2011 State of the County Address
Most of this edition of the Word is a report of my trip to Washington, D.C. However, I also want to share a few other items, including an honor for our developing County Operations Center, recognizing the San Diego State University men's basketball team, and my encounter with Lincoln.
Washington, DC Trip
Late last month I took your concerns and the needs of North County to Washington, D.C. and met with members of our local Congressional delegation, the staff of Senator Dianne Feinstein, and several individuals in the White House Office of
Intergovernmental Affairs, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It was a, whirlwind trip that went from morning to evening. I was accompanied by my chief of staff, Joan Wonsley, and Geoff Patnoe who directs the County's Department of Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs. We left the nation's capital with a sense of accomplishment that bodes well for our region.
There were several areas of progress, including interest from all we spoke with regarding the County's efforts to streamline and reduce the amount of regulatory red tape for local construction projects.
In the State of the County Address, I made it my mission to streamline county processes as a means of putting our businesses back to work and jumpstarting our local economy. We are establishing a Red Tape Reduction Task Force that will be reviewing the way we do business and developing efficiencies to do it better, faster and cheaper.
While Jamestown, Virginia is generally regarded as America's birthplace, few would dispute that Washington, D.C, gave birth to red tape and bureaucracy. Everywhere I went, people's eyes came alive when I mentioned what we were doing to untie the strings of overregulation; especially in the area of environmental laws and ordinances. I emphasized the County's support for House Resolution 910, a bill that responds to the bureaucracy, in this case the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), making policy by effectively adding six new greenhouse gasses (GHGs). The bill, introduced by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton would not only remove these six GHGs (in addition to water vapor), but also prevent the EPA Administrator from promulgating similar regulations in the future. Laws should be made by elected representatives, not regulatory bureaucrats.
Greenhouse gas regulations passed by the California Assembly and Senate are ambiguous and unfair. The penalty for non-compliance is so high; it can easily put a company out of business. One fine is $35,000 per day, per engine. Without strong intervention by our electeds in Sacramento and D.C. businesses across the country are in a heap of trouble.
People like Congressman Darrell Issa are eager to learn the results of our Red Tape Reduction Task Force and how to apply those lessons in Washington D.C.
Some of our sessions emphasized the importance of maintaining
strong vigilance along the border. At the White House I urged President Obama's staff to reject his proposal in FY 2012 to reduce funding for Operation Stonegarden, a Department of Homeland Security effort that assists local authorities with operational costs and equipment purchases for border security.
We received a positive response from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (POJJDP) when I presented our application for funding anti-gang programs. Following up on a
training trip my staff made to Florida two years ago with County law enforcement personnel to participate and observe the National Gang Center's training on OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model, we are now pursuing a $750,000 grant. This money is in the federal budget and we would like to see it used in our continuing effort to rid the 78 Corridor of street gangs.
We discussed issues relating to our huge contingent of veterans in San Diego County at several stops, including the Department of
Veterans Affairs. Often times it is good to remind people that 240,000 veterans live in our County, including 30,000 combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest number anywhere in the nation.
The people in Washington were pleased to learn the latest on the Veterans Treatment Review Calendar (VTRC), commonly known as Veterans Court. With support from the San Diego Veterans Coalition, we are seeing success in rehabilitating veterans through aggressive case management instead of jailing them.
On behalf of the San Diego Veterans Coalition, I presented the need for funding this umbrella organization for up to three years so we can build upon the success of tying providers of veterans' services together in the county and fill gaps that have been identified.
Unfortunately, another longtime veterans issue is still struggling to gain acceptance. For the 12th time, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act has been introduced in the House and Senate. These bills seek to eliminate the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to offset from the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) for eligible un-remarried surviving military spouses. This is commonly known as the widow's tax, although surviving spouses
can be widows or widowers. So far, this has been left out of the Defense Appropriations bill yet again. However, Congressman Duncan Hunter is a cosponsor of the House bill and following my visit Representative Bob Filner added his name as well.
Water was another topic that brought strong interest from the
people we met. Surprisingly, we found that some key decision-makers were not aware that decisions to protect the two-inch Delta smelt in central California have had such a profound negative impact on San Diego's water supply and delivery system. They know now.
Lastly, I discussed the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with Senator Feinstein's office. We shared what the County is doing to
prepare for disasters and also learned what she found during her inspection of the facility. A few years ago when I visited Senator Feinstein, she let me know her thoughts about the need for a countywide fire department. This trip I was proud to leave her a patch from the recently established San Diego County Fire Department.
Whenever I go to Washington and meet members of Congress and visit the offices of D.C. bureaucrats, I return home thankful for at least two reasons: (1) That I live in San Diego County and (2) that I am part of a government body that actually works!
There are, of course, bright and dedicated people in Washington. It's just that there is so much "government" in the government and a budget-protecting mentality that permeates elected and
non-elected people who work there. During our visit, it was often hard to get people focused on the needs of the nation because the "talk of the town" was the fear of the unknown and the projected government shutdown on April 8.
As we know, the federal government will never shut down. Things may slow a bit more than usual; but everything that is Washington D.C. will always be like Tunderdell, the "Fee-fi-fo-fum" giant from Jack in the Beanstalk who, if he were part of Washington D.C. would say:
I smell the money of Americans,
Be they alive, or be they dead
I'll spend their taxes because I'm the Fed.
It was great to learn that our new County Operations Center (COC) in Kearny Mesa was honored by the California Center for Sustainable Energy and selected the "Best Government or Non-Profit Project" for 2011.
The County actually received three nominations for the same award with the Fallbrook and Ramona Library projects in line for the award that was captured by the COC.
The COC consists of two, four-story buildings that feature big windows, solar panels and energy-efficient air conditioning. The buildings are managed using sustainable practices that reduce environmental effects and also reduce daily operations costs. Approximately 1,100 employees from nine County departments have relocated to the new buildings since they were completed in fall 2010.
We have now approved the next phase of development that will add two 150,000 square-foot office buildings, a 20,000-square-foot conference center and a cafeteria to the 38-acre site.
The project is being paid for by cash and has already created about 350 local construction jobs.
When completed, the new campus will include nearly a million square feet of modern, efficient office space.
Landscaping features drought tolerant plants and an irrigation system that has provided a 50 percent reduction in irrigation water usage. Other building systems allow for internal water consumption to be reduced by 40 percent. In addition, the project recycled 90 percent of its construction debris.
I appreciate the great cooperation the County Department of General Services has had with Lowe Enterprise Real Estate Group, RJC Architects, Roel Construction, Howard S. Wright Construction and Arciero Brothers Construction.
World Water Day Festival
One of the most beautiful and important natural resources in San Diego County is the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad. Last month I was part of the Lagoon Discovery Center's festival celebration of World Water Day.
This year's theme, "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge," was especially meaningful since I hosted a Water Conference at the County Administration Center in January. That was a time when experts gathered for the day to move forward ideas on addressing a critical shortage of water in our county.
It was my pleasure to recommend and receive the entire Board's support for a grant of $100,000 from the County Neighborhood Reinvestment Fund that was used to improve the Discovery Center, a place that gives children and parents a better understanding on global water issues and provides knowledge for conserving and protecting water.
The Lagoon and Discovery Center is located on the eastern end of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon estuary and wetland area in Carlsbad.
I appreciate the outstanding work of Lagoon Director Lisa Rodman and her team and David Lloyd, President of the Board.
The day was made even more memorable when I had an up-close and personal encounter with one of the Discovery Center's more colorful creatures; a Bearded Dragon Iguana by the name of Lincoln.
Aztec Season to Remember
This month it was fun to honor San Diego State University basketball coach Steve Fisher and the 2010-2011 SDSU men's basketball team. My fellow Supervisors joined me outside Aztec Center for a rally and presentation of a proclamation that declared April 4, 2011, San Diego State Aztec Men's Basketball Day throughout San Diego County.
All five Supervisors are graduates of San Diego State, so this was a special kind of homecoming celebration.
Along with Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard (also an SDSU alum), we held huge Steve Fisher signs that are reminders of what the students do during the season; lifting larger-than-life head shots of celebrities that are waved from behind the backboards in an attempt to distract visiting players while shooting free throws.
Coach Fisher guided the team to an astounding 34-3 record and a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 before losing to the eventual collegiate champion, the University of Connecticut.
More than a thousand people showed up for the rally as we all saluted and thanked the team and the Aztec coaching staff for giving us so many memorable moments in the best season in SDSU men's basketball history.
Bill Horn knows San Diego, especially North San Diego County. And the people know and respect him. This was where he was born, this was where he went to school, and now his public life is dedicated to serving the County of San Diego.
Unlike many elected officials, Bill didn't want to get into politics. As a North County businessman and avocado and citrus rancher, Bill was appalled at local government's fiscal irresponsibility and refusal to defend individual property rights and protect young people.