In her first public address as president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Cindy Chavez—wearing white to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage—highlighted the region’s stark inequalities as well as its unique ability to address them.
“We are a place of great beauty and great wealth,” she told a standing-room-only crowd at the County Government Center Wednesday evening. “And yet, when we look at our valley, what else do we see?”
She said she sees one of the most well-educated communities in the nation, yet a high school dropout rate that exceeds the statewide average. She sees one of the most diverse places on the planet, yet one prone to the kind of hate that prompted a gunman to murder innocent bystanders at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
She sees one of the wealthiest regions in the country that’s become ground zero for California’s affordability crisis. A region celebrated for its agricultural bounty, yet at risk of losing valuable industrial land to rising sea levels.
“The convergence of income inequality, violence and climate change is potentially cataclysmic for Silicon Valley and this planet,” Chavez told the audience. “And here, in this extraordinary valley we do—we seek to do—what others think is impossible or is not their job or is just too hard.”
The newly inducted board president then enumerated some of the ways she plans to tackle some of the county’s most intractable problems.
Thank you, Women’s Equality Leadership Council 2020 for being here tonight and for wearing white, the color of the suffragist movement. We also have yellow flowers, which men wore to support the suffragist movement. #CindyChavezStateofCounty2020 pic.twitter.com/7wpWA3NKne
— Cindy Chavez (@SupCindyChavez) January 30, 2020
In the months ahead, Chavez said she plans to ask her fellow supervisors to fund an effort to confiscate guns from people accused of domestic violence and to create a task force to study methamphetamine use. With projects related to the $950 million Measure A housing bond on schedule and plans to add another 1,000 units to the pipeline by the year’s end, she said the county will now prioritize transitional shelters for the homeless as well as specialized housing for the disabled and abuse survivors.
Chavez also called for expanding child care and mental health screenings for youth and addressing the “opportunity gap” perpetuated by the growing wealth gap.
“If there’s a central theme to my comments tonight, it’s a call to action,” Chavez said. “That we act while we are making plans, that we pay attention to individual struggles while we implement broad policies. What I mean is that we want to be able to see the forest and the trees and that we succeed at both the micro and the macro level.”
The stakes are too high for anything less, than to be “incredibly audacious,” she added.
“We don’t have the option of changing the world anymore,” she said. “We have to save it.”
The full address is recorded in the video below.