A crowd standing and clapping inside a government meeting chamber.
Attendees applaud Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg after she delivered the 2024 State of the County address on Jan. 25, 2024. Photo by Brandon Pho.

Editor’s Note: This is a transcript of Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s full 2024 State of the County address. Read our coverage of the address.

Good evening – thanks so much for making time to be here this evening to celebrate the work of our County departments, leaders and employees and to get a close up look at what lies ahead in 2024.

First, though, can we have another round of applause for the talented people who started us off this evening with energy, art and music – Emcee Chandra Brooks, the Youth Poet Laureates, Sam from CAA, and Adam from Ida Price.

And please join me in thanking Chris Core from my office who created the video we just saw, as well as all those who participated by sharing their visions of community safety.

I say every day how much I love my job and what an immense privilege it is to be positioned to serve my community and do everything I can to ensure that more residents thrive. I’m able to be all in for this work in large part because of the support of my family. I want to acknowledge my mother-in-law, Maureen Ellenberg, who is the OG of civic engagement, my son Zach and daughter-in-law Ruth, who is also a committed activist and member of the current Emerge CA 2024 cohort, and my incredible husband, Steve – who ALWAYS has my back, is my biggest and constant cheerleader and without whom I would categorically not be in this seat today. My daughters, Molly & Naava are watching the livestream from Washington, DC, where they are both working to make our world a better, safer, more just place every day. I’m so proud of all of you!

I also want to thank my D4 team, with extra measures of immense gratitude for my Chief of Staff, Mayra Flores, who is and does all things. Thank you, Mayra – you are the perfect partner for this journey we’re on.

Finally, I want to acknowledge my tremendous colleagues – Sylvia, Cindy, Joe & Otto, our County executive JW, Chief Operating Officer GH, County Counsel TL, Board appointees acting Clerk of the Board Curtis Boone, and Public Defender Molly O’Neal. Your leadership make it possible for us to serve our residents in the most fulsome ways possible. You all have growth mindsets and the name of the game is always, how do we do better?

And to the 20,000-plus employees who make up the county family, your dedication, compassion and hard work make a difference every day in the lives of our residents.

So, thank you all.

Young people remind us of why we do what we do as public servants, and parents, and as teachers, families and friends – in creating a better future for them. Speaking of public service, I’ll ask my colleagues at all levels of government – school boards, cities, county and state – to please stand and be recognized; it means a lot to me that you are here.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s team – Marjon and Antonio and your new intern Adrianna Zhang; Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren; From Congressman Ro Khanna’s office, Tom Pyke; State Senator Dave Cortese; Assemblymember Ash Kalra; From Assemblymember Alex Lee’s office, Jo Nguyen; From Assemblymember Evan Low’s office, Patrick Aherns; Former Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager; Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone; Campbell City Council Member Sergio Lopez; Santa Clara City Council Members Kathy Watanabe and Suds Jain; San Jose Council Member Sergio Jimenez and Arjun Batra; and numerous school board members.

And I want to uplift our various partners, including:

San Jose State University President Cynthia Teniente Matson; Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits Kyra Kazantzis; South Bay Labor Council Jean Cohen; Working Partnerships Maria Noel Fernandez; and so many more!

These colleagues in public and community service are all doing their parts to create and sustain safe, thriving communities. Let’s give them a round of applause.

Now, what did everyone think of our video?

As you have heard, this year’s theme is Building Safe Communities, coming on the heels of last year’s Building Together. We are keeping the momentum going as we build and grow, always with an eye toward safety, security and self-sufficiency.

There’s a popular meme that compares ‘This is what people think my job is’ vs ‘This is what my job actually is?’

It reminds me of so many of the things that happen at our County.

You see, when we asked in the video, ‘what makes you feel safe’ or ‘what makes a community safe,’ we heard a wide variety of responses – and responses that don’t always reflect the generic narratives around what makes people safe.

So let’s dig in.

Here is my premise – Safety starts with meeting people’s basic needs.

Then moving outward to their neighborhoods.

And finally, to our larger community.

Safety is not camouflaging our challenges – hiding or locking people away who present challenges.

Safety is not predicated on punishment.

Safety – real, sustainable, safe, thriving safe neighborhoods and cities – is having vision and opportunities to work and create and dream.

Safety is people working together, never leaving anyone behind.

At least that’s how I see it.

We asked many of you here today to share what you thought safe communities looked like and here are just a few responses you shared…

You told us caring adults are important, along with the human connections that bring us together. A simple thing like knowing your neighbor.

Accessible and culturally relevant services and spaces for people of different abilities. Meeting the basic needs of people so they do not feel continually stressed or desperate.

Great schools where students and teachers feel respected and safe.

Being able to afford food every day and having a safe place to sleep every night.

Law enforcement officers that understand how to respond in crises regardless of the race or economic status of those involved.

Access to resources for low-income and marginalized communities, and neighborhoods with well-lit streets and playgrounds in good condition.

Safe places for kids to learn and play while parents work.

And so on!

As you can see, the range of responses reflects our diverse community, which means we have to think harder about what safety means in all its manifestations.

Our County works to make communities safe every day by providing the things that stabilize families and communities – food access, supportive and affordable housing, healthcare, social services, and second chances. But you can dig into any County department and find how they are doing their part to build safe communities.

Our Parks department contributes to safe communities by providing well maintained trails in glorious open spaces.

Our code enforcement department contributes to safe communities by inspecting restaurants.

Vector control keeps us safe from some of the less desirable critters in our environment!

Our office of sustainability keeps us safe by promoting and embedding practices that keep our air and water cleaner, and

Our public health department builds safe communities by educating teens about safe sex & the dangers of fentanyl, protecting against Covid & other infectious diseases and more.

That’s just a sampling of our 40+ departments, every one of which contributes to our collective safety in some way.

So this is your County government. And 2024 will be all about building upon the work forged in previous years to continue to meet the needs of our most at-risk communities while navigating the fiscal realities facing us.

I’m going to say a bit about my four Board priority areas and take you through a quick look back and forward in each, but first, I want to acknowledge some of the incredible work of my colleagues on the BOS.

In what he called his proudest moment of 2023, Supervisor Lee supported the County’s acquisition of 10 Kirk Avenue, a homeless veterans’ facility in East San Jose. Supervisor Lee is a strong partner in responding to our public health crisis of mental illness and substance use disorders. His tenaciousness in getting 650 South Bascom from ribbon cutting to an actual certificate of occupancy was instrumental in opening that 28-bed adult residential facility.

For Supervisor Simitian, August of 2023 saw the start of construction on the Teacher Housing project he spearheaded. He is also looking forward to the opening in 2024 of a health clinic in his district for the first time in county history.

You’d never guess Supervisor Arenas has been in office for just a year if you knew all she has done. She was a key player in the efforts during 2023 to improve DFCS Protocols and Child Welfare System regulations to strengthen service delivery and identify gaps in services. She spearheaded plans for farmworker housing in south county and successfully advocated for the development of the Children’s Advocacy Center South County to provide services to young survivors of abuse, assault, and neglect as they heal from traumatic experiences.

Finally, Supervisor Chavez saw her vision of a Hub for former foster youth become tangible with the recent groundbreaking at Parkmoor and Meridian. She is working tirelessly to bring professional soccer along with public fields to The Fairgrounds and her work in partnership with the District Attorney to combat the growing fentanyl overdose epidemic in our County has drawn attention at the state and national levels.

Look who I serve with. These are your representatives – please join me in giving them a hand.

Now, that promised look back and forward in four of the areas where much of my work and that of the County has focused and will continue to work.

Mental Health/Substance Use Disorder Treatment

What we’ve done …

  • Last year I said we would build out bed capacity, workforce pipelines and treatment slots. Since then . . .
  • We broke Ground on a 77 Inpatient Psychiatric Facility for Children, Adolescents and Adults at VMC – another project championed by Supervisor Simitian.
  • The County contracted with San Jose Behavioral Health to add 53 Additional Inpatient Beds to our inventory.
  • The County opened in partnership with Momentum for Health a 28 bed adult residential facility.
  • In our efforts around substance use treatment, we added 3 Beds at the Camp Recovery Center for Youth, and 3 Beds at the Parisi House on the Hill for Social Detox
  • Our Office of Diversion and Reentry Services Opened the Renovated Mission Street Recovery Station with more than a dozen recliners and services to connect people to recovery. In partnership with SJPD, officers will take people who are arrested for a first-time misdemeanor DUI to Mission Street rather than book them into jail.
  • To date, 131 Total Beds have been added Since Mental Health and Substance Abuse Public Health Health Crisis Declared in January 2022. But we aren’t done because treatment isn’t yet available on demand for anyone who is ready to accept it.
  • We have expanded the 988 Call Center by creating the TRUST Line and focusing on Non-Law Enforcement Involved Crisis Support
  • We are building the promised pipeline for mental health and substance use disorder specialists through Scholarships, Internships and new hiring strategies.
  • We have prioritized financial support for our BH CBOs as a result of a CalAIM payment change for outpatient services as they navigate the new requirements – and I’ll note that we are one of a very few counties in the state to provide that transitional support.

What we want to do …

  • Continue building capacity;
  • Roll out of SB 43 in a meaningful way;
  • Roll out of CalAim & Care Court to continue to benefit our communities; and
  • Continue to advocate to our state and federal partners for more resources and flexibility.

Homelessness solutions and prevention

What we’ve done …

Measure A– led by Cindy and Dave, allocated ALL $950M:

  • Building 5,127 New Apartments
  • Renovating 689 Units; and
  • Constructing 56 Housing Developments across 10 Cities .

Heading Home:

Housing our families with children & pregnant people. Partnering with our cities to better offer holistic care while partnering with the state to ensure funding support continues.

  • 1,407 Families with Children Housed w/in 24 months
    • 2,637 Children
    • 2,051 Adults
  • Additional 1,990 Families with Children Served Through the Homelessness Prevention System

What we are going to do …

Continue progress toward the goal I set last year of reaching functional zero with regard to families with children experiencing homelessness.

Focus more intensively on prevention efforts. We can’t solve for homelessness if people continue to be pushed out of housing. We need better supports and protection for renters, and we need to help move people out of poverty to where they can afford even modest housing in our County.

One of the ways we do that is by providing childcare so parents can work.


What we’ve done …

  • $15 Million ARPA Grants Made to Re-Open, Expand or Create New Childcare Facilities
  • $10 Million in Grants to Create Paid Apprenticeship Programs in Partnership with First 5 Santa Clara County to build workforce

Investments In Youth

  • Office of Family and Children Policy
  • Childcare Expansion
  • Children’s Budget
  • Black Infant Health Program
  • Perinatal Equity initiative
  • Roots Community Health Center Contracted to Provide Doula Services
  • Partnership with Area Hospitals to Coordinate BIH Expansion in their Networks
  • $13 Million in Grants to Support Creation, Expansion of Campus Wellness Centers to Support Student Mental Health Needs

What we want to do …

Seize on this moment: narrative around childcare is shifting from one of solely parental responsibility to a public good – an essential service that is anti-poverty, pro labor and pro-business, asset building, workforce productivity & retention increasing, and consumer spending-friendly. Affordable childcare keeps families in our cities and that keeps us growing and thriving.

State Advocacy: rate reform, childcare workers organized, universal PK & TK

Fed Advocacy: Schiff, Khanna

And while I’m talking to all of you, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin said in Chicago today: “It is still too hard to be a working parent. We need to get American families access to affordable childcare and other support for their children”

This is the moment. But while they talk at the Federal and State levels, Santa Clara County needs to walk the walk and get this DONE.

Criminal Justice System Reform & broad-based violence prevention

What we’ve done …

  • $1.5m Secured for Community-Based Violence Prevention in High Impact Areas with leadership of Supervisor Arenas.
  • Concluded Alternatives to Incarceration Workgroups with 120 Stakeholders
  • Funded New In-Custody Rehabilitation Director Position
  • Sheriff’s Office College Collaborative Program
  • $45k Inventory grant to the CA Native Garden Foundation to Establish an Ecological Land Management Workforce Training Program in Elmwood Jail
  • Initiated Investigation on Use of Chemical Agents in the Jails and Alternative Methods
  • I gratefully secured the unanimous approval of my colleagues to create a $4M Guaranteed Income Pilot Program that will be One of the First in the Nation to Provide Support to Community Members Returning from Incarceration
  • Office of Diversion and Reentry Services Launched a Small Business Incubator Program for Justice-Involved Individuals
  • $500,000 from State (Led by Senator Aisha Wahab) for Faith-Based Reentry Resource Centers to Provide Tutoring, Counseling, and Extracurricular Activities for Children with incarcerated Parents

What we want to do …

Earlier this week, our colleagues approved a referral Supervisor Arenas and I brought to create a coordinated and strategic countywide focus to the violence prevention work that is currently being done across multiple departments. Nationwide best practices recommend that violence prevention resources focus on strengthening protective factors and mitigating risk factors contributing violence to prevent residents from becoming involved in violence. Often, resources allocated to violence prevention and public safety overall focus heavily on criminal-justice system responses that almost exclusively act after violence has already occurred or a threat has been made. Greater emphasis on upstream strategies is needed to achieve a more holistic approach to public safety and I look forward to seeing this work built out.

So, I’ve managed to talk about a lot of things without mentioning what all this work hinges upon: money. In the best of times, there is never enough to do all we want, and these are not the best of times.

Due to a combination of costs rising faster than revenue is increasing, state and federal funding pullbacks, an outlay of Covid investments that FEMA will likely take a decade or more to reimburse, and frankly – greater local need for services – the budget conversations this year are going to be difficult and we are going to have to make choices that will assuredly please no one.

Our County does so much – offers so many innovative, evidenced based programs and services, overmatches state and federal funds, invests in trusted community organizations that are serving residents in need, and often tries to be everything to everybody.

This year, while we will commit to maintaining all core services, there may be some places where we’ll have to say no. And I won’t like that anymore than you will.

But for tonight – let’s celebrate all the good work being done by so many good people, here at the County and through our partners and the many community stakeholders who are just as invested as we are.

Let’s think about the neighbors on Sesame Street who look out for one another, keep each other safe, and accept every person in all their diverse presentations.

If I can’t tell you how to get to Sesame Street, I sure can tell you how great it can be in Santa Clara County.

Now, let’s get to work.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply