By Mark Apostolon
Moses Zapien’s appointment on December 15, 2015, as Chair and Supervisor representing the Third District to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors (SJCBS), by Gov. Jerry Brown came at a critical juncture for the Central Valley. It happened just as the SJCBS was announcing an ambitious three-year strategic priorities plan – a plan that includes a multi-tiered approach to spur and revitalize San Joaquin County’s economic development, which will result in higher paying jobs and an expanded, thriving economy. For Chair Zapien, the timing of events could not have been better.
Zapien’s appointment to the Board seems a natural progression from his prior roles as San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney and Stockton City Councilman. As Chair, he clearly understands the challenges the Board faces and the opportunities as well with an aggressive approach to address economic development, expansion of infrastructure, outreach to disadvantaged, and criminal justice reforms in a substantive way that will create a lasting and positive impact on the County – all while maintaining a balanced budget.
That impact will not only be achieved by focusing on “recruiting new business and industries … that provide jobs with living wages in support of local/new business growth,” but also expanding infrastructure which will encourage both new industries to make San Joaquin County their home, but also allow existing business and industries to grow. That expansion includes developing Stockton Metropolitan Airport into Stockton International Airport. On June 25, 2015, the San Joaquin Council of Governments approved a bond financing plan totaling as much as $9.7 million to develop a Federal Inspection and Baggage facility to allow for international travel. While the customs building is currently in the conceptual phase, SMA is already seeing its services expand.
Just this month, Ohio-based cargo charter airline, Air Transport International Inc., began daily operations at SMA, utilizing a pre-existing 10-acre facility, built in 2004 for $6 million which has been vacant for almost a decade, that will be able to accommodate up to four large air freighters at a time. Additionally, Allegiant Air recently announced that it will offer nonstop service between Stockton and San Diego International. As Zapien outlined, Stockton Airport offers carriers, industry and the public what they cannot get from other area airports: lower fees, minimal traffic, and ease of access.
Another goal of the Board is to bring County Government closer to the people, broaden public access to County services by developing and installing technologies that create an ease of access to County services and information, and open the County’s operations through a more streamlined approach.
Among the programs Zapien would like to see blossom is the Board’s effort to address the diverse needs of the disadvantaged, “it is an issue of regional concern”. To that end, the Board has recommended the creation of the Homelessness Task Force stating, “the role of the Board Members is to be a convener among the local non-profit organizations and governmental bodies in yielding positive outcomes and best practices in reducing homelessness in San Joaquin County.” The desire to have and opportunity for both government and non-profit agencies to work in concert is significant. By combining the efforts of various governmental and community organizations, it has the potential to allow for less duplication of efforts between public and private agencies and programs, lead to a more effective budgeting of dollars, and allow the County’s programs to help the homeless to be even more effective.
Zapien quickly adds that the Board will also continue to fight against the twin tunnels. “The tunnels will not produce one additional drop of water,” and, as the Board has made clear in prior statements, “the twin tunnels will forever alter and negatively impact the economy and citizens of San Joaquin County.”
The Board’s Strategic Priorities are ambitious, and completely within the abilities of the Board Members. Already the outcomes of the Google Government Innovation Lab with the Departments of County Administrators, Human Resources, Human Services Agency, Information Systems and Probation have yielded significant results, which has put the Board’s goals on the right track with a clear purpose. Zapien is keenly optimistic that together they will be creating initiatives, which will promote and “impact the entire county while continuing to serve the City of Stockton.”
By Mark Apostolon