Sure, things are bad. But they could be a lot worse, and some things are even good, Stanislaus County Supervisor Jeff Grover indicated in a subdued State of the County address.
Positive news at the end of Tuesday's board meeting — that the county's physician training program has been rescued — helped to counter the mood set in Grover's grab-reality-by-the-horns speech.
The county's Family Medicine Residency Program, which cares for 70,000 low-income patients, abruptly lost its funding in March, and federal officials ordered the county to return $20 million. But leaders were grateful to learn that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has certified the county's revamped plan, partnering with Modesto's two largest hospitals.
A moment later, the roller coaster headed down again with the announcement that local jails this week released 71 inmates, plus 111 from alternative work programs. Sheriff Adam Christianson was required to let them go by the state's new early-release rules, county Chief Executive Officer Rick Robinson said.
"This is not something I wanted to do," Christianson said after the meeting. "I don't think releasing inmates into the community is good safety policy. I think it erodes the public's trust and confidence in the system and certainly does nothing for the victims of crime. But we have to comply with state law."
Grover, this year's Board of Supervisors chairman, sounded a pragmatic tone in his address, acknowledging unprecedented financial anguish.
"We'll all need to make do with less, better use what we have and look to share what we have with others to make us stronger," Grover said. "It won't be easy, all will have to sacrifice and we may not see improvement in the overall economy for some time."
As an example of what's gone right, Grover held up a newly formed street lighting district along West Modesto's Marshall Avenue. A majority of its 34 homeowners agreed to pay about $40 more per year in taxes for better safety at night.
"Instead of continuing to allow the circumstances of history and the poor choices of others to stop them, they marshaled the resources they had, partnered with others and resolutely improved conditions for themselves," Grover said. He referred to the streetlights periodically throughout the rest of his speech, saying a can-do "spirit ... can influence all of us."
But Juanita Jackson, who publicly praised the county when the district was formed in November, said after Tuesday's meeting that she's not happy because her section of the street remains mostly dark. Lamps installed on existing power poles don't reach to homes she owns near the north end, she said.
"I'm paying for something I don't get any service for," Jackson said.
After the meeting, county Public Works Director Matt Machado said: "People want the Cadillac version, lights every foot on steel poles, but they want to pay a used-car price for it."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.