SUPERVISOR 5TH DISTRICT COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO
August 6, 2009
The Law of Gravity (Sacramento-style)
More than 300 years ago Sir Isaac Newton put forth his Law of Gravity that states “What goes up must come down.” Today that theory holds true on earth with one exception: Sacramento. For years we have seen that not all of our tax dollars that go up to Sacramento come back down to the County of San Diego. The latest example is last month’s budget deal between Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders that promises the worst fiscal impacts to local governments in state history.
Faced with a threatened law suit by the County of San Diego and other local governments, the legislature backed off on taking $1 billion in gasoline tax money known as the Highway Users Tax Account (HUTA) from local governments. Sacramento amended what would have been an illegal raid on HUTA money and changed from a straight take of funds and instead made it a loan which would be repaid over a ten year period. Because of the ill-advised term limits provision that state legislators have, the final pay back date conveniently is beyond when most of them will be in office.
Of local concern is shifting $1.7 billion from local redevelopment agencies (RDA) and a one-year extension. Since it was done by a majority vote, it will not become effective for 90 days.
After the budget was submitted to him, the governor made additional cuts in child welfare programs, funding to counties to administer Medi-Cal, medical care for the poor, AIDS prevention efforts and state parks. He agreed with legislators who say if the state’s economy remains stagnant the state deficit will increase. Unemployment in California has climbed from 7.1 percent to 11.6 percent over the last year and some economists predict it will reach nearly 12 percent next year. At a time when finding new revenue is essential, I was disappointed that the Assembly wilted under pressure from environmentalists who opposed a plan to drill for oil off the coast for the first time in 40 years. That would have brought at least $100 million a year for about 20 years to the budget solution.
The budget remains a maze of smoke and mirrors, patched together with big borrowing and raids. One phantom “solution” is to defer state employee paychecks one day, from June 30 to July 1, 2010, for a savings on paper of $1.2 billion. Another involves boosting income tax collections by increasing withholding by 10 percent that amounts to an interest-free loan for the state. Taxpayers can reclaim the money during tax season.
Cutting state spending by nearly $15 billion is a step in the right direction; however, there is much more duplication, waste, and fraud that can be cut from the state bureaucracy.
Hundreds of years ago in England when people with money took to the roads in coaches, horses, or wagons, the poor would resort to holding up travelers. It was called “highway robbery.” Victims had no choice but to handover all that they had.
When we fast forward to 2009, elected officials in Sacramento are doing the stealing, raiding accounts filled with local tax dollars. The current budget deal would suspend Proposition 1A, a measure voters passed to protect local property taxes. Sacramento wants to borrow $1.9 billion from local governments, diverting an amount equal to 8 percent of the total property tax revenues received by cities, counties and special districts. There is a not-so-convincing promise of paying the money back to counties, cities and special districts in 2013.
The budget deal further betrays communities and the counties that serve them with massive health cuts aimed at the most vulnerable; the elderly, mentally ill, homeless families, the poor, and children.
After the governor finished his cuts, there were no smiles on the faces of the so-called Big Five made up of Governor Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D – Los Angeles), Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D – Sacramento), Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R – Murrieta), and Assembly Republican leader Sam Blakeslee (R- San Luis Obispo). Steinberg had said the Big 5 had held together California’s safety net. In truth the net is a tight-rope held by local governments while Sacramento does its high wire act.
The governor called the $85 billion budget “the good, the bad and the ugly.” In my opinion, there is nothing good about it. Unlike the County of San Diego which has a credit rating of AAA, California continues to have the lowest credit rating in the nation, except for the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Fitch Ratings rates California’s general obligation bond debt at “BBB.” With the certainty that nothing was solved, the problem has gotten worse and true reform is more distant than ever before.
Meantime, we are using every tactic to fight back including the County of San Diego reserving the right to sue the state for its actions. We also support a bill in Sacramento that allows us to send the state IOU’s for any IOU’s it expects us to use as cash. Enough is enough. Too much of what has gone up is not coming back down.
In this edition of the “Word,” I have exciting news about a tremendous resource for Veterans, major progress in building a new library in Fallbrook, evidence of a successful partnership for fire protection and a mind-boggling number for our County library system.
County Offers More Help for Veterans
Last month, it was my privilege to help launch a new website by our Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) aimed at providing veterans, service members, and their families access to mental health counseling, emergency housing, and employment assistance.
There are many organizations, public and private, that help veterans. The problem is there has been a lack of a central resource to aid in finding them. I believe we have created that resource with the Network of Care for Veterans and Service Members website www.sandiego.networkofcare.org. Information is offered in 11 languages.
About 1.5 million veterans from all over the nation are expected to return in the next two years from Iraq and Afghanistan. A significant number of those military warriors will come back to San Diego County.
A recent study conducted by the Rand Corporation revealed that about 300,000 Gulf War veterans report suffering from major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder; yet only about half of those individuals sought help. Fear of rejection and discrimination often prevents people from accessing needed mental health services.
Left to right, Nick Macchione, Supervisor Horn and Tom Splitgerber
Having been in combat as a Marine officer during the Vietnam War, I know firsthand the challenge of adjusting to civilian life after experiencing the horrors and stress of war. The peer support provided by the website is critical so that returning veterans can interact with others who have similar experiences. The new website is designed to connect all veterans with state-of-the-art technology.
I appreciate the commitment of people like Nick Macchione, HHSA Director, Alfredo Aguirre, Director of County Mental Health and Tom Splitgerber, our Veterans’ Service Officer to see this project through to completion. The finished product has been such a success the Department of Defense is looking to use it on a national level.
A year after the Board of Supervisors created the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority to improve regional fire protection and emergency medical service; we have been honored with the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County’s 2009 Outstanding Partnership Award.
The County Fire Authority unified six rural volunteer fire agencies under the Fire Authority’s administrative umbrella and could add another six agencies by 2012. When the consolidation is complete, the Fire Authority will cover more than 1.2 million acres in San Diego County.
The Fire Safe Council is a nonprofit organization formed 12 years ago that educates, exchanges information and promotes fire prevention and safety. Since forming, the council has developed and distributed fire prevention education materials to industry leaders, evaluated fire safety legislation, and helped grassroots organizations implement fire safety programs. The County has worked closely with the Fire Safe Council and the Forest Area Safety Taskforce in our ongoing efforts to remove dead, dying and diseased trees.
Bravo for Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheater!
I was honored to be part of Opening Night at the Moonlight Amphitheater in Vista. I have been privileged to contribute $164,000 over the last six years from my Community Projects fund for this great community asset.
It was good to share the evening with Mayor Morris Vance and Council Members Bob Campbell and Judy Ritter, as well as other sponsors and donors including the Moonlight Cultural Foundation.
The 2009 season kicked off with the 1930’s tap dancing musical 42nd Street. Information on the entire season of shows can be found at: www.moonlightstage.com.
Working Together to Build a New Fallbrook Library
Our partnership with the community of Fallbrook has moved us closer to the commitment to build the new Fallbrook Library. A $100,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Fallbrook to the Friends of the Fallbrook Library (FOFL) and a grant from our Community Projects Fund of nearly $78,000 will help furnish the new library with chairs, tables, shelves, books, computers, carpeting and art features.
The Rotary gift will help build the teen center, a room for young adults with after-school programs and a place where teens can do their homework.
Our most recent grant will pay for construction of an entryway trellis and landscaping for the library. Over the years, grants from our Community Projects Fund for the library total more than one million dollars.
With the latest contribution from the community, the volunteer group has raised $2.3 million for the 20,000-square-foot library that will be located at the corner of Mission Road and Alvarado Street. Construction of the library is expected to begin this fall.
I appreciate the leadership of people like Jerri Patchett, Vince Ross and Marlo Miller along with Betsey Levering, director of community service for the Rotary Club of Fallbrook and more than 150 volunteers who run the Bottom Shelf used book store and support the library by stocking shelves and assisting with children’s programs. Other major contributors to the FOFL include:
For additional information, please contact Jerri Patchett at 760-723-8635 or Marlo Miller at 760-731-9986.
8,000,000+ and Counting
This summer, our County libraries reached a milestone by having 8,311,125 items checked out between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. This is the first time in its 96-year history that the San Diego County Library has exceeded the eight million mark in annual materials circulation.
Last year, the County Library ranked eighth in circulation among California’s 16 libraries serving a population of more than 500,000. That ranking is likely to improve with the latest numbers.
Our library director, Jose Aponte, and his team at 33 libraries and two bookmobiles have done a tremendous job in placing a variety of resources in the hands of citizens along with hosting programs and events for children and adults. The economy has been a special focus of the past year’s events, with programs on such topics as job and career planning, foreclosure prevention and managing finances.
Our County Counsel, John Sansone, and his team of attorneys have a remarkable record of protecting the County from lawsuits and regularly prevail when challenged in court. I appreciate John’s leadership and as a result of his hard work he is featured in the San Diego Daily Transcript’s “Top Attorneys 2009” for Municipal-Government practice. This honor involves peer nomination and voting conducted annually by the newspaper. John was recognized for his work as the County’s longest serving County Counsel. He has been the head of the Office of County Counsel since 1996.
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The County was also recognized at the EMC World Conference with the Leadership Award for Documentum & Records Management. The honor was for the way our Community Services Group provides advice and regional leadership to other government agencies that use Documentum. Our willingness to share our experience through site visits, phone calls, presentations and a published article, which helped other government organizations with their records and content management implementations, was specifically mentioned.
North County is blessed with thousands of people who volunteer their time and talent to make our communities a better place to live and work. Wendy Beye is one such person. She has been a faithful and tireless volunteer in Fallbrook.
Along with her husband, Dr. Nicholas Beye, Wendy has been a resident of Fallbrook since 1981 and has regularly assisted the Boys and Girls Club of Fallbrook with fundraising and helping place “Memory Blocks” in the downtown Village Square.
Wendy Beye & husband Dr. Nicolas Beye
receive proclamation from Supervisor Horn
Wendy was also a community leader during the Rice Canyon fire, opening her home as a warehouse for donated goods and worked to set-up stores in local schools to get needed supplies to fire victims.
It was my privilege to present a proclamation to Wendy for her outstanding service, leadership and commitment to her community.
County Land Use
Last month, the County’s upgrade of its growth and development guidelines reached a significant milestone with the release of its revised General Plan Update and its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for public comment.
The Department of Planning and Land Use released the DEIR and the revised General Plan Update, which was previously released for public comment in November, for a 60-day comment period. The General Plan Update remains on track to be presented to the Board of Supervisors for consideration next year.
The General Plan Update would significantly improve land use and protect the environment partly by shifting 20 percent of projected growth to western unincorporated communities with established infrastructure. The proposed plan would balance growth with the needs to control traffic congestion, protect the environment and ease the strain on essential services such as water and fire protection.
The proposed Update has been developed with broad input from homeowners, farmers, landowners, renters, developers, business owners and environmentalists. To see the plan and report and find out how to submit comments go to: www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/gpupdate
Passing of a Special Person
The community of Valley Center is coping with the tragic death of Angel Guadalupe Galvez who was a longtime volunteer at the Valley Center Library. Angel was killed when he was hit from behind by a pickup truck on his way to the library while riding his bicycle on Cole Grade Road, just a few blocks from the library. He was 37.
Angel spent his mornings checking in books, pulling books to be sent to other branches, and helping wherever he could. Afternoons found him composing poetry or memoirs on his laptop computer.
Angel Galvez at the Valley Center Library.
Photo courtesy of Anna Galvez
Library manager Sandy Puccio, assistant manager Regine Thorne and the entire staff marveled at Angel’s uncanny ability to sense when a library customer needed help.
Angel encountered numerous health problems from birth. He had open-heart surgery as an infant and was blind in one eye; yet inspired everyone he met and countered physical challenges by keeping his legs strong with constant cycling, including a journey up Palomar Mountain and to Temecula.
Angel lived with his parents and our sympathies go out to his family and host of friends.
North County Projects Completed
Several Public Works projects in District 5 are now completed and include:
A Dark Honor for a Bright Place
The sun always shines bright in Borrego Springs. However, when the sun goes down and the stars come out, it is a haven for star gazing—so much so, that the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has honored the Village of Borrego Springs as an official International Dark Sky Community (IDSC).
The award is the second in the nation and the first in California—the culmination of more than two years of community work and written comments to IDA from our office.
To qualify for the honor communities must adhere to stringent standards that protect the natural night sky and endure the continuation of this protection through community directives.
I appreciate the tremendous work of so many in Borrego Springs, including Betsy Knaak, Executive Director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, Scott Kardel, Palomar Observatory, Joan Malone, Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, Dennis Mammana, Astronomer, Sally Theriault, Anza-Borrego Institute, Sam Webb, and Paul Ericson.
Kim Patten, Programs Director for the IDA, a non-profit organization in Tucson said, “The application to the IDA (by Borrego Springs) is a testament to their dedication for dark skies. By collaborating with all the key stakeholders, the committee was able to achieve broad community support, which is one of the key elements to this award.”
Congratulations to everyone who worked to achieve this prestigious honor. There are 600,000 acres in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and in this case, it is good to not have them in the spotlight.
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