Valley Center resident Bill Horn, entering into his final term on the Board of Supervisors last week gave his final State of the County address as board chairman.
The chairmanship revolves to each of the five supervisors on a yearly basis. The speech was made from the County Administration Center.
During the speech Horn, a Vietnam veteran, declared 2015 “The Year of the Veteran,” and highlighted many efforts he is making to improve the lives of the county’s veteran population.
Horn, who just celebrated his 72nd birthday, used good portion of the speech celebrating achievements in some of his favorite areas. Horn has served on the board for 20 years, representing the Fifth District.
“It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by so quickly. But when you love what you do, that seems to happen,” he said.
He praised fellow North County supervisor Dave Roberts, this year’s vice chairman of the board, for their collaboration to do things such as securing funding to keep the Palomar Forensic Health Center open.
“Our alliance makes a difference and together, we can continue to accomplish great things in North County. Thank you for your leadership.”
He honored Fallbrook resident Vince Ross with the “Guardian of the Water” award for his volunteerism and philanthropy.
As he has in past addresses, Horn touted the County’s Triple AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s. “This is the 14th year in a row we’ve held that distinction… and the 8th year for our Triple-A bond rating. I intend to keep this excellent credit rating for as long as I am Supervisor! With term limits, this Board will be changing. I challenge the next generation of Supervisors to maintain this high standard and protect our pristine credit rating!” he said.
On the subject of Public Safety, he warned about possible ramifications from the passage in November of Prop. 47. “This retroactive proposition reduces felonies like drug possession and property theft to misdemeanors, leading to the immediate release of thousands of criminals serving time in prison.”
He added, “The full impact of Prop 47 is not known, but law enforcement expects an increase in crime and drug use because of the reduced charges. It won’t be easy, but I commit this county’s full resources to protect our families, homes and neighborhoods.”
Another of Horn’s long-term interests is combating gangs. “I am happy to report… due to our gang collaboration, two of our North County cities, Vista and Escondido, have received CALGRIP grants, and a portion of the money will be used to establish a tattoo removal program in North County. Visible, gang-related tattoos make it difficult for these former gang members to find good jobs. Tattoo removal can eliminate that obstacle and help these men and women stay on the right path in life. I am excited to support this excellent program.”
Horn has also always taken a personal interest in wildfires. “Wildfire is always a major threat in San Diego County, and fire preparedness has long been one of my priorities,” he said. “As a County, we’ve never been better prepared. This year, the County’s third firefighting helicopter, which I championed, will go into service. We also have aircraft available from the City of San Diego, CAL FIRE, SDG&E and the military, as a result of our one-of-a-kind partnership. That adds up to more than three-dozen aircraft in our region to fight a major wildfire. And we also have night flying capabilities,” he said.
“After our most recent fires, I felt renewed concern for elderly, isolated residents and for those with cognitive or physical disabilities who may need assistance evacuating. This year, the Board will work with County Aging and Independence Services to expand the number of participants in “Project Care,” a community based program that provides check-ins with seniors and others who lack a support network,” he said.
Regarding road improvements, the supervisor noted that the County’s Road Fund is being reduced, but promised, “we’re going to do more, with less. We have developed an aggressive plan to improve sections of our 2,000 miles of roadways… and it’s possible because of the healthy reserves and sound fiscal practices reflected in our budget.”
He said the County plans to focus on “bigger, longer-lasting repairs instead of short-term fixes. We will dedicate
$34 million from our Road Fund reserve to infrastructure maintenance over the next few years. Over the longterm, the County will use Transnet revenue to cover maintenance costs that gas tax revenue can’t meet.”
He also highlighted the County’s efforts to streamline the land use and building process, noting that in 2011 he pushed for the Red Tape Reduction Task Force. Many recommendations of that group were adopted by the board.
“We’re striving to provide one-stop-shopping so applicants don’t have to visit multiple departments or websites to meet requirements. We are also trying to clarify those requirements to eliminate the confusion that leads to missteps and delays.”
He added, “I will continue to fight for private property rights and protect property values as I have for the past 20 years. I challenge the next generation of Supervisors to be good stewards and protect our landowners.”
Horn, who commanded 270 Marines in combat during 1968, noted that veterans, activity duty military and their families make up about a third of the population in San Diego. “These men and women have made sacrifices that often take a terrible toll on their personal lives. As a County and as a community, we have a responsibility to take care of our veterans,” he said.
“Our veterans have earned and deserve our attention and care. I would like to declare this year, the year of the veteran!”
The County, he said, has abolished its old office of Veterans Affairs and has elevated this office into the new Military and Veterans Department. A new director is expected to be announced in the next couple of months.
“I am also proud to report that a new North Inland Family Resource Center and Veterans Resource Center is scheduled to open in Escondido this summer. This regional center will address family needs, but will also be a one-stop shop for veterans.
“The Veterans Resource Center will have County Representatives, direct access to programs and services, and fifteen nonprofit organizations to provide support to Veterans in one location. Organizations such as Interfaith Community Services, ‘ReBoot,’ ‘Courage to Call,’ Goodwill and ‘Vets Caring for Vets,’ are just a few of the support organizations committed to the Escondido campus.
“The Veterans Resource Center will also have a 30-seat computer lab, a large conference room and interview rooms. Since it will be in the same building as the Family Resource Center, Child Welfare Services, and Adult Protective Services… referrals will be simplified. Veterans who require benefits counseling, college fee waivers, employment, rapid rehousing, transition assistance, case management, legal and financial services… can take care of everything in one location. It will be so much easier!” said Horn.
The County is also partnering with the “25 Cities Initiative” with a goal to end veteran homelessness and chronic homelessness. The initiative connects the homeless with prevention services, permanent housing, health care, jobs, and other supportive services.
“Additionally, the County will continue to work closely with community partners to enhance our overall support network. This effort will not only benefit San Diego’s military families but also lead to a stronger and healthier economy.
“Finally, I intend to keep tabs on how we are doing. I plan to hold a Board Conference on veterans in this very room, at the end of this year. We will review the year… the programs, processes and our progress. We will take care of our veterans!” said the chairman.