2005 Swearing-in Remarks


January 4, 2005
SAN DIEGO COUNTY ADMINISTRATION CENTER

It is a tremendous privilege to represent the people of the Second District for a fourth term.

To the people of the Second District: Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for continuing to put your faith in me.

Thank you allowing me to partner with you to fulfill your needs and your goals.

You are the reason why I am ready for round four!

During round four, public safety will continue to be my number one budget priority.

The flames of the 2003 October Fires have long been extinguished. But, the heroism of that frantic time stays with me today and will stay with me over the next four years.

There is only one way to do justice to the bravery of fire fighters, citizen heroes and fire victims. We must make our region’s firefighting forces as strong as possible.

Voters in areas hardest hit by the October fires spoke to us loud and clear on November 2nd.

They want to take the many splintered fire agencies in the unincorporated areas of our region… and make them whole. They want to end disparities in funding and service levels from one agency to the next.

The Task Force on Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services, which I Chair, and the Local Agency Formation Commission are moving toward the consolidation of our region’s most fractured fire agencies.

Out on the horizon is our long-term goal of creating a single, regional firefighting entity.

Funding will be our largest obstacle and we know that. But the will to make this happen is strong. I will work to identify funding for the consolidation of fire agencies. And, I will not let the passage of time lessen the urgency of this effort.

The consequences of not taking action are severe. In a matter of hours…one tiny, spot fire in the Backcountry can became a regional inferno. We have an obligation to do all we can to make the County safer from fire.

Improved fire safety calls for stepped-up vegetation management on public and private lands… especially in fire-prone parts of our County. Two-thirds of our region did not burn in the October fires. We must continue to rid our backcountry of the dead and diseased trees that are the favorite fuel of wildfire.

I will continue to seek badly-needed resources to not just get rid of dead trees, but to conduct additional controlled burns, clear fire breaks, and to restore fire access roads so that emergency personnel can reach remote fires before those fires spiral out of control.

Unincorporated communities often have different safety concerns than cities. They deserve the same sense of peace and security. No one is better at executing that than Sheriff Bill Kolender and the deputies of his outstanding department.

That’s why we are working together to open a much-needed Sheriff’s station in Rancho San Diego. The station will answer the safety needs of several communities in the area… serving more than 100-thousand people.

Community Oriented Policing Programs have been a tried and true way to solve community problems. COPPS deputies don’t just make arrests. They work side-by-side with community members to root out crime.

Federal funding for COPPS programs has dwindled in recent years. I will work with the Sheriff to reverse this because these programs are simply too successful to ignore.

There is something else we can’t ignore: Gang activity on some of our school campuses. The Grossmont Union High School District and I, along with law enforcement and the District Attorney, are actively working to purge this thug element from our schools.

In the coming year, we will mark the 4th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Terrorism must remain at the top of our minds. It is the responsibility of the federal government to stem criminal activity along the U.S. Mexico Border. We must continue to call on national leaders to secure our Border to protect us from those who would do us harm.

Change is the one true constant, they say. This is particularly true when it comes to the growth of communities.

Six years ago, we set out to update our blueprint for growth in the region’s unincorporated areas: GPA 2020, as it’s commonly known.

We set up a process based on a simple idea: Any plan designed for communities, must be designed by communities. Instead of government forcing a plan on the people, we wanted the people to craft the plan.

That was a long time ago. Some say too long because the plan has not yet been adopted. I agree. But, it is in the home stretch. In the coming year, the County will work to finish GPA 2020. I intend to put community character front and center. I respect the individuality of each community and will do everything in my power to protect that.

Indian gaming brings economic benefits to the Second District, like job opportunities and increased tourism. But the type of development that accompanies gaming has a big impact on neighboring communities… from traffic to groundwater to crime.

I will work with the Governor, the Tribes and communities to minimize the unintended consequences of gaming.

Being a third-generation San Diegan, I feel a deep connection to our County’s rural landscape. From the top of Volcan Mountain outside of Julian, you can take in the Anza Borrego desert to the East… the jagged rocks of Eagle Peak to the South… the working ranches of Ramona to the West. It is inspiring to look at and wonderful to explore.

I’m committed to preserving meaningful open space so that future generations can stay connected to the same breathtaking views that inspired my parents and grandparents. This is why I helped initiate the County’s Open Space program in 1997.

It is why I will continue to work toward our goal: Setting aside 100-thousand acres with riding and hiking trails. We are over 92 percent there!

Setting aside this land does more than preserve our natural resources. It limits urban sprawl. And when we find time to hike, fish, camp or ride horses… open space enhances our quality of life.

Two additional preservation projects will be priorities of mine in the years ahead. In addition to preserving land, these special projects have the potential to keep local history alive.

The first is the Old Stowe Trail through Sycamore Canyon along the eastern edge of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This historic logging route dates back to the 1850s. It looks the same today as it looked 100 years ago when wagons carrying U.S. mail traveled the trail.

For many years, a four-mile stretch of the trail— from Santee Lakes to Goodan Ranch— has been off limits, a missing link in our regional trails system. Today, the opportunity to open that stretch is within our reach.

Working with the leadership at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and trail enthusiasts, it is my goal to see that the public can again enjoy all of Stowe Trail, from Goodan Ranch near Poway all the way to Santee.

The second preservation project is one that people in the Campo area hold dear to their hearts: Camp Lockett.

You are probably familiar with most of our region’s military landmarks: Camp Pendleton, 32nd Street Naval Station and the Marine Corps Recruitment Depot. But you do know about Camp Locket?

During World War II, 3,000 African Americans were stationed at Camp Lockett in Campo. They were the soldiers of the 4th Calvary of the U.S. Army; entirely African-American Army units charged with patrolling the border between the U.S. and Mexico. They guarded the water supply and the trains that were vital to San Diego’s defense industry.

They were segregated from their white counterparts and faced discrimination and prejudice. Yet they persevered, serving America with honor and distinction. They were the last of the famed Buffalo Soldiers whose contributions should be passed on to others.

I want Camp Lockett to take its rightful place among the ranks of military landmarks. The community and I have a plan to preserve the remarkable chapters of military history that have unfolded on its land. We want to turn Camp Lockett into a State Historic Park.

To do this, we must sign an agreement with the State. And, I intend to accomplish that this year. By understanding this important part of our past, we will have the foresight to build a stronger future.

For years, I’ve been working with my Sports Advisory Committee to create a healthier future for the young people of the Second District. Together, we have built or improved over 100 ball fields and playgrounds.

Moms, dads and school officials on this committee agree: A sure-fire way to keep kids out of trouble is to keep them busy on the ball field.

By playing sports, young people are less likely to get in trouble with the law, more likely to go to college and stay healthy.

The committee and I will continue to meet regularly to get kids interested in sports. We have our sights on several exciting youth sports projects.

In Lakeside, along the north bank of the San Diego River, there is an area of land that is perfect for ball fields… world-class ball fields.

Right now, the land has some rusty debris and old structures on it and will take some effort to secure. But, I envision a ball field complex so state-of-the-art, that it will attract little league teams from around the State and Nation.

With San Diego County’s perfect climate and Lakeside’s down-home hospitality, this sports complex could become a gem in East County.

We’ve also worked together to bring the region’s first high tech sports turf to East County’s Helix and Grossmont high schools.

It is light-years beyond Astroturf, requires no water and is cheaper to maintain than grass. Trainers say it’s the safest turf for growing young players. I will work with interested community members and the Grossmont Union High School District to determine where this next-generation turf can best be used.

If you want to watch a little league game in one of the region’s most scenic areas, the drive to Julian’s Jess Martin Park is a beautiful one. But the field itself needs work. The problem is water!

We are working with the community on a solution and I am committed to making Jess Martin a first class park.

The year ahead has good news in store for the young people of Spring Valley. A new gym and teen center should be ready for action. This is cause for celebration because it took persistence to secure the funding.

And, a brand new library will be throwing open its doors in Campo next year. It will be bigger and better than the tiny library that exists now. The communities of Ramona and Alpine have been working overtime to raise funds to build new libraries too.

The quest to find this funding continues, and I pledge to be there in support of those libraries every step of the way. Libraries put the excitement of whole world under one roof and are especially valued by people in rural areas.

Of course, none of these projects can be accomplished unless the County’s financial house is in order.

As the custodians of that house, members of current Board of Supervisors have cleaned it, polished it and made it shine. We took a government on the brink of Chapter 11 and transformed it into one of the three best-managed local governments in the nation according to Governing Magazine.

We did it with strict fiscal discipline and bold decision-making.

We did it with an award-winning General Management System that is the envy of all the State. This important playbook monitors our spending, tracks our progress and makes certain that public services are top quality.

It is a remarkable document, crafted by a remarkable team that has led to remarkable results. Over the next four years, I will follow the same kind of responsible budget practices that have earned us the stellar financial reputation we enjoy today.

Unfortunately, the budget crisis at the State is not over. Unlike San Diego County, years of wild spending have caught up with the legislature in Sacramento. The governor has tamed some of that recklessness, but the gigantic holes in the State budget remain. It is too soon to know specifics, but we must brace ourselves… and our coffers… for another year of potentially serious impacts.

Fortunately, we are in a better position than most local Governments to deal with this situation.

I am proud to have worked with my four colleagues and our excellent Chief Administrative Officer to get to where we are now. It has been a long journey and one we must continue to walk every day.

This Board is like an arranged marriage. We didn’t pick each other. The five of us got stuck with each other. It may not seem like it at times, but I think we are lucky. Thank you for being terrific teammates.

To our Chief Administrative Officer, Walt Ekard, you have no peers. Your instincts, your people skills and your management style are all first rate. Thank you and your staff for all you do.

To my own staff: Thank you for the dedication and commitment to the 560,000 constituents of the Second District!

Lastly to my husband of 43 years, Paul, thank you for being supportive of what I do.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years in public service, it’s that we have absolutely no idea what’s in store for our region over the next four years.

We must plan for the worst; hope for the best and make the most of every moment.

Each and every day, there are challenges. There are triumphs and setbacks. There are long-awaited celebrations and days when you dust yourself off and start all over… but never give up. I am ready for all of it.

And I will do my very best to serve you.