02/20/07

STATE OF NORTH COUNTY ADDRESS 2007

Presented by Supervisor Bill Horn

Good morning. Without a doubt, the State of North County is solid.

As you know, we were supposed to be at the Star Theater just down the street, but roof repairs there required a last-minute switch. Bringing down the curtain is good; having the roof come down is not good.

We are here because a number of people went “above-and-beyond” the call of duty to help us.

Among those who helped make the Council Chambers available include your City Manager, Peter Weiss, Deputy City Manager, Michelle Skaggs-Lawrence along with Councilman Rocky Chavez and his aide, Janene Shepherd. Thank you.

Earlier, David Nydegger introduced elected officials who are with us. There are two other people I’d like to acknowledge: Steve Hickey from Oceanside and Gary Stubblefield from Vista.

Roxanne Thompson of the Special Olympics brought Steve and Gary to be with us and this morning we recognize them for successfully reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa last month.

Seventeen years ago, Steve and Gary were part of a 12-member team that climbed the mountain. Five made it to the top, seven, including Steve and Gary did not.

The sponsor of both climbs, World Team Sports, under the direction of Jim Benson, wanted to give the seven another shot. So, the seven left on January 20th and all seven, including Steve and Gary made it to the top on the 29th. Congratulations!

The State of North County Address is a time to reflect on where things stand within the Fifth District and a vision for 2007. However, as Chairman of the Board the past year, I want to also share some of the unique leadership opportunities that came my way.

Public Safety
One of my goals when I became Chairman last January was to make sure every person in our County was prepared for the next disaster—whether it be an earthquake, wildfire or a terrorist attack.

I hosted an emergency preparedness conference to focus on that. When the talk was over, we continued moving forward to make it happen.

With the help of our Public Safety Group, we prepared the “Family Disaster Plan and Personal Survival Guide” and mailed a copy to every home and business in our County. We are still receiving calls for more copies.

Should a disaster happen, our Emergency Operations Center is the civilian version of a war command post; and it is state-of-the-art with a $20 million upgrade to the Emergency Communications System.

As you know, I pushed hard for the County’s first fire-fighting and rescue helicopter. Last year Sheriff Bill Kolender and I put in service a second fire-fighting and rescue helicopter and built a base for the crews to use 24-7 in Fallbrook. Those helicopters and the brave crew members are stopping fires before they get out of control.

We established a new partnership between the County of San Diego and the California Department of Forestry to provide efficient, fiscally appropriate fire protection.

We committed more than $8.5 million a year to keep CDF fire stations open year-round and give crews more training and new equipment in unincorporated areas. I appreciated a CDF ambulance that picked me up last year after a head-on car crash.

We worked with a dozen rural unincorporated areas to come up with Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

With the help of local leaders, we’ve completed Community evacuation plans in Fallbrook, De Luz, and Rainbow.

And special thanks to the Rincon tribe that gave a “no-strings-attached” donation of $100,000 to our Valley Center Sheriff’s substation.

But are we safe?

Gang Violence
The continued brazen assault on our neighborhoods, especially here in Oceanside by street gangs must stop.

Caught in the cross hairs of violence were two of Oceanside’s most promising police officers.

In 2003, Officer Tony Zeppetella was murdered by a gang member. Then five days before Christmas, Officer Dan Bessant was gunned down and murdered in the northeast Oceanside neighborhood he patrolled.

We need tough action and we want it now! No more lectures.

Gangs respect no city limits. Gang violence is a regional problem and for that reason in 1995, I supported the formation of the North County Gang Task Force. Members of the unit are on the front line every day in the war. Last year hundreds of arrests were made along with multiple seizures of firearms, narcotics, vehicles and cash.

The County’s Probation Department has also been doing its part, participating in multi-agency law enforcement sweeps. I appreciate its Chief, Vince Aaria.

Gangs are a regional problem and that is why we have to work with multiple jurisdictions. That includes us, unincorporated areas and North County cities.

Last year, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and I spoke at an Oceanside City Council meeting and offered our assistance in pursuing federal grants for anti-gang programs. We need to focus on preventing kids from being lured into gangs. That’s when the cycle of violence will stop.

With the support of a new city council, Bonnie and I will continue our efforts to attract federal funding.

Next month I will be going to Washington, D.C. to lobby for that money.

My commitment has always been to the people I serve and the neighborhoods they call home. If we are called upon by any city, we’ll try to find a way for all of us to work together for the good of North County. We have to team together.

Now to matters outside city limits.

Better Representation
I’m please to say, North County has better representation for the unincorporated portions of San Diego County on regional issues.

I want to thank Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing legislation that gives permanent representation for the County’s unincorporated areas on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Association of Governments (or SANDAG).

While SANDAG is probably a foreign word to a lot of people; it is a regional group of elected officials who have a lasting impact on our quality of life.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob and I appreciated the help we received on permanent representation from State Senator Christine Kehoe who sponsored the bill, former SANDAG Chairman and Poway Mayor Mickey Cafagna for his support, and Governor Arnold for signing it into legislation.

Something else needs to be done. We need to take control of our border with Mexico.

Border Security
Last year, my fellow Supervisors fully supported my request for a comprehensive study on how much illegal immigration is costing our County in services. As we get the information, it confirms my worst suspicions. In December last year; that’s just one month; 2 million dollars in benefits were paid to support citizen children with at least one undocumented parent in the home. We want to know where the money goes; to the kids and not to Mexico. That took up 4,000 of more than 23-thousand such cases for our Health and Human Services Agency.

Children need to be cared for; and that is why I want to know where the money ends up.

We must find a way to document how much money, resources, and employee time is being spent that should be used for residents who play by the rules and legally call our County home.

We are being crushed in terms of lives lost, people victimized and enormous costs by the stampede of illegal aliens. Congressman Brian Bilbray and I are working together to find ways to ensure that our taxpayers are not rewarding illegal aliens.

Last May I was interviewed on national Fox News about the lack of reimbursement from the federal government for services to illegal aliens, including law enforcement costs and medical care. SCAAP provides two-million-dollars a year. It costs the County 50 million dollars a year just for incarcerating illegal aliens.

I met with Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner during his visit to San Diego to talk about strategy to secure our borders.

Then last summer, I testified to the House Government Committee on Illegal Immigration when members came to San Diego.

We can’t afford to let up in our demand for changes from the feds to protect our democracy.

I still feel that part of the protection must be at the voting polls in the form of photo identification. People have no problem being asked for a photo ID when they rent a movie. Why should there be controversy if you are required to show photo ID before you vote?

Success Stories
Our commitment to serving people comes with a pledge to provide the best service while always seeking ways to do it better and be more cost effective.

That is certainly true with our Health and Human Services Agency, under the leadership of Jean Shepard.

HHSA’s Mobile Remote Work Force and our Public Health Nurses have computers they take with them into the field. Our people serve at-risk families with newborns, infants and children and with new technology; they are showing a 25% increase in productivity while avoiding costs of $2 million a year! Data input in the field saves time and money.

The Center for Digital Government recognized the project with two awards: “Best of California” honor for “Most Innovative Use of Technology.” The second award went to our own Nick Macchione, Deputy Director for HHSA’s North Regions for “Demonstrated Excellence in Project Delivery.”

We are studying to see if the mobile remote workforce solution can be applied to other County programs.

Angel’s Depot
One of our great successes last year was the beginning of Angel’s Depot in Vista. Under the leadership of Susan Hall, Angel’s Depot provides thousands of boxes of nonperishable, nutritious food to seniors who live below the poverty line.

Angel’s Depot is a non-profit organization working to be self-sufficient.

I appreciated the Board’s approval of $300,000 including $150,000 from District 5’s Community Projects Fund to cover startup costs.

I know of no better way to provide quicker and more effective assistance with less red-tape to community non-profits that through our Community Projects Funds.

Hirepatriots.com
One such organization is Hirepatriots.com of Oceanside. Mark and Tori Baird’s website is a non-profit outreach to veterans, active duty personnel or recently discharged individuals and their spouses. Through Hirepatriots.com, these people can find part time work on their days off and earn extra income so they can make ends meet and support their families. We designated $25,000 from our Community Projects Fund to expand the website. While other organizations spend millions to find a few jobs, Hirepatriots.com connects hundreds of our local patriots with employers for part-time or full-time work at a fraction of the cost.

Help for our Warriors
There are other ways of looking out for our military. Last year my fellow Supervisors joined in supporting my call for protecting residents, businesses and military personnel from the adverse effects of advance pay day lending practices. We expressed our concerns in a letter to our state and federal legislative delegations. We found some were charging up to 300%!

I’m thankful that a portion of House Resolution 5122, the FY 2007 Defense Authorization Act, includes provisions to protect members of the Armed Services against predatory payday lenders.

This proves that although this was not under our jurisdiction, there are times when the bully-pulpit produces results!

Business and Agriculture
Two vital parts of North County’s economic engine are business and agriculture.

Last month, agriculture took a huge hit when temperatures hit record lows. Governor Schwarzenegger responded quickly with a disaster declaration and although we won’t know for several months what the impact actually is, I can assure you it will be significant.

The January freeze threatens a string of victories for local agriculture. Last year, for the 13th consecutive year, the county’s agricultural crops increased in value.

We’re doing our best to help farmers recover and extend the record to 14 consecutive years.

Agriculture ranks as the fifth most important factor in San Diego County’s economy. More than 200 crops brought in $1.5 billion; a five percent increase over 2004.

We have vibrant Chamber’s of Commerce in North County that include Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, Fallbrook, Valley Center, Bonsall and Borrego Springs.

Last year we helped the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce establish a Small Business Success Center. The center is the first of its kind in our region and brings in retired business professionals to teach small-business techniques; offer regular workshops on financing and marketing; and the center will monitor the progress of a business for one year. Our goal is to help turn the new business failure rate of 67% into a new business success rate.

Speaking of unfinished business, I want to talk about moving traffic.

Traffic Relief
I remain committed to reducing traffic congestion. Our ability to work with the agencies whose hands are on the driver’s wheel helps us move forward. A major project is widening Highway 76 to four lanes and building a seven-mile long river park along the San Luis Rey River from Melrose to I-15.

Last year we completed the Draft Master Plan.

Our goal is to preserve the sensitive habitat in this beautiful region of North County and at the same time make the road safer, reduce traffic congestion and provide people with hiking and biking trails, ball fields and picnic areas. Most of the land will remain in its natural state forever.

Rancho Guejito
To the east of the river park project is another area of our county that for 164 years has been an undisturbed regional treasure.

Rancho Guejito, the only remaining intact Mexican land grant in the state, covers 22,000 acres of ranching and pristine habitat. The land, near Valley Center has been preserved by its owners, the family of the late Benjamin Coates.

Since I became supervisor 12 years ago, the Coates family has invited me onto the ranch several times, including horseback riding on the property at the invitation of Benjamin Coates. With each successive visit I was impressed by the fact that the Coates family understood their role as caretakers of this very special place.

When I toured the property last spring I was pleased to hear that even though her husband had passed away, Nancy Coates wanted to preserve the place where her husband had "found his deepest happiness."

Given the long history of Coates’ stewardship I was stunned when representatives of the family this month expressed a desire to have Rancho Guejito annexed into the city of Escondido.

I believe that there is an opportunity to build upon the thirty-year legacy of preservation the Coates family has maintained.

In the 1970’s the State of California considered purchasing this land for a state park.

With the passage of Proposition 84, money could be available to revive that idea. The Guejito is also adjacent to Cleveland National Forest.

When I am in Washington, D.C., I will speak to our Congressional delegation about the importance of preserving this piece of our heritage.

Rancho Guejito is a piece of San Diego heritage that has played host to the indigenous peoples who first settled this region, to colonists and ranchers who cultivated the land.

The story of California is written on its hills, its adobes.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The Coates family is the most recent in a long line of faithful protectors of that heritage. My hope is that they have the “will” to take the right step towards joining private organizations and public agencies in an effort to preserve this vital piece of California history once and for all.

While we try to keep things the way they’ve been for more than a century in that part of North County, we look with pride to the changing face of Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.

Palomar Airport
In the past year, many new additions have been made there. We now have a new North Side Ramp with about 130 tie-downs for airplanes.

General aviation is a big part of the operations at Palomar and opening this aircraft parking ramp means we can better serve a significant part of our customer base.

Several other airport projects are underway or planned by the County and private businesses; including a new restaurant, new hangers, more free public automobile parking and a new terminal building.

Palomar is one of eight airports owned by the County of San Diego. We like being in the airport business and have a proven track record of running our airports efficiently and profitably. I think we could do the same with another airport a few miles from here.

Fallbrook Library
One other project remains high on our “must-do” list and that is building a new library in Fallbrook. You may not know it, but Fallbrook was the first branch of our County library system and today there are 25,000 cardholders; nearly half of all local residents.

In the past few months, I have met with the Fallbrook Revitalization Committee and Friends of the Fallbrook Library.

We’re considering new strategy that includes matching grants and perhaps a revised design for the library since the previous design for Prop 14 funds didn’t get us state funding. We need 8 million dollars. I appreciate the dedication of people like Bob Jacobsen and Jerri Patchett who continue to work with us to create a new community center piece for the Fallbrook area.

County Awards
This County is a winner. We have top people in key positions, led by our Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard.

When it comes to serving the public, we have great people who finish first. And others take note. In just one competition this year, the National Association of Counties honored the County of San Diego with 41 awards including our OES “Disaster Preparedness Starts with You!” campaign. No other county in the nation had that many.

Now let me say a special word to the citizens of Oceanside.

San Diego Chargers
You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring to North County the San Diego Chargers who are searching for a new place to play.

Not far from here is a chunk of land that has been mentioned as a possible site for a new stadium.

There are all sorts of pluses for having the Chargers based in Oceanside.

Hundreds of jobs would be available to build the stadium and hundreds more with maintaining a professional team and the management of events at the stadium on a year-round basis. Add on to that, benefits to nearby businesses, restaurants, shops and hotels. There’s also the prestige of national media exposure for our region.

Just in terms of getting people to and from the stadium, we already have Interstate 5, Highways 78 & 76, the Coaster, Metro Link and soon the Sprinter.

Studies have shown that a significant percentage of Charger fans live in Orange County. Having the games in Oceanside would encourage more of those fans to come to North County and bring their money.

Before that happens, there would be a laundry list of things to do; including approval from the City Council, getting the OK from voters in Oceanside, completing an Environmental Impact Report, and redesigning infrastructure to support the facility.

As a founding sponsor of the San Diego North Economic Development Council, I’m pleased that it’s CEO, Gary Knight has formed a committee called “Keep the Chargers in San Diego.” There’s also a lot of enthusiasm with North County leaders.

As your County Supervisor, I also represent the interests of North County on the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG. It’s vital that North County leaders be unified in moving forward should it be decided to work with the Chargers in locating the team in our backyard. I’m prepared to do whatever I can for what’s best for the people of North County.

Thank You
I am honored to be your Supervisor. I appreciate your confidence in re-electing me to a fourth term and along with my great staff, we look forward to serving the people of North County the next four years.

Thank you for being here this morning. God bless you all and God Bless America