San Joaquin County Supervisor Robert Rickman brought the State of the County address to Tracy for the first time on Tuesday, giving business and civic leaders a snapshot of issues like the economy, jobs, housing, public safety and homelessness.
Rickman was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2020 after serving 10 years on the Tracy City Council, including 6 as a councilman and 4 as mayor. At the start of 2023 his fellow members on the Board of Supervisors elected him as board chairman.
Rickman gave his update to a full auditorium at the Grand Theatre on Central Avenue, following a presentation by Christopher Callahan, President of the University of the Pacific.
Callahan, president at UOP since July 2020, opened by describing the importance of higher education, with UOP alumni in the top 2% in the U.S. for career earnings compared to all other universities, affirming that the return on the investment people put into higher education is extraordinary.
He also described UOP as an economic engine for the region, with 6,750 students across the university’s Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco campuses, with the Stockton campus alone accounting for more than $300 million annually in economic activity.
Part of UOP’s mission today is to reach underserved students, with UOP 23rd in the U.S. and third in California for the percentage of students attending on Pell grants, federal grants available to students from low-income families, more than any of the University of California or California State University colleges.
“We take pride in that. That is our intention because we think these are the students who are our future, and to be able to get them a college education transforms not just their lives but their families’ lives and their communities’ lives.
Rickman started off by acknowledging the four times that as Tracy’s mayor he gave State of the City addresses from the Grand Theatre stage, and how the county, like the rest of the world, faced the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing lives lost and businesses close because of the pandemic.
Today he sees the county not just rebounding, but on the verge of new growth.
“I’m pleased to report that the fiscal state of our county is strong as ever,” he said, noting that the county government has a balanced budget with a $2.59 billion spending plan, with each department finding ways to bring in revenue, and the county also hiring across all departments at all levels.
That translates to investments in quality of life, such as a recent addition to San Joaquin County General Hospital, $74 million for housing veterans and mental health initiatives, investments in community centers around the county and support for University of the Pacific and San Joaquin Delta College.
“As you can see from these examples we put a premium on our students and education, and we take care of our veterans,” he said.
Rickman addressed homelessness as the county’s most pressing issue, where multiple agencies and multiple approaches will be the key to getting unsheltered people back into sustainable lives.
“We cannot view the issue as just housing. That’s only one component of the overall issue,” he said, adding that in his 28-year career as an officer and sergeant with the California Highway Patrol he has seen the mental health and drug abuse issues among first-hand.
“We have to look at this crisis holistically and regionally,” he said, adding that the county has invested nearly $200 million countywide on homeless initiatives. “Those investments will result in the addition of over 700 units of permanent supportive housing units and increasing shelter capacity countywide by 166%.”
He also described strides against crime in the county, with District Attorney Ron Freitas’ office clearing a backlog of crime report referrals and increasing the rate at which criminal suspects are charged from 53% in 2022 to 72% in 2023. He added that Freitas’ office recently received $2.2 million to fight the spread of fentanyl.
“If you’re going to deal these poisons that are killing our children we’re going to use every available resource that we have to prosecute and throw you in prison.”
On the economic development front, Rickman cited expansion of Amazon in Tracy and Tesla into Lathrop, and reminded the crowd that the Port of Stockton is as busy as ever, accounting for 10,000 jobs, and Stockton Metropolitan Airport is also set to grow in its capacity and importance.
Rickman added that one initiative that the county is opposing is the Delta Tunnels conveyance project, a proposal to bring water from the north end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south end, where it can then be shipped to Southern California.
“We aren’t going to stop opposing this until that project is dead in the water,” he said.
• Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 209-830-4227.