January 16, 2008



North County Gang Commission to be formed

The New Year brings with it new challenges and I’m looking forward to making progress against a threat to public safety that is a blight on all of North County.

Soon a seven-member North County Gang Commission will be formed to come up with a regional plan aimed at combating gang activity in North County. Gang suppression by law enforcement is not enough. I asked Third District Supervisor Pam Slater-Price to join me in bringing together a group of experts who will partner and link communities together.

The commission, made up of five individuals from the Fifth District and two from the Third District will collaborate with law enforcement and local nonprofits to work on after-school programs, workforce training and to pursue grant funding to benefit the region.

My first nominee is retired Oceanside Unified School District Superintendent Ken Noonan. He is a major force in the community and will be a key individual in making this more than just another commission. Under his leadership, we will target gang prevention, intervention and suppression.

The remainder of the volunteer commission will be chosen from education, law enforcement, business, social and health services and young people formerly involved in gangs.

We need to stop the cycle of pushing gang members back and forth on the 78 corridor. Law enforcement should not have the sole responsibility for dealing with gangs. We want to hear ideas from our community partners who are on the front lines. Their input will help form a plan and then we will take action.

In about a month, we expect to vote on an ordinance to establish the commission which will then be formed and hit the ground running.

The children and families of North County deserve the chance to live in safe neighborhoods.


There are many more things happening within the district and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them in this, the latest edition of “The Word.”

2008 is off to a tremendous start. My staff and I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.
Bill Horn



All Aboard!

The Sprinter, a long-awaited part to our regional mass-transit plan will soon begin operations. Late last month I was on board the train when it broke through a ceremonial banner at the Escondido Transit Center, completing a 22-mile trip from the Oceanside Transit Center station.

Thirty years ago, a regional mass-transit system was envisioned for San Diego County. It began with the San Diego Trolley. A few years ago, we added the Coaster commuter train between Oceanside and downtown San Diego and soon the Sprinter train will be another critical piece to the mass-transportation plan along the Highway 78 corridor. Our ultimate goal is to relieve a good portion of the traffic congestion on 78.

The train uses two self-propelled cars with 272 seats. It has diesel engines under the passenger compartment and offers a ride up to 55 miles an hour that’s surprisingly smooth. There are 15 stations along the way with service seven days a week. Weekday trips are every 30 minutes in each direction from early morning until 9 P.M. At any time on weekdays, four trains will be on the tracks. The one-way fare is $2; the same as transit buses and from Oceanside to Escondido takes about 53 minutes.

As a longtime North County Transit District board member, even with the federal government paying $152 million toward the project, I wondered about the cost, especially when it went from $352 million in 2003 to $477 million today. It took awhile for me to be won over; however, I now think the Sprinter will prove its worth and five to 10 years from now; we’ll be glad that it’s here. We have answered the public’s plea to improve our mass-transit options by giving them the Sprinter train.



Regional Transportation Improvement Program

There are few things that rile me up more than the State of California stealing money that is supposed to go to local transportation projects. That’s why, while it is not perfect, I voted to support the San Diego Association of Government’s (SANDAG) Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP). The plan takes into account all future regional transportation projects from now until the year 2030 and also gives North County our fair share of available funds.

Among North County’s expected benefits:

  • Widening Highway 76 (which is already in its environmental review process) from Oceanside to Interstate 15
  • Adding two carpool lanes to Highway 78 between Interstates 5 and 15
  • Building four carpool lanes on I-5 between Highway 56 and Oceanside
  • Adding carpool and toll lanes north of Highway 76 to Orange County and I-15 north of Highway 78 to Riverside County
  • Completing the Sprinter

I’ve always thought the greatest percentage of TransNet tax dollars should go to highways and roads and I believe the RTIP that I supported achieves that.




Customized Customs

We continue to polish the jewel that is McClellan-Palomar Airport. This month the U.S. Customs Office at Palomar is scheduled to commence operations. The opening is the completion of a project I worked on for several years and thanks to excellent cooperation from Congressman Brian Bilbray, the Federal Aviation Administration, our County Airports Director Peter Drinkwater, and companies like Western Flight, Jet Source, Premier Jet and Magellan Aviation, the aviation operations in North County have been greatly improved.

Customs user fees are charged to those wishing to use the service at Palomar Airport, instead of clearing customs with no charge at port-of-entry airports. The users are willing to pay a fee for the service because it saves time, fuel, and maintenance on their aircraft by eliminating the need to stop at another airport (usually Brown Field) to clear customs when their final destination is McClellan-Palomar Airport.

Right now, customs will be for non-commercial flights only because there are currently no commercial international flights scheduled at Palomar Airport.


Sage Hills Preservation: A Watershed Opportunity

Sage Hills is 234-acres of pristine land in the Escondido Creek watershed area of unincorporated Elfin Forest. I’m happy to tell you that my fellow Supervisors agreed with my recommendation that the land be purchased and preserved as permanent open space. We directed our Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to work with the Conservation Fund to identify money for the acquisition of Sage Hills. Once accomplished, this will be a tremendous benefit for those of us who marvel at the area’s beauty today and for the enjoyment of future generations.

I appreciate the strong support from Dan Silver, Executive Director of the 
Endangered Habitats League who called the land in question “a cornerstone of successful preserve assembly.” He said he was “overwhelmed by its beauty and biological value. In a relatively small area, it has an amazing array of habitats—coastal sage scrub, a perennial stream, wetlands, oaks.” He added that there is a “sense of isolation and tranquility that will provide a high quality experience for future recreational users.”

All of this began with the owner of Sage Hills; good steward of one of the true gems in North County. The owner’s desire to sell the land as permanent open space and passive recreational purposes reflects a true and lasting commitment to conservation. From there came outstanding cooperation between the property owner, the Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove Town Council, the Elfin Forest Landscape Foundation, the Conservation Fund, the Endangered Habitats League, community leaders and our County staff.

I think the Animal Planet cable channel would have enough material in Sage Hills for an hour program. Important animal species identified on the property include several nesting pairs of federally threatened California gnatcatcher, a red-tailed hawk nesting site, Cooper’s hawk, more than 43 bird species, four reptile species, and nine mammals. There are also four plant species on site recognized as sensitive.

The Board action directs the CAO to seek funding opportunities to match $789,000 allocated for acquisition of open space land in District 5.

I appreciated many letters, E-mails and FAX messages of support for this project. The most common theme mentioned was that opportunities such as this that are missed, generally never come again. I’m pleased to say, that won’t happen.


County Credit Rating AA+-OK

County Credit Rating AA+-OK

A key to our County’s success is maintaining one of the highest credit ratings of any governmental agency in the nation. While we were working to safeguard citizens during the recent wildfires, three municipal credit rating agencies were keeping more than a passing interest on us during and after the fires.

The agencies had many questions about the impact of the fire response, recovery and potential fluctuations in property values and tax collections for the region.

Our County team of Chief Financial Officer Don Steuer, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Greg Smith and Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister kept in close communications with Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch. The agencies were reassured that our fiscal stability and strong financial management will enable us to manage the short and long-term financial impacts of the disaster.

The result is that the County’s strong credit ratings remain unchanged.

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More positive news came this month when the independent agency that manages San Diego County’s $8.8 billion pension fund earned Standard and Poor’s highest credit rating. The San Diego County Employees Retirement Association has an “extremely strong” ability to meet financial commitments and had its credit rating boosted from AA+ to AAA.



Equipping Fallbrook Response Team

Fallbrook’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has been given a $29,500 donation from J. Power USA of Illinois to purchase an operations trailer to use during disasters such as the wildfires of last October.

James Beebe, who coordinates CERT in Fallbrook, says the money will buy a trailer with equipment for ham radio operators. There are more than 40 trained volunteers in Fallbrook who have been certified as ham radio operators who could help coordinate evacuation and rescue efforts if a future disaster knocks out telephone lines.

I appreciate Steve Thome, vice president of development for J. Power USA who saw the need in Fallbrook to augment fire protection for the community. His company is developing a power plant near the Pala Indian Reservation. After meeting with Bill Metcalf, North County Fire Protection District Chief, Thome decided to make the donation as a way of becoming part of the community.

The trailer would be deployed rapidly during a fire or earthquake and is easy to move using a truck with a towing hitch.


Getting Rid of the Mess

Our Department of Environmental Health continues to do a remarkable job in removing household hazardous wastes from homes destroyed and damaged in Firestorm 2007. Team members have worked with more than 75 experts from the State Department of Toxic Substances Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Household hazardous wastes, such as pesticides, paints and propane tanks were removed from more than 2,000 properties countywide.


There’s a New Sheriff’s Substation in Town

Last month, Sheriff Bill Kolender and I were among those who officially opened the new 4S Ranch Substation; the latest public safety improvement for a community that this year is expected to have 23,000 residents.

The facility is about 6,500 square feet and includes a conference/briefing room, patrol writing areas, prisoner holding cells, a kitchen, locker rooms, and several offices. There is also office/cubicle space for the California Highway Patrol and San Diego Police Department. Because 4S Ranch is within the County unincorporated area, the CHP provides traffic enforcement.

K.D. Stahl Construction Company was able to complete work on the $2.5 million substation in less than a year.

Joining the Sheriff and me for the opening were Undersheriff Bill Gore, Assistant Sheriffs Earl Wentworth and Al Guerin, and Newland Communities President Mike Rust.

The Miracle Continues

Congratulations to our Department of Parks and Recreation for being honored with a “Project of the Year Award” from the American Public Works Association for the Miracle Field at San Dieguito Park. The award was based on the exemplary collaborative effort that took place between the County and the community, in order to make the dream come true.

The facility opened last May and is Southern California’s first fully accessible baseball field.

Private donations, county funding and grants from our District 5 Community Projects Fund are helping children who might be left on the sidelines, get in the game and have the time of their lives.

The Spring 2008 season is from March 22 to May 17. On-line registration is now openwww.miracleleagueofsandiego.org. For more information: contact dan.engel@miracleleagueofsandiego.org or (858) 354-0203. Registration closes February 21.



Semper Fi 

One of the great success stories in North County is HirePatriots.com, a website that allows active and recently retired or separated Marines and sailors to find part or full-time work. Mark and Tori Baird founded HirePatriots.com and I’ve been privileged to assist them with grants from our discretionary Community Projects Fund.

HirePatriots.com continues to expand its outreach; the latest was a Military Marriage Enrichment Weekend at the Marina Suites in Oceanside Harbor for couples who were dealing with combat-related injuries and/or multiple deployments. Featured were three well-known speakers who all received 10 out of 10 on their evaluation sheets from every couple.

Here’s part of an E-mail that Mark sent me: “There were couples who told us that this was their last chance. If their marriages did not get better that weekend, then they were getting a divorce. But by the end of the week, all the couples were hugging, kissing and smiling with tears of joy.”

In addition to Job Fairs, HirePatriots.com collects blood donations for Camp Pendleton’s Wounded Warriors. And a recent development will help keep the project viable. The Department of Defense has officially approved the organization as a 501c3 military charity. PatrioticHearts.org is the non-profit name while HirePatriots.com is an arm of that.

For more information, call (760) 730-3734

Having hired several Marines from HirePatriots.com, I can guarantee the jobs are done on time and with an Ooo-rah attitude.


U.S. Vets: A Profile

According to the U.S. Census, there are 23.7 million veterans; with the greatest percentage (34%) joining me as a Vietnam-era veteran. Other items of interest:

  • 17.4 million vets voted in the 2004 presidential election
  • 74% of all vets voted vs. 63% of the general public
  • 25% of veterans hold at least a bachelor’s degree
  • 7% of vets are women


High School Football Champs!

North County once again has scored big in the high school football playoffs.

Congratulations to the Oceanside Pirates for winning the Division II CIF State Football Championship in Carson with a 28-14 victory over previously undefeated Novato High School of Northern California.

Oceanside is the first team to represent the San Diego region in the bowl championship system, started two years ago.

Head coach John Carroll and his staff saw the Pirates finish the season with a 12-1 record. The team won its fourth-straight CIF San Diego Division II title in November before advancing to the state championship.

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Valley Center High School also needed to make room in its trophy case for more hardware. The Jaguars 26-0 victory over top-seeded Mission Bay High School gave the team the CIF Division IV title. Congratulations to head coach Rob Gilster, his staff and all the players.


County Administration Center 1600 Pacific Highway San Diego, CA 92101 tel: (619) 531-5555 fax: (619) 685-2662
North County office: 325 S. Melrose Ave., Suite 5200, Vista, CA 92081 tel: (760) 806-2400 fax: (760) 806-2404

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