RANCHO SANTA FE — Fifth District County Supervisor Bill Horn presented his 2009 State of North County Address on March 26 at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center.
“The events of 2008 in Sacramento and Washington, DC, are pushing us into 2009 with challenges that most have never seen,” Horn said in his opening statements. “When times are tough, decisions are difficult. This Board [of Supervisors] has proven their mettle through tough times, even when our actions went against strong opposition.”
Horn reviewed measures he and the other Supervisors have taken to help San Diego County be prepared for emergencies.
“Last year we voted to consolidate Cal-Fire, volunteer and fire district firefighting agencies in the unincorporated area. Over $15 million a year now goes to the training, equipping and stationing of our firefighters.
“I know you heard about the firefighting airplanes, the ‘Superscoopers,’ we leased from Canada during Santa Ana season. I don’t know if we can afford them this year, but last year they were a tremendous asset. The Superscoopers responded to over 30 fires, and thanks to their quick response capability, not a single one came close to rivaling what we saw in 2007.
“This winter the State attempted to close stations for the winter to save money, but we didn’t let them. Our stations stayed open and firefighters are still here to respond.”
Before the wildfires last year, Horn said more than two million dead, diseased or dying trees were removed from the backside of Palomar Mountain.
“That kind of action saved Palomar Mountain and the observatory,” he said. “Yesterday we approved a blueprint for managing vegetation on our lands that will remove the fuel.”
Palomar Airport expansion
“This year we celebrated a great achievement – the opening of a brand new commercial air terminal at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad,” Horn noted, mentioning the conveniences associated with using Palomar Airport. “All of the work that went into it was paid for by Airport Enterprise Funds and FAA grants. No County General Fund tax money went into these projects.”
“I’m especially proud that the widening of Highway 76 is still on schedule and fully funded,” Horn said. “I screamed loud and hard when they threatened to take away the funding. Construction should begin by early 2010 and by late 2012 should be open to traffic, despite recent scares over the State budget.
“SANDAG has proposed to shift 76 funds to the SR52 widening project if the budget had not been signed. I adamantly opposed this funding proposal.”
Horn praised the work of San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who attended the speech. The Supervisor explained that he formed the North County Gang Commission, providing background information on the history of gang violence in North County and the threat today of gangs from Mexico.
“This Commission works with our law enforcement agencies and coordinates our community partners that offer after-school programs and workforce training as well as actively seeks grant funding to support those programs,” Horn said. “We are acting now to protect the families of North County.”
Horn noted that one of his staff members, Caroline Smith, is currently attending a workshop with the Office of Juvenile Justice to learn new strategies for prevention and intervention.
Horn said the State’s cash deferrals will severely impact client programs due to delayed assistance payments.
“In our County alone we would have seen nearly $12 million deferred,” Horn said. “This impacts 78,000 San Diegans, 81 percent of whom are at-risk children.
“These cuts could have meant reductions in foster care payments to children in group homes, foster families, Kinship Families and the San Pasqual Academy, as well as another 6,800 kids in adoptive care.
“I went to Sacramento to urge our Governor and our state representatives to restore this funding and I guess they listened, as our lawsuit backed the State Controller off.”
Planning for the future
“Water availability continues to be one of the biggest challenges in Southern California,” Horn said. “San Diego County imports more than 85 percent of its water from the Colorado River and State Water Project, and the County’s imported water supplies are threatened by environmental and legal constraints.
“Record-setting drought conditions in Southern California and along the Colorado River, and the court-ordered shutdown of the State Water Project pumps, has already reduced 30 percent of the County’s imported water supply, with more cutbacks expected.”
“Without change to the water supply, agriculture as we know it in this County will dry up,” Horn claimed. “We need to build the Peripheral Canal. We need balance in our water policies.
“Currently, the State of California is restricting the use of water to protect the Delta Smelt (I call it a bait fish), which is an endangered species. The protection of this two-inch fish because it gets in the pipes threatens agriculture in Southern California and, before long, the entire state.
“I continue to support the proposed Carlsbad Desalination Project, which is anticipated to provide the region with 50 million gallons per day (56,000 acre feet per year) of high-quality drinking water.”
Horn also said that he expects the County’s General Plan Update to be completed next summer.
“It is important to realize that all maps in the General Plan Update propose significant reductions in population growth over the current General Plan,” he said.
In conclusion, Horn commended County staff.
“I want you to know that we have the finest group of public employees you could ever hope to have on a team,” he said. “Our Chief Administrative Officer, Walt Ekard, and the heads of each department are top-grade professionals.”
“We are at a point in history that demands courageous, visionary leadership at the federal, state and local level,” Horn said. “The division of responsibility limits what we at the County can do; however, with that said, I am committed to meet the challenges ahead and with your support and by working together, you have my pledge to do what is best for the people of North County and all of San Diego County.”