of Supervisors is committed to fighting for racial justice by standing with the Asian/Pacific Islander communities against hate crimes and driving change because “Black Lives Matter.”

Equality also means standing for LGBT, transgender residents and immigrants, Fletcher said. “I will never understand the hostility towards someone based on their identity,” he  added.

A Marine who served in the Iraq War, Fletcher said that every day, he thinks about the friends he lost in that conflict.

“They gave their life because their country asked them,” sharing a bond that transcended political affiliation, race and religion, he added. “We got the job done, we trusted each other.”

Fletcher said while county residents and their government can’t solve every problem, “We can fight like hell to drive progress every day,” he said.

Supervisor Joel Anderson said he appreciated Fletcher’s support for a regional approach that focuses on the root causes of homelessness and sheltering solutions for East County, which Anderson represents.

“This will help get folks off the streets instead of sweeping the problem under the rug,” Anderson said in a statement.

On her Twitter feed, board Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas said she looks forward to working with Fletcher “to keep our county moving forward after an incredibly difficult period.

“I appreciate and share (Fletcher’s) commitment to providing our communities” access to health care and resources to come back healthier, Vargas wrote.

“We also share a deep commitment to providing our small businesses and residents with economic opportunity so that we can build an even stronger economy that looks out for all San Diegans, not just some.”