2002 State of the East County Celebration

Santee City Hall
May 23, 2002

So here we are in this comfortable public building in Santee.

And just a few miles away, right here in East County, there are incredible, futuristic technologies being developed and perfected. Technologies that are helping America put an end to truly evil acts like those that occurred on September 11.

You're probably not intimately familiar with the $150 million Automated Communications Management System for the United States Air Force. And, you may not know all the classified details of the $4.5 million Satellite Planning Information Network.

But right now, both projects are using sophisticated military satellites to enhance communications for America's Department of Defense. A good part of that is happening here in East County.

These are just two of the projects spearheaded by East County's own Defense and Space Technology Consortium. There's more to the Consortium than high-paying jobs for our region. The Consortium wants to create a better and more peaceful world. The Consortium is a lot like the people and the businesses of East County.

Right now, Marines and Sailors from El Cajon, Lakeside, Alpine, La Mesa, Santee, Lemon Grove...all across East County...are waking up in Afghanistan, Pakistan and throughout the Middle East. These East County men and women have unselfishly devoted their lives to protecting the place they call home.

East County businesses, our chambers of commerce and the East County Economic Development Council dug in their heels after September 11. Our businesses have helped the San Diego region maintain the fourth-lowest jobless rate in the State... just 3.8 percent. And we've absolutely bucked the national average of 6 percent.

In this room, representatives from our East County schools... administrators and teachers are helping to instill young people with important and marketable skills needed to sustain our region through any economic climate.

In wartime, in peace time, in a tough economic climate or in an economic boom... East County is a Region of Action. How will our economy stay a part of that action?

It starts at the top. Our Congressman, Duncan Hunter, recently held a Congressional hearing here in San Diego. Speakers discussed making East County a major development center for military technology.

Plans are moving forward on the 104 acre Santee Business Park. Soon, this strategic space will attract high-tech, high-paying employers to Santee. Employers who are just waiting to take advantage of East County's qualified work force.

Now that we're moving forward to improve the Bradley Avenue overcrossing, we can maximize the potential of Gillespie Field.

The EDC's award-winning "Connectory" website promises to boost the productivity of East County businesses. The website has created new opportunities for expansion by allowing businesses to meet and do business over the Internet.

East County's economy continues to thrive because we are proactive. Our chambers of commerce, our EDC and our businesses don't back down when times get tough. Leave it to East County to help all of San Diego County get through the energy crisis.

Last summer, East County businesses developed the rolling blackout reduction program which calls for back-up generation to be brought on-line in the event of a rolling blackout. We hope to never have to use the program. But if we do, it may save all of the San Diego region from rolling blackouts... and it will have originated right here in East County.

East County businesses supported me when I testified before the Public Utilities Commission to preserve something called, "Direct Access." Direct Access lets East County's largest employers buy power from companies other than SDG&E. They can buy cheaper and keep costs down.

The tribal nations of Sycuan, Barona and Viejas are growing stronger. They are sharing that bounty with the entire East County. Sycuan, Barona and Viejas do more than just provide jobs. Their charitable outreach is unrivaled throughout the region. Barona's award-winning golf course, Viejas' first-class shopping experience, and Sycuan's new state-of-the art theater have helped put East County on the map as a tourist destination.

Yes, East County's economy is active. It is as active as our families and as active as East County's communities.

We're on a mission to build and modernize community libraries in East County. For those of you who think that libraries will go the way of the 8-track or the typewriter, you should visit the County's newest branch library in Rancho San Diego.

By partnering with the private sector, the County has created a true< prototype of the library of the future. Thanks to Cox Communications for 12 computer stations each with Internet access. Thanks to the Incredible Cheesecake Company for the next door café where library visitors can sip coffee and enjoy sweets. The Library in Rancho San Diego is fast-becoming the new gem of the community.

It is one of many County library projects designed FOR communities BY communities. The County's new branch library, Potrero, is strategically
located on the school grounds. Julian, Spring Valley and Campo are on their way toward bigger and better libraries. The people of Alpine are busy designing their library. But that's not all! Other new libraries are in the works as well - Santee, Lemon Grove, Ramona and La Mesa each are working to make a new library in their community a reality.

Not libraries in the traditional sense of the word... these will be true community information centers, each a source of pride for the people who use them.

Much is happening on the library front. Much is also happening when it comes to keeping East County's young people healthy and safe. A recent study found that one out of every five Americans under the age of 18 is overweight.

Once again, East County has stayed active to keep our young people active. I'm sure our students here tonight will agree that whether it's shooting
hoops or taking a long bike ride, sports help keep young people on the right track. Sports teach valuable skills for the future... like teamwork.

I've teamed up with Lakeside residents to help improve their sports fields. Lakeside American Little League renovated five fields and is now working to build two soccer fields. I've enjoyed working with Lakeside National Little League to bring a new scoreboard, snack machines and bleachers to Luther Clark Field and continue to work on a plan to relocate their fields to a bigger and better facility in the future.

We are growing greener fields and building better bleachers at the home of the Lakeside Bobby Sox and Pony League at Cactus Park.

I've worked with Ramona Pony Baseball to improve four baseball infields and replace aging field equipment at Well Field Park and helped install new sod for the Pop-Warner football field.

In Julian, the County is working overtime to bring a long-awaited skate park and playground to Jess Martin Park.

Since 1998, the people of Spring Valley have been working to move forward on a brand new $4.8 million project, located on school grounds, that will house a library, teen center and gymnasium. I vow to continue to fight the Governor's unfair $837,000 cut to this project so that the people of Spring Valley will soon see it come to fruition! Please Governor, don't balance your budget on the backs of East County kids!

The City of Santee is working on their new Cameron Family YMCA which, when complete will include an aquatics facility and gymnastics complex. And, Santana High School's soon to be remodeled multi-use field with lighting will be open to everyone from little-leaguers to seniors.

Lemon Grove's vision for the future includes Monterey Heights Sports Complex, complete with a recreational center, playgrounds, soccer field, with a softball complex, tennis courts and recreational facilities for the disabled.

And, El Cajon's new skateboard park is expected to be open in time for Independence Day!

East County's majestic landscape practically begs our kids to come hiking, biking and horseback riding. For years, trail enthusiasts and I have wanted to travel the entire length of the historic Stowe Trail all the way from Santee to Poway. But, there's been a problem. A four-mile stretch that crosses onto Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has remained closed for security reasons. Today, I'm ecstatic to report that negotiations with the base's highest ranking officer, Major General William Bowden, have been successful. The Marines have agreed to sell 350 acres to the County in order to re-open the trail.

I'm thrilled to be working with the cities of Santee and San Diego to create a region-wide river park along the San Diego River from Lakeside to the coast.

The County's award winning Multiple Species Conservation Plan is closer to its goal of preserving 101,000 acres of critical habitat throughout the unincorporated area of the County. Since the inception of the plan in 1997, nearly 85,000 acres have been committed to conservation with riding and hiking trails. That's 85% of our goal!

I take great satisfaction in knowing that our children and our children's children will have the opportunity to visit pristine settings that truly enhance East County's quality of life. This is our true rural heritage.

One setting that's not so pristine is a proposed strip club trying to locate just outside the City of El Cajon. East County doesn't need and East County doesn't want this magnet for crime and unsavory characters. The site's proximity to a youth dance studio is reason enough to halt the project.

Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that these places have a right to operate under the Constitution, even if a community is adamantly opposed. So, the County is working to toughen up its restrictions on strip clubs in the unincorporated area. We intend to keep adult entertainment establishments as far away as possible from homes, churches, and youth-oriented businesses.

We intend to make certain that residents have a say in whether or not a strip club locates in their community. And, we're going to make it as difficult as possible for any strip club to prey on our neighborhoods.

The safety of our communities has always been my number one priority. That's why, after last winter's devastating Viejas Fire, the County sponsored state legislation to declare year-round fire season in San Diego County. We have a year round fire risk. We need year round fire protection. Viejas, Potrero and the recent Gavilan fire in Fallbrook all happened outside of what the state says is San Diego County's fire season.

Unfortunately, the Governor has said the state doesn't have the $2.6 million dollars of your tax dollars it would take to provide the air tankers and ground crews we need to fight fires year round. How many more homes have to burn before the State realizes San Diego County needs a year round fire season? After all, our local firefighters are on the job year round - the State should do the same!

I will also continue to fight the Governor's proposed $20 million cut to the California Department of Forestry. To pay for the state's unprecedented budget crisis, the governor has proposed trimming $20 million from the CDF budget. He actually wants to charge local fire departments and districts every time CDF responds to a non-wildfire emergency. Now, imagine you're a fire chief on you're way to a brush fire threatening homes. The last thing you want to think about is whether you can afford to pay a bill from the State of California.

State government has responsibilities it simply cannot ignore. Fire protection is one of them!

From fire protection to protecting our kids... the County is just a few short weeks away from unveiling a powerful new tool to protect children from dangerous sex offenders. It's called a Pin Map. Soon, on the County's website, you'll simply type in your address and up pops a map of your neighborhood. You'll see dots that tell you the approximate location of registered sex offenders.

Sex offenders are more likely to repeat their horrible crimes than any other violent criminal. That's why this information is so important for families. You and your family have a right to know if there's a convicted sex offender living along your child's path to school. And, on July 1, you will be able to access this information from the convenience of your home computer.

The County is proactive when it comes to preventing crime and proactive when it comes to assisting those who need help caring for themselves.

The County will build a new $53 million Edgemoor hospital just to the north of the current site. This new Edgemoor will provide much more than basic medical treatment to its residents. In addition to having state-of-the-art equipment, the goal for the new Edgemoor is eventually to have a complete health campus, focusing on nutritional needs, exercise, and quality of life issues for seniors.

The County is also proactive in preparing for disaster.

We know that technology makes the difference when seconds count. That's why the County has devoted $3 million to upgrade its emergency computer network. This system identifies available emergency room space, is more reliable and will track cases of suspicious ailments, giving public health specialists early warning to the unlikely event of a biological or chemical attack. If a large-scale disaster happens in our County, the San Diego Chapter of the American Red Cross currently has a responsibility to provide shelter, food, clothing and support to victims. The problem is... the local chapter is in turmoil. The leadership is dishonest, deceptive, arrogant and unaccountable to the people.

Conflicts of interest and questionable practices with a high probability of illegal acts permeate this organization. How can they be adequately prepared to respond in time of need?

I don't trust a chapter that was more interested in raising money than helping people burned out of their homes in Alpine last year. I don't trust a chapter that didn't respond to the phone calls of victims. I don't trust a chapter that lied about how it spent more that $400,000 dollars in community donations.

I don't trust a chapter that tried to cover up a damning national audit that criticized the chapter's handling of the Viejas Fire.

I don't trust a chapter whose Chief Executive Officer lied to Channel 10 News about her $309,000 a year salary. I don't trust a not-for-profit agency that pays its administrators such outrageous salaries.

Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes helped us get the story out across the nation. Now, the state Attorney General, the District Attorney, the Better Business Bureau, the IRS, and the U.S. Senate are all taking a magnifying glass to the American Red Cross. These agencies each have the ability to hold the Red Cross accountable for the way it has failed victims and donors alike.

I have demanded that the Red Cross make fundamental changes to the way it does business and I have vowed not to give another dollar to the organization until it cleans up its act. I would encourage you to do the same.

If and when those changes take place, they will have been brought about, in large part, by the actions of the people of East County - the Alpine fire victims!

That's what East County is all about. Our people are active. Our families are active. Our schools, businesses, and communities are active.

We are the best place in the entire County to live, work and play because we are a REGION OF ACTION!