Correspondence with Santa Clara County Supervisors and staff

By Alex Eulenberg

Santa Clara County Resident and Homeowner since 1998

Note: I visited my Santa Clara County representative, Supervisor Joe Simitian, three times in 2023 during his "sidewalk office hours" at the Mountain View Farmer's market: April 23, August 20, and October 8. Here is the entirety of the email correspondence between myself and Supervisor Simitian and staff, plus correspondence with the other Supervisors.

Sent April 23, 2023

Dear Joe,

Thanks so much for talking with myself and my wife Ari today at the Mountain View Farmers' Market, hearing our concerns, and letting us know where you stand on the issue of vaccination requirements. It was heartening to know that you personally do not support coercion in the area of COVID-19 vaccination, that your approach has been and remains, to make COVID-19 vaccines available to those who want to take them, but not “chase down” as you put it, those who do not want to take them, and if it were up to you, there would not be a vaccination requirement for employment at the County of Santa Clara. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this.

To recap our conversation, we both agree that uptake on the latest COVID-19 booster by County residents is low, with only about one in three across the board and one in four for children under 18 having taken it. You pointed out that in the district that you represent, the uptake is more on the order of one in two. This would imply that the uptake is much lower than one in three in the other districts. To me, discriminating against half of your constituents based on their personal medical decisions is still wrong, and disparately discriminating against those living in other districts is doubly wrong. I believe that if it were 10% or even 1% of residents affected, it would still be wrong. I understand you may disagree with me on this.

We also clarified that the County employment requirement is to be “fully vaccinated,” which does not imply having taken a booster; nonetheless, consider that up to 50% of every district, in not having taken the bivalent booster, despite its availability for over half a year, is registering their current lack of faith in these vaccines, and would likely be opposed to the current vaccination requirement, even if they themselves are “fully vaccinated,” much as those who formerly went along with Jim Crow laws later opposed them after becoming aware of the injustice of “separate but equal” and joining the Civil Rights movement.

We also talked about how the County provides religious and medical exemptions from the requirement, and I said that these exemptions are not adequate. It is not fair that someone who objected to presenting proof of vaccination on moral or political grounds, or someone who did not follow through on the primary series on the basis of a bad experience with their first dose but could not get the required doctor’s note, would not be eligible for an exemption from being “fully vaccinated.” To me, requiring a religious statement or doctor’s note to get out of a requirement that has nothing to do with job requirements or safety is repugnant. We seemed to agree at least that for the case of a janitor who works the night shift alone this requirement was not appropriate. I would go further and say that in light of what we now know what COVID-19 vaccines can and cannot do, the requirement is inappropriate for all County employees.

I have attached a revised copy of the cover letter and proposed resolution my wife and I presented your staff with this morning, that would direct County Executive Jeff Smith to dismantle the vaccination requirement for employment that he had put in place, and as well would prohibit all discrimination of this type on County property. In our conversation, you let us know that at a recent meeting you had with Jeff, he revealed that he remains more extreme than yourself on the matter of getting people vaccinated, and would not budge on the issue, would not lift the requirement despite your urging. You hinted that his successor, who would take office in July, might have a more moderate view and would be more likely to rescind the requirement. This seems to me unlikely, as the man set to to take the post in July, James Williams, the current County Counsel, co-signed all the memoranda that put the vaccination policy in place in the first place.

So Joe, I urge you to have the attached proposed resolution put on the agenda at the next meeting. I am sending this attachment to the other County Supervisors as well, and plan to have it entered under public comment at the May 2 Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Please read the cover letter as well as the draft resolution carefully. They have some more arguments in favor of lifting the requirement you may have not considered, and should give you more confidence in your decision to support equality for those who have decided not to take the vaccine for whatever reason.

Your constituent,

Alex Eulenberg

Sent April 23, 2023

Dear Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors,

I am a Santa Clara County homeowner and property tax payer since 1998. I write today to tell you to end my county’s discrimination on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status, and to end it now.

I am disappointed that my county’s government still clings to the outdated notion that it is a good idea to require every single one of its employees, contractors, and even interns who work on its premises to receive a medical treatment that has nothing to do with maintaining job performance or workplace safety. This requirement was imposed unilaterally and without any public input by County Executive Jeff Smith and Counsel James Williams in two memoranda. See links to the relevant directives here:

I have attached a communication authored by myself and my wife, Ariadna Solovyova, with details on why we think this policy is wrong, including a resolution for the Board to adopt, directing the County Executive to end this wrongful discrimination now, both in employment, and at public events held on County property.

[ Attachment: Proposed Resolution ending Vaccine Status Discrimination at Santa Clara County (PDF) ]

Susan, as President of the Board of Supervisors, if you are able to put an item on agenda for the May 2 Regular Meeting to adopt this resolution, please do so.

Otherwise, I will submit the proposal as public comment for the May 2 Board meeting, with a request that it be put on the agenda of the May 16 meeting.

All Supervisors: please read the attached document and let me know what you think. If you disagree with anything stated in its cover letter, or if there is anything that would keep you from voting “yes” on the resolution, please let me know by the end of this week (Friday, April 28). I want you to pass some form of this resolution unanimously as soon as possible.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Yours in community,

Alex Eulenberg

Mountain View

Received April 23, 2023

(From Board of Supervisors President Susan Ellenberg)

Thank you for reaching out; your email is important to me. I always appreciate hearing about the issues that matter to you most. For those whose messages indicated they require additional follow-up, my office has received your note, and we will review it and respond as quickly as we can.

(From the office of another Supervisor)

Thank you so much for reaching out to the District 1 Office of County Supervisor Sylvia Arenas. We appreciate you taking the time to email our office, and we will respond to you shortly.

Have a wonderful day!

Received April 24, 2023

(From Supervisor Simitian’s Chief of Staff)

I’m acknowledging receipt of your email and copying my colleague Matt Savage who works on health related matters for Supervisor Simitian to ensure he is aware of the conversation you had with the Supervisor this past weekend.

(From Supervisor Simitian’s Healthcare policy Aide)

Thank you for reaching out to our office, and for joining the Supervisor at his sidewalk office hours event. I will share the draft resolution with the Supervisor.

Note: There was no communication from any Board of Supervisors member or staffer for months. During this time, County Executive Jeff Smith was replaced by James Williams. I visited Supervisor Simitian’s office hours again on August 20, to find out if anything had been done regarding the County’s vaccination requirement.

Received August 21, 2023

(From Supervisor Simitian’s Healthcare Policy Aide)

Thank you for speaking with the Supervisors and me at the Mountain View Farmer’s Market about vaccination requirements for County contractors. I contacted the County Executive’s Office to find out what the current policy is, I’ll let you know when I receive a response.

No further communication for more than a month so I visited Supervisor Simitian’s "sidewalk office hours" again on October 8. There I learned that the Supervisor’s health care policy aide, Matt Savage, had left and had been replaced with Brian Pascal.

Sent October 8, 2023

Dear Supervisor Simitian and staff,

Following up on our meeting during office hours today with staffers Katherine and Brian.

Regarding these County Executive memoranda, which were both co-authored by then County Counsel and current County Executive James R. Williams:

RE: Updated OVID-19 Vaccination Requirement for County Personnel August 5, 2021 (Last updated September 27, 2022)

RE: Application of COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement to County Contractors, Interns, and Volunteers August 20, 2021 (Last updated September 27, 2022)

They are apparently still in effect:

Here is my statement:

The Office of the County Executive should not be requiring a specific medical treatment of county staff and contractors. There is no state or federal law or regulation that requires, or guidance that recommends that unvaccinated persons be excluded from any space, anywhere. Nor does the county policy of requiring vaccination for county workers follow the recommendation of any order in effect from the County Public Health Department. On the other hand, there are many legal cases one could make against such a requirement, more so now than ever, with both the State and Federal COVID-19 public health emergencies declared over. As far as I can tell, there was never a review of the policy by anyone with expertise in employment law or public health.

My question to Supervisor Simitian is: do you support this policy?

If so why?

If not, I urge you to support a resolution to end it at the next Board of Supervisors meeting. Here is an example text you can use:

BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara that the County Executive is directed to rescind all policies requiring COVID-19 vaccination, with or without exceptions, including those established by memoranda “Updated COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement for County Personnel” and “Application of COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement to County Contractors, Interns, and Volunteers” as well as any County policy requiring medical treatment or testing not required by applicable law.

If you would not support such a resolution, again, I would like to know why. At the office hour today, you said something about not having the authority to make such a resolution. If this is your position regarding the proposed resolution as I have presented it please let me know what is wrong with it from a legal standpoint (whether or not you would support it).

Your neighbor,

Alex Eulenberg