Thank you, Vice Chairman Dave Roberts, for being my Master of Ceremonies tonight. You’ve done a great job. I also want to thank you for teaming up with me in North County.
I have found a great collaborator in Vice Chair Roberts. Together, we secured funding to keep the Palomar Forensic Health Center open so it can continue to provide critical services to survivors of rape and abuse.
Our alliance makes a difference and together, we can continue to accomplish great things in North County. Thank you for your leadership.
And I would like to thank you all for being here as well. I appreciate your time.
I’m excited to be here tonight. This is the 5th time I’ve been honored with delivering the State of the County, after 20 years on the Board of Supervisors. It is also my last State of the County Address. It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by so quickly. But when you love what you do, that seems to happen. One of the biggest reasons this job so great, is the people I work with here at the County. From our CAO, Helen Robbins-Meyer, and her office, to my colleagues on the Board, our department heads, staff members, support staff and maintenance crews, we have the best employees.
I also work with some incredible people in District 5, one in particular who I would like to honor tonight.
This gentleman has dedicated 50 years of volunteer service to his community. Vince Ross moved to Fallbrook in 1964. He became active on the school board, the Chamber Board and then helped form the Land Conservancy and a Rotary Club. He is the Founder and Facilitator of the Fallbrook Revitalization Council, Founder and President of the Fallbrook Village Assn., Founder and Contributor to the Art in Public Places Program, and Co-Founder, and past Board member of the Fallbrook Beautification Alliance. Vince helped secure property for the Fallbrook Village Square, Jackie Heyneman Park, the Fallbrook Art Center and the Fallbrook School of the Arts. And he was also instrumental in starting that little annual event they have in Fallbrook called the Avocado Festival.
Known endearingly as Mr. Fallbrook, tonight I present Vince Ross with the “Guardian of the Water Award.” This award is a State of the County tradition and celebrates those special people who make a difference in their communities through their stewardship. Thank you, Vince, for your volunteerism and philanthropy. Thank you for your ideas, planning, enthusiasm, relationship building, innovative thinking, dedication and all you do for Fallbrook. And thank you for just being such a nice guy.
As I prepared for tonight, and thought about our past accomplishments, our future goals, the many great people who work at the County, community leaders like Vince Ross… one word kept coming to mind: Stewardship.
Stewardship, by definition, is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. I think it accurately describes how we, your County Government, approach our jobs every day. We take great pride in our work and are dedicated to making San Diego County the best that it can be. I want to thank my fellow Board members for being great stewards for the past 20 years.
Economy & Finances
I believe the only way to achieve that kind of success is being smart with your money. My mother gave me great advice… when your outgo exceeds your income… you have a problem.
As a business owner, a farmer and a family man, I know the importance of living on a budget. Mom was right. I also know the sacrifices it takes to keep from overspending. That is the reason I am so proud of the County’s financial standing. We have proven that these conservative practices work.
Standard & Poor’s gave the County’s Investment Pool a Triple-A credit rating. This is the 14th year in a row we’ve held that distinction… and the 8th year for our Triple-A bond rating. I intend to keep this excellent credit rating for as long as I am Supervisor! With term limits, this Board will be changing. I challenge the next generation of Supervisors to maintain this high standard and protect our pristine credit rating!
It will require fiscal responsibility and the courage to say no. I know it can be done because that is how the team here at the County operates; a few of the key people behind the County’s fiscal success are here tonight…
A few years ago, we were hit with Public Safety Realignment, or AB109, which allows low level offenders to serve their time in local jails as opposed to state prisons. Our law enforcement team has done a remarkable job in managing these major changes and crime numbers continue to fall.
Unfortunately, we are facing yet another risk to the public safety with Proposition 47, which passed in November. This retroactive proposition reduces felonies like drug possession and property theft to misdemeanors, leading to the immediate release of thousands of criminals serving time in prison.
The full impact of Prop 47 is not known, but law enforcement expects an increase in crime and drug use because of the reduced charges. It won’t be easy, but I commit this county’s full resources to protect our families, homes and neighborhoods. We have outstanding deputies working hard to protect us and they deserve our support.
In fact, tonight I’d like to recognize 5 deputies who work out of the San Marcos substation. They have developed a program that I consider one of the best I have seen in 20 years. It is called RESPECT… and it is a gang intervention program that gives gang members a way out of gang life. The curriculum offers support, education, guidance and assistance… and it is working! I didn’t think you could ever get out of a gang, but this program is making it possible. It would be great to see RESPECT used as a model and put into practice throughout San Diego County.
Alongside RESPECT… is another community effort to end gang life called CLAIM … or Creating Leadership And Inspiring Mentors. Ex-gang members from North County created CLAIM to offer peer mentoring and hope. They are proof that gang members can start a new and better life.
And I am happy to report... due to our gang collaboration, two of our North County cities, Vista and Escondido, have received CALGRIP grants, and a portion of the money will be used to establish a tattoo removal program in North County. Visible, gang-related tattoos make it difficult for these former gang members to find good jobs. Tattoo removal can eliminate that obstacle and help these men and women stay on the right path in life. I am excited to support this excellent program.
The County is moving into Phase 2 of the $300M Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility this year, adding space for 384 additional inmates.
Not far from Las Colinas, a new Sheriff’s Substation will open in Lakeside this year. The 2.5 million dollar project will include space for 30 full-time deputies to better serve Lakeside and the surrounding unincorporated area.
And one of the most exciting tools for law enforcement will begin to take shape in 2015. The design process starts this year for the new Forensics Crime Lab at the County Operations Center. The “full service" lab will be able to analyze DNA, trace evidence, firearms, controlled substances, forensic alcohol, CSI, latent fingerprints, and documents. It is scheduled for completion in 2018.
Wildfire is always a major threat in San Diego County, and fire preparedness has long been one of my priorities. As a County, we’ve never been better prepared. This year, the County’s third firefighting helicopter, which I championed, will go into service. We also have aircraft available from the City of San Diego, CAL FIRE, SDG&E and the military, as a result of our one-of-a-kind partnership. That adds up to more than 3 dozen aircraft in our region to fight a major wildfire. And we also have night flying capabilities.
When I was Vice-Chair in 2010, the County distributed the Red Guide to Recovery, a resource guide to help families get back on their feet after a disaster. I’m pleased to say I’ve led the effort to republish an updated version of the guide this year, in English and Spanish. It is also the first version to address the delicate recovery processes on tribal land. The new guide will be available this spring.
After our most recent fires, I felt renewed concern for elderly, isolated residents and for those with cognitive or physical disabilities who may need assistance evacuating. This year, the Board will work with County Aging and Independence Services to expand the number of participants in “Project Care,” a community based program that provides check-ins with seniors and others who lack a support network.
And this year, we will open the doors to the new Boulevard Fire Station. The $3.5 million dollar fire station will serve a 78-square-mile area. It will have modern sleeping quarters, a training room, space for up to six emergency vehicles and environment-friendly elements such as solar power.
Also, as part of our on-going commitment to public safety, the County will continue to run cyber-attack drills, to practice ways to protect ourselves and minimize damage from an enemy we can’t see.
For the first time ever, a County Supervisor will be Vice Chair of the San Diego Association of Governments this year. Congratulations to Supervisor Ron Roberts who has been appointed, and in 2016, will be Chair. Another first. This is an exciting opportunity for the County. When projects are chosen and money dispersed, the County won’t be overlooked.
I’d also like to mention, that thanks to the vision of Supervisor Ron Roberts, this May we will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Waterfront Park. It is a beautiful park and you all will be able to enjoy it tonight. Thank you Supervisor Roberts for your continued leadership.
Road Improvement Projects in the County
The County’s Road Fund is being reduced, but we’re going to do more, with less. We have developed an aggressive plan to improve sections of our 2,000 miles of roadways… and it’s possible because of the healthy reserves and sound fiscal practices reflected in our budget.
The County will focus on making bigger, longer-lasting repairs instead of short-term fixes. We will dedicate $34 million from our Road Fund reserve to infrastructure maintenance over the next few years. Over the long-term, the County will use Transnet revenue to cover maintenance costs that gas tax revenue can’t meet.
Palomar McClellan Airport’s master plan is moving forward and will be ready for public input. The plans include a runway extension which would offer an economic boost through jobs and revenue for all of San Diego County.
We have made great strides in the County’s efforts to streamline County processes. When I was Chair in 2011, I created the Red Tape Reduction Task Force. Their recommendations, many of which were adopted by the Board, have led to positive changes. Those will continue this year. We’re striving to provide one-stop-shopping so applicants don’t have to visit multiple departments or websites to meet requirements. We are also trying to clarify those requirements to eliminate the confusion that leads to missteps and delays.
I will continue to fight for private property rights and protect property values as I have for the past 20 years. I challenge the next generation of Supervisors to be good stewards and protect our land owners.
I also want to see the County’s economy stronger than ever. Four years ago, I established Prosperity On Purpose (POP). It is a regional visioning plan… and economic development strategy… for North County.
One of our goals is to bring more funding to North County. POP is currently working on an exciting grant application for April that will create jobs and support educational training.
Pop is also working to publicize a set of regional asset maps that offer a one of a kind view of North County. The virtual maps are color coded and weave together the general plans for five North County cities, tribal land and unincorporated areas. They’re an ideal tool for any person or business looking to relocate.
We are building new libraries but these are not the kind you and I remember as children. These are libraries of the future: vibrant, busy, interactive community centers for all ages filled with community resources, educational programs and enrichment opportunities. (like Skyping) This year, we will have ribbon cutting or ground breaking ceremonies at the new Imperial Beach Library, the new Alpine Library, the new Lakeside Library, and the expansion of the 4S and Poway Library!
Borrego Springs also needs a new library. I am optimistic that a proposal will be presented to the Board in the next few months. If all goes well, this will be the ninth library I have opened in my district alone.
The County has transitioned into “Thriving”… the 3rd component of the 10-year initiative “Live Well, San Diego.” “Thriving” will focus on improving three areas: the first is Built and Natural Environment… such as transportation, neighborhoods and housing. The second is Enrichment… for civic life and community activities. The third is Prosperity, Economy and Education… and includes workforce education and economic development.
Nick Macchione is here, Director of HHSA. I’d like to thank him for his leadership with “Live Well, San Diego” and his efforts to help all County residents be healthy, safe and to thrive.
I am excited to team up with Nick on a project that hits close to home and is important to me… veterans.
One of my greatest honors was, as a 24 year old, to command 270 Marines in combat for one year during the Vietnam War in 1968. Here in San Diego County, veterans, active military and their families make up more than 1/3 of the population. These men and women have made sacrifices that often take a terrible toll on their personal lives. As a County and as a community, we have a responsibility to take care of our veterans.
This very issue was raised in an interview I heard… about the controversy surrounding the movie “American Sniper.” Actor Bradley Cooper, who portrays the main character, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, said discussions about this movie should not focus on the war itself, but rather what we need to do to take care of the veterans who survive and come home. I could not agree more.
According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans kill themselves every day in the United States. That number is staggering. We have also lost more Veterans to suicide than we lost in the Iraq War and Afghanistan War… combined.
Our veterans have earned and deserve our attention and care.
I would like to declare this year, the year of the veteran!
Veterans have been a priority for me since I was first elected. I have spearheaded and supported many successful projects. The results of these efforts will come together this year in exciting new ways.
We have done away with our old office of Veterans Affairs and I am excited to announce that we have elevated this office into the new Military and Veterans Department. A new director is expected to be announced in the next couple of months.
I am also proud to report that a new North Inland Family Resource Center and Veterans Resource Center is scheduled to open in Escondido this summer. This regional center will address family needs, but will also be a one-stop shop for veterans.
The Veterans Resource Center will have County Representatives, direct access to programs and services, and 15 nonprofit organizations to provide support to Veterans in one location. Organizations such as Interfaith Community Services, “ReBoot,” “Courage to Call,” Goodwill and “Vets Caring for Vets,” are just a few of the support organizations committed to the Escondido campus.
The Veterans Resource Center will also have a 30 seat computer lab, a large conference room and interview rooms. Since it will be in the same building as the Family Resource Center, Child Welfare Services, and Adult Protective Services… referrals will be simplified. Veterans who require benefits-counseling, college fee waivers, employment, rapid rehousing, transition assistance, case management, legal and financial services… can take care of everything in one location. It will be so much easier!
In addition, the County is partnering with the successful “25 Cities Initiative” with a goal to end veteran homelessness and chronic homelessness. The initiative is a street level effort to connect the homeless with prevention services, permanent housing, health care, jobs, and other supportive services.
In East County, Supervisor Dianne Jacob is launching a new program in a couple of months to help veterans that I think is great. It’s called “Vet Connect” and will use computer technology in local libraries to connect veterans with services and assistance through FaceTime. Veterans will be able to apply for benefits or seek assistance without leaving their community or even licking a stamp! I’d like to expand this program to the entire County.
And in Chula Vista, Supervisor Greg Cox wants more specialized care at the Chula Vista Veterans Home, a home that he helped bring to our region. He is working to create a “Memory Care Unit” to meet the needs of veterans who are also Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients.
Thank you Supervisor Jacob and Supervisor Cox for more great examples of stewardship.
A recent Veterans Conference gave the County the chance to learn how to better serve our veterans. Right now, a disability claim can take 2 years or more to get approved. If you are a veteran living with PTSD or a TBI, you do not have 2 years to wait. This has to change.
The VRC is a step in that direction. The County is trying to streamline the Military and Veterans Department by centralizing access to programs. We’re also working to improve education and outreach about available services… like the “Military to Civilian Crosswalk” or “O-Net.” This webpage asks for your military branch and title, and then a list of corresponding civilian jobs pop-up. It is a great tool for veterans who may not realize their cross-over job possibilities in the civilian workforce.
Additionally, the County will continue to work closely with community partners to enhance our overall support network. This effort will not only benefit San Diego’s military families but also lead to a stronger and healthier economy.
Finally, I intend to keep tabs on how we are doing. I plan to hold a Board Conference on veterans in this very room, at the end of this year. We will review the year… the programs, processes and our progress. We will take care of our veterans!
Tomorrow morning I will be speaking at the groundbreaking for a Veteran and Family Resource Center, along with Vice Chair Dave Roberts, that was funded through a generous donation from Tom Hawthorne, a WWII B-29 pilot. This center will also make services for veterans more accessible. It is another resource for veterans.
Tomorrow… is the start of a new year.
The year of the veteran!
In closing tonight… this County is in great condition. We are setting new standards… as proven by our 41 state and national achievement awards last year for outstanding programs. We’ve set high goals, and we are reaching them. We have County employees and a Board of Supervisors who strive to be the best, and hold their responsibilities in high regard. We are setting an example and it is one of stewardship that will serve this County well for many years to come.
I am ready for another great year.