February 10, 2011
2011 State of the County
It was my honor to deliver the annual State of the County Address on February 2, 2011. In keeping with the current economic climate and budget considerations, I chose to give the address in the Board Chamber of the County Administration Center.
I pledged to work with my colleagues and County departments to ensure that the peoples’ work is done in the most efficient, cost effective way, including maintaining our Triple-A bond rating. While the County of San Diego has a higher credit rating than the federal government or the State of California, the problem is that we are tied to both. However, our budget is balanced and we enjoy a healthy cash reserve. We have done this with fiscal discipline and tough choices.
The speech was a way to remind people of the County’s many accomplishments in public safety, fire protection, health and human services, parks and recreation, public works, and libraries.
It also was an opportunity to reemphasize the importance of services to local Veterans. That outreach will be expanded through the San Diego Veterans’ Coalition, a collaborative group of providers who address outreach, transition assistance, basic needs, and legal initiatives. Special attention will be given to the families of Veterans.
I emphasized my continuing support of Constitutional property rights and opposition to any efforts to devalue citizens’ land.
We need to stay the course on our path to reduce bureaucracy and continue to improve how your County government does business. Accordingly, I have called for the County’s Department of Planning and Land Use to review current policies and figure out new ways to help customers. Too often our regulations discourage improvements to property. We need to cut the red-tape.
One way to do that is our plan to form a commission, made up of building industry and land use experts to work with the County to clean up our regulations and to find ways to streamline how we do business.
I would like to see reduced wait times and fewer redundancies with the goal of improved customer service. I believe there are things we can implement now to achieve these goals without raising fees and am confident that DPLU staff and the commission can work together on these improvements and put more local people back to work.
The political climate in Washington is one of hope and change; but not the hope and change Americans were promised two years ago. The November elections sent a clear message to D.C. that people want a new way of doing business; one with fiscal restraint.
At the State level we have a new, but familiar, Governor who will promise you the moon and a legislature with large majorities that continue to stand in the way of business. Adding to the problem was passage of Prop 25, which allows the State legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority instead of a two-thirds vote. That is a license to steal.
For a full summary of the State of the County address, please go to: http://billhorn.cloudapp.net
In this edition of the Word, I’ll share the results of a water conference I hosted, tremendous progress in improving our fire protection, help for the homeless, and “warming to the task” of energy production in Borrego Springs.
Just over two years ago my colleagues and I began a three-step plan to merge backcountry volunteer fire departments, existing County Service Areas served by CAL FIRE, and several fire protection districts into one County Service Area. We created the San Diego County Fire Authority, and we have not looked back since. At our January Board meeting, we merged fire departments in Mt. Laguna, Palomar Mountain, San Pasqual, Campo, and Boulevard in the Fire Authority, which will now provide fire and emergency services for over 1 million acres of unincorporated area.
In addition to providing $15.5 million for the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority each year, last September we approved a plan to implement recommendations made in Citygate’s Fire Deployment Study. The study had assessed the delivery of fire and emergency medical services in the San Diego County region. Although the report offered largely good news about the state of regional fire protection, we were given suggestions on how to improve the County’s piece of the regional fire protection puzzle. One suggestion was to create a Joint Powers Authority, where fire plan checking services and inspections could be shared between the Fire Authority and other jurisdictions. This would eliminate the need for customers to have their project reviewed twice, saving time, gas mileage, and money for customers looking to build and would also reduce the cost of providing these services for both jurisdictions.
On January 25th, we took our first step toward a Joint Powers Authority by entering into an agreement with Lakeside Fire Protection District to share fire plan review and inspection services. It is our hope that eventually this Joint Powers Authority will one day encompass every firefighting agency in San Diego County.
Last month I hosted a conference at the County Administration Center titled “Water Resources in San Diego County and Planning for the Future” to examine our most precious natural resource: water.
I am deeply concerned about the future of agriculture in San Diego County. Agriculture is the fifth largest part of the economic engine that runs our region. Without it, our way of life would not just sputter, it could conceivably stop running.
Perhaps the greatest threat to local agriculture’s survival is the availability and distribution of water. That is why I convened the conference and brought together experts who could provide context and understanding on this critical issue.
I have repeatedly said and what I stressed at the conference is there is a possibility that there is more water in the backcountry; it’s just that we don’t know. That’s why I brought in experts and encouraged competition in the search for answers.
Daniel Tartakovsky, PhD, from the UCSD Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is an expert in hydrology. He said “Given ubiquitous uncertainty, conservative estimates of groundwater availability are essential, but overly conservative assumptions can render a study useless He spoke of the need to do more site specific studies and added, “Many sub-basins have saturated thickness in excess of 1,000 ft, so that the amount of groundwater in storage in the rock is more than doubled.”
Dr. Tartakovsky said, “Large-scale studies typically rely on assumed (guessed) values for evaporation, runoff, and storage. Site-specific data are often available for these variables. If not, invest in site characterization.”
The conference discussion made it clear that there are different scientific methods available to determine the amount and availability of groundwater.
Panel member Darrell Gentry, a land use and environmental planning consultant and board member of Vallecitos Water District, expressed his thoughts and others by saying, “Water, coupled with excessive legislative spending and vacant public leadership is the California crisis of the next fifty years.”
He spoke about the need to capture much more rainfall runoff and make better use of an “untapped resource (which) is full reclamation of treated wastewater for agriculture, irrigation and ultimately potable reuse.” He believes the public needs to get past the “yuck factor” and support development of this resource.
Whatever your thoughts are on growth in San Diego County, without an adequate supply and distribution of water, we are doomed.
There is no such thing as new water. The water that floated Noah’s ark is the same that we have today. All water is either recycled by rain, going in lakes or evaporating back into clouds; or saved in places such as springs or polar glaciers. More than 70% of the earth is covered by water.
So, with all that water, why do we have a water crisis? One of the reasons is that most of the water is in the ocean and as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner went:
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
That’s why one of the panel members was Scott Maloni, who represents Poseidon Resources, the company that is trying to bring the Carlsbad Desalination Project on line. I am in full support of the desal plant and believe there should be more of them up and down the coast of California. I also think comprehensive regulatory reform is needed at all levels of government, including the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Too many people who look on the western horizon only see a sunset. If they glanced down, they would see the Pacific Ocean that along with untapped water in our back country aquifers, captured rain water run-off, a much-needed pipeline from the north, and improved conservation methods could change the last two lines of the rime to:
Water, water, everywhere,
And plenty of drops to drink.
Last month the Board of Supervisors approved major-use permits for a 341-acre solar energy project near Borrego Springs.
The photovoltaic cells would generate enough power to supply energy to 46,000 homes annually (roughly the needs of about 115,000 people). Some of the electricity would provide power to the community in the desert area of San Diego County, while the rest would be placed on the electrical grid.
The site is on open desert land along Palm Canyon Drive, adjacent to the Borrego Valley Airport. Important for the project is that it be as close as possible to an existing power substation; thereby avoiding building major new transmission lines.
Utilities in California are required to generate a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
North County Interfaith Council in Oceanside and Escondido and North County Solutions for Change in Vista are among local non-profit organizations receiving grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Supportive Housing Program.
The County of San Diego Department of Housing and Community Development applied for funds and HUD approved more than $4.7 million to help homeless individuals and families who deal with challenges such as mental illness, disabilities and domestic violence.
The County worked with local governments and nonprofit agencies to identify the greatest needs in the community and to identify programs that fit the criteria set forth by HUD. This collaborative effort has resulted in more than $160 million in federal homeless funding for the region over the past 16 years.
Grant funds were awarded through a federal competitive process to local programs that provide transitional and permanent housing services for homeless persons and families.
Congratulations to our Parks Director Brian Albright and his team for receiving the State Excellence Award for Park Planning for Fallbrook’s Clemmens Lane Park on (where else?) Clemmens Lane.
The park is an example of a lot of neat stuff in a small area and a big boost to the nearby community. At a little more than a half-acre, Clemmens Lane Park includes playgrounds, a concrete picnic plaza with shade shelter, a soccer field, sand volleyball court, drinking fountains, fencing, security lighting and landscaping.
Clemmens Lane Park is west of Mission Road and south of Ammunition Road and is situated between single-family homes and multi-family apartment complexes. Working closely with Brian and his team were local residents who requested the facility and made sure Clemmens Lane Park is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and has security fencing and lighting.
The three-level, .57-acre park offers a volleyball court, soccer field, picnic areas, a pavilion, and playgrounds. The volley ball and soccer fields are placed on the South side to reduce the noise level for people enjoying a picnic and the playgrounds are near the picnic areas so parents can keep an eye on their youngsters.
The park and street are named for the pioneer Clemmens family.
I am blessed with an outstanding staff, headed by our Chief of Staff, Joan Wonsley. Most of the staff has been with me for many years, so it’s not often I introduce new members. However, Josh and Elly are recent additions, so here are some words about each of them.
Joshua Ramirez joined Team Horn in August 2010 as our staff assistant. He is the first contact for our constituents and after doing such an outstanding job, he was recently promoted to be representative for constituent services. Josh also works on special projects, including formatting and illustrating “A Word from Chairman Bill Horn” newsletter and many other assignments to assist the staff.
Josh was born in Los Angeles and moved to San Diego to attend the University of California, San Diego where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.
Active in sports, Josh serves as a volunteer for his church youth program. We are all looking forward to a major event in his life when in May he will marry his fiancée, Lauren.
Elly Garner came on board in December and serves as the Chair’s assistant; a wide-ranging role that includes coordinating the order of business, proclamations and adjournments for Board meetings.
Elly was born in Watsonville, California and spent her early school years in Idaho. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and was a nationally ranked collegiate debater. She was selected Miss San Diego in the 2006 Miss America competition.
Elly’s professional experience includes a news reporting assignment in Idaho and an internship with CBS Evening News in New York City. She also worked for the athletic departments at PLNU and Fresno State University.
Elly is a media freelance designer and is an accomplished photographer and webmaster.
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