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WILL THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN BECOME THE TOP PRIORITY FOR ALL SAN JOSE LEADERS?

January 25, 1992

By Yolanda Reynolds

La Oferta Newspaper.

Santa Clara County Board Chairperson, Supervisor Zoe Lofgren, in a speech Tuesday to an overflow crowd in the County Chambers reviewed the Board’s previous achievements and announced the need for increased attention to a number of serious problems facing county residents. The crowd responded to her speech with a standing ovation.

Lofgren said that those priorities include, “helping average families obtain health care.” Lofgren gave as examples the fact that, in Santa Clara County, 20% of pregnant women do not get adequate prenatal care and that 53% of two-year-old children are not fully immunized against ordinary childhood diseases.

Lofgren reminded the audience that enough has not been done to address many of the needs of the county’s children. She says that the County, alone, cannot make a difference but that, if the community comes together in a “one note song” to elected officials (local State and National) and to community leaders saying that ‘Children must be first on our list,” there will be a difference.

Lofgren, in her speech referred to the study, Alternative Future Trends and Choices, which points out that unless the right choices are made, children in this County will suffer from an increase in illness. Illnesses that will be very costly to cure in the future, compared to the small sum of money needed preventive care, if it is provided now.

This study, Alternative Futures, was initiated by Supervisor Diane McKenna and is as valid today as it was in 1989 when the data was gathered for the report. If the report were updated, the statistics would undoubtedly probably show that in some areas conditions have worsened.

Lofgren spoke in behalf of the many parents who work and yet are unable to pay for medical care. In addition, Lofgren pointed out that in the United States, half of all families would fall below the poverty line if both parents did not work outside the home. In 1989, when the County study was done, 85% of the 57,000 or so residents who sought free food at private charities were families.

Lofgren pointed out that not only did that mean that many children were hungry and had minimal, if any, medical care, but that many more children have no one to look after their welfare after school and in the summer.

Supervisor Lofgren said, “We need to ask whether children in these circumstances have been given a good opportunity to be educated and to grow into healthy productive adults.” She added, “it is not only morally right for society to care deeply about its children, it is in our self-interest to make sure that today’s children become tomorrow’s economic producers.”

To achieve the necessary improvements in the lives of so many of the county’s residents, particularly our children, Lofgren is suggesting that the County streamline its services in such a way that the bureaucracy will become better coordinated and centered on “keeping the families together and healthy.”

Lofgren asked that we all come together to “identify the opportunities and the barriers for achieving (a better environment for families)” and then come up with a program for cooperation and action.

Supervisor Lofgren announced that she and her fellow Supervisors expect by the end of the year the results of the work by the County’s Strategic Plan Committee, whose charge was to identify me County’s most pressing problems and a draft of possible strategies for their solution.

Lofgren acknowledged that some of these problems occur due to causes beyond the scope of local government (the current recession) but she felt that even in such a situation, by working together, solutions or at least improvements are possible.

Indeed, there are many families whose abilities to cope are stretched to the limit because of the faltering economy, the high cost of living in the County, the low pay for many full time workers (eg. janitors), lack of proper health care, drug abuse and other complicating circumstances. In Santa Clara County each year, Lofgren says, 25,000 children are abused. She added that last year 6,000 children were taken to Juvenile Hall.

Lofgren asked for a new direction in priorities. She called on community leaders to “build on their strengths and do better where possible.” She added that the electorate wants politicians to focus… on problems that are important.”

New priorities is a statement heard often when community groups come together. Just last week, when the Housing Commission of the City of San Jose met, many of the community speakers asked for new priorities for the City. One such speaker asked that the Commissioners convey his opposition to the current interest in ball parks – stating “there will be no stadium until there is more low and very low housing available to the citizens of San Jose.”

At that wintry night meeting, numerous families, now homeless, came forward to testify, relating to the Commission the difficulties they have encountered. Many were homeless in spite of the fact that they worked full time (but at jobs that paid the minimum wage), others because of poor health – no longer worked, and others, San Jose State students, though not homeless, said that they could only survive to taking a place in “bread lines.”

Yet, in spite of this crisis in public needs and a rapidly widening budget deficit, the City government seems determined to use its taxing powers to give assistance to out of town beneficiaries. These being baseball players with six and seven figure salaries and multimillion sports franchise owners. In better times, such actions might be considered too bad policy. In times like this, with public needs so desperate, some in the community say, they (the City leaders) are not outrageous but immoral.

Many community leaders blame the lack of affordable housing on the wealth in the County but others claim that much of that housing was destroyed by Redevelopment.

Though there has been much controversy on the housing issue, few cities keep accurate figures on what happens to displaced families. In this, San Jose is not exception. To those who go out on the streets and observe, however, the human cost is obvious.

For more information on either of the county reports contact Supervisor Zoe Lofgren at 299-2323. © La Oferta Publication.

 

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