Chairwoman Dianne Jacob Remarks - 2014 Recap

Remarks delivered by Supervisor Jacob before the Board of Supervisors at the close of her 2014 tenure as board chairwoman:

January 6, 2015

Before we jump into another busy year, this is a good moment to look back at 2014.

I want to thank my fellow Supervisors for allowing me the honor last year of serving as Chairwoman of this Board. It was a privilege and I appreciate your support.

I want to thank our Chief Administrative Officer, Helen Robbins-Meyer, and the County’s 17,000 employees. I appreciate your dedication and hard work, and I know the public does too.

In my State of the County address last January, I pointed out our work on a wide range of critical issues. I laid out an ambitious agenda for 2014. Some wondered if it was too ambitious.

I’m proud to say our County government rose to the challenge.

Together, we made tangible progress on many fronts…

On law enforcement…

In 2014, we opened new Sheriff’s stations in Rancho San Diego and Pine Valley, and continued work on a station planned for Lakeside. We expanded detention centers, added hundreds of jail beds and improved inmate rehabilitation programs. We ramped up our fight against human trafficking and continued to address the impact of state prison realignment.

I want to salute the men and women in our Sheriff’s Department -- and all our first responders. You do us proud. Please know that public safety is, and will continue to be, my top priority.

On the fire protection front…

Our efforts to bolster fire protection across the region were put to the test -- in a big way. During a series of massive wildfires in May, all levels of government – local, state and federal – displayed an extraordinary level of cooperation, both on the ground and in the air.

This teamwork was later recognized by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. The organization gave the county and other agencies its highest honor: the Grand Golden Watchdog award.

Since the deadly firestorms of 2003, our County has spent nearly $320 million on firefighting improvements. Just last month, we announced a city-county agreement that allows the city of San Diego’s night-flying helicopters to serve our entire region for water drops and medical emergencies.

Other improvements are in the works, including permanently adding a third helicopter to the County’s fleet. Thank you, Supervisor Horn, for your work on this issue.

On the financial front…

In 2014, San Diego County continued to build on its reputation as a prudently managed government.

In August, Moody’s upgraded the County’s credit rating, putting us in exclusive company. We are now one of only nine counties in the nation to have “triple A” ratings from Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.

Our excellent financial health is testament to our straightforward, common sense approach to budgeting and spending.

We pay as we go as much possible, and we are always looking for new ways to trim costs.

This Board last year followed through on one of my State of the County proposals and created a program aimed at keeping our Sheriff’s deputies fit, while also reducing worker compensation claims.

More than 100 sworn personnel have volunteered to participate in the new Sheriff’s Health Academy, a fitness, health and nutrition program designed to reduce officer stress, injuries and related costs.

I want to thank Sheriff Gore and the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association for backing this idea. It’s good for our deputies. It’s good for taxpayers.

On the parks and recreation front…

The completion of Waterfront Park just outside our doors here was a highlight of the year. Thank you, Supervisor Ron Roberts, for leading the charge on the popular new park. What was once a sea of asphalt is now a slice of paradise – and San Diegans love it.

In Lakeside, we have a new skateboard park. Along the San Diego River, we have new pathways as we continue to pursue our vision of a river trail running from the mountains to the sea.

We acquired open space across the region, much of it in East County. This allows us to expand our network of trails.

On the energy front…

Last summer, working with the solar industry, we made it possible for homeowners to pay for energy improvements in a new way – through property tax assessments. The city of San Diego and other cities teamed up with us on the initiative, known as PACE.

Companies now providing PACE loans say hundreds of jobs have been created as property owners look to make solar, water and other energy-saving improvements on their homes.

One company has already approved about $30 million in loans. The program is great for businesses and it’s great for consumers because it gives them more energy options.

On the business front…

Last year, we continued to look for ways for help our farmers and backcountry entrepreneurs. Small, family-run businesses are the backbone of our communities.

I boiled this effort down to three words: Bees, beer and burgundy.

We recently moved to relax our rules on beekeeping to encourage honey production and help agriculture… We’re looking at cutting regulations for those operating micro-breweries... and we continue to see success in our boutique winery industry since we eased up on red tape a few years back.

With 2014 now over, and with a new chair poised to fill this seat, we can be proud of how far we’ve come in the past 12 months.

We didn’t just tackle on-going challenges, we confronted newer ones.

In my State of the County speech, I noted the seismic shift coming our way – the huge growth in our elderly population, those 75 and older. This population boom is being called “The Silver Tsunami” and it is already testing our public policies, healthcare system and many families.

Last year, we launched several initiatives to help our oldest residents and to get better prepared for this shift.

In March, we moved to improve the level of care and oversight at residential care facilities after a series of disturbing media reports of poor supervision and treatment.

We beefed up our patient advocate program. These advocates investigate patient complaints and serve as the County’s eyes and ears in the field.

We created a special eight-person unit in the District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute crimes committed against residents of long-term care facilities.

We successfully lobbied for legislation in Sacramento to boost oversight of these facilities.

We agreed to create a rating system to help consumers find quality care. About 20 facilities have volunteered to participate in the pilot phase of the program, to be launched this year.

I want to thank Supervisor Greg Cox and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for working closely with me on these reforms.

While the state regulates residential care homes, the County has an important watchdog role to play.

In 2014, our County government also took on a growing public health menace: Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is deadly. About 60,000 San Diego County residents have the disease or another form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is costly. The current annual nationwide cost of caring for people with the disease exceeds $200 billion.

It is the County’s third leading cause of death, and the number of people diagnosed with it is escalating. As the region’s leading public health agency, the County must address it head on.

So we did.

We launched The Alzheimer’s Project, an unprecedented regional initiative to find a cure and help those with the disease and their caregivers. Our best and brightest researchers, healthcare experts and others are now working side-by-side to help families and to try to end this epidemic.

On the clinical side, these experts have set out to develop the region’s first standards for the screening, diagnosis and management of the disease.

On the cure side, San Diego’s world-renowned research institutions are teaming up in an effort to find a treatment or cure, with the help of the region’s new Part the Clouds fund drive.

On the care side, we’re looking to improve services for families dealing with dementia and boost training for those who work with Alzheimer’s patients.

Thank you to Supervisor Dave Roberts for joining me in this effort. Also, a big thanks to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, philanthropist Darlene Shiley, Sheriff Bill Gore, Alzheimer’s Association President and CEO Mary Ball and many others for all they did – and for their help going forward.

Many families have been reluctant to talk about the disease. But last year, we brought it out of the shadows. It is finally getting the open discussion it deserves.

When I raised this issue in my State of the County address, some wondered if I was taking on too much. But I believe the public put us here to meet big challenges head on, not duck from them.

I’m proud we aimed high. I’m even prouder of the results.

I want to again thank my fellow Supervisors for allowing me to serve as your chair.

A big thank you also to my staff. I believe you are only as good as the people who work for you. And I am blessed with many good people.

Last year was a great honor.

And I look forward to working with our next chair.

Thank you.