Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian described his political career as “bad timing all around” in an Aug. 29 appearance at the Rotary Club of Los Altos.
Simitian faced a number of challenges during his previous term on the Board of Supervisors, 1997-2000; as assemblyman for the 21st District, 2000-2004; and as state senator for the 11th District, 2004-2012.
His examples of “bad timing” included serving during the state’s energy crisis, budget crisis and recall of former Gov. Gray Davis. To top it off, in his first six weeks in Sacramento, a driver crashed his truck into the State Capitol building, setting it ablaze.
Once again elected to the Board of Supervisors last November, Simitian and fellow supervisors must address the potential imminent bankruptcy of the ambulance company that serves the area and the possibility its collapse could endanger reliable response to 911 calls.
“Nevertheless,” Simitian joked, “it’s great to be home.”
Simitian summarized his three primary areas of responsibility on the county board: safeguarding the fiscal strength and stability of local government; preparing county residents for the Affordable Care Act’s Oct. 1 enrollment and Jan. 1 operation dates; and solving problems in the 10 cities he represents.
In determining priorities, Simitian said he asks himself, “Does it make a difference in the daily lives of the people I represent?”
According to Simitian, local problems include homelessness, transportation, education, elder abuse, highway safety and prison realignment, a plan that would transfer many state prisoners to county jails.
During a question and answer session, an audience member raised the state’s challenge in funding $1.8 billion in state employees’ pensions and health care. Simitian agreed that unfunded liabilities might be the county’s most pressing problem.
To address the pension problem, Simitian said the Board of Supervisors recently voted to move $100 million from reserves to the CalPERS Employers’ Retiree Benefits Trust to generate a 7.5 percent return rate. In addition, 60 percent of new redevelopment funding will be applied to unfunded liabilities. Simitian said San Francisco lawmakers tackled a similar problem a few years ago in a collaborative way and suggested that Santa Clara County take the same approach.
Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos.