While talking about such topics as chronic county unemployment, agribusiness, water shortages, transportation taxes, mental health and public safety, DeMartini stated the only way to tackle those challenges was to work together.
“Finger pointing may make us feel good, but the obligation to make our county more prosperous rests squarely on the 520,000 people who live here,” he said. “These are big issues, but together we are up to the task.”
DeMartini began the address talking about the need to restore hope, and began to suggest there needs to be more support for the industry that drives the county—agriculture.
“We sometimes take agriculture for granted. We shouldn’t,” he said. “In Stanislaus, it is a multi-billion dollar annual business.”
As he talked about supporting the county agriculture industry, however, he also mentioned the need for economic diversity and pointed to Patterson as an example.
“In order for there to be growth in employment, we need diversity in our economy that will provide jobs that compliment our economic base,” DeMartini said. “Warehousing and distribution have added many good paying jobs, with the Patterson area gaining the most.”
While he called for economic diversity, he cautioned against utilizing prime agricultural land for business or housing.
“Agricultural land should not be considered the inventory for the next housing tract or warehouse,” he said. “Ag land is an important and irreplaceable natural resource that is responsible for employing more people that any other industry in this county. It is time we recognize that reality.”
Sticking with his main theme, DeMartini also called for cooperation among county and city public agencies over road project prioritization to get a transportation tax measure passed.
“Counties with a local transportation tax, which we refer to as ‘self-help’ counties, are able to use local dollars to leverage billions of federal and state dollars each year for improving their transportation systems,” the chairman said. “That we need to become a self-help county is broadly accepted among local leaders.”
DeMartini also touched on current drought conditions and local entities pumping too much water from groundwater reserves. He said the county took action last year to curb water sales to outside entities.
During his closing remarks DeMartini said the cooperation must come from within the county, noting that higher forms of government are unable to collaborate at all and will not hear our pleas for financial stipulations.
“Neither Sacramento nor Washington is going to come riding into the Valley and improve our schools, arrest our criminals, build our infrastructure, take care of our elderly or insure equal opportunity for our children,” he said. “These are big issues, but together, we are up to the task.”
Nick Rappley can be reached at 209-568-9975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.