Nov 18, 2022
First off, I want you to know you can always reach out to me at [email protected].
Second, it has been almost exactly two years and eight months since I sent out my first e-newsletter to you on March 17, 2020. That date might ring a bell. It was four days after the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. We had all just entered into a scary, lonely and unprecedented epoch—not knowing how long it would last, whether we would live or die, nor how we would get food and other necessities. Everyone worried about their employment status, with some of you having already been laid-off. There was no map to follow. I knew that I had to reach out to you and provide you with accurate, timely and vital information to help you navigate the unchartered waters.
Team Hertzberg put all hands on deck, gathered information from our trusted sources and put out our first e-newsletter to connect with you. Prior to the pandemic, I had not wanted to send an e-newsletter. I had seen too many that were merely tooting the horn of the elected official who sent it. That is not me; I am a roll up my sleeves and get to work guy. But, I knew that you were adrift and needed reliable information from a trusted source, along with a sense of community. The e-newsletter seemed like an ideal way to funnel critical information to you, and help you feel a sense of belonging, even while separated from friends and loved ones.
The headline of our first e-newsletter edition reflected this – “We’re in this Together.”
Initially, we published the e-newsletter daily, as information was ever-changing. We quickly named the e-newsletter Virus in the Valley, reflecting the highly personalized information, tailored to the specific needs of our community. We filled each edition with details about confirmed cases, emergency funding, meal sites and food banks, details of ordinances and legislation designed to meet the crisis, and more.
Team Hertzberg was able to produce the e-newsletter and answer calls from you seamlessly due to the foresight of my amazing staff who, the week prior to the lockdown, set up remote phone and computer access, and devised a way to immediately e-blast vital communications to you. We were so innovative in our preparation to continue serving and informing you, that my staff members were asked to help other Senate offices set up the same remote workarounds that we had in place.
Over time, as abnormal became the new normal, we reduced the frequency of the newsletter, allowing us to focus on, among other work, helping a multitude of constituents navigate an Employment Development Department that was unable to handle an unprecedented demand of claims. While it was frustrating and scary for those who could not get their unemployment claims processed, we worked tirelessly to escalate your cases to the designated problem solvers at EDD, and followed up to ensure that your claim issues were resolved. Our office resolved about 2,490 EDD cases.
Of these nearly 2,500 cases, each required intake, contact with EDD, further communication with the claimant, and additional follow-up. We are pleased that our efforts helped secure more than $60 million in benefits for San Fernando Valley residents who contacted us with unresolved EDD issues.
Regardless of the competing and critical demands, we continued producing the e-newsletter, feeling it was a vital link connecting you with the information you needed, including details regarding testing, once it was available, and vaccine access, when administration of them began.
Once California reopened on June 15, 2021, we converted Virus in the Valley to Heart of the Valley – a weekly e-newsletter that had a new focus on community activities, legislative work and more general resources. We hope that our communications informed, helped and connected you.
The open rate of our e-newsletter indicates that you found value in our communications. We sent out around 27 million email copies of Virus in the Valley and Heart of the Valley. Throughout its various iterations, we have transmitted each edition to between 180,000 and 200,000 subscribers. We have an open rate that averages between 35 – 40 percent, with many subscribers clicking on embedded links that took the reader to more detailed information. That well exceeds the typical open rate of about 12 percent for legislative e-blasts.
This is our final edition of Heart of the Valley. As my time in the Senate quickly draws to a close, I am reflecting on all of the wonderful people I have met and worked with, and your stories, struggles and successes. Our community is filled with resilient, charitable, talented, entrepreneurial people who have an amazing sense of neighborliness. We have featured some of these stories in the e-newsletter, so that the whole community can know about the quiet heroes who walk amongst us. Those selfless heroes, along with all of you, truly are the Heart of the Valley.
While we await the final counting of the Nov. 8 ballots, knowing that regardless of the outcome, I intend to continue working to strengthen and enrich our community any way I am able. And, I will continue working on your behalf until the lights go out on the final day of my term – Nov 30. Follow me on Twitter to watch snippets of our busy last day.
Throughout my Legislative career in the Assembly and Senate, I have represented most of the San Fernando Valley. You will be in good hands with Senators Stern, Portantino and Senator-elect Menjivar. I congratulate you and wish you well.
It has been my distinct privilege to serve you and be your voice for the San Fernando Valley in the Legislature.
(Photo by Edwin Amaya)
Again, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].