The public portion of the budget process -- and the portion that we as commissioners are most deeply involved in -- represents just a small fraction of the time and work that goes into it, and that really it’s a year-round process for many, many people -- so a deep thank you to everyone involved:
All the departments and employees who spent so much time making difficult decisions; huge thanks to Mike Jaspin and the rest of the budget team for steering us through it with patience and clarity; all the CBAC volunteers who put hours of time and energy into this work, and who approached it with thoughtfulness and diligence -- in this, my first budget process, your comments were particularly helpful; the many County partners and residents who attended public meetings, scheduled one-on-ones, emailed, or otherwise reached out to give me their opinions on budget priorities: your input really did matter, did prompt additional questioning and inquiry, and did inform my view on specific items; and last but definitely not least, thank you to the Chair and her staff, for putting together an executive budget that navigated a really careful and balanced path through the many tradeoffs we needed to make.
I focused on three general priorities in my review and advocacy:
● Upstream interventions -- programs and services that intervene early to set people on a path to health and wellness;
● System improvements; and
● Effectiveness and efficiency -- and by that I mean outcomes achieved, and number of people served, relative to cost
The overlay on all of those criteria, always, is an equity lens: looking particularly at how our decisions affect our communities of color.
Based on those criteria, I’m glad to have secured funding for a pilot program to evaluate prevention approaches for families at risk of
homelessness; ongoing funding for the in-jail sex trafficking position, which serves among our most vulnerable residents -- people who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression and violence; and for legal services to immigrant survivors of domestic violence.
Our ability to move toward equity for our community depends on doing the same within the County, and so I’m particularly supportive and proud of the investment we’re making in our internal equity work. It’s a significant investment, and demonstrates the value we place on making the County a workplace where all our employees can thrive, and thereby do their best work to serve the community.
At the same time as we made investments in important initiatives, we also did cut programs that provide important services. I want to mention a few of these. I’m glad that we continued and in fact increased funding for immigrant navigation services; but this budget does not include funding for deportation defense services. I do view those services as critical for our immigrant and refugee communities, who continue to face greater and greater threats to their safety and wellbeing; I am hopeful that state funding will come through for that program, and will advocate for that. The proposed budget also does not include funding for Safety First, another program that we heard really compelling testimony about. Although it’s a small program, I know those services are really important to the families that use them, and I’m deeply grateful to the survivors who showed incredible courage in testifying about them; again, I’ll work with partners and community members to try to develop outside funding for that program. Finally, the proposed staff package removes ongoing funding for the U-Visa detective; we understand that while there will no longer be a position dedicated solely to this work, it will be transitioned to another position, and so will continue.
I also recognize that this budget will result in painful job losses for County employees. I know this will be hard, and none of us takes it lightly. Next year and the years to come will be even more difficult, and so I really appreciate our emphasis on being good stewards of our funds, including deciding to use the unexpected uptick in BIT to reduce deficits in future years instead of spending those funds now. It’s also going to be important to explore new sources of revenue so that we can continue vital services and mitigate cuts, and I look forward to working on that.
Finally, I want to thank my colleagues on the Board. I continue to be thrilled to be part of this group of incredible women; as the newest member, I’m learning from each of you, and feel lucky to be able to do that. And in particular, I’m grateful to be part of a group that is so aligned on our broad vision and values for the County -- a vision and values that I believe this budget reflects.