Fighting Fire with Fire
In our continuing effort to improve public safety, I’m pleased to say the Board gave unanimous approval of my recommendation to create a plan and find funding for a regional controlled or “prescribed” burn and brush clearance plan to reduce the threat of catastrophic wild fires.
I based my request on results of a study by the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and maps from County Planning and Land Use. These maps show five widespread areas of San Diego County that have the potential to explode into major wild fires.
I’ve always been concerned about the threat of accumulated fuel in our region and these studies reinforced my belief that we need to be more proactive in clearing brush and other combustible natural fuels. We can do that with controlled burns, clearing fire breaks, and removing dead or dying trees and vegetation. An ounce of prevention is worth a neighborhood of houses.
The UCR study in particular showed how over the years, fires in Mexico have reduced large areas of fuel thus eliminating the threat of catastrophic wild fires. While what has happened in Mexico is not fire management, we can see what takes place when areas are burned away. I think we can apply that principle in a controlled way for our County.
I’m pleased to say that after presenting this idea to federal, state, and local agencies; we all agreed that more controlled burns and vegetation management needs to take place.
The recommendation asked the Chief Administrator Officer to return to the Board within 90 days with a plan for comprehensive vegetation management that would include mechanical, biological and prescribed fire into the land management plans for all existing and future County owned lands and Multiple Species Conservation Program lands.
It’s an effective way of fighting fire with fire.
In this edition of the “Word,” news of upcoming aerial resources in
fighting fires, training for people on the ground, improved facilities
for the Borrego Springs Library, a salute to a man who brings smiles
to needy children and a national award for the people of Carlsbad. I
hope your summer is off to a great start.
The old saying “strike while the iron is hot” comes from blacksmiths who needed to act quickly to shape their iron before it cooled and became brittle. The County of San Diego’s sense of urgency is the same, which is why the Board struck quickly before disaster revisits our region.
On May 6, the Board voted to approve a proposal brought forward by Supervisor Ron Roberts and I to spend $3 million to lease three firefighting aircraft. [We need more resources than those that were available during the October 2007 wildfires.] When we learned that two CL-415 Bombardier Superscoopers would be available during our Santa Ana wind season, along with a third plane for directing helicopters and planes making water drops on wildfires, we took action immediately to improve our fire response effort.
The aircraft, similar to what the County of Los Angeles has used since the mid 1990s, can soak a 1,000-square-foot area in minutes with a mixture of water and fire retardant. The planes come with their own flight crews and maintenance personnel and are able to maneuver in high winds and canyons; things that impeded aerial fire-fighting during the 2007 wild fires. The planes are also able to take off and land over bodies of water, load up with water in seconds and be airborne quickly; a key to attacking fires before they get out of control.
Community Emergency Response Teams
Training and Preparing
Last month nearly 200 people committed to responding to emergencies in North County, spent five hours on a hot Saturday at the Vista Courthouse. This was a training exercise that fulfilled the required hours for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members throughout the county. They went through a variety of exercises such as fire suppression, medical operations, triage, search and rescue, communications and helicopter operations. San Diego County Sheriff’s ASTREA and Mercy Air provided the choppers.
Vista Fire led by Ned Vander Pol served as primary organizer and host of the exercise. Fire departments from Oceanside, San Marcos, San Miguel, Escondido, North County Fire, and the County Office of Emergency Services also provided planning or logistical support. 20 of the 26 CERT programs from the County were included in the training.
County Credit more than Credible
I’m pleased to report the County of San Diego has received the highest rating possible from Standard & Poor’s (S&P) on the planned issuance of Temporary Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANS) later this month.
Assigned a rating of SP-1+ by S&P, the County’s TRANS is a way for short term borrowing used to meet seasonal cash flow needs. Most, if not all municipalities, including the State and school districts, do a TRANS each year. Because of the County’s strong financial position, we have to borrow less and that amount continues to go down each year. This year we were able to borrow at 1.57%. The percentage translates into lower costs of debt for the County and a significant overall savings to taxpayers.
I’m proud of the team effort that brought about the continued positive credit rating; strong direction from the Board of Supervisors, excellent leadership from County Chief Administrative Officer, Walt Ekard, and outstanding stewardship from our Chief Financial Officer Don Steuer and his fiscal professionals.
The S&P rating follows an announcement last week of the highest rating for short-term notes from Moody’s. The three national municipal credit rating agencies (S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch) also left the County’s strong overall credit ratings unchanged.
This is a significant achievement for the County given the current economic uncertainty, arising from severe State budget deficits as well as lagging property tax and sales tax revenues.
Borrego Springs Library to be Bigger and Better
Late this summer we expect the latest Borrego Springs Library expansion to be completed; a project that will more than double the size of the existing branch to nearly four thousand square feet.
We were able to provide $114,000 from our Community Projects fund for the expansion. I remember when we put in the old library in Borrego Springs eight years ago; we knew more space would eventually be needed. That is now the case and thanks to the tremendous support from County Library employees and the Friends of the Borrego Springs Library, we’ll soon have the added space.
A new lease allows the Borrego Springs Branch to move to a larger
space in the Mall Shopping Center. People will find more books and
other informational and educational materials, as well as greater
Internet access. We will have a larger children’s area, a new teen
space, and additional public seating and public computers. A community
room will allow for more library programs and events for children,
teens and adults. The room will also be available for public
It has been my honor to help put new libraries in Valley Center, 4-S Ranch, Vista, Fallbrook, and now Borrego Springs for a second time. I’m proud of each of them.
County to Study Paid Veterans Internship Program
The County of San Diego is now researching a request I made on the feasibility of having a paid internship program for Veterans who would train for open County jobs.
We have the largest concentration of Veterans in the State, and with Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in large numbers, this may be a way to take advantage of skills developed in the military and also a way to honor the service of our warriors.
We want to identify targeted job classes appropriate for Veterans and recognize life skills that include military experience. Those could range from heavy maintenance and operational support, information technology, office and clerical positions, to administrative support. What this could do is cut down on the “learning curve” for new County employees, especially those with military experience.
I’ve asked for a report back by November and will keep you informed.
Caring for People through Neighborhood Healthcare
From left to right: Tracy Ream, Neighborhood Healthcare CEO, Supervisor Bill Horn,
Julie Romero, and Dr. John Geis, the Pauma Valley dentist
Pauma Valley for their open house and raffle event. One of our policy advisors, Chris Champine, and I were given a guided tour by Dr. John Geis, a man who has given so much of himself and his talent to the disadvantaged in North County.
Also with us was my daughter Julie, and due to the large number of Spanish-speaking families at the event, Julie did a tremendous job translating Dr. Geis’s speech and my remarks.
Last year Neighborhood Healthcare, under the leadership of CEO Tracy Ream, provided critically needed medical and dental services to 65,000 people at 11 regional locations. During my time as Supervisor, thousands of families that live below the federal poverty line have received care in North County for little or no cost through the efforts of people like Dr. Geis and a wonderful team of staff and volunteers.
On June 17, the Board of Supervisors approved my request for a Fifth District Community Projects grant of $212,430 to Neighborhood Healthcare. The money will be used to purchase much needed dental and medical equipment and a telephone system for the new Pauma Valley dental facility.
I look at the initials after John Geis’s name and am convinced that DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Smiles. For this great man, a smile from one child is payment in full.
Good for Carlsbad
Congratulations to the people of Carlsbad for being named one of the 100 Best Places to Live and Launch a Business by Fortune Small Business Magazine.
The magazine praised the city’s fun-based economy with LEGOLAND and other strong tourism attractions adventure sports outfitters, and major golf equipment manufacturers.
“Carlsbad has a strong entrepreneurial community, with the fastest-growing businesses catering to the tourist crowed and incoming business travelers,” the article states. “While the city suspects it would be at build-out in the next 10 years, officials are also aggressively redeveloping several underused zones, enhancing them with amenities such as parking spaces and parks, and making the neighborhoods more attractive to business owners and consumers.”
Among the reasons for this honor is the excellent leadership Carlsbad has had from Mayor Bud Lewis, the City Council, and the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce led by Ted Owen, its president and CEO. The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce is the second largest chamber in the county and the 10th largest in the state.
Prayer at the Flagpole and in Spirit from Washington, D.C.
The first Thursday of May was our 8th Annual National Day of Prayer (NDP) event at the County Administration Center flagpole.
The Board of Supervisors had issued a proclamation honoring the NDP, and we invited County employees to come to the flagpole on their own time during lunch and share in moments of informal, spontaneous prayer. There were about 75 people present from many County departments along with our friends from the Salvation Army that provided a musical ensemble.
For the first time, I was not able to be there for the event as I was in Washington, D.C. with land policy advisor Dustin Steiner on county business that included efforts to save Rancho Guejito, and get funding for anti-gang measures and brush clearance. John Culea, our media and communications director led the event as people offered prayers for our national leaders, military warriors, the County of San Diego and anything else that was Spirit-led.
County Administration Center
1600 Pacific Highway San Diego, CA 92101 tel: (619) 531-5555
fax: (619) 685-2662