This community opinion was contributed by Supervisor Mark Medina. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
In the dictionary an “emergency” is defined as “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.” We know from experience that the impact of emergencies is often complicated by a lack of preparation or training and slow or improper response.
In San Benito County, we are facing two immediate situations that fit this definition … dangerously so.
First, coronavirus is inarguably an “emergency.” The deaths of more than 5,000 Californians over 2.5 months has been a dreadful blow to many families. While some counties have suffered fewer cases and less death than others, the overwhelming loss is disconcerting to us all. But, together, we still can take steps to prevent further loss of life and, even if we are not directly affected, show our neighbors we care about what happens to them.
To do so, we should heed the wisdom of great leaders like General Eisenhower, who said during WWII, “Planning is everything” …. The planning process doesn’t mean that the plan will be successful. Rarely does a plan survive the first contact with any enemy. However, it is in the planning process that better training occurs, quicker responses result, and better plans emerge.
Applying that to the COVID-19 crisis means wearing face coverings, washing hands, isolating if not feeling well, social distancing, staying home as much as possible, and avoiding large group gatherings. These tactics are all part of the scientifically based plan for us to fight COVID-19 together. Will the plans and tactics change over time? Almost certainly. As we learn more about the virus, its weaknesses and its health impacts, our plans and tactics must evolve. And, through it all, the public certainly has the right to voice its opinion. You should expect your elected leaders to create the best plan it can to protect our community from dangerous crises like this virus.
The second emergency, which is exacerbated by our shared battle against COVID-19, is the County’s financial crisis. This week in our Board of Supervisor sessions, we face the daunting task of dealing with the critical revenue loss caused by the economic impact of the virus. We must balance our budget. Revenues must equal or exceed expenses. Unlike the federal government, we cannot print money or fill revenue gaps by burdening future generations with debt. It is illegal. And, it is not responsible.
We must plan now to face this emergency, comparing our ‘needs’ and our ‘wants’ with the revenue we will have. These economic challenges are, regrettably, likely to be with us for a while, and we must prepare well to respond effectively.
As the board takes this on, please know we, as supervisors, work for you. We’re committed to using your precious tax dollars to provide the services our community needs and prioritizes. As your representative, I encourage you to contact me to share your thoughts, positive or negative. In hearing from each of you, we can gather important information for building a plan to effectively respond as one community, to the emergencies we now face.