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Public safety is imperative for any society, and we are extremely fortunate to live in such a safe community thanks to our brave men and women who protect us.
Public safety has been and will continue to be my top priority. I'm proud to say that in a 'Defund the Police' culture, we have increased our public safety budget in North County. That doesn’t mean we do things the same way, but I believe we need to provide law enforcement the tools they need to do their job and work hand in hand in protecting our community. This week, I want to share some of the accomplishments we've had in North County and talk about what I'm focused on when it comes to public safety going forward.
Last month, I co-authored a board action to review the San Diego Sheriff’s Office staffing levels and report back on potential shortages and ways to recruit and attract new talent to the department. With crime rising in many big cities, it is imperative that San Diego County have the necessary public safety officers to keep us safe. These brave men and women have put themselves in harm's way and now are looking at staffing shortages. We must make sure they have all the tools to help them succeed.
Also, I made the motion to move Law Enforcement into the essential tier during the onset of COVID-19 vaccination prioritization. These front-line workers risked their lives throughout the pandemic, and I believe they should have been among the first to receive the vaccine.
We have a problem in society, where currently, our jails are the biggest providers for those suffering from mental health issues. Police and Sheriff officers are having to spend much of their time dealing with those suffering with mental health issues than, Instead of keeping our neighborhoods safe. That’s why I’ve fought for additional mental health services and resources for our community.
I have been an advocate to establish Crisis Stabilization Units in North County to assist those experiencing a mental health crisis and to provide a place for law enforcement to drop off. As of December 31st, over 900 residents have used the Vista CSU with many being dropped off by law enforcement reducing the deputies' wait time from hours to minutes.
Also, last year, I initiated action to provide 15 new staff members to support North County cities and those experiencing homelessness. This developed an outreach staff and highly qualified social workers in each North County city. Prior to this, law enforcement was having to deal with situations that are better suited for social workers.
Behavioral health is a major issue that continues to grow during COVID-19.
It’s simply inhumane to allow people to live on the street. As a society – we can do better. Some may say it’s inhumane to force people off the streets and into treatment, but I think it’s more inhumane to keep people on the streets.
Behavioral health and homelessness goes hand and hand. It's also a major issue that continues to grow during COVID-19. We’ve all seen people on the side of the street or know of friends or family members in crisis in need of help and, unfortunately, North County has been under-resourced. I'm pleased to say over the past three years we've made major strides in behavioral health resources, allocating $140 million in new projects.
A few months ago, I was part of a ribbon-cutting for the new Crisis Stabilization Unit in Vista. This is a place open to family members, law enforcement, and others to take those suffering from a mental health episode to be evaluated. Also, I've continued to work with the City of Oceanside and County Behavioral Health Services to open a Crisis Stabilization Center at the Live Well Center in Oceanside.
This will be open, later this year!
A couple of years ago, I authored a Board Letter to partner with Tri-City Medical Center to build a 16-bed Psychiatric Health Facility for those in extreme crisis that will be open to all residents. This will help our police officers who need to be out patrolling rather than driving those suffering behavioral health issues down to the City of San Diego. We are expecting to break ground on this facility, shortly.
On April 6th, 2021 I initiated action to provide 15 new staff members to support North County cities and those experiencing homelessness. This developed a pilot program for North County, which provides an outreach staff and highly qualified social workers in each North County city. This has provided those needing assistance with the help they need.
Last year, I authored a Board Letter to expand Behavioral Health Court (BHC) in San Diego County. This program helps individuals already involved with the criminal justice-system that suffer from serious mental illness. BHC offers wraparound mental health treatment outside of jail that includes housing, employment assistance, and education. The participants are held accountable and must follow the protocols established by the judge. Behavioral Health Court Probation is an excellent program that provides a second chance to many who otherwise would not receive these specialized services and continue to recycle through the criminal justice system.
Those are just a few items I'm working on when it comes to homelessness and Behavioral Health. If there's something you would like to see addressed, please email me: [email protected], and my office will get back to you shortly!
We have been fortunate in San Diego to avoid major wildfires over the past few years, but we know risk in this region is constant.
That is why we have made major improvements to evacuation routes and pre-fire strategies. Prevention is key, and we recently increased the frequency of defensible space inspections, enhanced pre-fire vegetation management, added new helicopters, and improved pre-fire emergency planning with a greater emphasis on technology and GIS mapping.
I’m proud of the investments to strengthen fire safety in existing and future communities. We have assisted over 20,000 homeowners in achieving defensible space through community education.
Also, we have expanded the Heli-Hydrant program. A Heli-Hydrant is a pilot-controlled, remotely activated, 12-foot by a 5-foot deep open tank that is only filled when needed. Heli-Hydrants are similar to an above-ground swimming pool that can be filled with approximately 5,000 gallons of water in 6 minutes. It will allow a firefighting helicopter to fill its water tank within a matter of seconds and return to the fire quickly.
On March 2, 2021, I partnered with Supervisor Joel Anderson on a Board Letter after hearing about problems associated with Public Safety, Power Shutoff events. This item passed with unanimous support and directed the Chief Administrative Officer to identify gaps in Public Safety Power Shutdown mitigations and opportunities to further reduce the impact on the region.
I've heard from several people, especially in the unincorporated area about the negative impacts these shutoffs have on daily life. We cannot have people evacuating in complete darkness.
Also, I led the effort to partner with the San Diego County Fire Protection District for the "Residential Knox Box Program," which provides a lock box to residents that can be accessed by first responders in an emergency.
The county will provide residents with a lockbox that can be installed near or on a resident's front door and will hold a spare key to the home. The boxes are then unlocked by San Diego County fire crews in an emergency, like a fire or a medical emergency.
This program is primarily meant to help seniors who may not be able to answer the door during a crisis. Apply here if eligible and interested.
For much of North County's unincorporated areas, you've been stuck with some of the worst criminals in our community. This should not happen!
I am pleased to announce that through collaboration with the community, we have led the effort to oppose any further placements of Sexually Violent Predators in San Diego County until local jurisdictions get to fully participate in the placement process, including full veto authority. The State of California and Liberty Healthcare should not be in charge of determining where these convicted predators should go, instead the community should have the say.
There are 1,000 diagnosed Sexually Violent Predators in California, and, according to Liberty Healthcare, 51 have been placed in neighborhoods through the Conditional Release program. In San Diego County, there are five Sexually Violent Predators placed in neighborhoods throughout the region, and three more are awaiting placement hearings.
A Sexually Violent Predator is an individual who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and who has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others. The Sexually Violent Predators placed or proposed to be placed in the San Diego Region have committed crimes that include lewd acts upon children under 14 (as young as four years old), child molestation, forcible rape, and forcible sodomy, among others. Many of these were repeat crimes over the course of years.
It breaks my heart to read the stories about these unspeakable crimes and these people should not be allowed back in our neighborhoods. They should be kept on State prison grounds.
I'm pleased to say, for now, there will be no more Sexually Violent Predators placed in San Diego County!
Last year, I had the opportunity of taking a tour of San Pasqual Academy and was very moved by the stories I heard from students and graduates.
Last year, I had the opportunity of taking a tour of San Pasqual Academy (SPA). For those of you who may not know much about SPA, it is an education campus designed specifically for foster youth, it serves as a placement option for dependents of the Juvenile Court, and Non-Minor Dependents up to age 19 years old.
During the tour, I met with several current and past students and was touched by the impact that SPA had on them.
However, due to a state law passed in 2015, the future of San Pasqual Academy has been in doubt. Assembly Bill 403, ended the use of licensed group homes for foster children and directed social service agencies to place children with families instead. While it's a noble cause, San Pasqual Academy is a wonderful asset that helps some of our most vulnerable people, foster youth. Through a pilot program, SPA was able to stay open after AB 403 was passed. However, last year, the State of California ordered San Pasqual Academy to close its doors.
After meeting with so many past and present students and hearing their stories, I have made it my mission along with many other supporters in the community to help our foster youth and keep SPA open. In July 2021, I led the effort to extend SPA's operations until June 2022, to at least allow its 52 students as of August to finish the school year. Thankfully, last month, a Superior Court Judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from terminating the license for the school.
Last month, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to continue running the academy as an educational campus and to develop programs for children at risk of entering foster care, unaccompanied minors, and youth in the juvenile justice system.
I cannot tell you how happy and ecstatic I am with this decision and the future of SPA. This decision now allows us to move forward and keep hope alive with the old vision as well.
A balanced transportation system is critical to meet 21st Century needs.
Freeways and roads are the backbone of our transportation system and essential to our economy. A commonsense approach to a future transportation system includes a functioning road network. While public transit works in some areas, our highway system allows North County to thrive and is a necessity.
In 2004, San Diegans voted to extend a half-cent sales tax for 40 years starting in 2008. In exchange SANDAG promised to relieve traffic congestion by making critical highway improvements to the 78, 67, 94, 125, 805 and 52, and many other major San Diego County highways. Those promises have been unfulfilled while public transit has received the majority of the dollars. In order to relieve traffic and make everyone’s commute faster, the freeway projects that have been promised to all San Diegans, must be finished!
SANDAG, the State of California and the Federal Government are looking at a new tax that will affect all San Diegans. Their proposal is a ‘road charge,’ which if approved, San Diegans would be charged a set price for every mile traveled within the State of California. The money collected from vehicle drivers would then be used to pay for public transportation.
Currently, the push from SANDAG and the State of California is to fund trains and trolleys, a transportation method that peaked in the 1800’s. Instead, we should be focusing on future technologies that will make our commute easier and safer.
Self-driving cars are closer than they’ve ever been, but to make them a reality, we must invest in technology that allows the cars to “speak” to each other. As an airline pilot for 33 years, we’ve had this technology for a long time; aircraft letting each other know where they are positioned, thus avoiding collisions. That technology exists in cars right now and is being tested through pilot programs in cities across the country. San Diego County should be at the front of the line looking at the latest means of transportation.
Also, as a Board member for the North County Transit District, one of my biggest worries is the Del Mar Bluffs and the adjacent rail line. This is the 2nd most traveled rail line in the Country and it’s a huge transporter of goods and items, along with people. We have already seen several bluff collapses over the years and it’s only a matter of time before something devastating happens. SANDAG is putting dollars towards temporarily fixing the issue, but this needs a permanent solution, the tracks need to be fixed.
Americans like freedom. Families need flexibility. We like going where we want to go, and when we want to go there. Public transportation, while useful in some areas, doesn’t work for the entirety of San Diego County, which is why only 3.5% of San Diegans use it. When it comes to spending billions of taxpayer dollars we should be investing in our future, not the past.
We learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the limits of healthcare, especially to our rural San Diego County communities.
There are many homebound seniors who struggle to get the proper care they need, and we are taking steps to bring services to them.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the County began to provide COVID-19 related services in the unincorporated communities, including COVID-19 tests, COVID-19 vaccinations, and eventually expanded to offer flu vaccinations. Because of the success, I introduced a Board letter to expand this effort to help reach our rural communities with more services and I’m pleased to say it passed. Soon we will be able to connect patients to primary care, conduct post-hospital visits, and expand public health education. Also, County staff will conduct more home visits focused on reducing falls in the home and providing hospice care.
We call it “Community Paramedicine”. By delivering services to those hard-to-reach places, we can eliminate the need to drive or transport patients via ambulance, cut down on hospital readmissions, and most importantly, save lives. I’ll keep you updated with the effort and hopefully, soon we will be able to provide these services to those who need them!
We have reduced recidivism thanks to the Veterans Moving Forward Program.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Vista Jail specifically the veterans ward. The Veterans Moving Forward program provides veterans in-custody treatment and services so that once their time is up they can go back into the community and contribute to society. I’m pleased to say we have expanded this program and are seeing more and more success stories, like Ricardo Davis.
San Diego is home to one of the largest veteran communities in the Country and I believe we need to do all we can to help them.
We are extremely fortunate to live in such a wonderful County, filled with beauty that is unimaginable unless you see it in person. With that beauty, comes responsibility, especially for our coastline.
In 2019, I led the effort to oppose offshore oil drilling and sent a letter to the Federal Government to reject any proposal that would allow an expansion of offshore oil drilling in the coastal waters. Last year’s oil spill in Long Beach served as a stark reminder of the need to oppose any offshore oil drilling in San Diego County.
Also, last year the Board of Supervisors approved a new rapid water quality testing technology for our beaches. In the past, water quality testing would take anywhere from 72- 96 hours. Now, with this new rapid testing technology, we can alert beachgoers within hours if the water is potentially dangerous due to harmful bacteria. This is an exciting step for our beach communities, especially because San Diego County will be the first in the nation to have this system. Clean water is essential for the health of San Diegans and all who visit our beaches.
It is critical we find a solution for spent nuclear fuel. While it is safely stored at San Onofre the intention has always been for a permanent geological repository so the land can be fully restored and returned to the Navy. Last year, the Board unanimously supported participation in a new coalition named Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now that provides an opportunity for stakeholders, including local governments, to join forces and make offsite spent fuel storage and disposal a priority. This is a major step to protect our region and find a solution for nuclear waste. I will keep you updated with our efforts.
The San Luis Rey River Park is a master plan which will include two park sites and a multi-use trail that will go from I-15 to Oceanside. The two park sites are located in Fallbrook and Bonsall.
The Fallbrook Park site is 68 acres and is located off of Dulin Road next to I-15. The Park will include recreational ball fields, trails, a frisbee golf course, dog park, and picnic areas.
The Bonsall Park which is located at the former golf course San Luis Rey Downs off of Camino Del Rey. The Bonsall Park Plan includes: 2 basketball courts, 3 baseball fields, 2 tennis courts, 4 soccer fields, a tot lot playground, a youth playground, a bike course, a skate park, a dog park, picnic areas open space, shade structures, restrooms, miles of trails, and landscaped areas.
The last few years have been difficult for many students in San Diego County. Unfortunately, for many lack of resources has hindered the ability of those working from home and distance learning.
It is imperative that we close the digital divide and give access to everyone who needs it.
In September 2021, the Board of Supervisors applied for a grant that will fund 7,400 laptops and mobile internet hotspots for households that lack computers and internet access. The grant also includes a one-year data access plan for the mobile hotspot services to be covered. The County Library will make these devices available for a one-year loan, which includes one laptop and hotspot per household, to mitigate the digital divide.
If approved, the County Library would work with nonprofit partners, other County departments, and local schools to ensure that laptops and internet hot spots go to households that are most in need of this equipment.
In an effort to support the unincorporated communities, Supervisor Jim Desmond activated a Community Revitalization Program for Fallbrook, Valley Center and Borrego Springs.
The Revitalization programs have demonstrated results through improved services and facilities as well as strengthened relationships between the County and unincorporated community residents and leaders.
These programs empower residents to resolve issues and revitalize communities through coordination of community resources, regular meetings and direct connection to County staff and resources. Each of the three Revitalization Committees have sub-committees who meet regularly to determine specific goals in areas that are most important to the community. Committee members then work closely with County staff to achieve goals based on available public resources.
Supervisor Jim Desmond stays directly engaged by leading regular meetings to monitor progress in each community. The meetings are open to the public so if you are interested in joining a subcommittee, learning more, or attending a meeting, contact our office at (619) 531-5555 or email Shaina Richardson at [email protected].
San Diego County has more tribal governments than any other County in the nation. These Tribes have proven to be good neighbors and their commercial endeavors are an economic engine to our region.
Collectively, tribal governments have created more than 10,000 jobs, resulting in a $1 billion industry. 18 tribes and 19 reservations co-exist with San Diego County as their own sovereign nation, but for too long the County has opposed any growth of tribal governments. In fact, in the mid 1990’s the previous Board of Supervisors approved blanket opposition to all tribal government growth in San Diego County. Since that action, County staff have opposed all tribal expansion opportunities, regardless of case-by-case information and merits of the request. The Chairman of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, Bo Mazzetti summed it up best during his comments at the Board meeting when he said that ‘it is time to get rid of this racist law against the Indian people of this County.’
That’s why I felt it was important to bring forward the action to demonstrate government-to-government respect to San Diego’s Tribal Nations. The new action promotes inclusivity and directs staff to create new procedures for County staff and the tribes to work collaboratively on proposed Tribal Government expansions. It also creates a county tribal liaison position to interface between the tribes and the County and strengthen the relationship. This new position will be responsible for building relationships between each Tribal Government and the County and would also serve as the main, single point of contact for County matters. The tribal liaison will not only assist the Tribal Governments in navigating the County but will also better educate County staff on Tribal matters, an extremely vital step.
Tribal Government land is becoming scarce. As Tribes continue to expand and families grow, they necessitate more land to accommodate their people. In the past, these efforts have been thwarted from the County. It’s time that we embrace our neighbors and allow them to responsibly grow. This does not allow Tribal Governments to develop unchecked, they still must go through the same Federal process and analyze and mitigate any impacts their proposed expansion may induce. We as a County will still be able to review and comment on our approval or disapproval based on merits and conflicts a proposed expansion may bring. This solely removes a disapproval of any expansion out the gate.
While we can’t rectify the past, we can focus on the future. We have pushed our tribes out further and further from the city, often housing sexually violent predators near their land. This is unacceptable and discriminatory. It’s a new day at the County and it is time we recognize our Tribal Governments as equals and the good neighbors that they are.