|May 25, 2020
It’s been about 12 weeks since we won our race for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and about 10 weeks since COVID-19 changed all of our lives. I hope this finds you surviving in this new world — physically, emotionally, financially.
When I won the election on March 3, I knew the ensuing 10 months would be a kind of “limbo” for me as I waited, and waited, and waited to take office in January. What I didn’t expect is that the whole world would be put on “pause” as well.
I know for many, though, this is much more than just a “pause.” It’s a critical interruption of lives and livelihoods. It’s a serious breach in the educational progress of our young people. It’s a huge burden for families combining work, school, daycare and daily living under one roof. It’s an economic disaster for employees and business owners, big and small. It’s a very real threat to the health and safety of every one of us, but even more so for people who work on the front lines or are vulnerable because of their health, age, living conditions or economic status.
And it is a monumental challenge for our government, from the White House to our city halls. And, of course, our Board of Supervisors.
It is frustrating for me to be at home during this critical time. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not worried about losing a job or a business or, really, even my health. I am privileged in so many ways. Still, it is difficult to have been elected to serve my community but having to wait so long to assume that official role.
I’ve heard from many of you who want to know how I’m doing — and what I’m doing.
The short answer is this: I’m mostly staying at home, protecting myself and my community from the virus that now has killed almost 100,000 Americans. Right now, this is the most important contribution most of us can make. If we’re not first responders or medical professionals or workers in the sectors that we used to rarely think about — grocery clerks, delivery drivers, unemployment claim processors — staying home is our job in this fight against the pandemic.
I know there is growing pushback against this, and I sympathize with those who want to re-open a small business or re-start their cash flow. There is real hardship for these folks, including many of you reading this right now.
There’s also hardship for the more than 500 friends, family and neighbors in Sonoma County who have contracted COVID-19. That hardship is falling disproportionately upon Latinx residents, who comprise only about a quarter of the population but account for two-thirds of those who test positive for the virus. In the segment under age 18, Latinx youth comprise an astounding 95 percent of infected young people in Sonoma County. When I take office, I will work to ensure our county — and our nation — prioritizes policies that can reverse these inequalities.
And for those who say our curve is flat, our numbers are low, please remember the reason why Sonoma County’s infection and death rates — and California’s — are better than those of many other regions. We shut down early and are opening up carefully, and I agree with this strategy.
That’s not to say I agree with everything our county government has done over the past few months. But, despite urging from some of you, I have not been publicly vocal with my opinions since March 3. And I don’t plan to be during this transition period before I take office in January.
Instead, I continue to talk privately with my future colleagues about the issues of the day, as well as about the personal challenges we all face as elected officials — and particularly during this pandemic that has upended the life of our entire nation. My intent is to work on building relationships with fellow supervisors over the coming months, not to be another voice telling them how to do their jobs.
I’ve also begun spending socially distant time with county staff talking about the nuts and bolts of county government. These conversations range from budgets and policies to organizational and cultural issues within individual departments. This is information and knowledge that is only acquired over time, and any work I can put toward that now will pay off when I take office in January.
The many levels of government work better when they work together, so I also keep in touch with elected officials at the city, state and federal levels. “In touch” means a lot of phone calls and Zoom meetings, so I’m really looking forward to a time when “getting together” actually involves getting together.
The same goes for meetings with members of the community, including some of you. While I appreciate the ability to chat on the phone or exchange texts and emails, there’s no good substitute for a face-to-face conversation over a cup of coffee or even in the corner of a crowded room. I miss being with my community in small gatherings and big ones.
Still, life is good. I’ve settled into some comfortable routines, including more reading, cooking and exercising. I’ve also become a regular volunteer at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which is a good reminder not just of the great need in our community right now, but also the great generosity.
If you’re on this mailing list, you care deeply about our community. I hope in addition to staying safe and healthy, you also are finding ways to stay involved and to continue to make a difference.
Until we can meet again in person, and have a conversation that’s not filtered by a mask or a Zoom app, take good care of yourself and your family. And if that conversation just can’t wait, I’m still at email@example.com and 707-219-8668.