03/28/09

STATE OF THE NORTH COUNTY ADDRESS 2009

Ranch Santa Fe Community Center

Supervisor Horn presented his 2009 State of North County Address in Rancho Santa Fe on March 26, 2009. The following are highlights from his speech along with added thoughts:

The Challenge

The financial crisis in Sacramento and Washington, DC has impacted the County of San Diego as never before.

Hard decisions require discipline, resolve and compassion. That is what people expected when I was elected and that is what our Board is doing now to make our neighborhoods safe, protect our natural resources and keep the County financially strong. An example of our stewardship is that for the last 13 years, the Board of Supervisors has paid down our debt and achieved one of the highest credit ratings in California.

I wish elected leaders in Sacramento and Washington. DC would follow our governance model. Until they do, we are left to cope with a mess that seems to be getting worse.

The Plan

I was a Marine Corps officer and over the years have put in practice the leadership principles I learned. Those qualities included being prepared, managing your surroundings, looking out for each other and planning ahead.

Fire Protection

The Board of Supervisors has now consolidated CalFire, volunteer firefighters and fire districts in the unincorporated area. The County’s continuing commitment is more than $15 million a year to train, equip and station our firefighters. With consolidation, by 2012 over 1,200,000 acres of the backcountry will be under this jurisdiction.

Last year we leased SuperScooper air tankers from Canada and along with other air resources and ground attacks were able to get through the traditional fire season without the catastrophic fires of 2003 and 2007.

Vegetation Management

Vegetation management, including controlled burns, is an issue I have recommended for many years. I have been a farmer more than 30 years and we use fire to get rid of unwanted vegetation to keep our groves from burning. While in Washington I went to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Forestry to get their permission to manage vegetation on their lands and on our lands. Vegetation management will allow us to interrupt so-called “wicks;” urban interfaces in canyons with brush that is adjacent to homes. The urban interface burned Carlsbad a number of years ago and it was the urban interface that went up during the Rice Fire in Fallbrook. The City of San Diego had the same issue when fires came through Scripps Ranch.

Air Transportation

I am proud of what the County has done at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. Improvements there include a modern passenger terminal, easy parking and a place you can use to get anywhere in the world.

The airport has special facilities for corporate jets returning from overseas. Instead of going through customs and waiting in line at a bigger airport, like Brown or Lindbergh Field, you can go through customs at Palomar for a fee. It’s one of the services that have encouraged many companies to have headquarters in Carlsbad and Oceanside.

All that airport improvement was financed by revenue generated by the airport and federal grants and not paid for by the General Fund.

Highway 76

We have been trying to improve Highway 76 for years and were on track until the State of California decided to cut our transportation budget and stopped construction.

SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments wanted to transfer money from Highway 76 to Highways 52 and 56 to finish those projects. I vigorously protested and was pleased when SANDAG reversed its decision. The Highway 76 improvements are still on track and we hope to have that completed by 2012.

Looking Out for Each Other

The entire time I’ve been in office, I’ve been active in combating gangs in North County. I backed the North County Gang Task Force and last year helped form the North County Gang Commission to work with community and law enforcement groups and to secure grants. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her team at the Vista courthouse have been stellar partners in keeping the neighborhoods safe.

Across the border, 2,000 people were murdered last year in Tijuana. This year in January alone, there were almost 800 murders. Mexican drug cartels are also targeting law enforcement and it’s spilled over to Phoenix. I don’t want that to happen in San Diego County. We’re dealing with problems, including illegal immigration the federal government must address.

Foster Children

We have one of the finest foster care systems in the United States, especially in North County with a network of remarkable foster parents looking after 27,000 foster children in the County of San Diego. Add in CalWorks children who get support that helps their parents work and you have 75,000 at-risk children here. The problem is the State of California did not want to honor its financial obligation. Eighty-five percent of the money designated for those children comes from the federal government. When it gets to Sacramento, they’re supposed to add ten percent, and then when it reaches San Diego, we add our five percent. Recently the State has refused to put in their ten percent and the State Controller decided that he was going to keep our money. The County of San Diego stood to lose $34 million a month, so along with 30 other counties, we sued the State. The day before it went to trial, the Controller released the money.

Helping Young People

I’m proud of two major projects in the Twin Oaks Valley area that we recently approved to help young people. One of them is a home that will be built for developmentally disabled children by TERI and the other is an expansion of Casa de Amparo’s facility for minor children. The projects had to overcome unreasonable delays brought on by misinformation, unwarranted fears and bogus environmental issues. Now we can help children who are not the problem; rather the victims of problems.

This year, I took steps to give parents an option to restrict their children’s access to R-rated video material at our 33 library branches and two bookmobiles. Our library director, Jose Aponte has a system in place that changes video check-out procedures with a new library card. I’m also pleased that we remain on schedule and have selected the design team to build a new library in Fallbrook with a projected grand opening in Fall, 2010.

Dealing with Drought

California is in a drought that I believe has been worsened by State government and environmental groups. Forty-six percent of all water produced by nature in the state goes to environmental issues. Agriculture uses 43% and the other 11 percent goes to your home.

We live in a desert, yet one product we have in Southern California is water. I support the construction of a desalination plant in Carlsbad and was pleased the project has been approved. If you visit the desalination plant in Orange County, they produce 270,000 gallons of freshwater everyday that goes back in the aquifer. We should have ten desalination plants in San Diego County.

One of the reasons we are in a water crisis is because there are people who want to
put the welfare of a two-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. A judge in Northern California decided because the bait fish gets in pumps, they can’t pump us water from the delta. If we don’t get back to reality and produce water, we’re going to put agriculture out of business. One way to solve the problem is to build a peripheral canal, a project that has been put off for years.

The Decline of California

I have been through four governors. And whether Republicans or Democrats, we have the same problem with the transfer of money. I was disappointed that the governor didn’t veto items in the budget. There’s no reason that the most prosperous, industrious state in the Union should be the worst place for taxes. We should be where you want to keep your business, not the place that chases businesses out of California.

General Plan Update 2020

The Board of Supervisors, along with its departments, has been working to come up with a new general plan for the County. Part of that general plan has been a number of maps.
The referral map that the Board of Supervisors approved is the only map that I will support. I want people to know it is not right for the government to devalue property without compensating the owner. That map should come out next year.

Priceless Resources

We live in a beautiful County with large amounts of land that must be preserved for future generations and there are ways to come to agreement with conservation groups. To that end, the County worked closely with The Conservation Fund to purchase 234-acres of property in Sage Hill. We are also moving forward to build a seven-mile park along the San Luis Rey River, a passive and active recreational gem that will one day be larger than Balboa Park

The County Team

We have a tremendous team at the County, led by our Chief Administrative Officer, Walt Ekard. There are 480 programs in the County of San Diego and 18,000 employees. Our Board and the County departments are dealing with huge financial issues that are not of our making. We have a sound management plan and you can count on us to stay the course.