05/14/08

SUPERVISOR 5TH DISTRICT COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO

Report from Washington, D.C.

During my 13 years as your Fifth District Supervisor, I’ve learned that having positive working relationships with people in Washington, D.C. is invaluable in carrying out the task of serving my constituents here on the home front.

Continuing contacts with elected representatives, their staff members, and key decision-makers in the capital bureaucracy is essential to making sure our County receives its fair share of federal dollars and support for programs that are vital to our way of life.

Bill Horn
Dustin Steiner & Supervisor Horn

On Sunday, April 28, 2008, my staff land policy advisor, Dustin Steiner and I traveled to Washington, D.C. for three days of meetings with people ranging from a U.S. Senator, to members of our San Diego Congressional delegation, and top officials in government agencies. Also with us was Dan Silver, Executive Director of the Endangered Habitats League. Based on the issues we were presenting, especially the one dealing with North County’s Rancho Guejito; I felt it was productive to have a respected member of the environmental community and outside of government at our side.

Bill Horn
Supervisor Horn & Dan Silver

We organized our presentations in four main areas, beginning with the focal point of the trip:

  • Preservation of Rancho Guejito. This is a 21,000 acre open area northeast of Escondido; the best and last preserved Spanish land grant in California
  • The huge financial impact of illegal immigration on our County budget. A study we commissioned showed the County pays at least $101 million a year for services to illegal aliens including $49 million for incarcerating these people. The federal government gives us back $2 million to handle the costs. The direct cost to hospitals is almost $155 million.
  • Anti-gang measures. Thousands of gang members prey upon innocent citizens in North County.
  • Brush-clearing in fire-prone areas. The success of our brush-clearing programs was seen during the October 2007 Wildfires. Much more is needed.

From these topics would flow other discussions, along with our suggestions for solving problems, some of which people in Washington told me they were hearing for the first time. That kind of reaction doesn’t come through letters, e-mails, and phone calls. I find that traveling 2700 miles for face-to-face meetings accomplishes more things in a shorter time and is well worth the investment in taxpayer funds. Such was the case on this trip.

Bill Horn
From left, Supervisor Horn, Dustin Steiner and Tom Walters

What follows is a look at our itinerary, some of the people we met, topics considered, the response, and what we think was gained for the future. We were on the go from morning until late at night, so I hope you don’t mind if I don’t list a visit to grab a bite or the not-so-mundane challenge of getting from here to Washington, D.C. and then around the capital. Thanks for letting me share this with you.

Bill Horn

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

9:00 a.m. – Organizational staff meeting with Thomas Walters & Associates, Inc., the County of San Diego’s governmental representative in Washington, D.C.

10 a.m. – Meeting with David Brooks, Senior Counsel, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (this is an authorizing committee that considers legislation involving various land projects)

 

Subject: Preservation of Rancho Guejito

This was the second time I had met with Mr. Brooks; the first was last year. He was receptive to our presentation on preserving Rancho Guejito. We talked about the need to have a California U.S. Senator involved to make the land preservation happen.

 

11 a.m. – Meeting with Tom Klouda, Social Security Advisor to Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Committee on Finance

 

Subject: Use of Social Security Earnings Suspense File to Offset the Local Impact Costs of Illegal Immigration

Over the years, $585 billion in wages has accumulated in what is known as a Social Security Suspense File. Money in this fund includes taxes paid by employers and employees for employees whose name and Social Security numbers do not match. Many of these individuals are in the country illegally. It’s estimated that $70 billion, or roughly 12% (which is employer/employee contributions to Social Security) could be used to pay for the costs to local governments for expenditures associated with services for illegal aliens. Mr. Klouda informed me that he had not thought of this before. In fact, he said the plan was “very creative” and he said I should write fiction. After a shared laugh, I assured him that the plan was anything but fiction and that it was a realistic approach to solving a problem that is only getting worse. He was receptive and urged me to pursue the idea with Social Security.

 

2:00 p.m. – Meeting with Janet Creighton, Deputy Assistant to President Bush and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Bill Behrens, Special Assistant to President Bush and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

 

Subject: Funding to offset the impacts of Illegal Immigration, Gang Prevention Resources, Brush Clearing in Fire-Prone Areas and Preservation of Rancho Guejito

Ms. Creighton and Mr. Behrens were receptive to our visit and were so interested in our suggestions for anti-gang measures; they called the Justice Department to let them know we were coming.

 

3:30 p.m. – Meeting with Wendy Young, Counsel to Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees

 

Subject: Federal Resources to Offset the Local Impact Costs of Illegal Immigration

Ms. Young is new on the job; however, she was highly interested in the health care costs of illegal immigration and I promised her I would meet again on this issue.

 

4:45 p.m. – Meeting with Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Bill Horn
Congressman Issa & Supervisor Horn

 

Subject: Preservation of Rancho Guejito, Funding to Offset the Impacts of Illegal Immigration, Gang Prevention Resources, and Brush Clearing in Fire-prone Areas

Congressman Issa was very receptive and told us he is interested in cooperating with us to preserve Rancho Guejito.

Having Darrell as an ally is important in the process, because Rancho Guejito is in his Congressional District. In order to move things along smoothly, it is best to meet with subcommittee staff, committee staff, House members, Senators and even the Administration.

Dan Silver’s presence with us was vital. As a credible advocate for the environment, he was able to talk in support of a big project rather than several small parcel developments. He also shares our belief that eminent domain must never be applied to Rancho Guejito.

 

Tuesday evening

Dinner with Gary Gallegos, Executive Director of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom who were there with other SANDAG staff for a meeting with Department of Transportation officials.

Our talk included the California State Department of Transportation budget and our commitment to widen Highway 76 with an eight-mile park along the San Luis Rey River.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

10 a.m. – Meeting with Ur Mendoza Jaddou, Chief Counsel to Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law

 

Subject: Federal Resources to Offset the Local Impact Costs of Illegal Immigration

We discussed more on the use of Social Security Suspense File monies collected fom people who are in this country illegally. Ms. Jaddou is from Chula Vista and had a clear understanding of what is happening in our region. She first asked about the so-called benefits to our nation from people who are in this country illegally. We explained that the County of San Diego gets little or no financial benefits because no sales tax revenue paid by anyone; legal or not legal goes to the County.

We emphasized the unfair burden San Diego County taxpayers must bear in terms of footing the bill for $75 million in public safety costs including nearly $23 million in health costs, and $3.6 million for our parks and recreation. The public safety breakdown shows a $48.5 million hit on the Sheriff’s budget, $9 million absorbed by the District Attorney, $5.5 million for the Public Defender, and $10 million for Juvenile and Adult Probation. Ms. Jaddou was most interested in the break-down of costs.

 

11:00 a.m. – Meeting with staff members of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D–CA)

 

Subject: Preservation of Rancho Guejito, Funding to Offset the Impacts of Illegal Immigration, Gang Prevention Resources, and Brush Clearing in Fire-prone areas

Staff members of Senator Boxer’s office knew Dan Silver and this made the meeting even more productive. There were also good discussions on federal assistance in anti-gang programs. Senator Boxer’s staff liked our after-school programs to divert young people from gangs.

 

2:30 p.m. – Meeting with Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA)

Bill Horn
Congressman Bilbray & Supervisor Horn

 

Subject: All four topics

Brian has been a great partner with our office in bringing our call for immigration reform to Washington. As a former County Supervisor, he knows the connection that is needed between local and federal officials and the importance of face-to-face meetings in the nation’s capital. I know that Brian will continue to work on our behalf and for the people in his district.

 

3:30 p.m. – Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

Bill Horn
Supervisor Horn & Congressman Hunter

 

Subject: Rancho Guejito, Immigration Reform, Fire Issues, and the Border Fence

It was good to learn that like me, Duncan has been on Rancho Guejito and shares my enthusiasm to create a permanent preserve. The Congressman said he would like one day to be able to hunt at Rancho Guejito. For that to happen, we need to hunt down a buyer and arrange a meeting with a willing seller.

Before leaving Duncan’s office, we talked about the way Fire Barricade Gel saved so many structures during the October 2007 Wildfires; material that we are now placing in the hands of more local fire agencies.

 

4:00 p.m. – Meeting with Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA) and then his Chief of Staff, Tony Buckles

Bill Horn
Supervisor Horn & Congressman Filner

 

Subject: Rancho Guejito and brush clearance

There were positive responses on both issues.

 

4:30 p.m. – Meeting with Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA)

Bill Horn
Congresswoman Davis & Supervisor Horn

 

Subject: Rancho Guejito, Illegal Immigration Costs, Gangs, and Brush Clearance
In Congresswoman Davis’s office was Lee Steuer, daughter of our great County Chief Financial Officer, Don Steuer.

My first order of business was letting Susan know that my mother lives in her district (always a good way to get on the good side of any politician). Our meeting was cordial and she was interested in our ideas.

 

Evening

Dinner with Congressman Brian Bilbray and a night tour of the Capitol.
Thursday, May 1, 2008

9:00 a.m. – Meeting with Linda Boody, Deputy Administrator for Fire and Aviation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior

 

Subject: Fire Management Brush Clearance

We discussed the County’s plan to lease two CL-415 Superscooper fixed-wing amphibious aircraft and one Aero Commander 690 aerial supervision platform aircraft as resources to fight wild fires.

We also learned that the Cleveland National Forest and Bureau of Land Management have new directors and future meetings are planned.

 

10:00 a.m. – Meeting with Kim Hildred, Chief Social Security Advisor to Ranking Minority Member Sam Johnson (R–TX), House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security

 

Subject: Use of Social Security Earnings Suspense File to Offset the Local Impact Costs of Illegal Immigration

We learned something that opened our eyes. It seems that federal and state prisons can get money for illegal aliens held for life sentences in the “Fugitive Felon Program.” There’s a “Finders Fee” and we are looking into tapping into that fund to get the County its fair share of reimbursement costs. In fact, I told more than one official in Washington, D.C. that they shouldn’t be surprised if one day, a municipality ships their illegal alien prisoners back east and deposits them to the Capitol lawn as a way to let them pay for their failed immigration policy.

 

11:00 a.m. – Meeting with George Fishman, Chief Counsel to Ranking Minority Member Steve King (R-IA), House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law

 

Subject: Immigration

This was a brief, yet positive meeting.

 

Noon – Meeting with Dennis Mondoro, Brian Cohen, Hector Rivera, and Thomas Murphy, U.S. Department of Justice

 

Subject: Gang intervention and opportunities for funding gang prevention projects in San Diego County

This was a highly informative and encouraging meeting. I was invited to attend an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention conference in Atlanta in June. We were given excellent ideas on obtaining grants from the Justice Department for our gang intervention programs.

 

3:00 p.m. – Meeting with Rick Prausa, Deputy Director, Rich Kvale, Assistant Director, Sue Stewart, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Fire & Aviation Management

 

Subject: Fires and brush clearing

It was here that we saw satellite maps of our region and that of Baja California showing the fuel load and potential for more wild fires

 

4:00 p.m. – Meeting with Leslie Duncan, Professional Staff to Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands

 

Subject: Preservation of Rancho Guejito

This was another cordial and productive meeting with shared desires of preserving our natural resources.

 

5:00 p.m. – Meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Bill Horn
Supervisor Horn & Senator Feinstein

 

Subject: All four topics

We talked about preserving Rancho Guejito and our mutual commitment to respecting private property rights.

We then had a spirited discussion about fire issues. I appreciate Dianne’s perspective since her background includes being a County Supervisor and Mayor. However, when it comes to dealing with fire danger, I believe she had a bit of an advantage with the wet climate up north.

Before leaving her office, I once again told her how much I appreciate her efforts to provide funding for us to clear hundreds of acres of dead, diseased, and dying trees in North and East County. Just on Palomar Mountain, that action went a long way in helping our great firefighters save it last October.

 

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Bill Horn

So, there you have it. Highlights of our trip to Washington that left me encouraged about what is ahead for North County. And, as always, the best feeling of all was hearing the “squeak-squeak” of the plane’s tires when we touched down at Lindbergh Field. It is good to be home and great to represent you in North County and take our message to Washington.

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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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