A Super Start for the Superscoopers

When Supervisor Ron Roberts and I pushed for increased fire protection that included two large water-dropping airplanes and an air traffic control plane, it didn’t take long for the so-called Superscoopers to show their worth.

The first test came just days after the aircraft were poised for action. The Canadian-based crew and their planes responded with a rapid life and property-saving performance helping douse a 1,500 acre wildfire at Camp Pendleton.

Less than a week later another fire at the base and not far from the backyards of Oceanside and Camp Pendleton homes was stopped with the help of our aerial tankers.

Colonel James Seaton, Camp Pendleton’s commanding officer, praised the efforts of firefighters on the ground and also said the Superscoopers helped save the day.

Leasing the aircraft for 90-days during what usually is the height of the wildfire danger season is expensive, costing the County $3 million, but it’s an investment in public safety that is priceless. The planes can dump five times the amount of water and fire retardant that helicopters carry and can scoop 1,600 gallons of water from the ocean or a lake in just a few seconds.

I’m proud of the brave firefighters in the air and on the ground. With more fire danger a spark away, the Superscoopers have allowed us to maintain the upper hand on an unpredictable foe.

Photo courtesy: Lt. Col. Robert Baird


In this edition of the “Word,” you’ll find more good news about the County’s fiscal strength, a victory for those of us who fought changing a North County telephone area code, new help for veterans, a string of awards for County departments and the opening of a bigger and better library for Borrego Springs.

I hope you’ll agree with me that this is a special time of the year when we should remember to count our blessings—or if you’ll pardon a pun, to County our blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!
Bill Horn


Country Singer Garth Brooks Helps Volunteer Fire Agencies

A generous donation from country singer Garth Brooks made it possible for the Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) to be awarded a $1 million grant to buy urgently needed radio and protective gear for local volunteer fire agencies. DPLU’s fire division worked with CAL FIRE and local fire agencies to create and submit the application.

Mr. Brooks wanted to help local survivors after the 2007 firestorms and through an application to the nonprofit McCormick Foundations, 148 radios, 200 structure-fire protective suits and 200 wildland fire protective suits have been purchased.

Thanks Garth Brooks—we have a new appreciation of the lyrics to one of your hit songs.


Standing outside the fire 
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire




Vista Puts the Brakes on Speed

The City of Vista has now joined our countywide effort to combat methamphetamine abuse. Last month, Undersheriff Bill Gore and I led a news conference to kick off a joint effort between law enforcement, drug treatment professionals and members of the community.

With the cooperation of Vista Mayor Morris Vance and the Vista City Council, it’s hoped that meth users will be encouraged to voluntarily seek treatment before they become a law enforcement problem. Vista’s participation in the program is a continuation of the coordination that began with the creation of the Meth Strike Force by Supervisor Dianne Jacob in 1996.

Speakers at the news conference included Susan Bower, the County’s Director of Alcohol and Drug Services as well as Supervising Medical Examiner Investigator Paul Parker.

Sheriff’s deputies joined drug treatment/health workers to distribute bilingual refrigerator magnets in a Vista neighborhood with known drug problems. On the magnets is the Meth Hotline (1-877-No2METH) where residents can call to make anonymous meth-related crime tips, or get referrals to meth treatment. The magnets will be distributed throughout the County by the Sheriff’s Department Crime Prevention and COPPS Units.

Speed still kills and meth deaths know no age boundaries with fatal overdoses happening to people from infants to the elderly. Since the year 2000, 1,462 people have died in local incidents related to having meth in their system.

_______________________________________________________________________________________The Best Bottom Line

Excuse me if this sounds like a broken record; however, when it comes to the financial condition of the County, I’m always pleased to pass along our “business-as-usual” honors.

Despite confusion and financial uncertainty in Washington, D.C., Wall Street, Sacramento, and across the nation, the County of San Diego has received the highest credit rating possible by Standard & Poor’s. The ratings agency raised the County from AA+ to AAA, making San Diego the only county in the state with a AAA rating.

In 1994, the County of San Diego faced bankruptcy. Tough decisions were made then and today, despite annual raids by Sacramento on local property taxes, we have our financial house in order. I’m committed to the same approach since we anticipate significant reductions in funding from the State for programs it mandates.

According to Standard & Poor’s RatingsDirect report, “the stable outlook reflects the County’s deep and diverse economic base, strong reserve levels, formalized policies, manageable debt burden and long track record of conservative budgeting where actual results typically exceed initial projects.”

* * * * *

More good news came when the County of San Diego was honored as one of only seven California counties to receive the Government Finance Officer Association’s (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the fiscal period that began in 2007.

Congratulations to our Chief Administrative Officer, Walt Ekard and our Chief Financial Officer for Finance and General Government Services, Don Steuer and the entire County team. This is the sixth consecutive GFOA award for the County.

Multiple Honors

The County of San Diego is regularly recognized for excellence. Recent honors include:

  • The County’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) unit was awarded the California Emergency Services Association – Southern Chapter’s Silver Award for outstanding service during the 2007 Wildfires. EMS was praised for maintaining safety and security while minimizing trauma for evacuees.
  • Challenge Award and three Merit Awards from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) including its Rapid Response to Local Emergencies, referring to the four Local Assistance Centers (LACs) the County opened to help fire victims within 72 hours of last October’s devastating wildfires
  • The County’s revamped website www.sdcounty.ca.gov was the only California county to receive an honor in the Center for Digital Government’s Best of the Web Awards
  • County Television Network (CTN.org) took five awards from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA)
  • San Diego County Adoptions received a 2008 Adoption Excellence Award from the Administration for Children and Families, Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau in Washington, DC
  • The County Department of Purchasing and Contracting (P & C) received its eighth consecutive Achievement of Excellence in Procurement award from the National Purchasing Institute


760 Victory

Sometimes you can beat City Hall—or in this case, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). For awhile, it looked as if North County residents and businesses would be saddled with an enormously expensive and terribly inconvenient change in telephone area codes. However, just when 760 looked as if it was on the endangered species list, an effort was mounted that rallied the will of the people.

Our office sent letters of protest from the County’s point of view to the CPUC, 74th District Assemblyman Martin Garrick carried the fight from his perspective and North County Chambers of Commerce made their collective voices heard. The result was the CPUC voting unanimously (5-0) in support of the Administrative Judge’s proposed decision to implement an overlay for North County and allow the region and its residents to keep their 760 area code. This was one for the books as the decision voided an earlier mandate creating a new 442 area code for North County residents.



Borrego Springs Library Opens a New Chapter

From left to right: Jasmine Martin, Ally Gucwa, Director Jose Aponte, Kristen West and Patricia Garcia

It was great to be on hand for the grand opening of the expanded Borrego Springs County library. Joining me was County Library Director Jose Aponte along with Honorary Mayor Betsy Knaak and Friends of the Library President Jim Roller. Adding to the festivities was “royalty” from Borrego Springs Jasmine Martin, Ally Gucwa, Kristen West and Patricia Garcia.

The new facility is at the east end of The Mall Shopping Center, 587 Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 125. The Friends of the Borrego Springs Library played a major role in securing the location and it was my pleasure to help upgrade the library with $114,000 from our District 5 Community Projects fund.


Increased demand by the community for information, books and educational materials led to the library's expansion. Public need for greater Internet access was also a factor. Features include new furniture, a larger children’s area, a new teen area, and additional seating and more public computers. A community room allows for more library programs and events for children, teens and adults. The room is also available for public meetings.

The library, at 3,787 square feet, doubled the size of the old location which was located at the western end of The Mall. The County signed a five-year lease at the site, with two five-year options to extend.

Comfort is important to educational settings, and the new library provides that for patrons and staff. I encourage every person in Borrego Springs to make sure they have a library card.




Getting Down to Business for Veterans

North County has a first-of-its-kind veterans’ business resource center in Fallbrook and it was my honor to be part of the grand opening. The Southwest Veterans’ Business Resource Center is the dream of Albert Renteria, Chief Warrant Officer-4, USMC Retired who served our nation with distinction for 26-years and is now the center’s Chief Executive Officer.

The non-profit center, at 145 Fig Street provides resource information, at no cost, including benefits available to veterans and an educational program designed to inspire veterans to actively seek employment. There is also the possibility of receiving a “Learn-and-Earn” stipend amount of $2,080 for being part of a 14-step, 416-hour study program.

I salute Albert and his team of volunteers for their commitment to veterans and know that the center will bring life-changing differences in the lives of our true heroes. For more information on the center call 760 468-1315 or visit www.swvbrc.org.


Good Reasons to be Thankful

Now that the contentious and emotional Presidential election is over, we wait to see what is ahead for our nation. Before new leadership is sworn in, it might be good to take a deep breath, relax and reflect on the reassuring words of our first president, George Washington. The following is a portion of his Thanksgiving proclamations.

By the President of the United States of America: a Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed . . .

George Washington
October 3, 1789

I hope you and your family will have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and despite unprecedented challenges, pause to give thanks for the blessings of being Americans.


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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