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.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
"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. In the face of disinformation and division, we did not give up and we did not give in."
Fletcher said 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 chairman, 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 located 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; and
- 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.
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.