Animal lovers gathered in November to witness a monumental construction milestone: the “topping off” of the new Santa Clara County Animal Services Center in San Martin. After years of planning, the new LEED Silver certified Animal Services Center is on track to open in 2021. Fundraising efforts for the center are underway to complete critical infrastructure of this state-of-the-art facility. Please consider supporting local animals with a tax-deductible financial contribution.

Residents understandably are asking, “What is being done to address homelessness?” The answer is that we are housing people. In fact, in the last five years the county has helped to house 12,400 people—including about 1,600 veterans and 3,800 kids. We are using voter-approved funds and other public investments to create affordable housing for residents in need. The county is now almost a third of the way toward our goal of financing 4,800 new affordable units through Measure A by 2027.

Emergency 911 texting services are now available throughout Santa Clara County in 2020. This new option will help those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired and anyone who feels unsafe speaking over the phone. The county operates an emergency communications center that is staffed by 130 employees, including 80 dispatchers who answer approximately 45,562 calls per month, 62 calls per hour, 1,497 calls in a 24-hour period and 546,750 calls per year. Dialing 911 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is reminded, “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.”

The South Valley Islamic Center’s Cordoba mosque and cemetery in San Martin was approved in December. Many perspectives were expressed during the multi-year process, and all sides were listened to and respected. Compromises were made, and it was determined that the resulting use is appropriate and lawful. The project ensures that water quality will be monitored on an ongoing basis. The project will enable its members to move their services from a converted barn to a much more suitable—and beautiful—place of worship.

The county celebrated the grand opening of a 31,000-square-foot expansion of the William F. James Boys Ranch near Morgan Hill, a youth detention facility that helps 15- to 18-year-olds turn their lives around while in custody. The expansion allows the county to provide additional services, including rehabilitation, substance abuse counseling, gang intervention, and education in trades and skills. I’m very proud of the work being done at the James Ranch by both the staff and the young people who are committed to improving their lives.

The shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July was a senseless tragedy that has rocked our community and shocked the world. Six-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 25-year-old Trevor Irby were killed and 15 others were injured. My heart goes out to the families affected and as a community, we are deeply grateful to the thousands of local firefighters and law enforcement, EMS, physicians, nurses, medical personnel, emergency management staff, volunteers and community members who sprang into action during this crisis.

I look forward to facing challenges in 2020 head on with my colleagues on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and working with all of you to create a better community. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman represents District 1, which includes South County, on the board of supervisors. This column is adapted from his January 2020 monthly newsletter to constituents.

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