03/12/09

FORUM: JUST LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS

Note: The following commentary by Supervisor Horn was printed in the North County Times.

By BILL HORN – County supervisor

The people of San Diego County were served well and can feel good about two recent votes by the County Board of Supervisors.

The first involves the approval of a campus for a nonprofit organization that cares for people with developmental and learning disabilities such as autism. Training, Education & Research Institute, or TERI, was given the go-ahead to create a world-class educational and training site for 306 children, teachers, psychologists and therapists on a 20-acre parcel of land on Deer Springs Road in unincorporated San Diego County north of San Marcos.

TERI spent nearly seven years and hundreds of thousands of dollars for the permit process ---- an indictment on the unfounded concerns and delays caused by some local residents and a bureaucratic maze that must be streamlined. I was privileged to put forth the final motion before the board that received unanimous approval.

The other decision involves the expansion of Casa de Amparo, a haven of shelter first established in Oceanside in 1978 for abused and neglected children. It now has expanded as a place for young adults transitioning out of foster care. My fellow supervisors and I unanimously approved a major-use permit for a new teen shelter on 11 acres of unincorporated county land north of San Marcos.

I listened to the concerns of a handful of opponents; one who said that the construction of the teen shelter would drive out local farmers. The public should know that it's not a teen shelter that threatens local growers; it's the statewide water crisis exacerbated by failure to build the Peripheral Canal. The canal would be another way to divert water south from the Sacramento River and the delta. It is an idea that was defeated at the polls in 1982 in California's version of the war between the North and South. Many voters in the north considered it a water grab.

Compounding the water crisis is a federal court that puts the welfare of a 2-inch threatened bait fish, the delta smelt, over the livelihood of San Diego County farmers who contribute $1.5 billion to our local economy, the fifth most important part of our economic engine. The court ruling could end up forcing water officials to cut deliveries from the delta by as much as a third.

I'm concerned about the future of our agricultural community; however, to say that a teen shelter portends grave consequences for local farmers is not supported by facts. I am confident that TERI and Casa de Amparo will be excellent neighbors.

We saw what happened at San Pasqual Academy. When that facility was proposed, we heard ominous predictions of crime and violence. In truth, the academy was built and now serves victims of society’s problems, not perpetrators of our ills.

Once San Pasqual Academy opened we found that when you do the right thing in the right place at the right time, the most vulnerable among us can be cared for with compassion while building community pride.

Bill Horn represents San Diego County's Fifth District on the Board of Supervisors.