STATE OF THE NORTH COUNTY ADDRESS 2010
March 9, 2010
Supervisor Bill Horn
Good morning. I want to thank Mayor Morris Vance for hosting this event. I also want to thank our sponsor Cox Communications and the San Diego North Economic Development Council for their assistance in putting this all together.
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Each year I give a “State of the North County Address” and this year I am excited to be in Vista. As many of you know, I maintain a district office in Vista, right down the street in the County Courthouse.
During my nearly 16 years as North County’s Supervisor, I have been honored to be able to work very closely with the community of Vista on several things. Mayor Vance has been one of the first to collaborate on regional projects. He has been a leader on our Gang Model and I look forward to working more closely with him as we roll out the program. I have also had a great working relationship with Mayor Pro Tem Judy Ritter and Councilman Bob Campbell with our collective work at SANDAG and NCTD.
Over the years, through the County’s Neighborhood Reinvestment program, it has been my pleasure to be able to return your money to your communities.
Together, we’ve directed grant funding to the Vista Chamber of Commerce for its efforts to have a Wi-Fi capability in town. I’ve been fortunate to be able to grant money for projects at the Boys and Girls Club, the Vista Community Clinics, Vista Art Foundation, Vista Optimists, the Vista Soroptimists, and the City of Vista’s Senior Center.
I have also assisted the Moonlight Cultural Foundation with new equipment for their Amphitheater.
I see great things for Vista’s future and indeed all of North County and I am honored to serve as your elected representative.
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I believe the two biggest challenges we face as we look toward the future are getting our economy back on track and enhancing public safety.
The events of the last ten days underscore the importance of this mission. The tragic deaths of Chelsea King and Amber DuBois remind us how fragile life can be and how we must remain vigilant, not only in keeping the justice system accountable but also in reinforcing the bonds of family and community.
I want to commend Sheriff Gore and his team for the tremendous job they did and will continue to work with him to protect our streets from criminal elements.
There is no doubt about it – we are facing tough economic times in this State and in our region. Each year, our County is threatened by the financial condition of “politics as usual” in Sacramento.
During the last fiscal year we faced a loss of $100 million in state funding. Tough choices come with the territory, but losing money to the black hole that is our state capital has become all too familiar during my time in office. Last June, my colleagues and I again adopted a balanced budget with healthy reserves. We remain fiscally disciplined and refuse to use one-time money for ongoing costs. As a result, I’m pleased to say we stayed in the black in 2009.
It’s a tribute to our Board, and our management team headed by Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard, that the County of San Diego is consistently recognized as being one of the most well managed in the nation. Our credit rating is now among the highest of any government in the United States. This allows us to move forward on projects that wouldn’t happen otherwise. Our credit rating is a reflection of our commitment to fiscal discipline, our dedication to paying down debt early, and our ability to make the tough choices.
As an elected guardian of your tax dollars, I believe taxpayers deserve to get the best bang for their buck when it comes to County contracts and services. That’s why I brought forward an initiative to amend our County Charter to prevent any requirements, beyond what State or Federal law mandates, to use union labor on public projects. Project Labor Agreements inflate the cost of and reduce competition for public contracts. In a time when revenues are being squeezed and new jobs are hard to come by, protecting taxpayer resources and small businesses is vital. The public deserves a chance to safeguard their resources, and preserve the sound budgetary practices of this Board of Supervisors.
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After protecting our budget, one of my most important jobs is providing public safety.
Whether its police protection or fire safety, I’ve always believed that we need to take the politics out of public safety. That’s why in 2008, I formed the North County Gang Commission as a new and different approach to combating the plague of street gangs in our neighborhoods. The commission acts as a regional liaison between law enforcement, education, social agencies, community organizations and the public.
A regional approach is crucial to addressing North County’s gang problem. Last year, a member of my staff attended a workshop with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to learn new strategies in prevention and intervention. I am now working on partnerships with the cities of Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, as well as the community of Fallbrook. I hope to have Carlsbad on board to implement these new strategies across all jurisdictions in North County. We anticipate rolling out our plan this May.
Here in Vista, I supported the City of Vista’s Vista Gang Reduction, Intervention, and Prevention program and their application for a state grant.
It was my pleasure to provide a grant from my Neighborhood Reinvestment Program fund for Cal State University, San Marcos and the Vista Sheriff’s station for the production of an anti-gang video about gang members and crime in Vista.
I have also been a big supporter of the Sheriff’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol. There are 51 volunteers here in Vista, 60 in Fallbrook.
And, right here in Vista, our North County Lifeline does a great job in gang prevention and intervention.
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Last year, we also made substantial progress in our ongoing effort to reorganize fire protection resources. We organized the San Diego County Fire Authority and our fire agencies and volunteer fire departments are now better equipped and better trained. These professional heroes are now responding to emergencies in the backcountry faster than ever before.
Nevertheless, fires are a question of “when”, not “if”. We can’t prevent wildfires altogether, but we can reduce their frequency and intensity. That’s why I pushed hard last year to complete our first ever Countywide Vegetation Management Report, which will serve as the blueprint for reducing fuels in the backcountry and will remain the backbone of our ongoing effort to prevent wildfires.
We’re not just “planning”, we are also “doing” - Last year alone, we removed 3,766 dead, dying, or diseased trees from Palomar Mountain. As you may know, recent litigation by extreme environmentalists has halted this process. However, I believe that efforts like this tree removal create safer communities and healthier habitats, and I will continue to seek funding and support for an aggressive vegetation management program.
Disaster preparedness starts at home and that’s why I’ve given over $2 million from my discretionary grant funds to Community Emergency Response Teams, Fire Safe Councils, and volunteer fire departments during my time as Supervisor. Last year, I provided start-up funding to create a new Fire Safe Council in my hometown of Valley Center. I will continue that support and, in my next term, I will take new steps to encourage citizens to get involved in CERT teams and Fire Safe Councils.
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In 2009, residents of North County saw a number of successes in reducing traffic and improving safety on our roads.
In January, Caltrans began widening Highway 76 from Mission Avenue to Melrose Drive. Those of you who know me are aware that I have championed this project since I came into office 15 years ago. For years at SANDAG I fought to keep State and Federal funding in place, and the project on schedule. Highway 76 has been one of the most dangerous roads in the State during my time as Supervisor, and I’m thrilled to be seeing real progress on the widening.
There are more challenges ahead. The funding is there for the final phase of the project, which will add lanes from Mission Avenue to Interstate 15, but the struggle will be keeping that funding in place at the State and at SANDAG.
To widen the 76 east of the I-15, everyone will have to pay their fair share. Fortunately, we’ve already built a strong relationship with our neighbors and the Pala and Pauma Tribes. My colleagues and I, with our Department of Public Works Director John Snyder, were able to secure $38 million from each tribe to improve Highway 76, east of Interstate 15.
People who live in Vista or any other city in North County will tell you that Highway 78 is congested, and they’re right. Last month, The Union Tribune labeled the 78 the most congested of San Diego County freeways. We’ve been trying for years to reduce traffic along the 78 corridor. One way we’re working on this is by realigning South Santa Fe Avenue between Vista and San Marcos. The County was working with the City of Vista, the City of San Marcos, and NCTD, and in August, the County awarded a $22 million construction contract for this project using money from Transnet, Transportation Impact Fees, Prop 1B, the Vista Irrigation District, the City of Vista, SDG&E, AT&T, and Cox Communications.
We’ve also started a number of other projects to improve safety; smaller jobs which I believe will have big results. We secured a $1.4 million grant from Caltrans to build a two-mile pathway between Vista and San Marcos that will give students of Hannalei Elementary School a safe, walkable route to school.
Working in concert with our goal to widen Highway 76, we are making progress to build a seven-mile linear park along the San Luis Rey River. I’m pleased to say that the County has invested and acquired over 500 acres toward this endeavor! It will be a North County gem when we are finished.
On a larger scale, I am also encouraged by the liaison I’ve enjoyed for many years with the Coates family and the Rodney Company, owners and managers of Rancho Guejito, the 22-thousand-acre, pristine portion of land northeast of Escondido. It is the last Spanish land grant in existence in the State of California.
Several years ago, there was discussion of annexing Rancho Guejito to Escondido. I fought annexation and lobbied the state and federal governments for money to preserve Rancho Guejito. As you all well know, they have no money, but that won’t stop me from trying.
Several years ago, at the invitation of the late Benjamin Coates, I rode on horseback and saw the unspoiled landscape of this North County jewel.
I will continue my efforts with the Coates family to preserve this land for future generations.
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On the topic of legacies, I want to talk about the legacy of agriculture in this region. California and San Diego County, in particular, has long been a leading producer of many fruits and vegetables that feed our families and those across the country. We have battled pests, imports and pesticide restrictions for decades, but none has so threatened the existence of our industry as the political drought we are facing today. I am a farmer in North County and have been for nearly 40 years. Misguided policies and court decisions that protect a 2-inch “guppy” at the expense of our crops are shortsighted and will decimate our local economy in San Diego County. I see the devastating effect of the water shortage on stumped trees throughout our County. It is imperative that our regional water agencies continue to work on water independence for Southern California. I support desalination and alternative conveyance (peripheral canal). We need to continue to reject the environmental extremist agenda and uphold sound water practices.
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Speaking of farming, I recently held 2 workshops at our Farm Bureau to discuss the General Plan Update and Multiple Species Conservation Plan with our local farmers. As you know, both the GPU and MSCP are scheduled to be put to a vote by your Board of Supervisors in 2010. I pledged a long time ago to protect the private property owners in this County, and I have no intention of wavering from that promise. I will not ‘downzone’ your property without your consent and I do not believe it is the right of this County to change your land values, values that you trust and depend on for your loans and your legacy, without your voice being heard. I am honored to be your voice and will continue to fight for your private property rights!
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As your Supervisor, I believe that fostering economic development, encouraging education, and preserving the resources we already enjoy is vital to the health of our cities and communities.
Late last year, we broke ground and construction is well underway for a new library in Fallbrook. This has been a tremendous effort by the entire community in Fallbrook and Bonsall—people like Jerri Patchett, Vince Ross, Arlene Ingold, and Marlo Miller—just to name a few. With grants from our Neighborhood Reinvestment Fund, County funding, and private fundraising efforts, we will soon have a first-class library and community center.
I want to thank our Library Director Jose Aponte, his staff and the County building team for all they have done. We hope to open the library this fall, and I hope to see you there when I check out the first book.
Here in Vista, I still remember opening this library. We’ve been honored to help support the Friends of the Vista Library and are always looking for an opportunity to do more.
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This year, McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad celebrated its 50th anniversary, after bringing in $116.62 million in business revenue and over $10 million in State and local tax revenues in 2008. It’s a top-20 employer for the City of Carlsbad, and is truly an economic driver for our region. This year a number of major improvements were made. We built a new restaurant, a new parking lot and rental car facility, and opened a brand new 18,000 square foot, $24 million terminal funded solely by FAA grants and user fees. No general fund money was needed. And we recently learned that a new airline, Cal-Pacific Airlines, will begin operating out of Palomar this year. With Lindbergh Field getting closer to maximum capacity, maintaining and improving Palomar Airport is a top priority for North County and the region as a whole. A day will come very soon when Palomar will be depended on to accommodate the growth in commercial and cargo flights which Lindbergh cannot. I want to give special thanks to Airports Director Pete Drinkwater, and Airport Manager Willie Vasquez for all their great work.
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Some of you may recall reports late last year about ACORN employees who were taped while giving advice to journalists posing as human traffickers. In 2008, ACORN stepped up their voter registration activities in San Diego County. I saw potential for damage to our County’s reputation in these news reports, because I believe that preserving the integrity of our electoral process is fundamental to our democracy. So I called for a full audit of the voter registration cards submitted by ACORN employees. I’m pleased to say that the County Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler, verified that ACORN did NOT unlawfully influence our elections in 2008.
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I want to take a moment to introduce and thank my staff for the tremendous job they do. They are the “I” in my office.
Joan Wonsley – Chief of Staff
Dustin Steiner – Deputy Chief of Staff – Land Guy
John Culea – Media and Communications Director
Chris Champine – Senior Policy Advisor – Roads Guy
Candyce Yee – Policy Advisor - Health
Caylin Guerin – Policy Advisor – Public Safety and Grants
Christi Knight – Community Liaison and lately Executive Assistant (Mari Eaton is out on maternity leave)
Lindsey Natzic – Receptionist
Contrary to what you read in the papers, my door is always open and my staff is ‘at your service’ to assist you with your concerns.
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In 2010 I will continue to fight for every tax dollar, enhance public safety, preserve your property rights and natural resources, protect public health, and work to improve our quality of life here in North County. I pledge to you that we will maintain fiscal discipline and make the tough choices to see that San Diego County will continue to grow and prosper.
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I consider it an honor to be your North County Supervisor. With God’s help and your encouragement, I will do what’s best for you the people, representing you with integrity and vision.
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